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Pakistan Press ( 9 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Gender Inequality, Iraq’s Humiliation and Assault on Democracy: New Age Islam's Selection, 9 January 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

9 January 2021

• Disinheritance: Gender Inequality

By Shahzad Sharjeel

• Iraq’s Century of Humiliation in the Globalised Age

By Aneela Shahzad

• Failed Diplomacy In Washington D.C

By Jahanzaib Ali

• Trump Personifies America

By M Ziauddin

• Assault On Democracy With A Capital D

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi


Disinheritance: Gender Inequality

By Shahzad Sharjeel

January 9, 2021

INEQUALITY is more a function of politics and ideology than it is of technology and economics. In other words, inequality could be explained away in many ways, but is perpetuated by decisions and choices made by the centers of power. Such policies need narratives of justification. Overtime, that narrative becomes the byword for ‘folk wisdom’; eventually it morphs into something akin to ‘gospel truth.’

A fertiliser company is reinforcing these myths through its advertisement campaign, complete with a Kalashnikov-firing female protagonist. In their minds, they have checked all the right boxes (an ‘empowered female farmer’ fighting a ‘misogynist system’) but the messaging, ie zameen tau maan hey (land, after all, is mother) and yeh betiyan nahin betay hein (these are not daughters but sons), keeps the inequality grind going.

Unfair trade-offs are made to favour the society’s elite. These choices are sold to the masses wrapped in the foil of tradition. What leaves indelible impressions on our minds are not the books we read, nor the inanities the 24/7 news channels spew; it is the advertisements also called commercials that stay with us the longest. Whether state institutions orchestrate this directly or are mere beneficiaries of the blurring of lines between pseudo-culture and corporate interests is debatable.

Want to test this theory? How many lines do you remember from the talk show you watched last night? ‘Zero’ is the answer, even if it happened to include a cleric heaping scorn on more than half of the country’s population. Here are advertisement nuggets from 10, 20, even 30 years ago; ‘ae khuda meray abbu’; ‘mashroob-i-mashriq’; ‘meri mutthi mein band hay kia?’ If you are between the ages of 30 and 50, you have correctly guessed these to be from the advertisements of a state-owned insurance company, a sherbet and a paan masala, respectively. Without belaboring the point, different jingles can be referenced for the younger demographic cohort, and they would recall the messaging just like their seniors.

This may not be lost on the defenders of ideology, but let us leave them aside for the time being and focus only on those who manufacture sundry products like cement and fertiliser, and render services such as banking and housing — sorry if all roads lead to Rome? How about the good old private sector; it too is a stakeholder in maintaining the status quo? It creates jobs and fulfills corporate social responsibility but does not want to challenge the ideological narrative.

Gender inequality is perpetuated by advertisements underlining stereotypes. Why did the life-insurance jingle pray for the long life of the father, and not that of the mother? Some would say it just depicted the reality of the age, ie there were more men in the workforce then. But that remains true even today, a new narrative was as much required then as it is now to change that reality. Even today, you are fed advertisements ranging from mattresses to banking where families obsess about marrying off the girl, but in the boy’s case it is the career. While some commercials have broken the taboo and show men cooking and washing, more reinforcing the archaic keep coming up.

Consider two huge socioeconomic problems that are being perpetuated by advertisements parroting the biased narrative, ie the right of inheritance for women, and poverty. Though they are intertwined and feed off each other, let us look at them separately.

Women generally do not get any share of inheritance in both urban and rural settings in Pakistan, and those few who do hardly ever get their due share. The problem is ex­­acerbated where agricultural land is in question. Since we are still an agrarian society and more than 60 per cent of the population lives in the rural areas, the scale of this injustice to women is unfathomable. Part of what keeps this going is the incessant repetition of a myth, ie ‘land is mother’. Once this myth is bought into, there is no question of letting go of the land. A married woman is considered to have become a member of her husband’s household, and heaven forbid if any part of the ‘mother’ goes with her, lest the in-laws sell it or actually start sharing irrigation water, another resource we refuse to treat as a productive commodity despite not caring anything for its conservation.

Similarly, millions of farmers cannot cultivate whatever little land they own because they do not have the financial resources for equipment and inputs like tractors, seeds and power for tube wells. Access to finance through agricultural loans for small farmers is a joke that requires a separate telling. Only if they could sell a piece of land to be able to till the rest of it productively, they are good for a couple of generations. However, the indoctrination that disinherits women and keeps millions in grinding poverty as the only asset they own has been sacralised.


Iraq’s Century of Humiliation in the Globalised Age

By Aneela Shahzad

January 09, 2021

The transnational state (TNS), as advocated by William Robinson, is an evolved stage of globalisation and its capitalism twin, which in turn is creating a transnational class (TNC), “characterised by the rise of truly transnational capital and the integration of every country into a new globalised system of production and finance”. Robinson’s idea is somewhat strange, considering the fact that in today’s globalised world, nation-states still have their interests, their physical boundaries and security concerns, and that growth is still measured in terms of the GDP of individual states.

Quoting Iraq’s example, Robinson tries to explain that the invasion of Iraq, though seems to be a unilateral show of America’s neo-imperialism, “yet the very first transnational oil company to be assisted by the US State Department in the wake of Washington’s invasion and occupation was the ‘French’ oil company Total, followed by Chinese oil companies who were able to enter the Iraqi oil market thanks to the US occupation”. But does this example prove that an evolved structure like a TNS has come to be in international politics, or does it reveal a relatively old architecture, like the one we saw in China’s century of humiliation?

Indeed, China’s century of humiliation was a transnational one. Once defeated in the First Opium War, the Chinese were subjected to a series of unequal treaties whereby several ports and land-areas were distributed among colonial powers including the Westerns and Russia and Japan. In 1899, US secretary of state John Hay sent notes to France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Japan, and Russia, declaring the Open Door Policy, which stated that all nations, including the US, could enjoy equal access to Chinese markets as long as Chinese territorial integrity, as well as the status of the treaty ports is upheld. At that time, companies of these countries gained special concessions on railroad rights, mining rights, loans, possession of trade ports, etc and the railroad loans were appropriated by an international banking consortium.

Compare that with the situation in Iraq today, where the transnational elite, previously referred to as multinationals, who again mostly belong to the states that were victors of WWII, have furthered an open-door Iraq policy between them. So that, since the invasion, contracts have been gained by Halliburton (military/oil), Veritas (military/finance), the Washington Group (military/oil), Aegis (military), International American Products (electricity), Fluor (water/sewage), Perini (environmental cleanup), Parsons (military/construction), First Kuwaiti General (construction), HSBC Bank (finance), Cummins (electricity) and Nour USA (oil), to name just a few. The Iraq Britain Business Council founded in 2009 has, among several other projects, co-signed oil projects between the China National Petroleum Corporation and British Petroleum. This defies the notion that the newly evolving TNC is stateless, rather each of these companies has a home state, and without the military and political clout of their home states, none of them would stand as the TNCs they are today.

The sad story of oil production in Iraq is that, during all the difficult time of the Iran-Iraq war oil-production was constantly excelling, with a 2.8 million barrels per day in 1989, and a national GDP peaking to $10,000 that year. But the moment the war ended, the US, who had stood behind Iraq throughout the war, turned bitterly against it, placing sanctions in the wake of the Gulf War (1990) — wherein it amassed 700,000 forces within a few days in tiny Kuwait to attack and completely destroy the Iraqi military. The sanctions plummeted the GDP to about $1,000 by 2002 and an oil production down to 1.3million barrels per day. And now with the US invasion, the oil production had peaked to 4.6 million barrels per day in February 2020 again, with a corresponding $5,300 GDP — but does this number present the wealth of the average Iraqi?

In May this year, the Special Representative of Secretary General for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq announced that the poverty rate in Iraq would double to 40% from around 20%, where it currently stands, “the Iraqi economy is expected to contract by 9.7% in 2020… (and) there will be a decrease in economic opportunities.” How is there a 350% increase in oil production and only ‘decrease’ in economic opportunities for the Iraqi people? The people, whose cities have been bombed to ruins from Fallujah to Mosul; of whom over three million were killed and over two million displaced during the war; and who have been suffering disease and death due to shortage of food and medicine for the last four decades.

Is it the oil-resource curse that has brought the Iraqi people to this deplorable condition? Or, have the US-installed political system and after them the Iranian influence over Iraqi politics, been the main reasons behind mischiefs such as the case of “an estimated $239.7 billion has left the country illegally since 2003”, currently being inquired by the Iraqi parliament. Most of this money was indeed oil money, meaning that both oil and revenue have been conveniently syphoned away from Iraq, leaving its people in harrowing dearth.

Indeed, in this preview, the so-called TNS apparatuses, as the would-be global ruling class, seem to be only the biggest enemy of humanity.

As the Iraqi government struggles to pay debts and salaries, and as it watches its economy plunging into chaos and crisis, there is scant chance of getting any relief from the so-called “transnational” extortion system. And the vacuum is again being filled with China, who has made a $2 billion oil deal with Iraq, and will be paying upfront for every yearly supply of the fuel, that too at zero interest and with a premium over the price.

Surely Iraq’s extortion and plunder have been transnational, and it has also been most humiliating and dehumanising. No nation of the world deserves to be occupied, its people killed and its infrastructure razed to the ground and the dignity of its people put down to the level that the Iraqis have faced at the hands of the West for the last four decades — that too just for the satiation of the West’s vile intoxication, that compulsively demands more material wealth and power!


Failed Diplomacy in Washington D.C

By Jahanzaib Ali

JANUARY 9, 2021

For the last many decades diplomatic relations between the United States and Pakistan is a tale of love and hate but since President Trump took the oath there was nothing to offer except demands to act against terrorist networks who were having safe havens in Pakistan and killing Afghan and Americans. With these demands President Trump in a surprise move ended 1.3 billion US Dollars aid to Pakistan in 2018 alleging that Pakistan taking care of enemies while security assistance to Pakistan also suspended. There were a lot of other decisions by the Trump administration that showed mistrust on Pakistani Government, but back-to-back meetings of Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Donald Trump gave little hope that things would get better soon.

After a couple of meetings between heads of states, it was clear that passage of relations with Pakistan comes through Afghanistan so to gain the trust of Americans and as per American wishes, Pakistan worked hard to bring peace in Afghanistan and played an important role in signing of an agreement between Taliban and Trump administration. This is the time when Pakistan was looking forward to hearing some good news regarding the relations between two countries but change of power in the “White House” washed away all those hopes and expectations as incoming President-elect Joe Biden has some different plans for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Defeat of President Trump in the Presidential Elections is also a big setback for Pakistani top diplomats in Washington D.C who were waiting to celebrate and getting themselves ready to claim the success of Afghan peace process by actually doing nothing.

“Pakistan negotiators failed to get anything in return from the peace agreement in Afghanistan, ” observed former Senator EnverBaig who heads the Foreign Affairs and Diplomatic Affairs Committee of PPP in Ms Benazir Bhutto’s tenure. “Pakistan did a lot for peace in Afghanistan but in return got nothing, at least Pakistani negotiators could have got something on Kashmir or anything regarding border disputes with India but in the end, there was nothing”, Baig lamented in an exclusive chat.

Former Senator claimed that relations between Pakistan and the United States are at the lowest level despite great efforts in Afghanistan and not only Foreign Office but also the top diplomats are responsible for that. “I was going through a few newsletters of the Pakistan Embassy in Washington D.C where it was mentioned that Pakistan and the United States enjoy great relations, for God sake, what kind of great relations two countries enjoy, he asked. “Your civilian and military aid is suspended, there is no sale of arms to Pakistan, you are placed in CPC countries and watch list for religious freedom, security cooperation and training of Pakistani soldiers in America is suspended while there is no US Ambassador in Islamabad for the last four months”. Senator EnverBaig was also of the view that Pakistan also failed on the Kashmir issue. “I have not seen any single statement of the State Department on the situation of Kashmir, what kind of diplomacy is going on in Washington, ” he posed a question. “To be honest, I think our Ambassador and top diplomats in the United States are just having a good time in their offices and at night attending parties, there is nothing going on for the country, they are busy settling their children and relatives”.

“Before sending any diplomat to the most important station like Washington our diplomats and even military attaches should be trained regarding the social fabric of these stations, I can bet they can not even understand the slang language”. “Military Attaches should be upgraded from Brigadier level to Major General and General should be six feet tall, with fair complexion who can speak English fluently so he could make some good expressions when he enters the Pentagon for meetings’ ‘. “When you send someone to Washington D.C like me who is short, can’t understand slang and don’t have any good personality, they (Pentagon) would not take you seriously and trust me it’s true”.

He further said that the Ambassador for Washington D.C should be appointed on the basis of merit as every single career diplomat wanted his or her appointment in Washington before the end of his tenure that is the reason for failed diplomacy. He also suggested that Pakistan should send Washington D.C any political person like Sherry Rehman or Hussain Haqqani who can get social with the Congressmen, Senators, State Department and White House, not the one like who is shy to social and have no sense to host social gatherings.

EnverBaig comments were no surprise to this scribe as during the past few years many top Pakistani diplomats preferred to get settled in the United States while dozens of children of different diplomats never went back home.

As the new administration is sworn in on 20th December, this is the time to change the strategy and prepare Pakistani diplomats to launch campaigns in an aggressive manner. They need to get activated and gel in with the new setup as President-elect Joe Biden already expressed his desire to not pull back American forces from Afghanistan. Pakistan also recently hired a lobbying firm and media consultancy agency on extremely high budgets but that experience also miserably failed. Pakistani diplomats also look helpless to float their agenda in American “Think Tanks”. They have no participation and do not have the ability to reach out to them to make them understand the challenges being faced by Pakistan both at the national and international level. It is the right time to bring the kind of diplomats who have broader vision and have experience with the political culture to connect with the politicians in the United States as in the past, such kind of experience always prove successful.


Jahanzaib Ali is a journalist, author, based in Washington D.C. He has been working in the field for 15 years and now focusing on Foreign Policy.


Trump Personifies America

By M Ziauddin

January 09, 2021

Whatever it was — a ‘temporary’ siege of the US Capitol by pro-Trump rioters — it shook the world to its hinges, especially the liberal democracies world over. It is, of course, up to US lawmakers to decide whether or not President Trump tried an illegitimate attempt at power grab. Or was it an attempted coup? An insurrection, maybe? Or a mere act of sedition?

The President caused a ‘temporary’ interruption of the election process — the final counting of electoral votes by both the House and the Senate — that did finally certify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden in the November 2020 election and Trump’s removal.

But what happened, no matter even if it was a temporary aberration, was waiting to happen for a long time because the US, since WWII, has been breaking all the democratic rules it had itself framed for the so-called Free World, which it had led like a hegemon.

The US often blatantly operated outside the rules making frequent military interventions with or without UN approval; and from 1947 to 1989, when the US was supposedly building up the liberal international order, it attempted regime change around the world 72 times. It did the same in the economic realm as well, engaging in protectionism as it railed against modest measures adopted by other countries. It promoted and supported military regimes in developing countries like Pakistan and Egypt and backed and militarily protected oppressive monarchies mostly in the oil-rich Middle East.

The US has entered all its major military engagements since 1945 — in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq — with great enthusiasm and bipartisan support. And then, as the war developed, domestic support for it began to come apart. Soon, everyone was searching for an exit strategy.

Still, in 2019, US troops are still on the banks of the Rhine, are still safeguarding Seoul, and are still in Okinawa.

Perhaps they are likely to remain in Afghanistan for many years to come because while for the last 20 years, the US military fought against insurgencies and guerrillas in failed states, it has, however, no clue why its expensive machinery has failed against these underequipped, cash-strapped enemies.

As China challenges America, the latter’s pre-conceived ideas about the former’s actions and intentions seem to be leading Washington into a deadly trap first identified by the ancient Greek historian, Thucydides. As he explained, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” The past 500 years have seen 16 cases in which a rising power threatened to displace a ruling one — 12 of these ended in war.

According to Fareed Zakaria (‘The New China Scare’), the Trump administration’s approach to China ran along two distinct and contradictory tracks, at once eschewing interdependence and embracing it. On trade, Washington’s aim is, broadly speaking, integrationist: to get China to buy more from the US, invest more in it, and allow Americans to sell and invest more in China. If successful, this effort would create more interdependence between the two. “There is also human interdependence — hundreds of thousands of Chinese students who study in the US, along with the almost five million US citizens and residents of Chinese descent. The US has benefited greatly from being the place where the brightest minds gather to do the most cutting-edge research and apply it to commercial ends. If the US barred its doors to such talent because it came with the wrong passport, it would quickly lose its privileged place in the world of technology and innovation.” However, “in matters of technology the Trump administration’s approach is decidedly dis-integrationist. The strategy here is to sever ties with China and force the rest of the world to do the same. The Trump administration’s global campaign against Huawei has followed this logic,” where it asked 61 countries to ban the company. So far, only three have acceded, all close US allies.


Assault On Democracy With A Capital D

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

January 09, 2021

In Lev Grossman's The Magicians trilogy, which was subsequently made into a TV series, all magic flows from a wellspring in an imaginary world called Fillory, which is a rip-off of CS Lewis' Narnia. Now the question is where is the wellspring of democracy and liberty located? You may get many answers. Europe, particularly France, whence came the French Revolution. The UK, the birthplace of the Magna Carta. Ancient Greece and Rome. Somewhere in the East. But they are all moments in the history of the evolution of democracy. If the wellspring is a movable object which relocates itself subject to its convenience, then you will most likely agree that it is currently located in the United States. The world's strongest democracy. And where in the US? In the US Capitol, the world's most powerful elected parliament. And this wellspring just came under attack.

On January 6, when the US Congress met in the building to ceremonially count and approve the Electoral College votes in a race already won by Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris on November 3, it was plain that it would not be business as usual. Remember, given the long transition process in the US, the January 6 session to count the electoral votes is just a matter of formality. But this once it was not. Trump supporters were already heavily leaning on the congressmen and even the Vice-President to disregard the votes cast by millions and select a slate of electoral delegates who would only vote for Trump. Funny, right? But at least in theory, it is doable. Not in practice though. So, when court after court and institution after institution refused to engage in this hair-brained scheme of overturning a presidential election, this session being the last milestone before a President Biden takes oath, was the Trump-world's last hope. First, we learned that a number of pro-Trump House members were planning to object to the vote count. Then we learned that a gang of a dozen US senators led by Republicans Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz was going to chip in. This ensured that for two hours the vote count would stop and both chambers would have to go into a two-hour-long debate session. Outside, Trump supporters were to gather in protest. As the date came closer, reports started emerging that the members of the Proud Boys extremist gang were planning to attend the protests incognito, ostensibly with a desire to inflict damage. As the day progressed and the session began it was getting clearer that it was far from a disjointed, uncoordinated effort.

The said group of lawmakers objects to the vote count triggering a two-hour debate. As the debate goes on protesters armed to the teeth storm the building, seize control of the electoral certificates or destroy them and then get away. Sounds like a perfect plan, right? Hardly. First, it meant the use of violence. Two, Trump's Vice-President, the Vice President-elect, congressional leaders, and a number of notables were present inside at the time of the attack. Which meant the risk of not just losing lives but the lives of people who are either a part of the administration or related to a member of the administration. Three, in this mayhem, if the real purpose was to either steal the physical votes or occupy the floor of the house so that the Congress could not get time to reconvene, it obviously failed. Even in the pandemonium, the office bearers involved ensured that the electoral votes and the dignitaries remained safe. What is more pitiable than a coup? A failed coup. Consequently, the entire world saw with shock and awe as this spectacle unfolded on live television. After facing off this unprecedented assault on democracy, the US congress admirably reconvened and fulfilled its obligation. And thus, failed a pitiful coup after causing a shooting pain across the entire democratic world. Five are reported dead at the time of filing and many are badly injured. They still have to take inventory of the damage done to the building during the vandalism.

But apart from the immediate details of this attack, there are broader points that need to be made here. The question, for instance, on my mind at the time was: how did we end up here? You know there is an easy way out. We can all believe that this tragedy was an invention of one man. Trump's opportunist role here cannot be underestimated. The US President who promised to end the American carnage at the time of his inauguration brought this bloodthirsty carnival to the US Capitol. That part is known. The speculation about foreign hostile actors especially with the intent to harm the democratic project around the world is not misplaced either. The South Asian community was not chuffed at the sight of Modi bhakts joining the raid with Indian and saffron flags either. But a lot more goes into the making of a sausage.

If you are looking for responsibility the first stop is the right-wing media including Fox. Remember Trump did not invent this madness he just repurposed it to get what he wanted. And when I say the right-wing media there is no shadow of doubt in my mind that the left-leaning publications also played a role in creating this polarisation. But the problem is bigger. The gradual demise of professional journalism, the shuttering of countless professional media outlets ensure that only activism driven media is left in the field. And we have seen that these media outlets do not just create their confirmation bias-based bubbles, they can create their own alternative realities.

Speaking of the elements that are increasingly shaping our view of the world you cannot fail to notice the role of social media. Technology firms mercifully if belatedly started waking up as this tragic circus went on. First, Twitter froze Trump's account for 12 hours. Then Facebook realised its responsibility. And gradually, if painfully, one by one, they all started doing it. But here is the rub. The accounts belonging to the likes of Bannon and Gorka are free to spew venom. And whenever these companies try to take action these hate pundits invoke the First Amendment. Given how much the tech giants have benefited from various governments and are now loaded, they must find a solution to this problem soon. Silently on the same night, Elon Musk became the world's richest man. When you prosper you are honour-bound to ensure you do not contribute to people's misery. And their influence is only bound to grow.

The damage done to the democratic project will need a long hard look. But for now, I am grateful that because of the leadership of many principled leaders, democracy has won another chance to right what's wrong.



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