By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Slowly but surely, in a scenario reminiscent of pre-invasion Iraq, unilateral Western sanctions on Iran are having devastating effects on Iran’s healthcare sector, adversely affecting the well-being of millions of ordinary Iranians – cancer patients first and foremost. 
According to the latest reports from Iran, despite a recent US easing of sanctions for the export of food and medicine to Iran, the current financial restrictions continue to prove a formidable obstacle for the delivery of medicine and medical equipment to Iran.
Not only that, the US and its allies have blocked an offer by the oil giant Shell to repay its $2.3 billion dollar debt to Iran in the form of grain and medicine. A number of US companies have been fined for sending medical devices to Iran valued at less than $10,000, and even a Canadian yogurt company has been penalized for doing business with Tehran.
Unsurprisingly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticized the Western sanctions as being tantamount to the “violation of human rights” of ordinary Iranians, or as a rights issue in addition to a humanitarian issue.
However, a narrow focus on the difficulties of getting medical equipment and medicine and can be misleading. A bigger issue is the larger problem of health deterioration and the increasing mortality rate as a result of the “crippling sanctions”. While targeted at halting Iran’s nuclear program, these instead impact of Iran’s middle class and add to poverty levels.
Iran’s health minister has recently raised alarms about the sheer inadequacy of the health sector to deal with the rising demands and budget constraints.
Even Ahmed Shahid, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, has noted in his just released report that sanctions are having “increasingly adverse impact on the country’s economic and social welfare and raise alarm about the apparent ineffectiveness of humanitarian safeguards,” and he has called on the sanctioning regimes to “prevent the potentially harmful impact of general economic sanctions on human rights”. The only problem with this is the word “potential” since the streaming facts of the harmful health effects are beyond dispute.
In response to the growing criticism of the Western sanctions and their negative impact on ordinary Iranians, the US officials insist that there are no restrictions on the export of medicine to Iran and Tehran’s own mismanagement is responsible for this problem.
Clearly, these officials prefer not to “see the wood, let alone the fire”, as the simple fact reiterated by the presidents of Iran’s cancer society and Iran’s medical association is that foreign banks and companies with few exceptions are afraid of the backlash if they conduct business with Iran.
One potential solution is the establishment of a special UN-supervised fund, drawn from the billions of dollars of oil revenue owed to Iran by its various energy partners such as China and India – call it oil-for-medicine.
Another remedy would be a concerted effort by the US and its allies engaged in multilateral negotiations with Iran to issue a joint policy statement that would be communicated to the hundreds of banks in over 66 countries, which have been contacted by the officials of US Treasury Department to stay away from Iran.
Many of these banks would be reluctant to allow financial transactions for Iran’s medical purchases to take place short of a clear and unequivocal directive from Washington.
There is no reason why such an initiative should not be inserted in the “expert-level” negotiations between Iran and the “5 +1″ nations in Geneva, which has commenced this week, as a prelude to their next round on November 7.
The problem is that Western and Israeli interests dictate relentless coercive diplomacy which must continue until Iran dismantles all its centrifuges.
Given Iran’s insistence that the right to enrich uranium is its “red line”, the Obama administration is placed at a fork in the road. It can either appease Tel Aviv and try to go for the jugular by insisting on “zero centrifuge” option, or seek a compromise with Iran that would minimize the risk of “weaponization” and thus earn the ire of pro-Israel lobbyists and lawmakers.
Unfortunately, there are signs that Israel’s intense lobbying against a Western deal with Iran is making some headway, in light of the statement from the US Treasury Department that any talk of easing or lifting sanctions on Iran now or in the immediate future is “premature”.
In other words energy and financial sanctions will remain in place for the foreseeable future and, as stated above, this will likely result in aggravating the health problem in Iran, risking the lives of tens of thousands of ordinary Iranians.
1. For more see, http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/sanctions-and-medical-supply-shortages-iran
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy (Westview Press) . For further biographical details, click here. Afrasiabi is author of Iran’s Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction (2007), Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing , October 23, 2008) and Looking for Rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).
You Think You Knew Crazy? Think Again. 10 Shockers from the Increasingly Unhinged Right Wing
Photo Credit: AFP
1. Michele Bachmann: ‘Obama is part of Al Qaeda and end times are near.’
To the extent that she is capable of rational decision-making, Minn. Rep. Michele Bachmann decided this week might be a fitting time to remind the public that she is batshit crazy. During a radio interview, she spun out her theory that, A) President Obama is arming terrorists, generally, and Al Qaeda, specifically. And B) This is cause for rejoicing because it is a sign that the end times are near.
In the case of A., she was referring to Obama’s decision to provide small arms and anti-chemical weapons gear to certain Syrian rebels, or as Bachmann put it, “the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists.”
Then the holy spirit must have filled her, or something, and she got all mystical. She said: “As I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times . . . we are to understand where we are in God’s end times history.”
Panic not, Christians, she continued. “Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand. When we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; these days would be as the days of Noah.”
Better get those arks ready.
2. Some of Antonin Scalia’s best friends are gay—and yeah, the devil exists.
As Bill Mahrer pointed out, people are certainly welcome to hold whatever crazy religious beliefs they choose. The trouble is when those people, like Bachmann, and say, a Supreme Court justice, are making decisions that impact the rest of us. In a different time, the high court’s glibbest right winger might have felt the need to be more circumspect about his religious beliefs, what with separation of church and state, and all. But Antonin Scalia let it all hang out in a recent interview with New York magazine’s Jennifer Senior, telling her, “I even believe in the devil.”
Not one to be plagued with pesky self-doubt, Scalia went even further on the topic of Lucifer: “He’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.” For those not following the recent exploits of Satan, he has evolved since biblical times, no longer making pigs run off cliffs, for instance. “What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God.” Scalia explained. “He’s much more successful that way.”
The justice assured Senior that he, not she, was in step with the mainstream of America on this, and also in-line with Christ the lord our savior. “I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.”
Also, and this is very reassuring, Scalia is pretty sure he knows some people who are gay, although he reckons that they are not sharing this fact with him, especially seeing as how he is the most outspokenly homophobic member of the high court, who made his displeasure known about the court’s landmark decisions in support of legalizing same-sex marriage last spring.
3. Arizona lawmaker: ‘Obama is like Hitler.’
Ariz. State Rep. Brenda Barton added her voice to the list of right-wingers calling Obama, and Obamacare, absurdly hyperbolic names this week.
A brief review: Newt Gingrich has said Obama does not know how to be an American president, because he is inherently undemocratic, even though it is the right-wing of the Republican party that has shut down the government against the will of the majority of Americans. And it’s the right-wing that refuses to accept a law that was passed through the democratic process.
Never mind that though—Obama’s ‘behaving like a dictator,’ because he won’t negotiate with lunatics. George Will, who some people used to think was smart even when they disagreed with him, echoed the absurd, and racially-tinged comparison of Obamacare to the Fugitive Slave Act.
And then this little-known wack-job state legislator from Arizona comes along and chimes in that Obama is like Adolf Hitler. She posted it on Facebook, while also calling for rogue sheriffs to arrest federal employees enforcing the government shutdown. Yeah, that’s right, the shutdown that House Republicans caused—the same one that the right-wing calls Obama’s shutdown because he won’t negotiate on that legislatively approved, Supreme Court-vetted affordable health-care law. Sounds Hitlerian to us, all right, trying to get more poor and sick people health care coverage. Hitler loved those poor sick people.
4. Ted Cruz lollapalooza.
Ted Cruz, it has become abundantly clear, is capable of spewing near record amounts of nonsense and demagoguery. The architect of the shutdown and inadvertent popularizer of Obamacare is still talking—this time at a right-wing echo chamber writ large, the Values Voters Summit.
So deluded is Cruz, that he is still acting as though he has won a great victory, and the crowd did nothing to disabuse him of that fantasy. Among his plethora of reality-denying assertions: Obama might kidnap him: “I’m going to be going to the White House. If I’m never seen again, please send a search and rescue team. I very much hope by tomorrow morning I don’t wake up amidst the Syrian rebels.” Also, the Obama administration might start quartering soldiers in people’s homes since they are “bound and determined to violate every single one of our bill of rights.” On the Cold War: “Our foreign policy is detente, which I’m pretty sure is French for surrender.”
(Note to Ted: it means permanent thaw in hostilities.)
5. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK): ‘Defaulting on the debt doesn’t mean debt default.’
You might think that members of the party of the 1%, which also likes to think of itself as the party pushing individual and fiscal responsibility, would have at least a ten-year-old’s understanding of basic economics. But the looming debt crisis seems to have pushed many Republicans into a deep state of denial. Sen. Tom Coburn, a shining example of intellectual acuity, said early this week: “I would dispel the rumor that is going around that you hear on every newscast, that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we will default on our debt. We won’t. We’ll continue to pay our interest.”
He made this blatantly crazy statement with a straight face. As economist Robert Reich explained on his blog: “While the Treasury Department could prioritize interest payments after October 17 – the day the Treasury Department says it no longer has legal authority to pay the nation’s debts – and not pay Social Security and Medicare, this would buy a few days at most.”
Meanwhile, interest rates will soar, stock prices will plummet, the global economy will begin spiraling downward, and millions of Americans wouldn’t receive their Social Security and Medicare.”
Reich concludes inescapably and perhaps charitably: “Sounding crazy is part of the Republican bargaining strategy.”
6. Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling: ‘We don’t have to fund laws we didn’t pass.’
If and when the current crisis passes, perhaps the people will rise up and demand that their representatives be familiar with, at least, the rudiments of governance. Lonestar Congressman Jeb Hensarling revealed he could use a remedial course in it this week in his response to Andrea Mitchell’s point that lifting the debt ceiling meant simply that we would be paying the bills for bills and programs that Congress already agreed to pay for. Hensarling retorted that “this House” didn’t vote for the stimulus, and that ”this House’ didn’t vote for Obamacare.” This is novel in the history of American democracy: the notion that Congress is not obligated to pay the bills for programs passed by a previous Congress. We don’t want to give them ideas—although the right-wing fringe already has this one, but according to this argument they could refuse to pay for Social Security as a pre-condition for “negotiations” since “this House” didn’t vote for the Social Security Act.
They could refuse to pay for everything, except of course, their own salaries, benefits and gym facilities.
7. Bryan Fischer: ‘Good on Vladimir Putin for those anti-homosexual laws.’
Moving away from the lunatics in the House to the bullies in the pulpit, the fundamentalist American Family Association loudmouth Bryan Fischer expressed admiration for virulently homophobic Russian President Vladimir Putin for his country’s law criminalizing homosexual “propaganda,” because it is, they both agree “propaganda of pedophilia.”
Russia’s crackdown on the rights of gay people includes barring them from the Olympics, and new laws that would allow for the state to steal children from homes with same-sex parents. Vigilante groups are kidnapping and torturing teenagers suspected of being gay, and videotaping these horrific acts with impunity.
But it’s all good to Fischer and other haters, because the brave Russian leader is a great Christian, a “lion of Christianity, the defender of Christian values,” in contrast to, say, our leader.
“Just a bizarre day,” Fischer ranted maniacally on. “To ever think we would get to the day that Russia would be more advanced spiritually than the United States.”
Think he has even a passing acquaintance with what Jesus had to say?
8. Elisabeth Hasselbeck and John Stossel agree: welfare queens should not have air conditioning
Fox Business libertarian clown John Stossel has been yammering on forever about welfare cheats and the culture of dependency. He found his female doppelganger in Elisabeth Hasselbeck this week when she pointed out that welfare recipients who had air conditioning and cell phones were part of the “ugly side of entitlements.”
Stossel was plugging his special on the topic in which he asks supposed welfare recipients on the street whether they have TVs and air conditioning. “Do these folks really need to be on welfare?” Hasselbeck asks, as if Stossel might say yes.
But it’s okay, because Stossel and Hasselbeck really care about welfare recipients. “Is welfare creating more victims than it’s actually helping?” she later wondered. “The motivation to go get a job is almost non-existent in 35 states.”
So apparently, the free government stuff that libertarian, anti-government Stossel admits he gets, like Medicare, is different. Welfare, with its life of ease and keeping cool, encourages people “not to look for work.”
9. Glenn Beck on parenting: ‘Push your children into walls.’
No one knows exactly how Beck landed on the topic of bringing up children, when he was ranting, as usual, about atheist liberals trying to destroy the Bill of Rights. But somehow, he got to it the other day. Following the unfathomable detours in his circuitous brain, he imagined a family dinner conversation.
“Ask your kids tonight at dinner, ‘What gives you the right?’” the too-crazy for Fox right-winger railed. “Challenge them. Get in their face.” When your kids insist they have rights, here’s what Beck says you should do. “Teach ‘em a lesson. Push ‘em! Well, they’re gonna cry, it’s gonna hurt their feelings. Well, push ‘em!”
You’d be doing them a favor, he says.
“If you don’t do it now, it’s going to be much worse when they’re pushed and they’re shoved and they’re shot. … Push them! Teach them! The need to know the truth and they need to be pushed up against the wall once in awhile so they know they can defend themselves. They know they can survive! They don’t run around like little girls crying at the drop of a hat! Push ‘em!”
And just in case you are confused about the point of this abuse, because you had the misfortune of not being treated in this manner by your own parents, say, the point is that rights come from God. And strength comes from being yelled at and shoved. And not crying comes from being yelled at until you cry.
10. Fox’s Ben Carson: ‘Women need to be re-educated so they don’t get all riled up about abortion.’
In another highlight from the Value Voters Summit, newly hired Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson said on Friday that the country may need to “re-educate the women” so that they stop having abortions.
OK, that sounds really creepy—not to mention reminiscent of Mao, Pol Pot, and a Margaret Atwood novel to us. Re-education camps. For women. So that they have babies.
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon apparently, just really cares about us women. “Your health should be controlled by you and not by the government. But when we’re talking about things that are important, life is important. And that includes the life of the unborn.
“You know, there are those of us in this society who have told women that there’s a war on them because of that cute little baby inside of them they may want to get rid of it, and there are people that are keeping you from doing that. And women say, ‘No, no, they’re not doing that to me! No!’ And they get all riled up.”
Women . . . always getting all riled up about their right to control their own destiny, bodies and motherhood.
You know how he knows that there is no such thing as the (Republican) war on women? Because “men give up their seats to pregnant women.”
And people say conservative men don’t get it.
Christian Right’s Emerging Deadly Worldview: Kill Muslims to Purify the Earth
These men are frauds, but this is not the point. They are part of a dark and frightening war by the Christian right against tolerance that, in the moment of another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would make it acceptable to target and persecute all Muslims, including the some 6 million Muslims who live in the United States. These men stoke these irrational fears. They defend the perpetual war unleashed by the Bush administration and championed by Sen. John McCain. McCain frequently reminds listeners that “the greatest danger facing the world is Islamic terrorism,” as does Mike Huckabee, who says that “Islamofascism” is “the greatest threat this country [has] ever faced.” George W. Bush has, in the same vein, assured Americans that terrorists hate us for our freedoms, not, of course, for anything we have done. Bush described the “war on terror” as a war against totalitarian Islamofascism while the Israeli air force was dropping tens of thousands of pounds of iron fragmentation bombs up and down Lebanon, an air campaign that killed 1,300 Lebanese civilians.
The three men tell lurid tales of being recruited as children into Palestinian terrorist organizations, murdering hundreds of civilians and blowing up a bank in Israel. Saleem says that as a child he infiltrated Israel to plant bombs via a network of tunnels underneath the Golan Heights, although no incident of this type was ever reported in Israel. He claims he is descended from the “grand wazir” of Islam, a title and a position that do not exist in the Arab world. They assure audiences that the Palestinians are interested not in a peaceful two-state solution but rather the destruction of Israel, the murder of all Jews and the death of America. Shoebat claims he first came to the United States as part of an extremist “sleeper cell.”
“These three jokers are as much former Islamic terrorists as ‘Star Trek’s’ Capt. James T. Kirk was a real Starship captain,” said Mikey Weinstein, the head of the watchdog group The Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The group has challenged Christian proselytizing in the military and denounced the visit by the men to the Air Force Academy.
The speakers include in their talks the superior virtues of Christianity. Saleem, for example, says his world “turned upside down when he was seriously injured in an automobile accident.”
“A Christian man tended to Kamal at the accident scene, making sure he got the medical treatment he needed,” his Web site says. “Kamal’s orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist were also Christian men whom over a period of several months ministered the unconditional love of Jesus Christ to him as he recovered. The love and sacrificial giving of these men caused Kamal to cry out to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob acknowledging his need for the Savior. Kamal has since become a man on a new mission, as an ambassador for the one true and living God, the great I Am, Jehovah God of the Bible.”
This creeping Christian chauvinism has infected our political and social discourse. It was behind the rumor that Barack Obama was a Muslim. Obama reassured followers that he was a Christian. It apparently did not occur to him, or his questioners, that the proper answer is that there is nothing wrong with being a Muslim, that persons of great moral probity and courage arise in all cultures and all religions, including Islam. Christians have no exclusive lock on virtue. But this kind of understanding often provokes indignant rage.
The public denigration of Islam, and by implication all religious belief systems outside Christianity, is part of the triumphalism that has distorted the country since the 9/11 attacks. It makes dialogue with those outside our “Christian” culture impossible. It implicitly condemns all who do not think as we think and believe as we believe as, at best, inferior and usually morally depraved. It blinds us to our own failings. It makes self-reflection and self-criticism a form of treason. It reduces the world to a cartoonish vision of us and them, good and evil. It turns us into children with bombs.
These three con artists are not the problem. There is enough scum out there to take their place. Rather, they offer a window into a worldview that is destroying the United States. It has corrupted the Republican Party. It has colored the news media. It has entered into the everyday clichÃ©s we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. It is ignorant and racist, but it is also deadly. It grossly perverts the Christian religion. It asks us to kill to purify the Earth. It leaves us threatened not only by the terrorists who may come from abroad but the ones who are rising from within our midst.
This article has been corrected.
The lasting and healthy development of the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan has been receiving constant attention from the Chinese side. Given profound changes in the global world pattern, the two partners have to dwell on how to define future strategic cooperation.
The world is undergoing an unprecedented upheaval which has seen a sliding US and the West compared with a surging China and other developing countries. Some have assumed that a historical reversal of traditional strength will happen in just 10 or 15 years.
Given such changing environment, China-Pakistan relationship in the next 10 years should bolster South-South cooperation and strive for a new globalization system taking such cooperation as the mainstay.
Top priorities of both countries are to boost the economy, maintain internal stability, enhance risk-resistance capability and cement strategic cooperation.
Both countries should actively engage in cooperation and competition between the East and the West, but meanwhile, do their utmost to unify other developing countries in order to rescue them from their passive position in the old globalization system.
The focus of South-South cooperation should be primarily put on East Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, and then Africa and Latin America. It’s also urgent to set up and complete various forms of multilateral cooperation mechanisms.
China-Pakistan cooperation should go beyond the so-called balanced diplomacy. Both should view the troubles of the other as their own problems.
Steady and consolidated economic cooperation is the core of the bilateral relationship, while mutual trust in politics and security and practical defense cooperation are essential foundations of mutual ties.
China needs to assume the main responsibilities in bilateral relations, especially in dealing with interference from other countries such as the US. China needs to make good use of its accumulative advantages. China has become the largest trade partner of more than 120 countries around the world.
China not only needs to establish a new type of power relationship with the US, but also with other countries in partnership with China, promoting the idea that a country should also care about others’ interests while safeguarding its own interests.
The new globalization system supported by both China and Pakistan is not aimed at replacing the hegemonic powers, but constituting a more reasonable world to benefit everyone.
The author is a research fellow of the Academy of Military Science. email@example.com
Pakistan: a culture of intolerance
By Sajjad Ashraf
Pakistan’s impoverished and peaceful Christian community has endured mob rampages, blasphemy charges, and was largely spared the ravages of suicide bombings, till last month. Suicide bombings on September 22 at Peshawar’s All-Saints Church, which is designed like a mosque to reflect inter-faith harmony, killed 83 worshippers and injured more than 125, bringing to focus how the danger minorities face in the militancy raging across Pakistan. With almost a bomb a day since Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government took over in June, the church was indeed a soft target.
Since independence in 1947 minority numbers have fallen from about a quarter of Pakistan population to 3.7%. Most Hindus and Sikhs moved to India following ethnic riots at the time of partition. Many still do. The separation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, where Hindus formed one-fifth of the population reduced minority numbers further. Christians, who now constitute 1.6% of the population, live in a state of fear and are left to do most menial jobs.
Weakened minorities look towards the government to restore and protect their places of worship and other properties, which the land mafia continues to expropriate, abetted by state functionaries, for commercial purposes.
Forcible conversion of teenage Hindu girls and their marriage to Muslim boys is reportedly common in Sindh, where Hindus are mostly concentrated. Despite Supreme Court suo motointervention last year, none of the girls could go back for the fear of retribution, community leaders have claimed.
Christians are routinely accused of blasphemy over minor personal disputes. Aasia Bibi’s case grabbed world headlines in 2011 following the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, by his own guard, for publicly stating that the law had been abused in Aasia Bibi’s case. His murderer was sentenced to death and is a hero to a substantial number of Pakistanis.
Pakistan witnessed heart-wrenching scenes when the Hazaras, a Shi’ite sect sat in sub-zero temperatures in Quetta for four days refusing to bury 100 of their dead. Shi’ites blame the killing of nearly 400 from among them during the past two years on the banned Sunni militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The Ahmediya community, excommunicated in 1974 from the pale of Islam, is the target of some of the worst attacks. Even Ahmediya graves were desecrated in Lahore last year.
While law provides for equality and protection, state machinery stands by passively as hate crimes increase against the minorities.
Minorities now expect little protection from the state. The mystery for them is not the identity of their attackers. It is answering why the Pakistani state cannot – or will not – protect them? “Pakistani Christians have to constantly look over our shoulder,” laments a Christian digital communicator who is based in Dubai.
Societal intolerance apart, the minorities face several kinds of discrimination and a worrying level of state inaction about it. School and college curricula are not tolerant towards diversity. Minorities face severely limited prospects for jobs, especially at the senior levels, and the Pakistani passport identifies a person through his/her religion.
Pakistan was created on the basis of minority rights, yet 66 years after independence minorities await the fulfillment of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s words that, “[religion] has nothing to do with the business of the state”. The liberals blame Jinnah’s successors for turning Pakistan into a religiously bigoted, narrow-minded state. Religion, no doubt is used to maintain hold over a largely illiterate society, thus radicalizing further.
The military, especially since General Zia ul Haq, invokes Islam instead of nationalism. No wonder the soldier is now conditioned for jihad against infidels rather than defending the state.
Pakistan’s minorities have played an exemplary role in several sectors since independence. Education, law and healthcare stand out. Several war heroes are among them.
The new (Christian) minister of ports and shipping advises his community to escape the “minority syndrome”. Deeper introspection and a little sense of history suggest that states based upon perceived religious discrimination inevitably suffer paranoia and insularity. They become polarized, turning to the extreme right. In creating this exclusivity for the majority such states exclude minorities, from the mainstream nation building efforts.
The treatment meted to minorities and smaller sects of Islam raises wider questions about Pakistan’s societal culture of intolerance and its consequences.
Paradoxically, much of Pakistan appears oblivious or has given in to the cancerous extremism that is consuming a society that seemed tolerant until the 1970s. Faith now determines identity in Pakistan.
In order to roll intolerance back Pakistani leadership seriously needs to take stock and begin anew by looking at the curriculum, its inciteful media and societal discourse that is promoting extremism, much of it against the teachings of Islam. Pakistan needs to adopt fair economic policies that provide opportunities to the youth. The state must establish rule of law without fear or favor, value human life, and provide essential services to the less privileged.
Sajjad Ashraf is an adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore and an associate fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. He is a former member of Pakistan Foreign Service 1973-2008.
(Copyright 2013 Sajjad Ashraf)
Retiring Pakistan army chief set for key role
KARACHI – General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, one of Pakistan’s most powerful men, has announced his retirement from the post of Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) on November 29. With one stroke on Sunday, General Kiani put to rest speculation in the media that he would try to extend his three-year term for a third time. Some reports, however, claim that Kiani is lobbying to keep a key defense role.
Kiani is prepared to accept a position as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC), currently a largely ceremonial post that would be given more authority, or to become defense adviser to the government, according to a report published in The Wall Street Journal.
“Kiani is using his office to say that he’s the guy who can control North Waziristan, he’s the one who can handle what is happening with India,” The Wall Street Journal quoted a Pakistan’s retired army officer as saying. “With all this going on, he’s saying now is not the time for a change of leadership.”
Kiani’s appointment as head of the newly empowered JCSC would make him de facto head of the powerful military, which has ruled over the country for more than half of its history though is currently under a civilian administration headed by Nawaz Sharif, who elected prime minister for a third time in May. Sharif needs Kiani to ensure some continuity in its policy vis-a-vis Taliban militancy and rising tensions with India over Kashmir. The general may be helpful for keeping smooth relations with Washington in wake of withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan at the end of next year.
Kiani, in a statement issued on Sunday by the military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said: “For quite some time, my current responsibilities and likely future plans have been debated in the media with all sorts of rumors and speculations doing the rounds. The subject of being entrusted with new duties has also come up in several reports. I am grateful to the political leadership and the nation for reposing their trust in me and Pakistan Army at this important juncture of our national history. However, I share the general opinion that institutions and traditions are stronger than individuals and must take precedence.”
Kiani has twice served the three-year term as Chief of the Army Staff, during which he oversaw the first democratic transfer of power in the country following May 11 general elections. His services as army chief were extended for three years in 2010 under former government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Another extension by Sharif could allow for a shift in the ranks of the military’s top brass, but the prime minister wants Kiani to continue to play a key role in the military establishment.
Critics however say that keeping Kiani in a powerful position would mean entrenching the army once again as the real decision maker at the expense of the key role and powers of democratic government.
Sharif has reportedly planned to overhaul the JCSC, a largely ceremonial office, into a central defense body by restoring its command over the entire military establishment and giving it additional powers including the right to promote, post and transfer key military officers.
“The new JCSC chief will be in charge of the nuclear arsenal. He’ll decide on action against terrorists,” Reuters reported one senior intelligence official as saying. “Basically, the JCSC office will be what it was always supposed to be: the overall boss.”
Sharif as prime minister has the final decision about Kiani’s appointment to chair a revamped JCSC. Sharif had not been in good terms with the military establishment during his previous two governments and tussles with the military led to the dismissal of his governments. Sharif was put behind the bars in 1999 when former army chief General Pervez Musharraf overthrew his elected government in a military coup. Unlike his predecessor, Kiani has kept democracy on track and not indulged in adventurism against elected politicians during past six years. He especially did not take advantage of the weaknesses of the previous government led by former president Asif Ali Zardari.
In his statement on Sunday, Kiani said, “It is time for others to carry forward the mission of making Pakistan a truly democratic, prosperous and peaceful country that embodies the finest dreams our founding fathers had envisaged for us.”
Kiani is widely believed to stay on in one form or another even after his retirement next month due to the trust he has built working with the US. “Kiani has a good rapport with the Americans and has worked closely with them in Afghanistan,” Reuters reported an aide to the prime minister as saying. “For Sharif and the US, it’s better the devil they know.”
Kiani declared the American war on terror as the country’s own war. He undertook many military operations against Islamist extremists. In 2009, he successfully launched a military offensive against Taliban militants in Swat, the former stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan is currently under attack from the extremists, who have so far killed 40,000 civilians and over 5,000 security personnel in bomb blasts and suicide bombings. Kiani backed the Sharif’s government in its decision to give peace a chance through peace dialogue with Taliban militants.
Sharif has to take the critical decision to appoint a successor to the COAS after Kiani retires from the post on November 29. Seniority-wise, General Haroon Aslam, who currently holds the position of Chief of Logistics Staff at the Army Head Quarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, should get the job. But Sharif may appoint the army chief out of turn, violating the principle of seniority. In 1998, Sharif ignored seniority by appointing Musharraf as army chief. His decision proved a blunder when Musharraf ousted his government in a coup d’tat.
Syed Fazl-e-Haider ( http://www.syedfazlehaider.com ) is a development analyst in Pakistan. He is the author of many books, including The Economic Development of Balochistan, published in May 2004. E-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Legacy of Pakistani scholar lives on
By Nasim Yousaf
Allama Mashriqi was one of the founding fathers of Islamia College in Peshawar, Pakistan. His long association with the college, first as its vice-principal and later as principal, brought about a revolution in education and gave new dimensions to one of the most educationally backward provinces of British India, the North West Frontier Province (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).
One hundred years ago (1913), Islamia College, established at the gate of the famous Khyber Pass, opened its doors to the students of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Peshawar, a Muslim-dominated province. Allama Mashriqi joined the college when the project was in its infancy and when the doors of this institution had yet to be opened for enrollment by students.
In 1912, Allama Mashriqi completed his education at the University of Cambridge. Mashriqi had created history through his unprecedented academic achievements (which were a great honor for Asia) with achievements which were praised by daily newspapers in the United Kingdom.
“It was hitherto considered not possible at Cambridge that a man could take honors in four Triposes [the tripos is the final honors examination for a BA degree at Cambridge University] in a short period of five years but it is credit to India that Inayatullah Khan of the Christ’s College has accomplished the feat,” wrote the The Star, London, in 1912.
The Yorkshire Post, wrote on June 13, 1912: “Inayatullah Khan, of Christ’s, has proved himself the best all-round Indian student ever at Cambridge … He is believed to be the first man of any nationality to obtain honors in four different subjects.”
News of his academic successes was not only publicized in the UK, but spread all across India. Mashriqi was showered with job offers (including the Premiership of Alver State in British India) with lucrative salaries and benefits.
Based on his performance, Sir George Roos-Keppel, the Chief Commissioner (equivalent to Governor) of the North West Frontier Province appointed Mashriqi as the first Vice-Principal of Islamia College. Mashriqi accepted the position to bring about a revolution in the field of education.
With his appointment, Mashriqi became part of the planning process and later officially joined the college in April, 1913. He worked rigorously with the other founders (Nawab Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum, Sir George Roos-Keppel, and L. Tipping) to launch the college. Finally, the college opened its doors on October 1, 1913 and began flourishing (at the time, most people throughout the region were illiterate).
In 1916, Mashriqi was appointed as the officiating principal and in 1917 he became the permanent principal. It is important to note that at the time, providing education, particularly to females in the region, was considered a sin by orthodox Muslims, but Mashriqi changed their outlook and opened the doors for women. The spread of education (including among females) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can be seen from official reports. This would not have been possible without Mashriqi and the Islamia College team’s hard work.
In 1917, Mashriqi was again promoted to under secretary of education and sent to Delhi, where he worked at the Secretariat of the Viceroy of India. In 1919, he became a member of the prestigious Indian Education Service and was sent back to Peshawar (where he held various positions in the education department). He remained in Peshawar for a long time, until he resigned from government service in 1930. He then went on to form the Khaksar Tehrik (also known as Khaksar movement).
Though Mashriqi was directly associated with Islamia College for its first five years (1913-1917), he remained closely connected with the college thereafter and the management continued to seek Mashriqi’s guidance on various issues and development projects.
Islamia College continued to grow in its influence and prominence. For example, the University of Peshawar was founded as an extension of the college in 1950. Today, Islamia College is rated as one of the best in Pakistan. Its magnificent buildings (which are also printed on Pakistani currency notes of different denominations as well as on postage stamps) are considered among the marvelous monuments of Pakistan.
In order to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Islamia College (to be celebrated in November 2013 by the college administration) and to enlighten the public about the contributions made by reformer and revolutionary Allama Mashriqi to build the college and promote education in the province, I have also published a booklet entitled Allama Mashriqi: A Founder of Islamia College (Peshawar, Pakistan). The work is about the contributions of one of the founders of Islamia College to this historic institution in Pakistan.
Nasim Yousaf has far written 12 books and many articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. His most recent book, Mahatma Gandhi and My Grandfather, Allama Mashriqi explores India’s partition. He is working on additional books and articles.
(Copyright Nasim Yousaf 2013)