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Pakistan Press ( 17 March 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press On Far-Right Movements, Struggle For Women, Inequalities And Afghan Taliban: New Age Islam's Selection, 17 March 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

17 March 2021

• Muslims Targeted: Far-Right Movements Have Gained Ground Across The Globe

The Dawn Editorial

• The Forever Struggle For Women

By Rafia Zakaria

• Questioning Inequalities

By Abdul Sattar

• Core Concepts Of Taliban’s Islamic Emirate Has Not Changed

By Manish Rai

• Taliban Realised Even Back Then That They Had Time On Their Side

By Mahir Ali

• Will Biden’s Afghan Policy Succeed?

By Abdul Basit

•  Palestinian Rights

By James Zogby


Muslims Targeted: Far-Right Movements Have Gained Ground Across The Globe

The Dawn Editorial

March 17, 2021


The rise of global far-right movements


FAR-right movements have gained ground across the globe, blaming ethnic and religious ‘others’ for all of society’s failings. In some countries, groups that were once labelled extremists are now controlling the levers of power, making life difficult for minorities. Amongst the xenophobic trends spreading across the world is Islamophobia, as Muslims are targeted for their faith.

In this regard, the OIC’s decision to observe the International Day to Combat Islamophobia is a welcome initiative to raise awareness about anti-Muslim hate and come up with solid strategies to counter bigotry. As the Foreign Office has observed in a statement to mark the day, Islamophobia takes many forms, such as negative profiling, mob attacks by cow vigilantes and harassment of women wearing hijab.

The fact is that in a number of states Islamophobic policies are being supported at the government level. In Sri Lanka, a minister recently announced that the burqa would be banned, along with the closure of 1,000 Islamic schools, though that country’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that the ban was “merely a proposal”. Over the past few years, there has been a rise in xenophobic Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka and following the 2019 Easter bombing carried out by IS militants in the country, Muslims have faced problems as they are not able to practise their faith freely.

For example, the government was forcing Muslim families to cremate their loved ones who had died of Covid-19 until the decision was reversed last month. Elsewhere, voters in Switzerland recently banned the burqa and niqab in that country, although very few people in the alpine state wear them. And in India, the Hindu chauvinist BJP has apparently adopted Islamophobia as a central plank of its state policy, passing laws that discriminate against Muslims while looking away when acts of violence target the community. In a recent incident, a Muslim boy was beaten for drinking water in a Hindu temple in UP.

The OIC should emphasise that discrimination against Muslims will not be tolerated, and that those who indulge in hate crimes must face the law. While terrorists acting in the name of Islam must be brought to justice, their misguided acts cannot be used as a cover to tar all Muslims with the same brush. Moreover, the civil rights of Muslims must be ensured, and they must be allowed to practise their faith freely.

Perhaps rulers — Muslim and non-Muslim — can learn a thing or two about compassion and communal harmony from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. When mosques were attacked in the city of Christchurch by a far-right terrorist in 2019, Ms Ardern led from the front and embraced her country’s wounded Muslim community. On the second anniversary of the attacks, she again empathised with the victims, showing that if the state is determined, it can heal wounds instead of widening the communal gulf.


The Forever Struggle For Women

By Rafia Zakaria

March 17, 2021

ANYWHERE one casts a glance, women are in turmoil. Even in the year 2021, where DNA is revealing the secrets of human illness, where internet connections can allow people to communicate over thousands of miles, where we can see live images from Mars, women’s lives are as endangered, as misunderstood and as constrained as ever.

Indeed, where the lives of women, their choices, their welfare, their health are concerned, a kind of worldwide primitivism prevails. The world may be virtual but women’s physical bodies suffer in ways that men’s never do. The experience of the world, of walking down a street, of going to a shop, of enjoying the weather, of meeting a friend, all of it, each and every moment of existence is rendered somehow dangerous by the very fact of being a woman.

This year too many in Pakistan pounced on the women who dared participate in the Aurat March 2021. In a country where women are kidnapped and raped and killed without anyone batting an eyelid, this one act by women wanting to celebrate themselves was, yet again, labelled as vulgar. The organisers of the march, sadly used to getting threats every year, faced their detractors yet again. This year, the critics increased in number and became even more vicious and venomous. Photos from the march were photoshopped and circulated, and videos were dubbed to underscore the thinking that women have no right to occupy public space or to make their own choices and tell their own stories.

For its part, the government has chosen to speak out of both sides of the mouth. On the one hand it has launched an investigation into the march, suggesting some illicit involvement, while on the other, it says it is looking at the origin of the doctored video clips and photoshopped pictures (that tried to link the march with blasphemy) whose creators may also face punishment. The TTP too threatened the marchers and women. In sum, they all came together to tell those Pakistani women who want a different future that their goal was simply impossible. If Pakistani women are angry these days, they have good reason to be.

It is not just Pakistani women though. In the United Kingdom, thousands of women across the country defied the lockdown to protest against the killing of a young woman named Sarah Everard. Last week, Everard had been walking home from her friend’s house after the two had dinner together, when she disappeared. Her remains were found in another part of the country and were in such a condition that she could not be immediately identified.

A police officer from the Metropolitan Police, a man who guarded diplomatic properties in London, has been arrested as a suspect. So it is that the very police that is supposed to ensure that the streets of London are safe for women, had one of its own arrested as a suspect in the murder of a young and innocent woman who was simply walking home.

In the aftermath, thousands of women from around the world have been sharing information about just how unsafe they feel in public spaces, how they are followed, harassed, stalked and subjected to catcalls just because they dare to exist. The streets are not safe for them when there is a pandemic and the streets are not safe for them when there is none.

Over in the United States, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is alleged to have sexually harassed young women in his employ. The allegations range from forcible kisses to inappropriate comments, many made in a professional venue. Even as the number of allegations increases and more and more women emerge as having suffered harassment allegedly at the hands of the most powerful man in New York, the governor has refused to resign. He could be removed by impeachment but current counts of the votes do not show enough support to remove him from office. The lesson is simple: women suffer and men survive.

These are just some cases. The pandemic has affected men and women unequally, and the latter’s poor access to health, their inordinate burden of childcare and all sorts of other factors combine to make them even more vulnerable than they were before. At one point in time, transnational bodies like the United Nations could have been counted on as a platform where a united agenda for the safety of women could have been urged. The UN that exists sold itself long ago to the misogynistic whims of countries that have thrown money at the organisation in exchange for international leverage. The radical potential of female solidarity is no longer something that the UN seems to be interested in.

So women everywhere are on their own, fighting alone but together. In their favour is the promise of emerging generations who bring with them new ideas about connectivity and collaboration. Technology can help, even though it cannot be counted on as the magic solution to the victimisation of women. In addition to public marches, which are unavailable to some women owing to their family situation or their work situation, consumer boycotts can be added to the activist arsenal.

When male money is threatened, male behaviour is likely to change. Finally, some attention can also be paid to change among women. It is women who are the bosses of millions of domestic workers in the country. Perhaps they can sign charters that protect the dignity of those women. These sorts of actions will not solve the problems that face Pakistani women, who are made to bear the brunt of all the insecurities and inferiorities that are faced by Pakistani men, but they will make a difference. In the meantime, whether it is in Pakistan or the UK or some other place, the struggle goes on, at least for one half of the world.


Questioning Inequalities

By Abdul Sattar

March 17, 2021

The question of inequality in human society has always attracted the attention of many thinkers. The recent pandemic has triggered this debate again, with many critics bemoaning the fate of the Global South where vaccines are likely to benefit the mass majority of the people much later than people of the advanced world.

One of the reasons for this phenomenon lies, according to some, in the advancement of the West. It is argued that since industrialized countries are brimming with wealth, they would be the first to take advantage of this cure for the contagion.

Ancient philosophers have justified these inequalities on the basis of natural laws. For them, these inequalities are important to run society. From Sumerians to Egyptians and from the Greeks to the Indians, all agreed that it was an integral part of human society. Even the biggest champions of freedom and equality in the European continent and North America justified these differences on the basis of natural laws and human nature. The ruthless colonization of Asia, the massacre of the indigenous people in the Americas and the plundering of the colonies was also based on this unjust concept of inequality. Even today, there are a number of thinkers and social scientists who come up with arguments in support of this myopic idea of Western superiority.

Authors like Niall Ferguson believe that the West ruled the rest because of democracy, free market, competition, scientific research and concepts like rule of law. His famous book 'The Empire', according to many critics, seems to justify Western imperialism, giving an impression that empire was not all bad as is widely believed in the Global South. But there are many who challenge this notion of Ferguson and other historians like him. They also criticize those who believe that the West managed to rule the rest because of its democratic culture, competition, research and concepts like rule of law.

Some of the critics believe that it was geography that in fact paved the way for European advancement. They contest the idea that European people are more developed because they may have been smarter than people living in other parts of the world. One such author is Jared Diamond, who spent more than twenty years investigating inequalities between parts of the world. Diamond visited Papua Guinea, New Guinea, South America, Central America, Spain and other parts of the world to find out the answer of the question that was asked by a local of New Guinea more than 30 years ago.

A geographer by profession, Diamond has vast knowledge of anthropology, evolutionary biology, history and human societies. He says that people from New Guinea to England and Papua Guinea to America are all the same when it comes to their intellect and skills but it is geography where the roots of inequalities lie. According to him, agriculture surfaced in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East 13,000 years ago. At that time, people in New Guinea and Papua Guinea were living in jungles hunting animals or acquiring food from trees. The people in the Fertile Crescent domesticated goats, cows, sheep and other animals that helped them increase agriculture production besides enriching their diet. This surplus production enabled the people of the Fertile Crescent to engage in other activities that paved the way to civilization while people living in the jungle spent most of their time working to arrange their food.

From the Middle East, agriculture and domesticated animals spread to Eurasia and some other parts of the world. Again this spread was possible because of geography. Unlike Eurasia, the people of Central and South America were living in rough terrains and in a climate where animals could not be domesticated. Barley, wheat and other crops that were grown in the Fertile Crescent reached Europe. It was Europeans who brought these crops and animals to North America. Out of over a dozen animals that helped the West increase agriculture productivity, none existed in South and Central America.

Even the creation of language was easier in Eurasia than in South and Central America because the rugged mountains and tough terrain made it impossible for people to interact easily, putting an end to the possibilities of communication. While people in Central America had some sort of written language before the Europeans arrived, the same was not the case in the South. So in case of an emergency they could not have sought the help of Central American people.

Some historians however say that claiming the decimation of indigenous people is also linked to geographical factors does not mean that the rapaciousness of the white settlers should be overlooked. Repeated plagues and the spread of other infectious diseases over the centuries had created immunity in European people against infections while no such community existed in South and Central America where according to some estimates 95 percent of the population perished in such infectious diseases.

Some historians assert that surplus production in the Fertile Crescent also enabled the people there to develop steel which reached Europe over the centuries. The development of steel was instrumental in improving the fighting skills of the Europeans. European conflicts before the 15th centuries prompted the ruling elite to master in arms manufacturing. Such weapons and the use of horses, which were alien to the people of Central and South America, played an important role in subjugating those nations. It is quite clear that these natural factors played an important role in the conquest of Central and South America. When Francisco Pizarro arrived in South America, he had only over 100 soldiers but the Spaniard had also brought with him an invisible enemy in the form of germs that annihilated the locals.

The concept that Europeans were somehow unique human beings created the way for colonization and that colonisation led to the ruthless exploitation and plundering of today's developing countries. This inhuman theory emerged as a great threat to mankind because it prompted certain sections of the ruling elites in the Western states to claim racial superiority, which proved to be catastrophic not only for these Western countries but for the world as well. Therefore, it is important to debunk this myth of Western superiority on the basis of their political and economic ideas.

In reality, it was geography that created conditions for European conquests. The ruling elite of the West exploited geographical conditions to ruthlessly exploit the people in the Global South and plunder their wealth. Around 20 tons gold and silver was looted by the Spaniards from a few parts of the Americas. The UK is believed to have snatched away around $45 trillion from India. The black community has been demanding five billion dollars in reparations for the slavery that enriched the modern capitalist world.

Even today, this myopic concept exists in some or another form. The ruling elite in the advanced capitalist world militarily intervene in third world countries – bombing and destroying state after state. Therefore, it is important to challenge this inhuman concept on all platforms. One of the ways to do so could be to incorporate the books of those authors who question this widely held perception of Western superiority. Such books should not be discussed in debating clubs only but included in the syllabus of Western educational institutions. The pernicious tentacles of fascism are once again rearing their monstrous head in the advanced capitalist world and other regions. Questioning inequalities would be one of the ways to deal with them.


Core Concepts Of Taliban’s Islamic Emirate Has Not Changed

By Manish Rai

MARCH 17, 2021

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which was the official name of the Taliban regime before being deposed by the United States in late 2001. The Taliban has always insisted on calling itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. In June 2013, when its de-facto embassy in Doha, Qatar was founded, the Taliban insisted on calling it the “the political office” of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” The Taliban appeared in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest, in 1994, two years after the mujahedin seized power in the country. The Taliban promised to bring order in the country and restore security. But they also enforced their ultraconservative brand of Islam. They captured Kabul in 1996 and two years later controlled some 90 percent of the country. In 1998, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar assembled some 500 Islamic scholars from across the country to draft a new constitution for the country. After three days of intense discussion, the scholars drafted a 14-page document it was the first and only attempt by the Taliban to codify its views on power and governance. This document put forward the foundation of Taliban’s Islamic Emirates core concepts.

In the document, power was centralized in the hands of an “Amir ul-Momineen,” or leader of the faithful. This supreme leader was the head of state and had ultimate authority. The constitution did not describe how such a leader would be selected or for how long he could serve. But it said the supreme leader must be male and a Sunni Muslim. Under the constitution, Sunni Islam was to be the official state religion, even though approximately 15 percent of the population are Shia Muslims. The document stated that no law could be contrary to Islamic Sharia law. The constitution granted freedom of expression, women’s education, and the right to a fair trial, but all within the limits of the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Sharia law. But the whole world witnessed how all these rights were disregarded during the Taliban rule. Often Taliban in the name of Sharia law enforces the medieval time Pashtun tribal code of conduct called “Pashtunwali”. The Taliban negotiators are trying to convince people that is in many ways they are a different organization from the one that governed Afghanistan in the 1990s. But the reality is that most of their leaders are nevertheless committed to an extreme interpretation of Islam that is not shared by many Afghans.  Power is still centralized in the hands of an all-powerful leader, who oversees a shadow Taliban government in Afghanistan. The Taliban still enforces its strict interpretation of Islam in areas under its control.

Regardless of repeated claims that they support women’s rights, for instance, the Taliban has continued to attack girls’ schools. Also, women and young people, while comprising most of the country’s total population, are conspicuously missing from the Taliban’s negotiating team. Moreover, despite Afghanistan’s rich pluralism and cultural mosaic. There is extremely little ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural, and professional diversity within Taliban ranks. This absence speaks volumes. It clearly tells us through calibrated action rather than hollow rhetoric, who is actually welcome in the Taliban’s emirate.

Most importantly the Taliban have also failed to spell out a specific vision for the future of Afghanistan, and as usual unable to present a program for governance, service delivery, or maintenance of rule of law. They continue to resort to vague and generalized statements, and have neither been able nor seem willing to clearly spell out their views on education, health, reconstruction, women’s rights, and beyond. The Taliban’s belief in a military victory, this has made them more confident of their cause and ideology. The group currently sees itself as unique within the jihadist world in having defeated a major superpower the United States and forcing it to negotiate an exit. This has made them quite popular and a focal point within the jihadi world. At this point in time, the Taliban do not believe that change is necessary. Hence have no incentives to acknowledge the realities of the new Afghanistan as they believe that they have finally prevailed.

It will be a fantasy to think that the Taliban have changed their ways, despite being out of power for almost two decades. Taliban’s ultimate objective is to remove the current Islamic Republic and replace it with their Islamic Emirate implementing the same regressive policies that they enforced during 1996-2001. Taliban has made it clear in talks that the Hanafi school of Sunni jurisprudence serves as the principal source of legislation. Even though a sizeable section of Afghan society follows other school of thoughts. The policymakers who are eager to make peace with the Taliban’s Islamic Emirates, should not rely solely on political statements and positions taken by the Taliban’s diplomats in Qatar and elsewhere. Rather, they should focus on what the movement has actually done in the areas under its control. It has to be ensured that Afghan common people’s hard-won rights are not sacrificed for the sake of a deal with the Islamic Emirate.


Taliban Realised Even Back Then That They Had Time On Their Side

By Mahir Ali

March 17, 2021

IN recent years, as the negotiations phase in the 21st-century variant of the Great Game has gathered pace, every cliché in the diplomatic playbook has been trotted out to illustrate its sporadic progress.

There have been multiple windows of opportunity, open doors, seats at the table, options on the table — and inevitably some dealings under the table. ‘Between the devil and the deep blue sea’ doesn’t figure all that frequently in official statements, but it pretty much sums up the choices Afghanistan has faced for the past 40 years.

Among the latest options is a draft ‘peace’ agreement secretly proposed by the Biden administration, but much commented on since it was leaked last week. Some officials in Kabul have poured scorn on the US wish list — which is hardly surprising, given it effectively consigns the Ashraf Ghani administration to oblivion. The Taliban have been more reticent in their response so far, saying they are studying the document.

The entity that the US and its allies dislodged from power nearly 20 years ago is being offered substantial representation in every tier of an interim government. A constituent assembly is envisaged, with elections to be held once it has completed its task. There are motherhood statements about education, intellectual freedom and women’s rights.

As golden-throated philosopher Freddie Mercury once wondered: “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”

For many years now, the biggest fear among some Afghans has revolved around their nation’s prospects once the foreign military forces exited. That apprehension highlights the crux of Afghanistan’s abiding tragedy: since the late 1970s, its fortunes have largely been determined by outsiders. Of course, more broadly, that has been the case for centuries.

The tyranny of geography is an immutable fact, but what’s particularly remarkable is the extent to which Afghanistan has resisted being swallowed up by neighbouring empires. Only time will tell whether that rugged exceptionalism serves it well in this century.

When the US invaded in collaboration with the Northern Alliance in 2001, in the wake of the 9/11, the Taliban chose to melt away, reinforcing the impression of a Western-led cakewalk into Kabul. Once the botched effort to track down Osama bin Laden failed, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld administration saw little reason to expend too much energy or too many resources on Afghanistan. Its attention shifted to Iraq.

Perhaps the Taliban realised even back then that they had time on their side — apart from sanctuaries in Pakistan, where bin Laden also found refuge. Over the years they steadily re-established their clout across the countryside. The US and its allies poured in tens of thousands of troops, and tens of thousands of people — mainly Afghans — have been killed since then. Both sides have committed innumerable war crimes that will likely go uninvestigated and unpunished.

And where are we today? The debate is over the exit of the remaining 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan by May 1. Actually, the figure is closer to 3,500, according to the New York Times (which notes that the Pentagon routinely understates troop numbers). Then there are the 8,000 or so ‘contractors’ — unofficial military personnel, in effect — plus smaller contingents from the usual Western allies, which wouldn’t stay behind once the Americans pack up.

Joe Biden is under considerable pressure to postpone the pullout. Should he do so, as seems likely, the Taliban would have an excuse to renege on their part of the Doha bargain — whereby they have resisted the temptation to attack foreign forces. Beyond that, the violence has not significantly diminished in the past year. Apart from other atrocities, targeted killings of women in particular occur with brutal regularity. The Taliban deny responsibility, but no one else claims it.

It’s reasonable to assume that the security situation would deteriorate in the immediate aftermath of a Western troop withdrawal, with uncertain consequences. The alternative, however, is also fairly dire. What could a continued foreign presence achieve that has not already been attempted in the past two decades, with all too few worthy results?

Will a planned flurry of diplomatic activity — including talks in Turkey between Kabul representatives and the Taliban, and UN-sponsored conference of foreign ministers from Russia, China, the US, Iran, India and Pakistan tentatively scheduled for next week — achieve very much? Some commitments may be made, but what will they be worth?

The latest US plan is informally being referred to as a moonshot. But the original moonshot was backed by science. This one is riding on unsubstantiated hope. The Americans will only be postponing the inevitable if they linger. A ‘dignified departure’ won’t be an option down the track, just as ‘peace with honour’ proved elusive in Vietnam.


Will Biden’s Afghan Policy Succeed?

By Abdul Basit

March 17, 2021

Last week, in a bid to revive the floundering Afghan peace process, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Adjacently, an eight-page peace plan was also shared with the Afghan government, opposition parties, civil society and the Taliban. Among other things, the peace plan calls for the formation of an interim “peace government” for two years, forging guidelines for talks between Afghan political leaders and the Taliban in Turkey, a UN-led meeting of India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China and the US to create regional consensus on Afghanistan and a 90-day reduction in violence.

Read together; the two leaked documents provide critical insights into the Biden Administration’s mindset and broader aims in Afghanistan. The leaks are deliberate to garner reactions by regional powers, Kabul and the Taliban, before finalizing Biden’s official Afghan policy.

The proposed peace plan is a high-stake political gamble that is fraught with multiple contradictions and risks. The plan contains a laundry list of items against an unrealistic and a limited time window. At present, the Biden Administration is split between political appointees who advocate ending America’s longest war by declaring success on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and military and intelligence careerists who oppose a premature declaration of victory.

Some experts are comparing the proposed peace plan with the 2001 Bonn Agreement, which took place in Germany and put in place the current political order in Afghanistan. The apparent difference is that the Bonn Agreement 2001 excluded the Taliban from talks, while the current plan is inviting them to the negotiation table in Turkey.

From the two documents, three things become unequivocally clear.

First, by choosing Turkey as the venue for Afghan peace talks, the Biden Administration has pulled the plug on the Doha process. Turkey is part of Nato’s mission in Afghanistan and, unlike Qatar, it can observe ceasefire compliance on the ground. Furthermore, Turkey can work closely with the US, which is trying to mend ties with Ankara – which were destroyed by the Trump administration – and Pakistan. Ankara is planning to host the first meeting of the Afghan peace talks in April.

Second, the peace plan exposes the Biden Administration’s policy paralysis and limited policy options in a highly complex conflict situation. For instance, an extended stay is a recipe for more conflict. At the same time, an exit without a political compromise between Kabul and the Taliban will hasten the collapse of the current political order in Afghanistan.

Third, Biden is desperately looking for an exit strategy by installing an interim political setup, no matter how untenable, to provide a semblance of stability and give the US some face-saving in Afghanistan. Arguably, if the Geneva (1988), Peshawar (1992) and Mecca (1993) accords are anything to go by, it is quite evident that it is not difficult to get a deal in Afghanistan. However, what happened after these deals is more critical – Afghanistan descended into never-ending chaos.

The tone and tenor of Blinken’s letter marks a sharp shift in the Biden Administration’s initial accommodative messaging to Kabul. The language of the letter is significant as it asks Ghani to “join other Afghan stakeholders” in the efforts to create an interim government in Turkey. Alongside the Taliban’s rising violence, the Biden Administration views Ghani’s inflexibility towards forming an interim government as a major hurdle to peace efforts. In other words, the US is asking Ghani to show flexibility or step aside. This letter will further weaken the embattled Ghani and his team.

Notably, the Biden Administration has not tied the status of the US military presence in Afghanistan with the peace plan and its outcomes. By not committing its troops to the peace process, the US is keeping its options open for three potential outcomes. First, if Kabul and the Taliban reach a peace agreement in the next few weeks, it will allow the Biden Administration to withdraw the remaining 2,500 forced by May.

Alternatively, if there is promising progress in peace talks with chances of a genuine breakthrough, the US could stay beyond May 1, signalling to the Taliban that the troops would leave as soon as the agreement is reached. On the other hand, if the peace process flounders and talks breakdown, the US has the room to retains its troops' presence in Afghanistan indefinitely. Also, by keeping its withdrawal plan ambiguous, the US hopes to build some leverage with the Taliban.

The Taliban have not given an official reaction to the peace plan; they are still reviewing it. However, the Taliban are unlikely to agree to a ceasefire before the agreement is finalized. The Taliban are a violent entrepreneur and violence is their only leverage to stay relevant to the Afghan endgame. So, they will not give up on violence until they secure a favourable settlement suiting their interests. Furthermore, before resuming talks, they will exploit Biden’s desperation to extract more concessions, such as the release of more Taliban detainees.

Historically, Afghanistan has been the agent of change in South Asia. So, what happens in Afghanistan has far-reaching implications on the region, particularly Pakistan. Given the divergent strategic outlooks, competing interests, and diametrically opposed positions of India and Pakistan on the Afghan conflict's potential solution, it is anybody’s guess that Biden’s plan to forge regional consensus in a few weeks is a non-starter.

Even the best laid out plans can fail, and the worst ones can succeed. So, the hope for peace should never be abandoned. However, given the complexity of the ground situation and fragility of the US’ proposed peace plan, violence is likely to rise in Afghanistan. The peace proposal is comprehensive, and it has the potential to deliver peace dividends only if it is not rushed. By focusing on deadlines instead of ground realities, the US runs the risks of compromising twenty years of democratic gains in Afghanistan.


Palestinian Rights

By James Zogby

March 17, 2021

Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.

It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven't been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It's worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected.

Operating from this mindset, the US has given Israel carte blanche, while pressure and punishments have been reserved for the Palestinians. On occasion, policymakers have timidly raised issue with some Israeli practices, but because they’ve taken no effective measures to change these behaviors, Israel has seen no reason to alter its course. As a result, Israel operates with impunity, while Palestinian actions have been scrutinized and condemned and their protests have either been ignored or silenced as disruptive or counterproductive.

Recent actions by the Biden Administration sadly fit this pattern. In just the past few weeks, they have: condemned the decision of the International Criminal Court to begin prosecution of Israel for its war crimes in Gaza since 2014 and its illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank; criticized the UN Human Rights Council for its condemnation of Israeli abuses of Palestinian human rights; rejected tying US aid to Israel's human rights behaviors; declared opposition to Palestinian calls to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel for its violations of Palestinian rights; and ‘embraced’ the expanded definition of anti-Semitism that includes some legitimate criticisms of Israel.

Especially revealing was one of the reasons given for US opposition to Palestinians taking their complaints to international fora. The US charged that, “Such actions against Israel...increase tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution.” This appears to suggest that Israel’s aggressive land confiscation, settlement construction, demolition of Palestinian homes, detention without charges or trial of hundreds of Palestinians, collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, and Israel's mass killing sprees of Palestinians in 2014 and 2018, did not “increase tensions or undercut efforts” at peace making. But Palestinians seeking legal remedies against these Israeli actions is disruptive. In short, Israel can do whatever it wants, with US backing. But when Palestinians protest – precisely because the US will do nothing to defend them – then they are at fault.

Excerpted: ‘US Policy Ignores Palestinian Human Rights’



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