Title June 2018

title June 2018 edition for print


Opportunist Parties in the Cover of Nationalism

By Ahmed Khan

If we examine the literal definition of nationalism we find “loyalty and devotion to aleading photo nation; especially, a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to other nations or supranational groups.” Intense nationalism is often the cause of war but also prompt development within a nation in all fields of life.

After World War 1, nationalistic sentiments arose in a world augmented in states. Where nations demanded separate national states that have unique markets, language and historical heritage.

In Europe, many states were formed on base of nationalism which somehow developed their respective nations. Meanwhile those states which were hegemonic under imperialist rule became failed states.

Here in Pakistan, during the Soviet era, nationalist groups emerged that were inclined toward left or socialistic approach. Mainly, Baloch and Pashtoon national groups surfaced and to some extent Sindhi nationalist parties also arose, but were soon afterwards countered by Pakistan People Party a federal supported party.

In Balochistan, Baloch and Pashtoon groups formed parties in separate circles. In Khyber Pakhtoon Khuwa, the Awami National Party – ANP hoisted flag of Pashtoon Nationalism. The National Party of Doctor Malik Baloch and Hasil Bizenjo in Balochistan claimed to be Baloch Nationalist. Another party the Balochistan National Party – BNP headed by Sardar Akhtar Mengal also claimed to be a Baloch nationalist party, simultaneously this party has Pashtoon members. The BNP have also shown themselves influenced greatly by tribalism.

Other nationalist group in Balochistan struggling for a separate state for Baloch. The separatist political spectrum is; surface politics, student politics, human rights activism, internationally protesting and campaigning and most visible facet of this is the armed struggle.

The parliamentarian nationalists in Balochistan do not meet criteria of nationalism at all. In Pakistan, the politics and political houses are controlled by military establishment. Subsequently, all parties including parties with “nationalist” manifesto submit before the establishment and once they reach parliament any remaining nationalist quality is discarded from them.

Similarly, after 2013 elections, the National Party – NP was given a coalition government in Balochistan with the Pashtoon Khuwa Milli Awami Party – PKMAP. This party was coveted for ruling even accepted a half term of a two and half year period.

The NP claims to support implementation of a 17th Amendment; through which more authority has given to provincial government. But in reality, this has benefited the centralist Punjab, but not the other provinces, like Balochistan. The ex-chief Minister Doctor Malik Baloch himself affirmed that province is in the grip of a financial crisis and they (The citizens of Balochistan) do not gain much from the (Balochistan’s) mineral income.

Some federal departments were transferred to the provinces from the central government. About a year ago these departments were transferred to the provinces because the central government lacked the capacity to adequately manage affairs of these. This task after years late was finally met and parties such as the NP were declaring it their grand achievement. In fact, aside from individual politicians’ personal benefits they have attained nothing. The NP leaders were cling strictly with chair of rule but the establishment has segregated and humiliated them.

The Pashtoon Khuwa Milli Awami Party – PKMAP’s leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai in a procession arranged on forum of PONM said that now they are going to mend relations with the establishment (central government of Pakistan) and will do reconciliatory politics.  Which they did as they promised. In return, Mr Achakzai grabbed much wealth for his family and appointed comfortable positions to his close family members.  For example, Mr. Achakzai’s own brother is governor, his in-laws are directors of National Highway and so on. In exchange for such luxuries and personal benefits, they abandoned Pashtoon nationalism and this nation politically has been pushed back hundreds of years.

The NP in the acquirement of interests signed the bill of Pakistan Protection Ordinance – PPO which is a draconian legislation which stands in direct violation of international human rights standards. Through the PPO, Pakistan’s security forces can detain anyone for months base on nothing other than suspicion without any evidence. The security forces have total impunity to indefinitely detained anyone without approval of judiciary. This party in favoring federal forces signed with the Apex Committee has caused intensification of military operations in Balochistan. The NP time of governing supported these measures and are subsequently responsible for the devastation caused by the military operations.

The National Party during its rule could not recover one single missing person who were enforced disappeared by the state’s military. The enforced disappeared now number in the thousands. Mostly missing persons are Baloch political worker who raised voice for their rights, and demanded the people’s fair share in their own natural resource, preservation of land, and culture; including historical heritage that are not protected in the current slack state system.

The NP and PKMAP in their time of ruling approved the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – CPEC exploitative project. Through this they have sold out their own people’s land, market, mineral, coast and identity to red-imperialist China. This project, if it ever is completed, cause a metamorphic change in Balochistan’s demography, and local population will be converted into minority. Already many people are displaced from native lands to make way for this project. Omens of this are disastrous when civilian population located in way of CPEC are driven away by force for “security measures”. Consequently, millions people are forced to lead Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) lives.

In the perspective of discussed political misdeeds, these said parties can never meet the criteria of a nationalist, but these are only opportunist subservient sycophants supporting the plunder and looting of Balochistan. The disappointing performance of these mentioned parties has pushed the nation of Balochistan into the abyss. Once their term expired, the military-run central establishment replaced them with another rubber stamp, like today’s Balochistan Awami Party – BAP.

In Kybher Pakhtoon Khuwa, the ineffectiveness of the Awami National Party – ANP give birth the Pashtoon Tahafuz Movement – PTM organization. In the KPK province people in large number have gone missing by military. So the relatives of aggrieved families stood to raise their voice on the PTM platform. If the so-called nationalist party ANP had protected the rights of citizens when they had the chance, then the PTM movement may not have emerged.

During last five years and beyond these parliamentarians so-called nationalist parties never delivered masses, and now they have become like broker of Balochistan’s land and resources to auction to imperialist powers with compliance of establishment. These parties are not nationalist but only exploit the people’s nationalist sentiments to their personal advantage.

Pakistan in severe financial crisis

Pakistan Government will certainly seek foreign aid and loans to stabilize its rapidly Untitled-1 copydwindling foreign currency reserves and the balance of payments crisis, financial experts, which have termed the current situation a ‘financial crisis’, have predicted.

According to ANI citing informed sources in Islamabad, the government wants to acquire financial strength before the July 25 general elections.

Sources quoted economic pundits in the government as suggesting that the current account deficit can be stabilized by using rapidly dwindling foreign currency reserves.

There is growing speculation that the government will have to seek a loan package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) following the elections, for the second time since 2013, amid fears of being faced with a balance of payments crisis.

Caretaker Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar told a press conference in Islamabad that the government has to finance this trade deficit gap of USD 25 billion.

The announcement came hours after the State Bank of Pakistan devalued the rupee by 3.7 per cent, the third devaluation since December. It is also saddled with a heavy public debt – 70 per cent of GDP, according to Akhtar – along with a yawning fiscal deficit.

The economy grew by 5.8 per cent during 2017-18, missing a government target by two per cent, according to documents from the finance ministry. Plagued for years by a Taliban insurgency, it has been battling to get its shaky economy back on track and end the energy crisis crippling industry.

Fears also remain if Pakistan will be able to repay the Chinese loans, which it has been in lieu of China’s ambitious multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project – the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – linking its western province of Xinjiang to the Arabian Sea via Pakistan. Much of CPEC’s financial terms are shrouded in secrecy.

The Pakistani rupee slumped 3.8 per cent against the dollar in this month before slightly recovering in what appeared to be the third currency devaluation in seven months by the central bank amid a balance of payments crisis.

The rupee drop threatens to squeeze consumers, coming just days before Eid-ul-Fitr and ahead of the July 25 general election.

The apparent devaluation shows signs of vulnerability in the country’s nearly USD 300 billion economy, as dwindling foreign reserves and a widening current account deficit trigger speculation about going back to the International Monetary Fund for loans for the second time since 2013.

The current account deficit now stands at USD 14 billion, around 5.3 percent of gross domestic product, an SBP official said.

The economic outlook has been hurt by the fast depletion of foreign currency reserves, which now stand at just over USD 10 billion.

Pakistan is currently in discussions with China for loans to ease pressure on its foreign currency reserves. Over the weekend, the shortage of foreign currency widened the spread at which the rupee is traded in the open market and the interbank market to four rupees. – ANI

Jinnah’s journey from an Indian nationalist to a Muslim separatist

Pakistan was to be a modern democratic state where religion would not be the jnnah-1-1business of the state. He appointed a Hindu as the law minister precisely to drive home that the newly formed Muslim homeland was not exclusively for Muslims but that minorities of whatever creed would also play their part in this new nation.

By: Yasser Latif Hamdani

September 11, 1948 was the day when the founder and maker of Pakistan, Mr. Mahomed Ali Jinnah, passed away leaving a fledgling new nation rudderless and directionless. The nation survived but the vision that Jinnah had articulated but had been unable to imprint on it did not.

Pakistan’s birth was controversial. At the center of controversy was this almost emaciated but well-dressed London-trained barrister-politician who had started his career as a member of the Indian National Congress and was once hailed as the Best Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity. Indeed, no one could have imagined that Mr. Jinnah, the beloved dandy of Bombay’s high society, British India’s leading lawyer and a staunch Indian Nationalist, would one day take a somersault and end up destroying the very unity he had so cherished in his early career. Indeed had someone suggested to Jinnah then that he, who was by all accounts not bothered with religion in his life, would one day end up becoming the founder of a Muslim homeland that would ultimately fashion itself an Islamic Republic, he would have laughed at him or dismissed him with contempt.

What had happened between 1904, when he first attended a Congress session, and 1947, when he took oath as the Governor General of the newly created state of Pakistan, has puzzled historians ever since. Both his staunchest admirers in Pakistan and his most unforgiving critics often try and sidestep the story of how it all happened, so cataclysmically befuddling the transformation was. Had he turned more religious or conservative in his life, it would have been easier to explain. But he did not. So the convenient explanation seems to be that he was a power hungry politician who used religion to get power. This explanation does not gel with his record where on numerous occasions he turned down offers of knighthood, governorships and judgeships of the High Courts. Dr B R Ambedkar, in his book writes: “It is doubtful if there is a politician in India to whom the adjective incorruptible can be more fittingly applied. Anyone who knows what his relations with the British government have been, will admit that he has always been their critic, if indeed, he has not been their adversary. No one can buy him. For it must be said to his credit that he has never been a soldier of fortune” (Pakistan and Partition of India; 1946; page 323)

This is confirmed by H V Hodson, the Reforms Commissioner who knew him personally, and who writes: “One thing is certain he did not change for any venal motive. Not even his political enemies ever accused Jinnah of corruption or self-seeking. He could be bought by no one, and for no price… He was a steadfast idealist as well as a man of scrupulous honor.” (Great Divide; Chapter Two Great Personalities)

Enough evidence has surfaced, especially after the Transfer of Power Papers were de-classified, which show a radically different picture from the one that was painted by Lord Mountbatten, who was looking to justify his shameful scuttle from India in 1947 by making Jinnah a scapegoat. Dr. Ayesha Jalal’s monumental work, “Sole Spokesman” and Indian jurist H M Seervai’s “Partition of India: Legend and Reality” have presented an alternative thesis which has now become the new orthodoxy amongst those studying partition in rarified academic atmosphere on Western institutions of higher learning. Jinnah had very deliberately raised the demand for Pakistan confident that Congress would never accept it and would instead deal with him as the “Sole Spokesman” of the Muslims of India to work out the details of a post-Independence India. Thus Pakistan was Plan B nationalism or BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). But for BATNA to be effective for a negotiation, Jinnah had to show that the Muslims of India were asking for Pakistan in earnest. It was high stakes negotiation, which almost got Jinnah what he wanted in form of the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 before it was torpedoed by Jawaharlal Nehru leading ultimately to partition of India. It must be remembered that Jinnah resisted partition to the very end, not the least because it meant driving a line through the heart of Punjab and Bengal, both provinces which were key to Jinnah’s vision of a federal compromise between Hindus and Muslims at the all India center.

Only Dr Ambedkar, another discerning constitutional lawyer, had the measure of Jinnah’s strategy. His book “Pakistan and the Partition of India” was itself a tactical publication, written to garner debate on the issue and to resolve it to the mutual satisfaction of Hindus and Muslims. The heart of the book lies in Ambedkar’s formula for a temporary and partial division of British India into Hindustan and Pakistan, together under the umbrella of an all India council, on a 10-year trial basis, giving all parties enough time to negotiate a settlement acceptable to both sides and coming together as united India. This is what Jinnah had wanted. It was no wonder that when asked by Gandhi to explain the Pakistan demand, Jinnah recommended he should read Ambedkar’s book. Jinnah, it may be concluded reasonably did not ultimately want partition but rather an equipoise which would help Muslims and other classes like the untouchables get effective safeguards against caste Hindu domination, which Jinnah at witnessed at close quarters since 1928 when on Hindu Mahasabha’s behest, Congress’ supposedly secular Hindu leaders had rejected the four amendments proposed by pro-Congress faction of the Muslim League under Jinnah. Experience with the failure of Muslim reserved seats to ensure Muslims a share of power in Congress led provinces in 1937 and led Jinnah to the conclusion that paper safeguards meant nothing unless the safeguards were effective to and that in order to secure the interests of not just Muslims but other minorities, there had to be effective safeguards. This is when two-nation theory was born. The whole calculus of minority and majority was upturned through this radical new idea.

Not everyone accepts this reading of history, primarily because it challenges the sanctification of figures like Gandhi and Nehru who are central to the modern Indian identity. However, what is indisputable in the history books is that Jinnah was ready and willing to accept something less than a sovereign Pakistan. It was Congress that foreclosed all other options in what must have been a rude shock to the League’s Quaid-e-Azam. And then Lord Mountbatten happened. Lord Mountbatten was the single most devastating force of nature primarily because his oversized ego was not compensated by any extraordinary ability or skill. His inept handling of independence and partition, especially his mad rush which saw him bring forward the date of independence by 10 months, laid the foundations of the bitter animosity and rivalry the two twins born on 15 August face even today. It is a tragedy that even today films are made, like Viceroy’s House, to whitewash Lord Mountbatten’s pernicious role in the whole affair.

Once confronted with the possibility of a Pakistan that Jinnah had asked for but had never expected to be granted, Jinnah took off the hat of Muslim nationalism and reverted to being the secular liberal he had been most of his life. Pakistan was to be a modern democratic state where religion would not be the business of the state. He appointed a Hindu as the law minister precisely to drive home that the newly formed Muslim homeland was not exclusively for Muslims but that minorities of whatever creed would also play their part in this new nation. Unfortunately, his death 69 years ago on this date has meant neither his vision nor the long political journey he undertook to get where he did have survived in the national consciousness of Pakistan.

The writer is a practicing lawyer. He tweets @therealylh

Published in Naya Daur

When Cameroon Convinced Themselves They Couldn’t Win


Why do African teams struggle in the World Cup? It has everything to do with 517558_big-lndcolonialism.

If the spirits of Frantz Fanon and Steve Biko were hovering unseen above a football stadium in Naples in July, 1990, they would not have liked what they saw. But they would have found it sadly predictable.

The stadium hosted a World Cup quarter-final between Cameroon and England. The more skilled team, Cameroon, lost. They were beaten not by England but by themselves.

The 1990 Cameroon team captivated football fans around the world—especially those in South Africa. This was the country’s first live televised World Cup (previously fans had to make do with watching matches at clubs or restaurants a couple of days late) and the first after the bans on liberation movements were lifted and the negotiations which ended apartheid began. Although South Africa was two years away from competing in international football (beginning, not by accident, with a match against Cameroon), this was the first time South Africans could identify in real time with a team representing Africa. Cameroon would have generated excitement even in less heady times—they turned out to be probably the best African team to play in a World Cup finals.

The party began with the first match of the tournament—Cameroon, down to nine men after two red cards, beat the world champions, Argentina, 1-0, with a late goal in a match which is still iconic. They then beat Romania 2-1 to qualify for the knock-out stage, a status they celebrated with a 4-0 loss to Russia when little was at stake. They beat Colombia 2-1 in the Round of 16 to become the first African team to play in a World Cup quarterfinal.

Cameroon 1990 is best remembered for its striker Roger Milla, then 38 years old (some say he was older), who seemed to inspire the team every time he was brought on as substitute. But the team was filled with the type of skilled footballers who would play in Europe’s top leagues in decades to come—defender and captain Stephen Tataw, midfielders Francois Omam-Biyik, his brother Andre Kana-Biyik and Emile Mbouh and striker Cyril Makanaky (Kana-Biyik and Mbouh did not play in the England match).

The football mainstream assumed that England was a bridge too far for Cameroon. Their two victims after Argentina were hardly among world football’s elite and England seemed sure to assert football’s natural pecking order. All of which seemed justified when England went ahead half way through the first half and retained the lead into halftime.

After halftime, everything changed when Milla came on. Within minutes, Cameroon won a penalty and equalized. A few minutes later, they went ahead (although Milla seemed to have invigorated the team, he scored neither goal). Cameroon came to life, showing more skill than at any other time during the tournament. They danced past the English, who were unable to cope.

A wave of Cameroonian skill produced a scoring opportunity—they seemed certain to score, but English goalkeeper Peter Shilton got lucky: the ball cannoned off his shins. That ended the Cameroon challenge. With 8 minutes to play, England equalized through a penalty. They won with another penalty in extra time.

Football is often political, particularly when the contest is between the colonizer and colonized (Britain, with France, colonized Cameroon). This showed in the contrasting ways the match was explained.

The dominant view (as always, that of the colonizer) is that the Europeans showed why they usually came out on top. The Africans might dazzle with their skills, but it was organization and professionalism which mattered. England, unlike Africans, had loads of both. The view of the dominated was that Africans had been cheated yet again: two penalties were concocted to make the World Cup safe for the Empire.

Both were wrong. Neither penalty was dubious. But the English were not the better team: they lost because the Cameroon players convinced themselves they could not win.

That self-confidence is often the difference between winning and losing is a sporting truism—for teams as well as individuals. All too frequently, teams which are skilled but expect to lose play themselves into a winning position and then shrink back, convinced that winning is not for them. In international sport, it is hardly surprising that this is most likely when powerful countries play the powerless—when, for example, African teams play their European colonizers.

Sometimes, this inferiority complex is instilled by African teams’ coaches (who are almost always European). A prime example happened 4 years later, at the 1994 World Cup. In the Round of 16, Nigeria, having dominated the first half against Italy, went into half-time 1-0 ahead. Their Dutch coach, Clemens Westerhof, insisted that they defend the lead. Nigeria’s striker, Rashidi Yekini, yelled at him that this defeatism would cost them the match: they were good enough to attack and win. Westerhof’s instructions prevailed and Yekini was right—Italy won in extra time.

Often, however, African teams don’t need a European to convince themselves they can’t win. When the ball bounced off Shilton’s shin, doubt, which disappeared when Cameroon were down and Milla appeared, returned. Cameroon stopped dancing round England and retreated into their shell. They told themselves they were doomed—much as Ghana may have done when they missed a penalty which would have beaten Uruguay in Johannesburg in 2010.

This would, of course, have made sense to Fanon and Biko—both wrote of the mental colonization which convinces the dominated that they are not good as the dominant.

It surely won’t be long before another African team emerges capable of reaching the last four or even winning the World Cup. When it does, we can only hope that its coach and players have learned from Fanon and Biko that they can prevail—if they free themselves of the chains the colonizer has planted in their heads.

Published in Jacobin Magazine

A Poetic Challenge to Global Capitalism That Will Rend Your Heart

By Lynn Parramore

Edoardo Nesi’s new book tracks the destructive march of globalization and neoliberal capitalism through his own life and the places, like Italy, that lie broken in its wake.Edoardo_nesi_biblioteca_lazzeriniana_di_prato_marzo_2012_03

Edoardo Nesi is an acclaimed novelist, translator, essayist, and filmmaker whose translations into Italian include David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. He has served as a member of the Italian Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies since 2013.

In his recent book, Everything Is Broken Up and Dances: The Crushing of the Middle Class, Nesi and his friend Guido Maria Brera, a prominent European asset manager, illuminate in alternating chapters how the neoliberal turn in Western economics and finance, far from lifting up humanity, obliterated many of the very things that make life worth living.

Nesi’s personal history is deeply connected to this tragic story—his family had a prosperous textile company founded by his grandfather before World War II that Nesi was forced to sell in 2004 when Italy’s proud tradition of skilled artisans and manufactures—along with entire cities—got wrecked by the inhumane process of globalization. The book’s title, borrowed from a recording of The Doors, “Ghost Song,” evokes the anguish of broken promises and a burning urge to reclaim the vitality of life.

The combination of Nesi’s lyrical storytelling and Brera’s elucidating economic discussions make this work a compelling contribution to the understanding of what is at stake if the current path, which has given rise to right-wing demagoguery in Europe and the United States, continues. Nesi shares his thoughts about the book and its message with the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Lynn Parramore: You paint a picture of a prosperous 50-year period in post-war Italy when traditional artisans became manufacturers and helped to drive an economic expansion that seemed to fulfill the hope that capitalism could bring a good life to ordinary people. But in 2001, something in what you reference as the “celestial machinery” that had made this prosperity possible went wrong. What happened?

Edoardo Nesi: First, let me try to explain with a small, poignant example how the Italian prosperity I am talking about in the book was a quite remarkable phenomenon of sharing richness, well-being and optimism for the future. In 1991, the daughter of one of our plant workers—he was not a director, not an accountant, just an ordinary worker (and a fervent communist, by the way)—got married. Her father decided to give her a honeymoon trip to Polynesia. For two weeks. In a world without low-cost flights.

The system of small businesses was thriving all over Italy—with the unfortunate exception of a large part of the south, from where hundreds of thousands of migrants left to find a job and a house in the north and center of the country. This system’s success and industrial structure seemed to contradict many, if not all, laws of capitalism. In Prato, you could produce a fabric without having any machines or workers. There was a net of small companies that could spin, weave, dye and finish your fabrics for you. Using them was cheaper that setting up your own industrial chain of production, and their quality and service was outstanding.

And everyone was making money, so new small companies could spring up and start work at once. There were no barriers to entering the market, as credit was abundant and easy to obtain. The demand for textiles kept on growing in Italy and Europe and the U.S. and Japan for forty years and more.

Apply this system to every manufacturing sector, and you will see how Italy rebounded from the tragedy of the war and the stupidity of fascism and autarky.

Globalization changed everything in the sense that the ideological cancelation of all tariffs and duties and barriers that Europe adopted in 2001 towards Chinese imports swept away a large part of the Italian small businesses. This was done without even asking China to lift its own tariffs and duties and barriers that, of course, still exist to this very day. This also created massive unemployment and gave a foundation and force to the resentment towards Europe that has fueled the incredible outcome of the elections that we have just witnessed.

I had to sell my family’s company.

LP: This book is structured as a conversation between you and your lifelong friend, Guido Maria Brera, who comes from the world of finance and personally benefitted from the changes that were causing pain to so many, including your family. What did you wish to illuminate by weaving together your different perspectives?

EN: It was very important for us to tell the story of Italy’s decadence in the most complete way. When I was selling my company, Guido was becoming one of the Masters of the Universe, as Tom Wolfe used to call the most successful men and women of international finance. Yet even though he has only benefited from the extraordinary openness that came with globalization, he is not deaf to the cry of help that comes from the people that had a job and a future and do not have it anymore.

He also sees a huge problem at the roots of the world, now. Guido thinks that with the advent of globalization we lost social rights for millions in the western world, and all we had in exchange was cheap technology, economic and political instability and, consequentially, populism, a phenomenon which we must struggle to understand and which could rapidly change economic conditions in the whole world.

LP: Italy has long been thought of as a place where people enjoy the good things in life: beautiful art, delicious food, a magical landscape. What has happened to that Italy at a time of rising inequality and a social elevator that has been smashed?

EN: Fortunately, even the most horrible of times cannot cancel the beauty of Florence, the magic of Venice, the grandeur of Rome, the spirit of Milan, the coast of Amalfi, or the wonders of Sicily. But I often wonder if a country can live by just admiring its beauty and attracting tourists to come and see it in short sweaty trips, while forgetting about the extraordinary results of its industry and the preeminence of its design. LP: What parallels do you see between the economic and political situations in Italy and those in the U.S.?

Populists run both countries now, and I could not despise them more. In their simplistic, empty, angry, rude, infinitely tweetable messages which reduce to slogans the infinite complexity of life, the economy, and the civil coexistence between human beings, they are going after the very reason of our past greatness: the idea that individualism works perfectly only in a system that provides rules and enforces the idea of reciprocity between countries. Otherwise it just creates inequality, mass unemployment and, at the end, chaos.

LP: Your book makes clear that the current course of neoliberal capitalism is unsustainable and unworkable. What solutions do you see as viable? When everything is broken up, how do we dance?

EN: This is the hardest question by far. I have no solutions, as there are no easy ones.

I am probably too old-fashioned to accept the idea of a universal guaranteed income, which seems to me the worst of destinies for our younger generations. I also think I have lost the faith in technology I used to have when I was younger. After all, it took eight hours to fly from Milan to New York in the 1980s, and we need the same eight hours now. We now live in a world where we are continually asked to accept and adopt changes to our systems, implying that very little of the things – or programs – we use are new. We are just updating what already exists, and this cannot be called progress. I miss a world where a product took the place of the existing one only when it was measurably better.

But then, I miss almost everything from the world I grew into, and most of all Jim Morrison and The Doors.

LP: This discussion makes me think of another Doors song, the great elegiac epic, “The End”—in particular the line, “lost in a Roman wilderness of pain / And the children are all insane.”

EN: Yes, and that is the perfect description of my five years in parliament.

Published in New Economic Thinking

Iran bans Kurdish dress and language in public

Iran: Kurdish people are banned from wearing their traditional dress in public.Kurdistan-women

The clothing ban announcement came from the Security Council of Oshnavieh, West Azerbaijan Province in north-western Iran, on Monday June 11, just prior to the traditional Cherry Feast in Kurdistan.

The Information Bureau and the Revolutionary Guards threatened that citizens must be stopped from wearing Kurdish clothes at the Cherry Festival, public places, and meetings.

After a joint meeting of the Security Council, the Department of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guard Corps in Oshnavieh, the agencies issued a warning according to which citizens will be faced with a court order if they don’t pay attention to this warning given by the Information Bureau and the IRGC.

n addition, the Department of Intelligence and the IRGC have told the Oshnavieh government that they have to stop citizens from talking in Kurdish in public.

Kurdish activists believe the measure aims at suppression of Kurds through suppression of their mother tongue, culture and traditions.

The Cherry Feast is a local traditional celebration of the people of Oshnavieh where they sell their garden products. Men and women of Oshnavieh used to participate in this feast with their folklore and traditional outfits but they were prevented from doing so this year.

Pulished in INU

UN fears new Syrian offensive could strand up to 200,000 civilians

Documents obtained by IRIN outline this worst-case scenario as fighting intensifies around Daraa

By Ben Parker

As many as 200,000 people could flee renewed fighting in southwest Syria and end up 4A48144500000578-5513087-A_Syrian_woman_and_children_evacuate_from_the_town_of_Jisreen_in-a-1_1521306767254stranded along the closed border with Jordan, according to the worst-case scenario envisioned in UN documents outlining emergency plans for a brewing humanitarian crisis.

Having secured the centre of the country, including key pockets of resistance in the Damascus suburbs, the Syrian government has set its sights on rebel-held parts of southern Syria, including the city of Daraa, which lies on a strategic artery to Jordan. This part of Syria has been calm for the past year thanks to an internationally brokered ceasefire, but as many as 25,000 people have taken flight since a government offensive, backed by Russian airstrikes, began 16 June.

Not only is the assault likely to displace hundreds of thousands of civilians but, according to internal UN documents shared with IRIN, it may also cut informal trade routes within Syria and interrupt imports from Jordan, making it harder for people to get food and other basic supplies.

The EU has warned of the potentially “devastating” humanitarian consequences of an all-out offensive, and the UN’s top official in Jordan, humanitarian coordinator Anders Pedersen, told IRIN that the world body is “very worried about what’s now happening and about the number of displaced people already”.

Jordan closed the door to the vast majority of refugees after a suicide car bombing on its borders in June 2016. The concern now is that a new exodus of displaced civilians from around Daraa, some of whom are already nearing the desert frontier, will have no safe place to go. Ayman Safadi, the foreign minister of Jordan, which hosts 660,000 registered Syrian refugees, said on Twitter this weekend that the country “can’t host more”.

“Berm 2”?

One of the UN documents seen by IRIN, shared by sources concerned about the risks to civilians if Jordan remains sealed off, raises the possibility that those displaced by the new offensive could end up in a similar situation to some 50,000 Syrians already stuck along the harsh desert no-man’s-land on the Syria-Jordan border known as the “berm”.

They are sheltering in an informal camp near Rukban (250 kilometres northeast of Daraa city, as the crow flies) because they were refused entry to Jordan as refugees. The Rukban camp houses fighters and criminal gangs as well as civilians, and is sandwiched between sand mounds “or berms” that mark the north and south of the Jordan-Syria border.

There have been several attacks near the berm since the June 2016 bombing that killed six Jordanian troops, and the kingdom insists its security depends on keeping the border as closed as possible. The only aid permitted to reach the berm from Jordan largely consists of a limited supply of water, an outpatient clinic, and occasional shipments of food delivered by crane.

dsc00491_resizeAid workers are not permitted to go into Rukban, and delivery of aid has been outsourced to contractors and, at times, armed groups.

In the UN’s worst-case scenario, not only would the new offensive create a larger spontaneous desert camp up against the borderline, but it could be within an area of active air and land conflict.

UN sources told IRIN they are frustrated with their lack of leverage in challenging Jordan’s insistence that maintaining security means limiting aid, and are frustrated by the apparent lack of Western lobbying in favour of international humanitarian law.

Jordan is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, but if states cannot provide for civilians they are required to allow unhindered humanitarian access. Jordan has long insisted aid deliveries to the berm should be be made from inside Syria.

The UN’s Pedersen said he has reiterated “again and again and again” to Jordan that the UN has an imperative to “adhere to humanitarian principles and international law”.

Preparing for the worst

Aid to rebel-held territories in Syria is delivered via cross-border convoys from Turkey and Jordan, while aid to government-held areas comes from Damascus.

Aid agencies have tried to prepare for the offensive by stockpiling food and medical supplies in rebel-controlled areas in Syria. But such warehousing carries its own risks, and one aid worker familiar with cross-border operations in Syria said there was a limit to the value of pre-positioning. “Looting will happen, diversion will happen, bombing will happen – [but] maybe one part will be saved,” the worker said.

A senior UN official familiar with the Jordan and Syria aid operation, who asked to remain anonymous, said the re-routing of goods, such as food, was less of a concern than the potential disruption in healthcare and the risks to personal safety.

Fears include retribution by Syrian security forces against people in rebel areas. If the deliveries of goods aren’t combined with continuing efforts to prevent harm and abuses, “it’s just a ‘truck and chuck’ operation”, the official said.

According to OCHA, the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, the movement of people from the south to and from government-controlled territory is already increasingly restricted, resulting in price rises for civilians.

The cost of cooking fuel has jumped: cylinders used in rebel-held areas must be refilled in government areas. Some landlords in opposition territory have immediately responded to increased demand from displaced people by demanding three months rent up front and hiking prices by up to 60 percent, according to OCHA.

The different scenarios

The risk to civilians depends in part on what sort of resistance rebels in the south put up. The eastern side of Daraa city is under partial rebel control, as are areas on either side of the north-south highway.

But the rebel-held areas are already nearly split in two by government-held territory, linked only by a two-kilometre strip of land near the Jordanian border. Sam Heller, co-author of a new policy paper on the conflict by the International Crisis Group, told IRIN that the southern rebel territories are “extremely vulnerable to being cut into smaller pieces”.

The “enclaving” operation likely underway by the Syrian forces could result in four or more distinct pockets of rebel control, which would be much more “digestible” militarily, from the Syrian government’s point of view, according to Heller.

This scenario – divide and besiege – is one the UN and international NGOs have foreseen in a document that sets up four scenarios for the future of southern Syria.

First, it described the status quo: a continued ceasefire and commercial and humanitarian access from Jordan. The second scenario foresees ground offensives that lead to extensive displacement and deprivation in multiple enclaves. The third considers a less violent scenario: negotiated transfer of control of rebel-held territories back to the government. A fourth considers the impact of a complete closure of the border with Jordan.

Russian and Syrian tactics to recapture Eastern Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta followed a pattern: densely-populated rebel pockets were besieged and subjected to heavy and indiscriminate bombardment. At the final stages, rebels and civilians could choose to hand themselves over to government control or move across the country to rebel-controlled northwestern areas.

Such transfers seem less likely in the south, the planning document suggests, projecting that – under any peaceful transition scenario – only 15,000 people would be transferred to the northwestern governorate of Idlib, where many residents from recaptured rebel areas have taken shelter.

Jordan has considerable influence over insurgent groups in southern Syria and may be influential in steering these non-violent transfers of power, according to the International Crisis Group paper: “Keeping the Calm in Southern Syria”.

Heller, like Pedersen, said Jordan remains “extremely concerned” about its border security and the prospect of a new wave of asylum seekers.

One scenario the UN has not played out, at least in documents seen by IRIN, is the possibility that Syrians head en masse towards the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, although Israel is reportedly bracing for an uptick in fighting near its border.

(TOP PHOTO: Displaced Syrians from the Daraa province fleeing shelling wait in a makeshift camp in the province of Quneitra, southwestern Syria, on June 22, 2018.)

Scientists Have Caught Bacteria “Fishing” For DNA From Their Dead Friends


Bacteria are slippery little suckers. They evolve rapidly, developing resistance to antibiotics and therefore becoming increasingly difficult to deal with. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught on film one of the mechanisms the microbes use for this speedy evolution.

Two Vibrio cholerae bacteria – the pathogen responsible for cholera – sit under a microscope, glowing a vivid green. As we watch, a tendril snakes forth from one of the bacterium, harpooning a piece of DNA and carrying it back to its body.

That appendage is called a pili, and the process whereby the bacteria incorporates the new genetic material from a different organism into its own DNA to expedite its evolution is called horizontal gene transfer.

And this is the first time scientists have directly observed a bacterium using a pilus to effect this gene transfer; it’s a mechanism that has been hypothesised for decades.

“Horizontal gene transfer is an important way that antibiotic resistance moves between bacterial species, but the process has never been observed before, since the structures involved are so incredibly small,” said biologist Ankur Dalia of Indiana University Bloomington.

“It’s important to understand this process, since the more we understand about how bacteria share DNA, the better our chances are of thwarting it.”

Exactly how bacteria used their pili to snare DNA remained elusive, partially because of the extremely small scales involved. A pilus is over 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, which means it’s very difficult to observe.

What the team did – and the reason those bacteria glow with an eerie green light – is develop a new method of painting both the pili and the DNA with fluorescent dye. When they stuck the whole kit and kaboodle under a microscope, they were able to see the process with their own eyes for the first time.

In the video at the top of this page, you can see this on the right-hand side. The image on the left is what the scene looks like without the dye.

The pili cast a line through pores in the cell’s wall to nab a piece of DNA, which it then reels back in with fine precision.

“It’s like threading a needle,” said biologist Courtney Ellison.

“The size of the hole in the outer membrane is almost the exact width of a DNA helix bent in half, which is likely what is coming across. If there weren’t a pilus to guide it, the chance the DNA would hit the pore at just the right angle to pass into the cell is basically zero.”

Antibiotic resistance can be transferred between bacteria in several ways – and there are several mechanisms for horizontal gene transfer too. The uptake of DNA from the surrounding environment is called transformation.

When bacteria die, they split open and release their DNA, whereupon other bacteria can snare and incorporate it. If the dead bacterium had an antibiotic resistance, the bacterium that caught the dead fellow’s DNA also develops that resistance – and spreads it to its own offspring.

In this way, the resistance can spread like wildfire through a population. And it’s a big problem. According to the CDC, at least 23,000 deaths have occurred in the US because of antibiotic resistance.

By figuring out the exact mechanisms bacteria use to spread antibiotic resistance, researchers hope to be able to devise ways of preventing it.

The next step is to find out how the pili latch onto the DNA at exactly the right place – especially since the protein involved with the process seems to interact with DNA in a way that hasn’t been seen before.

And they also hope to use their method of applying fluorescent dye to observe the other functions of the pili.

“These are really versatile appendages,” Dalia said. “This method invented at IU is really opening up our basic understanding about a whole range of bacterial functions.”

The research has been published in the journal Nature Microbiology.

Published in Science Alert

Turkey takes a big step toward nationalist fascism

By Omer Taspinar

Omer Taspinar is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Erodenprofessor at the National War College and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

“There is something rotten in the state of Turkey,” was how an opposition activist friend of mine sarcastically summed up his frustration yesterday on a phone call.  As we hung up, Turkey’s official news agency was rushing to declare election results that crowned Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Turkey’s first president under a new system that gives him vast power. Sunday’s victory, in which he not only won the presidency but his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came in first with 42 percent of the parliamentary vote, is probably the most significant one in Erdogan’s long political career.

The AKP will now control parliament thanks to its coalition with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a virulently anti-Kurdish, chauvinistic party, which did surprisingly well with 11 percent of the votes. In fact, nationalism appears to be the real victor in these elections. Despite all attempts to suppress the Kurdish vote, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) still managed to win 11.7 percent of the vote.

These election results show that polarization along ethnic lines has clearly become a defining feature of Turkish politics. Under this hyper-centralized new presidential system, Erdogan now has all the levers of political power at his disposal: absolute control over the legislative body, the judiciary and, of course, the executive office. Power has not been so centralized and personalized in the hands of one man since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the republic in 1923.

There is, however, one crucial thing that Erdogan is missing: democratic legitimacy in the eyes of his opponents. Any attempt to analyze why the opposition lost in Turkey should start with the obvious: these elections were not free, and they were certainly not fair. His Shakespearian reference aside, my friend’s feelings of despair and frustration about the rotten nature of Turkish politics is shared by millions of citizens who voted for opposition parties. Their confidence in the system is shattered for understandable reasons.

People went to the polls under an emergency rule that severely curtailed freedom of expression, assembly and association; under a media that is largely controlled by the government; under conditions where the Kurdish party leader campaigned from his prison cell; under conditions where the government mobilized all its financial resources to secure victory and perhaps most importantly under conditions where voters had major concerns about electoral fraud. In an astonishing sign that something was indeed rotten in Turkey, four days before the vote, the country’s official news agency mistakenly shared the final election results with a government-friendly TV channel: Erdogan appeared to be winning the presidency by 53 percent with opposition candidates far behind.

Last year, when Turks approved with a very narrow margin of victory the new presidential system that Erdogan coveted for so long, suspicion about electoral fraud was based on solid ground. According to most European election monitors, there was systemic ballot-stuffing and other serious irregularities. Observers from the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe stated that close to 2.5 million votes — roughly twice the margin of victory — were manipulated.

The new presidential system was therefore born under suspicious circumstances. Making a mockery of such concerns, in March 2018, the AKP-dominated Turkish parliament approved a law that made electoral fraud effectively legitimate by enshrining the decision to accept unstamped ballots. The deck was clearly stacked against the opposition. But Erdogan still seemed nervous and in a hurry to declare victory before Turkey’s economic dynamics turned from bad to worse.

Despite Erdogan hoping to catch the opposition unprepared by calling for a snap election this year instead of next, the opposition appeared surprisingly ready, energized and united. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) was quick to help the newly-formed Iyi Party to qualify to run. The two parties then brought on board a small conservative religious party, hoping to draw religious voters. Members of the opposition also committed to supporting whomever became the strongest candidate to run against Erdogan in a potential run-off.  They all naively hoped that Erdogan would not be able to receive 50 percent of the votes to win the presidency outright.

Hope is a dangerous feeling in politics because it exacerbates frustrations. But hope is also what makes democracies function. Every election is a new hope for contenders. But when your hopes are repeatedly crushed, you lose faith in politics. Even worse, you lose faith in the legitimacy of the system. I am afraid this is the point we are perilously approaching in today’s Turkey.

Erdogan’s pyrrhic victory will only exacerbate the country’s polarization. He is a master performer of time-honored methods from the script of populist autocrats. He controls the media, silences critics, rewards sycophants and distributes economic favors to cronies. If necessary, he rigs elections. At the end of the day, Turkey’s strongman has managed to consolidate his rule behind a semblance of democratic legitimacy.

So what’s next for Turkey? The Turkish model that was supposed to prove the compatibility between Islam, democracy and secularism is no more. But make no mistake: the model collapsed not because of a clash between Islam and secularism. The real story is the rise of authoritarian Turkish nationalism.

Today, Turkey is deeply polarized along ethnic lines. Erdogan’s victory came not thanks to his Islamic message but thanks his coalition with Turkish nationalists. The real victor of these elections is not Erdogan but an angry Turkish nationalism with all its anti-American, anti-Kurdish and anti-Europe characteristics. What we are witnessing in Erdogan’s Turkey is not an Islamic revolution. It is an alarmingly big step toward nationalist fascism.

This was produced by The WorldPost, a partnership of the Berggruen Institute and The Washington Post.

When Bangladesh went to war over language

By Anirban Mahapatra

Because language meant destiny for this South Asian nation

Aroma Dutta was in her early 20s when her grandfather, Dhirendranath Datta, was 123781_gettyimages147453247arrested at their home in Comilla on a fateful March night in 1971. Those were turbulent times in what was then the Pakistan-administered province of East Bengal (also called East Pakistan).

An independence movement seeking sovereignty from Pakistani control had begun to gain rapid momentum among the region’s Bengali-speaking population, and the state had launched a crushing military drive to weed out prominent separatist leaders suspected of playing a part. Atop the list of wanted men — mostly eminent members of the Bengali intelligentsia — was Datta. He died in confinement soon after, succumbing to torture at the hands of his captors.

Far from a mere act of intellectual cleansing, Datta’s death was not without grave context. “They [the government] had decided long ago that Dhirendranath would have to pay with his life for his advocacy of the Bengali language,” contends his granddaughter, now one of Bangladesh’s foremost social and human rights activists. “He never compromised on his demand to instate Bengali as the lingua franca of Pakistan, and that never went down well with most members of the government who had no inherent regard for the language.”

In the annals of South Asian history, 1971 was a momentous year. In the months following Datta’s death, brute military force to curb the freedom movement resulted in an infamous genocide that claimed millions of lives. Nearly 10 million refugees fled to neighboring India, prompting an impassioned George Harrison and Ravi Shankar to organize the Concert for Bangladesh in New York City in August. Finally, on December 16, following the routing of Pakistani forces in the Liberation War, the sovereign nation of Bangladesh, which exclusively identified itself by the language of its people, was born.

The seeds of Bangladesh’s nationalism had been planted over more than 20 years of cultural turmoil preceding the war. The story begins in 1948 — with Datta, of course. Attending a constituent assembly meeting in the Pakistani city of Karachi in February that year, Datta — as an elected assembly representative from East Pakistan — put forth an earnest demand to recognize Bengali as the official language of the country. The leader’s logic was simple. “Out of six crores and 90 lakhs [69 million] of people inhabiting this state [Pakistan], four crores and 40 lakhs [44 million] of people speak the Bengali language,” he reasoned before the house. “So, sir, what should be the state language?”

The argument behind the rhetorical question was sound, but it failed to resonate with the house. Pakistan’s administrative power was in the western mainland, where the native population spoke languages such as Punjabi, Urdu or Pashto, but not Bengali. Moreover, as an overarching answer to Pakistan’s complex linguistic matrix, the government had recently ruled that Urdu would be adopted as the state language, even though that decision alienated the majority of citizens in its eastern province.

Soon after Datta’s petition was quashed in the assembly, Muhammad Ali Jinnah — governor-general of Pakistan — visited East Pakistan and delivered a conclusive speech at the University of Dhaka. “The state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language,” he said. “Anyone who tries to mislead you is really the enemy of Pakistan.”

In its unequivocal prioritization of Urdu over Bengali, Jinnah’s speech sparked mass outrage among East Pakistan’s Bengalis. Waves of public criticism denouncing the government’s linguistic policy swept through the region over the next few years, before coming to a head in 1952. “On the morning of February 21 that year, as political debate spearheaded by Dhirendranath raged in Dhaka’s Provincial Assembly house over the recognition of the Bengali language,” recalls Dutta, “thousands of university students, college students and common people assembled on the adjacent university grounds to stage a public protest.”

Despite starting off as a peaceful assembly, the day’s proceedings began to reel out of control as the hours went by. Before long, organized protest had given way to frenzied chaos, forcing the police to open fire on the gathering. Four students were killed, and their deaths sparked further civic unrest, which resulted in even more death and destruction of what was widely believed to be the state’s cultural hegemony over its Bengali population.

Looking back on the remains of the day, many of Bangladesh’s leading thinkers concur that the tidings of 1952 — as well as the people involved in the affairs — played a critical role in shaping and foreshadowing Bangladesh’s subsequent path to independence. “There were many language activists who were in the vanguard of the formative phase of the Language Movement, and among those, however, martyr Dhirendranath Dutta’s role was seminal by any measure,” noted academic and political observer M. Waheeduzzaman Manik in his column in Bangladeshi Newspaper The Daily Star in 2014.

In a written statement issued in 1994 while she was opposition leader in Parliament, current Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina observed that “the groundwork of nationalism founded by the Language Movement eventually shaped Bangladesh’s struggle for independence,” and that freedom was finally obtained in exchange for “the lives of 3 million martyred men and the dignity of 2 million violated women.”

A price that steep is difficult to forget. And even after four decades, Bangladesh continues to remember its heroes. A national monument called Shaheed Minar now stands in poignant silence within the premises of Dhaka University, paying tribute to all of Bangladesh’s shaheeds who made the supreme sacrifice for their motherland. Just like Datta.

Published in Ozy.com

Grindr? Doodles? What do you do during boring meetings?

By Padraig Belton, Technology of Business reporter

For many of us, meetings are a boring waste of time but technology could soon help make them more interesting and productive._102246848_gettyimages-690270186

What do you do during a boring meeting? I canvassed some opinions on Twitter and the results were enlightening.

Some people compose haikus, others play meeting bingo, seeing how many pre-agreed words they can chuck in to the conversation.

Some secretly check out Grindr on their phones or watch catch-up TV, while others fiddle with their jewellery, doodle, or simply nod off.

What’s frankly worrying – if you’re the meeting holder, that is – surveys show that the vast majority of us confess to doing other things during meetings.

And there’s always one person – often a man who loves the sound of his own voice – who drones on and on so no-one else can get a word in edgeways.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if an artificially intelligent (AI) meeting bot could tell him to shut up?

Well, that day may not be too far away.

It is “very feasible” for an AI to recognise when one person is dominating a meeting, or when a circular discussion keeps coming back to the same point, says James Campanini from videoconferencing company, BlueJeans.

“If no new points are made after a while, the AI could suggest to wrap up,” says Cynthia Rudin, a computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“While it’s a lovely idea to think everybody will be fabulous at running meetings, everybody is not,” observes Elise Keith from Lucid Meetings, a US-based meeting management platform.

An AI agent “might be able to determine whether a meeting leader is ensuring that each participant is being heard equally and fairly,” she says.

Voicera, founded in 2016 in Silicon Valley, has created an AI assistant called Eva. As well as taking notes, Eva identifies a meeting’s action items and decisions.

“If AI can do most of the mundane and drudgery work during business meetings, that leaves more space for humans to think about strategy and vision,” argues Niki Iliadis at the London-based Big Innovation Centre, an innovation hub working in AI.

In Japan earlier this year, the prefecture of Osaka – which is responsible for nine million people -started using AI to transcribe and summarise the 450 cabinet meetings it holds annually.

The AI recognises from the context whether speakers are using the Tokyo or Osaka dialects, and who is speaking as it transcribes.

So far it has halved the time needed to produce summaries and has cut staff overtime, the prefecture says.

How about not even having to be physically present at a meeting?

One feature which shouldn’t be far away is having an AI avatar join meetings for you, when you’re running late, says Mr Campanini.

So “my AI identifiable creature joins the meeting, takes notes for me, and when I join, it stops and sends me the notes,” he says.

Quite often we find we’ve been invited to a meeting that isn’t relevant to us or is at a very inconvenient time. So tech firms are also working on AIs to help decide who should attend and when the meeting should be, Ms Keith says.

One Stockholm start-up, Mentimeter, is making it easier for meeting participants to give instant anonymous feedback about whether they find a discussion useful or tedious.

“One way of solving sucky meetings is letting the audience take part in a simple way,” says Johnny Warstrom, the start-up’s chief executive.

Participants using the software can make open-ended responses or vote in multiple-choice quizzes.

When the presenter turns on the word cloud feature, a screen is updated as participants submit comments, and the most frequently used words appear largest on the screen.

Such anonymous live feedback has “fundamentally changed the dynamics of a presentation”, says Austin Broad from financial services firm AFH Wealth Management.

He now spends more time discussing unexpected responses than “simply confirming comprehension”, he says.

Mr Warstrom believes the software allows less assertive participants to have a say for once.

“All of a sudden everyone has a voice, someone at the back of the room as much as the person speaking loudest,” he says.

He thinks this is probably why Mentimeter, which has 20 million users and is Sweden’s fastest growing start-up, has more female than male customers.

But until such smart meeting tech becomes more widespread, it seems we’ll continue wasting time in the office.

According to the MIT Sloan Management Review, executives now spend 23 hours a week in meetings – up from under 10 in the 1960s.

And in one large company, a single weekly status meeting, and the preparations for it, took up 300,000 employee hours a year, the Harvard Business Review discovered.

Surveys show that the vast majority of us think they’re a waste of time. Even bosses have been increasingly critical.

Tesla boss Elon Musk, for example, told his employees in an April e-mail to “walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value.”

Why it’s a good idea to walk out of work meetings

“It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time,” he added.

And Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has banned PowerPoint – the bane of many meetings, particularly when speakers simply read out exactly what’s on the slides.

Many meetings duplicate work that’s already been done, so making meeting notes easily searchable could help, says Neale Martin from Meeting Sense, a US-based meeting software firm.

Tools that can create agendas, send meeting invitations, distribute notes, and keep track of action items should improve effectiveness, he believes.

Otherwise, he says, “we have all this videoconferencing and other tech to link us, but we’re still doing things as we always did.”

A lot of this may sound like wishful thinking, particularly when you think how often basic tele- and video-conferencing tech fails to work.

But anything that helps meetings become slightly less painful must surely be welcomed.

Now, back to your doodling.

Published in BBCNews

Action plan proposed to FATF for implementation in country: FO

By Muzamil Baloch

The Foreign Office said that an ‘action plan’ had been negotiated with the download (5)Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to address strategic deficiencies in Pakistan’s anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regime, which had been pointed out by the global illicit financing watchdog.

Now that the action plan has been negotiated, Pakistan’s grey listing, which had been decided in February, would take effect. The FATF would officially announce Pakistan’s inclusion in the grey list on Friday.

Responding to reports that the government had failed to prevent Pakistan’s inclusion in the grey list, FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said: “In February 2018, during the FATF plenary session in Paris, it was agreed that Pakistan will be included in the ‘grey list’ in June 2018.”

He noted that it had also been agreed in February that Pakistan and the FATF would negotiate an action plan by June.

“This has been done,” he added.

Pakistan reportedly committed to a 26-point action plan, which would be implemented over the next 15 months. Besides other actions, the plan includes squelching of finances of Jamaatud Dawa, Falah-i-Insaniat, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban. Failure to negotiate the action plan could have led Pakistan to the blacklist.

The deficiencies identified in Pakistani anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regime included inadequate monitoring and regulatory mechanisms, low conviction rate on unlawful transactions, poor implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373 and cross-border illicit movement of currency by terrorist groups.

The spokesman reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to implementing the action plan which once implemented would get it out of the grey list.

In its June 9 meeting the National Security Committee had extended the commitment to implement the action plan. The FATF requires high-level political commitment from the country concerned to implement the needed legal, regulatory and operational reforms.

The move to get Pakistan listed was sponsored by the United States and its allies Britain, France, and Germany. It is, therefore, believed that the listing happened as an outcome of deterioration in Pak-US ties, which have been on decline since last year’s announcement of Trump’s South Asia and Afghanistan policy.

Responding to a question, Dr Faisal said that relationship with the US was improving. “Pak-US relationship is on an upward trajectory. The negotiations are ongoing between both sides as we seek to find common ground in the bilateral relationship,” he maintained.

Afghan peace process

The spokesman, in response to a question, again called on warring Afghan factions to commit to ceasefire and engage in peace process.

The Afghan Taliban had resumed fighting after the Eid ceasefire ended. The Afghan government has extended the truce and has been seeking international support for pressuring the Taliban to agree to ceasefire resumption.

“We believe that the ceasefire can be a major confidence building measure. We urge all sides to engage in a process to bring lasting peace in Afghanistan,” Dr Faisal said, adding that Pakistan will extend all support for the Afghan peace process.

Regarding Noor Wali Mehsud succeeding Mullah Fazlullah as head of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, he said Pakistan would use all resources to bring all terrorists to justice irrespective of who leads this terrorist group.

US upgrades Pakistan on ‘human trafficking index’

By Shehzad Baloch

Published reports in international media tell the United States has moved Pakistan from a watch list to another group of countries that have taken significant steps to curb human trafficking.

“The government of Pakistan does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so,” says the report released by the US State Department.

“The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, therefore, Pakistan was upgraded to Tier 2.”

The move came two days after an international financial watchdog placed Pakistan on its monitoring list — known as the ‘grey list’— for allowing terrorist groups to collect funds.

“Modern slavery has no place in the world, and I intend to ensure, through diplomatic engagement and increased action, that the United States government’s leadership in combating this global threat is sustained in the years to come,” said US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo while releasing the trafficking in persons’ report.

Tier 2 on the State Department’s list includes countries that do not fully comply with these minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance while tier 2 watch list includes countries being monitored for compliance.

The report notes that the Pakistan government demonstrated increasing efforts by raising the number of victims it identified and investigations and prosecutions of sex trafficking.

The provincial government of Punjab increased investigations, prosecutions, and convictions for bonded labour, the country’s largest human trafficking problem.

The government of Azad Jammu and Kashmir adopted a law prohibiting bonded labour.

The governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh reported operating two additional women shelters and three additional child protection units, respectively.

The federal government continued to implement its 2015-20 national strategic framework against trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling.

The report, however, points out the Pakistan government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas:

Overall government law enforcement efforts on labour trafficking remained inadequate compared with the scale of the problem; Punjab continued to be the only province to report prosecutions and convictions for bonded labour.

Convictions for sex trafficking decreased and the government’s overall convictions remained small compared with the extent of trafficking in Pakistan.

Official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a pervasive problem, yet the government did not report new law enforcement efforts to hold such officials accountable, including failing to investigate serious allegations of trafficking regarding a high-ranking diplomatic official.

Government protection efforts remained inconsistent; only a small number of the total victims identified were referred to assistance services.

The report urges Pakistan to increase prosecutions and convictions, particularly of forced and bonded labour, while strictly respecting due process; pass an anti-trafficking law that criminalises all forms of human trafficking, including sex trafficking of those under 18 without requiring coercive means.

It also urges Pakistan to prescribe penalties commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape; thoroughly investigate credible allegations of government complicity in trafficking and stringently prosecute and punish officials who are complicit.

Pakistan should also provide additional resources to increase trafficking-specific services for victims, including for men and boys, and ensure victims are not penalised for acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.

The States Department also urges Pakistan to ensure the creation, dissemination, and use of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification and referral to rehabilitation services at the provincial level; expand ability for freed bonded labourers; to obtain identification documents and gain access to government services.

Pakistan should also take steps to eliminate all recruitment fees charged to workers; issue policies and provide trainings to government officials that clearly distinguish between human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

The report urges Pakistan to strengthen the capacity of provincial governments to address human trafficking, including bonded labour, through training, awareness raising, funding, and encouraging the creation of coordination task forces and the adoption of provincial-level anti-trafficking action plans.

Our economy: The troubles are real

By Mohiuddin Aazim

PAKISTAN’S external sector troubles refuse to go away while the world watches download (4)everything and takes decisions accordingly.

The recent downgrading of Pakistan’s rating by Moody’s from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’ is not without reason.

In eleven months of this fiscal year, the current account deficit has increased to about $16bn, from a little more than $11bn in the year-ago period. But thanks to amortisation of roughly $4bn foreign loans obtained mostly from friendly countries, overall balance of payments showed a surplus of nearly $6.5bn.

This gave the central bank room to draw down on forex reserves for external debt servicing. But the pressure on the exchange rate, due to the massive C/A deficit, kept mounting. And, despite depleting its reserves, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) could not keep the local currency stable. It had to let the rupee fall during the current fiscal year.

SBP’s net forex reserves have plunged to $10.264bn now (as of June 14), enough to cover imports of just a little over two months, from $16.145bn at end-June last year—showing a decline of $5.881bn or more than 36pc. And, the rupee has plummeted to 121.46 to a US dollar (as of June 21) from 104.85 per dollar at end-June last year.

All hopes pinned on a dramatic rise in foreign direct investment also collapsed and the country barely managed to haul in $2.5bn of FDI in eleven months of the fiscal year, the same as in the year-ago period.

Home remittances and exports kept growing during eleven months of this fiscal year, the former at a nominal rate of 3pc and the later at an impressive rate of 15pc. But in eleven months of the year, imports consumed $55bn—an amount that exceeded the combined earnings of exports ($21.3bn) plus remittances ($18bn) during this period.

Moody’s June 20 decision to downgrade Pakistan rating from stable to negative “is driven by heightened external vulnerability risks,” the international credit rating agency stated in a press release.

“Foreign exchange reserves have fallen to low levels and, absent significant capital inflows, will not be replenished over the next 12-18 months. Low reserves adequacy threatens continued access to external financing at moderate costs, in turn potentially raising government liquidity risks,” the press release said.

Cutting through the jargon, the statement simply means that even if Pakistan returns to the international financial markets for raising external funds via bonds, it cannot do so without offering higher interest rates because its central bank’s net forex reserves have fallen below the internationally acceptable level of equal to three months of the country’s imports bill.

And that, in turn, will further aggravate the federal government’s fiscal account because if the government makes no external borrowing at all, meeting external debt payments will become difficult but if it does borrow, it would add to an already high cost of external debt servicing. So, here we are.

This is why the caretaker government is making an all out effort to make the tax amnesty scheme, introduced by the previous political government, a success and get as much foreign exchange back home as possible.

The SBP is also lending a helping hand in this regard. In the latest move, the central bank simplified the procedure for declaring hidden assets under the ongoing tax amnesty scheme and introduced a few provisions in the rules, all aimed at ensuring that after declaration forex assets held abroad are brought back home via banking channels.

All tax payments, under the tax amnesty scheme, can be made through banking channels either from the accounts of those making tax declarations “or from the accounts of immediate family members i.e. his/her parents, children, spouse and siblings,” SBP said in a notification issued on June 21.

The central bank is understandably eager to fix the external account situation by trying to get back undeclared wealth parked abroad as the caretaker government is not authorised constitutionally to borrow funds from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Only the next elected government can do so.

This makes holding elections on the due date of July 25, and the smooth installation of the new elected government, all the more important.

On the one hand, firefighting on the external account front continues and on the other Pakistan is also struggling to strengthen its anti-money laundering and combating financial terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations to skip any adverse action from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Just a few days ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) issued a unified set of rules and regulations to check money laundering and combating financial terrorism. And, caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar warned the corporate sector, in her maiden meeting with officials of the PSX, to behave responsibly.

Whereas the newly introduced unified set of regulations of SECP seeks compliance from corporate Pakistan, including non-bank finance companies, the central bank through an elaborate AML/CFT regime has already been seeking such compliance from all banks and development finance institutions.

In mid-June, the SBP took another important step towards deeper monitoring of banks for evaluation of risks to the entire banking system including in the area of AML/CFT and designated three banks i.e. HBL, UBL and the state-run NBP as systemically important banks.

This earned a credit positive from Moody’s and the rating agency has duly appreciated this move. In fact, by declaring the three banks as systemically important ones, the central bank has not only helped itself in risk evaluation of all kinds but has facilitated foreign regulators and credit rating agencies, officials of these banks say proudly.

Published in Dawn

Why the World is Not Becoming Multipolar

By Andrey Kortunov

Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council, RIAC member

In Russia, the concept of multipolarity is usually associated with Yevgeny Primakov. download (3)Indeed, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation marked the start of the transition to multipolarity as a key trend in contemporary international life back in 1996.[i] During his visit to New Delhi as Prime Minister in late 1998, Primakov proposed a plan of trilateral cooperation between Russia, China, and India (RIC) as a practical mechanism for promoting global multipolarity. Sergey Lavrov has also stressed Primakov’s outstanding role in developing the concept of a multipolar world.

Western international relations experts will hardly agree to give priority to the Russian scholar and politician. As a rule, they trace the emergence of the concept of multipolarity to the mid-1970s. The roots of multipolarity are found in the rapid rise of the economies of Western Europe and Japan, in the United States’ defeat in Vietnam, in the energy crisis of 1973–1974, and in other trends of global politics that do not fit into the rigid framework of the bipolar world. The establishment in 1973 of the Trilateral Commission intended to encourage and improve relations between North America, Western Europe, and Eastern Asia also reflected the idea that multipolarity was coming into being, if not already fact.[ii]

Chinese historians, in turn, can claim their own version of multipolarity (duojihua) that emerged in the early 1990s and can be traced to the theoretical works of Mao Zedong. In China, the world was expected to transition from unipolar to multipolar via a “hybrid” global political structure that combines elements of both the past and future world systems.[iii]

Regardless of how we date the birth of multipolarity as a concept and whom we hail as its pioneer, the concept clearly is not a recent invention, but an intellectual product of the 20th century. It would seem that over the decades that have passed since it was proposed, multipolarity should have evolved from a hypothesis into a full-fledged theory. As regards political practice, intuition suggests that, over the course of several decades, the multipolar world should have finally taken shape as a new global political system with relevant norms, institutions, and procedures.

Yet something clearly went wrong. The world is not behaving as the founders had predicted.

Elusive Multipolarity

In October 2016, twenty years after Yevgeny Primakov’ policy article was published in the journal International Affairs, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, during which he commented, “I certainly hope that… the world really will become more multipolar, and that the views of all actors in the international community will be taken into account.” Six months prior to that, Putin noted the role of the United States in international relations: “America is a great power, today perhaps the only superpower. We accept this.” That is, even though a multipolar world is the desirable world system, presently it is too early to say that the “unipolar moment” has been completely overcome.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, following the general logic and even the style of Yevgeny Primakov’s narrative of 20 years ago, also spoke about the start of a transition to multipolarity and the completion of the process in some indefinite future: “… A change of eras is always a lengthy process. It will continue for a long time.” As an additional complication, Lavrov emphasizedthe staunch resistance of the proponents of the old world order: “There are active attempts to hinder the process primarily on the part of those who used to dominate the world, who wish to preserve their domination in new conditions as well, and, generally speaking, to enshrine their domination forever.”

This logic is hard to dispute. Yet some questions remain.

First, the historical experience of the previous centuries offers no examples of an old world gradually transforming into a new one over time. The changes in the world order that took place in 1815, 1919, and 1945 were not evolutionary, but imposed by revolutionary (forcible) means and stemmed from large-scale armed conflicts that had preceded them. The new world order was always built by the victors in their own interests. Of course, we may suppose that humanity has become wiser and more humane over the last 100–200 years, though not everyone would agree. Yet even if that is true, surely all attempts to “gradually” transition to a multipolar world would be the same as trying to alleviate the pain of a beloved pet dog by cutting off its tail piece by piece.

Second, if we take as given that the transition to a multipolar world will become an extended process spread over, say, five decades (1995–2045), this leads to the depressing conclusion that humanity will remain in the “grey area” between the old and new world orders until the middle of the 21st century. This “grey area” is clearly not a particularly comfortable or safe place. It is easy to predict that it will lack clear rules of the game, understandable and generally recognized principles of the functioning of the international system, and numerous conflicts between the emerging “poles.” The system may even split into individual fragments and its “poles” will become self-isolated in their regional or continental subsystems. Can we afford several decades in the “grey zone” without subjecting humanity to extreme risks?

Third, do we even have sufficient grounds to say that the world is moving towards multipolarity, even if this movement is slow, inconsistent, and sporadic? Could we, for instance, conclude that today, the European Union is closer to being a full-fledged and independent global “pole” than it was ten years ago? Can we assert that, over the last decade, Africa, the Middle East, or Latin America have made significant progress towards the status of a collective “pole”? Is it possible to say that as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) expanded, the group increased its capability to act on a consolidated stance on the international stage? If we are not yet prepared to give an unequivocal “yes” to all these questions, then we do not have the right to say that the world is steadily moving towards multipolarity.

Over the years, multipolarity has become like a distant horizon that keeps receding as we move towards it. Could we not, therefore, apply Eduard Bernstein’s famous saying that “the movement is everything, the final goal is nothing” to multipolarity? That is, could we perceive multipolarity not as a full-fledged alternative to the existing world order, but as a mechanism for correcting the weakest and most vulnerable elements of this order?

“The Concert of Europe” 200 Years On

Adherents of multipolarity like to cite the “Concert of Europe,” the Vienna System of international relations established in Europe in the early 19th century after the Napoleonic wars. This system was truly multipolar; it did indeed help preserve peace in Europe for a long time. Historians debate the precise date at which the system collapsed: 1853 (the start of the Crimean War), 1871 (the Franco-Prussian War) or 1914 (the First World War). In any case, after 1815, the 19th century was relatively peaceful for Europe, particularly when compared to the disastrous 20thcentury.

Could the “Concert of Europe” be repeated 200 years later, this time in the global, rather than the European, context?

Let us start with the fact that the members of the “Concert of Europe,” despite being very different states, were still comparable in power and influence militarily, politically, and economically. The cosmopolitan European elites remained largely homogeneous (European monarchies in the 19th century were essentially one extended family), spoke the same language (French), professed the same faith (Christianity), and were in general part of the same cultural tradition (the European Enlightenment). Of even greater importance is the fact that the members of the “Concert of Europe” did not have radical, irreconcilable differences in their views on the desirable future of European politics, at least until the rapid rise of Prussia and the subsequent unification of Germany.

Today, the situation is drastically different. The potential members of a unipolar system have fundamentally different political weight. The United States has a greater weight in today’s international system than the British Empire had in European politics in the 19th century. The global elite is heterogeneous, and there are profound differences in their cultural archetypes and basic values. In the 19th century, the differences between the members of the “concert” pertained to specific issues in European politics, to the “manual tuning” of the complicated European mechanism. In the 21st century, the differences between the great powers pertain to the very foundations of the world order, the basic principles of international law, and even more important questions such as justice, legitimacy, and the “great meanings” of history.

On the other hand, the Concert of Europe was so successful largely due to its flexibility. Great European powers could afford the luxury of promptly changing the configuration of unions, coalitions, and alliances to maintain the overall balance of the system. For instance, France was one of Russia’s main adversaries in the Crimean War. Just a year later, after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1856, Russia and France embarked upon a phase of active rapprochement, which resulted in Russia’s final break with Austria and Austria’s defeat in its 1859 conflict with France.

Could we imagine such flexibility today? Could we suppose that over the course of two or three years, Russia would be capable of swapping its current partnership with China for an alliance with the United States? Or that the European Union, as it faces increasing pressure from the United States, would re-orient itself towards strategic cooperation with Moscow? Such scenarios look improbable at best and absurd at worst. Alas, the leaders of great powers today do not have the flexibility that is absolutely necessary to maintain a stable multipolar world order.

At the end of our short historical sketch, we can ask another curious question. Why did the 1814–1815 Congress of Vienna result in a stable European order, while the 1919 Treaty of Versailles became meaningless 15 years after it was signed? How is it possible that the members of the anti-France coalition were capable of magnanimity towards their former enemy, while members of the anti-German coalition were not? Was it because George Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, and Woodrow Wilson were more stupid or bloodthirsty than Alexander I, Klemens von Metternich, and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand?

Of course not. It is just that the Concert of Europe was created by autocratic monarchs, while the Treaty of Versailles was designed by leaders of western democracies. The latter were far more dependent on national public sentiment than their predecessors were a century earlier. And the public sentiments of nations that had experienced four years of suffering, unprecedented privations, and losses demanded that the Germans be punished in the harshest and most uncompromising manner. And this is what the victors ultimately did, thus planting the seeds of the global carnage that was to come.

Clearly, over the last hundred years, politicians have grown even more dependent on the smallest fluctuations in public opinion. Unfortunately, the chances of seeing new examples of Alexander’s magnanimity and Metternich’s insight today are slim. To paraphrase Pushkin, we can say that “political populism and multipolarity are two things incompatible.”

The “Gangsters” and “Molls” of the Multipolar World

A famous cliché in international relations (attributed to a variety of authors, from Otto von Bismarck to Stanley Kubrick) states that on the global stage, large states act as gangsters and small states act as molls. The concept of a multipolar world is geared towards the “gangsters” and ignores the “molls.” Not every state and not even every coalition of states has the right to claim the status of a “pole” in the international system.

The adherents of multipolarity believe that most contemporary states are simply incapable of independently ensuring their own security and economic growth, not to mention making a significant contribution to shaping the new world order.[iv] Thus, in both the current and future multipolar world, only a handful of countries have “true sovereignty,” while others sacrifice this sovereignty in the name of security, prosperity, or even plain survival.[v]

At the time of the Concert of Europe, the “gangsters” could successfully control the “molls” who depended on them, and the number of “molls” was relatively small. Two centuries later, the situation has changed drastically. Today, there are about 200 states that are members of the UN, and then there are unrecognized states and non-state actors. Therefore, the majority of members of international relations in the new multipolar world has been assigned the unenviable role of extras or observers.

Even if we ignore the moral and ethical deficiency of such a world order, there are grave doubts that such a project is feasible, especially given mounting problems in current military, political, and economic unions and the sharp rise of nationalism that affects both great powers and small and medium-sized countries.

The adherents of multipolarity probably think that the “poles” of the new world order will form naturally, that the “molls” will rush into the arms of neighbouring “gangsters” out of love rather than by coercion. That is, they will be driven by geographic proximity, economic expediency, common history, cultural similarities, etc. Unfortunately, historical experience would suggest the contrary. French-speaking Flanders has for centuries fended off the obtrusive patronage of Paris; Portugal has for an equally long time striven to distance itself from the geographically and culturally close Spain; and for some reason, Vietnam has failed to appreciate the advantages of belonging to China’s “pole.” It would be best to not even recall the state of relations between Russia and once “brotherly” Ukraine.

If the “molls” are forced to turn to the “gangsters” for protection, they clearly prefer “gangsters” from a remote neighbourhood rather than from their own street. Generally speaking, such preferences are sometimes somewhat logical. And if this is the case, then “poles” can only be formed “voluntarily under duress,” as the Russian saying goes – and in the 21st century, such foundations have dubious stability.

One gets the impression that the Russian discourse about the impending multipolar world confuses the notions of legal equality (“equal rights”) and actual equality (identity as the ultimate equality). States cannot actually be equal to each other: their size, resources, and capabilities, as well as their economic, military, and political potential, differ too greatly. Yet the apparent inequality of states does not necessarily mean that they should also have different basic rights. There is the principle of all citizens being equal before the law regardless of the differences in social status, property, education, and talents.

Old Bipolarity Billed as New Multipolarity

The differences in the current situation compared to that of the early 19th century are too obvious to attempt to restore the “classical” multipolarity. It would seem that, in one way or another, the adherents of multipolarity also realize this. If we take a closer, more careful look at the discourse in Russia today describing the “new” multipolarity of the 21stcentury, the magnificent multipolar façade often disguises the same steel-and-concrete bipolar structure of global politics, reflecting the Soviet mentality that has not been entirely overcome.

The “new bipolarity” manifests in all kinds of ways. Consider, for instance, the “East–West” dichotomy, a confrontation between “maritime” and “continental” powers, a clash between the “liberal” and “conservative” worlds, or even the opposition between the United States and the rest of the world. Whatever its external manifestation, the essence remains the same, like in the old Soviet joke about a worker from a factory manufacturing prams who complains, “Whenever I try to assemble a pram, I end up with a Kalashnikov.”

We cannot say with absolute certainty that the world will never go back to the bipolarity of the 20thcentury. In any case, the possible bipolarity that could result from the impending U.S.–China confrontation is more realistic than going back to the multipolarity of the 19th century. Nevertheless, attempts to combine elements of multipolarity and bipolarity in a single structure is a doomed enterprise. These two approaches to global politics are too different in their basic paradigms. Multipolarity and bipolarity are two radically different worldviews.

Classical multipolarity cannot have any rigid divisions between those who are right and those who are wrong, between friend and foe, between black and white. Foes may prove to be friends, those in the right and those in the wrong may swap places, and there is an entire range of shades of grey in the spectrum between black and white. A bipolar picture, on the contrary, always tends to be Manichean, when friends are always in the right and foes are invariably in the wrong. Friends are forgiven whatever they do, and foes are never forgiven. The notion of the collective West that is popular in Russia is also a vestige of the Soviet mentality. In no way does this fit in with the declared “multipolar” picture of the world, but it is very convenient for constructing the opposing notion of a “collective non-West.”

Familiar stereotypes of the Soviet mentality stubbornly bring us back to bipolar logic and deprive us of the opportunity to take advantage of managing a complex multipolar construction even in those instances when such opportunities present themselves. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Russian policies in the Middle East are one such exception, as it is the Donald Trump administration that has been caught in the trap of a bipolar worldview there, while Russia, having taken the preferred position of regional referee, has thus far succeeded in manoeuvring among the various regional players. Russia has been less successful in the Russia–China–India triangle that Yevgeny Primakov had once promoted as the foundation of a multipolar world: the equilateral Russia–China–India triangle is slowly but steadily evolving towards a military alliance between Russia and China.

Overcoming the remnants of bipolar logic is a necessary but insufficient condition for a successful foreign policy. It would seem that the successful use of multipolar approaches promises tactical successes at best. Strategic victories are possible if multipolarity is abandoned in favour of multilateralism.

Searching for a Balance in Open Systems

If we agree with the principle of states having equal rights in the international system, we should abandon the fundamentals of multipolarity. Directly or indirectly, multipolarity assumes that in the future world there will always be states or groups of states with special rights. That is, the privileges of force will be enshrined, just like the victors of World War II enshrined their privileges when establishing the UN system in 1945. However, the experience of 1945 cannot be repeated in 2018: today’s great powers have neither the authority nor the legitimacy nor the unanimity of the countries that had made the decisive contribution to victory in the bloodiest war in human history.

For the international system of the future to be stable and durable, there should be no radical differences between the victors and the vanquished, between “regular” and “privileged” members. Otherwise, any change in the global balance of power (and such changes will occur with increasing speed) will necessitate adjustments to the system, and we will thus go through crises over and over again.

How can we talk about consolidating the privilege of power in the new multipolar structure if this power is diffusing at breakneck pace before our very eyes? In the time of the Congress of Vienna, power was hierarchical and had a limited number of parameters. Today, traditional rigid hierarchies of power are rapidly losing the significance they once enjoyed, not because old components of national power no longer work, but because multiple new components are emerging in parallel.

For instance, South Korea cannot be considered a great power in the traditional sense, because it cannot ensure its own security without help from others. However, if we look at the wearable electronics sector, South Korea is more than a great power; in fact, it is one of two “super powers.” South Korea’s Samsung is the only company in the world that successfully competes with U.S. company Apple in the global smartphone market. From the point of view of the country’s global brand, its flagship Samsung Galaxy S9+ carries more weight than Russia’s flagship S-500 Prometey missile system.

Non-material measures of a state’s power are gaining ever greater importance. A country’s reputation, its “credit history” – which is so easy to undermine yet so hard to restore – is becoming progressively more valuable. Stalin’s famous phrase about the Pope (“The Pope? How many divisions does he have?”) looks more like political antiquity than political cynicism.

If the notion of a state’s power is becoming more equivocal and takes into account an increasing number of parameters, then we inevitably face the problem of determining the new balance of power in global politics. Determining a multipolar balance of power is in general an extremely difficult enterprise even when the number of parameters used is rigidly set. For instance, what is a stable multipolar nuclear balance? What is multilateral nuclear containment? When the number of power parameters tends to infinity, the task of building a stable multipolar balance becomes impossible to solve. Attempting to balance an open system with a permanently growing number of independent variables is the same as attempting to transform a living cell into a dead crystal.

Multilateralism Instead of Multipolarity

A stable system of global politics assumes it will not be entirely fair to more powerful players, as it limits the interests of those players in favour of weaker players and the stability of the system as a whole. Any federative state redistributes resources from prosperous regions to depressive ones: prosperous regions are forced to pay more to preserve the integrity and stability of the federation. Or consider, for instance, that traffic rules in cities are far more restrictive to cutting-edge Lamborghini supercars. Lamborghini drivers are forced to sacrifice most of their “automotive sovereignty” to ensure safety and order on the road.

The future of the world order (if we are talking about order and not a game without rules or a “war of all against all”) should be sought in multilateralism instead of multipolarity. The two terms sound similar, but they differ in meaning. Multipolarity involves building a new world order on the basis of power, while multilateralism is based on interests. Multipolarity consolidates the privileges of leaders, while multilateralism creates additional opportunities for underachievers. A multipolar world is built from blocs that balance each other, while a multilateral world is built from complementary regimes. A multipolar world develops by periodically adjusting the balance of power, while a multilateral world develops by accumulating elements of mutual dependency and creating new levels of integration.

Unlike the multipolar world model, the multilateral model cannot rely on past experience, and in that respect it might appear idealistic and virtually unfeasible. However, individual elements of the model have already been tried in the practice of international relations. For instance, the principles of multilateralism — placing the interests of small and medium-sized countries in primary focus, prioritizing the common regulatory legal balance over the situational interests of the participants in the system — formed the basis for the construction of the European Union. Even though the European Union is not in great shape today and individual parts of this complex machine are clearly malfunctioning, hardly anyone would deny that it remains the most successful integration project implemented in the modern world.

For those who do not like the experience of European integration, it is worth looking for sprouts of new multilateralism elsewhere. Examples include the BRICS+ project and the “Community of Common Destiny.” Both initiatives attempt to avoid the over-complication, exclusivity, and rigidity of the European project by offering potential participants more diverse cooperation options. However, should these projects be successful, they will not bring the world any closer to “classical” multipolarity; on the contrary, they will take the world farther away from it.

The international community will have to somehow restore the regulatory framework of global politics that has been gravely undermined over recent decades, search for complex balances of interests at the regional and global levels, and build flexible regimes that regulate individual dimensions of global communication. Powerful states will have to make major concessions so that multilateral arrangements will be attractive for weak actors. A clean break will have to be made with the centuries-old relics of outdated mentalities, dubious historical analogies, and attractive yet meaningless geopolitical constructions.

The world of the future will be far more complex and contradictory than we thought it would be just 20 years ago. It will have a place for a multitude of diverse participants in global politics interacting in various formats. Multipolarity should go down in history as a justified intellectual and political reaction to the arrogance, haughtiness, and various excesses of the hapless builders of a unipolar world — nothing more and nothing less. With the twilight of the unipolar world, its opposite – multipolarity – will inevitably face its twilight as well.

Published in RIAC Russian International Affairs Council

[i] Primakov E. M. International Relations on the Eve of the 21st Century: Problems and Prospects. International Affairs. 1996 (10), pp. 3–13.

[ii] Curiously, at the turn of the century, the idea of multipolarity gained such traction in both the United States and Europe that Assistant to President George W. Bush for National Security Affairs Condoleezza Rice found it necessary to publish a lengthy article with detailed criticism of multipolarity as a concept of rivalry and potential conflicts, a concept that distracts humanity from tackling common constructive objectives. See: http://globalaffairs.ru/number/n_1564.

[iii] Seventh Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China Qian Qichen stated that the world is still in a transitionary phase, and that the new model had not yet been completely shaped. However, an outline of international relations with one superpower and several great powers locked in relations of mutual dependency and strife has already emerged. This is the starting point of the system’s evolution to multipolarity. See Suisheng Zhao. Beijing’s Perceptions of the International System and Foreign Policy Adjustment after the Tiananmen Incident. / Suisheng Zhao (ed.), Chinese Foreign Policy. Pragmatism and Strategic Behavior. New York: East Gate Book, 2004, p. 142.

[iv] Dugin A. G. Theory of a Multipolar World. Moscow, 2013, pp. 16–19.

[v] President Vladimir Putin quite eloquently expounded this view of the world in his speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 2, 2017, “To reiterate, there are not so many countries that have sovereignty. Russia treasures its sovereignty, but not as a toy. We need sovereignty to protect our interests and to ensure our own development. India has sovereignty… However, there are not so many countries like India in the world. That is true. We should simply bear this in mind. India is one such country and so is China. I will not enumerate them all: There are other countries, too, but not many.” http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/54667

Authoritarianism is changing the very fabric of society

By Nathan Gardels

Elif Shafak is a Turkish novelist and essayist whose celebrated works include “The Bastard downloadof Istanbul” and “The Architect’s Apprentice.” She spoke with The WorldPost editor in chief Nathan Gardels following this week’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey.

WorldPost: Turkey is one place where the populist revolt was not fueled by a bad economy or fear of immigration. Thinking it over these many months since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s consolidation of power, what is the primary impulse carrying society in the direction of an autocratic strongman rule?

Elif Shafak: Turkey’s recent trajectory is sui generis in many ways. But in other ways, it has dark echoes of the populist movements we see elsewhere: the sharp loss of what little meritocracy there was; a “might-is-right” macho approach to politics; the erosion of separation of powers; vitriolic attacks on the media; the corrosion of the culture of coexistence; and the subsequent polarization of society, which eventually only benefits populist demagogues. It is exactly what they want.

In these and other respects, Turkey holds important lessons for progressives and democracies around the world, because what happened here could happen anywhere.

There are several important factors to underline here. Turkey, just like Russia, comes from a “strong state” tradition. This goes all the way back to the Ottoman Empire. In a strong state country, the state is always prioritized at the expense of individual freedoms and civil society, and it is easier for the political elite to willingly confuse “democracy” with “majoritarianism,” whereas in reality these are two completely separate things.

For a democracy to exist and survive, you need more than the ballot box. You need rule of law, separation of powers, free and diverse media, independent academia, women’s rights, minority rights and freedom of speech. In Turkey, all of these components are damaged or broken after 16 years of the increasingly authoritarian rule of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). How then can we call this a democracy? It is not. Once majoritarianism had been consolidated, it was a very swift fall from there into authoritarianism.

Authoritarianism creates its own climate of fear, intimidation and self-censorship. When authoritarianism pervades every aspect of daily life and institutional structures, it changes not only politics and the state’s political apparatuses but also the very fabric of the society. Turkey now has a much more religious, nationalistic education system. Since 2000, the number of students graduating from religious schools has risen from 60,000 to almost 1.5 million today.

That said, we must never ignore the striking fact that despite the extraordinary powers given to Erdogan and his inner circle, especially in an almost perpetual state of emergency, at least half of the society continues to resist the monopoly of power and continues to actively push for democracy. In this sense, Turkey is not Russia at all.

WorldPost: When you overreach, you create space for those you reach over. I’m wondering if this might be true of Erdogan. In the wake of the failed coup and ensuing arrests, crackdowns and consolidation of power in the presidency, it seemed the long path toward liberal democracy in Turkey had come to an end. Now we see burblings of pushback — through the unification of the opposition in this election, for example. Do you see it this way, or does the picture remain bleak for the foreseeable future?

Shafak: The coup attempt was a horrible trauma for millions of people. It was completely wrong, unjustified and shocking, and there is no doubt it made everything worse. And then came the purge, in which thousands of people were unjustly sacked, detained, arrested or exiled.

There are so many personal stories of injustice in Turkey today waiting to be told. Ordinary citizens who have been unfairly arrested or stigmatized. Academics who have lost their jobs, passports and, in some cases, been detained just because they signed a peace petition. Turkey became the world’s leading jailer of journalists, surpassing even China. The whole situation is unacceptable.

One thing is clear: Turkey’s liberals and democrats want neither a military junta nor civil autocracy. What we need is a proper pluralistic democracy. The tragedy of countries like Turkey is that often in such places, members of civil society — or the majority of them — are far ahead of their government, and yet they lack the power to challenge the political elite.

After these elections, things are harder. Turkey has entered a new stage — a darker stage, I am afraid. It is full-steam ahead monopolization of power. Reporters Without Borders has shown that more than 90 percent of the media coverage in Turkey is pro-government. As the opposition candidate Muharrem Ince rightly warned, the country is now transitioning to a one-man regime.

WorldPost: Are there other realms where those on the losing end of Erdogan’s power are creating autonomous spaces that may well grow and even flourish in the cracks, perhaps one day even coming to flourish in the open?

Shafak: In countries with declining freedom of speech, social media remains an important platform to inform and connect people and challenge the singularity of the dominant narrative. Until recently, social media was one of those cracks in Turkey — not entirely autonomous, but at least with some limited freedoms and diversity. But that also has deteriorated and now there is more control there as well. More and more, people get sued for a tweet or a Facebook post.

What I am more hopeful about is Turkey’s women — and by this I mean women of all backgrounds. When a country slides backwards into authoritarianism, women have much more to lose than men. And Turkey’s women have been at the forefront of opposition rallies and campaigns. This is a very sexist, patriarchal country, and violence against women has been escalating, so it’s a vital moment that requires widespread solidarity and sisterhood.

But again, the question is, can women unite around shared causes, regardless of party lines? That’s difficult to achieve. And when women remain divided, the only thing that benefits from this is the status quo and the patriarchy itself.

WorldPost: Given how the election played out, what might we expect next?

Shafak: This was not a normal election. We need to highlight that. It was neither fair nor transparent. One of the leading opposition figures, Selahattin Demirtas, the head of the Kurdish-majority Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), had to conduct his election campaign from prison. So many local and national figures from HDP have been arrested, detained and censored.

Muharrem Ince, the candidate of the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), has emerged as an important, charismatic political leader. For the first time in years, he gave hope to millions of secularists and energized the masses, even though he did not get a fair share of airtime in the media. All the TV channels and newspapers kept covering Erdogan and allotted only a tiny amount of time for his opposition. But still, Ince managed to push back remarkably.

It is also important that opposition leaders, for the first time, managed to show solidarity. That’s why there was a considerable momentum of hope among secularists and democrats, and that’s also why we feel crushed today. That the Kurdish-majority party, which has the highest number of female politicians, was able to enter parliament is also an important achievement. Every analysis shows us that this was possible thanks to votes from the west of the country, not just the east. This is very positive.

However, Erdogan now has full control. As if that weren’t worrisome enough, we must bear in mind the key role that the ultra-nationalist, far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will be playing now that it is in coalition with Erdogan’s party. Such a coalition cannot initiate a peace process with the Kurds. Instead, we will see an increase in Islamism and nationalism as dominant ideologies, spreading through society and reshaping the education system. We will see an increase in tribalism and populist paranoia, and there surely will be more talk about the “great Ottoman past.” It is a dark tunnel that my motherland has entered with this election.

This was produced by The WorldPost, a partnership of the Berggruen Institute and The Washington Post.

China lends $1bn to Pakistan

China has lent Pakistan $1 billion to boost the South Asian country’s plummeting foreign currency reserves, two sources in Pakistan’s finance ministry told Reuters, amid growing speculation of another International Monetary Fund bailout.

The latest loan highlights Islamabad’s growing dependence on Chinese loans to buffer its foreign currency reserves, which plunged to $9.66bn last week from $16.4bn in May 2017.

The lending is the outcome of negotiations for loans worth $1-$2bn that was first reported by Reuters in late May, the two sources told Reuters.

“Yes, it is with us,” said one finance ministry source, in reference to the Chinese money. The second source added that the “matter stands complete”.

The finance ministry spokesperson did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

With the latest loan, China’s lending to Pakistan in this fiscal year ending in June is set to breach $5bn.

In the first 10 months of the fiscal year China lent Pakistan $1.5bn in bilateral loans, according to a finance ministry document seen by Reuters. During this period Pakistan also received $2.9bn in commercial bank loans mostly from Chinese banks, ministry officials told Reuters.

Beijing’s attempts to prop up Pakistan’s economy follow a strengthening of ties in the wake of China’s pledge to fund badly-needed power and road infrastructure as part of the $57bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an important cog in Beijing’s vast Belt and Road initiative.

But analysts say China’s help will not be enough and predict that after the July 25 national election the new administration will likely seek Pakistan’s second bailout since 2013, when it received a package worth $6.7bn from the IMF.

“Looking at the current scenario, it is likely after the new government comes in that they will go to the IMF,” said Suleman Maniya, head of research at local brokerage house Shajar Capital. – Reuters

Can the country afford seven children per family, asks CJP

Bolan Voice Report

The chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) expressed surprise over a debate regarding family planning and its connection to religion, wondering “what the nation had gotten itself into”.

Is the country capable of supporting seven children per family? he asked. “The rate at which the population is growing in the country is [no less than] a bomb.”

A three-member Supreme Court (SC) bench, headed by CJP Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, was hearing a suo motu case pertaining to increasing population in the country.

Commenting on Justice Nisar’s remark about whether birth control is allowed in religion or not, Justice Bandial said that “there are relevant verses in the Holy Quran regarding [there being a] gap between children”.

During today’s hearing, the health secretary told the court that the government did not have a monitoring system in place to regulate health centers or keep records of the growth in the country’s population.

He said that in Indonesia — the country with the largest Muslim population in the world — authorities held an awareness campaign in mosques to educate the population about the importance of population control.

The representative from Punjab Population Welfare Department (PWD), however, argued that during the 1970-80s, the growth rate of population was 3.7 per cent, whereas now it had fallen to 2.4 per cent. He added that the government “cannot stop anyone from having kids”.

The CJP said that 2,100 welfare centers in Punjab had “zero performance” and plans were only on paper.

When asked about the budget allocated to the welfare centers, the Punjab deputy secretary responded that in addition to the Rs3.6 billion that is provided by the Public Sector Development Program, the department receives around Rs1.5 billion annually.

The CJP demanded representatives from the Population Welfare Department to tell the court about the policies formed by the government to control population growth and criticized them for “receiving salaries for doing nothing”.

He said that the country does not have the resources to feed so many people and added that a single policy must be implemented throughout Pakistan.

Expressing concern over the ballooning population, Justice Nisar said that the authorities need to take immediate action to control the situation. He ordered all stakeholders of the case to submit recommendations to the court and adjourned the hearing for a while.

According to last year’s census provisional results, Pakistan has a population of 207.8 million — a 57 per cent increase since the last census in 1998.

The latest population census has shown that Pakistan has moved up the ladder becoming the fifth most populous nation only behind India, China, the United States and Indonesia.

Book Review: The China Pakistan Axis

The crux of the book may be summarized in the following words: Pakistan, at various time, has wanted China to do more than it actually does for Pakistan while Beijing hopes Islamabad can begin to take care of internal matters on its own.

Andrew Small is a senior transatlantic fellow with the Asia program at the German Untitled-8-640x336Marshal Fund of the United States. He is an expert on all things related to China and foreign policy, especially China’s role in South Asia. His work has been published in Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, Foreign Policy. The China Pakistan Axis is his first book. Considering his background and experience, naturally there were great expectations from it. And the book does not disappoint.

Even though the relationship between ‘all weather allies’ China and Pakistan is known all over the world as a very tight and close one, surprisingly, there haven’t been a lot of decent books on this very special relationship. In fact, there are probably hardly any books at all, at least as far as the contemporary geopolitics is concerned. A google search for books on China-Pakistan gives you ten different links about Andrew Small’s book. This shows why this book had to be written. Even many Pakistanis and Chinese don’t understand the nuances within Pak-China ties and the challenges this relationship faces.

The book was released in early 2015. There haven’t been updated volumes as of yet. It is divided into seven chapters. It’s a relatively short and crisp read. Each chapter begins with a specific incident, turns in to a series of incidents from which the reader can get a sense of the point the author wants to drive home. There are many quotes by various personalities in each chapter which add spice to the story. Furthermore, each chapter ends at a note where the next chapter begins, leaving the reader wanting for more. I read one chapter daily and often ended up reading the first few pages of the next chapter, just to satisfy my curiosity.

The various quotes by different personalities merits special mention. The book begins with the following: ‘The Pakistanis love China for what it can do for them, while the Chinese love Pakistanis despite what they do to themselves’. Immediately after this, the author discusses the Red Mosque fiasco. At another point, a senior Chinese official is quoted as saying ‘Pakistan is our Israel’.

Similarly, in the second chapter on nuclear politics, a Chinese official is quoted thus: ‘As long as they need the bomb, they will lick your balls. As soon as they have the bomb, they will kick your balls’. To know who ‘they’ are in this quote, one has to read the book. The author uses these quotes to whip up a narrative. To understand the narrative, one needs to know the intended or likely audience. In Andrew Small’s case, that might be the US officials concerned with foreign policy.

These quotes add life to what otherwise might have been boring recitations of incidents and narration of past events. In addition to that, the author’s own writing style is very lively, crisp, blunt at times, discrete and insinuatory at others. Andrew Small writes in short, to the point sentences. While reading the book, I often lost track of time. There seems to be a sense of urgency in how each sentence and paragraph leads to the next one but at the same time, there is a measure of restraint and control over how much information actually is in the text.

There is chronological order in the book. Each chapter seems to be set in particular time frame. At the same time, each chapter discusses a different issue as well. The first chapter begins at the start of the cold war while the last chapter ends at the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and what China and Pakistan hope to gain from it. In between, everything from the Taliban to India is covered in depth and in sequence. The reader may pick and choose which topic i.e. chapter to read first but it is advisable to go with the chronological order. There is continuity between the end of each chapter and the beginning of the next.

The crux of the book may be summarized in the following words: Pakistan, at various time, has wanted China to do more than it actually does for Pakistan while Beijing hopes Islamabad can begin to take care of internal matters on its own. Of course, there is a lot more to it. I was surprised to know that Ayub Khan once threatened China with retaliation for repeated Chinese intrusions into Pakistani territory during the early 1950s. This, and a lot more, fills the pages of this delightful book.

One is hard pressed to find a better book on Pak-China relations.

Published in Global Space Village

UN General Assembly condemns Israel for ‘excessive use of force’ on Gaza border

The UN Ge5b21962cdda4c8ac708b458bneral Assembly has adopted a nonbinding resolution condemning Israel’s use of ‘excessive force’ against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. A US amendment to condemn Hamas did not get enough support.

The resolution condemns Israel for “excessive use of force” against Palestinian demonstrators on the Israeli-Gaza border and calls for the ”protection of the Palestinian civilian population” in Gaza. It was adopted with 120 votes in favor and eight votes against, with 45 abstentions.

The amendment offered by US envoy Nikki Haley sought to condemn Hamas, which runs the elected government in Gaza, for firing rockets at Israel. The amendment received 62 votes in favor, with 58 nations opposed and 42 abstaining. It needed a two-thirds majority to pass, however, so it was not included in the final resolution.

The nearly identical resolution proposed by Kuwait was vetoed by the US in the Security Council on Tuesday. Unlike the Security Council resolutions, those adopted in the General Assembly are non-binding.

Haley condemned the adopted resolution as ”morally bankrupt.”

“The resolution is one-sided, makes not one mention of Hamas which routinely initiates violence,” the US envoy said during the debate preceding the vote, adding that ”What makes Gaza different is that attacking Israel is their favorite political sport.”

Israeli ambassador Danny Danon slammed the resolution as “empowering Hamas” and the countries that support it as ”colluding with a terrorist organization.”

“I have a simple message for those who support this resolution. You are the ammunition for Hamas’s guns, you are the warheads for its missiles,” he said.

Over 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during the protests along the border with Gaza that began on March 30. The deadliest day so far has been May 14, when the US embassy officially moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“We cannot remain silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations being systematically perpetrated against our people,” said Riyad Mansour, Palestinian envoy to the UN. – RT

US official warns Pakistan it’s still on notice

By Shehzad Baloch

The United States has reminded Pakistan that it’s still on notice to eliminate all terrorist US warnsanctuaries from its territory, although relations between the two countries show some signs of improvement.

The reminder — conveyed by US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice G. Wells at a congressional hearing on Wednesday — re-emphasizes the point that Washington never fails to mention the need for Pakistan to eliminate terrorism.

“Pakistan is on notice that we expect its unequivocal cooperation ending sanctuaries that the Taliban have enjoyed since the remnants of their toppled regime fled into Pakistan in 2001,” said Ms Wells while reviewing one year of the Trump administration’s South Asia Strategy.

In a New Year Day message this year, President Donald Trump too had put Pakistan on notice, accusing it of “taking billions and billions of dollars” from the United States while “housing the same terrorists” that it was supposed to fight. And a few days after the speech, Washington suspended more than two billion dollars of security aid to Pakistan.

Pakistan has rejected these allegations as unfounded and has urged Washington not to blame Islamabad for its failures in Afghanistan.

In her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on “US policy toward Afghanistan”, Ms Wells acknowledged that the policy of coercing Pakistan into accepting US demands had not been very successful.

“Despite some positive indicators, we have not yet seen Pakistan take the sustained or decisive steps that we would have expected to see ten months after the announcement of the (Trump administration’s) South Asia strategy,” she said.

The senior US official acknowledged that Pakistan “has an important role to play and has legitimate interests” in Afghanistan, which “it wants to ensure are met during any peace process”.

The United States, she said, was not only aware of Pakistan’s interests but was also willing to work with Islamabad to ally its concerns.

“The dialogue that we have with Pakistan seeks to address those concerns while also encouraging additional concrete support for Afghan peace efforts,” she said.

Her statement indicates that the Trump administration has reached the same conclusion that their predecessors had after years of engagement in Afghanistan — it’s an unwinnable war.

“Of course, the Taliban remain a resilient foe. Afghan forces are still laboring to regain control of large areas of rural Afghanistan,” Ms Wells said.

“Equally – if not more troubling – IS Khorasan has increased the pace and scope of its attacks against urban targets, often with a devastating civilian toll”.

The US official noted that the attacks had increasingly focused on ethnic and religious minorities, and were clearly aimed at stoking sectarian and political tensions to undermine popular support for a peace process.

Ms Wells identified four key areas where the US was working to help bolster prospects for an eventual settlement: Supporting Afghan efforts to reduce violence and protect a peace process from spoilers, encouraging all political actors — including the Taliban — to participate in the peace process, supporting Kabul’s efforts to eliminate the conditions that cause militancy and encouraging Afghanistan’s close and distant neighbors to back the peace process.

For Pakistan, she had a clearer message: work with the US to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and arrest or expel those Taliban elements that do not join the peace process.

“More broadly, all of Afghanistan’s neighbors — from Iran and Russia, to India, China, and the Central Asian states — have repeatedly stated their support for an Afghan peace process,” said Ms Well, counting this among the indicators of success of the Trump Administration’s Afghan policy.

Unfortunately, in the past such indicators did not lead to real peace in Afghanistan, which has been in a state of war for more than three decades now.

Title May 2018

title May edition 2018 for print

Evolution of Democracy in Pakistan; unchanged fate of citizens

By Ahmed Khan

In 2013 general elections were held in Pakistan.  The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) Pakistans-democracy-Jithay-dee-Khothee-Uthaay-Aan-Khalothee-640x320PML-N won a landslide victory. Subsequently, this party, which is mostly based in Punjab, formed its government.

This was only the second time that the assemblies completed their five year tenures. Before this the Pakistan People’s Party PPP also accomplished a full term. Though in time of both ruling parities the Prime Minister were impeached and dismissed due to court verdicts.  Despite this the assemblies were not dissolved and democracy remained on track in country. With the exception of these administrations, never did another assembly complete a full term; all other democratically elected civil governments were ended prematurely by court or military coup.

Throughout history democracy seems to have had huge positive impacts in development of human societies.  Governments are forced to perform their duties and fulfill their obligations or they will be replaced during elections. Unfortunately, due to the political circumstances in Pakistan, we have yet to see the fruits of democracy truly bloom. In other democratic nations, the electoral systems ensure the rights of the people are respected. Suppose, in New Zealand, recently a low class woman reached highest post of country and representing common people without class and gender differences. Certainly, it is an outstanding achievement for human civilization.

In India fine democracy is being practiced but many people are still sunk in poverty while injustices are often prevailing in society. The same can be true of the US, Canada, UK and many other model democracies. But despite the shortcomings, all these democratic countries continue to grow economically and there is steady social progress.

Alternatively, there are countries, like Arab Emirates, where no democratic system exists, and the state is run by hierarchic rulers. These countries are also developed and some citizens are prosperous with modern life style and amenities.  Yet even in these countries there is huge income gap and widespread poverty.

The examples prove that in present age of states in globe the democracy without honesty is failed. Honesty, sincerity, humanism and accountability are the main characteristics which lead a society to development and civil progress, but simply the democratic process alone can never change the fate of people and same case is with Pakistanis.

In Pakistan, the democracy has not thrived yet. Most of the time dictatorships have ruled the country directly and the rest of the time, the so-called democratically elected governments remain subordinate to the military establishment. Subsequently these democratically elected political parties lack any real authority. Merely they hold assemblies and call legislatures without any true power.

Pakistan’s Main parties are the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and now Tehrik-e-Insaf also has emerged as third power in country. History and circumstances divulge these parties are and were greatly influenced by military. The politicians only ever followed personal interests and discounted main essence of democracy.

Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto found PPP was very close and supported by the dictator Mr Ayub Khan, and after a time he parted his ways with him. Mr Bhutto then appointed General Zia-Ul-Haq who ironically deposed Mr Bhutto and it was by his hand that Mr Bhutto was executed.

These parties never respected the masses mandate. For example, when Sheikh Mujeeb Rehman won the 1971 elections in a landslide victory, but Mr Bhutto rejected Mujeeb Rehman’s victory and took side with the military establishment. As it was in Bangladesh, also in Balochistan both a democratic and dictatorship were imposed at the same time. Mr Bhutto used power of military to crush the people without caring about the demand and desires of the citizens.

Ever since the time of Mr Bhutto, his PPP party is little more than the official title to represent the dynasty of Bhutto family and out of this family no suitable candidate can found to lead the party to success. Ms Benazir Bhutto and her successors never showed courage to take side of oppressed people and always worked in partnership with the military establishment. The leaders of PPP looted the country’s public finances and bought properties and other assets abroad. They are using party as a means to access public funds for their personal international business corporations in partnership with the military establishment. Even in previous governments when Nawaz Sharif got contentious on some matters with a section of establishment, so PPP was not beside them.

After Bhutto, an attempt was made to fill the political void with Muhammad Khan Junejo, but he was not up to the task of managing Pakistan’s role in the Soviet-Afghan war. Mr Junejo signed the Geneva Accord which did not recognize the non-state elements that were ironically supported by Pakistan’s military establishment. In this document, it was agreed Pakistan would not intervene in Afghanistan, would not become a party in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, nor would it support militant wings. As consequence, the dictator Zia-ul-Haq dismissed Junejo’s government.

The person recruited by the establishment after Junejo was Nawaz Sharif. He was as close to Zia-ul-Haq as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was to Ayub Khan. History once more repeated itself. The military establishment provided their full support to Nawaz Sharif. State resources were used against opposition parties to empower the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

With Passage of time, Nawaz Sharif began to gain political strength, and, just as it was with the previous administrations, he was ousted from office due to his lucrative personal offshore investments. And now Nawaz Sharif is saying that “aliens” have ousted him, but remember the hands that make you, can break you. Nawaz Sharif accuses those “aliens” of employing the same tactics that were used against the PPP in the 1990s. At that time, however, it is interesting to note that he was on the side of those so-called “aliens”.

Nawaz Sharif’s dilemma is indeed a question of karma. His allegation does carry considerable resemblance to the allegations faced by PPP leadership in the past: corruption and, most recently, treason. This brings back recollections of the time when Benazir Bhutto was labeled a “security risk.” Having ignored the lessons of history, Nawaz Sharif did not expect that one day he himself would be portrayed in the same light as the late Benazir Bhutto.

In Nawaz Sharif’s government also no significant social progress was noted. This government every year increased budget of defense, even though the country was NOT in a state of war.  The PML-N could not even keep its promise to meet power shortfalls by establishing additional power resources. Pakistan’s debts also have gone up instead of decreasing. Compared to other developed nation’s Pakistan’s poverty levels are drastically high.  Instead of investing funds in development and infrastructure necessary to promote social progress, elected Politicians have been looting and transferring wealth of nation for their own personal investments abroad. Nothing was changed in five-year government of PML-N, and Pakistan’s civil structure continues to steadily deteriorate.

Overall in the world, democratic governments are held accountable to the people. When a government fails to fulfill their obligations, Citizens have recourse, to vote and replace the ruling party with another. But in Pakistan this case is very different. Here regardless if people vote or not, the crown of rule is adorned upon head of the person favored by the military establishment. In Pakistan the hierarchy of authority is the military establishment ruling through the political parties.  Even the former dictator Pervez Musharraf under this umbrella made a party Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid Azam. Now the PTI, and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) are being backed by military establishment and groomed to be their next instrument of rule.

Although the bottle may change from time to time, it’s certain the same wine will be served. Even when those assemblies have accomplished their full tenure, no significant social improvements can be observed in Pakistan. Still the country continues its steady decline into debt and poverty.  This type of pseudo-democracy where the civilian government is subordinate to the military establishment will never allow for positive change the fate of Pakistani civilians. Only through true civilian rule where governments & politicians are accountable to the people can positive social progress be achieved.

Pakistan’s democracy: Jithay dee Khothee Uthaay Aan Khalothee!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

There’s a saying in Punjabi. “Jithay dee Khothee uthay aan khalothee”.

Loosely translated: The she donkey (or whatever one calls a female donkey) always AN-1-10comes back to where she started from. In more sophisticated terms it’s “back to square one”. Basically. No change!

Pakistan’s version of democracy is no different from this Khothee, aimlessly going round and round finally arriving back from where it started.

To move forward, Pakistan needs change as many of us know and want.

Deep systemic change which uproots the old order and brings in the new. Not just a cosmetic one with one bunch of looters and plunderers replacing the other. Some misguidedly call for military dispensation or a temporary government of technocrats.

But the answer lies in neither, but in institutional reform under the due process of law and that willing handmaiden, the constitution, ever so often used and abused and or locked up, as the case may be.

But because our institutions are so weak, having been systematically debased, degraded, destroyed and debilitated by successive governments, both civilian and military, this reform cannot happen without getting rid of those responsible for this willful destruction, and making it easy for them to continue their loot and plunder

Our electoral process recycles and elects the same trash and garbage, over and over again. Bhutto, Benazir, Nawaz, Benazir, Nawaz, Zardari, Nawaz. And interspersed by long periods of men on horseback, equally destructive. Clear?

So what now?

A military intervention?

A short-term non-elected technocratic administration?

A combination of the two?

Or leveraging some of our strong institutions like the Supreme Court and the NAB, to start to drain the swamp, getting rid of and punishing the most powerful and most corrupt and strengthening key institutions like ECP, FBR, FIA, SECP, Police, PEMRA, Railways etc. to give us a fighting chance. All within the law and constitution.

And that is why I fully support the efforts of the Supreme Court in bringing some order, some accountability to our mess.

Many have criticized the “Good Governance and Anti-corruption” jihad launched by the Chief Justice. This would have been justified if we were operating in an environment where our public sector institutions of governance, administration and especially of accountability were operating honestly and as per their mandate.

But they’ve failed. No institution could punish Benazir, Zardari, Nawaz Sharif for their institutional destruction and whole scale corruption, loot and plunder.

Nor could they haul up people under military government and many made fortunes. Take the example of the Akhter brothers, Humayun and Haroon, sons of Lt. Gen Akhter Abdur Rahman, or Ejaz ul Haque, Gen. Zia’s son, or Ch. Qamaruzaman the former NAB boss, one-time ADC to Gen. Zia. Or those who got a free pass out of jail under Gen. Musharraf.

And the many Generals, Brigadiers and other officers who’ve been graciously helping themselves. And then who can ever forget the terrible and infamous Gen. Musharraf, NRO. So clearly the military is not the answer.

While I have great respect for our Armed forces being an ex-Khaki myself and their tremendous efforts in winning the battle against terror and militancy, military interventions are not and will never be the solution, despite the organization’s professional brilliance, discipline and relatively corruption free environment, compared to other Government institutions.

Any hopes from another Military government are, to say the least, seriously misplaced. This is because all military governments or administrations, overt or covert, eventually truck with the same kind of people they came to replace. Zia, Musharraf. No change. In fact, they leave behind a system and institutions, even weaker.

This happens because of two reasons.

One the military mind while operationally outstanding operates in a binary of “us” and “them” or “friend” vs. “foe”. You’re either “with them” or “against them”.

That’s the nature of military training since time immemorial and rightly so, because they are not trained to operate in shades of grey or ambiguity or uncertainty or compromise. So any person, group, institution who offers a contrarian view, automatically gets pushed into the “other” “enemy” “foe” or “they” camp. Not their fault. In their world you’re either with them or against them.

And people, who do not like authoritarianism, will disagree with them, irrespective of their good intentions or good work.

And this to me explains why many intelligent, educated and aware people will support a known crook and criminal like Nawaz as he cunningly crafted his anti-establishment rhetoric, muddying the waters and trying to move the focus away from his own criminal acts, and pretending to stand up to militarism. This despite the fact that he sent over six emissaries to the army desperately seeking a bail out!

Secondly and more critically because they are operationally successful in implementing programs within their own areas of expertise, and observing the abject misgovernance in the civilian sphere, they mistakenly believe that they will achieve similar success when implementing programs in the non-military sphere, operating outside their organizational structures, policies, procedures and systems.

This is where they fumble and flounder and finally have to seek support from the “civilians” and the “politicians” to help implement any change agenda.

There they find the same leeches who have stuck to them. Not the bright intelligent ones, who will challenge them and who’ve been thrust away. Honorable exceptions apart. And many honorable exceptions did one find during Gen. Musharrafs regime, especially his first 3 or 4 years. Otherwise tragically once more it’s back to square one.

The Army is a reality in Pakistan. Its latent power and influence in Pakistan is huge, especially coming out of its highly successful war against militancy and terrorism. While technically the Army Chief is a grade 22 officer, subservient to the Minister of Defense, his office is by far the most powerful in the country.

What can and should the Army do to get us out of this hell hole for which it shares equal responsibility with the corrupt politicians?

In my opinion, two things.

  1. Stand behind the constitution and law, and support any institution like the Supreme Court and NAB and others who are endeavoring to create space and opportunity for institutional reform, holding the corrupt accountable and ensuring that honest and competent people are appointed to positions of power and authority in key public sector institutions.
  2. Ensure that they support the Election Commission to ensure elections are free and fair, as much can be, given the total hijacking and destruction of our electoral process.

And they MUST NOT tinker with the political process and try to influence the outcome!

Nor should there be any ham handed and stupid attempts at muzzling the press, as one hears nowadays! A free press even if it runs wild is the greatest shield against unbridled fascism and authoritarianism.

So back to democracy! Many people are of the opinion that in Pakistan, “Democracy” will eventually evolve into a better form than before. I have a very strong opinion to the contrary.

Technically we’ve had “Democracy” in its current form since Gen. Musharraf’s 2004 elections. Since 2008, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have enjoyed and enjoy nearly as much absolute power as did Gen. Musharraf. Not a twig moves in the Federal and Punjab governments without the Sharif nod or the Zardari nod in Sindh.

Yes, we have the trappings of federal and provincial legislatures. These have hosted the august bottoms of the same people and families and mindsets since 1940 pre partition days. The only exception being the urban MQM, a party sadly tainted with horrible fascist crimes.

Has anything changed in Pakistan as a consequence of this more than a decade long “Democratic” period?

Are our national leaders less corrupt than before?

Has our law enforcement become better?

Terrorism apart, is our life, property more safe today?

Are our courts, both lower and superior judiciary, delivering better and quicker justice?

Are our government departments less corrupt?

Are public sector appointments made on merit on two fundamental criterions of competence and honesty?

Do we have better and more job opportunities for our youth?

Has our public health care system become better?

Has our public education system become better?

Has our economy grown?

Have our exports grown?

Have our foreign exchange reserves grown?

Do people pay more taxes?

We live in a dream world of rose tinted glasses and a simplistic construct of “let Democracy continue and evolve.

Yes, it must.

But then it must be democracy, a trust of the people, transparent, accountable and delivering good governance. Not a near total dictatorship disguised as a democracy as we see today.  It must deliver growth and betterment to the questions asked above

Look at the election statistics.  PPP got 13% of the registered vote to come into power in 2008 and PML-N 18% in 2012. And they governed and govern as if Pakistan was and is their personal fiefdom.

Both parties have mastered the art of hijacking the electoral process through money, patronage and outright criminality called rigging. And then the audacity of foisting their children on this country as one does in a dynasty. Who is Bilawal? Who is Maryam? Who is Hamza?  Little twits and nothings with absolute no right but their incident of birth.

Is this democracy?

Will we continue to pay homage to a twenty something twit Bilawal as our next “democratically” selected PM? Or that trashy ‘botoxed’ dumb blonde, Maryam in the same slot? And their “courtiers” who’s only relevance is that they support such a dysfunctional order. This is no better than North Korea, or Saddam’s Iraq or our “brotherly” Muslim dynastic countries. But this is not democracy!

Gen. Musharraf was a military ruler and one in uniform, but compared to these two so called “democrats” he was far better, in both letter and spirit.

Did he ever try and push his children on us?

Did we not have one of the most effective local government systems under his watch?

Did we not have one of the least corrupt Government’s in his time?

I’m not here to sing in his praise or defend him. He also has much to answer in areas of foreign policy, partnering with corrupt politicians, the whole post 9/11 scenario and perhaps the most unforgivable sin of not implementing deep institutional reform.

The last, more tragic, because he had the opportunity, the power and initially the whole hearted support of the Nation.

But in areas of governance, democratic practices, transparency, devolution of power to local bodies, and relatively less corruption, he comes out, smelling like a rose compared to Nawaz Sharif and Zardari!

So this is not “Democracy”.

Nawaz Sharif did not even pay token homage to the trappings of a parliamentary democracy. His record of attending the Parliament and the Senate is shameful. Shouldn’t he have gone to the National Assembly to make his position clear on the Panama Leaks and answer questions?

No. He did what a “dictator” does, hide behind a gentle camera and deliver a pathetic, embarrassing monologue of such juvenile logic that some senior members of his own party were reported to have thrown up! And now is out in the cold!

And trying to stir a near civil war!

So if we have elections again tomorrow and the silent majority does not vote, these criminals, looters and plunderers will come back in power. Not because they’re popular or they got the vote, but because they’ve captured the system.

Therefore, cast your vote. Every vote counts and be very careful when you cast your vote. Each and every one of us. Look at your choices, Nawaz, Zardari and Imran. One would be daft not to see the obvious choice.

Yes, we need an administration of honest and capable technocrats to get into positions of power and authority. Based on his track record, the only person who will appoint such people is Imran.

Get him in. The other’s we’ve tried and seen the outcome. Worst case scenario. Imran cannot be worse than the loot and plunder and the stench and vomit of the Sharifs and the Zardaris.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is a God send! More power to him and his judicial activism. Either we let him drain the swamp, or wait for the men on horseback or slide further down into anarchy!

He has filled the vacuum created by the abject surrender of governance by the political order. Any vacuum will attract something to fill the emptiness.

And because of his activism, many others are showing spine.

Pakistan’s vector is heading north.

Published Global Village space

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi is the current Convenor of The Strategy Study Group, founded by the late Col. S. G. Mehdi M. C, former Group Commander of Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG). Haider is a former Pakistan Army officer, corporate leader, management consultant, business trainer, and serial entrepreneur.The views expressed here are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect GVS editorial policy.

A night of trouble in Sialkot

By Waqar Gillani

The act of preserving historic buildings owned by Ahmadis was checked by the local clerics Skt-71of Sialkot, who oddly absolve themselves from the incident by stating, “All is well that ends well”

One of the oldest localities of Sialkot, Kashmiri Mohalla, was a sorry sight on the eve of May 24. A mob of about 300 charged men, allegedly supported by the local administration, while chanting religious slogans like Allah O Akbar, started to destruct the 144-year-old Ahmadi worship place, Baitul Mubarak.

As the night progressed, the mob demolished the minarets and façade of this historic building spread over three marlas. They also managed to raze two small houses owned by the Ahmadi community located next to the worship place.

“We bought these two small and dilapidated houses, spread over a total of six marlas, from the family of Hakeem Hissamuddin in recent years. Since our spiritual leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, spent some time in these houses, we decided to preserve these buildings in his memory,” Abdul Sattar, a leader of Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya tells The News.

As work started on the project, some local Muslim clerics raised objections to the repair work. “Some clerics thought we were building a museum in memory of Mirza Sahib. Some of them also thought we were extending the place of worship,” says Sattar.

The local Muslim community had no objection to the renovation. “We submitted an affidavit as well, stating that we are not building a museum or extending the worship place. But some mullahs, not belonging to our locality, continued to propagate against us,” he says.

“It is our right to preserve our historical places,” he adds. “We tried to buy another property in the vicinity where Mirza Sahib lived. But the owner refused to sell it to us.”

The renovation work started about two years ago. In May last year, “Sahibzada Hamid Raza started to propagate that we are building a museum, and complained to the municipal authorities. The work remained halted for more than two months, till we submitted affidavits, assuring the authorities that no museum was being constructed. The administration then allowed us to resume the work,” says Mudassir Ahmad, who supervised the renovation.

But this May the community was asked by the local authorities to stop the work again. The two adjoining houses were sealed and they were directed to show the records, approved maps and copy of permission letters that were already with the administration. Some days later, the district administration lodged a case of non-compliance against ameer of the Jamaat for failing to bring legal documents of the community and sent them a notice to demolish the two houses. Ahmad recalls that the local authorities told his community elders that they are under “immense pressure”, not describing by whom, “to demolish the structures”.

“We called the police just when the mob started to demolish the structure. But no one came. Later, when the building was severely damaged, the police came and took over control,” says Ahmad.

The local police have sealed the narrow streets of Kashmiri Mohalla where the worship place and the two houses are situated. A week after the tragic incident, the area around the properties is occupied by police in uniform and plainclothes. The interior of one of the two houses is severely damaged and the compound has a heap of rubble. Ahmadis are allowed to enter the worship place during prayer times only. The visiting journalists are not allowed to take pictures. The locals hesitate to talk about the incident.

An inquiry committee has been set up, comprising representatives of police and district administration, to identify the attackers. “For the house demolishing case, only district administration can do something,” says Asad Sarfaraz, district police officer.

“No case has been lodged against the attackers yet. We are waiting for the findings of the inquiry report headed by a senior police official.”

District administration denied to comment on the case despite several efforts made by TNS.

Kashmiri Mohalla is of special national significance as it is the birthplace of Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Historically, Muslims and Ahmadis lived together peacefully for years after Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of Ahmadi faith, claimed prophethood in 1879. He lived in this locality for some years in late 1860s while working as an assistant reader/clerk in Sialkot courts. During his stay in Sialkot, he developed acquaintance with Hakeem Hissamuddin, a cousin of Meer Hassan who taught Quranic teachings to Iqbal. When Mirza claimed prophethood, Hissamuddin’s family became Ahmadis. The two houses that were damaged by the angry men on May 23 belonged to the Hissamuddin family and were recently bought by Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. This worship place was also built by Hissamuddin in 1874, and was later donated to the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya. According to some claims, Meer Hassan taught Iqbal in the same building.

It is claimed that one of Iqbal’s wives and his son Aftab Iqbal were also Ahmadi by faith. According to some locals, his picture and name was prominently mentioned in the ancestral house of Iqbal, located close to the demolished structures, but some years ago his picture was quietly removed.

“According to law, Ahmadis are not allowed to build minarets or give Islamic references to their worship places. The state’s failure to check this development compelled us to take action,” says Hamid Raza, the imam who led the charged mob, while talking to TNS.

Raza can be seen in video clips shared on social media, where he thanks the police and municipal authorities for their cooperation in demolishing minarets and two houses. He also warns of further “consequences” if police cases are lodged against him and other attackers.

“Ahmadis recently bought these houses and were spending lavishly on them, to convert them into a museum to honor Mirza Ghulam Ahmad,” says the imam.

To the question why the minarets were not demolished earlier, he says, “All is well that ends well”.

Zaheer Shah, who lives near the destroyed structures, thinks this act to be a “mischief” and “design” to spread anarchy in the area ahead of the general elections. “It is very strange that they realize after more than 40 years that the minarets of this place are illegal,” he says. “Strangely, people who were Muslims became non-Muslim after 1974. Similarly, what were called mosques became worship places,” he says while referring to the Second Amendment proposed by Zulfikar Bhutto.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemning this action against the beleaguered Ahmadiyya community has urged the state to ensure the community’s places of worship and sites of religious significance are protected as far as possible.

Published in TheNews

If it weren’t for education …

By Syed Ali Shah

All my life, I have tried to make my voice heard and striven to ensure the voiceless of 24774716_830026580499642_2214387006262666700_n-2society get a hearing too. The latter cause, I see as a major rationale for my existence as growing up I myself was very poor. I was born in one of the poorest families in Killi Jangle Toorkhail Syedan near the Afghan border in 1978. My father Syed Abdul Baqi, a daily wage earner, spent his whole life doing manual labor to provide for his family. Despite his circumstances, he remained determined that my brother and I got an education.

I was enrolled in the government masjid primary school Toorkhail  in 1983 in Class One. Interestingly, it was the same year the school was established in a mud-walled room owned by one of the villagers. This was when thousands of Afghan refugees were being settled in the Jangle Pir Alizai refugee camp near my village. The Afghan war had far-reaching impact on my village and surrounding areas: heroin and kalashnikov culture, coupled with religious extremism, were being introduced to our society.

Our school comprised a mud-plastered room donated by a villager. Master Noorullah Kakar from Khanozai area of Pishin district, where the literacy is still roughly more than 90 percent, was our first teacher. The teacher used to beat us a lot and we used to cry. I thought this torture system would continue forever. However, we heaved a sigh of relief when Master Noorullah was replaced by another teacher Gul Muhammad who had done his Masters in Arts. Mr Gul Muhammad was a polite person and used to teach us without beating us. I remained a position holder in my class till primary level.

After passing primary level, I got admission in the Government Middle School, in Killi Chur Badizai, located almost two kilometres north of my village. Mr Khalil, who is currently professor of English in the Science College, Quetta, deserves to be congratulated for teaching me the basics, the ABC, of English.

For three years, I studied in Killi Chur Badizai middle school and then I came to study in Class IX in Quetta’s Sandeman High school. I was given G section of Cass IX and Mr Shams was my teacher. The class was over-crowded with almost 80 students at one time. I barely managed to pass Class IX since the Urdu language, coupled with English, was quite challenging for me. So, I went to Pir Alizai high school for Class X.  I somehow managed to matriculate from there. I used to bicycle for one and half hour every day to reach Killi Pir Alizai high school. It was a tougher journey than it sounds as the bicycle was in an extremely poor condition.

After matriculation, I followed in my father´s footsteps and started working as a laborer but continued my education, passing my FA exams from the Balochistan Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Quetta. Next, I passed my BA exams from the University of Balochistan in 1998.

In 1999, I was appointed as a junior English teacher in the District Pishin of Balochistan. I taught students in middle school killi Manzaki in the district Pishin for more than two months and then I got myself transferred to Chur Badizai middle school where I used to be a student once. I taught there for few months and then suddenly 3,000 teachers were terminated on the order of Balochistan High Court. I was one of them. My heart sank since my whole family was financially dependent on me.

I made my way to Quetta to protest and mount pressure on the authorities to reinstate me. I was elected as the vice chairman of the sacked teachers’ action committee. I was part of this struggle, when one day Azhar Sahab, the general manager of Jang, saw me outside his newspaper’s office. He called me in and asked the reason for my protest. I narrated the ordeal before him. He promised to find me employment in a newspaper.

His efforts bore fruit. I was appointed as circulation assistant in the daily Balochistan Times. In BT, I continued my studies I completed my MA in literature. I got 3rd position in the Balochistan University exams during the year 2,000. I used to look after the distribution of newspaper throughout Balochistan. But one day, I drew the attention of Muhammad Kazim Mengal, a veteran and respected journalist of Quetta when I translated an Urdu item into English. That was my day. Mr Mengal encouraged me to continue my path and try my hand at journalism. Despite all odds, I became a reporter for the first and oldest daily English newspaper of Balochistan, the BT, at the end of 2002. For two years, I made my name in the journalists´ community and was offered a job as a stringer in Al Jazeera TV. I accepted the offer. I worked in AJ for four years and resigned on March 12, 2007 when I was appointed as reporter in DawnNews, the first English Satellite TV channel of Pakistan. Since then, I have been given more responsibility and currently serve as DawnNews Bureau Chief in Quetta. I also contribute to various international media organizations including CNN, TRT and Al-Jazeera English on major news stories from Balochistan.

As Bureau Chief of DawnNews, promoting the cause of education and highlighting related issues has been my first priority. I have filed critical, investigative and human interest stories focusing on the state of education in Balochistan. From extreme poverty to now being in a position to earn not just a decent living but also being respected for my work, has only been made possible by education. That is why I strive no matter how humbly to serve the cause of education and return my debt.

Published in Alifailaan.com

Syed Ali Shah is a journalist, analyst and researcher.

The State of Pakistani Democracy


Democracies are built on the backs of ideals. As democracies get stronger, so do the Civil-militaryinstitutions and ideals they are built upon. However, the international community has recently seen even the most resilient democracies fracture under the weight of anti-democratic forces. Take India and Turkey as examples, where strong-arm leaders have gained control, and have made their countries increasingly authoritarian. Even the United States, a self-proclaimed beacon of democracy, has borne the effects of a self-aggrandizing leader constantly engaged in spats with federal and state institutions. This development shows how quickly hard-earned progress can be lost, and what happens when democracy is taken for granted.

Pakistan, a relatively young democratic country with merely seventy years of existence, has seen nothing but instability in its political climate. The military sector has constantly meddled in its national politics, justices have been accused of political bias and extremist religious factions have influenced public opinion and policy-making for way too long. In light of this, is it fair to say that the upcoming general elections are going to be representative of the will of the people, i.e. truly democratic? In appearance yes, because majority votes will elect representatives to Parliament. But in reality, not really. Major political parties are embroiled in their own existential struggles while the judicial and military sectors are under constant fire from people unhappy about their outsized role in politics. With a void of ideas and an assault on institutions, democracy in Pakistan is under threat, which will bring in question the legitimacy of the upcoming general elections of 2018.

Usually, it is a sign of a healthy democracy to have multiple parties in the political mainstream. With an abundance of parties, tackling issues from various angles and presenting the public with options, comes an abundance of ideas. This is what the New York Times columnist David Brooks refers to as the “abundance mindset.”

“Democratic capitalism provides the bounty. Prejudice gradually fades away. Growth and dynamism are our friends…the abundance mindset is confident in the future, welcoming toward others. It sees win-win situations everywhere.”

In Pakistan however, there is a clash of personalities instead of a clash of ideas. When there is no meaningful policy to win support, politicians play with people’s emotions and rally them to their grandiose causes by evoking fear and hatred against the ‘other’. Consequently, leaders create a divisive atmosphere leading to mistrust among fellow citizens. No one in Pakistan plays this game better than the religious factions.

Just recently, the religious group Tehreek-i-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYRA) gained national prominence by staging a major sit-in in Faizabad, where they protested the softening of anti-blasphemy laws and demanded the resignation of Pakistan’s Law Minister Zahid Hamid. The protest turned violent and resulted in the killing of one police officer. TLYRA’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, rose to prominence back in 2011 after he threw his support behind Mumtaz Qadri, a security guard who killed Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of the Punjab province. The stance cost Rizvi his job in the Punjab government. There was a great outcry from the public, but Rizvi justified his support for Qadri saying Taseer had labeled the blasphemy laws “black law”. His vehement support for this cause has earned him the nickname “blasphemy activist” in religious circles.

On October 26, 2017, TLYRA contested local elections in the city of Peshawar and managed to come within a 2.5 percent vote margin of the Pakistan Peoples Party. PPP was once considered the harbinger of strong democratic values in Pakistan and even though it does not stand at the same pedestal in public conscience as it once did, it still represents a progressive brand of politics. The very same dynastic PPP is now standing neck and neck with religious parties like TLYRA in certain parts of the country. Whether this result becomes a nationwide phenomenon is yet to be seen, but TLYRA has etched itself in public political discourse by religious exploitation.

In his article, Brooks mentions a scarcity-mindset where religious factions turn from faith to “siege-mentality interest groups.” This is increasingly true in Pakistan, where religious leaders have opted out of their role as scholars and interpreters to become leaders who bank on people’s religious views to garner votes. Apart from undermining democracy by suppressing diverse views that might fall outside the confines of religion — as these parties interpret it — this can create dangerous situations, a snapshot of which was already seen in the Faizabad sit-in.

The last ruling party (the Pakistan Muslim League-N), which was poised to win this year’s general elections, has spent the last year undermining the integrity of the Supreme Court after it disqualified the party’s leader — Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif — from his post as Prime Minister based on allegations of money laundering. Party representatives, including Sharif himself, have come out in staunch opposition to the Supreme Court, alleging the military influenced the court, which shaped the disqualification decision. Sharif characterizes the court as having “dual standards”, and being determined to punish him at all costs, thereby predetermining the decision against him. In one particularly shocking case, a PML-N senator even threatened the court outright.

“You are on duty today. Remember, you will be retiring tomorrow. We will make your life and [those of] your family members miserable in Pakistan,” senator Nehal Hashmi says targeting judiciary members probing Sharif families’ ties to offshore companies.

It is one thing to question the reasoning of a case (which by all means the reasoning behind the Panama case decision was very questionable), it is an entirely different thing to rile up an entire nation against the premier justice provider based on unsubstantiated claims. Sowing mistrust in institutions only serves to undermine civil discourse by creating a divisive atmosphere.

The military has also played a central role in undermining democracy in Pakistan over the years. Election manipulations have been periodically exposed, as demonstrated by the Mehrangate scandal that took place during the 1990 elections. The scandal revealed vast sums of money being disbursed to political parties at the behest of then Army Chief Mirza Aslam Beg. Nawaz Sharif, who won those elections and became Prime Minister. He is alleged to have accepted 3.5 million rupees ($35,000) from the sum amount. The military has also staged multiple coups, ousting democratically elected leaders and setting the country back each time. To date, Pakistan has spent nearly half of its existence under military rule, with the first takeover happening a mere eleven years after the country came into being. Military antics have been a disaster for Pakistan, where democracy has not even been given a chance to flourish. Although the military has accepted a more subdued role in the current administration, their relationship with the civilian government is still choppy at best. This time, however, the trouble is coming from the civilian end more than the military, as Nawaz Sharif has taken it upon himself to blame the military — which has helped him get elected in the past — for having an overreaching influence on the judiciary. The hypocrisy is pretty obvious.

To establish faith in democracy, it is absolutely essential for the public to know that their civil rights and liberties will be protected by judicial institutions, against societal harm. In Pakistan, however, the image of the Supreme Court has been adversely affected because of its highly dominant role in some of the most politically charged periods in the nation’s history. The court legitimized all three military coups in 1958, 1977 and 1999 under the ”doctrine of necessity.” Such actions give political parties an excuse to attack the court’s integrity by highlighting double standards where civilians are given harsher punishments than the military. More recently, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Saqib Nisar visited Mayo Hospital in Lahore to review the quality of healthcare provided to patients. After discovering a lack of clean drinking water provided to patients, he ordered relevant authorities to install a filtration plant. His actions drew immense criticism from media which attacked him for confusing his role with that of an elected representative of Parliament.

Salman Masood, Pakistan Correspondent at New York Times wrote on Twitter: “Curious to know under which constitutional provision Chief Justice is required to visit hospitals or any other public buildings, and issue orders.”

Obviously, it does not help when hardly any elected representatives visit hospitals to perform the job Justice Nisar took upon himself. Moreover, there is a huge backlog of cases within the judiciary. Justice Nisar blames the Parliament for not enacting proper legislation, causing judges to perform their job ineffectively. Being critical of other branches of government and overstepping its bounds has left the Supreme Court in a precarious situation where the public is stuck between having to rely on the courts, but unable to fully trust them to provide justice. An article in Pakistan’s daily newspaper reported: “In most civil and revenue matters, the litigants have to wait decades —sometimes the third generation of the petitioners get the final verdict in their cases.”

Fareed Zakaria, a columnist for the Washington Post, describes the problem facing the world today as “illiberal democracy” — elected governments that systematically abuse their power and restrict freedoms. In his recent column in the Post, Zakaria said institutions are collections of rules and norms agreed upon by human beings. The character of democracy will weaken if these leaders attack and denigrate these rules. An established democracy like the US was rated a “flawed democracy” for the second consecutive year on the Economic Intelligence Unit Index. So it should not come as a surprise if Pakistan, where anti-democratic forces are constantly tugging and pulling at the state of affairs, is rated a “hybrid regime” on the same index, falling between a democracy and an authoritarian regime.

Published in Berkeley Political Review

Why are Pakistanis so successful at finding jobs in Germany?


A recent study by Germany’s Federal Employment Agency concluded that 19260145_303Pakistanis have been the most successful at finding work in the EU country over the past couple of years. DW examines the reasons behind their success.

He speaks and understands very little German. On the face of it, 37-year-old Akbar Ali may be considered one of the least integrated migrants in Germany. However, he has learned very quickly how to adapt spicy Indian-Pakistani cuisine to suit German and European taste buds.

For the past ten months, Ali has been working part-time as an assistant in the kitchen of an Indian/Pakistani restaurant in the western German city of Bonn. Securing the job was not an easy task. “Not understanding the language was the main problem in finding a job. There was hardly anyone I knew who could understand my language and help me out. Having no work and no social life was one of the hardest times for me,” Ali told DW.

Work as a coping mechanism

Ali is one of the nearly 30,000 Pakistani migrants who have arrived in Germany since 2015. He is also among the 40 percent of migrants from Pakistan who have managed to find a job in Europe’s largest economy.

According to a recent study published by the Institute for Employment Research (IAB), a special office of Germany’s Federal Employment Agency, Pakistanis have been the most successful among all migrants in finding employment in Germany.

For Ali, being employed means more than just earning extra money. His brother in Pakistan passed away last month, and keeping busy at work here helped him cope with the loss.

He spent almost two years, looking for any possible way to keep himself occupied and earn some extra money before he finally met Aleem Latif, who owns a successful restaurant in Bonn’s old town, and who opened another in nearby Siegburg last year.

“Because of the language barrier and the lack of recognized skills, it is hard for Pakistani migrants to find jobs in other sectors. I hired Ali as I knew that he can be trained,” Latif told DW. “We have Pakistani students working with us and many students looking for part-time jobs. So there was obviously an element of empathy in hiring a migrant, which requires a lot of paper work.”

German — EU citizens still get priority

According to federal legislation, German and European Union citizens are given priority in the job market. Non-EU citizens, on the other hand, are only granted permission to work certain jobs for which German or EU citizens are not available. This requirement was partially suspended in 2016 to enhance the employment chances for refugees whose asylum applications had been accepted in Germany.

Coupled with other factors, these regulations are one of the reasons why migrants from Pakistan primarily get permission to work in Indian or Pakistani restaurants.

Danyal Ali Rizwan is another Pakistani migrant who is currently living in an asylum center in the town of Neumarkt in the southern German state of Bavaria. Rizwan comes from the volatile Parachinar region located on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rizwan told DW that he worked for a year at an Indian restaurant. “Later I found a job in another local company. However, the Federal Employment Agency did not give me permission to work there and since then, I do not have a job,” he said.

Acceptance quota declining

According to the EU statistics office, Eurostat, 28,395 Pakistani migrants applied for asylum in Germany between 2015 and 2017. Over 15,000 of those asylum applications were submitted to German authorities in 2016 alone.

Over 90 percent of Pakistani asylum seekers are men, with women roughly making up the remaining 10 percent. Most Pakistani asylum seekers are young males, with almost 74 percent of them being between 18 and 34-years old.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Pakistani interpreter working with Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) claimed that the majority of Pakistanis seeking refuge in Germany are economic migrants, primarily from the South Asian nation’s Punjab province.

Of the asylum applications filed by Pakistanis between 2015 and 2017, only 5.4 percent were approved in the first instance.

The acceptance ratio among male applicants between the ages of 18 and 34 was even lower at 2.7 percent. In 2014, just before the start of the refugee crisis in Europe, over 27 percent of Pakistani migrants successfully obtained asylum in Germany.

It should also be noted that Pakistani migrants are unable to attend German language and integration courses unless their asylum applications are accepted. These courses are normally offered to those with refugee status from countries like Syria and Iraq.

Yet, despite these hurdles, Pakistani migrants have still managed to find employment at a higher rate than asylum seekers from other countries.

Respect more important than money

Out of the ten Pakistani migrants that DW spoke with in Bonn, five of them successfully obtained jobs since arriving in 2015. Most of them come from rural areas and small cities between Islamabad and Lahore — where prospects are slim for improving one’s economic situation.

20-year-old Usman was the youngest among them and most fluent in the German language.

“I am working not just to earn money. More important than that is the fact that being employed earns me social respect,” he said.

Similarly, Ali emphasized that he wants to work because he does not want to rely on social assistance from the German government. “I want to earn my living with my own hands,” he said.

For Latif, gaining social respect is one of the main motivating factors behind the high employment rate among migrants from Pakistan. “Most of them have the burden of earning money for their families back in Pakistan, but social respect within the Pakistani community here is equally important for them.”

US Secretary of State calls Pakistani Genenal for reconciliation in Afghanistan

Bolan Voice Report

Reports in international media appeared about US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa discussed the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan as President Ashraf Ghani announced a ceasefire with the Taliban, officials said.

Pompeo, who was the head of CIA before his appointment as secretary of state, telephoned the army chief on Thursday and according to the State Department discussed “advancing US-Pakistani relations, the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and the importance of targeting all militant and terrorist groups in South Asia without any distinction.”

This was the first interaction between the new secretary of state and the army chief which came amid deterioration in ties between the two estranged allies.

Only last month, the two countries had imposed tit-for-tat travel restrictions on each other’s diplomats suggesting a new low in their troubled ties.

At the heart of the controversy are the differences between the two sides on how to put an end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan.

Despite Pakistan’s multiple operations in the tribal areas against militant groups, the US is still not convinced that Islamabad has taken out all outfits, particularly the Haqqani Network which is responsible for most deadly attacks on US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the two countries are looking for a common ground on Afghanistan. A senior US general in Afghanistan recently revealed that talks were held between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban.

Observers believe such talks were not possible without Pakistan’s facilitation because it has critical role in the Afghan peace talks.

The understanding between Pompeo and Gen Bajwa on the need for political reconciliation in Afghanistan coincided with by President Ghani’s announcement of a ceasefire with the Taliban till June 20.

The Afghan president, however, made it clear that fighting against other militant groups such Islamic State would continue.

Meanwhile, Pakistan strongly condemned the recent suicide attack that targeted a congregation of religious scholars in Kabul.

“We are grieved at the loss of precious innocent lives in this barbaric act of terrorism. We express our heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the bereaved families and pray for the early recovery of the injured,” said Dr Muhammad while speaking at a weekly news briefing.

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