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Pakistan Press ( 1 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Provocations in the Middle East, PDMs Activities and Pandemic: New Age Islam's Selection, 1 December 2020


By New Age Islam Edit Desk

1 December 2020



•  Provocations In The Middle East

By Abdul Sattar

• Lesser Beings

By Dr Niaz Murtaza

• Pandemic Politics

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

• Our Game Of Thrones: PDMs Activities

By Sabbah Uddin

• Truth Of The Matter

By Owen Bennett-Jones

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Provocations in the Middle East

By Abdul Sattar

December 1, 2020

The recent assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has sent tremors through the region. The scientist, considered the godfather of the Iranian nuclear programme, was killed in Tehran

Though Fakhrizadeh was not the first scientist to be eliminated in this way, he was definitely the most important figure among the Iranian scientific community. A decade earlier, a number of Iranian men of science allegedly affiliated with the country’s nuclear programme were attacked and exterminated. The string of assassinations was blamed on Israeli intelligence at that time and this killing has also created doubts about the hands of the Zionist state.

The assassination may have created a ripple of excitement in Tel Aviv but it has sparked a wave of concern across the Middle East. This is the second high-profile assassination, the elimination of General Qassem Soleimani being the first under the Trump administration. Given this second assassination was carried out days after a reported meeting between Saudi, Israeli and American officials, it has prompted many Iranians to point their fingers towards the axis. It may be mentioned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Natanyahu had talked about this Iranian scientist in 2018, urging his nation to remember this name.

The international community has adopted a criminal silence over the assassination, asking the victim to show restraint instead of condemning the incident. From the United Nations to the European Union, all international bodies are more interested in preventing Tehran from undertaking retaliatory actions than taking notice of this illegal assassination that is likely to strengthen the position of hardliners in the theocratic state and put the doves in a defensive position. If the international community had taken a principled and moral position over Soleimani's killing, another illegal murder would not have taken place. Despite the fact that the special rapporteur of the UN had declared the murder illegal in its report, no action was taken against the perpetrator. Such indifference on the part of the world may have encouraged rogue elements within the Zionist state to carry out such a blatant attack.

Many critics believe that the victory of Joe Biden and his plan to revive the Iranian nuclear deal has created consternation among those that want to destabilize the Middle East. Such elements are jittery now, trying to provoke Iran in a bid to derail efforts for the revival of the deal. It is believed that the incoming secretary of state Antony Blinken is also an ardent supporter of the deal. Such a scenario offers a bleak future for those who want to see the Middle East in perpetual turmoil, benefitting only a few corporations, war mongers, ultra conservatives and anti-peace elements; of course, such steps by a Biden administration augurs well for all those who are wary of the constant belligerence and the threat of war.

The region has already suffered a lot because of the machinations of the military industrial complex and Zionist lobbies. Proxies of Iran and Saudi Arabia added to the woes of the people in countries like Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq. More than 2.5 million are estimated to have perished following the illegal invasion of Iraq and the ensuing insurgencies and sectarian frenzy that gripped the country after the attack.

The effects of Iraq’s war did not remain confined to the invaded country but engulfed Syria and other parts of the region too, triggering a race of regional hegemony. This invasion in a way is also responsible for the destruction of Syria that lost more than 555,000 souls besides witnessing one of the biggest migration and displacement of the modern times, with around 11 million people living as internal or foreign refugees. The destruction has also caused over $200 billion loss to the hapless country.

Tehran and Riyadh are not only vying for influence in Iraq and Syria but their race for regional hegemony is also plaguing other parts of the world. In countries like Pakistan, their tussle is damaging the social fabric of society while Yemen and Lebanon are living in a constant fear of death and destruction because of this cold war between the Arabs and the Persians. This latest killing of the Iranian scientist is likely to heat up war fronts in Yemen and create more problems for the people of Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

Iran may not directly respond to these provocations but a meticulous use of proxies in the region cannot be ruled out. Tehran may not be in a position to directly hit Israel nor would it dare attack US troops in Iraq but it could imperil the interests of Saudi Arabia in the region.

Barring a few hardliners, most of Iranian leaders have demonstrated political sagacity while dealing with American and Israeli provocations. It is clear that elements in Israel and America want to lure Iran into taking some incendiary actions that might give them an excuse to launch their onslaught against the Islamic Republic. This was their aim when Soleimani was targeted but the theocratic state foiled their designs by staying calm and showing restraint. The Iranian nation patiently waited for Trump's drubbing, which has seriously disturbed pro-Israeli lobbies and hardliners in the US administration. This Trump defeat seems to have created a ray of hope. It may open the door of talks and negotiations that could help Iranian people get relief and succour from the international community.

The outgoing president of the ‘mighty state of America’ will leave no stone unturned in pushing the region towards a conflagration. He might come up with bizarre plans of targeting Iranian nuclear installations. Hardliners in Trump’s camp like Pompeo might suggest extreme steps to teach Iran a tough lesson but Iran will still have to demonstrate political prudence. Only pragmatism will help the Iranians defeat these machinations of such war-mongers. Any plan to pick a confrontation will not only create problems for the Iranian people but those of the whole region as well.

Iran, therefore, should assure the international community that it believes in diplomacy and peaceful means of solving problems. It should reign in its proxies, preventing them from taking any retaliatory actions because in international matters a spark could turn out to be extremely combustible. Even the slightest move to avenge the attack could provide an opportunity to Israel and its regional collaborators to exploit the situation

Tehran should put its case before the international audience, and highlight the plans of those who want to destabilize the region by carrying out provocative actions. It should come up with viable solutions for the conflicts in Yemen and Syria and make efforts to end the rifts that exist between the Shias and the Sunnis in Iraq.

There is no harm in offering an olive branch to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States as well. An offer of no war and a non-interference pact could go a long way in mitigating these apprehensions. If the regional states turn down such an offer, it would boost the Iranian position, exposing their anti-peace designs. Therefore, it is important that all peaceful efforts be made to stabilize a region that has witnessed nothing but chaos and instability for decades. Political wisdom is all that is required to achieve this.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/751663-provocations-in-the-middle-east

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Lesser Beings

By Dr Niaz Murtaza

01 Dec 2020

DESPITE huge progress since 1850, inequity due to exploitation and exclusion remains entrenched globally. The fruits of progress have accrued largely to a minority while the majority remains deprived. Inequity existed before capitalism too, but capitalism has entrenched it further. Today, inequity extends from the global to national, regional, community and finally household levels. Each higher level in this chain from the global to household pressurises levels below to exploit and exclude lesser beings under their control.

Exploitation and exclusion processes differ hugely. Under exploitation, pre-capitalist or capitalist hegemonic systems engage with labourers, farmers or petty producers in inequitable ties to capture the bulk of the returns from their work, while supporting them just enough to reproduce for future exploitation. Under exclusion, human groups either possess little of value or are dispossessed of their natural resources by hegemonic systems. The group is then left to fend for itself with little help from the system. Excluded groups often suffer more than exploited ones as they deal on their own with the global threats unleashed by the hegemonic system, eg, climate change and conflicts.

At the apex level in this interlinked system of inequity sits the global economic system run by the US. Value from developing states flows to the core Western states through trade, investment, capital and brain drain and even aid flow systems run by the latter. States producing higher-end goods for Western-controlled value chains, eg Korea and China, attain progress. But those producing lower-end goods remain stagnant. Others, such as in Africa, are largely excluded from global value chains but face conflict and shrinking resources due to the impact of global politics and economics.

States like Pakistan produce a few low-end goods for exploitative global value chains while large parts of their economy are irrelevant for and excluded from the global economy. Such states then have internal systems of exploitation and exclusion maintained by private elites and even the state. This in turn spawns violence as some exploited and excluded groups fight back. The most visible case is Balochistan whose natural resources are exploited by the Pakistani state while the majority of its people are excluded from the fruits of progress, resulting in decades of conflict. Less visible cases also exist involving other peripheral regions.

Progress requires new laws and strict implementation.

Where the exploitative arm of the state doesn’t reach, private entities fill the space. The exploitation of labourers, small farmers and petty producers and their frequent physical abuse in the agricultural, service and industrial sectors of Pakistan is well reported. Excluded groups exist nationally too, such as transgender persons who face stigma and resort to demeaning jobs to survive. Below these regional levels exist patterns of exploitation and exclusion at the local and community levels as people belonging to weaker castes, clans and faiths suffer. Finally, at the household level, women, persons with disabilities, elderly and children usually suffer exploitation, exclusion and physical abuse.

The inequities at these different levels may seem disconnected with each other. More careful analysis shows that inequities at the lowest levels are often part of unfair value chains that transmit the fruits of exploitation from the household all the way up to the global level. Although an increasing number of progressive groups are challenging inequities at each level from the global to household levels, there isn’t major progress in reducing inequities. Progress requires new laws at the global, national and regional levels and then strict implementation. Even where laws are formed, enfor­cement is usually weak.

So Pakistan is one of the few states to now legally recognise transpersons as a third gender, something not being done uniformly even in the US. Surprisingly for a conservative state like Pakistan, such recognition is based on self-identification rather than demeaning physical tests. This is in line with progressive scientific and legal evolution in advanced democracies where the key basis for identifying sex and race is increasingly becoming a person’s mental inclination rather than outdated notions of rigid biology. The law gives rights to trans-people related to non-bias, work, education, inheritance etc. But there are gaps too, eg, silence on the right to marriage and adopt kids. And enforcement remains poor.

Their status gives a sense of the suffering of numerous lesser beings globally. It is difficult to see major and quick progress for them under the current global system soon. Only a major change in the global economic and political paradigms can ensure quick and major progress for lesser beings globally.

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Dr Niaz Murtaza is a political economist and heads INSPIRING Pakistan, a progressive policy unit.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1593374/lesser-beings

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Pandemic Politics

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

December 1, 2020

Let me start by saying I am no public health policy expert and my musings are simply based on what I have observed as a layman. No reasonable person can actually believe the numbers that the Government has been putting out since the start of the Pandemic. When the Government wants to lower the numbers, it starts carrying out fewer tests and when it wants to increase them- as it does right now- it increases the numbers of tests. Pakistan’s infection rate is at about six percent. This means at 100,000 tests, Pakistan’s number of infections will be 6000 per day. If Pakistan were to increase this to say 1 million tests a day, the infection numbers would reach 60,000 cases a day. So why are the hospitals not filling up you may ask? For most people in Pakistan the virus has very mild symptoms and that is something we have yet to understand. It can have something to do with the fact that Pakistan’s population is younger than other countries. It also means that this government is betting on getting herd immunity and is callous towards the deaths it may cause.

The second wave is going to be deadly and it will be deadly because of this Government and Government alone but it will find an easy scapegoat. This time the virus will not differentiate between the young and the old. What is needed, as has been needed since the beginning of the pandemic is an 18-day complete lockdown. If Pakistan locks down strictly for 24 days, the Pandemic will be wiped out. It is commonsense. In 24 days everyone who has coronavirus would have either recovered or unfortunately would be dead. Furthermore, the Government should impose a 14 day quarantine for every visitor from abroad.

These are all basic things that the government should look at but it deliberately won’t. The real reason the government is refusing to lockdown is to ensure that the anti-government PDM jalsas can be blamed for the second wave. For its part the opposition is playing into the hands of the government despite knowing well that one Jalsas are not going to bring down this damnable government and second their Jalsas are super spreader events that will definitely compound the Pandemic. Once the second wave is out of control, the Government will impose a lockdown and blame the opposition for not just the second wave but the economic fall out of the lock down. Thus instead of sitting out the second wave the opposition has dug itself into a hole. Meanwhile for the Government it is a win-win. If the second wave turns out to be less deadly than predicted, it will take credit for it. If the second wave turns very deadly, it will blame it on the opposition. To prove that the second wave is deadly, the Government will simply start testing more.

Once the second wave is out of control, the Government will impose a lockdown and blame the opposition for not just the second wave but the economic fall out of the lock down

One thing that it proves is that none of the actors involve care much for the effect on the Pandemic on the poor and hapless masses of this country. In the opposition’s case, not only are they callous but their political decisions will only hurt them in the long run. Their super spreader events are likely to alienate their supporters. The best thing would be to wait till some sanity is achieved in the Pandemic. What will be gained if the Government goes? Will there be new elections? How will these elections be conducted during the Pandemic? And suppose the elections were conducted during the Pandemic, which is highly unlikely, and suppose the opposition won the elections, would it be able to control the Pandemic? It will be an utter disaster for the opposition. The Pandemic will spiral out of control because of the elections and the challenges faced by the new government are likely to be so grave that it would collapse and hoist with its own petard. Do the leaders of the opposition parties really want to do this? A better strategy would be rail about the persecution that has not abated during the Pandemic. The Government is guilty of political victimization. The more the Government victimizes the opposition during the Pandemic, the more opposition is like to win the sympathy of the people. Secondly the opposition must continue to criticize the Government for the mishandling of the Covid Crisis. Research will show that the Government is fudging numbers. This alone will give the opposition enough ammunition to make the Government look bad. So one’s advice to the opposition would be stand aside and see the Government collapse under the weight of its terrible mistakes during this crisis.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/696134/pandemic-politics

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Our Game Of Thrones: PDMs Activities

By Sabbah Uddin

DECEMBER 1, 2020

“Politics is not a game but a serious business,” said Winston Churchill. However, in Pakistan, we routinely understand and usually practice politics as a game, or should I say, a “game of thrones”. Just like the American fictional drama, we also have few seemingly noble families wage war against each other to gain control over the government governing the land of pure. Just like the HBO drama, the game we play has got kings and knights, crowns, and assassinations. However, instead of dragons or ghosts, we have intimidating corruption watchdogs, aggressive top courts, and an always watching invisible establishment. Although the American drama is available on Home Box Office (HBO) and selective streaming services only, while our version of “game of thrones” is premiered each day throughout the year on all television channels round the clock. The plot and storyline of our version of the drama covered even in the news bulletins revolve around blame-games, corruption scams, APCs (all parties’ conferences), PDMs, and their anti-government agitations. The compelling characters make the drama interesting for a normal Pakistani who goes all his way even during the pandemic scare, just to see these characters in action in live public gatherings. To summarize, the game of politics in our country is aggressive to the very edge of bloody violence, packed with ambitious male and few female characters fighting for power where the money goes a long way to serve their purpose. In this game nothing stops them, even the worst of pandemics, to pursue their objective.

While the PDMs activities continue attracting huge public gatherings against the PTI led government, Corona and its terror seems far from diminishing. The government has somehow failed to persuade the opposition to end the agitation or at least scale it down to stop the pandemic from playing havoc. At the same time PTI and government were seen sponsoring similar gatherings and festivities in the recent weeks thus losing the moral ground to stop the opposition from doing so. However, the government, on the pretext of the pandemic situation, is pretending to be thoughtful in stopping the PDM public gatherings. At least it is trying to intimidate PDM by arresting opposition activists and lodging FIRs against them. However, these might not be sufficient to discourage the opposition. With the JUI-F hardline chauvinists ready to respond to any use of force as already ordered by Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman, the situation could become ugly. PTI government realizes the same thus using considered actions without escalating the situation. On the face of it, PPP is considered to be a bit calculative in its participation in PDM activities, yet is poised to introduce Asifa Bhutto Zardari to national politics. After all, in Pakistan, the process of becoming a leader never starts from the bottom but begins from the top.

The government has somehow failed to persuade the opposition to end the agitation or at least scale it down to stop the pandemic from playing havoc

The government faces challenges on two fronts in this regard. On one end, it faces uncertainty with regards to the pandemic as no predictive tools seem to be working at the moment which may calculate how far this would go in claiming lives and disrupting social order. Thus the government has a burden of responsibility to look into additional preparedness and response efforts against COVID-19 including; generation and mobilization of additional resources, attract funds and investments in existing humanitarian response by all organizations, and establish light and fast track procedures for all government, non-government, civil-society and humanitarian organizations to immediately organize their resources. On the other hand, the government has to deal with the PDM onslaught which may bring thousands of anti-government protestors loitering on the roads of the federal capital.

Justifiably, the present economic situation in the country is not in favor of the common citizens. If it is not the reality as government professes, the perception is unfortunately as such. Thus, the common people, compressed due to economic factors due to instability, show a higher level of fervor, desire, and motivation to involve themselves in anarchist activities rather than creative and economically productive activities. This fact may force the government to take all necessary actions to not allow such a gathering, particularly in the federal capital.

Politics of agitation has harmed the country in a big way since it triggers a vicious cycle which remains the main cause for the country’s under-development. Since agitations create an uncertain political environment, thus nobody expects the nation to develop, prosper, or progress. The reckoning of political instability is very simple at least it is easily comprehensible in our case. With uncertainty in the political atmosphere, the level of foreign and domestic investments drastically falls; the speed of development progression slows down, inflation shoots up, and the indicators of the economic growth engine start to stall. This failure of the economy to take-off again in turn creates political turbulence. It disrupts the productivity of a country by limiting its exports, disturbs the tax system, and threatens the interests of investors who leave the country. Thus the cycle

continues forever.

Every citizen understands that political stability is imperative for economic growth. It is an essential ingredient for social cohesion since it avoids disharmony between different institutions, promotes pluralistic norms, and addresses resentments among different segments in the society. But, with such stable and predictable politics, the political game would become a mundane affair. For us, the “Game of Thrones” should remain captivating. Therefore issues related to the sharing of powers between various players (such as opposing parties, between institutions, and federal and provincial governments) erupt from time to time increase people's interest in politics. For Pakistanis as a nation, conflicts developed between various players are an interesting affair to watch. Military interventions, dictatorships, political deinstitutionalization, displaced leadership, dynastical politics, secessionist movements, all of these make the drama more exciting for the average Pakistani.

Pakistan for a long time has been under a dictatorship that is blamed a great deal for political instability. But in reality, democracy also could not work to assure political stability in Pakistan. For most of Pakistan’s history, political leadership and dictators worked together through compromise and consultations. How can this be denied as every dictator was supported by some political party? I believe, as a nation, we need to look for a plot in the political game where we could experience true democracy, a political system free from heredity family politics, military dictators, leaders installed from above and above all without the influence of money on politics. We must agree that as a nation we need political players to enter into alliances not merely for the power-sharing but to strive for the revival of true democracy and assure political stability.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/696133/our-game-of-thrones/

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Truth Of The Matter

By Owen Bennett-Jones

01 Dec 2020

FOR many decades now the military establishment in Rawalpindi has been complaining that the West has a narrative about Pakistan that is both unfair and impossible to change. This version of Pakistan, they argue, goes something like this: Pakistan is two-faced, pretending to fight militancy when in fact it supports violent jihadists. Furthermore, Pakistan is a badly governed basket case, obsessed with an unwinnable struggle for Kashmir, rendering it unnecessarily hostile to India.

The establishment’s attempt to overturn the key element of this narrative — support for militancy — has gone through two main phases. Before 9/11 it simply denied that it was supporting militants. And then, more recently, it has pointed to the army’s victories over the Pakistani Taliban in the tribal areas and other parts of northwest Pakistan. To the frustration of successive army chiefs, however, neither approach has shifted the prevailing narrative.

Narratives are extraordinarily durable. Edward Said’s argument about Orientalism — that the West had hard-set, irrational perceptions about the East — amounted to a description of a narrative according to which the East is filled with exotic, irrational, lazy people who continually fail to make the most of Western efforts to show them a better way to live. That set of ideas has been so enduring that it informed not only 19th-century colonialism but also president Bush’s 2003 war in Iraq.

Drones provide another example. When the US was using unmanned aerial vehicles against Al Qaeda and other targets in Fata and Afghanistan, journalists in the West and Pakistan were united in reporting that they killed more civilians than militants, helped Al Qaeda and were a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty. In the later years of the drone programme, however, none of these things were true. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which for years made a very thorough attempt to monitor drone victims, found that between 2013 and 2018 drones killed a minimum of three and a maximum of 15 civilians. That compared with over 300 militants killed. It is not the ratio that most people believe to be true. As for Al Qaeda, internal documents from the organisation released in the course of various US court cases, revealed that drones were the single most effective weapon it faced. Meetings of Al Qaeda operatives became impossible for fear that they would be droned. And the arguments about drones breaching Pakistani sovereignty were always bogus. The drones, after all, took off from a Pakistani airbase.

Narratives are extraordinarily durable.

And yet for all that, even the US, despite all its mastery of the media management, was unable to shift the narrative about drones.

That’s not to say that narratives can never be changed. In the UK one of the main two political parties, the Labour Party, suffered election defeats in 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992. The party was portrayed by the press as high-taxing, extremist and weak on law and order. After the fourth defeat, a small group of reformers attached themselves to Tony Blair and, rebranding the party as ‘New Labour’, began to challenge the narrative. It took some years but with ruthless control of media messaging and some genuine party reforms, they were able to change the way the party was portrayed in the media and in 1997 Tony Blair was swept to victory.

So where does all that leave the generals hoping to change the narrative about Pakistan? The claims that, in fact, Pakistan does not support militants have faced a couple of problems. First everyone now realises that the much proclaimed arrests of militant leaders are invariably followed by their quietly being released. And then, from time to time, people such as Gen Musharraf, let the cat of the bag by saying Pakistan does support some militant groups.

Even if the ISPR was able to keep everyone on message, Pakistan cannot escape the fact that after 9/11 Pakistan’s policy towards militants could hardly have come under closer scrutiny. Western armies have long since reached a view on what was happening and it’s impossible to imagine a media campaign being sufficient to change their view.

So, if a well-executed media policy is not going to subvert the narrative, that leaves the option of genuine policy changes. At which point Pakistan’s strategists need to take a view on whether it is at this stage worth switching to a new approach. As the US campaign in Afghanistan winds down, Washington is no longer focused on Af-Pak. When he becomes president, Joe Biden is highly unlikely to see Pakistan as a place where he should be sending much foreign aid. All of which suggests that even if Pakistan did change its policy on militants, the foreign aid gains may not outweigh the benefits, as the military strategists see it, of having militants project Pakistani power in the region.

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Owen Bennett-Jones’s book The Bhutto Dynasty: The Struggle for Power in Pakistan was published by Yale University Press recently.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1593373/truth-of-the-matter

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