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India’s secularism under threat

Arif Rafiq

As India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi marches through the institutions of the state, Muslims and other minorities are becoming increasingly imperiled and marginalised. Two ongoing Supreme Court cases in India — both involving the country’s incre-asingly beleaguered Muslim community — should be seen as historic tests for the resilience of secularism in the South Asian state.

That India’s much-vaunted constitutional secularism has come to this fragile state demonstrates that it is only as strong as its leaders’ commitment to it. That commitment is eroding as the Hindu nat-ionalist Bharatiya Janata Pa-rty (BJP) rules in 19 of In-dia’s 29 states, with a new generation of radicalised Hin-du nationalists growing to r-eject the country’s foundatio-nal Nehruvian principles, wh-ich they deride as “sickularism.” The first Supreme Court c-ase involves the dispute over the site of the 16th century Babri Mosque, destroyed in 1992 by a mob of Hindu ex-tremists — including leading figures in the BJP — who cla-imed that it was built on the site of a Hindu temple and the birthplace of the deity Ram.

According to prominent historians, including K.N. Panikkar, there is no historical evidence that a temple existed on the site, though the present city of Ayodhya, where the Babri Masjid is lo-cated, became holy for Hin-duism during the Mughal era and a platform adjacent to the mosque was used for Hindu prayers into the 19th century. Hindu extremists, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have pledged to build the Ram Mandir (temple) on the site of the destroyed mosque. Calls to build the temple have become a rallying cry for the Hindu right since the 1980s, which has mobilised the issue for electoral gain. Two decades ago, the BJP’s LK Advani, while addressing parliament, said, “You must recognise the fact that from two seats in Parliament in 1985 we have come to 117 seats in 1991. This has happened primarily because we took up this issue [Ayodhya].”

But the Ram Mandir movement is more than an electoral ploy. For India’s Hindu extremists, its construction on the ruins of a 16th century mosque they destroyed will culminate in the creeping rejection of India’s Islamic heritage and cementing the countries identity as a “Hindu rashtra” or “Hindu nation.” The “Hindu rashtra” and Ram Mandir movements are two sides of the same coin. As the Harvard-educated senior BJP official Subramanian Swamy tweeted earlier this year, “Ram Mandir and true Hindu Rashtra are inevitable destiny for Bharat Mata [Mother India]. That will be the renaissance for India.”

For now, the fate of the site rests in the hands of India’s Supreme Court, which has to decide in the coming weeks whether or not to uphold the 2010 decision by the Allahabad High Court to allot two-thirds of the site to two Hindu plaintiffs — one of which was the Hindu deity Ram — and the final third to a Muslim endowment.

In its decision, the high court, citing the “faith and belief of the Hindus,” awarded the main portion of the former mosque site to the Hindus. A dissenting judge – a Hindu – argued that Hindus had rights to the entire property. As the Babri mosque case approaches its final stretch, India’s Supreme Court is also hearing a case involving the conversion of a Hindu wo-man to Islam and her subseq-uent marriage to a Muslim man.

In 2015, the twenty-something Hindu woman Akhila Ashokan converted to Islam, adopting the name Hadiya.  Her father filed two petitions with the Kerala High Court over the course of 2016, one alleging that she was forcibly converted and the other claiming that she was going to be kidnapped and taken abroad to join the so-called Islamic State group. By the year’s end, she married a Muslim man, an act the court found to be suspicious. The Kerala High Court ordered her to return home to the custody of her parents and, in May of this year, annulled her marriage.

Hadiya, who was previously under police surveillance, has since been freed from her parents’ custody by the court, but India’s National Investigation Agency is probing her marriage to determine as to whether it was voluntary. Once the investigation is complete, India’s Supreme Court will make a decision as to whether the woman’s marriage is legally valid. The Hadiya case is the by-product of a broader hysteria stoked by India’s mainstream news channels and Hindu extremists over “love jihad” – a phrase concocted by anti-Muslim bigots to allege that Muslim men are wooing Hindu women to surreptitiously bring them into the Islamic fold. The scaremongering sho-wed its lethality last month when a Muslim man was ha-cked to death and set on fire by a Hindu man, who falsely alleged that the victim was engaged in a love jihad. India’s Muslims are on trial in the media and in the courts.  Their freedom to practice their own religion and choose their own partners is at risk.

India’s Supreme Court has an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and serve as a bulwark against the consolidation of Hindu majoritarianism. It may be India’s last hope. While the political opposition has shown signs of life, presently it looks as if the BJP will win the next general elections, expected to take place in 2019. Modi will likely serve a second consecutive term as prime minister, continuing to paint his opponents as pro-Muslim fake Hindus.

Political observers speculate that his eventual successor could be Yogi Adityanath, the fanatical Hindu priest who serves as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state.

Adityanath founded a violent Hindutva vigilante group and has called for the abduction of 100 Muslim women in revenge for the marriage of a single Hindu woman to a Muslim man. Former US President Barack Obama and American actress and anti-sexual assault campaigner Rose McGowan spoke at the same event as Adityanath, despite Western news coverage exposing Adityanath’s hate.

Foreign corporations and politicians not only validate Indian leaders who have risen to the top on waves of hate, but they also ignore the deep roots of hate in India. On top of the partition-era violence, India has had anti-minority pogroms virtually each dec-ade since its independence.

Tens of thousands of people, mainly Muslims, were killed when the Indian state annexed the princely state of Hyderabad in 1948.  Hundreds of Muslims were massacred in Gujarat in 1969, in Uttar Pradesh in 1980, Assam in 1983, Bihar in 1989, Mumbai in 1992-3, and Gujarat again in 2002.

In addition to systemic violence targeting Muslims and Dalits, tens of thousands of Sikhs were killed amid an insurgency in the 1980s into the early 1990s. Today, the Hinduness of Rahul Gandhi, the head of the main opposition party and son of a former prime minister, is being challenged. The choices India’s Supreme Court makes in the coming weeks on the Babri mosque and Hadiya cases will be monumental. But at best, they will slow the rising tide of Hindu extremism that engulfs the country as the world looks away.

 

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Metro, need or gimmick and comparison

Ghulam Idris Khan

According to Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries, “metro” is an underground railway system in a city. It is operating in big cities around the world like Paris, London, Moscow ,Washington DC and in our neighboring Indian capital New Delhi among others.

In Pakistan, what we call metro is not actually metro but Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) copied from Istanbul. In Pakistan, some projects of such nature completed had already been completed in Punjab province. In federal capital Islamabad Bus Rapid project is under construction, a corridor from Pesh-awar Morr Islamabad up to new airport, Islamabad. In KP, work started on it in October 2017.

After taking government in KP by Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaaf in 2013, the provincial Govt of KP asked Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA) to conduct a study on urban transport network. The study was completed in 2014, with road map for government. The government of KP found it feasible to have a quality urban transport system in Peshawar. A company for this purpose has been established by the name of Trans-Peshawar. International lending agencies were contacted for financing the project.

Government of KP has been able to sign an agreement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in September 2017 for loan of 335 Million US Dollars which is 57% of the total loan i-e 587 Million US Dollars, whereas the co financers are European Investment Bank lending 75 Million US Dollars, equal amount will be borrowed from Francaise de developpement and 102 million US Dollars by provincial Govt of KPK will be poured in for the project. The total cost will end up at PKR 61.8 Billion.

The provincial development working party (PDWP) has approved revised cost with 54% increase, the reason for the cost overrun being the incompetency of the government. As reported in national media the Govt of KP will have to repay 15 Billion Pakistani currency only as an interest on this loan to ADB beside principal amount.

The report of Asian Development Bank on the project title “PAK: Peshawar Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit corridor” with the number 48289-002 dated October 2017 submitted to the government. The document says that BRT project is of high significance considering the urgent need for improving the urban transport landscape of Peshawar city.

The project will help in social and economic development of the region. The BRT with total length of 30.8 km to be constructed in phase wise, first phase being the construction of 25.8 km with 31 station running from Chamkani to Hayatabad.

While analyzing the documents, it appeared 15.5 km of the carriageway will be at grade, 5.7 km elevated and 4.6 km in tunnel, making it a 25.8 km route. There are provision of commercial plaza and parking. Procur-ement of about 383 buses of 9 meter 12 meter and 18 me-ter long buses will be done.

It is proposed that BRT will cater about 0.5 M passengers daily. The KP Govt has consumed four long years to give it practical shape, and the chief minister has directed the project management unit to complete it within six months. Due to such short duration the quality of civil works will be highly compromised. He being a professional politician knows that election is at the door step, hence  making this project to be executed hastily before the upcoming elections.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leadership was playing double game. On one hand its govt in KPK led by Pervaz Khattak was busy for initiation work on this mega project of BRT and was engaged with ADB for borrowing loan and settlement of term and condition for arrangement of funds, approval of concerned Govt departments, and other stake holders mostly international lending agencies.

On the other hand, PTI Chairman Khan was leading a campaign in public through print and electronic media and asking people as how mere a construction of road or metro service can bring prosperity and change in public life? While appearing on famous talk show with Hamid Mir on GEO TV (those days he was darling of GEO) disclosed that look “Hamid this is Gimmick, what Punjab Govt is doing in Lahore constructing Lahore Metro and it is not for the betterment of people nor beneficial, but source of corruption and commission”. He further stated that if any such move is initiated in Peshawar, he will oppose it. He called Lahore metro a JUNGLA BUS (Fenced Bus) and further stated that instead of producing energy and building hospitals, Punjab govt. wasted money on JUNGLA BUS.

One MNA from Islamabad challenged the federal Govt over the construction of Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus project and claimed that he can complete this project with only 8 Billion rupees where the govt are spending 44.8 Billionn on 23 KM length. Peshawar BRT cost is more than 61 Billion. In the last week of December 2017 Chief Minister KPK  during interview with Waseem Badami of ARY network claimed thathl his government’s is not a lavish project like that of Punjab, and that provincial Govt of KPK will generate income from it, no subsidies be provided to the company.comp

According to provisional result of 6th population census of 2017 Lahore stand 2nd after Karachi. Lahore population is 11,126,285, Rawalpindi 2,098,231, Peshawar 1,970,042 and Islamabad metropolitan city is 1,014,825.

According to the census the population of Lahore is six times more than Peshawar, the provincial Govt of Punjab is extending subsidies to Lahore metro bus service. The Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro cater the twin cities with the total population of 3,113,056 of both the cities and here commuters are available because a lot of people work in federal secretariat and other important institution in Islamabad. Whereas Peshawar population is 1,970,042.

The federal govt and Govt of Punjab regularly inject money in the system in form of subsidies. Whereas with the less population of Peshawar as compared to Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad, how is it going to be a profit oriented entity as claimed by CM KP with no subsidies. It is only possible through a miracle.

Lahore metro bus service was completed at the total cost of 29.8 Billionn having length of 28.7 km with 86 buses operating to fulfill the requirement of 11.26 million population. Lahore metro bus charge Rs 20 irrespective of destination. Govt of Punjab is facilitating the system in shape of subsidy on every ticket which actually cost Rs 40. The Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro service having 68 total buses in which 60 are running on road.

This project costed 44.31 Billionn Pak rupees to cover a distance of 23 km. Here the provincial Govt of Punjab and federal Govt of Pakistan share the subsidy on every single ticket and the passenger pay Rs 20. The Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit will purchase nearly 400 buses with the cost of 25.0 Million per bus in Pak rupee. Handsome foreign amount has been allocated for this purposes. One may  be surprised and shocked to know that Lahore is six time bigger than Peshawar in terms of population is operating with 86 buses, Rawalpindi-Islamabad system runs with 68 buses where the population and need is more. Then why more buses for Peshawar bus system (400) are needed. Even then the Peshawar cost is more and financing by the loan provided by Asian development Bank, will be repaid with interest and commitment according to the bank guide lines. This escalated cost is unexplained or may be this is the window of corruption and commission while he (Imran Khan) criticizes the Punjab Govt’s such projects, and calls it “GIMMICK”. PTI chairman Imran Khan and chief minister publically stated that they will not borrow even a single penny from any international lending agency for any project but reality is otherwise.

Another thing which is quite confusing that is if govt of KPK was planning for construction of an urban transport system from the start of their govt then how come they spent a huge amount of taxpayer money on the beautification of Peshawar which is astonishingly the same route as selected for the BRT. That’s millions of rupees down the drain. This shows ineffectiveness and lack of interest in proper planning and governance. Now it is up to the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to think over it and decide whether they will vote for PTI in upcoming elections of 2018 after hearing all these false promises and commitments.

 

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An eternal dilemma: Source or news?

Ibrahim Altay

Our story begins with Frank Olson, a bacteriologist and biological warfare scientist that worked for the United States Army and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Camp Detrick in rural Maryland. According to rumors, he had an active role in projects involved in biological weapons.

On Nov. 28, 1953, he plunged to his death from the window of his room in the Statler Hotel. His death brought a plethora of conspiracy theories and for the last half century, it is still undetermined whether his death was accidental, suicide or murder. Did he jump, fall, or was he pushed? We do not know. Yet after a report written in 1975, the CIA admitted that Olson was given LSD, 10 days prior to his death. Olson’s family was invited to the White House and received an apology there. However, the apology was not for his murder but rather it was for using Olson in mind control experiments and his unfortunate death in a vague manner.

However, Eric Olson, the son of late Frank Olson, always thought that there was something missing or wrong in the explanations given to his family on the death of his father. He was undeterred and sought the truth.

He spent his life to prove that his father was killed by the CIA, or in other words, by the U.S.

According to a recently aired Wormwood documentary produced by Errol Morris, early on his quest, Eric frequently turned to famous journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersh was also the first journalist that visited the Olson family back in the 1970s when the report in question came into light.

At first, he said to the family that they were being deceived and claimed to investigate the matter. But later on, he said to Eric that these matters were more complicated that he thought and urged him to let it go.

Eric was unconvinced and undeterred, however, as he pushed for an autopsy. Due to his insistence, Frank Olson’s body was exhumed and autopsied for foul play. The autopsy results gave credence to the doubt that there was more than what the state told the family.

Frank Olson’s family pursued legal avenues repeatedly, but to no avail. There was a door and behind that door, there were documents and information that will bring the truth to light. But unfortunately, that door was firmly locked and out of reach. Whatever they did, they could not peek behind the wall of secrecy.

There was another important aspect to this investigation. Prosecutors or private people could not sue the U.S. for deliberate murder. It was not permitted by law. The state could only be sued for wrongful deaths despite the release of documents detailing CIA methods on execution without leaving any traces.

In light of the recent findings and documents, Eric Olson once again contacted the famous journalist Seymour Hersh. Once again, Hersh promised to investigate the matter. After a couple of days, he contacted Eric and said that he believed that his father was murdered, and it was confirmed by his source. But Hersh also stated that he could not report on this conspiracy as it would also expose his source.

This brings us to a significant ethical debate in journalism. Is the source more important, or the news? It is clear that Hersh’s answer is the source.

I on the other hand think that it would greatly depend on the nature of the news. If we are talking about ?murder, people’s lives and dirty secrets of a country that boasts about being the most transparent in the world, then the correct course of action would be convincing the source to reveal the truth. If you cannot convince them, then you should expose the conspiracy regardless.

There are only two exceptions to this, though. The first one would be risking the life of the source. If the source would be endangered with the report, that source’s life can take precedence.

The second exception would be risking the continued information flow from the source. However, in this case, even the second exception does not warrant sitting on the story. If there are no threats to the life of the source, then this story should have been published. Humanitarian and ethical responsibility demands it.

On the other hand, Hersh’s stance of “I know the truth but I cannot reveal it” also contradicts the principles of journalism. There were two options that Hersh could have taken. He could have maintained his silence on this matter completely to protect his source or he could expose the entire affair. Any course other that these two can be considered manipulation.

If you can recall, there was a report by Seymour Hersh three years ago on Turkey and Syria. Hersh claimed that Turkey was behind a sarin attack in Syria. Numerous opposition newspapers also published this report by stating that it was from famous journalist Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer winner, to give it more credibility.

However, after a short time, the claim of Hersh that was based on an “unnamed source” turned out to be false, even refuted by government agencies of the U.S. Later on, the source turned out to be a gossipmonger retiree. Nowadays, no one cares about this false story but during its time, it served as a very serious perception tool.

So, let us ask: Why does Mr. Hersh play fast and loose with the source’s identity when the subject is Turkey, while he greatly worries when the subject matter is the U.S.? Why does he refrain from writing a single line when he could have the prestige and honor of shedding light on a 50-year-old conspiracy? Why does he worry about a source he can just leave unnamed in the “land of the free?”

 

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Chinese yuan paving the way for internationalization

Muhammad Zamir Assadi

Pakistan, an all-weather friend of China and major country involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, has formally announced the use of Chinese yuan (CNY) for bilateral trade, financial transactions and investment activities including imports and exports.

According to the comprehensive policy announced by the State Bank of Pakistan, public and private enterprises on both sides are given a green light as all financial activities can be denominated in CNY per mutual consent.

This step taken by Pakistan shows that measures for the internationalization of CNY adopted by China, the world’s second largest economy, are gaining more support and trust in the international community, encouraging the use of Chinese currency in trade activities.

The internationalization of Chinese currency, accelerated in 2009 following the establishment of the dim sum bond marketby China, has been actively gaining trust for trade and financial transactions in CNY.

The number of countries using CNY as a trade currency replacing or serving as an alternative to the US dollar is also increasing, with the BRI paving the way in its fifth year for infrastructural development in dozens of countries.

China’s opening-up policies and deepening of economic reforms have also convinced the International Monetary Fund to add CNY to the special drawing rights basket following the US dollar, Japanese yen and euro.

This decision has pushed forward efforts to turn CNY into a global trade monetary unit by pushing back US dollars.

Such announcements are also expected by oil producing countries, following their big allocation of oil exports to China by negating US dollars in clearing their bills.

The increasing trend of using CNY by various countries in bilateral trade is a clear signal that the yuan, also known as the renminbi, is growing as a stable and viable currency that may be trusted for economic activities.

As far as the decision of Pakistan is concerned, it shows the country has geared up all its efforts to cultivate economic benefits in regional and international economic development.

The increasing bilateral trade between Pakistan and China and the volume of investments under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which has reached $57 billion, has opened up possibilities for replacing US dollars with CNY in bilateral trade.

CPEC, a flagship project of BRI, will link the southwestern port city of Gwadar in Baluchistan province with the western region of China.

The decision will make way for the simplification of all CPEC projects as the long-term plan for this economic corridor has also been announced with the mutual consent of Pakistani and Chinese authorities in September 2017.

The long-term plan will deepen the long-term strategic and economic relationship between the two countries by pushing forward CPEC.

At the same time, it will attract other countries to invest in the corridor based on generating economic prosperity not only for Pakistan but also the whole region.

The utilization of CNY under CPEC will also encourage other countries to participate in this socioeconomic partnership, which is already tackling various shortcomings in Pakistani sectors including energy, railways and infrastructure.

The regulatory framework announced by the central bank of Pakistan is based on helping and settling bilateral trade in terms of expanding financial and economic cooperation. This will also ease pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

This economically beneficial decision by the Pakistani government is considered an additional option for tackling low foreign exchange reserves, and will certainly provide relief to the economy as well as improve the economic indicators.

The equation of the Pakistani rupee and Chinese yuan settlement has become significant in trade affairs with China, as Pakistani imports from China have also exceeded $10 billion.

It is estimated that Pakistan’s payment of import bills in yuan will gradually decrease its dependence on US dollars.

The development has led to predictions that Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves will be accumulating mostly with CNY in the coming years.

Recently, Pakistani currency was devalued against the US dollar to a current rate of 111 rupees to $1, but the situation will be changed with the passage of time.

By practically implementing the rupee-yuan settlement, the currency devaluation may stop with increasing bilateral trade between the two countries and the enhancement of investments in CPEC projects.

The solid measures by both countries in the bilateral currency exchange and its usage in trade activities would also facilitate the free flow of capital and legitimate funds in both countries.

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Trump’s belligerent tweet

Waqas Ahmed Khan

The nosedived US-Pak relations have further plunged in to an all-time low after President Donald Trump posted his first tweet of the New Year pertaining to his reservations regarding the deceitful behavior played by Pakistan in war against terrorism. America has cut the supply of its military assistance to Pakistan until it proves its commitment to take decisive action against all terrorist groups.

In his tweet he stated: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33b in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe havens to the terrorist we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” Surprisingly the way President Trump is regularizing the world affairs is quite astonishing as they are in complete divorce with the prevalent norms and values of international diplomacy. He is not considering the formal and designated channel of diplomacy for official correspondence dealing the inte-rstate relations. He although being the head of the state is behaving in a common businessman tone ignoring the gravity of responsibility he h-as adhered to which requires from him professionalism in statesmanship.

He is not gr-oomed well in the etiquettes and conventions of politics –national or international.

The tweet in itself is the culmination of the long pursuance strategy adopted by US since Trump proclamation of Afghan policy last August in which it has blatantly accused Pakistan for harboring terrorist organization whereby indicating Isla-mabad to align itself with the Washington demand to dism-antle all its safe havens operating within its territory otherwise the consequences wo-uld be dire. The aggressive attitude of US toward Pakis-tan as reflected in the Tru-mp’s tweet has multidimensional reasons.

The growing frustration of US with its failure in vanquishing the Taliban insurgent in Afghanistan for over long 16 years has serious negative implication for US-Pak relations. Since 9/11 America has poured a lot of money into the allied countries, among which Pakistan was one, for the purpose to achieve its objective in installing a democratic government in Afghanistan and eradicating the menace of militancy and extremism thereby diminishing the threat posed to it by Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaida. So far America has been unable to completely root out the terrorist network functional in reportedly 50 percent area of Afghanistan. Ironically the US concern over the alleged Pakistani sanctuaries for Haqqani network or Afghan Taliban in inexplicable as they have ample land for planning and operationalizing their plans within the territories of Afghanistan where their writ is strong.

Moreover in case of Afghanistan, Islamabad and Washington are on the same page with regard to their ambition to restore peace and stability in the country but they have divergence in carrying out this goal. America is viewing the Afghan problem from pure military lens trying to establish the writ of Ashraf Ghani Government through the use of coercive strategy rather than utilizing the soft democratic approach of dialogue and negotiation. Whe-reas Pakistan is convinced that without bringing the Afghan Taliban on table it’s a wishful thinking to restore normalcy and stability. Surprisingly, Trump administration has failed to acknowledge the sacrifices Pakistan has retendered in the War against terrorism. Pakistan economy has suffered losses worth more than $120 billion ever since it became a part of the coalition in US led war on terror. Over 70,000 civilian and more than 15,000 military personals have lost their lives. In addition foreign tourism had been completely shut down and foreign investment by international enterprises had come to a virtual halt. But the US has turned a blind eye to these mammoth sacrifices and is being insistent on putting all the blame on Pakistan for the failure of its counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. Pakistan has suffered huge a loss to its economic growth

Trump has also remained ignorant of the difference between aid and coalition support fund. Pakistan has received funds as reimbursement for the services it has provided to the United States in support of the activities concerned with decimating the terrorism. Pakistan has provided its land, air, military bases and intelligence cooperation to United States thus ensuring its determination to work for the world peace. Many senior US officials have reportedly claimed in recent past that they have completely destroyed Al-Qaeda’s offensive strike capability to launch terrorist attacks against US.

But they have forgotten that this became possible largely because of the counterterrorism measures taken by Pakistan in coordination with NATO. In the due course Pakistan apprehended several core Al-Qaida leaders and then handed over them to the American security administration. After the Trump’s tweet it seems as our all sacrifices has gone in vain.

In National Security Policy Trump has assigned a much bigger role to India in Afghanistan thereby replacing the position of Pakistan from its trustworthy ally to hostile status. US is undermining the national interest of Pakistan while recognizing the global power stature of India in South Asian strategic environment as the latter is occasionally involved in aiding and abetting the anti-Pakistan groups for destabilizing and orchestrating the terrorist activities in Pakistan.

Pakistan deepening ties with china is also viewed by Washington with suspicion particularly the manifestation of this cooperative relationship in the flagship project of CPEC which is utterly challenging to the hegemonic domination of US. Trump administration is trying to forge an alliance with India and Japan to pose restriction to the increasing influence of China in the region. On the other hand US assistance to India obliges Pakistan to align itself with other global powers. Due to US reckless behavior of not considering its sensitivities, Pakistan is broadening its strategic partnership with Russia.

The recent General Assembly poll has rendered US alone and isolated internationally on the question of Jerusalem whether or not to recognize it as the capital of Israel. The bill was presented by three Muslim states: Yemen, Turkey and Pakistan. Most of the states voted in favor of the bill thereby repudiating the unilateral decision of America to make Jerusalem capital of Israel. This action in opposition to US stance by Pakistan can also be causal factor behind the tweet. America being a super power consider it as its cardinal right to impose its decisions without any regard to Pakistan interest. Pakistan must provide the record of the CSF it received in 16 years as to where it had been spend in order to nip the ugly accusations of US in the bud once and for all. In this situation Pakistan should not compromise its sovereignty and respond shrewdly to US blames without allowing itself to be made a scapegoat.

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A cursory glance on structure of LG System in Pakistan

Shaukat Hayat Buneri

By local self-government, we mean the administration of local areas run by its elected representatives. In modern states there is a great importance of the local self-government because democracy is made real in local self- government. A nation may establish a system of free government, but without the spirit of local bodies or institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty.

After independence, the policy of the Pakistan government in regard to local government was that fullest autonomy shall be granted to local  bodies; this was borne out by the 1948 Muslim League Manifesto which stood for the ‘very widest extension of Local government . The system of local government inherited by Pakistan in 1947 was a product of a series of British efforts made from time to time through reforms, laws and commissions, to promote local institutions autonomous in certain respects but substantially under the control of the provincial government through district officers.

Despite these steps and prompt actions taken, the local government institutions in West   Pakistan made no appreciable progress. The above state of affairs more or less continued to prevail throughout the first decade of Pakistan’s existence and no worthy advance was made until the promulgation of Basic Democracies Order in 1959.

Structure of basic  democracy – Ayub period: The new local governments, established under the Basic Democracies Ordinance, 1959 and the Municipal Administration Ordinance 1960, comprised a hierarchical system of four linked tiers. The lowest tier, which was the union councils, comprised of members elected on the basis of adult franchise who, in turn, elected a chairman from amongst themselves. The higher tiers of local government had some members elected indirectly by these directly elected members and some official members nominated by the Government and had these officials as Chairmen.

The Basic Democracies scheme failed because its authors tried to shape it against the fundamental laws that is to say that they did not adhere to the concept that autonomy is the corner stone of local govt. the most important and controversial function which was included in constitutions of 1962 was that members of the lowest tier, the Union Councilors, were designated as the Electoral College and empowered to elect the President and the members of national and provincial assemblies.

Local government in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia’s regime!

When Pakistan People’s Party with Zulfiqar Bhutto came to power, the concept of People’s Local Government was introduced. In the law  and order each province passed its own local laws . In the new order- institutions of local government were set up on their own accounts and had no political strings.

It comprised District Co-uncil- Halqa Council -Dehi Council -Municipal Corpo-ration-Municipal Committee -Town Committee

It provided representation for minorities, women, peasants and workers on the local councils. The local councils were required to hold meeting once a year to which voters were to be invited. The new law introduced some useful reforms in the field of local government. But as elections were never held under the new law, and the local councils were not constituted under the new law, these reforms were not implemented. The country did not have any Local Government system during the period 1971 to 1979.

The new Martial Law Government of General Zia-ul- Haq declared in clear terms their policy of revitalizing local government. In undertaking of this policy new local government laws were drafted for each province, Federal Area, Northern Areas, and Azad Kashmir. These laws were promulgated and enforced in 1979. These laws followed the same pattern, but slight variations were made here and there to suit local circumstances.

The Zia and Post-Zia period

Centralization Reinforced Through Direct Military Control of Quasi-Presiden-tial Government • Implem-ented Bhutto’s LGOs – No Constitutional Protection Given to Elected Bodies – Provision of Municipal Services Primary Objective – Local Governments Given Little Financial Power • Non-Party Basis of Electi-ons Curtailed Power of Parties, and Prolonged Cust-oms Politics and Elite Cap-ture

Structure of local government during Zia’s regime

Provincial Govt Urban Town Committee (270) Wards (3568) Municipal Committee (117) Wards (2694) Municipal Corporat-ion (11) Wards (836) Metropolitan Corporation (2) Wards (219) Rural Distt Council (86) Wards (3373) Union Councils (3786) Wards (61292)

  • Urban Councils Enjo-yed Higher Levels of Re-venue and Income than Ru-ral and semi-Urban Ones.
  • Urban Councils Under No Obligation To Provide Funds to Rural or semi-Urban Areas
  • Rural and semi-Urban Areas Dependent on Provincial Administrative Tier for Financial Support • Competition between Urban Middle Class and Numerically Strong Rural Elites for Resource• Non-Party Based Elections in 1985 Created Localization of Politics at all Levels • Revival of Party Basis (1988) Did Not Reverse Localization of Politics Due to Weakened Parties • Space Left by Parties Filled by Fluid Local Political Factions

Local Govt in Musharaf’s regime In order to establish democracy at grassroots level, the regime of General Pervez Musharaf, introduced the Local Government System. This was not a new experiment in Pakistan. This new system of Local Government was installed on August 14, 2001, after holding of elections. Direct elections on non-party basis were held in five phases for members of Union Councils, Union Nazim, and Naib Union Nazim during 2000 to 2001. Distribution of resourcesü Diffusion of the power – authority nexus and ü De-concentration of management functions ü Decentr-alization of Administrative authority ü Devolution of Political Power ü The Local Govt was based on five ground rules:- It was implemented in September 2001 – Introduced by General Pervaiz Musharraf in Jan 2001

The New Devolution of power plan: The lowest tier, the union government was a corporate body covering the rural as well as urban areas across the whole District • It consisted of Union Nazim, Naib Union Nazim and three Secretaries and other auxiliary staff • The Union Nazim was the head of Union Administration. The Union Secretaries coordinated and facilitated in community development, functioning of the Union Committees and delivery of municipal services under the supervision of union Nazim • In addition to fiscal transfers from the Provinces, the Local Govt were authorized to generate money from their own resources by levying certain taxes, fees, user charges etc

Tehsil government:

  • The middle tier, the Tehsil Govt, had Tehsil Municipal Administration, headed by the Tehsil Nazim • Tehsil Municipal Administration consisted of a Tehsil Nazim, a Tehsil Municipal Officer, Tehsil Officer, Chief Officers and other officials. • The Tehsil Municipal Administration was entrusted with the function of administration, finances, the management of the offices of the local govt and rural development and numerous other subjects at the regional, divisional, district, Tehsil and lower levels.

District government:

  • The District Gove-rnment consisted of Zila Nazim and District Admin-istration • The District Administration consisted of District Officers including sub-offices at Tehsil level, who were to be responsible to the District Nazim assisted by the District Coordinator Officer • The District Coordinator Officer was appointed by the Provincial Govt and was the coordinating head of the District Administration •

The Zila Nazim was accountable to the people through elected members of the Zila Council. A Zila Council was consisted of all Union Nazims in the Districts. The Zila Council has separate budget allocation • The District Govt was responsible to the people and Provincial Govt for improvement of Governance and delivery of services

On the basis of these direct elections, indirect elections were held in July-August 2001 for Zila Nazim and Naib Zila Nazim and also for Tehsil-Town Nazim and Naib Nazim. In order to attract people towards electoral politics, the minimum age for local government elections was lowered from 21 to 18 years. One-third seats were reserved for women. The offices of Division Commiss-ioner and District Commissi-oner (DC) were abolished and their roles and functions were distributed to the District Government headed by the elected mayor (Nazi-ms) and including a District Coordination Officer (DCO) who reported to the Nazims.

The magisterial powers of the DC were withdrawn and given to the judiciary and police. The role of police oversight formerly held by the DC was abolished and the responsibility of law and order was entrusted to the Nazims

In accordance with analysis Local Governments Acts of 2013- the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the provincial assembly of Balochistan passed the LG Act in 2010, whereas the provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed their LG Acts in 2013.

Despite a lack of enthusiasm, and due consultation during the formulation stage, the passage of the LG Acts is a significant milestone.

One striking feature of all four LG Acts, in comparison with the LGO 2001, is that none of the Acts devolves sufficient functions and powers to the local governments, and all four provincial governments have retained the authority to suspend or remove the heads of an elected local government. The functioning of the Local Government Fund is managed by the Finance Department and Finance Minister of the province.

Are the local bodies elected  on party basis?  All four LG Acts provide for local government elections on a party basis. Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan will have Union Councils and District Councils in the rural areas and Union Councils/Committees and Municipal Committees in the urban areas. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa LG Act also provides for Tehsil Councils and Village Councils in the rural areas and Neighbourhood Councils in the urban areas.

Structure and Constituency Delimitation: The electoral process also varies across provinces. Punjab provides for direct elections for the posts of Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Union Councils, whereas Sindh envisages indirect election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Union Council from a panel of nine Councilors elected to the general and reserved seats.

Term limits and the electoral process: The LG Acts of 2013 are not consistent on the term limits of the local governments. Punjab provides for a term of five years, Sindh and Balochistan of four years, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of three years.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provides for direct elections of members for all seats (reserved and non-reserved) in the Village and Neighborhood Councils. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the reserved seats for women, peasants, youth and minorities will be filled through proportional representation by the political parties on the basis of the number of seats won. In both Punjab and Sindh, the heads of District Councils will be chosen indirectly through an electoral college comprising all members of the respective council By show of hands.

Functions of local governments: Culture (fairs and shows etc, Libraries, museum, exhibitions etc) Trees, Parks, Gar-dens and Forests – Education (Adult / Primary)  Streets (Permission of laying out street and proper lightening of streets, Traffic Planning, Street Watering) , Slaughter House , Civil Defense – Fire fighting service – Water supply and drainage ,

Social Welfare (Welfare homes, asylums, orphanages, widow and shelter houses and other institutions for the relief of the distressed, Prevention of beggary, gambling, taking of injurious drugs and consumption of alcoholic liquor and other social services)

Vehicles (other,Cinemas, dramatic and theatrical shows etc , Advertisements including bill board and hoarding , Fee for registration and certificates of birth and death, marriages and divorce , Tax on transfer of immovable property , Tax on the annual value of buildings and lands , are some of the functions being performed by the local governments. In other words the works and functions of local nature and importance are handed over or devolved to the local government by the central or provincial governments .

Sources of income of local government: Motor vehicle that  including carts bi- cycles and all kinds of boats) Fees for licenses, sanctions and permits granted by the Local Govt, Fees for markets , Fees for fairs, agricultural shows, industrial exhibition, tournaments and other public gatherings  Schools fees in respect of schools established or maintained by the Local Govt  Rate for the supply of water , Tolls on roads, bridges and ferries ,

Grants by Provincial / Federal Govt, if any, Any other tax which is levied by Government Fisheries Fee – Parking Fee Fees for slaughtering of Animals Through Local Self Govt .

Local governments are called the primary schools of democracy: There is a great saving of money in the administration, because the people of local areas pay the taxes and their representatives know well how difficult it is to pay taxes. Thus there is no misuse of the taxes, It brings efficiency in the administration because the representative of local areas understand local problems well and they can solve them in a better way. People get interested in the administration and their cooperation is increased. People get training in democracy. That is why it is called the primary school of democracy –

Advantages of local self government: The local bodies are useful because they provide drinking water, clean roads and streets, good drains, good libraries and reading rooms, museums, zoos and beautiful parks etc.

The workload of the provincial government as already cited above is lightened by entrusting work to local bodies. The local functions are efficiently performed by the local institutions and not by provincial government, because, the latter is already overburdened with work. The experience has shown in comparison to federal and provincial governments, local government is more accessible, more sympathetic, and quicker to respond to local needs.

Therefore, local government should be developed and evolved by the local people according to their own experiences and aspirations. That is what happens in other developed countries of the world. Decentralization of power at the grass roots level leads to better provision of social and civil services, restoration of the real democracy in the country and a more active and beneficial interaction and participation of the masses in all tiers of governance. They must have the power to levy and collect revenues. Devolution without enabling the local governments to raise and manage funds from their own resources is not likely to enable the people to run their own affairs. Since effective lower judiciary is an important part of the system of devolution, new local judicial institutions have to be created and existing one strengthened to provide cheap and immediate justice to the people.

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China mediates between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Sabena Siddiqui

Seeking to bridge the divide between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the second China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ trilateral dialogue took place recently. Promoting regional integration, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed, “China and Pakistan are willing to look at with Afghanistan, on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.”

Observing that Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to mend their strained relations, he added that “easier, smaller projects” would be initiated as a beginning to improve the Afghan economy and provide locals with livelihood. Welcoming the offer, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani affirmed that Afghanistan was “ready to actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative.” Adding that China is “a forever and reliable partner,” the Afghan minister received the suggestion with optimism.

Entering Afghanistan from the Khyber Pass once extended, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could proceed toward the north, crossing the Amu Darya River and onward to the South Aral Sea and Central Asia. Reconstructing this traditional route would link Central Asia with South Asia and open up new possibilities for all three countries.

Currently under construction throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan, the CPEC is considered the flagship of the six corridors included in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). An intricate network of highways, rail links, fiber-optic cables and pipelines, this 3,000-kilometer corridor connects the Silk Road in the north to the Maritime Silk Road in the south.

Adding Afghanistan to CPEC could end friction between Islamabad and Kabul after other mediation has failed. Seen as an olive branch, this reaching out of the BRI has the potential to benefit both neighbors and quell differences by adding common interests.

As observed by Zhou Rong of Renmin University in Beijing, “Afghanistan has strong enthusiasm toward corridor construction; they really hope that the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor can be the Pakistan-Afghanistan-China Economic Corridor.”

Appreciating the brotherly relations between Pakistan and China, Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said that successful implementation of the CPEC “will serve as a model for enhancing connectivity and cooperation through similar projects with neighboring countries, including Afghanistan [and] Iran, and with Central and West Asia.” The Pakistani side proposed that working panels be formed for improved coordination on matters related to politics, economy, refugees, military and intelligence. This suggestion was supported by China, while Afghanistan also agreed.

Appreciating the amity, Wang Yi said: “This is important progress achieved in the meeting, as a good friend of Afghanistan and Pakistan, China is willing to play a constructive role in improving Afghanistan-Pakistan ties through the trilateral dialogue.” Being the second trilateral meet held under China’s auspices since last June, the focus progressed further to enhanced cooperation in politics, economy and security.

Geopolitically, adding Afghanistan to CPEC happens to balance out India’s recent inauguration of Iran’s Chabahar Port, as extending CPEC would open up landlocked Afghanistan by providing access to Gwadar Port in Pakistan. Immensely convenient, this could prompt Iran to connect with the CPEC further down the road, with Chabahar complementing Gwadar as a “sister port.”

Providing the “necessary facilitation” to continue peace talks that began in 2015, Beijing says it will continue mediation efforts to end the civil war between the Afghan Taliban and President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul. Once this aspect is dealt with satisfactorily, the reconstruction of Afghanistan would be viable.

Meanwhile, the situation in Afghanistan remains unstable as the conflict shows no sign of abating; air strikes and ground offensives have been at an all-time high this winter. Notwithstanding that, the entry of a neutral country like China has rekindled Afghan hopes for peace. Concluding that only an “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” broad-based and inclusive peace process with regional and international support would prove effective, the joint statement said: “In this regard, they call on the Afghan Taliban to join the peace process at an early date.” Strengthening security coordination and counterterrorism without discrimination came under discussion, with the Pakistani Foreign Office issuing a joint statement. It reads: “They expressed their strong determination not to allow any country, organization or individual to use their respective territories for terrorist activities against any other countries.”

According to the joint press release, the three countries “reaffirmed their commitment to improving their relations, deepening mutually beneficial cooperation, advancing connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Agreeing to define a memorandum of understanding on counterterrorism, the three foreign ministers would “communicate and consult” and the next China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue would be held in Kabul this year.

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Iraq now wages war on drugs

Sinan Salaheddin

The rows of self-harm scars that course upward on the teenager’s forearms from her wrists nearly to her elbows are reminders of dark times. At age seven, the now 19-year-old was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia, a hereditary disease that comes with painful symptoms, including inflammation of the hands and feet and frequent infections. She became a regular visitor to a hospital where she was given Tramadol, an opioid medication that brought some relief.

Eventually, though, she began obtaining the medication even when there was no pain. “When I reached 15, I became addicted to it and wanted to take it no matter how,” she said, her face pale and lips bluish. She described how she would cut her arms with a razor when she was high or depressed. She agreed to discuss her addiction only on condition of anonymity because of the stigma attached to addiction in Iraq.

She is part of a phenomenon in Iraq’s southern Basra province, where illegal drug use and sales have reached previously unseen levels, mainly among youths, over the last three years. Basra is at the forefront of a nationwide spike in drug sales and consumption that has transformed Iraq from merely a corridor for drug trafficking to neighboring countries. Since late 2014, arrests for drug dealing and use have nearly doubled in Basra compared to 2011-2014, a senior police officer with the province’s anti-narcotics department said. From October 2015 to December 2017, police arrested 4,035 dealers and users, he said. In 2017 alone the number of arrested late in the year stood at 3,479, the officer said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

A Health Ministry official said nationwide the numbers have also nearly doubled in the same three-year period, though specific numbers were not immediately available. He, too, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. Government officials and activists blame Iraq’s porous borders, a widespread ban on alcohol, and corruption and unemployment as reasons for the increase. Though the problem nationwide is low compared to neighbouring countries, it is expanding, said Dr Emad Abdul-Razzaq, the federal Health Ministry’s adviser on psychological wellness. “The reports we have indicate that there is an increase,” he said.

Drug use is most prevalent in Basra, followed by Baghdad and Maysan provinces, authorities say. The most popular narcotic in Iraq, Abdul-Razzaq said, is crystal methamphetamine, the white crystalline drug produced in neighbouring countries and ingested by inhaling, smoking or injecting. Locals simply call it “crystal.” Others turn to drugs prescribed for relieving pain and treating psychological disorders, such as Parkizol, Valium and Somadril as well as morphine-based derivatives like codeine. During Saddam Hussein’s rule, sales and possession of narcotics could be punished by a death sentence, which curbed smuggling. However, with the removal of the death sentence after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam, Basra saw an increase in the smuggling and sales of narcotics, including new ones like hashish and methamphetamine.

The Basra anti-narcotics officer said that since late 2014, the drug trade has thrived because of a security vacuum left when many forces were moved from the borders to join the fight against Daesh, which swept through nearly a third of Iraq that year. Along with methamphetamine, authorities in the province began to seize hashish and small amounts of opium and pills, he said. Psychiatrist Aqeel Al Sabbagh said he believes the official statistics on drug abuse don’t reflect the reality in the province. “When we try to talk to the addicts about others they know, we get the feeling there are whole areas that are completely plagued,” he said.

Al Sabbagh’s colleague, Nazhat Najim, said crystal meth is the most popular substance in Basra, with 62.1 per cent of the country’s consumption located in the province. It’s followed by Tramadol and hashish. The most affected are between the ages of 18 and 30, with 10 to 12 per cent of them women, he said. One meth addict described how he was joking around while high and choked his cousin until he turned blue and lost consciousness. Some women nearby started shouting at him and pushed him off his cousin before he strangled him.

“That was the moment when my family decided to take me to a doctor to heal from drug addiction,” said the 39-year-old, a father of one who works as a gas station attendant, who asked not to be identified. He said he started smoking hashish in cigarettes and then progressed to meth. He was interviewed in August when he was receiving treatment. “At the beginning I had no clue about anything, but step by step and cigarette after a cigarette I found myself joining the crystal club two months later, which completely destroyed me and my family,” he said. Al Sabbagh, who supervises the man’s treatment, said that after nearly six months of treatment, he began using again and recently attacked his neighbour and damaged his car. He is now chained in his home and taking medication.

Al Sabbagh, who heads the psychiatry department at Basra General Hospital, said the country lacks specialised rehabilitation centers and medicine and suffers from a severe shortage of psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers. He advises his patients to seek treatment abroad – mostly Iran, Jordan and Egypt. Early this year, Iraq is set to open its first specialised mental health and rehabilitation centre in Basra with about 40 beds after Al Sabbagh pleaded for years for such a facility. He’s still awaiting authorities’ approval to hire doctors and psychiatrists from Egypt to treat patients and train Iraqis. Facing a growing problem, Basra’s Anti-Narcotics Department was transformed from a small office with 15 troops and an officer in 2014 to a department boasting 195 troops and 17 officers. Another 85 security members will join soon. Last year, it added two new detention halls to the existing one to cope with increasing numbers of addicts and dealers.

“We still need financial support, sniffer dogs, modern drug detectors and vehicles … and the perfect number for security forces is 750,” said the senior officer who spoke anonymously. Hoping to raise awareness among youths, 50-year-old activist Sameer Al Maliki is directing a film on addiction. Titled The Price, it tells the story of two unemployed friends who are hired by a drug dealer in return for free narcotics. One of them kills the other’s father when he decides to inform the police. “If the situation continues to worsen … I’m sure we’ll see drug addiction becoming a normal habit in Basra even in public areas,” he warned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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America first or America alone?

Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Only a few days after President Donald Trump delivered his national security speech, in which he highlighted his “America First” mantra, a UN General Assembly vote over the sovereignty of Jerusalem showed that America was not really “first,” but rather alone and isolated.

With 128 nations voting against America, and only eight governments supporting it, Americans could not but help notice how Trump had effectively shot himself in the foot. Perhaps his poor knowledge and lack of foreign policy experience made Trump commit his faux pas. After all, the sovereignty over Jerusalem was not a “pressing issue,” until Trump made it so in his ambiguous speech, in which he recognized Jerusalem — without specifying whether he meant East, West, or undivided — as the capital of Israel.

In his Jerusalem speech, Trump sounded so amateurish that he said that his administration would be looking for contractors, engineers, and architects to execute the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While engineers and architects might seem important if you were in the real estate business, they mean little in international politics. Only Trump does not seem to realize that his speech on Jerusalem was all fluff and no substance.

It seems, however, that Trump miscalculated his move on Jerusalem. He might have reasoned that an ambiguous speech might win him favor with the Christian right and American Jews, a favor that he seeks for his reelection bid in 2020. But Trump did not seem aware that words count in international relations.

Trump did not learn from the international backlash against his Jerusalem speech. He went further by threatening to cut US aid to governments that vote for the UN General Assembly’s resolution, which kept Jerusalem a disputed territory, rather than recognize it as the capital of Israel. The US president was seemingly unaware that — should his threat fail — it would show him and America weak, an image that Trump hates. Those who read Trump’s two speeches carefully, the one on Jerusalem and the one on US national security, could have predicted America’s astounding diplomatic defeat at an international organization that the US hosts and funds to a large extent.

And in a way, that has become the signature of Trump and his administration, the US president said things at the same time that his subordinates said the opposite. Even after Trump’s “recognition” of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the classification of East Jerusalem and the West Bank remained “disputed territory”, as per the US State Department.

Similarly, a day after governments that are recipients of US aid voted against America at the UN, the State Department said Washington has no plans to suspend any foreign aid to these countries, in effect showing that Trump’s statements were just what they were: meaningless words with no effect on real life. Ever since he announced his candidacy, and with the assistance of “economic populist” and his former chief strategic Steve Bannon, Trump has endorsed a rhetoric that is more imaginative than real. Even worse, Bannon and Trump’s idea of “America First” breaks with the traditional Republican perspective on America and its role in the world.

America’s founders, many of them members of Masonic and other similar fraternities, prided themselves on being the descendants of a long line of masons who had built past empires, such as Egyptians and Israelis. America’s founding fathers envisioned America as the last in a long line of empires, and a source of enlightenment and civilization for the whole world. This thinking culminated in Republican President Ronald Reagan uttering his famous description of America as a “shining city on a hill.”

Reagan enjoys a deity-like status with almost all Republicans, including Trump, who fashioned his electoral campaign along the lines of his predecessor. It was the Reagan campaign that came up with its electoral slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again,” a motto that Trump borrowed for his own campaign. So far, Trump has even emulated Reagan’s platform: By lowering taxes in such a drastic way that parallels 1986, Trump is effectively carving for himself an image of being another Reagan.

But the unlearned man that he is, Trump’s emulation of Reagan is only superficial. The liberalization of world economy and championing of free trade was one of the main pillars of the Reagan-Thatcher economic boom. Trump, however, has been preaching against free trade, arguing instead for protections and tariffs.

Another point over which Trump — perhaps unwittingly — parts ways with Reagan, is foreign policy. Reagan made sure that America’s alliances around the world remained rock solid. Reagan’s relations with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were the best between any two sovereigns in recent history.

Reagan courted other allies. When he deployed the Marines to Beirut to oversee the relocation of the fighters of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to Tunisia, he made sure that US allies — the French and the Italians – would also be sending troops to Lebanon for the same purpose. When Reagan planned to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan through supporting the Mujahideen, he did so in close coordination with Saudi Arabia. Trump seems too misinformed to realize the importance of building alliances on the international stage, even for countries with unparalleled power like the US Instead, Trump has resorted to bullying allies and bluster rhetoric. So far, Trump’s style has been all words, and nothing else. Trump believes that he can restore the US to the glory it once enjoyed under Reagan. To do so, he has adopted Bannon’s motto “America First.” But because of their inexperience, Trump and Bannon have so far made America lonely and isolated on the world stage, rather than making it “first” again.

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2017 full of Western indifference to Muslims

Meryem Ilayda Atlas

The international system as we know it is pushing all of us toward an apocalyptic future. It is insane to allow things to advance as they had in 2017. The grand narrative of “civilization” is no more. Injustice and cruelty are spreading all around, with a lack of tangible resistance to this devolution deafening. The year 2017 will be seen by the future generations as one of the years when the world became a worse place.

Terror attacks, nuclear threats, civil wars, proxy wars, forced migration and ethnic clashes were aggravated by the irresponsibility of leading powers. The retreat of a dominant power may be seen by some as an encouraging development. However, narrow priorities of states and ever-growing domestic problems suffered by many countries have produced a chaotic environment where limited understanding of conflicts is preventing the formulation of comprehensive solutions to our problems. The world has never been this indifferent to suffering since the Bosnian Wars. Even worse, nowadays, it is usually the victims who are blamed.

Aime Cesaire, in his “Discourses on Colonialism,” says: “A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization. A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization.” A more perfect analogy for today’s Europe cannot be made. As millions of Syrian refugees flooded into Europe, the EU adopted a siege mentality rather than mobilizing its resources to help fellow human beings. How long can Europe preserve its prosperity and peace when its neighbors are facing the biggest disasters in centuries?

A civilization incapable of resolving its internal and external problems becomes weak. The West self-legitimizes its inhumanity toward refugees. None of us should forget that future generations will judge us for the way we responded to the refugee crisis as we judge past generations for the way they responded to the humanitarian tragedies of the time.

What is unique in this day and age is that the leading powers not only work to resolve the world’s problems but rather compound them with their irresponsibility. People and their leaders need to resist recklessness for the good of humanity. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership in mobilizing the opposition to U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the U.N. General Assembly’s decision to condemn the American move was one of the few actions that redeem trust in our common humanity.

Palestinians have demonstrated the fact that their minds remain immune to colonization despite the world order collapsing around them. They are the guardians of the long Islamic history of Jerusalem and eventually history will trump “interests.”

Some interests also will be written adversely to the West. Being indifferent to what is happening in Myanmar, Syria, coups in Venezuela and Zimbabwe, only supporting the civil groups and democratic initiates when necessary, shortly being hypocritical to all people living in the “risk societies.”

Drawing red lines for your own country, concerns only about your own security, observe only “your democracy” makes it impossible to speak up for a universal ethic.

After the Paris attacks, all the world leaders poured into Paris. They stand and united together. These attacks and all terror attacks wherever they happen in the world should be condemned at the highest level and at every opportunity. Including the Charlie Hebdo attack, even though I do not find any value to mock with the sacred values of Muslims, a group already suppressed and disadvantageous in French society, yes, indeed, we are all very sorry. We feel the proximity and intensity of the threat and the feeling of loss because we have the same here. However, we are still far away to develop a comprehensive understanding for terror, still arming proxy groups in the field to a region that exports terror all over the world.

We Muslims are expected to turn the other cheek every time we are attacked. European Muslims continue to be on the firing line of hypocrisy. In 2016, 1,500 Islamophobic attacks happened in Germany. That number fell to 718 last year, which is cheered and welcomed as progress. Still, each and every one of these hundreds of attacks is a symbol of bigotry, prejudice and racism’s victory over humanity and decency. No European country is immune to Islamophobic actions. Meanwhile, Muslims are put in a very difficult position to find evidence from Islamic jurisprudence that Islam is not genuinely and essentially violent. We journalists and academics are being asked about the same stereotypical questions everywhere and every time when we visit Europe.

Questions are about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy, about violence, financing of terror, et cetera. We are being tasked with proving ourselves innocent of these charges. I personally view such interrogations as invasive. They are examples of hidden fascism, an attempt at nullifying their complicity in Islamophobia. Intellectuals are, or at least should be, capable of determining what is good and bad in their own societies. At least, that is what intellectual honesty demands from us. When there is a lack of honesty, nihilistic ideologies take over. These nihilistic ideologies, like those followed by the Nazis and Daesh militants, are naturally violent and normalize the mistreatment of the other, whoever they may be.

Today, we apologize for slavery, apartheid, Hiroshima, colonialism in Africa, and the genocide of Aborigines. For these apologies to be perceived as sincere, we should demonstrate our intention not to repeat them ever again. And this can only happen if we truly take action to resolve the many catastrophes occurring all around us. Every passing minute is an opportunity to say, “O.K., I am not responsible for these tragedies in the Middle East, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, but at least I feel the responsibility to alleviate their suffering. I need to understand and help. I shouldn’t turn my back on the needy. Denial and rejection is tacit acceptance of these crimes.” Tens of millions of refugees around the world are the community most susceptible to violation and abuse. Whole generations and cultures are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. As Ulrich Beck says, we are building walls because we think building walls is cheap but dialogue is costly and uncomfortable. That is why we are now turning into “risk societies,” seeing the other as a threat and less wise. There is nothing more costly to humanity than building walls between countries and cultures.Borders are necessary only to mark a capacity, not for humanity.