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World Press (10 Feb 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

More Than an African Problem: New Age Islam's Selection, 10 February 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

10 February 2016

More Than an African Problem

The Economist

Fears Are Growing Of Fresh Hostilities In Gaza

The Economist

A Smuggler’s-Eye View Of Turkey’s Effort To Stop The Migrants

The Economist

The South Asian Tic-Tac-Toe

By Rubana Huq

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


More Than an African Problem:

The Economist

Feb 9th 2016,

THE extraordinary events that unfolded over the skies of Somalia on February 2nd have now become clearer. About 15 minutes after Daallo Airlines Flight 159 departed from Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, an explosive device carried by Abdullahi Abdisalam Borleh, one of the passengers, blew a gaping hole just above the right wing of the plane (a spot identified in al-Qaeda literature as being the most effective place to detonate a bomb). Mr Borleh, who is suspected of being a suicide bomber, was sucked out of the aircraft and fell to his death. Everyone else survived. Had the incident occurred minutes later, once the plane reached cruising altitude, the resultant explosive decompression would almost certainly have killed all aboard. To say that the 73 innocent passengers on Flight 159 had a lucky escape is an understatement.

Last October, the 224 souls aboard Metrojet Flight 9268 were not so fortunate. A bomb detonated on the Russian charter flight about 20 minutes after its departure from Sharm el Sheikh International Airport on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. A local affiliate of IS took credit for the atrocity. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the Daallo bombing, although suspicion will inevitably fall on the Shabab, the al-Qaeda-linked militant Islamist group based in the Horn of Africa.

Beyond the obvious parallels, these two incidents bear one chilling similarity: both seem to have been perpetrated by airport employees. Although the Egyptian authorities still deny that Flight 9268 was a terrorist attack, Reuters reported last month that a mechanic working for EgyptAir, the country's flag-carrier, is suspected of planting the device. The nascent Somali investigation, meanwhile, points the finger of blame at an airport employee who was filmed handing what looks like a laptop computer to Mr Borleh before he boarded Flight 159. In both cases, the strategy seems to have been to bypass airport security altogether by using insider knowledge or access. That contrasts with most other attacks on civil aviation since 9/11—the 2001 shoe-bomb plot; the 2006 liquid-bomb plot; the 2009 underpants-bomb plot; and the 2010 cargo-bomb plot—all of which sought to outsmart screening technologies.

It is hard to say what this means for international civil aviation. These two incidents, as harrowing as they are, do not yet constitute a trend. Somalia and Sinai are both war zones, so many Westerners would instinctively presume their airports are dangerous places to fly from. Daallo and Metrojet, after all, are hardly household names. Even the pilot of Flight 159—an employee of Hermes Airlines, a Greek company that operates flights on behalf of Daallo—has slammed security protocols at Mogadishu Airport. "The security is zero," he told the Associated Press. "When we park [the plane] there, some 20 to 30 people come to the tarmac … They can put anything inside when passengers leave the aircraft."

That may soothe nerves for those flying from London or Washington, DC. But exalting Western aviation-security to a higher stratum than that found in Africa is a delusion. African airports are not so ramshackle; Western ones not so impenetrable. Consider how, in 2013, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) removed Mogadishu Airport from its "Zone 5" list of dangerous airports. Or how, last year, the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority, which has oversees Sharm el Sheikh Airport, passed ICAO's safety audits with flying colours. As far as ICAO, a United Nations agency, is concerned, Somali and Egyptian airports are up to scratch. Conversely, last year, American airport screeners failed to detect banned weapons planted by undercover agents in 67 out of 70 tests. And, in 2011, Rajib Karim, an employee of British Airways, was jailed for plotting to blow up aircraft with al-Qaeda. "We need to be very careful that we don't end up just trying to play politics with this," Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International magazine, told your correspondent after the Metrojet disaster. "You can get weapons and explosives in the Western world as well."

When I visited Mogadishu Airport two years ago, I saw none of the chaotic scenes described by Daallo's disgruntled pilot. To the contrary, I saw a militarised facility that had redoubled its security diligence out of an acute awareness of its vulnerabilities. It may seem strange to argue that an airport in a war zone is safer than one in a Western capital, but to me the logic rang true. Perhaps I was wrong. Either way, Islamist terrorists will not limit their aspirations to airports on their doorsteps. The airline industry as a whole must digest the news that bombs have detonated on two international flights in the past four months.

Source: economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2016/02/more-african-problem


Fears Are Growing Of Fresh Hostilities in Gaza

The Economist

Feb 6th 2016

ON THE evening of February 2nd a tunnel beneath Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip collapsed, burying under it two members of Hamas, a Palestinian militant group. This followed a similar incident the previous week beneath Gaza City in which seven Hamas members died. And on February 3rd a third tunnel collapsed.

In a rare public recognition of the movement’s efforts to build a web of tunnels on Gaza’s border with Israel, Hamas’s prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, has paid tribute to the buried fighters. He said the tunnels were “to defend Gaza and become a jumping-off point to all Palestine” (by which he means: a way to attack Israel). He boasted that Hamas has dug twice the number of tunnels the North Vietnamese had in their long war with America.  Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, responded by saying “if we are attacked through tunnels by Hamas, we will react with great force”.

Underlying the war of words between Gaza and Jerusalem is a growing concern that the military wing of Hamas, which has invested a lot of the movement’s limited resources in the tunnels, might decide to use them to attack Israeli targets before a new Israeli underground defence system is fully operational and renders them obsolete. Israeli officials say they see no willingness on the part of Hamas’s political wing to escalate matters, but that its military leadership is less predictable. The recent collapse of tunnels is largely due to heavy rainfall; but it is also an indication of the rushed Hamas operation to extend and complete its underground network before the tunnels are detected (and destroyed) by new Israeli sensors being developed and installed.

Eighteen months after the last Gaza conflict in summer 2014, in which 2,300 Palestinians and 71 Israelis were killed, there is relative calm around the beleaguered coastal enclave. Aside from sporadic rocket-firing by small jihadist organisations not under Hamas control, and retaliatory air strikes by Israel, there has been a wary ceasefire. Neither side has an interest at this point in resuming warfare, especially as rebuilding the tens of thousands of homes destroyed or damaged in Gaza is proceeding excruciatingly slowly.

Israeli officers warn however that Hamas has been rebuilding its network of tunnels reaching across the border, 32 of which were destroyed by Israel during the fighting. Hamas’s military commander, Mohammed Deif, they say, plans to use them to launch a lightning strike on Israeli communities, probably to capture hostages, and try to force Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and open up the blockade on Gaza.

In the past, Hamas put most of its resources into its rocket arsenal, but over the past five years Israel has deployed its Iron Dome missile-defence system, which has succeeded in intercepting close to 90% of the rockets fired towards Israeli towns. “Time isn’t working in Hamas’s favour,” says retired Colonel Yossi Langotzky, a geologist and former intelligence officer, who served in the past as an adviser on tunnel warfare to the Israeli General Staff. “They have no other operational option to strike Israel hard besides the tunnels and they are worried that those may soon become obsolete. That’s why they are now using their best forces to complete the tunnels quickly.” In the past, Hamas subcontracted the digging to local families who ran the smuggling tunnels under Gaza’s border with Egypt. Nearly all those tunnels have now been destroyed by the Egyptian army.

Since Hamas took over Gaza in a coup against the Fatah faction in 2007, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the Strip’s 1.8m inhabitants. Foodstuffs and a limited quantity of goods are allowed through its crossings, but with the exception of a small number of businesspeople and serious medical cases which are treated in Israeli hospitals, few are allowed out. Over the past two years Egypt has also severely curbed the traffic through the Rafah crossing to its territory.

Talks on rebuilding Gaza and on new infrastructure have stalled. Israeli security officials have warned that any calm in Gaza will be temporary unless locals are given an incentive to keep the peace. The most obvious carrot would be to relax the blockade on Gaza, allowing traders, commuters and jobseekers to enter Israel, as Palestinians from the West Bank can.

Behind the scenes many officers accuse their own government of short-sightedness (a charge they also level at the Egyptian military regime, which sees Hamas as an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, and therefore an enemy). They fear that Hamas is about to use the tunnels to attack Israel, unleashing another round of bloodshed.

Source: economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21690180-blockade-stays-place-while-network-tunnels-expands-fears-are-growing


A Smuggler’s-Eye View of Turkey’s Effort to Stop the Migrants

The Economist

Feb 8th 2016

IN BASMANE, a gritty neighbourhood in the heart of the Turkish port city of Izmir, a plump, smartly-dressed young man, who asks to be known only as Uday, flips through videos on his expensive smartphone. In one of them, recorded last summer, a rubber boat heaving with passengers begins to motor toward Greece. On shore, a visibly slimmer Uday, then an apprentice smuggler, smiles into the camera and waves goodbye to the migrants on board. Some of them wave back. Uday explains that he used the videos to convince refugees to choose him and his gang over the competition. “It was to show people the journey was safe,” he says.

Uday, who studied law in his native Syria before escaping to Turkey in 2013, has no qualms about his work as a smuggler. He says he earned about $100,000 in less than a year. “None of my boats capsized. We were helping those people,” he brags. But today, Uday is out of a job. Turkish police have made the migrant trade risky and unprofitable, he says. “These days, you lose more money than you make.”

For much of last year, Turkey looked the other way as an estimated 850,000 migrants crossed by sea into Greece. In November it agreed to stem the refugee tide in exchange for an offer of €3 billion ($3.3 billion) in aid from the European Union, as well as the promise of political concessions such as a visa-free travel agreement. Turkey has since stepped up patrols in the Aegean. Some 92,000 migrants were rescued at sea last year, according to officials in Ankara, and operations against smugglers have yielded 3,700 arrests. In Izmir, taxi drivers face a stiff fine or a prison sentence for taking migrants to the coast.

The crackdown has taken a toll on local trafficking networks. “Six times out of seven, we have to cancel crossings,” complains Badar, a smuggler, weaving his way through the narrow streets above Basmane. He says the neighbourhood is thick with undercover police; avoiding them and Turkish gendarmes can delay crossings for weeks. Where he once sent up to 35 people per day across the Aegean, he says, he now manages perhaps 15 per week. His own wife is in Lebanon, and he frets that Macedonia could soon close its border with Greece, cutting off the migrant flow north to Germany, before they get the chance to cross to Europe themselves. “If my wife were to arrive, I would be on the next boat.”

Yet the wheels of the smuggling economy continue to spin. Migrants huddle inside grimy hotels, waiting for buses to the coast. Jewelry shops trade pawned refugee gold. Sitting outside a hotel last week, Muhammed, a soccer player from Hama, says he and his group had paid smugglers $800 each and were about to cross. “I know I should wait till the summer, when it’s safer. But I don’t have money to stay,” he says. According to the International Organization for Migration, 374 migrants have drowned or gone missing at sea since the start of the year.

The number of refugees reaching Greece dropped from 109,000 in December to about 60,000 in January, but once the warm weather returns in March it is likely to shoot back up again. “Turkey has to get its act together by then,” says a European diplomat in Ankara. Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, says Turkey can do more, particularly in prosecuting smuggling networks. But for that to happen, “the EU must deliver on its commitments”: money, concrete steps on the visa issue, and progress in Turkey’s accession talks with the bloc.

The Turks insist that they cannot seal off the entire coast and that the long-term solution lies in ending Syria’s civil war by easing its president, Bashar al-Assad, from power. But that prospect is as distant as ever.

Turkey has done more for the refugees than any EU country save perhaps Germany. Home to roughly 2.5m Syrians, it has already spent $8 billion on refugee housing, education and health care. The welcome extended to them by the Ankara government is a big reason why most Syrians residing in Turkey have stayed put instead of heading for Europe. (Most of the Syrians now crossing the Aegean are those newly displaced by the war.)

But the Turks are starting to close the door. In January they reimposed visa requirements for Syrian nationals arriving by air and sea, making it harder for refugees in Jordan and Lebanon to enter the country. All land crossings with Syria are closed, meaning Syrians must be smuggled across the border to enter. Turkey is reinforcing parts of the 550-mile border with fences and walls. Human-rights groups accuse Ankara of deporting over a hundred people to Iraq and Syria, violating international law. Turkish officials deny such charges. Over the past few days, Turkey has pledged to open one of its crossings to tens of thousands of people fleeing the fighting in Syria's Aleppo. It has not done so yet.

A recent Dutch proposal envisages ending the Aegean smuggling route by quickly returning all refugees to Turkey, and accepting applications for asylum to Europe from there. Getting Turkish agreement would require proving that EU countries would accept hundreds of thousands of asylum requests. In the short term, enabling better treatment of Syrian refugees in Turkey may do more to slow the flow. At least 300,000 Syrian children in Turkey are not in school, and health care and social services, though theoretically free, are underfunded. In a promising first step, a conference of international donors on the Syrian crisis in London on February 4th pledged $11 billion to meet these needs.

Most important is employment. As of January, Syrian refugees can officially apply for work permits in Turkey, though some restrictions remain. A job might not dissuade every refugee from braving the sea passage to Greece, but it will deter some. “My plan is this,” says Omar, 25, a recent arrival from Damascus, over tea in Basmane. “If I find work here, I do not go to Europe. Otherwise, I leave as soon as it gets warm.”

Source: economist.com/news/europe/21690181-turkish-police-have-cracked-down-hard-traffickers-refugees-keep-coming


The South Asian Tic-Tac-Toe

By Rubana Huq

10. 02. 2016

It took me ten hours to reach Islamabad from Dhaka via Bangkok. Other options available were via Doha and similar other places. A journey that could have taken only four hours ended up being almost 12. On the 13th hour, after crossing five security checkpoints, and reaching the hotel, I received a text on my phone on February 1 from my children. The text read: “So worried for you. Are you safe?” My safety has never been an issue. The question of being insecure even in the farthest corner of the globe is not applicable here in my case. But then again, I was in 'Islamabad' when I got the SMS. A Bangladeshi diplomat had just been released in Islamabad after he went missing and this had made breaking news. The report also read that this was perhaps done in retaliation. A Pakistan High Commission staff Abrar Ahmed Khan was detained at our end for his “suspicious movement”; therefore, this led Islamabad to retaliate and pick up Jahangir Hossain, personal officer of the press wing at Bangladesh High Commission. This is certainly news and does not make a great story, especially at a time when a few of us were attending a South Asian meeting in Pakistan to focus on economic collaboration. At a time when trust was the most critical issue amongst the South Asian countries, for all of us there, it was imperative to say our stories with utmost candour. Therefore news of this nature shook us up to a certain extent, especially when none of us wanted to broach the subject and risk a diplomatic failure. As recent chronology would have it, Pakistan High Commissioner Shuja Alam was summoned by us on February 2, and then Bangladesh High Commissioner Suhrab Hossain ended up being summoned to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry only 48 hours ago. While Fareena Arshad of Pakistan High Commission had to leave Dhaka in December, the Bangladeshi diplomat Moushumi Rahman was asked to leave Pakistan, right after, on January 5 on a 48-hour notice. This is somewhat an old South Asian story.

In reality, South Asia remains a hostage to all these strategic sub-regional 'tic-tac-toe'. And common people like us wonder whether we are losing out on the regional fast track route, just because we don't know any better and just because   the inner fears of a South Asian often hover around the lines of alignment with only two states, India and Pakistan. These sub regional tensions often prompt silence or indifference. And at the end, many a truth cannot be shared, uttered or even whispered in circles sensitive to diplomacy. However, a few episodes must be aired without fear or obstruction…So here we are.

Strangely the intra-South Asian trade has dipped to 4 percent in 2015. While Modi rigorously tweets about South Asian oneness and names prosperity for all in the region as his vision, while inaugurating the South Asian Games, the rest of South Asia wonders whether any of what he says will ever dispel the fear psychosis that many of us have on being overwhelmed by our big neighbour. The regional irritants, namely bureaucracy, non-standardisation and mindsets, have often resulted in a few negative issues, including the decline in trade. But then there are so many more channels in between the Pakistani and the Indian traders, including Dubai and Singapore. Who could stop trade there? In fact, who even counted? Who could ever stop the trading in the eight border haats that lie in between Bangladesh and India? Who could ever stop the flow of people? Who could ever stop Pakistanis from watching Indian movies and who could ever stop Indians from buying Pakistani shalwar kameez? Absolutely no one.

Yet, the intra-regional trade in 2013-2014 has been 460 million, a full 100 million lesser than the year before. With India formally importing $460 billion and Bangladesh only $460 million, which is 1/10th of 1 percent, isn't there unimaginable potential that exists between the two countries that need to be taken into consideration before we resort to our usual rhetoric of our over-dependence on India? With a huge region to export to, one wonders how Bangladesh only exported $456 million to India, only when the total Bangladeshi export totalled $30 billion, with only 1.9 percent being exported to SAARC, whereas Bangladeshi export to EU was 54 percent, North America 24 percent, rest of Asia 11 percent and to the rest of the world 9 percent.  On another note, Bangladesh imported only 17 percent of its total import from SAARC while the rest 83 percent came from the other regions of the world. Centre for Policy Dialogue reports that only 10 percent reduction in trade related documentation will lead to 7 percent increase in bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh. In reality, there are hard infrastructure issues and soft regulatory issues that dampen the South Asian landscape. But what stands undeterred is the will of the people who make and break barriers, and disallow Felanis being stitched to the fence.

Towards the end of my first evening in Islamabad, I strolled into the malls to check out the products. The very first hushed whisper caught my attention: “Ahhh, Bangladeshi! Aaah Jamdani!” I loved the feeling. It was a warm one, after a long, long time. As a seven year old in 1971, I had never thought that there would be a day when I would be able to freely visit Pakistan and cover my wounds. To be honest, the wound is still very sore and beyond healing, but every time I looked at a young Pakistani, I failed to connect her to what “they” had done to us 44 years ago. I guess that's where the new South Asian conscience needs to emerge, way beyond the burdening historical hurt.

Rubana Huq is Managing Director, Mohammadi Group.

Source: thedailystar.net/op-ed/politics/the-south-asian-tic-tac-toe-348286

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/world-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/more-than-an-african-problem--new-age-islam-s-selection,-10-february-2016/d/106293


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