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UK’s misguided terror laws: Criminalising the innocent

Rizwaan Sabir

Last week, at the Conservative Party Conference, Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that the UK government intends to increase jail time for viewing content or possessing information useful to somebody preparing terrorism from 10 to 15 years. This may seem like an appropriate policy given the recent spate of terrorist attacks in the UK, but reading between the lines, it is anything but appropriate.

The proposals, if followed through, will be introduced under the Section 58 of the Terrorism Act. This offence was initially introduced 17 years ago under the Terrorism Act 2000. It criminalises the possession or collection of “information … likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. This is a very broad power that can criminalise a whole host of information and this is why the Court of Appeal ruled that the offence would only be applicable to “information that would typically be of use to terrorists, as opposed to ordinary members of the population”. The offence, in other words, was created as a way of criminalising information such as target lists concerning the armed forces or police officers, as well as things such as tactical bomb-making and military manuals, for example.

While this appears entirely reasonable and fair, there is one serious problem with Section 58. The offence ignores the reason why a person holds or views such information or what they intend to use it for. Simply put, the reason why you possessed a military training manual or a list of soldiers is irrelevant for the purposes of this law. It is the nature of the information that is a crime; not the intention of the person who views or possesses the information. In practice, this means that a student studying terrorist groups, an academic writing a book on armed movements, or a journalist reporting on military personnel could potentially find themselves facing arrest, charge, and prosecution for terrorism, if they are found viewing or holding such information.

Of course, the section 58 offence formally includes the “defence” of “reasonable excuse”. In simple terms, this means that if you are found viewing or possessing information useful to terrorists, you can defend your actions on the ground that it’s related to your studies, your research, your journalism, and so forth, and not, therefore, be charged with terrorism. This sounds fair but a key aspect is omitted from this point. A defence will only realistically be required once a person is either being questioned under police caution (ie, they are being assessed whether they are actually involved in terrorism) or once they are formally under arrest for suspected terrorism.

The defence, in other words, can only be made once a coercive form of action has been initiated against a person; any person. Once a defence has been offered, the police and prosecutors will work to determine whether they should prosecute them or terminate the investigation.

Such a decision is, of course, subject to official guidelines which are based on determining whether there is a realistic prospect of a conviction and whether a prosecution is in the “public interest”.

However, like any guidance, there is an element of elasticity involved in interpreting it; not to forget the political pressure and political context involved in such decision-making. One need look no further than the refusal of prosecutors to bring even one case against police officers for more than 1,500 deaths that have occurred in police custody since 1990, to understand the politicised environment within which prosecutors act. While the law may, therefore, be represented as being a neutral arbiter that sits above politics, in its application, it operates within a political context and reflects power structures and the biases of those who create and wield it. The law, in other words, is more about power than it is about justice.

It is precisely this understanding that can prompt individuals and institutions to self-discipline and censor their ideas, behaviours, and activities. A poignant example of this concerns the British Library who refused to stock an archive of primary documents related to the Taliban due to legitimate anxieties that they might face prosecution under terrorism laws which criminalise the holding or sharing of information that encourages or “glorifies” terrorism.

Why? Because irrespective of the reason for sharing or holding such information, one is theoretically breaking the law. This is, of course, no isolated example. My own false arrest and detention for seven days under the Terrorism Act for possessing the al-Qaeda training manual that was downloaded from a US government website for postgraduate research on armed Islamic groups is one relatively well-known case. Another concerns the journalist Shiv Malik being forced under counterterrorism powers to disclose notes from his conversations with a source who was speaking to him in connection with his book. Then, there was the case of the Birmingham bookseller who was prosecuted (and later acquitted) for disseminating political Islamic books that the appeal court said could not be proven to be encouraging terrorism. Most recently, the BBC Newsnight journalist Secunder Kermani was forced to hand over his laptop to counterterrorism police after being in communication with a fighter in Syria.

While terrorism laws are only ever meant to be used against “terrorists”, when the state acquires exceptional and draconian powers that disregard criminal intent, the temptation to use them, as these cases demonstrate, becomes ever so stronger.

The home secretary’s latest announcement may be perceived as just another counterterrorism proposal, but in professions such as journalism and academia, where terrorist materials often need to be scrutinized, consulted, and studied, this will be seen as yet another move by a government committed to further strengthening and reinvigorating the long arm of the security state at the expense of understanding and confronting the drivers of terrorism.

The way ahead in generating security is not by strengthening the state of exception that violates and undermines due process, but rather, dismantling a legal infrastructure that can be used to lock you away – for what could soon be 15 years – without ever having to prove you intended to commit terrorism.

 

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Is Trump going down the same path with Iran that Bush did with Iraq?

Shazar Shafqat

US President Donald Trump has made Iran a top priority for his presidency. Recent moves to pressure the intelligence community look a lot like the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The dust seems to have settled. The force of the fiery rhetoric at the UN has subsided. It’s now business as usual. Now that President Trump is done with his heroics at the General Assembly, he might well be able to direct his energies to the task he’s been contemplating getting done since becoming president. ‘Mission Iran’ it is. Annihilation (sort of), regime change, abandonment of the nuclear deal, or a missile strike. Any of these would do just fine for the POTUS.

But, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis might have just muddied the situation for the American President.

In response to a question during a House of Representatives hearing on Tuesday, Mattis said regarding Iran’s compliance, “I believe that they fundamentally are.

There have been certainly some areas where they were not temporarily in that regard, but overall our intelligence community believes that they have been compliant and the IAEA also says so.”

In his maiden address to the UNGA, Trump termed the nuclear deal with Iran to be one of the worst ones the US has ever signed.

He said: “We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.”

If that wasn’t enough for some of the right-wing ‘enthusiasts’, Trump surely had more in store.

“Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me,” he added. So, you can’t really blame ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu for being so ecstatic at that point.

There’s a reason why Trump’s remarks regarding the JCPOA didn’t go down well with certain experts and stakeholders of the deal. Whether Trump was actually unaware or he was just playing to the gallery remains unsure. But, here’s the thing.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), nuclear arms control experts, the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA), and US and Israeli intelligence have all concluded recently that Iran is doing all it needs to do in regards to its commitment vis-a-vis the nuclear deal.

Why the brouhaha, then?

Former US Assistant Secretary of State Chas Freeman summed it up well when speaking to a Russian state funded news agency: “It is evident that President Trump has no strategy for dealing with Iran. He is playing to his domestic base and the Israel Lobby without considering the probable reactions of Iran or the other parties to the JCPOA.”

Ever since his campaign trail, President Trump seems to be on a collision course with Iran.

After his speech at the UN, it’s evident that the POTUS is slowly, but surely, going down that dangerous warpath.

More damning are the reports that emerged last month about the White House ‘pressurizing’ the US intelligence community to unearth evidence that could find Iran directly in contempt of the nuclear deal.

David Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA, termed such ‘pressurizing’ as “disconcerting.”

He also added that “If our intelligence is degraded because it is politicised in the way that it looks like the president wants to do here, that undermines the utility of that intelligence all across the board.”

When President Bush decided to invade Iraq based on all the fabricated evidence, there were still calls for him not to engage the US militarily in the Middle East. Did he pay heed to those calls? Well, the rest, as they say, is history.

Back then, it was the WMDs. Now, it’s the noncompliance with regards to the nuclear deal. Evidence didn’t matter then.

And, considering Trump’s animosity towards Iran—and his Secretary of Defence General Mattis’ career-long obsession with Iran—any evidence from official sources is likely to be snubbed this time around, too. The American President’s continued belligerence towards Iran can be catastrophic.

Differences with Iran are likely to persist for long, but warmongering won’t help one bit. Respecting evidence from official sources is always the safest best.

President Bush ignored it. Now, the onus is on President Trump to avoid that trap.

All eyes are now set on October 15. With a 60-day window to play with, the American Congress will have the option to re-impose sanctions on Iran. This, unfortunately, will then make the nuclear deal fall apart. But, let’s hope American lawmakers will make the right call.

Irrespective of how things pan out, an Obama-era diplomatic victory shouldn’t serve as a precursor for another escalation in the Middle East.

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Trump’s ‘America First’ policy is fine but approach is wrong

Ken Moak

US President Donald Trump is doing what every leader is or should be doing, putting their national interests first, maximizing their country’s economic, political and social well-being and keeping the population safe. But putting “America First” is not a zero sum game, as Trump’s creating conflicts with other countries seems to imply.

For example, in protecting Boeing’s domestic market share, the Trump administration is threatening a 220% tariff on Canada’s Bombardier CS100 passenger aircraft, claiming the company has received heavy subsidies from the Canadian federal and Quebec provincial governments. The premier of Quebec, where Bombardier is headquartered and where the CS100 is built or assembled, has vowed retaliation (but did not specify how) because if imposed, such a high tariff could cripple the company. As Bombardier is a major employer in Quebec’s important aviation industry, the provincial economy would take a hit. Trump’s other “executive orders” with respect to putting “America First” are equally provocative and divisive.

The nixing of former US president Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Paris Climate Accord, renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), threatening to cancel the Iran nuclear deal, refusing to negotiate with North Korea and threatening to “wipe it off of the map”, and investigating China’s trade practices could turn the world into a more dangerous place and further exacerbate global economic woes, including those of the US itself.

Attacking trade pacts: It is difficult to see how tearing up or renegotiating trade agreements reached by previous administrations is putting “America First”. Written by and for US corporations, the TPP, an agreement reached with 11 other Asia-Pacific nations during the Obama presidency, was intended to benefit the US.

For example, the intellectual-property protections, labor standards and environmental-protection provisions were so tough that countries such as Vietnam might not have been able to comply. What’s more, Obama got his wish: The US wrote the TPP’s rules. There is no reason to believe that renegotiating NAFTA would improve the United States’ economic prospects.

Its harsh concession demands – Canada and Mexico allowing US ownership of agriculture, banking and telecommunication industries, new rules on government procurement, tougher labor standards and environmental rules, tougher rules on origins, etc – might prove bitter pills for Canada and Mexico to follow. These demands are one-sided, favoring the US. Moreover, the US is demanding that the NAFTA dispute arbitration mechanism for trade conflict resolution be dismantled and future disputes be settled in a US court of law.

US trade with Canada and Mexico was valued at more than US$1 trillion in 2016. Canada and Mexico are America’s biggest and second-largest export markets, estimated at more than $260 billion and $250 billion respectively last year. According to the US Chamber of Commerce and other agencies, NAFTA is responsible for the creation of 5 million jobs, adding 0.5% to the US economy, improving manufacturing efficiency, and reducing Americans’ cost of living. Clearly, trade conflicts between the US and Canada and Mexico could undermine all three countries’ economies. Other nations that have free-trade agreements with the US are also anxious over Trump’s trade policies.

The United Kingdom has been shocked to find that its “special relationship” with the US has little substance. Imposing a 220% tariff on Bombardier would cost Northern Ireland 4,000 jobs. It would seem the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement is facing an uncertain future in that Trump is threatening to tear it up, considering parts of it unfair to the US and decrying South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s diplomatic gestures to North Korea. Not surprisingly, many nations, including staunch US allies such as Canada, Australia and the UK, are looking elsewhere (read China) to improve their economic well-being. There lies the irony:

Trump’s divisive messages may put “China First” as America’s trading partners are driven into the Chinese camp. China’s increasingly huge economy and and financial toolkit prove too lucrative to ignore. Canada and Mexico are in fact pursuing closer economic relations with the Asian giant.

Immigration policy: Judging from the increasingly frequent and severity of “terrorist” attacks on both sides of the Atlantic since Donald Trump became US president, restricting immigration from nations that are said to be the sources of terrorism may subject Americans to greater danger. Resentment over how they are being treated and marginal employment prospects in the West are perhaps a major reasons many young Muslims are being “radicalized”.

Because terrorist acts harm or kill innocent people, the general public will heighten its resentment or even hatred against the wider Muslim community, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Xenophobic groups in the West will carry out “hate crimes” against Muslims. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will increase bombing of Islamic states. More Muslims will join jihadist groups like ISIS.

Ignoring climate change: The frequency and severity of natural disasters – horrific hurricanes in the US and Caribbean, melting of the polar icecaps, droughts, etc – are said to be largely caused by man-made climate change, which the US- and China-sponsored Paris Accord was intended to address. But Trump complains that climate change is a “Chinese hoax” and that smaller nations want to squeeze US taxpayers for more money. His primary motive might be to fulfill a campaign promise to restart the coal industry and increase gas and oil production.

However, pulling out of the Paris Accord and rejuvenating fossil-fuel production would produce only a limited number of jobs, while putting at risk a higher number of jobs in the green energy industry. The failure to address climate change continues to put economies, human lives and property at risk. In the US, hurricanes have destroyed much of Houston and Puerto Rico and parts of Florida. The cost of rebuilding them, at almost $200 billion, will prove to be a huge challenge for the US federal and state budgets, resulting in underfunding of much-needed social programs and infrastructure repair in other parts of the country.

China probe: Investigating China’s trade practices under the auspices of the rarely used Section 301 of the US Trade Act is meant to give Trump an excuse to to impose stiff tariffs on Chinese exports if that country does not “fully cooperate” to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program. Should Trump follow through with his threats and put the more than $660 billion trade relationship in jeopardy, not only the US and Chinese economies will be at risk, but those of many other parts of the world as well. The efficient global supply chain (largely established by US policies) will be distorted, increasing production costs and consumer prices.

Unwillingness to consider a diplomatic solution would only heighten tension in the Korean Peninsula, possibly to the point of an unnecessary war. Kim Jong-un will maintain his nuclear-weapons program at any cost. He is well aware that by giving up his arsenal he would end up committing suicide like Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. Given America’s history on honoring treaties and promises, Kim can be forgiven for not trusting it.

The ball is in Trump’s court, to bomb or not to bomb North Korea. If he follows through with his threats, he could risk the loss of millions of lives, an unthinkable amount of property, and World War III. China and Russia have already warned the US that they will intervene if Trump fires the first shot.

The need for dialogue: Regular dialogues defuse conflicts because the stakeholders get to know and understand each other’s issues and the risks involved if not addressed, as proved by the Economic and Strategic Dialogues established by Obama and his Chinese counterpart at the time, Hu Jintao. Indeed, Trump himself seems to understand that dialogues are important in meeting his “America First” policy, upgrading the E&S Dialogues to four levels: diplomatic and security, comprehensive economic, law enforcement and cybersecurity, and social and cultural. Promoting trade affords a country access to bigger foreign markets, leading to sustainable economic growth. Restricted by huge consumer and public debts and a lack of effective monetary tools, the US economy has been struggling to recover from the 2007 financial crisis. To that end, putting “America First” requires cooperating with other nations.

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New upbeat phase for US-India relations

Sabena Siddiqui

Upgraded only last year, US-India relations entered a new upbeat phase this August with the signing of the landmark bilateral Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement that enables reciprocal military access of facilities for both countries.

It was the second of the initial four foundational agreements the US usually has with its defense partners; the first one was the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which India signed in 2002. Having felt uneasy about committing itself to the remaining three agreements, the previous Indian government held off, as going ahead would have been perceived as lodging it in the US “camp.” As of now, even the current government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not set any timeline for signing the remaining two deals, known as the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Intelligence.

The unease in New Delhi was triggered as Beijing and Islamabad kicked off the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Since then, however, India might have felt a bit unequal to the expectations of its important ally in Washington on various counts such as its relations with Pakistan.

US-Pakistan relations may be going through choppy times, yet the reality is that the US has to remain engaged with Pakistan because of its geopolitical location and the fact that it creates strategic balance in the region.

As reported by the British think-tank Royal United Studies Institute recently, Washington needs Islamabad more than Islamabad needs Washington. Not only that, growing strategic ties between China and Pakistan have emboldened Islamabad, and this relationship “has eclipsed anything America has had to offer in terms of military and economic assistance”.

Predictably, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated that Pakistan is critical for the long-term stability of South Asia, while US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials have urged Pakistan not to see the new US strategy for South Asia as a move to isolate it.

Another unsettling factor for India is that while the US could be said to be using it to contain China, Washington maintains a cordial relationship with Beijing itself. India has obstinately stayed out of the BRI up to now, but China remains the United States’ most important economic partner. US President Donald Trump is due to visit China in November, and India is bound to feel even more left out as it has no place in this equation. Ostensibly, this has been a stable year for US-China relations. President Xi Jinping and Trump have a good understanding and regularly discuss matters on the phone, there is no trade war, and a fast-track four-level dialogue has been under way since the two leaders’ last meeting in Florida.

Recently, US Defense Secretary James Mattis was in New Delhi to press for the US$2 billion sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial System drones as well as US$15 billion worth of updated F-16 fighter jets.

It has been mentioned by Indian media that he would also ask India to moderate its support for the Tehrik-i-Taliban at the request of Pakistan.

In New Delhi, he endorsed India’s stand that the CPEC project passes through disputed territory in Pakistan, but at the end of the day, it is India that is left isolated in its own neighborhood while it cannot go ahead even with energy deals with Iran.

Meanwhile, Trump would like India to have a more balanced economic and trade relationship with the US. He recently admonished India that it could spend more money in Afghanistan and work on reducing a US$24 billion trade deficit with the US. He said: “We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan. But India makes billions of dollars in trade from the United States and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”

Absolutely bewildered, India ignored this and pretended nothing had happened.  Discussing the slight, Shashi Tharoor, a parliamentarian and former foreign minister, asked:  “Whatever Afghanistan is or should be about for India and the US, surely money is the least relevant consideration?”

Having geographical limitations vis-a-vis Afghanistan, India cannot supply logistics; at best it can contribute financially.  Not only that, it promises to be a long-term player as the US plans to fight it out indefinitely in Afghanistan, notwithstanding the hefty US$12.5 billion annual price tag.

Consequently, doubts prevail in India as to the utility of the India-US strategic partnership.  To date, India has not been able to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Constantly, the US tries to persuade India to downsize its nuclear arsenal while it holds back on transfer of advance technologies under defense cooperation. Signing agreements on each and every instance of defense collaboration is not possible for India as it worries about its image. Meanwhile, conflicts regarding the modalities of technology transfer  create impediments.

For instance, the US would like to continue its influence through training, maintenance and control of core defense technologies, while India prefers a complete transfer of military technology.

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The gun lobby is global: From Yemen to Las Vegas

Hamid Dabashi

Another horrific mass killing in the US, yet another round of public mourning for the innocent victims of a murderous act of violence in Las Vegas, this time around though no Barack Obama to come to television and shed some crocodile tears.

According to reports, on Sunday, October 1, a gunman in possession of a massive arsenal of military-grade weaponry ascended to a high floor of a Las Vegas hotel and went on a rampage with rapid-fire barrage of bullets on innocent people attending an outdoor concert, killing more than 50 and injuring hundreds more. The blood in the streets of Las Vegas was still fresh when the bizarre battle over the identity and possible motive of the mass murderer became matters of political contestations and ideological fireworks in the media. He was a white man, he was not a Muslim, so is this “terrorism”, or was he just a “lone wolf”. How come if it were a Muslim … now that he is white …

After each and every such mass murder perpetrated by a white gunman in the US, and there are plenty of them, there is a perfectly legitimate outcry to force Trump and other white supremacist, racist, xenophobic Islamophobes to admit this is a case of domestic or white terrorism, that the bugbear they have created and call “Islamic terrorism” is not the paramount cause of mass murder in the US and indeed around the globe. That the Muslim travel ban this nasty racist president has initiated and continues to flaunt has nothing to do with keeping Americans safe. Neither Trump nor his racist supporters will ever admit any such thing. There is good money in the business of “Islamic terrorism”.

Since Americans, and on their behalf the British in Europe, have kept the term “terrorism” exclusively for Muslims and mostly for when white people are their victims, such markings of their hypocrisy is perhaps necessary but it is also distracting from another far more serious issue: the fact that the barbaric US gun culture and American and Israeli arms manufacturing industry are the real big fat elephant in the room that no one wants to see or discuss for it sheds light where liberal imperialism prefers kept dark.

Equally distracting from a full recognition of this fact is the other redundant mantra aired on such tragic occasions – the endless and useless cry for “gun control”. “477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action from Congress”: New York Times headline put it simply and bluntly.

Before he left office, Barack Obama used to come to television on such occasions and publicly cry for the victims of gun violence and desperately plead to the US Congress for gun control, which the Congress, of course, never did, for after AIPAC, NRA is the most powerful lobby in the United States. AIPAC keeps feeding the arms-addicted junky state of Israel, and NRA makes sure there are enough lethal weapons easily available to Americans so they can kill themselves with same fanatical precision as Israelis murder Palestinians.

With Trump at least we have no spectacle of Obama hypocrisy any more. He is a heartless racist and stages it boldly.

AIPAC and NRA: To reach for the domestic and global dimensions of the real calamity caused by US violent militarism we need to overcome this false and manufactured binary between Islamic and non-Islamic terrorism, between “jihadism” and “lone wolf” binaries, and look at all such mass shootings collectively and irrespective of who had perpetrated them – a Muslim fanatic or a Christian zealot, a Jewish settler colonialist mass murderer like Baruch Goldstein or a white supremacist mass murderer like Dylann Roof. At the root and the common denominator of all such acts of pernicious violence is the US/Israeli culture of hate and warmongering, predicated on an entire industry of arms manufacturing, of militarism, and of regional and global conquest.

Where do these weapons of mass murder come from? Who manufactures and sells them around the globe? Either the “gun control” debate, or else “terrorism” debate, will camouflage a darker and more persistent foregrounding of episodic violence targeting innocent people. Few will connect the US gun culture and Israeli militarism to their respective warmongering and arms industries.

Yes, there is a “gun lobby” in the US. But that gun lobby is the symptom, not the cause of the disease we regularly see on these frightful scenes of mass murder in the US.

Barack Obama and Donald Trump both are the most prominent members of this “gun lobby” if we remember how they consistently push arms around the globe and sell weapons of mass murder to ruling tyrants and mass murderers from Saudi Arabia to commit war crimes in Yem-en to the Myanmar junta and their Nobel Laureate leader in Myanmar to burn Rohingya Muslims alive.

When JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Malcolm X uttered a simple truth that “chickens come home to roost,” pointing to the climate of hate that US politicians and the massive scale of warmongering that the US military generates and sustains around the globe, and perforce to the gargantuan killing machine put at the disposal of a US president.

Malcolm X was ostracised and condemned for uttering this very simple truth. But the truth behind his proverbial phrase still shines true after every act of senseless violence. You cannot, as Obama and Trump do, sell billions of dollars’ worth of weapons around the globe and then pretend you are denouncing gun violence at home.

Innocence Home and Abroad: The innocent victims of guns, machine guns, missiles and bombs in Las Vegas, in Palestine, in Yemen, in Myanmar are the identical targets of this global calamity. The person who pulls the trigger might be different but the victims are the same. The US and Israel are among the top manufacturers and sellers of weapons of mass murder around the globe – both for their own domestic use and for their regional and global militarism. Saudis kill Yemeni children with their American weapons. Israeli slaughter Palestinians with their American weapons. The military junta in Myanmar murders Muslims of Rohingya ethnicity with Israeli weapons. The man who went to a top floor of a hotel in Las Vegas and started shooting innocent people randomly used the selfsame weapons the Saudis, the Israelis and the Myanmar military use.

In an imbecilic and puerile statement, Donald Trump called the senseless act of murder in Las Vegas “pure evil”. “Pure evil” is not a deranged man who goes on a rampage slaughtering innocent people in a concert. “Pure evil” is an entire arms industry in US and Israel that manufactures and sells arms to Saudi Arabia and Myan-mar with which to murder innocent Yemenis, Palestini-ans, and the Rohingya. What part of that simple fact is difficult to grasp?

Think of innocent Americans attending a concert in Las Vegas the same way you think of innocent Afghans attending a wedding, innocent Yemenis attending a school, innocent Palestinians playing football at a Gaza beach, innocent Rohingya running away from a burned village … all of them victims of the merchants of weapons of mass murder in US and Israel – and of course Europe, Russia, and China have their own chunk of the global military sales.

“The gun lobby” is a transnational industry. Barack Obama sold billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia with which to murder the innocent children in Yemen and gave further billions worth of weapons for free to Israel with which to slaughter Palestinians long before he left office, and Donald Trump resumed Obama’s ignoble legacy. You cannot sign a document selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia or send them to Israel for free in one White House room and then go to another room and cry for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

That is the height of barefaced hypocrisy. What is the difference between the Palestinian children that Israelis murder with Barack Obama’s weapons, or the Yemeni children the Saudis kill with another shipment from Obama and the innocent concertgoers in Las Vegas? Nothing. So stop shedding crocodile tears! Only those who categorically oppose gun violence of any and all sorts in or out of the US, in or out of occupied Palestine, are allowed to mourn the precious lives wasted in Las Vegas. Hypocritical Republicans and Democrats, liberal and hardcore Zionists, are not welcome here.

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New European defense giant aims at Asia-Pacific region

Emanuele Scimia

The scene is set for the creation of a giant defense contractor in Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region could soon become its favorite market. Under the aegis of their respective governments, I-t-alian shipbuilder Fincant-ieri and its French competitor Naval Group have started discussing the terms of a possible alliance and their transformation into a single naval defense company.

This prospective integration gained momentum last week after Fincantieri secured operational control of French shipyard STX, in which Naval Group has a minority stake. Their cooperation could focus on the design, development and maintenance of frigates, submarines, helicopter carriers, fleet auxiliary tankers and surveillance patrol ships.

The French-Italian naval duo aims to challenge global players from the United States, China, Britain, Russia and Japan. Fincantieri and Naval Group offer in essence the same products, and that has made them rivals until now. For instance, last year, the French shipbuilder lost to the Italian defense manufacturer a US$5.9 billion contract to supply Qatar with a landing-platform dock, four corvettes and two offshore patrol vessels.

Australia, Canada and India: The Indo-Pacific region, where the demand for warships and related defense systems is growing, is a fertile ground for the two European naval suppliers, one where they can project their possible industrial and commercial alliance.

Australia’s US$35 billion Future Frigates program is a potential target for Fincantieri and Naval Group. The Italian naval contractor is in competition with Spanish Navantia and British BAE Systems to design and build nine anti-submarine-warfare frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. Fincantieri’s design is based on its European multi-purpose (FREMM) frigate, which has been developed in cooperation with Naval Group – the first FREMM frigate was commissioned by the French Navy in 2012.

It is worth remembering that the French shipbuilder will provide Canberra with 12 Shortfin Barracuda submarines, a diesel-electric version of the nuclear-powered Barracuda-class boat.

Fincantieri and Naval Group could also make a joint bid to sell FREMM frigates to Canada. Ottawa has launched a C$62 billion (US$49 billion) tender process for 12 frigates and three destroyers. The Royal Canadian Navy has ramped up its commitment to the Pacific Ocean in the past years. In early August, it wrapped up the Poseidon Cutlass 17 operation, a five-month deployment in the region. India is another hunting ground for Fincantieri and Naval Group.

The French defense company wants to build up six new conventionally powered submarines for the Indian Navy under Project 75I, which is worth US$12 billion. Naval Group has already designed and built, in tandem with Indian Mazagon Dock Ltd, two Scorpene-class submarines, while another four are under construction. Mazagon Dock Ltd is also teaming up with Fincantieri to build seven stealth frigates for India’s Project 17A. The Italian shipbuilder’s contribution to the development of these vessels is limited to technical advice and assistance, however.

The German addition: Fincantieri’s and Naval Group’s combined projection in the Asia-Pacific arena could receive a boost from Germany. Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said on September 29 that the planned French-Italian alliance on naval defense could be extended to Berlin.  Pinotti emphasized that Italian and German submarines had the same propulsion system. Indeed, Fincantieri’s Todaro-class submarine is a variant of Germany’s Type 212 vessel.

Germany is a dynamic actor in the East Asian defense market. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) is building four Type 218SG submarines for Singapore. South Korea is using German shipbuilder HDW’s Type 214 vessel as a template for its next-generation submarines program, not to mention that the South Korean Navy currently operates nine Chang Bogo-class diesel-electric attack submarines, a variant of Germany’s Type 209 boats. TKMS, in collaboration with Turkish STM, has offered Indonesia a modified version of the Type 214 diesel-electric submarine. Jakarta plans to construct a fleet of 10 to 12 submarines and has shown interest in acquiring a number of Scorpenes.

Integration among Finca-ntieri, Naval Group and T-KMS would eliminate this kind of intra-European competition for the Indo-Pacific defense market, fostering the expansion of their operations not only in Indonesia, but also in Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.  Those four Southeast Asian countries are all committed to improving littoral protection in the South China Sea, where they have to deal with China’s military expansionism, as w-ell as with piracy, illegal fishing and maritime terrorism.

French, German and Italian submarines, with their capabilities to sail through coastal shallow waters, would serve this purpose.  In general, more European-manufactured naval vessels could be seen navigating the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the future – provided Paris, Berlin and Rome manage to coordinate their defense policies.

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Abu Ghraib: The legacy of torture in the war on terror

Dr Maha Hilal

‘‘America is the friend of all Iraqi people.” This was the sign put up at Abu Ghraib prison – one that replaced Saddam’s portrait when the US took it over as part of the war on terror. It was Abu Ghraib prison that introduced the world to the violent infrastructure of torture in the war on terror. In 2004, when photos emerged documenting extensive torture ranging from prisoners on leashes to bodies piled atop each other in pyramid structure to prisoners standing in crucifixion like postures, there were global shockwaves at the displays of brutality.

The prison, which was the site of massive torture, also housed a largely innocent population – approximately 70-90 percent of the prisoners were mistakenly detained, according to the Red Cross in a 2004 report (pdf). With no end to the war on terror, the legacy of Abu Ghraib prison remains as important as ever, especially where a lack of accountability continues to permeate all operations in Iraq.

In 2004, when the Abu Ghraib scandal first emerged, former President Bush responded saying that, “Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonoured our country and disregarded our values …” Bush’s statement unveils a particular logic of the war on terror that continues to justify abuses to the present – moral equivalencies, and in particular, the US’s perceived moral superiority of itself in the way it fights war. That’s why prisoner abuse under Saddam was torture, but under the US it is simply “disgraceful conduct”. That’s also why Bush can talk about “our values”, despite knowing that a series of torture memos essentially provided the rationale to abuse prisoners – that anything short of organ failure or death would, according to his administration’s new definition of torture, fall short of it.

Though former President Bush appeared “shocked” when the Abu Ghraib scandal first broke, Eric Fair, a former CACI contractor, in an interview with Democracy Now, on the unveiling of his book, “Consequence: A Memoir” on his time at Abu Ghraib stated that he was “shocked that the American people were so shocked and that they had this kind of idea or that they were so ignorant about what was going on”. There are different ways to understand the role of shock when it comes to Abu Ghraib. On the one hand, “shock” at abuses underscores the false American narrative of the protection of human rights and “our values” in how we engage in conflict with others. On the other hand, shock at not knowing about abuses can perhaps be attributed to the documentary role of the Abu Ghraib scandal in participatory humiliation – in this case, humiliation of Muslim prisoners provoked by Islamophobia that allows the American public to engage in their torture vicariously as a collective act of vengeance for the 9/11 attacks.

Described another way, as Dora Apel writes (pdf), “the viewer is meant to identify with the proud torturers in the context of the defense of a political and cultural hierarchy.”

Analysing the shock spectacle is important when it comes to understanding the US’s true intention to hold torturers accountable. To date, Abu Ghraib prisoners have seen little, if any, justice for the torture they endured. What, therefore does accountability mean for Abu Ghraib’s former prisoners? For the United States in the war on terror, accountability has meant little other than prosecuting the so-called “bad apples” who conduct torture and/or murder in order to make the point that they are an aberration, not a product of a system-wide policy of sanctioned abuse in the war on terror. That’s why in the case of Abu Ghraib, “justice” has largely perceived to have been done over a decade ago, after 11 military personnel were convicted of various crimes including conspiracy, dereliction of duty, and maltreatment of detainees. But that has translated into little for the victims of Abu Ghraib’s torture.

On September 22, the question of justice for the at least some of Abu Ghraib’s victims and holding military contractors from CACI accountable was revived in a Virginia courtroom in the case of Al-Shimari v CACI et al where the Center for Constitutional Rights was challenging CACI’s motion to dismiss the case for their role in torture at Abu Ghraib. This is of particular importance as CACI has largely evaded accountability for their direct role in the torture of Abu Ghraib prisoners. Highlighting this point, CCR lawyer Katherine Gallagher noted that, “there remains an accountability gap: military officers were court-martialed for their misconduct, but the private contractors walked away with large payments, and they continue to be awarded millions of dollars in government contracts. This case hopefully will narrow that accountability gap.”

CACI’s involvement in Iraq began in 2003 after the US military asked them to provide intelligence assistance. Within two years of operating in Iraq, they were involved as defendants in lawsuits accusing them of ordering and overseeing torture. Despite this fact, and prior to concluding investigations on the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib, the US government offered CACI an extension of their contract in the amount of 23 million dollars – accountability for torture, after all, is limited, conditional, and sometimes rewarded for making bolder, the discourse and infrastructure that sustains abuse in the war on terror.

Charles Graner and Ivan Frederick, the two military police members who were convicted of charges related to the abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners specifically named CACI contractors Daniel Johnson and Steven Stefanowicz as ordering various types of abuse of prisoners.

Despite these allegations, CACI whose tagline is ironically, “ever vigilant,” claimed not to know who exactly among their contractors were stationed at Abu Ghraib at the time of the infamous scandal and had done nothing in the way of uncovering this information. However, CCR argued – and the judge agreed, that only a handful of contractors – those working at Abu Ghraib’s “hard site” at the time of the plaintiffs’ abuse, needed to be questioned. While underscoring CACI’s role in torture was key to this case, so too was the designation of the acts of abuse as torture – something CACI denies. In their motion to dismiss the case, CACI conceded that the treatment of prisoners was “deplorable”, and “undoubtedly humiliating”, but resisted the label of torture.

Though their obvious interest is in absolving themselves of responsibility, their narrative has become all too familiar in the course of the war on terror and in the treatment of Muslim prisoners. Torture is allowed to thrive not only because it is directed at Muslims, but because it must rise to the most egregious levels of abuse to be considered as such. The Center for Constitutional Rights, rejected CACI’s argument on torture – not only dismissing their discussion that individual tactics of abuse cannot constitute torture, but also critiquing the notion that what the plaintiffs endured – among other things being punched, slapped, kicked, doused with hot water, forced into stress position for hours, threatened with dogs, stepped on, etc over protracted periods of time, did not have a cumulative impact amounting to torture and subsequent trauma.

“This is the first time a court has effectively conceded that there’s sufficient evidence that these Abu Ghraib detainees endured torture or cruel, degrading and in­humane treatment,” CCR lawyer Baher Azmy stated after the hearing Friday and Judge Brinkema’s decision to allow the case to proceed. This case paves a promising path for addressing and challenging torture of Muslim prisoners in the war on terror. However, what we must continue to remember is that torture has and continues to be sanctioned by the US government. A positive ruling in subsequent hearings will not change this fact.

This is especially the case when the public narrative continues to be mired with discourse suggesting that torture works as Trump stated earlier this year or his condoning of torture in response to the Brussels attack back in 2016. In other words, the US has not reckoned with torture and far from that – continues to find ways to justify its insidious and overt legal re-entry. However, this case as Azmy noted, sent “an important message that there can be accountability for torture, a vital step for our clients who have yet to see justice. This is a crucial ruling in a political climate where Trump has called for bringing back widely denounced torture techniques like waterboarding.”

Abu Ghraib prison was closed in 2014 due to security concerns. But its horrendous legacy lives on. This case brings us one step closer to the possibility of closing the chapter on abuses at Abu Ghraib – but this relies on the full execution of justice that is not limited simply to prosecuting perpetrators of torture, but which extends to survivors of torture such that they are able to finally, albeit incompletely, move on with their lives. Without this, justice is a mere public performance to reclaim our sense moral ground, not a real, intentional commitment to restoring the lives of those we’ve harmed. But perhaps this is what American justice is really all about.

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Higher education outreach

Abdul Rahman Malik

Education is considered the backbone in shaping the country’s Future course of Action. The great nations of the World who have achieved tremendous growth and Success, and emerged as the most developed countries of the world, have especially focused on Education- preferably the Professional Higher Education in the field of Engineering, Medicine, Finance and Planning. The developed nations also have focused on the advancement of Science and technology-based education and bridged the gaps in Educational outreach.

The countries like Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, America, Australia, and England have reached the heights of Success through Education. The Average Literacy rates in these countries are above 90% as compared to other countries.

The Developed nations of the World have brought many innovations in education, Information and Commun-ication Technologies and bu-ilt advanced governance Sys-tem and E-Government Init-iatives. Such initiatives have eased the process of Educ-ation outreach. The online infrastructure of these developed nations have prompted the developing nat-ions like Pakistan to learn from these countries and improve the Education Information Technologies and improve the Education Standards from Primary to Secondary, and from College Edu-cation to University Education.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) formerly the University Grants Commission (UGC) has played a vital role in building linkages between the universities in lieu of Research and Academic Excellence. Especially the former HEC Chairman Dr Atta-ur-Rahman’ tenure is considered the golden era for Improving the spectrum of Research industries and Capacity Building of The Universities and Degree awarding Institutes DAI’s. He also set the SOP’s of HEC and made it a Central regulatory Body of Higher Education Institutes and introduced the ranking system in the Universities to improve the quality of education and promoted research-oriented Education at Graduate and Post Gradual level.

Despite all this, the higher Education outreach is still the far cry for rural population as there is a great dearth of Higher Education Institutes in Rural areas of Pakistan.Even the existing Institutes in the Rural areas are not imparting the Modern Education since the same obsolete type of Teaching Methodology is adopted in these Institutes. Even at the Degree Colleges fall short in imparting standardized Education on Modern lines as being offered at the Reputed Institutes .

As a result, the number of Graduates produced by Rural Area Institutes per year, is too big but their Skills are not the same as compared to the Graduates of Urban Area Institutes. The Reasons are several but the main reasons are the lack of modern laboratories, lack of ICT based facilities, lack highly qualified Faculty and Trained Administrative & Managerial Staff to boost the academic Excellence of the Institution and transform it into an Ideal Institute to set the precedence for those who follow.

The Rural and Urban Divide has also divided the quality of Education imparted and the degrees are offered at District and Tehseel Level. If we speak of Sindh only, the virus of Copy Culture have plagued the very roots of our Degree Level education and the Production is very substandard. so much so, that the college graduates are not able to clear the Entry tests of various universities to pursue Master Level Studies .

Unfortunately, the situation becomes miserable when we come to know that in Sindh and Other Provinces, there are only Degree colleges for Science Students offering Regular Admissions in F.Sc Pre-Medical and Pre-Engineering Groups whereas limited admissions are offered to Arts or Humanities Students at Tehseel Level. In Addition to these, the affiliated colleges also offer regular Admissions in B.Sc and B.A but apart from the colleges of Big Cities, the attendance Ratio in Rural or Tehseel Level is very nominal and the classes are not run properly for such Degree Level students due to various reasons such lack of required Staff,  Syllabus and Books, funds and the interest of Students due to socio Economic Conditions .

Ironically, students without guidance and career counseling take admissions either by Parents Wish or on their own preferably in Engineering and Medical Groups but they do not know that there are other fields such as commerce, computer science and Fine Arts for Intermediate Students to opt for if they are willing to take admissions in these groups other than traditional pre-Engineering and Pre-Medical groups. The main reason is that there is no any college at Tehseel or District Level to offer Commerce, Computer Science and Fine Arts in Sindh . Compellingly, most of the students seek admissions at Science Colleges as they donot have alternate Options.

The Education in Punjab is considered more standard as compared to other provinces since in Punjab, every college offers admissions in Pre-Engineering, Pre-Medical, Commerce, Fine Arts and Computer Science. Even their degree Classes are standardized and faculty is also efficient to impart quality based Education. The Education in KP has been improved tremendously under current PTI regime especially they have focused the Secondary Education and College Education. Even Baluchistan has improved Education Spectrum, yet it has limited number of Higher Education Institutes and DAI’s that is only 8.

The massive urbanization and ever-increasing population warrants to establish more Higher Education institutes at Urban and Rural areas so that rural population may seek higher Education at Graduate and Post Graduate level at their hometown and head to Bigger cities for Research-based advance Education such as M.Phil, PhD, M.E, D.E etc. This will greatly help in minimizing overcrowding in Higher Education Institutes as you all know that quantity affects the quality of Education.

The Recent statistics show that after Census 2017 that Pakistan needs more Universities, Schools and colleges, Hospitals for People to accommodate and facilitate.

The Demand of Higher Education has been ever increasing and several Higher Education Institutes both in Public and Private Sector are being established in urban areas but the rural areas are deprived of Higher Education Institutes.

If we take a look at Higher Education Institutes at Division level in Sindh, We will come to know that Larkana Division has a One Medical University, One Engineering College, One General University Campus of Sindh University at Larkana city only, A New Campus of SALU has been established at Shahdadkot, Shikarpur to accommodate the Rural and Population of population of about 6192380 of Division Larkana. There is no any Higher Education Institute at District Level, especially in District Kashmore and Jacobabad.

It is also ironic that as per Census 2017, District Kashmore has the population of 1089169, yet there is only single Degree College at Kandhkot for Three Tehseels i.e. Kandhkot, Kashmore and Kandhkot. Fortunately, a new Degree college has recently been established at Karampur but that too is without SNE may take a year to function properly.

More Over, The province of Punjab Tops with Maximum number of Universities and Degree Awarding Institutes DAI’s with 60 both in Public and Private Sector,  followed by Sindh with 55 HEI’s in Public and Private Sector,  KP with 35 Number of HEI’s in Public and Private Sector and fourthly only 8 Universities in Baluchistan .

Additionally, there are 7 universities in Azad Jammu & Kashmir out of which One university namely Al-Khair University has been banned for Degree Verification. It is worthy to mention here that there are 20 universities in Federal Capital Islamabad.

HEC website also shows that there total 186 Universities /DAI’s to accommodate students from the population of 20,77,74,520 of Pakistan. The 186 HEI’s/DAI’s are just salt in flour for ever-increasing population of Pakistan since we need more HEI’s and DAI’s.

It is also an irony that from 186 HEI’s and DAI’s, most of HEI’s and DAI’s are established at Big cities such as Karachi with 41, Lahore with 34, Islamabad with 20 respectively. The Number shows that most of these HEI’s and DAI’s are available to Urban Population whereas Rural Population has only limited chances for getting admission in Medical, Engineering College or General University in comparison to Urban Population.

This divide is further aggravated when the need arises for a Professional Accountancy Institutes such as Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) Karachi and Institute of Management Accountants of Pakistan (ICMAP) Karachi.

These Accountancy specific Institutes are available for Urban Population such as the metropolitan city of Karachi only. There may be very few private Accountancy Colleges in other provinces but the authorized Accountancy colleges are only ICAP and ICMAP offering CA, ICMA Degree for Accounting and Auditing Professionals.

It is also recommended that ICAP and ICMAP should establish their campuses at other cities to facilitate the rural Population to extend Higher Education outreach. Furthermore, the HEC ‘s plan to establish District based campuses of various Medical, Engineering and General University campuses is a good initiative but the question arises that whether these campuses will impart the same level of Standardized Education as these do at their main campuses -is a big concern since at campus they will have limited resources, staff and limited Technology to impart Education and will offer only Graduate and Post Graduate Degrees .

It is also the great concern that most of the campuses are established without need-based analysis and influenced by Political will. Such campuses fail to cater to the needs of the community.

HEC should personally monitor the Campuses Establishment, keeping in view the Population Needs and Requirements for such HEI or DAI campus.

The HEC should also expedite the process of Proposed HEI’s and DAI’s campuses so that drop out ratio may be minimized after Intermediate. Especially, the upper Sindh i.e. Sukkur and Larkana Division may have more HEI’s and DAI’s especially Medical, Engineering and General Universities since Sukkur is 3rd Biggest City of Sindh having no any General university Except the IBA-Sukkur.

District Kashmore immediately requires two Degree Colleges for Both boys and Girls and a General university Campus,  an Engineering College and a Medical College to cater to the needs of 1089169 Population and the bordering Districts of Punjab i.e Rajanpur and Dera Bugti District of Baluchistan as Kashmore is Gateway to Sindh for People coming from Punjab and Baluchistan province.

It is very important to know that If our Rulers want to build the nation then Higher Education is necessary to impart professional Education and enable the people to do research in multiple fields and build the foundations Knowledge Driven Economy.

 

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Locating the Rohingya in time & space

Iftekhar Iqbal

Clarifying on its nomenclature, the Annan Commission Report on the Rakhine (Arakan) State (pdf), notes that “In line with the request of the State Counsellor [Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi], the Commission uses neither the term ‘Bengali’ nor ‘Rohingya’, who are referred to as ‘Muslims’ or ‘the Muslim community in Rakhine”.

This left the Commission with the only option of referring to the crisis in Rakhine from the vantage point of universal human rights, rather than the question of historical antecedents. Yet the request from Suu Ki and the Commission’s compliance to not mention the terms “Bengali” or “Rohingya” will stand against future measures to implement the Commission’s recommendations for restoring citizenship to the Rohingyas.

This is because the question of the Rohingya is not merely connected to human rights issues, but also to the issue of civil rights including the right to self-identification.

The bone of contention for the Myanmar military and the country’s State Council is that the Rohingyas are “Bengalis” from Bangladesh who speak Bangla language.

How may we respond to this claim that would bring stakeholders from Bangladesh, Myanmar and International community closer for a durable solution to the crisis? Answers to this question abound in different phases of the region’s history.

Rakhine before decolonisation: From a cosmopolitan society to national space: The history of Rakhine is rich and greatly connected to Arab-Persian cultural world since at least the early 8th century and with Bengal/Bangladesh region from much earlier times. Muslim Sufis and traders had interactions with the coastal regions of what is today’s Bangladesh and Rakhine and all the way to the Indian Ocean rim of wider Southeast Asia. Conversion to Islam took place in areas that fall within the current borders of both Myanmar and Bangladesh.

In 1406, the Rakhine king Nara Meikhla was dethroned by an invading Bamar/Burmese force and was driven to Bengal.

He was later able to regain his throne with the help of 30,000 soldiers sent by the Bengal Sultan, Jalal al Din. Rakhine kings used to send tribute to Bengal Muslim Sultans for a considerable period of time.

However, during the transition period between the decline of independent Muslim rulers of Bengal and the arrival of the Mughals from northern India, Bangladesh’s port city Chittagong came under the Rakhine rulers for some time.

Despite these political changes, Rakhine developed a cosmopolitan culture that retained Buddhist as well as Muslim and Hindu pedigree. Rakhine kings issued coins that contained the imprint of the Buddha and the Kalema, the fundamental article of faith in Islam, until early seventeenth century.

Medieval forms of Bengali literature were patronised in this cosmopolitan atmosphere where Pali, Arabic and Persian were also in vogue.

Poet Alalol from today’s Bangladesh, who was kidnapped by Portuguese pirates and sold in Rakhine as a slave, ended up being a court poet in the capital of Rakhine, where he was patronised by many Muslim ministers of Buddhist kings. Alaol in his poems written in mid-seventeenth century introduced Rosango, a variant of the term Rohango (Rohingya), as the capital city of Rakhine.

Meanwhile, the Bamars kept knocking at the borders of Rakhine and finally captured its throne in 1784, leaving the Rakhine people, of both Buddhist and Muslim origin, to face unprecedented persecution in their ancestral land. Most of them fled to Chittagong region across the Naaf river. While some of them returned to Rakhine, some stayed behind who are still known as Rakhine Buddhists, currently numbering more than 100,000. They are now Bangladeshi citizens and Bangladesh has never suggested their ouster because of their ancestry in Myanmar.

It needs mentioning that despite initial persecution of local Rakhine people by the Bamar forces, there were also the gradual realisation of the need of the support and engagement of local people, including the Muslims.

One example was that until the British took over Burma in early nineteenth century, the Burmese king had given charge of the Port of Rangoon (Yangon) to a Muslim merchant. The British period saw a different kind of mobility across today’s Bangladesh-Myanmar border, which was more of a planned mobilisation of people from all over India, Bengalis from Chittagong being the majority who were involved in professional, commercial and agricultural activities.

By the 1930s however, the Bengalis, as well as other Indian diasporic communities, came into conflict with local inhabitants and with the coming of the Japanese during the World War sealed the fate of the Indians in Burma, most of whom had to return to India and Bengal under strenuous conditions. Those few who left behind were clearly distinguished from local Rohingya people.

Postcolonial period: From citizen to stateless: The early postcolonial policy of the Burmese government towards the Rohingya was consistent with the pluralistic cultural and religious heritage of Myanmar and inclusive national vision of Aung San, Suu Kyi’s illustrious father.

The Muslims of Rakhine including the Rohingyas were no longer living in the rich political and social heritage of precolonial times, but there was no question about their place in Burma’s mainstream public life. In the two general elections of 1951 and 1956, at least eleven Rohingyas, including women, returned to Burmese Parliament as MPs.

During the 1990 general election that followed the anti-military resistance led by Suu Kyi, Rohingyas were her political allies and won four seats for her National Democratic League for Human Rights.  But in the next stage of the unfinished journey to democracy in Myanmar, the paths of Suu Kyi and her erstwhile Rohingya allies diverged tragically. As of 2017, no Rohingyas could vote and there is no Rohingya MPs left in Myanmar.

There is no instance in the world where after decades of experience of citizenship and of exercising the rights to electing their representative to parliament an entire population becomes stateless without security to life, property and honour, except of course in Nazi Germany. It’s an irony that Suu Kyi’s ascendancy to Myanmar statecraft coincides with the collateral destruction of her erstwhile political allies.

The current problem of the Rohingyas, resulting in occasional “genocidal” atrocities on them, is traced back to the 1982 “Burma Citizenship Law” that enabled the revocation of citizenship of the Rohingyas, excluding them from the pool of 135 recognised ethnic groups across Myanmar. But the law came as an utter shock and surprise, given the positive developments in the preceding years.

In the middle of a renewed spell of the flow of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, heads of states of the two countries had exchanged state visits before the signing of a historic “Repatriation Agreement” in Dhaka on 9 July 1978. In the agreement, the Burmese government promised the “repatriation at the earliest of the lawful residents of Burma” and also to repatriate those who were “able to furnish evidences of their residence in Burma, such as addresses or any other particulars”. Under this agreement the Burmese government launched the Hintha project which oversaw the repatriation of more than 29,000 families comprising 177,000 refugees from Bangladesh to their former places of residence. The current practice of burning the habitat and homestead of the Rohingyas by the Burmese security forces seems to aim at preemptively forestalling any chance of return of the Rohingyas as Myanmar citizens in light of the agreement of 1978.

What’s next?

The Annan Commission was formed at the request of Aung San Suu Kyi and Bangladesh government agreed on most of its recommendations. This initial consensus must build on the recognition of the Rohingya identity – because seen either in historical, political, legislative or diplomatic antecedents, the Rohingyas cannot be considered as anything but the citizens of Myanmar. True, as many commentators suggest, there are other powerful agents that complicate the situation. The idea of liberal democratic practice drawing on cosmopolitan and pluralistic world views may not find an easy place in this quagmire where geo-strategy, trade routes and pipelines call the shots.

But taking away one’s honour is not going to solve the existential threat posed to the Rohingyas. What it all takes is the pressing of the softer button of goodwill, empathy and justice. Who has the hand on this button is not clear to those outside Myanmar, but there are two clear paths of other kinds for Mrs Suu Kyi which can set a positive tone in the current situation and taking up one of them can secure her rightful place in history. Both Gautama Buddha and the Emperor Ashoka were tormented by the existential sufferings, bloodshed and death in society. Buddha renounced all earthly ambition because he found no path higher than the path of ending these sufferings of humanity through annihilation of desire.

On the other hand, the great Ashoka, who spread Buddhism in Myanmar among other places, consolidated and used his power in order to spread the word and practice of non-violence. Mrs Suu Kyi may wish to let the world know, sooner than later, about her own pat-hfinder: Gautama Buddha or Ashoka? Anything shorter than that would be equal to an aggression on the very core of Buddhism itself.

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Save Governments Schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Raza Ullah Khan

Education is fundamental right of every citizen and constitutional responsibility of every government to provide it. Education plays a key role in the development of any nation. For the promotion of education government has been established many governments schools throughout the country in order to give every one free and compulsory education.

But due to lack of government attention these governments’ schools are not working properly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa such as academically weak teachers, absentees of teachers, increasing of schools and schools in rural areas. Such as, majority government’s schools teachers are academically very weak.  According to a recent survey by Alif Ailaan,

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 44 per cent of teachers report of having done only their intermediate or matriculation while in Balochistan, only 46 per cent of teachers in private schools have an intermediate or matriculation certificate.  How it’s possible for such kinds of teachers to teach matric class Biology, Chemistry and Physics which are basic and these basic subject play very important role in students academia.

Due to this reason, majority of governments schools students after matriculation are not able to read English newspaper.  It is necessary for governments that they must take teacher through NTS if they really want to improve education systems.

Similarly, majority of governments schools are lack of basic facilities.  There are no proper arrangements of drinking water and toilets for students in schools.  Such as, Peace, Education and Development (Pead) Foundation organised the seminar.

The foundation’s executive director Sameena Imtiaz said that about half of government primary schools lacked basic facilities, while over 400 schools were lying non-functional due to various reasons in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  She said that according to annual report 2011-12 of Education Management Information System, as many as 45 per cent boys and girls’ primary schools lack of electricity, bathrooms, boundary walls and clean drinking water for students. Governments must provide all basic facilities in Khyber Paktunkhwa.

In Pakistan and especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, government’s schools are increasing day by day without any kind of policy. Such as in my own district Lakki Marwat the numbers of Middle Schools for Boys are 54, and for girl’s schools are 43.  Due to increasing of schools in majority schools there are only 10 to 20 students.

In these schools teacher used their students as a labor and students are performing different jobs such as they engage their students in construction of their houses and other domestic activities.  It is necessary for governments that they must built newly schools in those areas where schools are necessary and they must fix a ratio for students in concerned areas.

Such as, in majority government schools teachers are absent a whole month.  In majority Schools, the teachers have hired private teachers to teach in government schools as their substitutes, while they carry out their private businesses.  From governments there is no check and balance. Governments must start check and balance on these teachers on regular bases. The claims of the provincial government to build a Naya K-P cannot materialise without concrete practical steps and across-the-board accountability.  Translating the slogan of ‘Education First’ into reality requires a lot of work.

razaullah440@gmail.com