Inter Press Service » Crime & Justice News and Views from the Global South Thu, 26 May 2016 18:22:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mapping Kashmir Thu, 26 May 2016 16:10:10 +0000 Sikander Ahmed and Abid Rizvi By Sikander Ahmed Shah and Abid Rizvi
May 26 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

This month the Indian ministry of home affairs released the draft of the proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016. Still in its preliminary form, it has created a furore both at home and abroad.

The bill aims to regulate `the acquisition, dissemination, publication, and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty, and integrity of India`, and proposes severe penalties for the `incorrect` depiction of the `territory` of India by persons `within` India or Indians living abroad.

The bill represents a broad undermining of international law and a violation of the bilateral arrangement vis-à-vis Kashmir.

Pakistan`s ambassador to the UN, Maliha Lodhi, has raised concerns with the secretary general and Security Council that the bill seeks to unilaterally depict the disputed territories of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) as being within Indian territory, and to punish those representingthe correctscenario.

The Line of Control (LoC) is the current demarcation of territorial control within Kashmir. First established under the 1949 Karachi Agreement, it was further reified in the 1972 Shimla Declaration under which Pakistan and India agreed that the `line of control resulting from the ceasefire of Dec 17, 1971, shall be respected by both sides without prejudice to the recognised position of either side. Neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations` It further states that `[pjending the final settlement […J neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both shall prevent the organisation, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peace and harmonious relations`.

The LoC is reproduced in UN maps, along with a legend describing it as agreed upon under the Shimla accord, with J&K`s final status remaining in dispute. While official maps published by the Survey of Pakistan do not reproduce the LoC, they correctly depict J&K as disputed. By contrast, the official Survey of India`s maps incorrectly depict the entirety of J&K as well as Gilgit-Baltistan as Indian territories.

Pakistan ought to adopt the UN`s practice of marl(ing the LOC on its own official maps with a legend unequivocally declaring the status of J&K as being undecided. Rather than compromising the Kashmiri cause, this would, instead, clearly state the ground realities: that the LoC exists and shall be recognised until such time as the territorial status of J&K can be resolved. This is critical; under international law, while official maps might not conclusively resolve a boundary dispute between two states, they nonetheless have probative value, and can be relied uponby states when attempting to advance their positions.

The proposed bill is yet another attempt by India to unilaterally assimilate J&K contravening international law. That the territorial status of Kashmir is unresolved is not in dispute; however, India, by its recent actions, has sought to force a resolution of the situation to its own benefit.

The attempt to construct a fence in Indiaheld Kashmir also violating international law is an example of India`s unsettling tendency to chip away at provisions of previous agreements. This latest attempt to undermine recognition of Kashmir`s status is another instance of India violating the Shimla pact in spirit and in operative text.

The accord is intended to maintain the status quo until a permanent solution is devised.

The bill seel(s to unilaterally alter this.

From a historical perspective, the Karachi Agreement was a multilateral one, mediatedby the UN; the Shimla pact concluded as a bilateral arrangement, with India choosing to expel the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan and maintaining that the Kashmir issue existed wholly between the two countries. Now it seems India is taking steps to force a permanent resolution one entirely for its own benefit, at the expenseof the Kashmiri people, and in violation of international law.

Kashmiris` right to self-determination has been recognised under international law and sanctified by numerous UN resolutions.

However, under this bill those living in India-held Kashmir can face criminal penalties for portraying that J&K`s territorial status remains unresolved, or be forced to accept the version of `truth`imposed by India all of which runs counter to self-determination andits peacefulfurtherance.

Under the international law for boundary delimitations, the doctrine of `acquiescence can come into play: if one state party knowingly does not raise objections to the other`s illegal act, it can be seen as having acquiesced to the other party`s illegalities.

Pakistan should strongly protest the bill which goes beyond the scope of domestic lawmaking into the realm of international law to ensure that India does not subsequently claim Pakistan acquiesced to its position.

Sikander Shah is former legal adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and law faculty at Lums.
Abid Rizvi is an expert on international law.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Debate Over Bangladeshi Militants’ External Connections Tue, 24 May 2016 17:59:44 +0000 Ali Riaz By Ali Riaz
May 24 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

As targeted killings of individuals with unorthodox views and members of minority communities continue unabated in Bangladesh, so does the debate on whether international terrorists have made inroads to the country. The question has been whether the claims of the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) of their presence in Bangladesh should be taken at face value. In the past months, both these organisations have been claiming responsibility for a series of killings. Until recently, these claims have not been accompanied by justifications, but that pattern seems to be changing. The AQIS affiliate Ansar-al Islam, issued a long statement after the murder of Xulhazs Mannan, an LGBT activist and USAID staff member. The government, on the other hand, has continued to deny the existence of these organisations and insists that these are the acts of ‘homegrown’ militants. In April, the English magazine of the IS, Dabiq, published an interview with the so-called Amir of the Bangladeshi chapter of the IS to bolster its presence. Ansar-al Islam claims to represent the AQIS in Bangladesh. This is a mutated version of the organisation Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which came into being in 2007.

Both the denial of any external connections of Bangladeshis, and insistence that the IS/AQIS has recently made inroads in the country, seem to disregard the historical background of militancy in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi militants had regional and extra-regional connections since their inception in the mid-1990s. It is worth recalling that the genesis of Islamist militants can be traced back to the Afghan War (1979-1989) in the late 1980s. The fountainhead of the militant groups in Bangladesh, Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami Bangladesh (HuJIB), emerged in public on April 30, 1992 through a press conference at the National Press Club in Dhaka. A group of so-called volunteers, who participated in the Afghan War in the previous years, arranged a press conference in the wake of the fall of Kabul to the Afghan Mujahedeen. Although the rudimentary form of the HuJI began in Pakistan in 1980, it was formally established in 1988. It expanded in the following four years, as the HuJI leadership wanted to reach out to other parts of South Asia. This led to the establishment of the HuJI in Bangladesh. The initial goal was to use Bangladesh as the launching pad for destabilising neighbouring Myanmar.

The operation of the HuJIB expanded further after it established relationships with the local militant organisation Jamaat-ul-Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB). The JMB was founded in 1998 but was named as such three years later. The founding of the JMB was a culmination of a series of meetings between Sayekh Abdur Rahman and a number of Islamist leaders and Ulema in 1996. These meetings brought Mufti Hannan and Abdur Rahman together. On January 19, 1996, law enforcement agencies busted a training camp in a remote part of Cox’s Bazar and arrested 41 armed militants. The camp was originally thought to be a training camp of Rohingya rebels based in Bangladesh. When these militants were being tried at a local court in Cox’s Bazar, Abdur Rahman was sent as the HuJIB representative to monitor and help the accused. This turned out to be the beginning of a long relationship between JMB and the HuJI-B.

The external connections of the potential militants of Bangladesh began in earnest in 1997-98. The connection established between Indian citizen Syed Abdul Karim Tunda and Abdur Rahman is a watershed moment in the history of militancy in Bangladesh. Tunda, who has been in Indian custody since 2013 on a number of terrorism charges, is alleged to be an operative of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayeba (LeT). Indian intelligence sources insist that Tunda entered Bangladesh in 1994 and operated from there for quite some time. In any case, he was the bridge between Abdur Rahman of the JMB and the LeT and Hafiz Saeed. Indian intelligence agencies had claimed that Thadiyantavide Nazir of the Lashkar-e-Tayeba, allegedly connected to the 2008 bomb blasts in Bangalore, had travelled to Bangladesh.

The presence of regional militants in Bangladesh became publicly known in 2008 and 2009. Abdur Rauf Merchant and Jahed Sheikh, two Indian militants, were arrested in Bangladesh. Between May and September 2009, six members of the so-called Aref Reza Commando Forces (ARCF), including Mufti Obaidullah were arrested. Some of these militants admitted that they were living in Bangladesh for some time; for example, Obaidullah claimed to be in Bangladesh since 1995 and another member of the group Habibullah claimed to be residing since 1993.

The other source for the connections between the Bangladeshi militants and outside groups was the presence of the Rohingya rebel groups in Chittagong Hill Tracts. HUJI’s primary goal was to establish contact with these rebel groups. Interestingly, Rohingya rebel groups, Bangladeshi militants and northeast Indian rebel groups, such as the ULFA, had reportedly worked together to procure weapons from black markets in Southeast Asia and used Cox’s Bazar’s remote shoreline as the drop-off point before being distributed. This shows that cooperation among militant groups across the border does not have to be based on ideological affinity; instead other factors can and do bring these groups together.

In the age of globalisation, exportation of terrorism does not require physical presence of operatives of international terrorist groups in a country. There are many ways of indoctrination and recruitment. Ideas of extremism to identification of targets can well be coordinated from distant lands. A number of attacks in various parts of the world have already demonstrated that the internet as a vehicle is quite effective. The phenomenon called ‘lone wolf’ is pertinent here. As such, the characterisation of ongoing militancy as a combination of global and local – a ‘glocal’ phenomenon, as Habibul Haque Khondoker writes in a local English daily – is apt.

There is no denying that there are Bangladeshi citizens willing to join the ‘Global Jihad’ and bring it home. A survey of newspaper reports published between July 2014 and June 2015, shows that law enforcing agencies arrested 112 alleged ‘militants’. Of these, 22 individuals were identified as either connected to or aspiring to be connected to ISIS, 12 reportedly tried to travel to Syria. Two rounds of arrests of Bangladeshis in Singapore, in December last year and in March this year, also show that expatriates can become vehicles for radicalisation. There have been instances of British-Bangladeshis joining the Syrian war from the United Kingdom. Indian investigators have claimed that Bangladeshi militants, particularly the JMB, have been known to operate from India, particularly in West Bengal.

As such Bangladeshi militants’ external connections should not be viewed as an entirely new phenomenon. This is not to underestimate the significance of connections with the IS or AQIS, instead to underscore that given the history such links would require few efforts. If individual acquaintances of the past metamorphose into an organisational tie, the situation will take a turn for the worse, perhaps slide down to an unmanageable level. The IS/AQIS is capable of providing additional resources and a global stage for these menacing groups. It is a matter of time and opportunity before such a tie can flourish. Therefore, it is imperative to acknowledge that denial cannot be a strategy, and that it is necessary to act in earnest.

The writer is professor and chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University, USA. He is the co-editor of the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Bangladesh (2016).

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Middle-Class Ethos Tue, 24 May 2016 17:47:45 +0000 Niaz Murtaza By Niaz Murtaza
May 24 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The middle class is viewed as a positive force for progress given its higher education, mobility and wealth. But this view is based on its role in developed states in fostering egalitarian progress, democracy and the rule of law by initiating social movements.

In lower-income states like Pakistan, the middle classes usually eschew this role. They become passive agents under unfair systems or even their partial supporters. Why is this so? As a social scientist, I believe in structural explanations. Structural approaches view widespread negative traits not as coincidentally rampant individual moral failings but the result of broader structural factors which shape societal behaviour potently.

Western middle classes played positive roles within rapidly growing and transforming post-Second World War economies. Such change reduced the conflict between middle-class personal progress and broader egalitarian national progress. Thus, they easily adopted liberal outlooks and supported egalitarian struggles. In contrast, middle classes in places like Pakistan face anemic economies. As such, their personal progress can often only be achieved under unfair national systems which marginalise the masses.

Sections of the middle classes in such situations often become conservative. In fact, as Western economies have stagnated, their middle classes too have done so.

The Pakistani middle class, though small proportionately, totals tens of millions of people because of our large size. This and the lack of concrete data make sweeping generalisations hazardous. But though my daily interactions do not yield a random sample, I come across some conservative traits so frequently that I feel they afflict large sections of middle-class people because of the structural factors that have been mentioned.

The first trait is skewed knowledge of economic and political development issues among many. This has two sides. Firstly, many largely define development in narrow physical terms such as big malls, sleek motorways etc. or narrow economic measures like GDP growth rather than egalitarian, propoor and sustainable development.

Secondly, they view the drivers of development simplistically in terms of single causes like the presence of an honest leader, especially a military one. There is often insufficient appreciation of the multiple, complex causes of development encompassing historical and current, national and global, social, economic and political factors.

Obviously, people from other fields cannot have such deep knowledge. However, even when such information is presented in simple terms, many show little interest in absorbing it, subconsciously knowing it runs counter to their class economic interests. The second issue related to their analytical skills. Social science analysis on complex phenomena like national development involves painstakingly identifying multiple causes and their interrelationships, collecting data about how they have co-evolved in the past in similar contexts and then making tentative predictions and recommendations for effecting gradual future change.

But a large section of the middle class seemingly believes that huge changes can happen instantaneously and the future has little to do with the past. Within such a historical views, there is a firm belief that immediate glory is waiting just around the corner for Pakistan if we could do some simple tasks like electoral reforms or punishing Panama leaks villains under a non-elected regime.

The third trait is illiberal values. Many educated people claim Pakistan`s problems can only be solved by the danda and killing thou-sands of people.

There is widespread support for crude tools like the death penalty, public hangings and military courts. Anyone challenging them on human rights basis is dismissed as impractical.

The final issue isattitudes that can be seen as arrogant, passive and elitist. Despite incomplete knowledge on development and governance issues, there are many among the middle classes that are loath to admit that they could be wrong, and resent being asked for logic and proof. This reveals a faulty view that every-day analysis need not be based on evidence but unsupported opinions.

Even though the corruption scandals of upper-class politicians are a source of great outrage for them, this will still not drive the majority to join social movements. They expect generals and judges will deliver them a clean system in the comfort of their homes.

Finally, they look down upon the masses as lazy, untrustworthy and part of the problem.

Fortunately, some change is evident and one at least sees some desire among a growing number of middle-class people to support progressive causes benefiting the masses.

But even so, those interested in progressive change can only expect at best partial support from the middle class immediately.

Turning them into steadfast allies will require a huge awareness-raising exercise to neutralise the impact of structural causes making them conservative.

The writer heads INSPIRING Pakistan, an economic and political change initiative.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Year of Judicial Accountability Mon, 23 May 2016 14:40:01 +0000 Reema Omer By Reema Omer
May 23 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali has declared the year 2015-2016 as the year of judicial accountability. Judicial independence has long been a flashpoint in Pakistan, as illustrated by the movement nearly a decade ago to reinstate the unlawfully deposed former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

However, accountability has largely been absent from this discourse. Without accountability, independencehasthe potentialtoactasashield behind which judges have the opportunity to conceal possible unethical behaviour. Indeed, judicial accountability is part and parcel of judicial independence, since a judge whose conduct and decisions are influenced by extra-legal elements cannot be independent. Under international standards, including UN basic principles on the independence of the judiciary, therefore, the independence and accountability of the judiciary are inextricably linked.

Chief Justice Jamali`s focus on accountability within the judiciary is welcome, as corruption in the judiciary is a long-standing and chronic issue in Pakistan. Transparency International`s corruption perception surveys, for example, frequently place the judiciary as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country (along with the police).

Chief Justice Jamali`s focus on accountability in all tiers of the judiciary, including the high courts and the Supreme Court, is an important aspect of the accountability drive.

In the past, where judges have acknowledged corruption in the judicial institution, the focus has been limited only to judges in the subordinate judiciary. The National Judicial Policy adopted by the SC in 2009, for example, recommended that strict action be taken against district and sessions judges who carry a `persistent reputation of being corrupt`. However, while judges of the superior courts were encouraged to decide cases expeditiously, there was no recognition of corruption or other misuse of authority by judges of the supreme and high courts in the policy.

The chief justice`s vision on accountability rests on `activating` the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), which under Article 209 of the Constitution is tasked with carrying out inquiries into the capacity and conduct of SC and high court judges.The SJC comprises the chief justice of Pakistan, the two most senior judges of the SC, and the two most senior chief justices of the high courts.

Disciplinary proceedings are initiated before the Council if there is information from `any source`, or it is the opinion of the president of Pakistan, that a judge from the superior judiciary is either incapable of performing his or her duties due to mental or physical incapacity, or that he or she may have engaged in misconduct. A finding of guilt by the SJC is the only method by which a judge of the SC or of a high court can be removed.

The chief justice has acknowledged that the SJC has been rendered ineffective because of prolonged delays in deciding complaints: according to the chief justice, 90pc of cases before the SJC have become moot, as the accused judges retired while their cases were still pending.

In addition, especially in the recent past, military governments and judges of the SC have also undermined the authority and the constitutional role of the SJC.

The most glaring (and damaging) recent example occurred after Gen Musharraf`s proclamation of emergency in 2007, when the unlawful sacking of then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and other judges of the SC and high courts and was justified in the name of `judicial accountability`. These judges were dismissed without the involvement of the SJC.

Ironically, under the leadership of chief justice Chaudhry, the process of circumventing the SJC continued. Following restoration in 2009, the SC gave at least 72 judges who were accused of taking oath under Musharraf`s provisional constitution the option of resigning or facing contempt of court charges. Their plea to appear before the SJC for hearing was dismissed by the SC.

In this context, therefore, Chief Justice Jamali`s focus on rejuvenating the SJC to perform its constitutional role is a welcome move.

The process of judicial accountability, however, will require much more: First, measures must be taken to ensure that disciplinary proceedings are not used as a means of intimidation, harassment, or retaliation againstjudges for exercising their judicial functions independently and diligently. At the minimum, this would mean that disciplinary proceedings against judgesare strictly accordingtothe provisions ofthe Constitution and international standards, and must meet all fair trial and due process guarantees.

Second, transparency should be a key aspect of disciplinary proceedings against judges. The number of cases referred to the SJC; the legal and evidentiary bases for the complaints; the time taken for adjudication; and the outcomes of the proceedings must be made public both to maintain the public`s confidence in the administration of justice and also to protect the interests of the parties involved.

Third, what amounts to judicial misconduct must be clearly defined and must be appropriate under the rule of law. While the current understanding of misconduct seems limited to financial corruption, nepotism and misuse of authority, perhaps what is also needed is the recognition of the role of judges in undermining human rights protections or facilitating violations or impunity for such violations.

One of the ways this can be done is to revise the judicial code of conduct to bring it in line with international standards, including reflecting the duty of judges to guarantee and protect human rights.

And finally, judicial immunity under Article 77 of the Penal Code and other provisions of the law which protect judges from liability resulting from their `good faith` judicial actions, should never insulate judges from prosecution for serious crimes and crimes under international law.

If carried out fairly, expeditiously and transparently, the judicial accountability drive initiated by the chief justice can be a step towards restoring public confidence and trust in the judiciary, which has long suffered because of neglect of the problems plaguing the institution. It will also bring Pakistan closer to an independent judiciary, in a truer sense of the term.•

The writer is a legal adviser for the International Commission of Jurists. Twitter: reema omer

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Humanitarian Summit Must Address Weapons Shipments Too Sun, 22 May 2016 17:04:43 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 2 A Teacher Has Been Taught His Lesson! Sun, 22 May 2016 14:11:35 +0000 Mohammad Badrul Ahsan By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
May 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Greek historian Herodotus, living in the fifth century, couldn’t have known in advance that a headmaster was going to be humiliated in Narayanganj on the second Friday of May 2016. But when he said that men trusted their ears more than their eyes, it set the standard of mob justice for all time to come. Those who’ve watched the disgusting video of that outrageous incident couldn’t believe their eyes while ears burned with shame. The headmaster was doing earholding sit-ups while an all-daddy lawmaker wagged his finger, keeping count. When the exhausted and embarrassed victim fell on the floor after the third time, he was pulled up to stand on his feet. Then like a mechanical toy, the poor man was made to raise his folded hands to his forehead asking for forgiveness before a hysterical crowd.

Infuriated by the incident of public humilation of a school teacher in Narayanganj, netizens have stirred social media in protest. Photo: Star

Infuriated by the incident of public humilation of a school teacher in Narayanganj, netizens have stirred social media in protest. Photo: Star

Most people who had gathered at the scene had trusted ears more than eyes. Most of them had come to witness the punishment for a crime they had not witnessed. Mob justice is always swayed not by proof but by provocation.

The foreign media touted it as yet another instance of minority persecution. The teacher being a Hindu man has largely contributed to that apprehension, particularly when religious sentiments are being deployed to do dirty work for devious minds. What happened in Narayanganj was a low-down showdown, when powerful people exploited holy sentiments to settle an unholy score. The family of the student, who was disciplined by that teacher, may have pulled the strings to get even with him. The influential school committee members also saw an opportunity to get rid of him.

The teacher was allegedly roughed up by the unruly mob before the circus that followed. As far as this victim is concerned, he was already humiliated before the humiliation was recorded on video. The rest of us in this country have been humiliated afterwards. We have been humiliated when the authorities sat on their hands, despite so many outcries across the country, when nothing happened after a number of ministers condemned the act. The final humiliation came for everyone in the final blow of cruelty after the school committee, instead of being repentant and apologetic, went ahead to sack the headmaster.

I would like to plead with this teacher to take comfort in the fact that while he bore the physical brunt of the humiliation, the sensible people of this country have felt the shame. And I ask him not to think he was targeted for his professional or religious denomination. We all live in a country, where the powerful have sadly and perversely taken the powerless for granted.

I can assure him that in any civilised country, the lawmaker would have been arrested, the Parliament would have condemned their rowdy colleague, and the state would have rushed to the protection of the victim and his job. Since none of these has happened until now, he is free to draw his own conclusion. I recommend he should consider this as an option. He should think as if wild animals have badly mauled him in a dangerous jungle.

In shame and despair, human chains around the country had people holding their own ears. It was symbolic, of course, a gesture to express solidarity with the victim and indignation for his embarrassment. One of the limitations of human condition is that it’s confined to its own limitations. After initial reactions, this entire episode is either going to taper off or will be forgotten soon.

What will persist is the horror that, in future, will haunt every teacher in every school of this country. Teachers will think twice before taking a student to task, or grading papers, or even assigning homework. They will feel nervous to lance with the school committees, lest their intentions will be taken out of context and brutalised. After all, why should anybody risk their safety and honour if doing a job well should cost them both?

This isn’t to rule out the possibility that the headmaster in Narayanganj could have said or done anything wrong. But the public humiliation of a teacher has mislaid the moral compass, because more than a man was harassed on that day. An entire institution was stripped of its honour, its glory mocked as if neighbourhood kids taunted a raving madman.

Alexander the Great said he owed his living to his father and his life to his teacher. We grew up ingesting that same value, respecting teachers no less than parents because we knew and still know it for a fact that they’ve largely made us who we’re. The lawmaker in Narayanganj must be holding repressed anger against his teachers. The sit-ups could be a Freudian slip to do unto them what they may have done unto him!

The writer is Editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Will Canada Recognise Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Developing Countries Too? Thu, 19 May 2016 15:09:32 +0000 Aruna Dutt 1 What`s Next for Nawaz Sharif? Thu, 19 May 2016 09:51:46 +0000 Zahid Hussain By Zahid Hussain
May 19 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Nawaz Sharif`s much-awaited speech in the National Assembly was as unconvincing as his two previous addresses to the nation. It was the same detail of family business and tale of persecution.

There was a hint of defiance but overall it lacked in confidence. The prime minister looked under tremendous pressure as he tried to respond to some of the questions that have been posed by the opposition about the source of his family`s enormous offshore wealth.

There was still no plausible account of the money trail leading to the upmarket Mayfair properties in London that his family owns. In fact, the speech has raised more questions than it has answered. Sharif`s tax returns over the last two decades and the story of the hard work and business acumen that went into the making of the family business empire failed to impress the opposition that is going for the jugular.

What, perhaps, salvaged the day for the beleaguered prime minister was the opposition`s irresponsible decision to walk out instead of responding to his speech in the house. They chose to take the battle outside parliament and to TV talk shows, making a public spectacle of a serious political issue.

It is difficult to comprehend the logic behind this step given that it was the demand of the opposition itself that had forced Sharif to take his case to parliament. While the government looked nervous fighting a desperate battle, the opposition too did not come out looking good. It was a miserable show of political gamesmanship that has further deepened the political crisis unleashed by the Panama leaks.

There seems to be no end to the deadlock after the opposition has rejected the prime minister`s proposal to form a joint parliamentary committee to devise a mutually agreed accountability mechanism. Many contend the offer came too late and has become irrelevant after the chief justice declined the government`s request to form a judicial commission to probe the allegations of corruption against those named in the Panama leaks. What is next for Sharif? No one seems to have a clear answer to the question.

It did not come as a surprise when Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali turned down the government`s request to head what he described as a `toothless` judicial commission with no clear parameters of investigation. He wants parliament to pass new legislation to make such a commission more effective.

It was obvious that the government had deliberately kept the Terms of Reference (ToR) wide and complex so as to take away the focus from the Sharif family`s offshore wealth. The main objective was to prolong the investigation without any conclusion in order to defuse the crisis. But it was not to happen.

The chief justice rightly pointed out that such investigation would only muddy the image of the apex court.

Such a blunt and candid response from the chief justice who is due to retire later this year has further limited Sharif`s options. That perhaps had compelled him to seek the opposition`s support to amend the ToR. But there is still no indication of the government being interested in new legislation to make the proposed judicial commission more effective as suggested by the chief justice.

It is not just the government that has been badly bruised in the Panama leaks saga: many top opposition leaders have also been muddled by the scandal, their high moral ground severely compromised. The latest disclosure about his offshore company has also landed Imran Khan in a political maelstrom and provided the government with an effective whip with which to beat its main tormentor.

There may not be any wrongdoing involved but the very fact that the PTI leader failed to declare it while bashing others for owning offshore companies exposed him to the allegation of being a hypocrite.

He is surely finding it hard to rationalise his decision not to disclose his own offshore investment.

With all the faces blackened in the fracas, it is difficult for the public to decide who is more dishonest.

It is quite interesting that the PPP has so far remained unblemished in the current offshore saga. It is not that its leaders are clean or have not been mentioned in the Panama Papers, but neither the government nor the PTI for different reasons want to target it. While being in the alliance has saved the party from any attack from the PTI, the government does not want to take on its former `friendly opposition` as Sharif battles it out with his main challenger.

It is, however, not clear how long the PPP would stick to the anti-government alliance with no clear political strategy. For many old stalwarts, the current hard-line stance is necessary to keep the party alive and stop defections to the PTI in Punjab. But this policy is also not without risk, specifically the risk of playing second fiddle to the PTI that wants to take the battle to the bitter end.

With the stand-off against the opposition becoming more serious, Nawaz Sharif is also feeling increasing heat from the military that is fast assuming the role of arbiter. The tension has been mounting since the army chief Gen Raheel Sharif made a rare public statement calling for across-the-board accountability. The government saw it as a warning.

Rumours about the growing civil and military divide gained further currency with a month-long gap in what had become almost a daily interaction between the two Sharifs.

The two finally met last week but it did not bring an end to the rumours. A deliberate leak of part of what is supposed to be a highly confidential one-on one meeting, and information conveyed later by sources that the general had urged the prime minister during the meeting to urgently resolve the crisis, has further vitiated the atmosphere.

With no resolution of the crisis in sight, there are fewer options now left for the prime minister. His defence in parliament seems to have further compounded his predicament. One is not sure how he can break the siege.•

The writer is an author and joumalist. Twitter:@hidhussain

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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A Latin American Humanitarian Emergency Invisible to the World Wed, 18 May 2016 23:42:43 +0000 Daniela Pastrana In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
MEXICO CITY, May 18 2016 (IPS)

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, referring to the generalised violence in Mexico and in Honduras and other countries of Central America, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and is a product of transnational crime, but is invisible to the international community.

Zúñiga Cáceres, the daughter of indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered on Mar. 2, is in Mexico after visiting several European cities to ask for help clarifying her mother’s murder and to call for a cancellation of the financing for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, to which the Lenca indigenous people are opposed.

In an interview with IPS she admitted that despite the death threats and the murders of other activists, she didn’t believe they would dare kill her mother, who was so well-known at an international level.“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency).” -- Rubén Figueroa

She herself and her siblings had fled to Mexico due to the threats against members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), which was founded by Cáceres 23 years ago. She had been studying in Mexico for a month when her mother was killed.

Now she wants to tell the world about communities that are displaced and forced off their land because of a “neoliberal, racist and patriarchal” system.

The victims, she said, are not only the Lenca Indians. Also affected are the Garifunas, mixed-race descendants of native people and African slaves, who have been displaced by the construction of tourist resorts in their coastal territory.

To that is added abuse by the police and other agents of the state, since the 2009 coup d’etat that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya, mixed with criminal violence that has forced thousands of people to seek refuge outside of Honduras.

Rubén Figueroa, coordinator of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, which has organised 11 caravans of Central American mothers searching for their children who have gone missing in Mexico, concurs with Zúñiga Cáceres.

“The situation in the entire Northern Triangle region of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) is a humanitarian crisis,” the migrants’ rights activist told IPS.

“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency),” he said.

Figures from an invisible crisis

According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement, published this month by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the number of internally displaced people forced from their homes by armed conflict and violence rose to a record 40.8 million in 2015.

Of that total, at least 7.3 million were in Latin America, most of them in Colombia, because of its decades-long armed conflict.

But the report dedicates a special analysis to the growing new phenomenon of displacement caused by criminal violence, in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

These four countries accounted for a total of one million internally displaced persons – nearly double the number reported in the 2014 edition of the report. They are mainly victims of criminal violence, principally associated with drug trafficking and gangs.

The IDMC stresses that these are incomplete figures, to which must be added the number of people who are forced to leave the country by criminal violence.

It describes those displaced by criminal violence as “unseen and in displacement limbo”.

Human rights activists in Mexico blame this generalised violence on the war between organised crime groups, as well as on violence by the states against opponents to mining and energy projects.

“What we are experiencing is not a war on drug trafficking, but a war by the state against the general population,” María Herrera, an activist with the group of relatives searching for family members forcibly disappeared in Mexico, who number in the thousands, told IPS.

Also part of this new kind of humanitarian emergency, arising from transnational crime, are civilian victims of the growing militarisation in countries of Central America and Mexico, according to those interviewed by IPS, who complain that the issue is not on the agenda for the World Humanitarian Summit to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul.

Figueroa said a series of regional policies, such as Mexico’s Southern Border Plan and the Alliance for Progress in Central America, were partly to blame for the crisis.

“Approximately five years ago we began to notice that displacement is caused by more direct violence. We have seen young people who come to the shelters with bullets in their bodies. People who have returned to their countries and have been killed,” the activist said.

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

“Migration has always existed, but now people are being displaced by drug trafficking and gang warfare, and there is also the question of persecution and harassment of activists and human rights defenders in Honduras. It’s become structural violence,” he said.

Mexico between a rock and a hard place

The Central American diaspora triggered by violence, along with the deportation of thousands of migrants by the United States, has turned Mexico into a sort of sandwich. And this is causing a growing phenomenon, which has not been addressed either: Central Americans who are choosing to stay in Mexico rather than head north to the United States.

More than two million people were deported during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term – 2009-2012 – alone.

The governmental Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR) reports that 2,000 Central Americans requested refugee status in 2014, and only one-fifth were granted it.

Mexico, meanwhile, has its own humanitarian emergency. The Mexican Commission of Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) documented 281,400 cases of forced displacement caused by generalised violence between 2011 and February 2015.

One-third of these displaced persons fled their communities in 141 mass displacements in 14 states.

Mass displacement is defined as an event simultaneously affecting more than 50 people or 10 families. Between January 2014 and February 2015, the CMDPDH registered 23 mass displacements.

One-fifth of these happened in Guerrero, a state that doubled its record and became the leader in forced displacement due to violence in Mexico in the last year.

“People who have been internally displaced do not have mechanisms or institutions for their protection or assistance,” says the report Forced Displacement in Mexico, released by the CMDPDH, a government agency, in 2015.

But there are other cases, like that of Myrna Lazcano, a Mexican woman who, after marrying and having two daughters in the United States, decided to return to Mexico in 2008.

However, the violence against women in her home state of Puebla and in Veracruz, where she found work, forced her to send her daughters back, first, and then return herself to the United States, where she has requested asylum.

Like her, another 9,200 Mexicans applied for asylum in the United States in 2012 – three times the number of requests filed there by Mexicans in 2008.

“This is an emergency that no one wants to address,” said Figueroa. “It is influenced by the position, especially on the part of the United States, with regard to the situation in Central America, because they would be forced to offer refuge if they recognised it.”

But in his view, “another element is the stance taken by Mexico and the countries of origin (of the migrants), because they would be forced to admit that they are failing, as is the international community.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Rousseff Is (kind of) Gone. What Now? Tue, 17 May 2016 15:38:32 +0000 Fernando Cardim Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho, economist and professor at the Federal University of Río de Janeiro, ]]>

Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho, economist and professor at the Federal University of Río de Janeiro,

By Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 17 2016 (IPS)

As expected and widely predicted- Brazil’s Federal Senate has begun the impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff. According to Brazilian Law, the president is likely to be suspended for up to six months while arguments are put forth in the Senate, presided over by the Chief Justice. At the end of the proceedings, the president may be acquitted of all charges and returned to power or if convicted and found guilty, be deposed and banned from political activity for eight years.

Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho

Fernando J. Cardim de Carvalho

Even though the process has just begun, very few expect Rousseff to survive the political upheaval. The overwhelming result of the impeachment vote make her conviction almost certain. Thus, the transfer of power to Vice-President Michel Temer is widely seen as definitive, and who will serve as president until 2018.

What can one expect of Temer’s presidency? The answer seems to be, very little. The best bet is that the political crisis will continue and, if anything, deepen in the following months and years up to the 2018 elections. The deepening economic crisis will likely continue, possibly mitigated by a “natural” cyclical recovery, which is expected to be minimal due to the probable inability of the newly appointed government to reach some degree of political stability.

Much of the political instability may be due to the peculiar nature of the political support behind the new government. Temer is only the nominal leader of the largest political party in the country, Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB). He is the nominal leader because PMDB is a federation consisting of regional interest groups not consistently loyal to a central leadership. A party traditionally adept at deal making, it never gives its full support to a government unless it is done with all the regional interests in mind. Temer as president of PMDB has yielded very little effective power over the party as a whole. The first order of business for a government he leads will be to acquire (and to acquire is the exact term) the support of a number of PMDB groups large enough to provide him with sufficient support in Congress.

The difficulties in such political negotiations have been illustrated by the failures of former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula da Silva, besides Rousseff herself. Every president tries to buy the support of the party by involving its national leadership only to discover that the party must negotiate the support of each group regardless of the national leadership.

There are ofcourse other parties that were part of Rousseff’s coalition until the eve of the Senate vote. They are small parties devoid of any political ideology or consistent program, they tend to adhere to any government that can further their own interests. Their commitment to any given government is highly dependent on the likelihood of an administration remaining in power. When the government’s chances of survival deteriorate, it’s demise is often accelerated by mass defections from the above mentioned parties.

In the end, the only difference between the coalition that has been dislodged and the coalition that takes over is the substitution of PSDB for Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) and its satellites. PSDB is as incapable of stabilizing a government coalition as PT was. The “new” political configuration is therefore just as unstable as the one that is being replaced.

Temer’s new cabinet is promising tough liberal economic.The rhetoric is clearly conservative but the only difference with respect to Rousseff’s post-re-election rhetoric is the proposal of new privatizations as means to improve the financial situation of the federal government. The new finance minister (that Lula da Silva wanted Rousseff to nominate for her second term) has announced the need to control the fiscal deficit even though he is likely to be aware that very little can be done in the short or even mid-term. There has been talk of age limits for retirement, about the need to increase tax revenues (albeit without raising the necessary taxes) and cuts to subsidies for businesses which had increased dramatically during Rousseff’s first term in office. The political viability of these proposals is poor and in a conservative coalition is unlikely to yield any positive results.

The government is perhaps likely be helped by the fact that there are many signs that the economy is bottoming out. Once the economy has reached stagnant levels, there are only two results that can follow: the economy may either remain there, and governments will point to the recently acquired “stability”, or it may begin to recover, and governments will celebrate the wisdom of their policies in promoting this “recovery”. There can be no doubt that any such stability or recovery will be celebrated by the political groups in government and its friends, but nothing of substance will really have changed and the chances of resuming growth any time soon remain slim.

At the other end of the spectrum, there may be a heightening of political conflicts led by organized groups like MST and unions, particularly in the public sector, that will test the resolve of the new government. If the government is unsuccessful in its negotiations with them, its tenure may be reduced and a new period of crisis may begin. If the government relies on violent repression, it will only strengthen the charges that it is the product of a right-wing coup-d’état, with local voters and with the international community, which seems to be responding cooly to the new government’s attempts to legitimize the change of guard.

Rousseff was removed from the presidency shortly after her re-election. Despite attempts by her followers to present her as the victim of a right-wing conspiracy, the facts suggest that she was largely, if not exclusively, responsible for her downfall, as has been argued in earlier posts on this site. The new government will struggle with problems that are very similar to the ones that plagued Rousseff’s first year-and-a-half of her second term. Temer’s chances of success are exceedingly slim, the political crisis will almost certainly continue, and perhaps, deepen, despite any political advantages that may be provided by the ailing economy.

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Analysis: Why the UN Needs a “Peace Industrial Complex” Tue, 17 May 2016 01:38:37 +0000 Jonathan Rozen 3 Industrial-Level Aid Logistics in Colombia’s Decades-Long Humanitarian Disaster Mon, 16 May 2016 22:23:54 +0000 Constanza Vieira Social actors and government representatives sign a social and political pact for reparations and peace in Colombia on Apr. 11, the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity with the Victims of the Conflict. Credit: UARIV

Social actors and government representatives sign a social and political pact for reparations and peace in Colombia on Apr. 11, the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity with the Victims of the Conflict. Credit: UARIV

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, May 16 2016 (IPS)

“If you’re going to talk about Colombia and the peace process, do it somewhere else,” was heard at a regional preparatory meeting for the World Humanitarian Summit, according to Ramón Rodríguez, with the Colombian government’s Unit for Attention and Integral Reparation for Victims (UARIV).

“Cuba’s representative, for example, stated: ‘This is a World Humanitarian Summit, we’re going to talk about humanitarian questions in general, and not specific cases,” the official said with respect to the preparations for the first gathering of its kind, to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul.

“For the organisers of the World Humanitarian Summit, disasters are the main issue. They practically fobbed us off,” added Rodríguez, UARIV’s director of social and humanitarian questions, in an interview with IPS in his Bogotá office.

This is true even though United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, when he called the summit, declared that “We must ensure no-one in conflict, no-one in chronic poverty, and no-one living with the risk of natural hazards and rising sea levels is left behind.”

"Truth is the true reparations”

On May 11, journalist Jineth Bedoya refused an indemnification payment of 8,250 dollars, which she had originally accepted two years ago when the government established May 25 as the National Day for Dignity for Women Victims of Sexual Violence. May 25 was the day she was kidnapped and raped by paramilitaries because of her reporting work, in 2000.

When she received the indemnification, Bedoya said it could not be seen as reparations. Nevertheless, UARIV assistant director Iris Marín presented the indemnification for Bedoya as a case of effective reparations, at a public hearing in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights a month ago.

“Truth is the true reparations,” Bedoya said in a press conference. El Tiempo, the newspaper where she works, wrote “The state claims its agents did not participate in what happened, even though there is proof that state agents took part in the kidnapping, torture and sexual violence against the reporter.” The Freedom of the Press Foundation hopes the IACHR will refer Bedoya’s case to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

In any case, “the issue (of the Colombian armed conflict) draws a lot of attention, although it is very limited,” said Rodríguez, an industrial engineer who organised and directs the world’s biggest humanitarian aid logistics system, in terms of percentage of a national budget that goes to citizens of the country itself.

Colombia is the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean where a humanitarian crisis has been declared due to internal armed conflict.

In nearly seventy years of civil war in different shapes and formats, the counting of and attention to victims has undergone major changes. Today there is basically industrial-level aid, adapted to a lengthy, calculated disaster.

“We, the government, are the main humanitarian actor in Colombia,” said Rodríguez. “We have an emergency response team. We work with humanitarian organisations through local humanitarian teams.”

Perhaps the main lesson that the Colombian government learned was that it had to count the number of victims and people affected by the conflict, in order to address the humanitarian crisis in its true magnitude. Until 2004, getting the government to admit the number of victims was a tug-of-war.

In 1962, a study on Violence in Colombia (by Guzmán, Fals and Umaña) estimated that 200,000 people were killed between 1948 and 1962.

The victims of forced displacement began to be counted in 1985 by the Catholic Church, at the time the only non-governmental institution with the capacity to carry out a national census of displaced persons.

In 1994, the government put the number of displaced persons at 600,000; however, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) counted 900,000.

But it was a 2004 Constitutional Court sentence that ordered the government to – gradually – acknowledge the real number of displaced persons, thus recognising the effects of the war.

The Court has been able to verify compliance with the ruling thanks to the support of a non-governmental alliance of academics and researchers: the Follow-up Commission on Public Policies on Forced Displacement.

Finally, in 2011, on the initiative of the government of current President Juan Manuel Santos, whose term began in 2010, the Victims and Land Restitution Law was approved. Among the many measures it involved, it created the UARIV.

At the time, the government recognised 4.5 million people affected by the war in a country of 48 million.

The UARIV opened a Single Registry of Victims, which up to Apr. 1, 2016 had counted a total of 8,040,748 victims since 1985.

Victims registered with the state 1985-2015

Forced displacement: 84.2%
Homicide: 3.5%
Death threats: 3.4%
Forced disappearance: 2.1%
Loss of belongings, housing or land: 1.3%
Terrorist act/Attack/Combat/Harassment : 1.1%
Kidnapping: 0.5%
Land mines/Unexploded ordnance/Explosive device: 0.2%
Crimes against liberty and sexual integrity: 0.2%
Torture: 0.1%
Abandonment or forced eviction from land: 0.1%
Recruiting children or adolescents: 0.1%
No information: 3.2%

Source: UARIV

Apart from the debate on whether the victims were undercounted, or the number of victims grew, or what grew was the number counted by the state, today UARIV knows that 84.2 percent of the registered victims are displaced persons, and that 45.4 percent come from the geostrategic, resource-rich and dynamic department of Antioquia in northwest Colombia.

It also reports that when the threats peak, this coincides with a peak in forced displacement of people from their land, which intensified between 1995 and 2007, while kidnappings (which account for 0.5 percent of victims) peaked in 2002 and are now becoming a thing of the past.

The UARIV also recognises that the worst years of the war were between 2000 and 2008, and that 2015 has been the most peaceful year since 1985.

In addition, the unit reports that among the victims there are slightly more women than men, while children are the single largest group. And it says one-fourth of the victims are black or indigenous people.

Rodríguez has kept up his monitoring as the peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas continue in Havana.

“I asked for a report for the Jan. 1-Apr. 30 period,” he said. “In the same period last year we had 15 mass displacements. In 2016 we had 16. In 2015 1,425 families were affected, 5,721 people. So far this year we have 1,200 more people. Which means that there was an increase in the number of people affected between 2015 and 2016.”

The increase is attributed to criminal bands made up of former far-right paramilitaries, and to the National Liberation Army (ELN), a smaller left-wing rebel group, with which the government recently announced the start of talks.

Colombia is now on the verge of a peace deal. But Rodríguez said it will take “three to five years to achieve peace. There will be an upsurge in violence,” not only because of former paramilitaries but also guerrillas who refuse to lay down their arms.

“Something that should be shown at the World Humanitarian Summit is the rise in violence that is going to occur when the peace agreement is signed. The question of control territory is of great importance to the armed actors, and converges with economic aspects,” said the official.

For Rodríguez, the “victim response, assistance and reparations model” that Colombia has come up with is another key element that would be useful to share at the Istanbul summit.

The model has two phases. The first, immediate humanitarian aid, operates within 48 hours after acts of violence, and comes in two forms: funds, through the municipalities, and in kind, through operators who are subcontracted, who were paid a combined total of more than five million dollars in 2015 for providing services.

Several months later, the victims are registered in the Single Registry of Victims, and emergency and transition aid (for housing and food) begins. The last phase is reparations, which includes indemnification of different kinds.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Weather Wars Mon, 16 May 2016 20:52:47 +0000 Zarrar Khuhro By Zarrar Khuhro
May 16 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

When Alexander the Great`s army faced Raja Porus at the battle of the Hydapses the smart money, despite Alexander`s formidable reputation, should have been on Porus. Large and disciplined, Porus’s fighters had the home ground advantage, included war elephants in their ranks (terrifying to the already tired Greeks) and, notably, deployed archers who could more accurately be classified as artillery.

Their bamboo bows were over six feet long and fired missiles that were three feet in length. When fired in unison, the result was a hail of death that few armies could resist.

Unfortunately, these giant bows needed to be securely moored in the ground in order to be fired and, thanks to recent rains, the ground near the Jhelum was too muddy to provide a firm foundation. One could thus argue that it wasn`t just the Macedonian l

Weather has always been an important factor in military calculations, but it wasn`t until the First World War that meteorological staff became a standard element in military organisation.

In the Second World War, from the effects of the early and severe Russian winter on the German advance to the fog that impeded the Allies at the Battle of the Bulge, Mother Nature was the X factor. War correspondent Ernie Pyle, reporting from Anzio declared: `One day of bad weather actually harms us more than a month of German shelling.` US Gen Eisenhower agreed. He said, `If really bad weather should endure permanently, the Nazi would need nothing else to defend the Normandy coast.

So what if the German army had the capability of actually ensuring the said bad weather? What if militaries could move beyond predicting the weather to controlling or even weaponising it? This may sound like science fiction, but it`s actually been tried.

During the Vietnam War, the US struggled to prevent the Vietcong from using the Ho Chi Minh trail to resupply themselves with men and material. In addition to using defoliants like Agent Orange, Pentagon planners also tried a new tack: using cloud seeding technologies to increase the span of the Southeast Asian monsoon season with the aim of `softening road surfaces, causing landslides, washing out river crossings`, and thus impeding the Viet Cong`s logistics.

The project, dubbed Operation Popeye, ran from 1965-1972 and was at least a partial success, with reports claiming that it succeeded in extending the monsoon season by over a month. This would have remained a secret but for journalist Jack Anderson, who exposed this operationin1971.

Following this `weathergate` the US Congress banned environmental warfare and in 1978, an international treaty called the Environmental Modification Convention was signed prohibiting the military use of environmental modification techniques.

But playing God is addictive, and in 1996 a report was presented to the US Air Force titled Weather as a force multiplier: Owning the weather in 2025.

The paper predicts that by 2025, weather modification will `become a part of national security policy` in the US, and can provide `battlefield dominance to a degree never before imagined`.

It starts out small, outlining how fog can be created on the tactical level to confound enemy operations, before moving on to being able to `trigger or intensify thunderstorm cells` with the aim of grounding enemy aircraft and damaging enemy assets. Here the report notes that a tropical storm has energy equal to 10,000 one megaton hydrogen bombs.

All this is eminently doable, the authors of the report claimed, requiring nothing more than the further development of existing technologies such as UAVs, cloud seeding and customised low-orbit satellites. Twenty years after the report was published, all these technologies, and more, exist.

Weather manipulation is commonplace, being widely used in China and Dubai for example, and miniaturised drones and nanotechnology are very much a reality. As with most such dual-use technologies all that is required is the will and resources to weaponise what already exists, and what general worth his stars would pass up the chance to rain lighting down on his enemies like a latter-day Zeus? The report also highlights the need for research into the ionosphere, with a view towards `modifying` it in order to block enemy communications. That research is already being conducted at The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Programme, which is a favourite bogeyman of conspiracy theorists worldwide.

While HAARP almost certainly isn`t capable of creating storms and earthquakes, as the tin-foil hat set believes, it would be naïve to think the research doesn`t have military applications. After all, history shows that when military capability exists it will almost certainly be used. With global climate change ushering in an era of extreme and unpredictable weather, the very idea of any nation possessing the capability to alter, perhaps control, weather even on a tactical scale should give us pause.

The writer is a journalist. Twitter: @zarrarkhuhro

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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The Crippling Burden of Mounting Foreign Debt Servicing Costs Mon, 16 May 2016 09:47:46 +0000 Editor sunday By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
May 16 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

The massive increase in the country’s foreign debt and its huge debt servicing costs are a severe burden on the economy. They are a severe strain on the public finances and external reserves of the country.

The current balance of payments crisis is very much due to this. Therefore bringing down the foreign debt is vital for reinforcing the external finances of the country and ensuring economic stability.

Increasing foreign debt

The nation’s foreign debt increased sharply since 2000. The increase was particularly high after the end of the war. The foreign debt that was US$ 9.0 billion in 2000, doubled to US$ 18.6 billion in 2009 and increased to US$ 21.2 billion in 2010. It more than doubled again in the next five years to US$ 44.8 billion in 2015. The increase in foreign debt from US$ 18.6 billion in 2009 to US$ 44.8 billion at the end of 2015 was an increase of 140 per cent.

Current debt burden
The foreign debt grew by a significant amount last year, from US$ 42.9 billion to US$ 44.8 billion. As a proportion of GDP, it increased from 53.6 per cent of GDP in 2014 to 54.4 per cent of GDP in 2015. Consequently, foreign debt servicing costs increased significantly in 2015, absorbing 44.5 percent of the country’s export earnings and 27 percent of the year’s earnings from exports and services. The foreign debt was more than four times the 2015 export earnings of US$ 10.5 billion.

According to the Central Bank Annual Report of 2015, both capital and interest payments increased in 2015. Capital repayments were US$ 3.46 billion in 2015 compared to US$ 2.32 billion in 2014. Interest payments increased to US$ 1.22 billion in 2015 compared to US$ 1.16 billion in 2014. The total debt servicing costs (capital repayments and interest costs) of US$ 4.68 billion was 45 per cent of the country’s export earnings in 2015.

Econ-Cartoon1-148x300Gravity of debt
Most worrying is the increasing trend in capital and interest payments that is expected in the coming years owing to the increasing foreign debt and higher interest costs. The Central Bank Annual Report for 2015 has warned of the increasing debt servicing costs:

“With the expected gradual increase in global interest rates and financing requirements” the debt service ratio is “expected to increase further” unless the inflow of non-debt creating financial flows, such as FDI and services exports are increased to compensate additional future borrowing requirements”.

Exports inadequate
Inadequate export growth has been an underlying reason for the increasing debt service burden. Whereas repayment of external debt and interest has more than doubled over the last five years, earnings from exports have not grown commensurately. As a result, the ratio of debt servicing to exports of goods and services more than doubled from 13.2 per cent in 2011 to 27.7 per cent in 2015. While debt service payments increased 160 per cent from US$ 1.8 billion in 2011 to US$ 4.7 billion in 2015, exports grew only 24 per cent from US$ 13.6 billion in 2011 to US$ 16.9 billion in 2015.

Fortunately workers’ remittances and earnings from tourism of nearly US$ 10 billion more than offset the entire trade deficit of US$ 8.4 billion in 2015. Remittances and tourist earnings were only slightly less than the total earnings from the export of goods (merchandise) of US$ 10.5 billion.

Economics of foreign borrowing

Foreign borrowing is not intrinsically bad. It can assist in resolving constraints in foreign resources for development. It could be an important means of spurring an economy to a higher trajectory of economic growth than its resources permit. However, it is important that foreign debt be incurred for developmental purposes.

econtable-159x300Although it has been argued that 75 per cent of recent foreign borrowing has been for infrastructure development such as for power and energy, ports, roads, bridges, water supply, agriculture, fisheries and irrigation, most of these would have a long gestation period. The massive amounts of borrowing at high interest costs and long gestation periods heaped a huge burden on the country’s finances, especially external finances.

All infrastructure development is not necessarily justified from an economic perspective. Many infrastructure projects are not only hugely expensive, they also have a long gestation period. The benefits of some infrastructure investments in relation to their costs are doubtful. Some have been dubbed White Elephants. Infrastructure projects that either save foreign exchange or earn foreign exchange are the least burdensome on the foreign finances of the country. Prioritisation of infrastructure development on the criterion of their contribution to the country’s balance of payments is a prudent strategy for investment from foreign borrowing.

Resolving the problem
The large foreign debt and its servicing cost is a serious constraint to long term economic development and have serious implications for macroeconomic policy, economic growth and development. Ways and means must be found to reduce the foreign debt to manageable proportions.

The foreign debt can be brought down by generating a balance of payments surplus and prudence in further borrowing. Bringing down the trade deficit to below US$ 7 billion is needed to generate such a surplus through earnings from tourism and other services and workers’ remittances. Curtailing unnecessary imports is important to narrow the annual trade deficit, while export growth is vital. Monetary and fiscal policies should be mindful of their balance of payments implications.

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been sluggish and inadequate. FDI was only US$ 0.7 billion last year. Increased FDI, especially in export industries, is important to expand exports. A political and business environment that is conducive to FDI would be most helpful in increasing exports.

With the IMF loan facility of US$ 1.5 billion, other expected foreign funds and better prospects for exports this year with the lifting of the EU ban on fish exports and restoration of the GSP Plus concession and increased tourism, it should be possible to achieve a balance of payments surplus of over US$ 2 billion that would improve the country’s external finances. This improvement must be used to reduce the foreign debt burden.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Economic Failings Lead to Impeachment of Another Economist in Brazil Thu, 12 May 2016 19:41:43 +0000 Mario Osava “I never thought I’d have to fight against a coup d’etat in Brazil again,” said Dilma Rousseff after she was suspended as president on Thursday May 12, before embracing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva outside the government palace. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert/Lula Institute

“I never thought I’d have to fight against a coup d’etat in Brazil again,” said Dilma Rousseff after she was suspended as president on Thursday May 12, before embracing former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva outside the government palace. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert/Lula Institute

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 12 2016 (IPS)

Ironically, the only two economists who have served as president of Brazil are also the only ones impeached for economic failures.

Dilma Rousseff, in office since January 2011, was suspended by a vote of 55 to 22 in the Senate on the morning of Thursday, May 12 after a marathon 21-hour session.

The impeachment trial may take up to180 days, during which time Vice President Michel Temer will assume the presidency.

If at least 54 of the 81 senators – a two-thirds majority – vote to remove Rousseff at the end of the trial, Temer will serve as president until Jan. 1, 2019.The impeachment trial is political; the president will be removed if two-thirds of the senators decide that there are grounds for such a move, independently of strictly legal arguments.

Analysts agree that it is highly unlikely that Rousseff, of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), will return to power, after the overwhelming defeats she has suffered – first in the Chamber of Deputies, where 71.5 percent of the lawmakers gave the green light to the impeachment proceedings, and now in the Senate.

The most likely scenario is a repeat of the case of Fernando Collor de Mello, elected president in 1989 and impeached in 1992, after a four-month trial.

But there are many differences between the two cases.

Rousseff is not accused of corruption, but of using creative accounting to hide large budget deficits. And she still has the firm support of a significant minority made up of left-wing parties and social movements capable of mobilising huge public protests.

By contrast, Collor de Mello was completely isolated, supported only by a tiny party created to formalise his candidacy. His impeachment was the result of a virtual consensus.

But there are also similarities. Both economists lost their political base due to reckless management of the economy.

When he took office, Collor de Mello immediately froze people’s bank accounts, to curb hyperinflation, releasing only small amounts for essential household expenses.

In 1990, GDP fell 4.3 percent, while unemployment soared and companies went under. The popularity of Brazil’s youngest president, who was 40 when he took office, took a nosedive. And when a corruption scandal broke out two years later, the conditions for impeachment were in place.

In the case of Rousseff, the decline of the economy took longer. Starting at the end of her first term (2011-2014), the recession turned into full-blown depression, with a 3.8 percent drop in GDP in 2015 and a continued downturn in 2016.

Consumption subsidies, tax cuts to give certain sectors a boost, and artificial caps on fuel and electricity prices are among the anti-inflationary or pro-growth measures that led to disaster, especially in the fiscal area.

Michel Temer signs the official Senate notification of Dilma Rousseff’s suspension, which made him interim president, on Thursday May 12. Credit: Marcos Corrêa/VPR

Michel Temer signs the official Senate notification of Dilma Rousseff’s suspension, which made him interim president, on Thursday May 12. Credit: Marcos Corrêa/VPR

Another thing Collor de Mello and Rousseff have in common is that they misled voters in their campaigns.

Collor de Mello was elected in 1989 after accusing his opponent, trade union leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the PT (who was finally elected president in 2003) of preparing to freeze bank accounts – the very measure that Collor de Mello himself adopted on his first day in office.

Rousseff accused her opponents, during her 2014 reelection campaign, of seeking a fiscal adjustment that she herself tried to push through in her second term. And she hid the scope of the government’s deficit problem and announced an expansion of social programmes that was not economically feasible, due to a lack of funds.

These errors helped spawn the movement for her impeachment, the mayor of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad of the PT, acknowledged in a May 6 interview.

The economic crisis was then compounded by the corruption scandal involving the state-run oil company Petrobras. More than 200 members of the business community and politicians have been implicated, including former president Lula and other PT leaders, which has smeared the image of the government, even though Rousseff herself is in the clear.

This backdrop strengthened allegations that Rousseff violated fiscal responsibility laws by signing decrees increasing public spending without authorisation and by obtaining loans to the federal government from state-owned banks, which is illegal.

These two measures would amount to “crimes of responsibility”, which according to the constitution provide grounds for impeachment. And they allegedly aggravated the fiscal deficit, the key factor in the economic crisis.

Attorney General José Eduardo Cardozo, who represented Rousseff, and ruling coalition legislators rejected the accusations, arguing that the government decrees merely redistributed funds to other areas and that the government’s delayed payments to the state banks did not constitute illegal loans.

A group of weary senators applaud at the end of the marathon session that decided to immediately suspend President Dilma Rousseff during an impeachment trial for her removal. Credit: Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado

A group of weary senators applaud at the end of the marathon session that decided to immediately suspend President Dilma Rousseff during an impeachment trial for her removal. Credit: Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado

Dozens of mayors and state governors, as well as former presidents, have used the same accounting maneuvers without being punished in any way, said Senator Otto Alencar of the Social Democratic Party, a majority of whose members voted against Rousseff.

Whatever the case, the trial is political; the president will be removed if two-thirds of the senators decide that there are grounds for such a move, independently of strictly legal arguments.

In the all-night session, the 78 senators (only three were absent) heard 73 speakers who had up to 15 minutes each to speak before the vote.

The result, which was already a given, was a crucial indicator for the opposition: They managed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to find the president guilty.

However, it is possible that some senators who gave the go-ahead to the impeachment trial will change their position.

At least three senators qualified their votes, clarifying that they were only approving the trial itself because they wanted more in-depth investigations and discussions on presidential responsibility, and that they had not yet decided to vote for Rousseff’s removal.

They included former footballer Romario Faria, a senator for Rio de Janeiro, and Cristovam Buarque, a former governor of Brasilia. They belong to two different socialist parties.

PT senators said there would be a fight, as well as mobilisations to block the “unfair” impeachment. And Rousseff reiterated that she would “fight to the last” against what she called “a coup.”

The vice-president’s rise to president means a heavy concentration of power in the hands of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), which has the largest number of mayors, many state governors, the post of president of the Senate, and now the presidency (interim, for now).

A group of six senators from different parties called for an alternative to the “traumatic” impeachment process: early elections to allow the people to choose their leaders.

Many senators, such as Tasso Jereissati of the opposition Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and Collor de Mello called for political reform, arguing that “coalition presidentialism” has proven to be the source of crisis and instability.

Rousseff’s impeachment also provides an opportunity to debate reforms in the political system.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Europe’s Regression Thu, 12 May 2016 17:47:05 +0000 Mahir Ali By Mahir Ali
May 12 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

In a speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, the Israeli army`s deputy chief of staff offered his compatriots an uncomfortable reminder.

`If there`s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance,` Maj-Gen Yair Golan noted, `it`s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then 70, 80 and 90 years ago and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.

He added: `There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously.` Golan`s intervention stirred a predictable response in Israel: there was some support for his words, but it was almost drowned out by vituperative, and occasionally hysterical, condemnation. Inevitably, some have demanded his dismissal.

For all that, drawing parallels between the European mindset that facilitated the Holocaust and current trends in Israeli society is a somewhat less fraught enterprise in Israel today than it is across much of Europe; more than one commentator has noted, for instance, that had Golan been a member of the British Labour Party, his comments would have warranted his immediate suspension.

It is not just Israel, though, that should be alert to the echoes of the 1920s-30s. The political processes unfolding in Europe a combination of economic despair and a rising tide of xenophobia ought to be ringing far more alarm bells than has thus far been the case.

The series of profoundly worrying developments continued last month with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party`s Norbert Hofer taking the lead in the first round of his country`s presidential election. The sense of impending crisis was exacerbated on Monday by the unexpected resignation of the country`s social democratic chancellor, Werner Faymann.

Post-war Austria has hitherto elected only mainstream conservative or social democratic presidents. For the first time, neither of those parties is in contention: on May 22, Hofer faces a run-off against Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green running as an independent. The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, but with potential political powers that Hofer has vowed to exercise.

In Germany, meanwhile, the relatively new Alternative fur Deutschland party, which demonstrated its growing popular appeal in three state elections in March, has adopted an explicitly anti-Muslim platform. Its leader, Frauke Petry, has in the past suggested that German border guards should be permitted to shoot refugees. It is complemented by the Pegida movement, which tends to demonstrate its power on the streets.

A refusal to perceive in these phenomena echoes of the Nazi past would require a remarkable blindness to recent history. To their credit, plenty of Germans seem to be well aware of this, and mobilisations by the far right frequently attract counter-demonstrators in far larger numbers. That rarely occurs to the east of Germany, however, and much of the greatest cause for alarm emanates from nations where the extreme right is either already in power or thrives on state backing.

The administration of Viktor Orban in Hungary offers perhaps the worst instance of neo-fascist tendencies, and it thrives on the support of the racist Jobbik party, which won more than 20pc of the vote in the 2014 general election. Orban shares the view of his Slovak counterpart, Robert Fico, Europe must defend its `Christian heritage`. Fico is ostensibly a social democrat, but on crucial issues his views coincide with those of Marian Kotleba, the leader of People`s Party-Our Slovalcia, who until recently paraded about in a Nazi-era uniform.

In Poland, authoritarian tendencies are on the rise under the ruling Law and Justice Party, whose leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has accused refugees of bringing `cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna`. Similar rhetoric is increasingly common throughout the continent. From France to Russia, there is hardly a country in Europe that does not register growing support for organised right-wing extremism, all too often with mainstream conservative and social democratic parties not least François Hollande’s Socialists and hitherto progressive parties across Scandinavia shamelessly pandering to xenophobia and other deleterious tendencies.

Last year`s massive refugee influx is obviously a key factor behind this trend, as are the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, not to mention the appalling criminal assaults in Cologne on New Year`s Eve. Let`s not forget, though, that extremist tendencies manifested themselves much earlier in 21st-century Europe: the Austrian Freedom Party entered government as a coalition partner at the turn of the century.

Although many of the far-right parties include a distaste for the European Union in their smorgasbord of pet hates, which feature the Roma people, Jews, Muslims and especially Muslim refugees, no coherent response can be expected from Brussels.

Continued failure to learn from its history may well condemn Europe to repeating it in the years ahead.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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A Women`s Jirga Thu, 12 May 2016 10:18:52 +0000 Rafia Zakaria By Rafia Zakaria
May 12 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

When interviewed by Reuters, Zardad Khan, from the village of Makol to which 16-year-old Ambreen belonged, said, `This barbarity has never happened before.` The teenager was killed, her body put in a van and burned.

His words may be true for the village of Makol but not for Pakistan in general. Over recent decades, village after village and, in particular, jirga after jirga, has been implicated in ordering murders and even rapes of women under the pretext of preserving `honour`. Over a decade ago was the famous case of Mukhtaran Mai, ordered raped and humiliated in Meerwala. More recently, a tribal jirga in Kohistan condemned four women because they were seen clapping and singing apparently in the company of men in a grainy mobile phone video.

They had been attending a relative`s wedding.

The numbers are probably greater than most imagine and, as is the case with crimes against women in Pakistan, difficult to tabulate with real accuracy. Pakistani society, at all levels, is adept at cover-ups for the crimes of men, at subterfuge supporting the easy erasure of women. The status of the jirga- or panchayat-ordered killing, an ironic form of `justice`, is a sub-category within the larger compartment of `honour killings`, both populated with the lost lives of women who died to sate the anger and bloodlust of men.

Functioning as instruments of communal justice, jirgas often dole out sentences unfettered by the constraints of the laws of the country. As Ambreen`s tragic end reveals, they can carry out their sentences. Outcry, if it follows at all, takes place after the object of their wrath is already dead. In many cases, once outcry and attention have faded, all those indicted for the crime (if they are indicted at all) are often freed to live their lives. In a country where a woman`s life has meagre worth, why should men be punished for taking it? Given the regularity with which women are ordered killed, there seems to be implicit agreement on this point.

In their current form, jirgas are composed almost entirely of men and unbound by the limits of the law of the country. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the form of justice doled out by them is misogynistic and brutal. In simple terms, a com-munity`s need for expedient dispute resolution is manipulated by its powerful men and then used to order and enforce punishments that serve their own interests. The weakness of the state`s own legal system, the cost involved in availing oneself of it and the deadly delays that all it further bolster the reach and mandate of local jirgas. Even for the villagers of Makol, which isn`t far from larger towns and cities, the court system, it seems, was too far away, too distant from the lives of Makol`s inhabitants.

It does not have to be this way. The work of one woman in the valley of Swat reveals how the actual need for justice and the provision of it at a communal level can be harnessed to protect and empower women, rather than leaving them at the mercy of ruthless and self-interested men. Three years ago, Tabassum Adnan inaugurated a Sister`s Council or `Khwendo Jirga` in the village of Mingora.

According to Adnan, who was herself married at the age of 13 and endured domestic abuse, the existing tribal councils in her community did not permit women to join them. Fed up of this decision, she got together a group of women and began discussing the issues and concerns of the community with them.

The women then pressed the men on the jirga council to take their decisions and consensus into account. According to Adnan, nearly 1,000 women in the area are now involved in the Sister`s Council by bringing their problems to it and participating in its processes.

Tabassum Adnan`s work has received international acclaim. She has received the International Women of Courage Award and just last month was also awarded the Nelson Mandela-Graça Machele Innovation Award. Her pioneering strategy deserves attention and implementation beyond Swat. A council where women of a community are empowered to intervene and participate in communal decision-making can be a crucial and pressing form of intervention in a situation that has become increasingly untenable.

Tabassum Adnan`s jirga does not currently receive any kind of monetary support from the government or from any other source, but its work and powers of enforcement could be enhanced even further if the state invested resources and empowered its leaders. The Sister`s Council, with its grass-roots and women-centred agenda, its rootedness in the community, represents a promising answer to a difficult problem.

Not only have honour killings continued in Pakistan, many women`s organisations report that their numbers have increased. One reason for this is that while there have been various legislative measures to try and combat the persecution of women and the irrelegation to the status of objects that can be exchanged or extinguished, there has been no effort towards actually bringing about change at the community level. Honour killings continue despite laws and campaigns against them, because those committing these crimes continue to believe that they are doing the right thing. They will not stop, unless others in their community speak up, and these others have to be women.

Ambreen was killed at the behest of a jirga; she is just one among so many Pakistani women who have lost their lives in similar ways with community collusion and consensus. A change can only occur if women from communities are empowered to create their own alternate jirgas whose decisions are binding on the community as well.

To help these women`s jirgas gain credibility within communities, the state should invest in them, recognise their leaders and incentivise participation. Male jirgas have made Pakistan a home for grotesque and brutal crimes, women`s jirgas may actually make it a more just and equitable place.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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FAO’s Peace-Building Efforts Through Food Security Thu, 12 May 2016 07:19:46 +0000 James Kanu By James Kanu
ROME, May 12 2016 (IPS)

At the launching today, of the FAO-Nobel Peace Laureate Alliance for food security and peace, FAO’s Director-General said that “peace and food security are inextricably linked – we cannot achieve one without the other. By integrating food security and peace-building initiatives, we can work together to ensure that hunger is neither a cause nor a result of conflict.”

This assessment has been warmly embraced by the Nobel Peace Laureates, who have agreed to work together with FAO with the main objective of helping to bring peace in conflict prone areas and banishing poverty and hunger in the world.

FAO considers peace building essential to its mission. The organization recognizes that a stable, peaceful environment is the foundation of lasting food security and sustainable livelihoods.

According to FAO, most conflicts today affect rural areas and their populations. This is particularly true of civil conflicts, which are now the most common form of armed conflict.

The organization has highlighted the fact that conflict has adverse effects on food security and nutrition, as well as being the major cause of food insecurity and malnutrition, both acute and chronic.

In terms of human development, FAO studies found that conflicts have a devastating effect on the lives of people, as a result of increased malnutrition, which tends to affect children the most and leave people withlifelong physical and sometimes mental handicaps.

FAO studies have also established that, although the casual effects of the link between conflict-food security vary across conflict zones, the common features are: disruption of food production and food systems, plundering of crops and livestock, and loss of assets and income, hence directly and indirectly affecting food access, and the entire social, cultural, and economic fabric of communities.

FAO data clearly show that, on average, the proportion of people who are undernourished is almost three times as high in countries in protracted crisis than in other developing countries. In 2013 there were approximately 167 million malnourished people in countries in protracted crisis – roughly 21 percent of the world’s undernourished people.

The studies also found that poverty rates are 20 percent higher in countries affected by repeated circles of violence over the last three decades. An estimate 40 percent of fragile post-conflict countries relapse into conflict within 10 years – recent examples include South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

The following are some examples of the ongoing activities of the organization on food security and peace building. Since 2009 FAO has been closely collaborating with the United Nations Peace Building Fund (PBF). It has supported activities and projects that contribute to building lasting peace in countries emerging from conflict through emergency projects, with more than 80 percent of them taking place in Africa.

Countries that have benefited from these projects include: Burundi, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivore, Guinea-Bissau, Kyrgyzstan, South Sudan, Uganda and Yemen,

FAOs main focus in these countries has been, providing assistance through training, education, capacity building, the rehabilitation of the infrastructure, distribution of seeds, agricultural kits and veterinary care for livestock.

FAO recognizes that building and consolidating peace in countries affected by conflict, requires increased and sustained support of the recovery efforts of the affected countries. The priority, according to FAO, is on the implementation of projects for the revitalization of the agriculture sector, increasing food production, and income-generating opportunities, especially for rural communities, including ex-combatants, women and young people.

Based on its experience, FAO is convinced that to achieve long-term food and livelihood security in conflict areas, there is need for sustained responses in the fight against food insecurity. In particular special actions must be taken to enable disaster-prone populations recover quickly and be engaged in productive economic activities.

Instead of working only to provide immediate assistance and food aid, which is essential but not enough, the organization now focuses on the need to implement structural actions that will accelerate recovery and point to a more resilient post-conflict situation.

FAOs work on natural hazards seeks to mainstream disaster risk reduction by strengthening capacities of national governments and civil society in designing and implementing policies and projects for risk reduction in the agricultural sectors.

FAO’s uses its emergency Prevention and Early Warning Systems, to improve access to information on known and emerging food chain threats to enable countries to prevent and mitigate risks.

In countries where the crisis is protracted, FAOs is implementing the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Agenda for Action. The main objectives of the Agenda include: building better understanding of linkages between food security, nutrition, agriculture-based livelihoods; and strengthening capacities to design, and implement policies and actions.

By increasing the stability and social cohesion of countries affected by conflict, FAOs approach has greatly contributed towards sustainable peace and development in these countries.

According to FAO, Agriculture including fisheries and forestry, will continue to provide the primary livelihood source for 86 percent of the world’s rural population, providing jobs for an estimate of 1.3 billion smallholders and landless workers, and the key to the eradication of both poverty and hunger in the world

With this new initiative the organization, with support from the new Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance will go a long way in further strengthening its activities in peace-building and food security, at a time of serious challenges, partly fueled by: slower world economic growth rates; growing inequalities between nations; as well as by seemingly intractable violent conflicts and political instability in many countries.

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Why Peacebuilding is Part of the Sustainable Development Agenda Wed, 11 May 2016 21:26:45 +0000 Patrick Keuleers Sustainable development and peace are linked, including through education. Credit: John Robinson/IPS

Sustainable development and peace are linked, including through education. Credit: John Robinson/IPS

By Patrick Keuleers

We tend not to worry when things are going well.

If people can take care of their daily business and send their kids to school without fear of violence, resolve disputes through a functioning justice system when the need arises, express their views both in private discussions and in public processes, feel they can truly contribute to decisions that affect their lives, and know effective institutions are in place to deliver basic services to their families and communities without interruption or the need for bribes, chances are they will be broadly content with the way their society is managed.

But, if any one of these public goods is absent, or if their access to safety, health, education or livelihoods are threatened, concerns are likely to be expressed quickly – and often very loudly.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises the importance of these public goods as being at the heart of sustainable development. There is a strong focus on peaceful, just and inclusive societies in the 2030 Agenda – and explicit recognition that there can be no peace without sustainable development and no sustainable development without peace. Where safety is routinely and casually under threat, it will be impossible to generate lasting improvements in most aspects of people’s lives.

But what does this mean in practice? How do people know that their government is committed to progress on these issues – to consolidating existing strengths, and to generating further gains over time?

That is a valid question. Unlike other elements of the 2030 Agenda – access to health, education, and sanitation, for example, which were part of the previous Millennium Development Goals – commitments to peace, justice and inclusion have not been measured systematically before as part of a global agenda agreed by UN member states.

"There can be no peace without sustainable development and no sustainable development without peace."

In an attempt to provide an answer to that question, a small group of member states started in the latter part of 2014 to test how best to define and measure these concepts in practice. Even before the final adoption of the 2030 Agenda – including Goal 16 on peace, justice and institutions – these countries had been identifying their priorities and experimenting with goals, targets and indicators to demonstrate progress.

The results of this “pilot” work – in Albania, Indonesia, Rwanda, Tunisia and the UK – are presented in a Final Report launched on 21 April. The Report contains interesting lessons about what it means to work with these fundamental but often elusive concepts, lessons which will be of interest to a much wider group of countries now that the 2030 Agenda is a reality, and implementation a priority for all Member States.

The pilot experiences emphasise the importance of many elements that will be central to all approaches: effective planning, sound institutional structures at the heart of government, and partnerships down to the most local level involving community based organisations and civil society, alongside government.

But one message that comes across very clearly from the pilot exercises is that there is no magic formula for demonstrating progress. Context matters and different countries will need to assess their particular needs and capacities for monitoring and implementation, using available tools and developing approaches to measurement that are considered appropriate for the majority of the stakeholders affected.

The 2030 Agenda contains the shared commitment from all UN Member States to keeping people safe, to ensuring the fair administration of justice in accordance with the rule of law, and to building genuinely inclusive institutions which provide people a voice in the decision-making processes that affect them.

Global indicators will provide a snapshot each year of how successful we are as a global community. But alongside this global framework, there is ample space for different approaches at the national and local level, allowing countries to demonstrate how they are making society more peaceful, just and inclusive for all people – especially those most at risk of violence, injustice and exclusion.

The pilot countries gave us a head start, showing that with the right level of dedication, building peaceful, just and inclusive societies is both feasible and measurable.

Patrick Keuleers is Director of Governance and Peacebuilding, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

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Nobel Laureates Join Forces for Food Security and Stability Wed, 11 May 2016 15:11:36 +0000 Maddie Felts and Robert Williamson-Noble Muhammad Yunus addresses the audience at the launch of the FAO-Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Peace and Food Security.

Muhammad Yunus addresses the audience at the launch of the FAO-Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance for Peace and Food Security.

By Maddie Felts and Robert Williamson-Noble
ROME, May 11 2016 (IPS)

“Where food security can be a force for stability, we have to look to food and agriculture as pathways to peace and security. This is a great challenge, but one that we can meet together as we embark on achieving the 2030 Development Agenda.” These were the words of FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva as he discussed the interplays between food security and peace in New York last March.

Food security and a healthy agricultural sector have important roles in the efforts to prevent conflict and maintain peace. With this challenge in mind, on 11 May, the FAO formally established a new partnership with five Nobel Peace Laureates known for their work to fight poverty, hunger, and violence worldwide. The FAO – Nobel Peace Laureates for Food Security and Peace Alliance links FAO in partnership with Muhammad Yunus, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Tawakkol Karman, Betty Williams and Kofi Annan.

Muhammad Yunus was the first Laureate to speak, calling hunger an issue he and his fellow Laureates consider “dear to our hearts.” Yunus asserted that the distribution of free food is not a sustainable solution to eradicating hunger. Instead, he advocated for the microcredit model he first instituted over forty years ago in Bangladesh. Yunus said that the distribution of small loans to poor individuals promotes financial independence and thus the ability to obtain food.

By combining the objective of charity organizations and the engine of a business, Yunus has created a model of social business that he believes can improve the lives of rural populations currently excluded from the mainstream economy. He hopes to inspire young people to become entrepreneurs in agriculture and looks to challenge the idea that young people must flock to cities to find jobs. The initiative to encourage what Yunus called “entrepreneurs in agriculture” enforces his belief that “we are not job seekers; we are job creators.”

Yunus concluded his address with enthusiasm that the Alliance will bring the world closer to “three zeros”: zero hunger, malnutrition, and poverty; zero unemployment; and zero net carbon emission. His message set a tone of acknowledging the challenges of the present while pushing for a more hopeful future that would be echoed by his fellow Laureates.

Following Yunus’s message, Oscar Arias began his address by focusing on balance between various forms of violence and peace. Describing a Dante-esque scene, Arias forecasted the war between humans and nature. “The earth is complaining, and it is calling for peace” he proclaimed.

In addition to preventing catastrophic damage to the environment, Arias highlighted the necessity of ending violence in order to combat food insecurity and suffering. He discussed how “armed forces are the greatest polluters of the planet.” In times without war, however, he noted that “the absence of war does not automatically mean the consolidation of peace; we cannot say people are living in peace in a post-conflict situation until we can eradicate the many forms of violence on earth.” In addition to armed conflict, Arias explained that a lack of access to medical attention and food are both forms of violence.

Arias called for a renewed effort to protect the environment, seek conflict resolution, and consolidate peace using the reach and resources of the FAO. He appealed to the international community to put into practice the fundamental values of the 2030 agenda, reiterating that there can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development. Within all of us, Arias said, we harbor the potential of life, the power of reason, the strength of dialogue and the capacity to reason, correct our mistakes and make compromises. Arias urged the audience to utilize this potential to promote peace and food security.

Tawakkol Karman built upon Arias’s call to pursue the sustainable development goals, exclaiming that “we need to work hard and work with our hearts to achieve the SDGs.” She emphasized the need to promote a positive, fair globalization where all of mankind can share the benefits, warning that we now face negative effects of globalization that are disproportionately shouldered by the poor. She declared that the fight against hunger and poverty means taking the first steps towards sustainable development and towards a more equitable world. This progress is only possible, Karman argued, through shared bonds of fraternity and a moral commitment to eradicate poverty and promote peace.

Karman considered conflict to be the source of hunger, poverty, famine, and misery. She stated, “Building peace is part and parcel of eradicating hunger and achieving food security, but if we are to achieve this goal in any country, we need to keep one goal in front of us: to guarantee that everyone can have freedom, and by freedom I do not only mean freedom from want; I also mean political freedom.” Transitional justice, Karman explained, can bring peace to an area and a community overcoming a conflict and facilitating progress towards peace. Karman insisted that by 2030, “we need to have lifted the burdens of poverty and hunger,” an accomplishment only possible through the commitment, collaboration, and mobilization of all people and all governments.

Betty Williams began her address by recognizing that there remains work to be done towards eradicating hunger and fostering peace, but she was quick to assert that great work has already been done, as she acknowledged the accomplishments of her peers in the Alliance and expressed her appreciation to call them friends. Williams described her experience during the height of violence between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s. At first, she said, she wanted to keep her door closed out of fear for her family’s safety. After she witnessed the death of three children on a Belfast street, however, her horror and anger compelled her to action. She described the peace efforts in Northern Ireland as a movement begun by “ordinary extraordinary people.”

In her role as a Nobel Peace Laureate, Williams traveled to areas such as Africa, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Chile. She explained how she had never truly seen or known hunger until she witnessed some of the world’s poorest communities, some of which she saw in developed nations like the United States. The devastation made her physically sick at times, but she decided to take action, for, as she declared, “Tears without action are wasted sentiment.” After hearing about the possibility of nuclear disposal on the lands of Basilicata, Williams went to the southern Italian region and defended the land alongside the people of Basilicata. She has created a foundation in Basilicata that builds, ecologically sound, inexpensive homes for refugees.

At the heart of her humanitarian work, however, will always be the protection of children, like the children in Belfast that drove her to take action over four decades ago. She concluded her remarks with a reading of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which espouses principles Williams said she will fight for “until the day I die.”

Kofi Annan gave his remarks to the conference through a video message, first stating, “A stable and peaceful environment is the foundation for lasting food security and livelihoods.” He discussed the inextricable connections between food security, peace, and sustainable development. His remarks reflected a feeling of hope for a more peaceful future without hunger, as he said, “I know we can eradicate hunger within a generation provided we can mobilize political leadership and political will.”

In the general discussion that followed the addresses, Yunus spoke of the need for a banking system and coordinating legislation that serves the poor. The current model of non-governmental organizations providing microcredit is not sustainable, Yunus said, because it is restrained by the often limited funding of NGOs. He discussed the need for self-sustaining financial systems geared towards lifting individuals and communities out of poverty.

Though the goals before the FAO – Nobel Peace Laureates for Food Security and Peace Alliance may appear lofty, Yunus was hopeful, calling himself a “compulsive optimist.” His message to young people was that “you have the power to change the entire world by yourself.”

Williams reflected Yunus’s optimism, saying we must all be optimistic as we join in the fight for sustainable development. She suggested to Yunus that they open a bank geared towards the poor in Basilicata. If this first meeting is any indicator of the ultimate success of the task force, the future certainly looks promising.


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