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The death of Arabs

Ihsan Aktas

Today, the greatest injustices on earth are being committed against Arabs. Although all of us are used to the eruption of wars and civil wars in the Arab world, it is imperative to see the big picture, i.e., the gradual death of the Arab people. Behind the flamboyant stage constituted by the towers in Dubai and Saudi wealth, hundreds of people are being killed every day in the rest of the Arab world. Wars and civil wars have already become ordinary occurrences in the region to such an extent that statistical reports no longer record all the loss of life among Arabs.

Immediately after the Mavi Marmara incident, when Israeli commandos killed seven Turkish civilians in their raid on six civilian ships carrying activists from 50 countries in an attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, we as volunteers began to prepare a press announcement to protest against Israel, as most of the managers of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) were themselves taken captive on the ships. If the people who were killed by Israeli soldiers were Arabs, I thought, Israel might have gotten away with these murders. Yet, those who were murdered were Turkish civilians whose case was defended by the Turkish state. This was a tragic insight on the desperate condition of the Arab people.

As Israel’s bloody raids on Palestinian civilian camps under the leadership of murderous Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, also known as the “Butcher of Beirut” in Lebanon for his role as defense minister in the 1982 invasion that killed an estimated 20,000 people that year alone, demonstrated, the lives of Arabs have always been treated as insignificant by the world’s leading powers. Here is a limited list of historical incidents of the death of the Arab peoples:

lThe Lebanese Civil War lasted from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in an estimated 120,000 fatalities. The devastating Iran-Iraq War lasted from 1980 to 1988. Occupations of Afghanistan resulted in an ongoing civil war.

The Gulf War was followed by the Iraq War in which then US President George W. Bush’s neoconservative administration used the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an excuse and occupied Iraq and Afghanistan under the pretext of the war on terrorism.

The death of an estimated 1 million people in Iraq since the invasion of the United States condemned the occupied country to instability and chaos. Unrestricted by Western powers, Israel has continued to murder Palestinian civilians.

The civil war in Yemen, fueled by regional competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia, has resulted in the loss of uncountable lives and the destruction of the country as a whole.

Finally, the Arab Spring, which began as an honorable revolution against long-lived dictatorships, has gradually turned into a nightmare. A coup was realized in Egypt, Libya was divided into three parts and Syria is trapped in a devastating civil war.

While Turkey’s ongoing military operation in Afrin against the PKK terrorist organization-affiliated Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces has been criticized by Western powers for weakening the war against Daesh, the United Nations appears indifferent to the Syrian regime’s ongoing aerial offensive in Eastern Ghouta, which began on Sunday and has killed at least 403 civilians. The Syrian regime’s war on civilians is still not at the top of the world’s political agenda. With reference to Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “We lose and love does not win,” one can say, “Arabs die and no one wins.”

 

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LoC situation fraught with risks

Dr Obaid-ur-Rehman

Recent flare-up of violations of the Line of Control (LoC) by Indian troops has resulted in great hardships for the people living on both sides of the divide. According to Al-Jazeera TV, the number of violations in 2017 reached more than staggering 1,300 times, killing at least 52 and injuring 175 civilians. Very recent statistics indicate that the first three weeks of 2018 have witnessed continuous spree of violations of LoC and Working Boundary (WB) by Indian Army and In-dian Border Force (BSF).
During these violations, in addition to small arms, heavy weapons were used to kill dozens and to injure hundreds of innocent civilians straddling LoC and WB violating the UN resolutions and Ceasefire Agreement-2003 and all international norms of engagement not to target civilian population.
The recent history of violations reveals the details of the astounding figure of 1881 ceasefire violations from 2014 to 2016 – 315 in 2014, 248 in 2015, 2016 in 2016 respectively. These violations entailed 300 deaths, 1121 injuries during the period. It is interesting to compare it to the figures of 1062 violations of ceasefire violations from the period 2003 to 2013 – 11 in 2003, 6 in 2004, 9 in 2006, 18 in 2007, 30 in 2008, 46 in 2009, 113 in 2010, 104 in 2011, 282 in 2012, 464 in 2013 – showing a gradual upward trend during the years starting from 2003.
The increase in such violations is phenomenal since the assumption of governmental control by ultra-conservative Modi government. The augmented ceasefire violations coincide with an increasing trend in the persecution of religious minorities particularly Muslims. The intransigence of the part of India is not limited to Line of Control only; it extends to Working Boundary as well.
The pattern of events indicates a probable violent conflagration between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. The situation is fraught with risks to an already fragile and uneasy peace prevailing between the two countries. It is the need of the time that saner sense should prevail and efforts be directed to avert any eventuality. The history of these violations dates back to the Indian invasion of Kashmir on October 27, 1947 which gave rise to India-Pakistan war that continued till January 1, 1949 when United Nations intervened to effect ceasefire between the two countries. Later developments resulted in bilateral agreements between the two countries like Karachi Agreement-1949 establishing a ceasefire in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The ceasefire was to be backed and supervised by the UN through the Truce Subcommittee of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) which was established by UNSC Resolution 47, passed on April 21, 1948 and further to resolve the Kashmir conflict through mediation. This resolution was an extension of and improvement upon an earlier Resolution 39 adopted on Jan. 20, 1948 setting up a commission of three members. The UNSC Resolution 47 undertook to enhance the number of members to five. The Commission was directed to visit India and Pakistan to restore peace in the region and to prepare for the plebiscite in Kashmir. The Commission continued to function till Mar. 1951 when UNSC, through Resolution 91(1951) formed United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to supervise Ceasefire Line (CFL) now renamed as Line of Control (LoC).
Since the signing of Simla Accord of 1972, India has stopped UNMOGIP from visiting LoC misinterpreting Simla Accord through misleading proclamations thereby confusing the world community that Kashmir has thus become a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan to be resolved bilaterally. The fact is that Kashmir is not a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan as, in addition to Kashmiris, the real stakeholders are China, which controls 9000 square miles of the area, and the UN which has played historical role by adopting a number of resolutions, are also important stakeholders in the issue. Taking a holistic view of the issue, the Indian mantra of bilateralism in Kashmir dispute does not seem to hold much water nor is LoC a permanent border.
India attempts to draw multiple benefits out of the massive violations of LoC. On the one hand, it is diverting the world attention from massive violations of human rights being perpetrated in India-occupied Kashmir (IOK); on the other, it aims to label Pakistan as the state sponsor of terrorism in IOK, in addition to obstructing the construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPAC). As far as the Indian allegations of Pakistan as the state sponsor of terrorism in IOK are concerned, there does not seem to be much substance as the LoC is heavily fenced with no probability of unilateral crossing from Pakistan. The height of Indian callousness can be gauged from a recent incident in which Indian security forces have gone to the extent of targeting a school van killing several children near LoC thereby flouting all international norms of engagement. India thinks that the threatening posture can arm-twist Pakistan into accepting its hegemonic designs.
Kashmir is not just a territorial dispute between two neighbours, it has been turned into the epicentre of humanitarian crisis as well in which over six hundred thousand Indian troops have turned Kashmir valley into a virtual jail for the Kashmiris. People there are sporadically denied access to electronic and social media to put across their plight to the outside world. Arbitrary detentions and staged encounters in which freedom loving activists are being put to death is the order of the day. Forced disappearances and denial of access to international organisations to investigate human rights violations are among the state policy tools in a bid to curb the legitimate political aspirations of the people of Kashmir. A state policy of persecution of the people of Kashmir for over seventy years since the occupation of Kashmir by India has failed to distance Kashmiris from the aspirations of their inalienable right to self-determination in a fair, equitable and transparent manner.

The situation along LoC is fraught with diabolical consequences for both world and regional peace as any misadventure may likely lead to deadly clash between two nuclear-armed neighbours in South-East Asia. The recent hint of surgical strikes from Indian side can wreak havoc with the already fragile security situation along LoC. Any such misadventure from either side has great potential of turning into nuclear trade-off between the two countries. The need of the hour is to talk and act sense so that the catastrophic eventuality may be averted. In a scenario such as this, the responsibility of international community and the UN increases manifold as they need to act vigorously and proactively to avert nuclear apocalypse in South-East Asia before it is too late.
The author is a Ph.D Scholar and a College Principal at Chiniot.

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US double standards on white vs. non-white shooters

Hussain Abdul Hussain

It is mind-boggling how a government that is willing to move heaven and earth to avenge the killing of any one of its citizens, anywhere around the globe, sits back and “prays” that domestic massacres would one day stop.

The same American leaders who promise to launch a crusade against terrorism and to smoke out terrorists, the same American leaders who use exclusive military technology to strike terrorists anywhere on earth, the same American leaders who have “secret plans” to defeat Daesh and want to “take out all the oil” in Iraq, these same American leaders stand speechless as American schoolchildren are gunned down like paper targets at a shooting range.

The discrepancy in American bravado between fighting terrorism and doing nothing about domestic massacres explains all you need to know about the moral and ethical failure of a number of American presidents, lawmakers, and opinion leaders.

By now, this discrepancy and ethical failure has a name: The National Rifle Association (NRA). So powerful is the NRA’s lobbying arm that politicians do not even pretend to denounce gun violence. They simply pray and shut down gun regulation debate after each massacre committed by a white boy, saying that grievance is no time for debate.

But when the murderer is not white enough, or when the murderer hails from a Muslim-American or African-American family, all hell breaks loose, as many American politicians quickly overcome grief, and immediately promise all kinds of violence to avenge the attack, from bombing a foreign country into oblivion, to banning travel from other countries, or even demanding that the holy texts of Islam be changed and made more peaceful.

The results of the NRA’s unethical policies have been clear. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of Americans killed by gun violence stood at over 280,000, according to PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking site.

The number of Americans killed by terrorism, in the same period, was 24. Another similar factoid suggests something wrong in the American political ethos.

Between Sept. 12, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2016, 47 percent of terrorist attacks on American soil took place at the hands of far-right white extremists, with 53 percent of the attacks committed by radical Islamic terrorists. During the same period, the number of attacks by far-right white American extremists was 62, dwarfing the number of attacks by Islamic radicals, which stood at 23.

Intelligence failure: Washington spends billions of dollars monitoring Muslim-Americans. President Donald Trump promised the creation of a database for Muslims in the US, saying that Muslims “know each other” well, and that the good ones can tell on the bad ones. Problem solved. In fact, the US monitoring of Muslim-Americans has been enhanced, compared to its monitoring of other groups of the population, since before September 2011.

In his book Intelligence Matters, former Senator Bob Graham said that the FBI had received tips about Arab students who were preparing for the 9/11 attacks. The FBI got a tip from a mosque’s imam, apparently an FBI asset who hosted two of the 9/11 terrorists.

The failure to act on that piece of intelligence was one of US security agencies’ biggest failures that led to 9/11. Almost all of the perpetrators of violence at American schools displayed signs that foretold their intentions to commit massacres.

Yet, US security agencies rarely seem interested in — or maybe never get the political command to — monitoring white communities in order to preempt such attacks. The US vigilance on terrorism is commendable and has saved American lives. Yet it remains inexplicable why US security agencies cannot show similar prowess in monitoring and preempting violence by non-Muslim Americans.

It is true that non-Muslim Americans do not have names that raise red flags, such as Nidal Hassan or Omar Mateen, of the Texas and Florida attacks respectively, but that does not mean that the massacres of Adam Lanza and Nikolas Cruz, of Connecticut and Florida, were less atrocious. And whereas the crimes of Nidal and Omar were attributed to their community and its religion, Adam and Nikolas were not connected to their native communities or its faith. As such, Nidal and Omar were labeled terrorists, on whom America spends trillions of dollars in fighting, while Adam and Nikolas were classified as mentally ill, for whom America only offers prayers.

Violence is violence, and whether it is committed by Americans of Muslim heritage or of white stock, they should be perceived in similar ways. The US government should dedicate similar attention and resources to fighting both.

America has shown commendable resolve in protecting its citizens from terrorism. Yet this same America has shown inexplicable laxity in confronting killers, if they prove to hail from white communities.

Such disparity not only affects Muslim Americans, but also Americans of other non-white backgrounds, so much so that one American suggested that — in order to force Congress to regulate the massive ownership of guns among white Americans — anti-gun organizations should fund the arming of every African-American.

Only when blacks are armed to the teeth, like whites, might Congress find it necessary to step up and regulate, according to some.

Such thinking springs from the way whites seem to throw their full support behind law enforcement when it comes to policing African-American communities. Yet these same white Americans suddenly lose all trust in law enforcement if security agencies are ever tasked with policing white communities.

Suddenly, white Americans cry foul if the government seems to be intercepting any emails or snooping on any phone calls that might have a white American on one side of the conversation. Congressional regulation of different aspects of violence has crossed all lines of hypocrisy. Congress seems keen to police non-white America, while refusing to police gun ownership in white America. This has created two Americas: one policed, and the other not so much. Unfortunately, however, the victims come from both Americas, the policed and the un-policed.

The writer is Washington-based political analyst. He has written for the New York Times, The Washington Post, and Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai, among others.

 

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26/11- Indian drama exposed finally

Afia Ambreen

Recently, German author Elias Davidsson in his book titled “Betrayal of India – Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence” disclosed that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were pre-planned and executed by India itself while the United States and Israel were also complicit in conceiving, planning, directing and executing the attacks and India directly blamed Pakistan for these attacks.

In the introduction of his book, Davidsson has mentioned that a cursory examination of the news reports regarding the Mumbai events reveals immediately four major reasons for subjecting the official account to an exacting scrutiny: (i) It is puzzling that it took 1,000 police officers, security forces personnel and trained commandos more than 60 hours to subdue ten gunmen scattered over several locations. (ii) The Indian authorities, including India’s prime minister, immediately blamed Pakistani entities for the attacks, i.e. before any investigation had even started. (iii) No organization is known to have claimed responsibility for the complex operation conducted in Mumbai. (iv) The political class of the United States showed immediate and inordinate interest in the events, although they were occurring 8,000 miles away and were not directed at Americans or at an American target.

The book has raised a storm in India. Davidsson has developed his argument with detailed research and authenticated resources. Indian version of Mumbai attacks lies bare and exposed. He has concluded that Indian state’s investigation of the attacks was a big eye wash to bamboozle the state narrative and cheat Indian and international audience, just to blame Pakistan. The author blames Indian establishment and their US partners and writes, “It is highly plausible, that major institutional actors in India, the United States and possibly Israel, were complicit in conceiving, planning, directing and executing the attacks of 26/11; evidence of a deceptive investigation is even stronger”.  He further stated that Ajmal Kasab was arrested 20 days earlier and the facilitators of terrorists had used American telephone numbers.

It is important to mention that Ajmal Kasab and his accomplices were the creation of Indian intelligence. He had no Islamic inclinations or knowledge about jihad, could not recite the Holy Quran and was heard on video calling bhagwan for mercy. All the characters of the Mumbai attack were stage-managed and so were the court proceedings that went on for years before Kasab’s final execution. Hemant Karkare, the chief of the Mumbai antiterrorist squad, who was also killed on the same day and who was investigating state-sponsored terrorism activities, was also a prime target who was eliminated by the Indian establishment. Another person is Colonel Purohit whom we accuse of orchestrating the Samjhauta Express tragedy. Thus, the talk of bartering the accused in the Samjhauta tragedy in India against those accused of the Mumbai attacks in Pakistan. Pakistan would lose much and gain little if it was to plan and execute the Mumbai attacks.

Moreover, 26/11 or Mumbai attacks in November 2008 were projected as India’s 9/11,with an objective to tell US and international community that India was a victim of terrorism and the world needed to ostracize Pakistan.  Elias Davidsson has rebutted the Indian narrative and proved with authenticity that Indian version was totally concocted, based on deceit and outright lies, and that it was promulgated through a well thought out disinformation campaign ensconced in hyperbole. The book is based on incisive and critical analysis of the official narrative of 26/11 and the author has endeavored to go through court documents and testimonies of dozens of important witnesses and their linkages with media outbursts parroted by Indian media.

In this context, it is recommend that the case on ‘Mumbai attacks’ be taken to Supreme Court of Pakistan and all those media houses who colluded with Indian surrogates to build a case against Pakistan be asked to justify their stance.

If Davidsson’s book has proved that the Mumbai attack on 26/11 was a false flag with Indian, American, British and Israeli intelligence collaborating to malign Pakistan, who was their front organization in Pakistan, that needs to be probed and taken to task. Why has the Pakistani media not discussed this book, which has badly exposed Indian sinister designs against Pakistan?

Where are the so called Liberal media and opinion makers in Pakistan, why this book has not made headlines in Pakistan, are we a dead nation full of sold out thinking people and intellectuals, intoxicated by RAW syrup bottled by Modi Enterprises?

The Mumbai mayhem on 26 November 2008 proved to be sunset of the indo-Pak peace dialogues. India postponed all the secretary levels talks on trade, Siachen and Sir Creek. It also canceled the cricket tour of Pakistan, the meeting of Indian Pakistan Joint Commission on Environment and tensed the visa issuance process for the Pakistani nationals. India opened all the option and highlighted its war alertness to encounter terrorism and concentrated to influence the international community against the Pakistani extremism. Pakistan responded with the same preparedness, the Pakistani military and Political authorities made it clear that they ready to face the war consequence in order to defend their country.

In a nutshell, 26/11 or Mumbai Attacks in 2008 was a stage managed drama to put Pakistan onto the mat and label it out as the Epicenter of Terror in South Asia, while India with the help of her Western friends got away with it, truth could not remained hidden for indefinite period. It is of particular attention that on July 19, 2013, the Indian former home ministry and ex-investigating officer Satish Verma disclosed that terror attacks in Mumbai in November 26, 2008 and assault on Indian Parliament in January 12, 2001 were carried out by the Indian government to strengthen anti-terrorism laws. It has clearly proved that Indian secret agencies; particularly RAW arranged coordinated terror attacks in Mumbai and orchestrated that drama only to defame Pakistan in the world, but also to fulfill a number of other sinister aims.

Nevertheless, all these terror attacks were planned by Indian security agencies to distort image of Pakistan and its primary intelligence agency, ISI, linking it with the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba. In these terms, coordinated terror assaults of November 26, 2008 in Mumbai were part of the same Indian scheme.

 

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Uncertainty in South Asia

Jalil Afridi

Who could have thought that one day United States would sponsor a resolution at Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan on the list of countries that financially aid terrorism.?  Despite giving land routes, air bases, handing over thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, sacrificing the lives of seventy thousand Pakistanis in terrorism related incidents and losing billions of dollars in economic terms, Pakistan still has not been able to win the heart of the American government. Ironically, this time around Pakistan seems to be not much bothered by the shift in US policy either and is putting all its confidence and reliance on China. Beside Pakistan, America and China the other four nations which are making the regional politics very uncertain are Afghanistan, India, Iran and Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov during a press briefing said that “we are very preoccupied by what is happening in Afghanistan and by the expansion and influence of the militants of Islamic State (IS).” The foreign ministers statement reminded me of my question which I had asked during Pentagon press briefing on October 27, 2017. Pentagon’s Chief Spokesperson, Miss Dana White along with Staff Director, Lt General Frank Mckenzie while replying to my question stated that they are not aware of the increasing number of IS fighters in Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa while addressing the recently held security conference in Munich also mentioned the increasing influence of IS fighters in Afghanistan. Looking at these three statements by the three of most important office holders of their respective countries make the situation very uncertain and dangerous.

In another important development, the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani visited New Delhi. He met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and signed the agreements including Tehran leasing to New Delhi operational control of part of the Iranian east coast port of Chabahar for 18 months. Indian analysts are trying to compare Chabahar Port with Gawadar Port. India on one hand is the strategic ally of America but on the other hand it is building relations with the soft enemy of America, Iran. Some opinion makers from Pakistan believe that Pakistan should be more concerned about the negative role of Iran instead of India when it comes to the internal happenings of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They believe that in coming days Iran will be able to assert more influence on Pakistan especially keeping in view the decision of Pakistan to send its military to Saudi Arabia. Some analysts also believe that the purpose of building the Chabahar port was never meant for trade purpose whereas the real goal was related to security and war tactic. For China, Gawadar Port is of utmost importance and many of their future dreams are connected to it. China is taking every step possible to make this dream of theirs come true and that is the reason why China is not even shy in talking to the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan or some Baloch insurgent groups in Pakistan.

In another scenario, Russian influence is also increasing in Afghanistan and better relations are also building between Pakistan and Russia. Though relations seem very unnatural and conflicting amongst different nations in South Asia but one fact which is easily predictable is that now a day’s countries are building their relations with one another on the basis of each issue and each conflict instead of in totality. In simple words relations are based on tit for tac instead of long lasting relation in both thick and thin times.

The two major players which are prone to internal political crisis are Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have political leadership which are incapable and corrupt at the same time. Pakistan has a dummy prime minister in shape of Khaqan Abbasi. He came into power when his own party head and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was removed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the charges of corruption and holding a work permit from his son’s company in Dubai. On the other hand, Afghanistan has a government which is created by foreign powers in totality. President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah of Afghanistan hate each other guts but they are united under the umbrella of America. Despite US increasing the number of its troops in Afghanistan, the situation in the country keeps on detreating by each passing day. Corruption and the menace of black money earned through opium trade are the two-major source of income for the influential and decision makers of Afghanistan. Different forces have been successful in ruining the once brotherly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both the countries point fingers at each other whenever terrorist strike takes place. India and Afghanistan are bent upon ruining the relations between Pakistan and America. Although in a report recently submitted to the US Senate Intelligence Committee stated that US should not push away Pakistan to an extent where Pakistan finds new friends for long time and that such a move will decrease the American influence in South Asia. Year 2018 has many surprises for South Asia. Let us hope these surprises are for the good and for the peace of the region and not for the destruction and instability.

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Bumpy flight ahead

Ghulam Idris Khan

Financial Action Task Force (FATF) with Head quarter in Paris, France, was established in 1989′ It is an inter-governmental organization with the mission to control money laundering and terrorism financing. India is full fledged member in 37 member house while Pakistan is associate member in Asia Pacific group.

Four members country of FATF namely the United States of America, Britain, France, and Germany had nominated Pakistan to be placed on the grey list of FATF. It is a list of countries non-compliant with terrorist financing regulation by the FATF.

Looking at this bumpy ride ahead, government of Pakistan in haste promulgated an ordinance on Feb. 9, 2018, which seeks amendment in Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, with regards to proscribing of terrorist individuals and organization, to include entities listed by the United Nations Security Council. The matter also come under discussion in the Senate, when Senator Farhat ullah Babar raised the issue  of public importance, and stated that government had taken these much delayed action ahead of meeting of financial action task force in Paris.

The Paris meeting would consider Pakistan’s compliance status with international regulation to choke financing infrastructure of terror organization. The meeting is  to be held in Paris from 18th Feb. to 23rd Feb. 2018 to review steps taken by Pakistani authorities. India is full member and will focus on Pakistan. This meeting is to be followed by another meeting to be held in  Kathmandu in July this year of Asia Pacific Group (APG). Although Russia, China, and Turkey are the members of the FATF, it looks like they may have some favorable angle but the presence of India and club of four may produce strong resolution, which will create problems for Pakistan. Pakistan has recently taken some steps including banning of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jamaat-ud -Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation on the recommendation of international community. Will it be sufficient for the world  to trust our actions, will Pakistan may escape adopting strong resolution in Paris?

If Pakistan is placed on grey list of FATF, as it is joint move of four bigs. India is active and lobbying against Pakistan. Trump administration has already been troubling Pakistan, as it is on the rader of US Intelligence committee, looking at countries which present a global threat.  Pakistan enjoyed good relation with United Kingdom and worked closely on security cooperation, but on the extremist groups, they followed US line, rather Pakistan. Pakistan has not been able to convince them to listen our narrative. We often  blamed India for political maneuvering and in this case too, India must have contact with 36 others to hamper Pakistan economic progress to put us on grey list.

Pakistan economy will suffer further. It will be harder and difficult for Pakistan to borrow money from international lending institutions for its development programs. We need to look at our own house too. Today international community is annoyed with Pakistan and again and again repeated concerned about alleged presence of state and non state actor on Pakistan soil. Pakistan explained to the world about its position, but confusion  on our narrative still persist. It is due to the policies of the government of the day.

Till December 2014, the federal government and the provincial government of KP were favouring dialogue with militants. Interior Minister of that time and PTI chairman Imran Khan were spearheading the campaign. The PTI govt in KP offered for establishment of office in Peshawar for Taliban. The KP government allocated Rs 300 million to religious seminary.

According to the National Action Plan, Chief Minister of the province has the leading role. KP has its border with FATA and Afghanistan which remains the critical area for terrorism, as highlighted  in PIPS report of 2017. But the Chief Minister is hosting members of banned entities in the CM House and was sitting on the stage with them in public meeting in Peshawar in mid-January this year. There are already financial complication. The country’s largest bank was hit by huge fine in New York USA by regulators for allegedly transaction of funds own by terrorists. These are few example. The world is ready to not buy our narrative despite the fact that its peoples, law-enforcing agencies, and army have laid down their lives while fighting against terrorists. Our economy is ruined by the militants attacks. However the perception about Pakistan it sailing on both boats.

The government has started to implement the recommendation of FATF by detaining Hafiz Saeed, whose name is on the United Nations’ list of designated terrorist. However Lahore High Court ordered his released as the government is unable to produced concrete material for his detention.

The foreign office’s spokesperson told the media that Asia-Pacific Group (APG) was analyzing our report on January 20, 2018, while nomination of Pakistan on grey list was jointly submitted by USA and UK, Germany and France. The issue was discussed in the National Security Committee chaired by PM Abbasi and attended by concerned ministers and top brass of the Pakistan Army and foreign office senior officers. The NSC reviewed the progress and Pakistan’s commitment under FATF. The press release after the meeting said that Pakistan needed to convey its position and achievements comprehensively and clearly to FATF. Pakistan expresses the hope that the FATF will not be pressurized and politicized by a few countries.

Pakistan’s compliance to FATF look half hearted and adhoc basis, as it never froze the assets and ban all the organization listed by UN. Now the sudden emergence of presidential ordinance which was signed by President Mamnoon Hussin on Feb. 9, 2018 and landed on Feb. 13 in Senate will serve the purpose or only show to the world community that Pakistan is now serious in combating money laundering and terror financing. This ordinance now needs endorsement from the parliament within 120 days to become at a permanent law of the country. This law empowers the operators that if Pakistani individuals or entities designated by UN as terrorists, will automatically be banned here in Pakistan. Now the question is, will Pakistan be able avoid this bumpy ride? Hopefully so, as the meeting is going to be held in Paris from 18th Feb. up to 23rd Feb.

Although the motion is carried big four names but on the other side there are Russia, China and Turkey in the club of 37, who not support the motion against Pakistan and as such it may look like the motion may not be adopted. Putting Pakistan on “grey list” require consensus. If a few countries made objection, it will dropped. But for how long we will be looking to others to rescue us? This is need of hour, to make our own house in order to never face such bumpy flight in future.

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Afghans are being mislead on Pakistan

Col (R) Muhammad Hanif

According to the Ariana News Afghanistan, dated 19 December 2017, an official letter from the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) has leaked on social media suggesting that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate has opened a dairy factory to export poisoned products to Afghanistan. According to the letter, this factory is producing milk and cream under the brand of two well-known Pakistani dairy companies. In the letter, the office of the MoI Deputy Minister of Security allegedly informed all of its departments that Pakistan’s ISI is mixing a poison into their dairy products and then they are exporting those to Afghanistan.

Officials in the ministry of the interior have not made a comment about the letter while military experts are calling on the government not to send them Pakistani milk and cream and instead they should provide items from other sources.

The narrative in the letter against the ISI seems to be motivated as no evidence has been cited in the Afghan MoI letter.

The story is just a propaganda ploy on the part of the hostile forces in Afghanistan, which are being misguided by Pakistan’s enemies having influence in Afghanistan.

This story seems to have been cooked and fed to the Afghan ministry of interior by Indian RAW’s expert propaganda machinery and manoeuvred its leakage to the social media through Afghan officials, having personal friendly relations with RAW officials. India is doing such an inhuman politics to create a permanent enmity between Afghanistan and Pakistan to advance its long term objectives.

Otherwise, Pakistan just cannot think of indulging in such a sin with our Afghan brethren, having historic ethno-cultural links.

In the above context, in the post 9/11 environment, India has got an opportunity of creating its extensive politico-economic, intelligence and military influence in Afghanistan, to the detriment of Pakistan.

In this context, India’s main objective is to undermine Pakistan’s legitimate economic and security interests in Afghanistan.

As noted above, using its US supported presence in Afghanistan, India is attempting to poison Afghan people against Pakistan by carrying out negative propaganda and actions to sever Pakistan’s age old socioeconomic and trade related links with Afghanistan and impede Pakistan’s trade with Central Asia.

India is also alleging Pakistan for supporting terrorism in Afghanistan to make place for extending its military influence there with a view to encircle Pakistan.

In fact, India is attempting to exploit the Afghan situation to its advantage. By feeding the motivated intelligence to the US and its allies in Afghanistan, India is trying to mislead them about Pakistan’s sincerity in fighting the war on terror related to Afghanistan. In this context, India is hell bent to sever Pakistan-US relations to damage Pakistan’s interests in the region.

Moreover, India’s is doing it to equate terrorism with the freedom struggle in Jammu and Kashmir.

India blames Pakistan for terrorist events occurring in Afghanistan to build a case that the freedom struggle in Jammu and Kashmir is also being backed by Pakistan.

India’s objective in doing so is to denude the people of Jammu and Kashmir from the political and moral support of Pakistan, the US and other major western states.

In other words, by exploiting terrorism issue relating to Afgha-nistan, India wants to fail the freedom struggle of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

India is keeping its this nefarious plan in ambiguity by blaming Pakistan for supporting terrorism in Afghanistan and proving itself as a good boy by offering economic aid to Afghanistan.

By this clever politics India is also hiding the reality that in fact it is itself a terrorist state which has unleashed tools of state terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and is using Afghan soil to destabilize Balochistan to slow down the growth of the CPEC.

Due to its need to get economic aid from wherever it is available, Afghan’s are obliged to India for its assistance, but in this process, they are neglecting to see the negative politics, which India is playing by impeding the growth of Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan, creating hurdles in the construction of CPEC and pulling Afghanistan away from joining the CPEC, which holds the potential to transform Afghanistan’s economy as well in the long term.

In this context, Afghans need to understand that under the cover of providing some economic benefits, no country like India should be allowed to harm long term interests of Afghanistan by spoiling its relations with a close neighbour like Pakistan and keeping it away from becoming a part of the CPEC project.

In view of the above, there is a need for Pakistan to counter Indian fed anti Paki-stan propaganda in Afghani-stan by making friendly constituencies among the Afghan people and by befriending its government officials.

In this regard, Pakistan should also devise and implement policies to enhance its trade with Afghanistan under all circumstances by giving trade related concessions.

In this context, Pakistan should also work on having a free trade agreement with Afghanistan, since, unlike India, Afghanistan’s trade interests are strongly linked with Pakistan due to having common borders.

[The writer is an ex-army officer and a former Research Fellow of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad]

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Syria strikes back as Israel discovers its warplanes aren’t invincible

Rania Khalek

Israel has long been the unchallenged bully in the Middle East, but now Tel Aviv will face consequences for its temper tantrums. That was the message from Damascus last weekend when the Syrian army shot down an Israeli F-16.

The dramatic escalation happened as Israel claimed one of its warplanes was in Syrian airspace to intercept an Iranian drone that had been operating in Israeli territory. But, in reality, the Iranian drone was intercepted in the Golan Heights, which is Syrian land that has been illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.

Of course, this didn’t stop major western publications like the Wall Street Journal from referring to the Golan as “Israeli airspace.” Nevertheless, the mainstream media was left in disbelief by the incident—the New York Times, for example, was startled to discover that “Israeli jets aren’t invincible.”

As usual, Israel painted itself as a victim of irrational Arab aggression. However, in fact, Syria was clearly acting in self-defence against repeated Israeli violations of its sovereignty.

Even the head of the Israeli Air Force Air Division confessed that his country has carried out “thousands of operations in Syria” in the last year alone. This fact was missing from most mainstream news accounts, which portrayed Israel as a non-interventionist bystander in the Syrian conflict.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only has Israel repeatedly bombed Syrian government installations, it has also armed Jihadist rebel groups in the Golan Heights, coordinated with Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate against government forces and provided medical treatment to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State-linked rebels before sending them back into battle.

Muddying Waters: Support for Al-Qaeda in Syria serves two strategic purposes for Tel Aviv. One reason is to weaken Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese political party that defends Lebanon’s borders from Israel and Salafi Jihadist groups alike. The second purpose is to solidify its takeover of the Golan.

Don’t take my word for it, Israeli officials have said as much. The former head of Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) admitted to Al Jazeera that Israel provides medical treatment to Al-Qaeda fighters in Syria. And, since 2012, the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the peacekeeping mission responsible for monitoring the 1974 ceasefire line between Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights, has documented dozens of interactions between the Israeli army and Syrian insurgents. On top of that, there are Syrians who defected from the Free Syrian Army after discovering the relationship between Israel and the rebel groups in the Golan.

For people living in the region, the downing of Israel’s F-16 felt like long-overdue retaliation, while Tel Aviv tried desperately to paint the escalation as a fight with Iran. But it was Damascus, not Tehran which downed the fighter jet in a deliberate calculation, which was not made lightly. This was, after all, the first time since 1982 that Syria has shot down an Israeli plane.

The leadership in Damascus has warned time and again that it would eventually respond to Israeli aggression, and it finally did, sending a message that Israel cannot continue to violate Syria’s sovereignty without a response. Israel responded by striking what it called Iranian bases and claiming to have wiped out most of Syria’s air defenses. But, according to the Syrian government, Israel struck bases from which Syria and its allies target Al-Qaeda in Idlib, essentially making Israel into Al-Qaeda’s air force.

After years of western attempts to overthrow the Syrian regime, one thing is clear: the Syrian state has remained intact and is winning the war, having retaken almost all of the territory it lost to rebel groups that were armed and funded by western and gulf states. The Syrian state has been able to take back territory due in large part to assistance provided by its allies, particularly Russia.

The next war: There will eventually be a showdown between Israel and Hezbollah. But the rules of the game have changed dramatically in Hezbollah’s favor since the two last fought.

In the 2006 war, Hezbollah gave Israel a bloody nose but Lebanon was devastated in the process. In any future war, Hezbollah will be able to do far more damage to Israel. The organization is much stronger, far better armed and is able to carry out offensive maneuvers after gaining extensive battlefield experience against jihadists in Syria. Also, any future war with Israel will likely include the involvement of Hezbollah’s allies in Syria and Iraq, transforming what would otherwise be a local conflict into a regional one.

Israel is afraid to test these waters, so, for the time being, the Israelis are not interested in a hot war with the group. After all, it was the Syrian army that downed the plane using Russian anti-aircraft S-200s. Russia’s involvement in Syria complicates Israel’s ambitions as Israel cannot go to war with Russia.

Moreover, Israel does not have the same backing as usual from its American benefactors. While there are almost no limits on the amount of aggression Israel can inflict on Palestinians, Syria is a far more complicated battlefield involving major world powers.

Both the US and Russia have personnel on the ground in Syria–the US is supporting the Syrian “Democratic” Forces, while Russia is backing the government. Turkey, a member of NATO, has troops occupying areas of northern Syria and is fighting the Kurds in Afrin.

Meanwhile, Iran has advisers on the ground assisting Syrian government forces against Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. This month, a Turkish helicopter was shot down by the US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria, a Russian plane was downed by Jihadists in Idlib, an Iranian drone was blown up by Israel, an Israeli F-16 was destroyed by Syria, and the US has claimed it killed up to 100 pro-government forces in airstrikes near Deir Ezzor.

Thus, if Israel escalates the situation in Syria, too much can go wrong. And judging from the State Department’s weak words of support for Israel in the aftermath of the F-16 crash, the US does not seem interested in backing an Israeli war at this time because it risks a hot war with Russia and undermines the ongoing fight against ISIS, which is an American priority.

However, Israel fears Hezbollah’s growing strength and Iran’s growing influence as a threat to its regional hegemony—a concern shared by its Saudi and American counterparts—and will continue its provocations in Syria in an effort to counter what it sees as a growing Iranian presence next door.

There are also domestic Israeli considerations that may influence their actions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently facing a corruption probe and potential indictment, which has saturated the Israeli press and has led to protests against him. Of course, war can serve as an excellent distraction under such circumstances.

At the same time, Damascus has warned it will no longer take acts of Israeli aggression lying down, demonstrating that after seven years of attempted regime change in Syria by western powers, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah–known by their many supporters in the region as “the resistance axis” for their role in challenging western imperialism—are in a position of strength. And they are on a collision course with Israel.

 

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The view from Balkh: how to fix the dysfunctional system in Afghanistan

Ata Mohammad Noor

Afghanistan faces a number of challenges internally and externally. Security and corruption are near the top of the list, but fixing Afghanistan’s debilitated political system deserves greater attention.

For the past four decades, the people of Afghanistan have been suffering from perpetual conflict, instability and poverty. We were victims of the Soviet invasion in the 1980s and are facing a foreign-backed insurgency and terrorism since the turn of the millennium.

Our people successfully fought and defeated the Soviets with the generous help of our Western allies and rendered enormous sacrifices in the resistance against terrorism in the 1990s. Albeit, at the time, western nations largely failed to recognise the threat that terrorism posed to global peace and security. Afghanistan has made significant strides towards building a peaceful, prosperous and democratic nation.

Than forty nations have contributed troops to ISAF and NATO’s Resolute Support Missions and provided the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) both with technical and financial support. The United States alone has spent more than US $700 billion in its war efforts and contributed approximately $117 billion for reconstruction of Afghanistan.

There is no doubt that our people are grateful for the support and sacrifices of our international partners in Afghanistan. Despite significant investments and achievements over the last 16 years, the challenges remain widespread.

The Taliban insurgency is expanding, the ANDSF is still heavily dependent both operationally and financially, and the fragile political system is teetering under the burden of rising ethnic tensions. International commitment cannot be open-ended and this level of support is not sustainable.  There is an urgent need to reconsider our assumptions and the political calculus that underlines our approach.

One of the main reasons for the continued conflict in Afghanistan has been our failure to create a conducive environment to enlist Pakistan’s support in bringing the Taliban and the Haqqani Network to the negotiating table.  Although our efforts have been ignored for years, the new US strategy acknowledges this fundamental problem and addresses it by applying pressure to change the approach in our region.

I am sure if sustained, the new US strategy could be translated into success in the battlefield and result in improved security for an eventual political settlement with the Taliban.

A broken system: A massive challenge for Afghanistan is fixing its dysfunctional political and governance system.  The 2004 constitution of Afghanistan created a presidential system with more powers than an absolute monarchy that lacks a robust system of checks and balances over the presidency.

It has created a highly centralised system in an ethnically diverse country with a long tradition of a devolved system of governance. Traditionally, the balance of power was maintained through unwritten pacts between the centre and the peripheries, accounting for the interests of different regions and ethnic groups with the regions having practical autonomy to decide on matters of service delivery and governance – but these unwritten pacts have never been institutionalised or formalised through the constitution. The presence of international troops and political support for Afghanistan have been misinterpreted as the international community’s backing for a centralised political system in Afghanistan, and emboldened the central government to pursue an aggressive agenda to consolidate power for the presidency.

This undermines the traditional balance of power and deepens social and political fault-lines. There is an old saying that goes “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Afghanistan is a prime example where corruption is rampant and patronage and ethnic considerations have replaced merit-based government appointments leading to inefficiencies and waste in public administration. While the ANDSF have bravely fought and given enormous sacrifices, they have suffered from weak leadership due to the fact that in most cases senior appointments are based on ethnicity, loyalty to the ruling elites, or how they can serve vested interests in the next election rather than on merit.

The centralisation of power has led to a disconnect between the people and the government and a lack of accountability, which has in turn unbalanced national budgets, increased delays in approvals for development projects, uneven growth and development across the country, and inefficiencies and waste in implementation and delivery of development projects.  More importantly, it has led to a centralised system of corruption. Presidential elections have become a destabilising factor in Afghanistan with political groups resorting to ethnic politics to mobilise support.

The fraudulent 2014 elections took us to the brink of civil conflict, threatening the integrity and the very existence of our country.  Though we had won the elections in 2014, we entered into a partnership to form the National Unity Government to avert a crisis for the sake of our national interests and for stability in Afghanistan.

Electoral reform was one of the key issues in the NUG agreement but there have only been cosmetic changes with the president appointing loyalists in electoral commissions, disregarding the protests by political parties, civil society and the general public.

The existing Election Commission has neither independence nor the capacity to hold free and fair elections. Widespread and rampant centralised corruption, mismanagement, monopolisation of power, marginalisation of NUG partners, rising ethnic tensions and insecurity have brought Afghanistan to the brink of collapse. There have been concerted efforts to resolve the political crisis since President Ghani announced that I resigned as Balkh Governor. We have presented a 12 point reform agenda as agreed in the NUG Agreement which focuses on the following demands:

– Fix the dysfunctional political and administrative system and create a system of checks and balances to prevent our descent into a dictatorship.

– Reform of the Electoral Commission to make sure elections are free and fair with results acceptable to the people.

– Decentralise the system to empower people, increase administrative efficiency, and lower the stakes so that a presidential election is no longer a race for everything versus nothing.

– Create local ownership with people having a stake in development, governance and security through their voices, and the accountability of authorities.

– Invest in a democratic system which lasts beyond the tenure of a specific leader or President.

These demands will help create a conducive and enabling environment in Afghanistan for the new US strategy to yield results and succeed in defeating the menace of terrorism. We urge our international partners to support Afghanistan by backing the reforms that our people want rather than an individual or a small clique with narrow interests.

Unless we reform, democratise and fix the dysfunctional political system, neither the Afghan people nor our international partners can succeed in building a secure and peaceful country which can bring prosperity to our people, and prevent our soil from being used by terrorists. We are not only allies with the international community in fighting against terrorism but also in reform, democratisation, development, and fighting corruption through building lasting institutions.

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At brink of social reforms, Turkey resembles Ireland’s experience

Muhammed Serif

At the end of the 1980s, Ireland was among the weakest economies in Europe. Facing slow growth, heavy taxation and high rates of unemployment, the only hope for many Irish youths was to leave their country and look for jobs abroad. Ireland at that time was depicted as the poorest of the rich in the European Union.

Starting from the mid-1990s, it has had rapid economic growth for almost 15 years in a row, reminiscent of the boom of East Asian countries in the 1960s. Economic growth rates were around 10 percent between 1995 and 2000, while unemployment figures were falling sharply to 4 percent by 2003. Morgan Stanley, the global investment banking giant, coined the term Celtic Tiger, referring to Ireland’s spectacular economic growth. Then in 2008, the economic crisis resulting from the US property bubble blew out the fire, resulting in a recession, and the aftershocks of the economic downturn took a couple of years to ease. As of 2018, the Irish economy seems to have recovered from its wounds.

In the last century, except for Ireland’s miracle, there is almost no example of success stories among Western countries, which resembles the growth of the Four Asian Tigers. The perpetual growth was made possible by various contributing factors such as access to the EU common market, economic development that is mainly state driven, successful economic policies to attract foreign direct investment and low corporate taxes. But among them all, it has more to do with the demographic structure of Ireland.

Ireland’s population growth rate began decelerating by 1975, and it fell further with the legalization of contraception in 1979. This downward trend continued for two decades, leading to a very low dependency ratio – the ratio of the population that is not in the labor force, generally ages between 0 to 14 and those 65 and over, to the total population – and higher working-age population, a phenomenon called the demographic dividend. It is like a gift of demography to any country, as it implies the potential of the highest productivity and the lowest population of the elderly and children who rely on others economically. Ireland has benefited from this advantage to a great extent. What is more, during this period of economic advancement, Ireland succeeded in increasing women’s participation in the labor force as well as the reversal of outward migration, which further boosted the country’s productivity.

Second, the demographic dividend made it easier to reform and restructure the education system in the country, as there are relatively lower rates of the population 14 years old and under. Ireland seized this opportunity by investing heavily in higher education made possible by rapid economic growth. Moreover, ever since free education was provided to the second and third levels, Ireland produced a golden generation that is very well-educated. Sustainable growth can only be achieved by good management of human capital. In this sense, the Irish economy has been making good use of its human capital, particularly for the last two decades.

Ireland was not the only country that took advantage of the demographic dividend. The East Asian Tigers such as South Korea and Taiwan benefited for more than 30 years and attained remarkable growth rates up until the 1990s. Unlike them, many European countries, the US and Japan have been suffering from their own demographic structures for decades. Due to low birth rates and higher life expectancy, they have an aging population. The case is unfavorable for many less-developed countries, too, having very high birth rates and lower life expectancy, causing a high dependency ratio.

Turkey’s to-do list: As for Turkey, it has been enjoying the demographic dividend economically for a long time. The population has been growing at a decelerating pace, causing a decrease in the dependency ratio. Favorable demographic conditions coupled with the right policies have been making higher economic growth rates possible since 2002. Yet, this success story has still not brought about advancement in education. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeated in many speeches that Turkey has still not been able to reach the desired levels in culture, arts or education. At the opening ceremony of the 2017-18 academic year, he said: “Although we have changed our examination systems multiple times, we have been able to satisfy neither our teachers nor our students and their parents.” He wants to prioritize these two areas by putting them at the top of Turkey’s to-do list in the near future. Turkey has covered a lot of ground concerning the improvement of quantitative measures and physical conditions since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in 2002. Net schooling ratios at each level have been on the rise for the past 10 years. The numbers of tertiary institutions reached 183 in 2017, almost triple compared to 2000. According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports, Turkey increased its expenditure per student at all levels by 65 percent from 2005 to 2012. The National Education Ministry has always received the biggest share and, currently, for example, its budget is TL 134 billion ($35.3 billion), which amounts to 18 percent of the total budget for 2018. However, these efforts could not be transformed into an increase in the quality of education, as it often reveals itself in global education tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Considering recent technological developments, Turkey has to be aware of what the country might bring together and be able to accommodate its human capital regarding these changes, just as Ireland did.

Yet, this task is not as easy as it was for Ireland. While we see a decrease in the share of those aged 0 to 14 in the whole population, the number of students is still growing. It was 17.3 million in 2017, which is almost four times more than the population of Ireland. Seeing this, authorities tend to invest in quantity, making it even more difficult to devise the best policies for improving the quality of education.

The world is aging, and so is Turkey. According to the results of the Address Based Population Registration System, the median age of the population increased to 31.4 in 2016, from 31 in 2015, and it is projected to be 42.4 by 2050. From that year onward, the increase in the population is expected to stop. In other words, it will start shrinking and getting older. Turkey will continue to have a young population for a while, despite its slowing population growth. Statistical forecasts say that this demographic window of opportunity will stay open until 2050, which means that it is about time to make a breakthrough in education. It has never been very feasible to implement changes in policies before.  Erdogan seems determined to confront the issue for the sake of Turkey’s future generations.