New Age Islam Edit Bureau
16 May 2018
Pakistan Appears To Be Marching Towards an Uncertain Political Future
By Amir Hussain
The Crumbling Empire
By Mubarak Ali
Who Betrayed Whom
By Kuldip Nayar
Trump Stampedes Global Non-Proliferation Campaign
By Iqbal Khan
By Mahir Ali
Carnage In Gaza
By Zahid Hussain
NSC Convened After Sharif Stirs New Row
By Kamran Yousaf
New Envoy In US?
By Moeed Yusuf
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Pakistan Appears To Be Marching Towards an Uncertain Political Future
By Amir Hussain
May 16, 2018
I have always cherished the discussions that my classmates and I had during our university days on politics being an art of statecraft. The idealism of our student days was a blessing indeed and all we did was discuss world politics at length.
Deeply engrossed in political debates, we used to think that the world was too small to accommodate our wisdom and knowledge. This is, perhaps, how a young person with aspirations thinks in his/her heydays of knowledge acquisition.
Our discussions dealt with the art of statecraft adopted by rulers ranging from Chandragupta Maurya to Otto Von Bismarck, with intermittent references to Machiavelli. We assessed Ibn-e- Khaldun, Karl Marx and even Abu A’la Maududi with a critical eye. Our discussions knew no bounds, representing a diversity of thoughts without venturing into an all-out conflict.
Of course, it wasn’t all hunky-dory. But there was space for discussion. Those were the initial days of Pervez Musharraf’s military coup. We were astonished by how an elected prime minister could be sacked without even a modicum of public outrage. It was the beginning of another dictatorial regime in Pakistan that did not attract much hue and cry and all of us had an axe to grind in this new setup. Our liberals threw their weight behind Musharraf because of his one memorable picture with a German shepherd on the front page of an English language daily.
Our liberal ideals proved to be ephemeral – as always – and they got carried away by this symbolism more than the essence of the political rule. The failure of democratic transition in Pakistan is not only about what religious zealots have done with this country. It is also about the short-lived political ideals of our liberals. The disdain among liberals for the ‘rustic’ ways of Nawaz Sharif and their affection for an urbane party pal and a Westernised dictator said it all.
Despite all its liberal leanings, the university campus had few students who supported this coup because many of us looked for a deeper debate on statecraft. Not contaminated by the compromises involved in practical life, and the fear of the unknown, we spoke our hearts out to condemn the coup.
We started to explore why our democracy had been so fragile that it took only two hours for parliament to be stormed and a sitting prime minister to be arrested. We had also witnessed the dissolution of consecutive parliamentary democracies in Pakistan without the fear of popular uprisings. The judicial murder of Z A Bhutto – one of the most popular political leaders in the history of Pakistan – didn’t shake the country with mass movements.
The people of Pakistan possibly didn’t see any tangible dividends of democracy then. All they saw was an era of prosperity under dictatorial regimes. A growing economy, the rapid pace of industrialisation in the 1960s, and the painful experience of 1971 in a political battle of two elected civilian rulers couldn’t be erased from public memory till the rise of General Zia in 1977.
Supported by the Western powers as a typical cold-war proxy, Pakistan was bombarded with dollars. The flow of free money benefited all those power aspirants – whose children were to have access to this new money – rather than a tumultuous struggle for democracy. Those civilians who could matter politically were cajoled into the world of dollar-backed prosperity. This was a time when a brand of pliable political leaders was created to provide public legitimacy to military rule.
That was perhaps the best era of political consciousness for liberals who were threatened by the rising wave of extremism in Pakistan. Liberals and progressive political forces joined hands in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in the country. For progressives, it was the beginning of a long struggle, not only for the restoration of democracy but also for the institutionalisation of democratic processes. For liberals, it was a battle for the restoration of a particular lifestyle, irrespective of who guaranteed it.
Liberals despised religious parties for their anachronism and outmoded social outlooks. Most of these liberals were also fond of the Westernised lifestyle under the dictatorial regime of General Ayub Khan and the early days of Z A Bhutto’s civilian rule. In this part of the world, liberalism has been more of a lifestyle than a political, cultural and economic movement. Unlike liberals, progressive and socialist groups faced state oppression and incarcerations in Pakistan for their anti-dictatorial, long-term and institutional approach towards an inclusive democracy.
In Pakistan, liberals and socialists are lumped together as one ideological group. But in reality, they have always held two distinct political thoughts. They converged only during political struggles for democracy with varying political objectives – as they did during the MRD in the 1980s. During the regime of General Musharraf, liberals stood by a dictatorship while socialists continued their struggle for democracy.
In our contemporary political landscape, liberals supported the PTI for its lifestyle promises rather than its commitment to a democratic transition of Pakistan. Public concerts, a frivolous party culture and the bashing of Nawaz and his coterie attracted the transient political ideals of our liberals. Socialists opposed the PTI ideology as an anti-democratic political vanguard of the status quo and a political impediment to a democratic transition in Pakistan. Liberals found the PTI to be the political saviour of a lifestyle, irrespective of its right-wing political tendencies and inclination towards religious groups.
Some socialist groups even contested the elections of 2013 under the banner of the Awami Workers Party (AWP), and are aspiring to participate in the general elections of 2018 as well. Divided between the AWP and the PPP, socialist tendencies in Pakistan are driven by a social democratic tradition.
There is also a marked difference in attitudes between liberals and socialists about emerging movements from Fata or previous ones from places like Okara. Socialists have supported movements for political right of expression and to challenge oppression. Liberals, on the contrary, have shown a disdain for such sporadic movements as they do not share the values of elitist liberals.
This pseudo-liberalism in Pakistan has been an elitist way of life that doesn’t find resonance with popular movements of the working and lower middle classes. Civil society movements in Pakistan have been influenced by this pseudo-liberal ideology, which is at peace with the status quo. For these liberals, radical socio-political transformation is an unsettling and obscure idea that is too dangerous to their lifestyle.
What we used to discuss at our university campus was idealistic, but it seems to work in Pakistan till today. Therefore, universities are special zones that face the wrath of power today. Two examples – among many students and teachers – that highlight the situation today are those of Professor Ammar Ali Jan at Punjab University and Dr Riaz Ahmed at Karachi University who have faced this wrath as proponents of an inclusive and democratic Pakistan.
In the current transition to democracy, we can see at least one deviation in the traditional picture. Nawaz Sharif is now one of the strongest dissenting voices in the country. Imran Khan, on the contrary, seems to rely on the establishment more than the popular support for an electoral victory. Bilawal Bhutto, strewn between popular aspirations and his father’s opportunistic and status-quo pragmatism is incapable of making any convincing political pronouncements. In a nutshell, we appear to be marching towards a wishy-washy political future. It will be a test of nerves for those who continue to speak for a democratic Pakistan.
The Crumbling Empire
By Mubarak Ali
May 16, 2018
The history of the Roman Empire tends to fascinate European nations. They highly admire emperors and generals, who defeated the so-called barbarian tribes, slaughtered and enslaved them, and plundered their wealth to built large palaces, temples, and mausoleums.
The irony of the history is that the tribes that were living peacefully on the basis of their customs and traditions were referred to as barbarians – ie, uncivilised and uncultured – while those Romans who invaded their territories without any provocation are billed as civilised people even though they were aggressors.
Most European nations were so deeply inspired by the Roman Empire that they borrowed some of its political institutions and practices. These structures and institutions include the senate, assemblies, laws, voting systems and the power of veto. To keep the memory of the Roman Empire alive, they screened thousands of films on various aspects of Roman society and culture. A diverse range of books has been published that are based on archaeological evidence. Fictionalised history was popularised among the people. A large number of plays were staged about the Roman Empire and several paintings and sculptures were made to immortalise its memory.
In the year 800, when Charlemagne became the emperor of the Carolingian Dynasty, he was crowned by the Pope as the Holy Roman Emperor. This was an attempt to restore the memories of the Roman Empire. The title of the Holy Roman Emperor continued throughout European history and retained its original significance despite political weaknesses. The title was satirised by Voltaire, who believed that it was neither holy nor Roman in nature. This title was finally abolished in 1806 by Napoleon.
The people of Europe were so impressed by the power and glory of the Roman Empire that they found it difficult to believe how such a great power was defeated by the so-called barbarian tribes and divided into the eastern and western empires. The western part was ruled by the Pope and the Catholic religion while the eastern part became Byzantinian and observed Orthodox Christianity.
After discussing the rise of the Roman Empire, historians have automatically turned their attention towards analysing the reasons for its decline. The first historian who discussed the breakdown of the Roman Empire was Montesquieu. He attributed the decline of the Roman Empire to political instability and the emergence of feudal states that caused social and economic crises. The second historian was Edward Gibbon who was inspired by the ruins of Rome and decided to write about the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. He did not discuss the earlier period when the Roman Empire was at its glorious heights. Instead, he tried to trace its evolutionary decay.
He examined the the general causes of the Roman Empire’s decline such as the army’s rule; the assassination of emperors; the ever-increasing number of slaves; the destruction of agriculture; and the failure to defend its borders against the so-called barbarians. Gibbon also shifted his focus to the internal factors within the empire that led to its downfall. These included urbanisation and the migration of peasants from villages to cities; the differences of class division; the management of sanitation in the cities; and attempts to cure of diseases and control of mob riots. In addition to these causes, Gibbon heavily criticised the Christianisation of the Roman Empire.
When the pagan culture was prevalent, the Romans had the spirit to fight and its army displayed valour in the battlefield. Owing to the Christianisation of the empire, the spirit of war diminished because religious precepts highlighted the importance of peace. This weakened the Roman Army and strengthened the pagan barbarian tribes, who invaded and defeated the once-mighty Romans.
Gibbon also drew attention to the fact that monasteries were established throughout the Roman Empire. These monasteries encouraged young people to become monks and devote their lives to serve their religion. This posed a financial burden for the state.
Rome had once produced philosophy, literature and art that enlightened society. However, the Christian Roman society banned philosophy, art and literature. It persecuted philosophers and closed down institutions that were centres of liberal art. Consequently, society became intellectually barren and bankrupt. It lost, on the one hand, its pagan heritage and, on the other, its military no longer remained in a position to defend itself against the Sassanids of the Persian Empire and the emerging Arab powers. The city of Rome was conquered by the Visigoths in 410. Meanwhile, the eastern part of the Roman Empire continued until 1453, when it finally surrendered to the Ottomans. This marked the complete breakdown of the Roman Empire. The downfall of the Roman Empire afforded a number of lessons to imperial powers that occupied the Asian and African countries in the name of civilisation.
We must change our concept of history. We must realise that those who attacked the Asian and African countries committed a series of war crimes while those who were persecuted were, in fact, champions of peace and only endured discrimination because of their military weakness. Therefore, invaders should be condemned and their crime ought to be exposed to the world. This will ensure that people are aware of their brutality.
Who Betrayed Whom
By Kuldip Nayar
May 16, 2018
INDIA’S first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru proudly supported Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-Lai. He had emerged after defeating the First Front Army commander, Chiang Kai Shek. The Chinese Premier had supported India’s Movement for Independence when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that the freedom of India was not dependent on the victory of Allies in the Second World War, which was a foregone conclusion when America declared support to Britain and such other democratic forces. Still Nehru was able to get the backing of the Congress. It made the declaration even though Mahatma Gandhi believed that Adolf Hitler, leading the fascist forces, would emerge victorious. That Chou En-Lai had betrayed Nehru by launching the attack in 1962 was a severe blow that Nehru could not survive.
After that the non-aligned countries together had amended the Colombo proposals and retrieved partially the prestige of Nehru. The proposals recognized the new border where China had delineated through its forces. New Delhi showed annoyance by calling back its ambassador in Beijing. Relations between the two countries had remained sour since. It appears Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted China-dictated border. The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) can argue that it has accepted what was de jure. What is hailed as a historic moment is abject surrender to Beijing. It is practically a defeat. Had the Congress Party done so, it would have been paraded as a force which had sold India. Modi, with his flowery speeches in Hindi, may go down well with the people who cannot understand the intricacies of the border problem. But surprisingly, the party has the support from the Nagpur headquarters from where the RSS high command operates. China and India have seldom agreed on where the actual border line is. Nehru said that he had asked the Indian army to oust the infiltrators and clear its territory. Since then the relations between the two had more or less hostile. Some time ago, India showed its muscles with the stand-off at Doklam. China had to withdraw its forces behind the present border. Prime Minister Modi’s trip last Sept for BRICS did reduce tension. The positive side of Modi’s trip then was the reiteration by two countries to fight against terrorists. But here too Beijing elucidated its own theory. Yet, friendship of China and Pakistan is only getting stronger to concern of New Delhi. Not long ago, Beijing had begun stapling visas of Indians visiting China from Arunachal. China wanted to indicate that it was a “separate territory” and not part of India.
New Delhi has borne the humiliation quietly. China had accepted without demur the maps showing Arunachal Pradesh as India’s territory. To recall the dispute over a small territory lying between Arunachal and China’s border, the status of Arunachal Pradesh has been seldom questioned. Tibet for China is like India’s Kashmir which too has raised the standard of independence. There is, however, one difference: the Dalai Lama is willing to accept an autonomous status within China. Kashmir today wants independence. Maybe, the Kashmiris will come round to accept a similar status one day. The problem is so complicated that a minor change can lead to a major catastrophe. It is not worth risking. The Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh last year had brought back the memories of the days before the Chinese annexed Tibet. Nehru did not raise any objection at that time because he was on personal terms with Chinese Premier Chu-En Lai. Dalai Lama’s visit did not raise doubts about Tibet but it renewed the debate of its annexation by Beijing once again. China called his visit a “provocation.” It had warned India that the Dalai Lama’s visit would affect the normal relations between the two countries. Indeed, it intensified with Doklam. Yet, India managed to hold its own. In fact, China’s problems with India have roots in British demarcation of India-China border. China refuses to acknowledge McMahon Line that demarcates Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of India. Any activity that takes place in this area is viewed by China skeptically.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to the “disputed’’ territory despite Chinese protest showed that New Delhi was prepared for hostilities if it came to that pass. Then the Indian soldiers did not have shoes for a mountain combat. India is now a power to reckon with. It looks as if China would go on provoking India to exhaust patience. When war is ruled out this is the only option China has. How to retaliate, without resorting to hostilities is the situation India faces. Beijing is trying to revive the India-China Bhai Bhai scenario. Soon after days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to China after the Doklam standoff between the two countries, a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that both sides possessed the “maturity and wisdom” to handle their differences through peaceful discussion and by respecting each other’s “concerns and aspirations.”
They also agreed to use the Special Representatives’ Meeting on the boundary question to seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement. The two militaries will strengthen confidence-building measures and enhance communication and cooperation to uphold border peace and tranquility, said the statement. Meanwhile, China and India have agreed to build a high-level cultural and people-to-people exchange mechanism between the two nations. The informal summit meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping also stressed on the need to strengthen the China-India Closer Developmental Partnership so that the two will always keep to the right direction. The latest move is aimed at further strengthening the bilateral ties between the two nations. On the last leg of his two-day visit, the Indian Prime Minister and Chinese President walked along a sidewalk on the shores of the Wuhan’s East Lake and later sailed in the same boat for “peace, prosperity and development” in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. This augurs well.
Trump Stampedes Global Non-Proliferation Campaign
By Iqbal Khan
May 16, 2018
OBSESSED with undoing the legacies of his predecessor, President Donald Trump is ending up in eroding American credibility beyond redemption. With yet another rash treaty reneging announcement, Trump has imperilled peace and shown the rest of the world that his country cannot be counted on to abide by international agreements. He is in such an indecent hurry that he does not care about the crippling voids he is leaving behind. His latest action of shredding the Iran nuclear deal has not only isolated the US but has also marginalised his own persona amongst his countrymen.
Trump’s announcement did not come as a surprise. Worrisome is the evidence put forward by him. It is based on the documents recently released by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu showing that Iran had attempted to develop a nuclear bomb in the previous decade, especially before 2003. Trump could not put forward any stunning evidence that Iran violated the 2015 deal. He only emphasised that Iran had lied in the past and could not be trusted. Such over simplifications could undo any international deal. Trump’s Defence Secretary and the UN mandated nuclear regulator International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) are of the view that Iran has not violated the 2015 deal. Leading officials of American military establishment think of the deal as “pretty robust.”. Even Israeli military thinks that the agreement was a fair bargain.
Iran’s reaction to the US move has largely been measured, barring burning of the US flag in Parliament. Rouhani has said, “his country will continue to honour the deal”, while the EU nations have stated the same. Trump’s impetuous decision has overwhelmingly been condemned by the world community. However, this has no worth, as Trump heads a team of warmongering pro-Israel hawks. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s initial reaction was: “This decision was an act of psychological warfare against Iran…I have instructed the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation to take the necessary measures for future actions so that, if necessary, we can resume industrial enrichment without limit.” Fair enough; now ball is in the court of other signatories of the deal, all of whom have pledged to continue with the deal. However, the question arises: if the US sanctions everyone doing business with Iran, how will the deal survive? From here, the issue takes an uncharted voyage. There aren’t many countries which could bear the brunt of comprehensive US sanctions.
Dissent and condemnation has poured in from all over the world except Israel and Saudi Aribia—the two strange bedfellows in their anti-Iran pursuits. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres commented: “I call on other JCPOA participants to abide fully by their respective commitments under the JCPOA and on all other [UN] member-states to support this agreement.” Pakistan’s response was mature and pertinent: “Pakistan believes that the JCPOA represents a very good example of a negotiated settlement of complex issues, through dialogue and diplomacy. Arbitrarily rescinding such agreements will undermine confidence in the value of dialogue and diplomacy in the conduct of international relations”.
Interestingly Europe whom the US has been taking as “granted for” ally is standing far apart on this issue: “Stay true to your commitments as we will stay true to ours and together with the rest of the international community, we will preserve this nuclear deal”, European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini commented. Individually, France, Germany and the UK have castigated the US decision and have pledged to “work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025 period, ballistic activity and stability in the Middle East…”, French President twittered. Russia indicated that it is “deeply disappointed”. Spokesman for President Erdogan commented: “The unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal is a decision that will cause instability and new conflicts.” Syria stated that it “strongly condemns US President’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, which shows once again that the United States is not honouring its commitments and international agreements.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran.” And Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry quickly echoed the Israeli sentiment: “The Kingdom supports and welcomes the steps announced by the US President toward withdrawing from the nuclear deal … and reinstating economic sanctions against Iran.” Architect of the deal, former US President Barack Obama, assumed ownership and commented: “The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working … that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts… JCPOA has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. “Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes — with Iran — the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans,” Obama added.
Trashing of deal would bring significant losses to the Iranian economy and once again expose its people to financial hardship. And there is a real chance that Iran and Israel’s ongoing confrontation in Syria may transform into war. Decision was timed to impact Iranian elections. Nuclear deal had eased out ruinous international sanctions in return for an Iranian promise to limit its nuclear activities and allow inspections by international inspectors. Should dejection arising out of American betrayal lead the Iranian response to resumption of its nuclear programme, it could trigger a chain of events in the Middle East. Overall, international nuclear non-proliferation regime is certainly in for an enduring beating. The Associated Press has aptly analysed “Just as Donald Trump reached one hand out to North Korea, he yanked the other back from Iran”.
By Mahir Ali
May 16, 2018
IT has been quite a week for Benjamin Netanyahu, bookended by a pair of personal triumphs for the man who will become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister if he manages to hang in there for another year or so: US president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last week and the unveiling on Monday of the American embassy in Jerusalem.
One could add to that Israel’s largest military strikes in Syria, ostensibly targeting strategic Iranian sites, and, shortly before that, Netanyahu’s presence as the guest of honour at the annual Victory Day parade in Moscow, where he is assumed to have consulted — or at least warned — Vladimir Putin about the Syrian attacks.
The embassy inauguration ceremony coincided with a starkly contrasting scenario some 90 kilometres away, where more than 50 Palestinians were massacred, and over 1,000 injured, on the periphery of the fenced-in Gaza Strip. Besieged residents of that forsaken territory have been staging protests for several weeks, and paying for it with their lives. Monday’s bout of brutality doubled the death toll, and there were fears of worse to come yesterday, the final day of the planned demonstrations, marking the 70th anniversary of Israeli independence and Palestinian dispossession.
The symbolism inherent in shifting the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem cannot seriously be categorised as a blow to the peace process, given that any such process perished quite a while ago. Another nail in its coffin may be a more accurate description. But there are far broader risks on the near horizon as the Likudites in Israel take advantage of the friendliest and most gullible US administration they have ever encountered.
Trump, like Netanyahu — but unlike several senior Israeli military and intelligence personnel, past and present — has been a consistent critic of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concluded less than three years ago between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Some say his primary problem with it is the fact it was considered a foreign policy success for his predecessor. There clearly is a pattern of viscerally rejecting virtually anything Barack Obama achieved, initiated or favoured, from the Paris climate agreement and the first steps towards normalising relations with Cuba to domestic health insurance reforms.
What also matters is what Trump hears from some of his advisers, his favourite news outlet and his biggest donors. Among the donors, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who was present at the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem, is known to have expressed the view that rather than any sort of diplomacy, the ideal means of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would be a nuclear strike against Tehran. Among Trump’s latest line-up of close aides, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are dedicated Iranophobes.
Then there’s Netanyahu plus the effective rulers of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed, none of whom would be averse to a war against Iran, provided someone else were willing to take the lead. One must hope Trump will disappoint them in this particular regard, given that his rants as a candidate included fairly clear-cut denunciations of US involvement in Middle Eastern wars, and in a recent missive he berated the Gulf monarchies for not doing enough in return for the trillions America has poured into the region. On the other hand, the president is impulsive, impressionable, and convinced he can be more effective than his predecessors.
Although Iran and its European partners have expressed a desire to keep the JCPOA alive, Hassan Rouhani’s government is under considerable pressure from the hardliners who have always resented the nuclear deal, and it is unlikely to survive if Europe proves unable to offer any further economic incentives as a consequence of the American threat of secondary sanctions against companies doing business with Tehran.
In pulling out of the agreement Trump noted that it had done nothing to constrain Iran’s ballistic missile programme or its regional interventions. That may be so, but the JCPOA wasn’t intended to achieve either of those goals. There is every indication Iran has strictly adhered to the letter of the deal, notwithstanding Netanyahu’s much derided attempt to ‘prove’ there had been violations, his theatrical presentation rendered all the more absurd in view of the fact that Israel has never willingly revealed anything about its own formidable nuclear arsenal.
Israel’s serial military provocations in Syria have not elicited much of an Iranian response beyond a pointless missile attack on the occupied Golan Heights, which preceded last week’s Israeli incursion. An escalation could turn into a conflagration that leaves no nation in the region unscathed. Hopefully such a disaster will not ensue, but the Middle East is a place where worst-case scenarios do routinely materialise.
Carnage in Gaza
By Zahid Hussain
May 16, 2018
IT was the massacre of unarmed Palestinians, and not the celebrations of the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, that stood out this week. Over 60 Palestinians have been killed and 2,700 injured in Gaza as Israeli forces fired on protesters, killing mostly teenagers.
In fact, the Israelis not only used live bullets but also fighter jets and a tank to prevent protesters from breaking the barricade. According to one report quoting doctors, some of the exit wounds caused by Israeli ammunition were ‘fist-size’. This kind of brutality has not been seen since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict.
It all happened a mere 90 to 100 kilometres from the site of celebrations at the newly built American embassy in the occupied land. The bloodbath continued as participants from both Israel and the United States sang ‘Hallelujah’ and the Israeli prime minister declared it a “glorious day”.
May 14 was also the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the state of Israel. Palestinians refer to the day after as Nakba, or the catastrophe, when, in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee or were expelled from their homes and became refugees.
Donald Trump’s decision to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem has given a bloodier turn to the Palestinian issue and has led to diminishing hopes of any solution to the conflict. The move is a manifestation of the close alliance between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The use of brute force has failed to deter the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation.
Despite the US support to Israel, the previous administrations in Washington had refrained from taking the controversial step. There had been some effort to understand and respond to the Palestinian narrative. But Trump’s blatant support for Israeli expansionism has made the peace negotiations more difficult.
In his recorded message at the Jerusalem ceremony, Trump declared that his greatest hope is to achieve peace. Amusingly, he has also claimed that he has an interest in solving the “toughest deal of all”. While condoning the carnage of unarmed Palestinians, Trump says he still intends to present a detailed peace initiative.
His move has plunged the region into greater turmoil and effectively brought to an end any arbitration role for the US in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. While fully endorsing the Israeli narrative, the Trump administration has crossed a red line.
As one analyst put it, “it is an unravelling of the peace process framework which for the past 25 years has led to neither peace nor all-out war”. Not surprisingly, the Israeli prime minister sounded more triumphant and defiant in his celebratory speech. “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay,” he declared.
Most shamefully, the American and Israeli officials put the blame for the violence on the protesters. The use of brute force, however, has failed to deter the Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation. Hundreds of casualties in Gaza are likely to trigger an uprising or intifada spreading to the West Bank.
It is evident that the Trump administration is complicit in the Israeli violence against the hapless Palestinian population. Washington has also blocked the call for a UN investigation into the incident. The move has further emboldened Israeli expansionism and rendered the Middle East situation more explosive.
While the US moves and the carnage in Gaza have evoked strong condemnation by the international community, there is no effective voice for the support of the Palestinians’ right to their homeland despite several UN resolutions. The silence of Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries over the plight of the Palestinian people is particularly disturbing.
It reflects the realignment of forces in the Middle East. It is true that key Arab countries seem more willing to sanction a settlement less favourable to the Palestinians than before because they want Israel as an ally against Iran.
The Jerusalem ceremony took place days after Trump announced the US would unilaterally pull out from the Iranian nuclear deal. Not surprisingly, the controversial decision to reimpose US sanctions on Tehran has been welcomed by Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Both countries have been opposed to the treaty signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China besides the United States. Opposition to Iran has brought the two countries on the same side of the Middle East civil war. That has also led to Saudi Arabia’s increasing tilt towards Israel on the Palestinian issue.
The comments made by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, during his recent visit to the United States illustrate the shift in the kingdom’s position on the Palestinian issue. He reportedly scolded the Palestinian leadership for what he described as a decades-long history of “rejecting peace with Israel”, adding they should either begin to accept peace proposals or “shut up”.
A leaked Israeli foreign ministry cable sent by a diplomat from the Israeli consulate in New York said that the crown prince’s comments, made during the closed meetings, apparently caused people to “literally fall off their chairs”.
He made it clear that the Palestinian cause was not a priority for the makers of foreign policy in Riyadh and that the kingdom has to face much wider threats in the region, such as Iran. Although the king tried to exercise damage control because of his son’s outrageous remarks, it does not signify very much as the crown prince is effectively in charge.
Not surprisingly, the US move to shift its embassy to Jerusalem did not evoke much opposition from the kingdom and other Gulf countries. It has indeed emboldened Israel. There is a clear indication that the cooperation between Riyadh and Israel could further increase with the rising tensions in the Middle East following the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.
That may also allow Israel to continue using brute force to suppress the Palestinian resistance movement. Undoubtedly, there have been mass protests in some Muslim countries, but is this enough to draw the attention of the international community to Israel’s expansionist objectives under the patronage of the United States?
NSC Convened After Sharif Stirs New Row
By Kamran Yousaf
May 13, 2018
Three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been in the limelight for months, but for all the wrong reasons. On Sunday, he was once again making the headlines, and this time for stirring a new controversy on Pakistan’s role in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
“Militant organisations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why can’t we complete the trial?” Sharif asked in an interview to Dawn.
“We have isolated ourselves. Despite giving sacrifices, our narrative is not being accepted. Afghanistan’s narrative is being accepted, but ours is not. We must look into it,” he added.
Nawaz chided by Imran, Nisar for statement on Mumbai attacks
His remarks were immediately picked up by Indian media, which termed the former prime minister’s statement as a confession of Pakistan’s role in the Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead.
Back home, opposition parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) launched a broadside against Sharif, calling him a security threat.
Even PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the former interior minister, did not endorse Sharif’s statement. He held India responsible for the delay in the trial of the Mumbai attack suspects.
The news also went viral on social media with Sharif’s critics coming down hard on the former prime minister, while his supporters put up a strong defence for him.
But the discussion did not remain confined to social media and his political opponents; Sharif’s statement also shook the army as well.
Late in the evening, the chief military spokesperson announced through his official Twitter handle that the National Security Committee (NSC) ?— the highest forum on issues of national security — would meet today (Monday) to discuss the Sharif’s “misleading statement”.
The meeting was being convened on the suggestion of Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director-General Major-General Asif Ghafoor.
The PM Office usually issues statements on the NSC. However, it remained tight-lipped on the issue.
Although Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and his cabinet members did not offer any statement, the ruling party did issue a statement clarifying that Sharif’s statement was misquoted and blown out of proportion by Indian channels and a section of the Pakistani media.
NAB allegations a grave issue, says Nawaz
Defending the former prime minister, the PML-N insisted that its supreme leader “need no certificate from anybody on their commitment and capacity to preserve, protect and promote Pakistan’s national security”.
It went on to add that the statement of the former prime minister had been “grossly misinterpreted by the Indian media”.
“Unfortunately, a section of Pakistani electronic and social media has intentionally or unintentionally not only validated but has lent credence to the malicious propaganda of Indian media without going through the full facts of the statement,” the statement further said.
While many on the social media called Sharif a security risk and some even demanded that he be tried for treason under Article 6 of the Constitution, the PML-N reminded such people that it was Sharif, who “resisted all pressures and took the most important and most difficult decision on national security in Pakistan’s history by making the country a nuclear power in May 1998”.
Some PML-N leaders insisted that Sharif did not say anything new. “If militants from Pakistan were not involved in the Mumbai attacks, then why did the country initiate the trial of seven Pakistani suspects in the first place?” they asked.
Some of them also referred to a statement given by the then-National Security Adviser Maj-Gen (retd) Muhammad Ali Durrani, who admitted that Ajmal Kasab was indeed a Pakistani. That was the first time any Pakistani official had confirmed Kasab’s nationality after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
Plans in progress to put me behind bars, claims Nawaz Sharif
“Did anyone question Durrani for his statement,” one PML-N leader asked before noting that Sharif merely repeated established facts.
Official sources predicted a tense NSC huddle that would be presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by the three services chiefs as well as then head of the ISI.
Sources said the prime minister is expected to defend Sharif and reiterate that his statement on the Mumbai attacks was misinterpreted and taken out of context.
The military leadership, however, may persuade the prime minister to issue a strong rebuttal as they believe that Sharif’s remarks caused great harm to Pakistan’s narrative against terrorism.
New Envoy In US?
By Moeed Yusuf
May 15, 2018
IT seems that Pakistan will have a new ambassador in Washington after all. Press reports indicate that ambassador-designate Ali Jehangir Siddiqui may take over before the PML-N government leaves office. Siddiqui’s nomination has intrigued watchers of the Pakistan-US relationship. Recently, some of my colleagues in Washington’s policy community sat down to make sense of it. Parts of our conversation bear recounting.
Let me be clear that none of this discussion was pointed at Siddiqui. I, for one, have never met him. Nor is it my place to pass judgement on his fate as an ambassador should he make the coveted post. He has an impressive resumé otherwise and I wish him well.
The concerns raised by the policy analysts I huddled with were institutional in nature. They were about the conduct of Pakistan — the state. First, they wondered how Pakistan could realistically expect the world to take its international engagements seriously when its leaders continue to disempower the custodians of diplomacy.
Here is a classic example of individual whims trumping institutions.
Siddiqui’s nomination was a classic example of individual whims trumping institutions. The decision to nominate him was made in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat with no real buy-in from the Foreign Office. The signal for the institution was a demoralising one. Even some of the finest in the diplomatic corps feel irrelevant in such moments — and the feeling will continue to spread as long as leaders keep circumventing them.
Second, they doubted if those who picked Siddiqui grasped how the nomination may be seen in Washington. In their view, the choice may reflect a lack of appreciation of what the job of a Pakistani ambassador in the US entails.
Pointing to Siddiqui’s business background, one of my colleagues who seemed to have an inside scoop suggested that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s intent may have been to signal his desire to focus on non-security aspects of the bilateral relationship. I tend to agree. In the past, I have heard from (then minister) Abbasi his fairly negative view of Pakistani diplomacy. He perceives the country’s diplomatic orientation to be heavily security centric and behind the times.
On this, the prime minister is spot on. Pakistan’s India-fixated security outlook runs deep within the Foreign Office and much of Pakistan’s diplomatic approach and lingo harken back to the Cold War.
What he may have overlooked, however, is that the present tenor of the Pakistan-US relationship is singularly focused on security — specifically with regard to Afghanistan — and there are no prospects for a return to a broader dialogue. The majority of the engagements of the new ambassador are certain to be about hard security issues bedeviling the partnership.
Precisely because of the relative lack of regard for the Foreign Office and the security bias in bilateral ties, Pakistani ambassadors who are perceived to have some cache on both the civilian and military sides of the aisle have had more to offer in Washington. I am not sure where Siddiqui stands on this count but the perception in Washington is that his appointment may not have had the blessings of the security establishment.
Some of these policy analysts wondered if the real implication of his appointment was that the civilian government would be willing to let the military directly engage Washington on the security aspects of the ties while the new ambassador focuses on whatever little he can do in the economic sphere.
Third, no one can make head or tail of the timing of Siddiqui’s appointment. Ironically, his nomination in early March forced the current Pakistani ambassador into lame-duck mode while the timing of his arrival means he too will be firmly in this category from the get go. Realistically, I doubt he’ll be able to gain any traction in Washington till after the elections — and that too if the PML-N returns to power. Otherwise, you’d have wasted four precious months at a time when the fast-deteriorating relationship requires daily attention and engagement in Washington.
Finally, going beyond this case, my colleagues delivered the punch line for Pakistani officials by explaining where Pakistan falters in comparison to its peers. Comparing India and Pakistan, they perceived both as having equally good human capacity but argued that one derived strength from an elite consensus on priorities for the country’s foreign policy and clarity on roles of the various institutions executing it while the other’s hand was weakened by its inability to engage as a coherent unitary actor.
Based on their prior interactions with Pakistani officials, they noted internal bickering and a defensive attitude towards policies they articulate as being typical of Pakistan’s way of doing business.
Dare I say that these observations are quite widely shared among Pakistan watchers in the Western world. They need not be taken at face value. Still, they demand serious introspection by Pakistan.