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Pakistan Press ( 13 Jan 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Hazara Constraints, Anti-Rape Ordinance and Balochistan Killings: New Age Islam's Selection, 13 January 2021

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

13 January 2021

• Hazara Constraints

By Farhan Anwar

• The Anti-Rape Ordinance

By Shaikh Abdul Rasheed

• Balochistan Killings And Regional Peace

By Sikandar Noorani

• Incompetence Runs Amuck: Failure To Ask What Next

By Harlan Ullman

• The American Cause

By Syed Wajahat Ali

• ‘Ugly Americans’

By Mahir Ali

• Balancing The Dragon In The Middle East

By Arhama Siddiqa


Hazara Constraints

By Farhan Anwar

January 13, 2021

THE political economy of a space is shaped by the interrelationships of its inhabiting stakeholders cutting across social, economic, cultural and religious-ethnic profiles. The nature of these relationships can determine the constructs of community bonding or divisions.

I had the opportunity of working with the Hazara community, over a period of six months in Karachi’s Hazara Goth a couple of years ago, when I supervised an academic research project in ‘community development’ in which my students from Habib University were participating. We wanted to understand the livability challenges of the community — how they prioritised their challenges, engaged with service providers and developed coping mechanisms. It was a learning experience in trying to unravel the multiple layers of inequity that are a defining feature of Karachi’s urban fabric with grave implications for increased poverty and social exclusion. With the Hazara community already in the low-income bracket, their vulnerability to ‘social injustice’ is compounded by their religious and ethnic identity.

Nestled between Safari Park and Aladdin Park, the community started settling in Hazara Goth to escape sectarian killings in Quetta around 20 to 25 years back — a process that continues to this day. They are concentrated in Hussain Hazara Goth and Mughal Hazara Goth. These goths were initially illegal settlements and were regularised in 1987 by the KMC. They now share the space with communities of other ethnicities including Sindhi, Seraiki and Pakhtun.

The civic problems — running sewage restricting the main access to the road, uncollected garbage, substandard health and educational facilities — here are not unique to the Hazaras. However, unique to them are the restraints that bind them because of their religious identity, severely limiting their capacity to improve livability standards. The Hazara community has a disconnect with the other ethnic communities of Hazara Goth; resultantly, they find themselves outside the loop of any collective community effort to engage with service providers for resolving area issues.

This communal isolation, aggravated by their lack of political clout, results in their ‘parcels’ of land being neglected even more. Effective mobilisation is also constrained by their relative inability to blend and connect with those outside their ‘Hazara’ identity — both within and outside the confines of Hazara Goth.

The government-run health and educational facilities are ill-served as qualified staff and private practitioners outside the Hazara ethnicity are reluctant to practise in an area identified as a security hotspot. Women have shared disturbing incidents of severe pregnancy-related emergencies, with lives lost due to lack of adequate healthcare and an inability to mobilise outside the community space. Worst affected are the older residents who cannot speak any other language but their local Dari. Having found ‘refuge’ to escape sectarian oppression, they are afraid and reluctant to step outside the community confines.

A lot of time was spent in engaging with the area’s youth and women. The youth are disillusioned about their future prospects as they feel trapped and insecure and unable to uplift themselves academically or acquire much-needed livelihood skill sets. Hazara community members are often even denied CNIC registration if they are recent settlers and are not able to provide required information going beyond a certain date. As such, for a large proportion of the community, opportunities to find gainful employment or set up private businesses are seriously compromised. Consequently, the community draws inwards.

Survey findings revealed that the majority looked to their religious leaders for solutions to day-to-day challenges, with the area imambargah becoming the centre of dispute resolution and problem solving. None of the respondents indicated any hope of the government coming to their rescue. The levels of isolation are alarming, with 25 per cent of respondents saying that they prefer to remain indoors primarily because of safety and security concerns. Almost 40pc said they visited families outside their home, while only 10pc indicated having visited places like city malls and markets.

We often sat with the community ­members, listening to their hopes and desires, sorrows and despair. As they related stories and sung songs, and as we ate their home-cooked food, it was lamented that the community’s strife in Karachi is reflective of a much larger, debilitating causal factor of urban disenfranchisement. Social and political exclusion based on religious and ethnic identity is complicating any attempt to make Karachi an inclusive, integrated city. This is sad and unfortunate. Other cities blessed with diverse languages, cultures, ethnicities and religious identities celebrate this mixture and leverage it to make their spaces more inclusive, resilient and exciting.


Farhan Anwar is an urban planner and CEO, Urban Collaborative.


The Anti-Rape Ordinance

By Shaikh Abdul Rasheed

January 13, 2021

On December 15 last year (2019), President Arif Alvi approved the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020 which is said to be in line with the constitution of Pakistan and also international treaties.

The government says that the legislation will ensure expeditious trial of cases of rape against women and children and will also sanction punishment of chemical castration of convicted rapists.

Chemical castration requires the use of a drug to diminish testosterone levels and will be applied as a measure to reduce recidivism among sex offenders. It is believed that it would help decrease the risk of convicted sex offenders repeating their crimes. The castration procedure has been used in many of the American states to reduce deviant sexual drive, fantasies and behaviour. First of all, California in 1996 and then other states including Florida, Louisiana and Wisconsin made castration a provision in their laws. In 2019, Alabama included a chemical castration measure into law. Besides, Indonesia in 2016 amending its law allowed chemical castration.

It should be learnt that punishment of chemical castration to repeat rapists does not solve the issue of rapes permanently. The castration procedure does not cause sterilization and is a very temporary thing. When the chemical castration drug is discontinued, a man becomes normal after between three and five years. However, punishment of 10 to 25 years in prison for rape, and death penalty or life imprisonment for gang-rape awarded under Pakistan panel code is much better if effectively implemented.

Under the ordinance, special courts are to be established all over the country for speedy trials of accused sexual assailants. The courts will finalise rape cases within four months. Incidents of rape of children and women are alarmingly on the rise in the country. Official statistics drawn from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, police, law and justice commission of Pakistan etc show that at least 11 rape cases are reported daily across the country. Of the overall 22,037 rape cases reported since 2015, only 77 offenders (0.3 percent) have yet been convicted and a huge number of 4,060 cases are still pending in the courts. The situation necessitates the establishment of a large network of special courts with a large number of judges to deal with newly reported and pending rape and sexual assault cases within a time-frame set by the law.

Moreover, Anti-Rape Crisis Cells are also to be set-up which would be empowered to conduct medico-legal examinations within six hours of the incident. The fact is that medical evidence occupies a pivotal role in making prosecution successful in cases of rape and other bodily attacks. A medical examination determines the very nature and extent of injuries and criminal charges in cases of numerous physical attacks rely on it.

Unfortunately, Pakistan lacks an efficient and dependable medico-legal system. Except for a few specialized doctors in government hospitals in urban areas, mostly unqualified doctors are assigned the task of performing medical examinations – and they end up using inadequate methodologies and technologies. These doctors have very little comprehension of the evidentiary scope and judicial role of medical examinations in cases of rape and sexual attacks. As a result, unelaborated and unexplained medical reports are submitted in courts, which yield no fruitful results.

Moreover, there is a lack of female medico-legal doctors in government hospitals which leads to a number of barriers for women survivors/victims of rape and sexual attacks. All these factors have a disturbing effect on survivors or victims who have been unable to secure convictions in their cases in the courts. To get productive medical reports within a set time frame, there is a desperate need to provide medico-legal doctors with specialized training in medical statutes and forensic sciences.

According to the ordinance, any police and government authorities found negligent in investigating rape cases would be awarded imprisonment for three years along with fines. Moreover, any police and government functionaries found providing inaccurate information would also be punished.

The fact is that police performance in investigating reported rape cases has not been satisfactory. Because of lack of training, police personnel have been unprofessional with their investigative techniques. They have mainly failed to conduct all-inclusive and well-timed investigations. Moreover, in most cases the accused have even managed to bribe the police to tamper with witness accounts etc. All these inconsistencies weaken cases and create complications for the courts.

It is commendable that the ordinance bars revealing the identification of rape victims and declares it a punishable offence. In this regard, the media, police, forensic officials and social media users should show some empathy in protecting the identity of rape victims. It has been commonly observed that victims of sexual crimes are discriminated against and targeted by society after their identification is disclosed. There is an utmost need to respect rape survivors/victims’ right to privacy and a dignity of life. They must not spend the rest of their lives under such social stigma.


Balochistan Killings And Regional Peace

By Sikandar Noorani

January 13, 2021

Frequent terrorist attacks in Balochistan need to be deliberately deciphered in true context of prevailing complex regional scenario. Seven FC soldiers were martyred in a fire raid in Harnai area on 26 December. Eight days after this incident, terrorists brutally murdered eleven coal miners in Machh.

It is no coincidence that all victim miners belonged to Shia Hazara community which already has a tragic past on account of target killings and terrorism. As the responsibility of miners’ killings was claimed by Daesh, it became evident that terrorists intended to fuel the sectarian fire. It is worth noting that an attack on border post in Mohmand from Afghan territory also resulted in martyrdom of a Pak soldier on 6 January. Some intriguing points need to be carefully analysed prior to adopting requisite remedial measures. This seems more than evident that extra-ordinary thrust is being directed towards Balochistan by the hardcore terrorist outfits. Two pronged strategy of these terrorist groups revolve around contentious ethnic and sectarian slogans.

These terrorist groups involved in heinous crimes are operating in remote areas of Balochistan on the behest of Indian agencies. Long unguarded border with Afghanistan and an inefficient policing system are the two major weaknesses being exploited frequently by the foreign sponsored miscreants. There can be no second opinion on this conclusion that Balochistan is primarily in Indian cross-hairs due to the CPEC. Old tested weapons of ethnic hatred and sectarian violence are being applied with full force to inflict a wider security crisis on Pakistan.

Balochistan is being projected as a hub of insurgency, militancy, ethnic discord and sectarian violence by all those players who believe in containment of China in entire region. Few sensitive developments on regional chessboard are too obvious to ignore. Quad forum was activated by US with a clear anti-China focus in past few months. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo uttered clearly in Tokyo that Quad forum would strive to counter and contain the Chinese ingress in the region. Subsequently, joint naval exercises of Quad countries hosted by India further confirmed the contours of a larger conflict shaping up among global players. India has many understandable reasons to be in front row of US led anti-China campaign. Months long military stand-off at LAC could be easily resolved at initial stages following the past precedence but a meaningful escalation was preferred over settlement by New Delhi.  Since reservations on CPEC and BRI were never kept hidden by India therefore increasing aggression at LoC, rising frequency of terrorism in Balochistan and attacks by hard-core terrorist groups from Afghan soil pose extra-ordinary challenges to Pakistan.

Despite many good signs, Afghan peace process has not yet accelerated towards desired destination. Meaningful surge in violence during past six months has largely compromised the spirit of Taliban-US peace deal signed in last February. While striving hard for restoration of Afghan peace, Pakistan is facing multi-dimensional security problems having deep roots across the Durand line. Certain elements in Kabul government are in habit of unnecessarily pointing fingers on Pakistan for their self-created crises.

An introspection is much needed in Kabul to evaluate the peace balance sheet in true relevance to regional security matrix. Why Kabul government has failed in eliminating the terrorist groups involved in high profile attacks in Pakistan? Though bi-lateral trade should be enhanced but Illegal border crossing from Afghanistan needs to be strictly curbed. Apparently, heart wrenching incident of coal miners’ killing in Machh has significant links with unrest in Afghanistan. Reportedly, eight out of eleven killed miners are Afghan nationals who used to earn livelihood through hard labor in coal mines.

Daesh, which claimed the responsibility of Machh killings, is vigorously active in Afghanistan where it launched some gruesome terrorist attacks during past few months. Unfortunately, in Pakistan attention was diverted to protest sit-in and unexpected delay in PM’s symbolic condolence visit to mourning Hazaras. Much complex dimensions of rising terrorism in Balochistan are yet to be evaluated. Government should be quick in drawing pertinent lessons from recent situation. Delay in symbolic condolence visit and undesired sectarian shading unwittingly served the purpose of enemies. Few days back, entire Indian media attempted to malign Pakistan by creating hype on mysterious death of a self-exiled female Baloch activist in Canada. Her name was also blinking in EU Disinfo Lab report among those characters who were part of Indian fake news network poised against Pakistan. Terrorism, propaganda campaigns, ethnic violence and sectarian division are all aimed to destabilize the Pakistan. Decision making quarters should lay deeper focus on    foreign hands involved in spoiling the internal affairs. How do Afghan nationals manage to live illegally on Pak soil? Why do certain organizations take control of protest after such heart wrenching terrorist attacks and add sectarian colors to collective tragedies? It must be understood that terrorism in Pakistan has been significantly reduced but its cross-border roots still exist.

 There should not be any discrimination or differentiation among the victims of terrorism on the basis of ethnicity, sect and religion. Terrorist actually target Pakistan once they kill Hazara coal miners in Machh, FC personnel in Harnai and   army soldiers at LoC as well as Afghan border. Routine blame game and verbosity must be avoided by political leadership at the occasions of collective mourning. Major onus of keeping the matters smooth and calm lies on the shoulders of ruling regime. Recent terrorism wave in Pakistan and Afghanistan must not be misinterpreted by viewing it with a smaller lens. A joint Pak-Afghan counter strategy seems only  viable option against the hardcore terrorist outfits and Indian backed proxies presently working freely from Afghan soil.


Incompetence Runs Amuck: Failure To Ask What Next

By Harlan Ullman

January 13, 2021

Is the U.S. government capable of exercising any degree of competence? Or has incompetence become the new standard?  In terms of going to war, the last war America decisively won was World War II.  Vietnam, Afghanistan and the second Iraq War were varying degrees of disaster.  The incompetence in those wars was not asking the what next question?

In Vietnam, the body count and killing our way to victory became the de facto strategy embodied by “search and destroy.”  The Afghan assault was to bring Osama bin Laden to justice and mutated into nation building.  Similarly, after the Iraqi Army was smashed in 2003, the Bush ’43 administration never asked or answered what next?

This failure has spread well beyond the use of military force.  In the fight to contain the Corona/Covid-19 pandemic, the private sector was brilliant in producing vaccines with breathtaking speed.  But the Federal government and Operation Warp Speed based its strategy on manufacturing and distributing hundreds of millions of vaccine doses.

Its incompetence was failing to understand that the aim should have been to inoculate about 300 million Americans by delivering shots into arms.  Yet, production and distribution and not inoculation of vaccines took precedence.  That was an extraordinary failure.

The January 6th riots and the takeover of the nation’s Capitol seemed inconceivable.  After the attacks of September 11th, protection of the nation became a top priority on which hundreds of billions of dollars were spent.  And still, with all the advance warning about protestors and insurrectionists incited by Donald Trump, that the Capitol was undefended  and unprepared is a colossal and singular act of incompetence.

Is the United States any better prepared for January 20th and the inauguration than for January 6th when calls for a “million man MAGA march” are circulating on the Internet and social media?  We will see.  One guess is that while the Mall and Capitol Hill may be well guarded, what if rioters choose a location such as the White House, Treasury, FBI or other government building to assault?  Is the U.S. prepared?

The more important question however is “what next” for Donald Trump?   The 25th Amendment will not be invoked; Trump will most likely not be censured.  And he surely will not resign.  The House will impeach and wisely should defer sending charges to the Senate making the threat of a trial into a Damolcean sword hanging over Trump’s head as leverage.

Then, what must be done after January 20th when Trump leaves office?  Current polls show Trump still has an approval rating of about 43%,  a figure that has been more or less constant over the past four years.  Beyond that,  about 75% of Republicans have declared greater loyalty to Trump than to the Party.

General Colin Powell believes that once Trump is gone, his relevance will decline.  One hopes that the general is correct.  However, ironically, it would not be surprising to see a boost in support of Trump by his base as the House moves to impeach.

Make no mistake:  the Constitution is at grave risk.  As this column has argued, a system of checks and balances with a highly divided government and  public can only work  if civility and compromise are in evidence.  Both are not. And both parties seem intractably divided.

The GOP is the TOP—Trump’s Own Party. Democrats are split with a hard left-wing progressive element and others demanding to bring Trump to justice in which impeachment may not be a sufficient punishment.  While mainstream Senate Republicans are furious with Trump’s conduct, no clear consensus has developed on what actions are appropriate and which are not.

First, preventing Trump from holding any future Federal office is an imperative.  But a trial in the Senate now would prevent other business such as Covid relief and critical legislation from being considered.  As suggested, using impeachment as a lever might be a better outcome.

Second, what Donald Trump plans once he leaves office cannot be dismissed.  Banned from Twitter does not mean Trump cannot create his own Internet platform or acquire a media company from which he can rally his base, send his message and claim a landslide electoral victory of which he was cheated.

Third, the vulnerability of government to physical disruption must be addressed.  This column has argued that a new MAD—Massive Attacks of Disruption—must become central to our national security strategy to contain, prevent and deter it.  January 6th could not have more strongly made this case.

But will competence and common sense win out? If history is prologue, the nation is in trouble.


The American Cause

By Syed Wajahat Ali

January 13, 2021

What happened at Capitol hill was not unexpected.The American republicanism clamping downunderthe burdenof its ethnographic diversity?The preposition is farfetched keeping in view the history ofsystemic resilience of this nation to preserve democracy passing through the fourth century of political ups and downs-a journey of immense polarization and bloodshed. Neither the crises nor the events are new to those who keep an eye over the complex variables involved in the assimilation process of human identitiesstretchedin a consumingcorporateinequality-The US

Everybody condemned it. In the wake of an assault on the Congress Wednesday, 11 government officials resigned including Betsy DeVos: Education secretary, Elaine Chao: Transportation secretary, Tyler Goodspeed: Acting chairman, White House Council of Economic Advisers,and John Costello: Deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and security, Commerce Department.The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for the impeachment of Mr. Trump against the charge of “incitement of insurrection”, instigating a riot in Congress in which five people died.

The systemic resilienceresponded well. However,the inadequacies in the political discourse allowing space for racialpopulism to steer the greatest military might of the world need a fair analysis, confession, and fixation. It is important to securetheprospects of the millions of detached migrants contributing to the American Big; being declared as “The Strength of Diversity” by Hillary Clinton. “I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners –I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles, and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible “stated by Mr. Barak Obama during his speech on race, March 18, 2018.

Moreover, it is also important to safeguard the universalityof a greater cause best explained by Thomas Paine (1737-1809) in his pamphlet “The Common Sense” during the struggle for independence. He stated “The cause of America is, in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which, their affections are interested. The laying a country desolate with fire and sword, declaring war against the natural rights of all mankind, and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, is the concern of every man to whom nature hath given the power of feeling”.

The American cause extracts legacy from John Locke’s theory of natural rights[1]; the father of classic Liberalism, incorporated by Thomas Jefferson (1743 –1826)in the preamble of the declaration of independence adopted on the 4th of July 1776 as, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

The second phase of the struggle for this cause-The American Civil War consumed “750,000 human lives perished on the battlefield and from disease; a tragedy of disastrous proportions; termed as convulsiveness” by Walt Whitman, 1882, the American poet of liberty, an empathetic observer of that time in his book Specimen Days.The consequent politicaltransformationimpacted the world’s constitutional structures governing states and organizations. The United States championed the race of free will, democracy, and human rights for decades.

However, a substantial projection of the highest ingenuity to thiscausecan only sustain the legacy. The US foreign and domestic policy contradictions, expanded military outreach, decreasing social stratification, and above all, trading and fueling world conflictsconsolidated a fear-driven identity populism by making social well-being more competitive. A report from the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University estimated a 6.4 Trillion Dollars burden on tax-payers due to wars in the Middle East and Asia. That total is $2 trillion more than the entire federal government spending during the last completed fiscal year.

The contradiction between the notion of political correctness and the growing income gradient stimulated “Trump Populism” to make America a “white utopia” again. The successful dispensation of high ideals of inclusiveness, equality, and globalism needs delicate handling of human instincts, demanding employment, accessible health, and racial stratification. The unfinished business of a greater American nationalism needs a scientific re-orientation of national resource allocation policy.

The rise of Trump is not simply the retreat of considerable Americans from the lofty ideals of their forefathers, rather it is an argumentatively exploited insecurity, multiplied by the influx of migrants from all over the world. The pluralism envisaged in Civil Rights Acts 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 is crumbling. The polity split is dreadful again. The polarization is not about the execution policy, rather it is about the existential concepts; what is the scope of the confederacy? Who is an American?

The greatest challenge for the president-elect Mr. Joe Biden is how to contract the corroborating spaceused for authoritarianism? The highest rhetoric demands the highest action. The Americans must know that democracy is not so durable to throw anything towards it.The most challenging task is to fix the constraints compelling a large chunk of the American polity to find peace in the final argument ofidentity, an integral instinct of human conscious, which if not checked timely, can turn into an identity crisis, having no logical remedy but a catastrophic convulsiveness of the whole national fabric.


‘Ugly Americans’

By Mahir Ali

January 13, 2021

THE Ugly American is the title of a 1958 novel by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick. It is a lightly fictionalised account of US diplomatic failures in Southeast Asia that became a runaway bestseller and was distributed among his colleagues by a young senator by the name of John F. Kennedy.

The title refers not to the diplomatic corps but to an engineer who lived among the locals and understood why they were attracted to communism; it nonetheless rapidly became a byword for American arrogance abroad. The novel was set in a country called Sarkhan, which was assumed to represent Vietnam — well before it turned into a full-fledged disaster, partly thanks to precisely the kinds of bluster and betrayals portrayed in the book.

It is claimed that The Ugly American played a key role in persuading Kennedy, as president, to launch the Peace Corps. The book was turned into a worthy (but unsuccessful) film starring Marlon Brando the same year that JFK was assassinated. Within days of the murder, Malcolm X, defying an order from the Nation of Islam hierarchy to make no comment about the tragedy, called it out as an instance of “chickens coming home to roost”.

I was reminded of that remark when I came across one of the jokes doing the rounds in the wake of last week’s antics at the Capitol in Washington, which said that in view of current travel restrictions, the US had been obliged to attempt a domestic coup.

And yes, it’s not hard to imagine the glee among many of those who have been loudly decrying the invasion of the hallowed chambers of Congress in Washington had similar events unfolded, for instance, at the Venezuelan national assembly in Caracas.

There have, inevitably, been plenty of wisecracks since last Wednesday’s events, but they have been drowned out by the relentless self-righteous hyperbole about coups, insurrections, sedition and domestic terrorism, capped by the disclaimer that “this is not us”.

Whether or not any of the other descriptions hold much water, ‘this’ is undoubtedly a large part of who you are. Sure, the mob inspired, instigated and unleashed by Donald Trumpelstiltskin was seeking to thwart democratic processes. But since when has it been un-American to do so?

The long list of postwar US interventions, military or otherwise, in every part of the world suggests that murder and mayhem in the interests of subverting the popular will is as American as apple pie. But there’s no dearth of domestic precedents either, even though they have invariably taken different shape.

The 19th-century American Civil War and its aftermath have repeatedly been cited in comments over the past week, and not without cause. The sight of a Confederate flag fluttering for the first time in the Capitol justifiably stirred up some angst. (Incidentally, there were also Israeli and Indian flags — at least one each — seen among the congregation, while one of the Capitol invaders was dressed in a hoodie that bore the legend ‘Camp Auschwitz’.)

But it’s hardy a secret that the Confederate cause has remained a part of American politics ever since a very different Republican Party’s attempted Reconstruction shuddered to a halt a dozen or so years after the Union triumphed in the Civil War. Liberated slaves and their descendants were effectively excluded from the electoral process — and frequently from civic life — for the next 100 years.

There was a similar, albeit more subtle, backlash after the civil rights movement scored some legislative successes in the 1960s. Particularly in the southern states, varying levels of voter suppression have been the norm in recent decades. Which makes it all the more remarkable that Georgia has been wrested from the Republican grasp in this month’s senatorial run-offs, albeit by narrow margins.

The two new seats mean the Senate will be equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, with incoming vice president Kamala Harris’s casting vote giving the Biden administration a potential majority. Hurrah? It has been suggested Joe Biden would rather have done without the extra pressure to act on any number of fronts that a congressional majority brings.

The early days after next Wednesday’s inauguration may be overshadowed by Trump’s trial in the Senate, once his second impeachment — a proud record, no doubt — proceeds through the house. Beyond that there’s a period as grey as Biden’s hair, and although the incoming administration will likely be far less incompetent than the outgoing one, it would be too optimistic to expect the healing touch that America requires, let alone the kind of salvation that would repair the damage that Trump has thrived on, wreaked almost without a break since the Reagan era.

The dystopian nightmare may noticeably recede with Tantrump’s exit, but it’s unlikely to disappear. Not least because, to paraphrase the sudden social media pariah, there are very ugly Americans on both sides of the overwrought (and overestimated) partisan divide.


Balancing the Dragon In The Middle East

By Arhama Siddiqa

January 12, 2021

In the past few years, particularly after hacks on official Qatari websites in 2017 had triggered the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) worst crisis (Qatar-Gulf crunch), countries in the Middle East region, particularly the Gulf, have made extensive efforts to assemble and establish their cyber capacities. Guaranteed and continuous cyber cooperation is now deemed a requisite to effectively counter and monitor threats such as those pertaining to hybrid warfare, supervising terrorist movements and monitoring financial activities.

Today, no relationship is more consequential for the future of world politics as that between the United States and China. The pivot of the growing distrust between the two countries (which already encompasses trade and technology) is now shifting towards the cyber realm. In 2018, the US National Security Strategy (NSS) labelled China as antipathetic; and in 2020, the Trump administration revealed the Clean Network Initiative (CNI), a digitated trade zone which aims to protect data privacy and human rights by introducing its own Global Data Security Initiative. Unsurprisingly, it dismisses and discounts all Chinese companies. This also adds fuel to the concept of ‘splinternet’ where now the internet — once regarded as a universal common joint — is now becoming, amidst all the intricacies in global politics, a labyrinth of conflicting rules. It is in this maze that both the US and China are hastening to draw in as many states as they can.

Presently, the GCC countries have developed a diverse portfolio of technology partners which include both Chinese and Western firms. Such balancing acts can be seen throughout the GCC energy and transport sectors as well. Chinese companies include Huawei, which is involved in the establishment and growth of 5G networks by both Etisalat and DU in the Emirates. Ericsson, IBM, Microsoft and Nokia are some of the companies on the Western front where the digital infrastructure of the GCC is concerned.

Of course, as it stands, the CNI will leave the GCC states with no other alternative but to choose a side amidst the growing friction between the US and China. While the latter’s non-interference policy in regional affairs and internal conflicts is appealing, it should not be forgotten that the US has been and continues to be the main security guarantor for these states.

However, in light of his picks for the foreign and security policy posts, it seems that the incoming Biden administration will avoid turning China into an outright adversary while at the same time usher in GCC states under the cover of the CNI. This portends a dilemma for Washington, given that there are growing calls for ending US support to certain states over human rights concerns which will easily push these states towards China. Moreover, if GCC countries are not part of CNI, it would jeopardise the US ability to work with these states on key security matters.

For the GCC states, failing to abandon their partnerships with Chinese companies could limit their own security guarantees provided by the US which would make them more susceptible to growing outside threats given the heightened tensions in the region.

It should also not be forgotten that choosing the US could push China closer to Iran and especially when the two sides are said to be embarking on a $400 billion strategic partnership, though this is yet to be officially confirmed from Chinese officials. Time will tell what 2021 will herald in but without a doubt the Middle East will be the new battlefront for the eagle and the dragon.



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