Inter Press Service » Human Rights http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:15:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Social Media a Curse and a Blessing in Munich Shootinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:39:42 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146213 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
MUNICH, Germany, Jul 25 2016 (Manila Times)

Social networks were both a curse and a blessing in the deadly shopping mall shooting in Munich, as police sometimes found themselves chasing fictitious leads and false alarms.

The 18-year-old gunman, a German-Iranian named David Ali Sonboly, also used the internet to plan and carry out his crime, in which he killed nine people and wounded 16 others.

Nevertheless, the social networks provided a valuable source of information and solidarity for the city’s frightened population during the long lockdown while the incident was going on.

As soon as the terrifying events started to unfold late on Friday afternoon, Munich’s police were quick to take to Twitter to try to keep the public informed about the confusing and fast-evolving situation.

“We’re working as fast as we can to apprehend the attackers,” they tweeted in German, English and French. “The suspects are still on the run. Please avoid public places. #munich #gunfire”. “Unconfirmed reports of more violence and possible #gunfire in the city center. Situation is unclear. Please avoid public areas.”

False alarms
But as social network users began to tweet and re-tweet their own experiences and versions of events, it rapidly became difficult for the police to retain an overview and in some cases differentiate between fact and fiction.

At one point, for example, there was a flurry of reports of another shooting in the city center, on the pedestrianized square called the Stachus not far from the main station.

But those reports turned out to be false.

Another headache for police were eyewitness accounts, photos and videos that were rapidly being uploaded onto the web.

Police were concerned that the attackers—at that point, they erroneously believed there might have been more than one—could track where officers were being deployed and in what numbers, thereby making them easier to evade.

In the end, the police desperately tweeted: “Please don’t take fotos or video of police action in order to avoid any helpful information for the suspects.”

Police chief Hubertus Andrae told ZDF public television late Saturday that the speed and volume of information, which needed to be verified was “challenging.”

The official Twitter account proved useful in keeping the public informed about the latest confirmed facts, such as the number of victims or the time and place of the next press conference.

But police themselves inadvertently helped fan some of the speculation by tweeting, for example, that the theory of a possible terrorist act was being looked at.

At one point, police felt compelled to publish a plea, “Please restrain any speculations—that would help us a lot!”

Lured via the internet
“Nowadays, in the age of social networks, it is no longer the police who have control over the quantity and timing of the release of information, but everyone,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

“There are sometimes advantages in that, as can be seen in the number of investigations that have been brought to a successful conclusion thanks to photos and videos taken by private individuals,” he told a news conference.

In the United States, for example, the investigation into the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 was able to progress quickly as a result of such information.

“But it’s clear that rumors can spread rapidly and that isn’t always conducive to an accurate evaluation of the situation,” the minister said.

He praised the “fair” and “comprehensive” way in which police had communicated the recent attacks in Europe.

According to the interior ministry, the Munich gunman may have hacked a Facebook account to lure some of the victims to the McDonald’s fast-food outlet where the shooting began by offering them special discounts.

“I will give you whatever you want, for not a lot of money,” the online invite read, according to German media reports.

AFP

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Modern-day Slavery in Oman? Domestic Workers in Perilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/modern-day-slavery-in-oman-domestic-workers-in-peril/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:45:13 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146210 Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered  Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

Domestic migrant workers from South and South-East Asia are now considered Oman's "modern-day slaves". Credit: Zofeen Ebrahim/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

In order to escape poverty and support their families back home, thousands of domestic workers from South and South-East Asia migrate to Oman with the promise of stable employment in local households.

Once they arrive in Oman, new employers often seize their passports so that they cannot depart when they want, ultimately, denying them their freedom of movement.

They are made subject to excessive working hours, sleep deprivation and starvation. Many suffer from verbal or sexual abuse.

All too often, the money they work so hard for is denied to them. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, a great number of female migrant domestic workers fall prey to such abusive employment, and become Oman’s modern-day slaves.

The country’s visa sponsorship system, known as kafala, as well as the absence of labour law protections for domestic workers make migrant workers highly vulnerable to exploitation.

The kafala creates an “unbreakable” tie between the migrant worker and their employer, which means that the migrant worker’s visa is directly conditioned by the employer.

This prohibits migrant workers from switching jobs, even if they face abuse at their workplace. At least 130’000 migrant domestic workers are affected by the kafala system.

Families in Oman acquire their services through recruitment companies, employing them to take care of their children, cook meals, and clean their homes.

The recruitment companies typically ask for a fee to be paid for the mediation, and several migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their employers demanded they pay them back the recruitment fee in order to be released from their service.

Employers can force domestic workers to work without rest, pay, or food, knowing they can be punished if they escape, while the employers rarely face penalties for abuse”, Rothna Begum, a Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, confirms.

A report from Human Rights Watch also stated that women who decide to escape their abusive employment often face legal penalties.

Asma K., a domestic worker from Bangladesh, told Human Rights Watch that she was not only “sold” to a man, her passport had also been taken away from her, and she was forced to work 21 hours a day tending to the needs of 15 people.

Asma was both sexually and verbally abused, denied of her right to a fair wage in addition to being deprived of food. Many other female domestic workers share Asma K.’s story.

Once a migrant worker has escaped an abusive employer, very few options remain. If the women go back to the agencies that recruited them, the agents often beat them and forcefully place them into new families.

The Omani police offers little help, usually dismisses the domestic workers’ claim, and returns them to the family they came from, where in several cases, the workers are assaulted by their employers, Human Rights Watch says.

Some women risk getting reported as “absconded”, an offense which can lead to their deportation or even a criminal complaint against them.

While several Omani lawyers confirm that they have no confidence in Oman’s labour dispute settlement procedure or courts for redress for domestic workers, some embassy officials dissuade domestic workers from even fighting for their case, due to the lengthy process and the high probability of facing defeat.

This process eventually leads to workers returning to their home countries without pay, with the dream of providing for their families shattered and no hope for justice.

In order to protect its nationals from abusive employment, Indonesia has banned migration to Oman, as well as other countries with a similar history of migrant labour abuse.

However, such bans often have an opposite effect, leaving those most desperate for work vulnerable to traffickers or forced labour as they try to sidestep their own country’s restrictions.

Human Rights Watch states that several countries do not protect their nationals against abusive employment, nor do they provide help to those who fall victim to trafficking, abuse and mistreatment living abroad.

In 2012, Oman promised the United Nations Human Rights Council to look for alternatives to the kafala system, however, Human Rights Watch states that no concrete proposal has since been made, and up until now, Oman’s labour law does not protect domestic workers.

In April 2016, a Ministry of Manpower official stated in the Times of Oman that Oman is considering protecting domestic workers under its labour law, however, when requested for information on possible law reforms or other measures to protect domestic workers, the Omani government remained silent.

Human Rights Watch states that Oman was further criticized by the United States government for not demonstrating increased efforts to address human trafficking.

In 2015, there were only five prosecutions on sex trafficking, with no prosecutions on forced labour at all.

In order to provide protection for domestic workers, Human Rights Watch urges Oman to revise the kafala system, and advises it to cooperate with the countries of origin to help prevent exploitation.

Instead of punishing migrant domestic workers for escaping their appalling conditions, they should be granted justice by means of fair prosecutions against those who manipulated, scorned and abused them.

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Enemy Imageshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/enemy-images/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=enemy-images http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/enemy-images/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:55:15 +0000 Michael Krepon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146206 By Michael Krepon
Jul 25 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Members of Congress have embarrassed themselves, this time by a joint subcommittee hearing on whether Pakistan is a friend or foe. Framing a congressional hearing in this binary way reflects the sad state of political discourse on Capitol Hill, where complex issues are boiled down to ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. Members of Congress dress themselves in righteous indignation and confuse leadership with generating headlines.

579527735___The United States, like Pakistan, is prisoner to a repetitive news cycle loop filled with hot air, loose talk and the constant drip of poisonous insinuation. The demise of civic culture continues apace. Echo chambers are not conducive to learning. Capitol Hill has devolved into competing echo chambers.

Without learning, we repeat mistakes. This is true on a personal level and on a national level. Some in the US repeat the mistake of insisting that other countries are implacable enemies, disregarding common interests. Taking refuge in this default position has cost America dearly. To repeat it again with Pakistan would be an act of pure folly. India reliably repeats its painful mistakes in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan has its own costly repetitive behaviours.

The US has been insensitive in its dealings with Pakistan.

Pakistan’s national security interests are defined mostly by men in uniform who jealously defend this prerogative from civilian prime ministers and the foreign ministry. Pakistan’s prime minister — a man not known for his attention to detail and zealous work habits — has made these circumstances worse by not having a foreign minister.

Some within Pakistan argue for a greater sense of urgency and energy on the civilian side to reverse the drift in Pakistan’s relations with the US and its neighbours. More energy would be welcome, but it will come to naught unless Pakistan sheds talking points that have long ago lost their persuasiveness. The ‘trust deficit’ argument has no weight when the reasons for the deficit are papered over. The promise that violent extremist groups that have ruined Pakistan’s reputation will be tackled in due course has worn thin because it has been repeated for so long.

The US has been heavy-handed and insensitive in its dealings with Pakistan. It’s easy for the US embassy to lose touch when it operates behind walls and razor wire. Members of Congress have short memories. They forget that Pakistan played a central role in the US diplomatic opening to China and in expelling Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Bilateral ties will always be complicated. The US and Pakistan are on the same side of some issues but not others. Pakistan would like a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan, but it wants to retain influence there. Pakistan is concerned about violent extremist groups that carry out explosions in India, but not enough to clamp down on them. These straddles have left Pakistan on a tightrope without the means to engineer outcomes in Afghanistan or to ramp up economic growth, which depends on normal ties with neighbours.

Washington’s mix of carrots and sticks hasn’t helped Pakistan down from its tightrope, and now US incentives are diminishing. If Pakistan changes course, more help will come, but the relationship is no longer transactional. Pakistan will do what it thinks it must.

Perceptions of Pakistan are now deeply grooved. They won’t change unless Islamabad is able to take steps that clarify new thinking towards India and Afghanistan. Mikhail Gorbachev called this strategy one of destroying the ‘enemy image’. Gorbachev destroyed the Soviet Union’s enemy image in the US, but the Soviet economy was also destroyed because it was incapable of reform. Pakistan can change its enemy image and grow its economy by improving ties with neighbours. In doing so, Pakistan can maintain decent relations with the United States as it improves ties with China. Islama¬bad achieved this significant feat in the past; it can do so again.

On Capitol Hill, it would be helpful if serious legislators convened serious hearings on how best to stabilise and improve US-Pakistan relations. The easy way for legislators to weigh in is to get on soapboxes — an old American colloquialism recalling a time when men with megaphones gained elevation on street corners. Television is the new soapbox. Denunciations make cheap headlines while making hard problems worse. Congressional hearings where learning takes place have become rare on Capitol Hill. Pakistan deserves better treatment, but the same policies will produce the same results.

US-Pakistan relations are worth salvaging. Both countries have been through hard times together, and have accomplished much together. Pakistan has a long list of grievances towards the US. The US has a long list of grievances towards Pakistan. Grievances don’t solve problems; they make problems worse.

This relationship can no longer rest on the resupply of US troops in Afghanistan, or on Pakistan’s role as a selective bulwark against violent extremist groups. A new relationship has to be forged; otherwise, enemy images will only harden.

The writer is the co-founder of the Stimson Centre.
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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A Case of Failing Democracy or Fading Geo-politicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:35:05 +0000 Adil Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146203 By M. Adil Khan
Jul 25 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The ‘coup’ of July 15 in Turkey failed within hours of its start, and given that it enlisted very limited support within the army itself, some called it not a coup but a ‘mutiny’.

oped_1_afp__In recent times, there have been many reports, mainly in the West, of unhappiness with Erdogan’s Islamism and authoritarian style of governing, but no one thought that this would translate into a coup. After all, it was not that long ago when the world cheered “The Rise of Turkey”. Under Erdogan’s leadership and with a mix of liberal democracy and neoliberal economic policy, Turkey marched ahead economically. Turkey looked like the poster boy of the Muslim world – modern, progressing and yet Muslim.

However, while the economy was growing, Islamist nationalism also surged unnoticed in the beginning. Islamist nationalism was hailed as Islam’s democratic answer to ‘terrorism’ that in recent times has become the scourge of most Muslim majority nations.

But all of a sudden, the scene changed and the tone became very different – to some, Turkey is now a “failed model” and this is because Erdogan “changed the Constitution for his own benefit and restarted his wicked conflict with the Kurds” (Independent, July 16, 2016) , and yet others argue that “the successful liberalisation in Turkey during the last three decades itself paved the way for Islam’s later authoritarian and conservative incarnations” (The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism, Cihan Tugal).

So which one of these views is correct?

It is not easy to answer that, but one thing is clear: the way millions poured into the streets at the call of Erdogan to repel the ‘mutiny’, the answer is not the disapproval of Erdogan by his people as their leader nor does it seem to be his governance style, not at this stage at least. Notwithstanding, the fact that there has been a ‘mutiny’ (not coup) indicates that not everything is hunky dory in Turkey these days.

Since its inception as a ‘modern’ state in 1923 under Kemal Ataturk, a post-colonial invention of the West which was built on the ashes of the defeated, humiliated and dismantled Ottoman monarchy, Turkey has rotated between booms and busts, democracy and coups, secularism and Islamism, and this largely depended on the not-so-apparent changing mood of its benefactors. It is no surprise that any effort by Turkey – regardless of whether this is done through a democratic or an authoritarian polity – that pursues nationalistic aspirations at the cost of the hegemon’s agenda in the region is to invite trouble. Like many previous coups, the July 15, 2016 ‘mutiny ‘is no exception and thus, needed to be seen in this context.

Indeed, this ‘mutiny’ is nothing but a culmination of several policy clashes that manifested themselves through Turkey’s resurgent sovereign Islamist nationalist identity that challenged the diktats of geopolitics at different levels, and on many occasions has put Erdogan at odds with the West’s idea of ‘modern’ Tukey – a secularised, de-cultured, de-Islamised ‘lackey’.

In the context of these complex and conflated dynamics, it is difficult to say which of the factors, Erdogan’s authoritarianism or the West’s diminishing control over Turkey, has prompted the mutiny but the picture that emerges – and given that millions poured on the street at the call of Erdogan to foil the mutiny – is that the West’s script that the mutiny has been caused by deficits of democracy is anything but true. The answer lies somewhere else.

Erdogan blames his nemesis, the US based self-exiled cleric Gulen for the mutiny and accordingly, asked the US government to extradite him to face trial in Turkey. In response, the Obama administration asked for evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the mutiny.

Erdogan’s woes started with a number of policy shifts, some good and some terrible, that he initiated lately. Firstly, his move to severe diplomatic ties with Israel in 2013, in the aftermath of the latter’s attack on a Turkish Gaza peace ship, a principled decision, earned him the wrath of a powerful and dangerous foe that many believe to be behind the numerous political and economic unrests that have been plaguing Turkey lately. Secondly, his clash with Russia was unnecessary and proved costly. Most importantly, his government’s alleged patronisation of ISIS has proved to be a grave mistake, and Erdogan has been paying for it since. Thirdly, encouraged by NATO and inspired by his reported personal hatred, Erdogan’s dogged determination to evict Assad in Syria cost Turkey dearly.

However, it is his recent reversals of some of these policies, especially cementing of relationships with Russia and peace overtures to Syria, that have put him at extreme odds with the Zionist/NATO conglomerate, Turkey’s post-colonial ‘nurturer’. Indeed, a delayed and somewhat less-than-strong disapproval of the coup by the NATO is instructive and has prompted speculations that they might have expected a different outcome.

Nevertheless, Erdogan be warned, his adversaries have noted one thing quite clearly that more than the support or non-participation of the loyal faction of his army, it is the people who have foiled the mutiny. They are his main strength and therefore, to ensure that the next coup or ‘revolution’ does not fail, many believe that is quite possible that the hegemon’s nexus will make sure to weaken Erdogan’s support base, the people, by alienating them through the engineering of a false economic crisis (remember Iran’s Mosaddek, Chilli’s Allende!).

Therefore, for Erdogan, the journey ahead is fraught and as he has found out already, a stricter form of authoritarianism and purging of critics is not the solution. The people are his answer and thus the way forward is not to shrink that base but expand it by engaging people to build a Turkey that is economically progressive, politically inclusive and spiritually nourishing.

The writer is a former senior policy manager of the United Nations.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Biswal’s Dreams Just Pretentious Prattlehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/biswals-dreams-just-pretentious-prattle/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:14:15 +0000 Editor Sunday Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146199 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Jul 25 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

So Nisha Biswal, the US State Department’s point person on Sri Lanka, says that Sri Lanka could be another Singapore.

That will be the day. If after six visits to the country in 20 months she has still not grasped the basics of Sri Lanka’s socio-political culture and mores, the lack of respect for law and order and the rule of law infused by political interference and intimidation, she could hardly be a messenger of hope and good sense.

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Nisha Biswal told a group of Sri Lankan business leaders that Lee Kuan Yew wanted to model his country on Ceylon and now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore

Perhaps she has become accustomed to the obsequiousness of foreign minister Samaraweera for things western and his habit of clinging on to the hands of every foreign visitor seemingly as a token of eternal friendship but actually in case they make a break for a quick getaway as some suspect.

The other day media carried a picture of our over-zealous foreign minister holding on to the hand of the visiting Chinese foreign minister leaving the latter looking rather perplexed. The Chinese reaction was not surprising given that the pro-western UNP leadership turned its back on Beijing shortly after the “good governance” coalition came to office possibly because China provided financial help to the Rajapaksa government when our so-called western friends would not do so and even refused to provide weaponry to fight an insurgency.

But now that the pro-western UNP finds itself in a financial mess it has no qualms about kowtowing and publicly displaying a willingness to accept its financial help with open arms and empty money bags.

An occasional peck on both cheeks might be considered by some in our diplomatic fraternity as a sign of undying friendship and gratitude. But in the world of diplomacy such over-familiarity especially in public might not always win friends and influence nations.

Speaking to a group of Sri Lankan business leaders during her recent visit, Nisha Biswal said that Singapore’s one time prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had wanted to model his country on Ceylon at the time. But now it is time for Sri Lanka to be turned into a Singapore.

Does Biswal believe that Sri Lankans are gullible or is this an insidious move to make this strategically-located nation an integral cog in Washington’s pivot to Asia policy intended to stymie China’s economic and military advance westward in the Indian Ocean?

If Biswal was even faintly aware of the bedrock on which the nascent Southeast Asian city-state was built she would not be proposing that we turn ourselves into a soulless nation however economically advanced and rich it has turned out to be.

I do not know whether Biswal has met Lee Kuan Yew when he was leading his newly independent state and talked to him. I have when I was working in Hong Kong and Mr. Lee visited the then British colony for a major conference.

So meticulous was the Singaporean he was able to tell me what I had called him in some of my writings – a dictator, an autocrat and a politician who did not tolerate dissent.

He did not entirely disagree but he carefully adduced reasons why he had to act the way he did, to craft a policy framework for a majority Chinese population sandwiched between two huge Malay-dominated nations. He said even Singapore’s language policy was determined by this geopolitical consideration.

Mr. Lee said that when Singapore was heading for independence Ceylon was the model on which he hoped to build the emergent state. Ceylon had a high rate of literacy, an educated people with a good educational system, an efficient civil service, a well-functioning judiciary and a performing economy.

But all these important qualities that made the Ceylonese nation were dissipated and destroyed by over-bearing and obtrusive politics. In later years when his people asked him for democratic rights and political freedoms he asked them whether they wanted to be another Sri Lanka involved in ethnic conflict.

Those who know the real Singapore story – I nearly went to work there when the editor of a new newspaper scheduled for launch invited me to join – how Ceylon born J.B. Jeyaretnam, the only opposition MP was treated (or mistreated) after he entered parliament after several attempts, how several journalists suffered including a friend of mine on the Business Times, Kenneth James, for ‘offences’ that most journalists would have considered normal professional duties.

Space does not permit an elaboration of the restrictions Singapore places on its citizens including the use of laws that a public gathering of five persons or more requires a police permit and charges of contempt of court, criminal and civil defamation and sedition are used to rein in government critics.

Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2015 states that the “Singapore’s government limits political and civil rights—especially freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association—using overly broad legal provisions on security, public order, morality, and racial and religious harmony.”

Admittedly some advances have been made – however meager – in the way of democratic freedoms. But the Singapore that Biswal and others speak of glowingly was not build on democratic foundations and the rights and freedoms associated with a free society.

So is Biswal then asking Sri Lanka to dismantle the constitutional and other rights guaranteed to its people, the democratic political system that took root even before independence in 1948 and the free press that politicians unfailingly promise the country?

I dare say Sri Lanka can well do without the corrosive and corrupt politics practiced today by many equally corrupt and abrasive politicians. If a nuclear destruction of the existing political system was possible that would certainly be for the betterment of the country.

Is Biswal able to provide such purifying political cleansing that is surely needed if Sri Lanka is to become another Singapore? Despite the democratic deficit that marks Singapore’s years of independence, it was able to achieve an enviable economic record because there were certain prerequisites that its leaders laid down.

Singapore was founded on meritocracy where only the best entered public service and other institutions and followed professional careers. Equally corruption was stamped on wherever it appeared and the guilty were shown no mercy.

Respect for law and order was inculcated in the populace and those who violated the law paid for it. That was the social order that produce Singapore’s economic miracle and a people who called themselves Singaporeans rather than by their ethnicity.

Moreover the city-state has had a political leadership that placed the country before self and was truly committed to building a prosperous society where the majority of its people were able to lead a comfortable life.

The reverse is surely true of Sri Lanka. Why talk of meritocracy when some of those who occupy official positions probably do not know what it means, where relatives, friends and acolytes are handpicked and planted in jobs for which the public pays. The qualified are deposited in the closest dust bin because they do not belong to the correct party, have not paid pooja to the presiding almighty and have sought to expose corruption and abuse or to indulge in it.

How could we build a meritocracy which is what Singapore has done, if a fundamental principle on which Sri Lankan politics is founded is nepotism and clannishness which this government promised to eliminate but practices with the same vigour as its predecessor?

The promises that the current government made to introduce “good governance” have been shattered long before the first year of this National Unity Government has ended. A classic recent example is the admission in parliament by the Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kiriella that he recruited 45 persons as consultants to the Southern Transport Development Project of the Road Development Authority at Rs.65,000 a month. If the highest qualification most of them have is the “O” level or some even lower how are they qualified to be consultants and consulted on what?

Lakshman Kiriella, who is increasing becoming an embarrassment to the UNP, admitted they were given these jobs because they helped in bringing his party into power. Whoever consults these unqualified consultants should seek psychiatric assistance.

It was not long ago that he wrote letters to two university authorities seeking to influence the appointment of persons known to him.

Just a few days ago I saw an article in which the writer says that the High Post Committee had advertised in newspaper calling for public comments on three persons whose names were listed for particular appointments.

It seemed that these three persons, one of whom is the President’s brother, was already functioning in those posts and have been doing so for some time. If the story is true then somebody should remind this committee of the bolting horses and the stable door.

So this is the country that Biswal wants to turn into another prosperous Singapore. Either she knows little of what she is talking about or is deliberately trying to sell these ideas to drag Sri Lanka into a tighter embrace with Washington so we will loosen our ties with China.

If this is the kind of rubbish that visiting diplomats oozing with spurious bon homie, lecture us about we could well do without it.

Before she comes here next and the Foreign Minister rushes to offer another handshake she should rid herself of the mental sloth that characterizes her advice.

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

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Rights of Indigenous Peoples ‘Critical’ to Combat Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/rights-of-indigenous-peoples-critical-to-combat-climate-change/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 11:50:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146196 Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

Maasai pastoralists, who participate in a farmer field school, are selling animals at a local market in Narok, Kenya. Indigenous peoples have a key role to play in addressing climate change. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 25 2016 (IPS)

No longer it is about restoring the legitimate rights of over 370 indigenous peoples spread across 70 countries worldwide, many of them living in dire situation, but now about their central, critical role in combating climate change.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has relentlessly emphasized this new reality.

“Very few countries have so far made a clear commitment to a requirement in the Paris Climate Change Agreement that countries undertaking climate change activities should ensure the rights of indigenous peoples,” she says, while reminding of “the large number of violent deaths of people protecting their forests and rights to land in 2015 – the deadliest year for environmental defenders on record.”

“It’s a dire situation in terms of respect for the rights of indigenous peoples,” she told the participants in the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Committee on Forestry (COFO) which met in the Italian capital on July 18-22.

“Indigenous peoples across the world experience the consequences of historical colonisation and invasion of their territories, and face discrimination because of their distinct cultures, identities and ways of life,” according to UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

On this, FAO stated that “Governments must do much more to provide the enabling conditions required for indigenous peoples, local communities, smallholders and their organisations to restore degraded landscapes and achieve climate change mitigation and adaptation in practice.”

Specifically, René Castro Salazar, FAO’s Assistant-Director General warned that the issue of indigenous rights to land and territories was ‘critical’ for the success of climate change initiatives.

“Unless we help indigenous peoples achieve secure land tenure and better governance, it will be very hard to achieve long-term solutions,” Castro Salazar said. “We are lagging behind, and we need to do more.”

Vast Carbon Stocks

A third of global forests are under some form of management by families, smallholders, local communities and indigenous peoples, and represent some of the most important carbon stocks in the world, FAO reported during the meeting. Government-recognised community forests alone hold an estimated 37.7 billion tonnes of carbon stock.

Agro-forestry farmers are tending to the crops in Kigoma, Tanzania. Forests are an integral part of the national agriculture policy with the aim of protecting arable land from erosion and increasing agricultural production. Credit: FAO

Agro-forestry farmers are tending to the crops in Kigoma, Tanzania. Forests are an integral part of the national agriculture policy with the aim of protecting arable land from erosion and increasing agricultural production. Credit: FAO

“Family smallholders, local communities and indigenous peoples have a key role to play in preserving these carbon stocks by reducing deforestation, managing forests sustainably and restoring tree cover as part of productive rural economies, particularly when they belong to strong producer organisations,” according to the UN agency.

In addition, an estimated 1.5 billion hectares of land hold potential for smallholder farmers to combine agriculture with trees.

“But failure to find the best way to engage with local stakeholders and align their interests with forest conservation can significantly compromise the chances of achieving carbon sequestration and mitigation targets.”

Greater Ownership

In an outcome statement issued at the close of the Rome meeting, participants urged governments to provide the enabling conditions required for local communities, indigenous peoples and local producers, “to manage larger territories, from securing and enforcing tenure rights to creating favourable business incentives and offering technical, financial and business extension services.”

They also called on global financing mechanisms, government programmes and private investors to direct investment and support towards local communities, indigenous peoples, smallholders and producer organisations.

Finally, they called for climate change initiatives “to shift towards giving greater ownership to local communities, indigenous peoples, smallholders and producer organisations and engaging them in participatory and qualitative assessment of the forest cover and trees on farms they manage.”

Livelihoods of Millions of People, Precarious

On the occasion of the Rome meeting, FAO issued a new study that helps to fill a significant knowledge gap on the presence and extent of forests and trees in the world’s drylands, where the food security and livelihoods of millions of people, already precarious, are increasingly being threatened by climate change.

The study’s preliminary findings show that trees are present with hugely varying densities on almost one-third of the world’s 6.1 billion hectares of drylands, which cover an area more than twice the size of Africa. Almost 18 per cent of this area contains forests.

An estimated 2 billion people, 90 per cent of whom are in developing countries, live in drylands. Recent studies have indicated the need to restore these areas to cope with the effects of drought, desertification and land degradation.

In particular, water availability in drylands is expected to decline further due to changes in climate and land use, the new study warns.

“Poor people living in remote rural areas will be most vulnerable to food shortages, which combined with violence and social upheaval, are already leading to forced migration in dryland regions in Africa and western Asia.”

Until now, there has been little statistically based knowledge on dryland trees –particularly those growing outside forests– despite their vital importance to humans and the environment, according to the study.

The leaves and fruit of trees are sources of food for people and fodder for animals; their wood provides fuel for cooking and heating and can be a source of income for poor households; trees protect soils, crops and animals from the sun and winds, while forests are often rich in biodiversity.

Drylands are divided into four aridity zones (see map): the dry sub-humid zone, is the least arid of the four zones and consists mostly of the Sudanian savanna, forests and grasslands in South America, the steppes of eastern Europe and southern Siberia, and the Canadian prairie.

Most dryland forests occur in this zone, as do some large irrigated, intensively farmed areas along perennial rivers; at the other extreme, the hyper-arid zone is the driest zone and it is dominated by desert – the Sahara alone accounting for 45 per cent, and the Arabian desert forming another large component.

Factbox

At a glance: some preliminary findings of the FAO Global Drylands Assessment:
• The global drylands contain 1.11 billion hectares of forest land, which is 27 per cent of the global forest area, estimated at approximately 4 billion hectares.

• Two-thirds of the drylands forest area can be defined as being dense, meaning it has closed canopies (i.e. a canopy cover greater than 40 per cent).

• The second most common land use in drylands is grassland (31 per cent), followed by forest (18 per cent) and cropland (14 per cent). The category other lands constitutes 34 per cent of the global drylands area.

• The least-arid zones have the most forest. The proportion of forest land is 51 per cent in the dry subhumid zone, 41 per cent in the semiarid zone, 7 per cent in the arid zone and 0.5 per cent in the hyperarid zone. The average crown cover density is ten times higher in the dry subhumid zone than in the hyperarid zone.

• Trees outside forests are present on 1.9 billion hectares of drylands (31 per cent of the global drylands area), if all land with more than 0 per cent crown cover is included. Thirty per cent of croplands and grasslands have at least some crown cover, as do 60 per cent of lands classified as settlements.

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El Salvador Faces Dilemma over the Prosecution of War Criminalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/el-salvador-faces-dilemma-over-the-prosecution-of-war-criminals/#comments Sat, 23 Jul 2016 20:12:45 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146188 Residents of La Hacienda, in the central department of La Paz in El Salvador, are holding pictures of the four American nuns murdered in 1980 by members of the National Guard, as they attend the commemorations held to mark 35 years of the crime, in December 2015, at the site where it was perpetrated. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Residents of La Hacienda, in the central department of La Paz in El Salvador, are holding pictures of the four American nuns murdered in 1980 by members of the National Guard, as they attend the commemorations held to mark 35 years of the crime, in December 2015, at the site where it was perpetrated. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Jul 23 2016 (IPS)

The ruling of the highest court to repeal the amnesty law places El Salvador in the dilemma of deciding whether the country should prosecute those who committed serious violations to human rights during the civil war.

It also evidences that, more than two decades after the end of the conflict in 1992, reconciliation is proving elusive in this Central American country with 6.3 million inhabitants.

At the heart of the matter is the pressing need to bring justice to the victims of war crimes while, on the other hand, it implies a huge as well as difficult task, since it will entail opening cases that are more than two decades old, involving evidence that has been tampered or lost, if at all available, and witnesses who have already died.“We do not want them to be jailed for a long period of time, we want perpetrators to tell us why they killed them, given that they knew they were civilians...And we want them to apologize, we want someone to be held accountable for these deaths”-- Engracia Echeverría.

Those who oppose opening such cases highlight the precarious condition of the judiciary, which has important inadequacies and is cluttered with a plethora of unsentenced cases.

“I believe Salvadorans as a whole, the population and the political forces are not in favour of this (initiating prosecution), they have turned the page”, pointed out left-wing analyst Salvador Samayoa, one of the signatory parties of the Peace Agreements that put an end to 12 years of civil war.

The 12 years of conflict left a toll of 70,000 casualties and more than 8,000 people missing.

Samayoa added that right now El Salvador has too many problems and should not waste its energy on problems pertaining to the past.

For human rights organizations, finding the truth, serving justice and providing redress prevail over the present circumstances and needs.

“Human rights violators can no longer hide behind the amnesty law, so they should be investigated once and for all”, said Miguel Montenegro, director of the El Salvador Commission of Human Rights, a non-governmental organization, told IPS.

The Supreme Court of Justice, in what is deemed to be a historical ruling, on 13 July ruled that the General Amnesty Act for the Consolidation of, passed in 1993, is unconstitutional, thus opening the door to prosecuting those accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the conflict.

In its ruling, the Court considered that Articles 2 and 144 of said amnesty law are unconstitutional on the grounds that they violate the rights of the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity to resort to justice and seek redress.

It further ruled that said crimes are not subject to the statute of limitations and can be tried regardless of the date on which they were perpetrated.

“We have been waiting for this for many years; without this ruling no justice could have been done”, told IPS activist Engracia Echeverría, from the Madeleine Lagadec Center for the Promotion of Defence of Human Rights.

This organization is named after the French nun who was raped and murdered by government troops in April 1989, when they attacked a hospital belonging to the guerrilla group Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).

The activist stressed that, even though it is true that a lot of information relevant to the cases has been lost, some data can still be obtained by the investigators in the District Attorney’s General Office in charge of criminal prosecution, in case some people wish to instigate an investigation.

The law has been strongly criticized by human rights organizations within and outside the country, since its enactment in March 1993.

Its critics have claimed that it promoted impunity by protecting Army and guerrilla members who committed human rights crimes during the conflict.

However, its advocates have been both retired and active Army members, as well as right-wing politicians and businessmen in the country, since it precisely prevented justice being served to these officers –who are seen as responsible for frustrating the victory of the FMLN.

“All the crimes committed were motivated by an attack by the guerrilla”, claimed retired general Humberto Corado, former Defence Minister between 1993 and 1995.

The now repealed act was passed only five days after the Truth Commission, mandated by the United Nations to investigate human rights abuses during the civil war, had published its report with 32 specific cases, 20 of which were perpetrated by the Army and 12 by insurgents.

Among those cases were the murders of archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in March 1980; four American nuns in December of the same year, and hundreds of peasants who were shot in several massacres, like those which took place in El Mozote in December 1981 and in Sumpul in May 1980.

Also, six Jesuit priests and a woman and her daughter were murdered in November 1989, a case already being investigated by a Spanish court.

The Truth Commission has also pointed to some FMLN commanders, holding them accountable for the death of several mayors who were targeted for being considered part of the government’s counter-insurgent strategy.

Some of those insurgents are now government officials, as is the case with director of Civil Protection Jorge Meléndez.

Before taking office in 2009, the FMLN, now turned into a political party, strongly criticized the amnesty law and advocated in favour of its repeal, on the grounds that it promoted impunity.

But, after winning the presidential elections that year with Mauricio Funes, it changed its stance and no longer favoured the repeal of the law. Since 2014, the country has been governed by former FMLN commander Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

In fact, the governing party has deemed the repeal as “reckless”, with the President stating on July 15 that Court magistrates “were not considering the effects it could have on the already fragile coexistence” and urging to take the ruling “with responsibility and maturity while taking into account the best interests of the country”.

After the law was ruled unconstitutional, the media were saturated with opinions and analyses on the subject, most of them pointing out the risk of the country being destabilized and on the verge of chaos due to the countless number of lawsuits that could pile up in the courts dealing with war cases.

“To those people who fiercely claim that magistrates have turned the country into a hell we must respond that hell is what the victims and their families have gone –and continue to go- through”, reads the release written on July 15 by the officials of the José Simeón Cañas Central American University, where the murdered Jesuits lived and worked in 1989.

Furthermore, the release states that most of the victims demand to be listened to, in order to find out the truth and be able to put a face on those they need to forgive.

In fact, at the heart of the debate lies the idea of restorative justice as a mechanism to find out the truth and heal the victims’ wounds, without necessarily implying taking perpetrators to jail.

“We do not want them to be jailed for a long period of time, we want perpetrators to tell us why they killed them, given that they knew they were civilians”, stressed Echeverría.

“And we want them to apologize, we want someone to be held accountable for these deaths”, she added.

In the case of Montenegro, himself a victim of illegal arrest and tortures in 1986, he said that it is necessary to investigate those who committed war crimes in order to find out the truth but, even more importantly, as a way for the country to find the most suitable mechanisms to forgive and provide redress”.

However, general Corado said that restorative justice was “hypocritical, its only aim being to seek revenge”.

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We Must Talk: Not Just Ph and China but Us and China, Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/we-must-talk-not-just-ph-and-china-but-us-and-china-too/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:27:28 +0000 Francisco Tatad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146185 By Francisco S. Tatad
Jul 22 2016 (Manila Times)

Let us do this chronologically.

Days before the release on July 12 of the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, at The Hague, on the Philippine maritime dispute with China, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr. announced he was willing to sit down with Beijing for bilateral talks on the possible joint exploration of mineral and marine resources of the disputed maritime areas in the South China (West Philippine) Sea.

Francisco S. Tatad

Francisco S. Tatad

This was a pointed departure from the previous position of the Aquino government, which had insisted on a purely multilateral approach to the dispute, invoking international law under UNCLOS—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. President Rodrigo DU30 did not correct or rebuke Yasay for his statement, so one assumed it had his full authority.

This apparently alarmed the US government, which had openly supported Aquino’s position and chided Beijing for its refusal to agree to arbitration and to recognize the jurisdiction of the arbitral body. On the eve of the release of the ruling, which everyone expected to be favorable to the Philippines, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter telephoned Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to talk about the impending verdict and its implications to the security of the region.

Kristie Kenney’s role

Hours before our “victory,” US State Department Counselor Kristie Kenney, a former ambassador to the Philippines, met with Yasay at the Department of Foreign Affairs “to call on the parties to respect the ruling.” This was completely ironic because the Philippine government was the only party to the arbitration, and could not have been expected to “disrespect” a ruling in its favor. If at all, the Philippines should be the one asking China to respect the ruling and the US to help persuade Beijing.

In reality, Kenney’s call was a rebuke to the newly initiated foreign secretary for his gratuitous statement on bilateral negotiations, which caught Washington totally by surprise. Nothing was reported from the Kenney-Yasay conversation, but when the ruling from The Hague came and profuse and euphoric reactions greeted it from the US, Japan, Australia and the European allies as well as from all sorts of netizens, Yasay had to welcome it in measured tones, calling for “sobriety” at the same time.

Albert del Rosario recycled

Former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, who had been quoted as saying the Philippines would be a frontline state in containing China’s rise, and had engaged Beijing in steaming rhetoric on the South China Sea issue when he was still in office, was recycled out of wherever he was enjoying his retirement for publicity purposes, to speak actively about the ruling and receive the applause of the public who had yet to see our victory at the The Hague was completely psychic.

Yasay’s next opportunity to be heard came at the 11th Asia-Europe Summit Meeting, in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, on July 15 – 16, where on behalf of DU30, who was unable to attend, he called upon China to bind itself to the process it had rejected from the very start. He was somehow overshadowed in the press by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who pressed the point against China far more strongly than he did, prompting the Chinese government to point out that Japan was not a party to the issue at hand.

ASEM unmoved, FVR mooted

In its post-conference statement, ASEM refused to be drawn into the Philippines-China controversy, limiting itself to a general statement to the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes. Apparently, Yasay had some conversation with the Chinese delegation at the margins of the conference, but nothing came out of it in the press. Yasay’s performance provoked rumors of his early departure, prompting the President to issue a statement dismissing such possibility.

At the same time DU3O announced he was going to name former President Fidel V. Ramos as his special envoy to start talks with the Xi Jinping government. This was promptly welcomed by Beijing, and Ramos himself indicated genuine interest in it. But the latest word from Yasay is that there won’t be any talks with China, unless the latter agrees to discuss the PCA ruling, which it does not recognize.

Talks torpedoed?
This tends to show that some powerful actor has succeeded in torpedoing the rapprochement project, and that we should expect belligerent rhetoric and tension, which we were trying to arrest, to ratchet up. This means that the new DFA management never understood why bilateral talks were needed, in the face of a ruling that tends to create a worse crisis than the one it was seeking to ease.

To this observer the merit of bilateral talks was never in doubt. But the talks have to be without any preconditions. We just won the arbitral ruling, true; but no power on earth could compel China to recognize it. So why would China want to have talks with us that begin with a discussion of what it does not want to recognize? And what benefit do we hope to gain from it?

On the other hand, if we sit down to discuss ways and means of working together for peace and economic development without touching a gaping wound that’s still so fresh, China would most probably appreciate our generosity and try to match it to the fullest. This is the Asian way, unfamiliar to the West. Eventually, after we have been bonded by the strongest economic, social, cultural and human ties, we could perhaps begin to talk of the most difficult territorial problems between us.

A Korean tale
The story of a young Korean I had met on one of my earlier trips to Seoul seems most apt. He said he had a Japanese classmate with whom he fought on the first day they met—over the issue of Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The Japanese militarists had killed his parents, and he wanted to take it out on the young Japanese. He broke his nose, although he himself did not go unscathed. Despite this incident, he took pains to befriend his perceived nemesis.

They became such good friends that whenever any of his other friends would begin to talk of what the Japanese did to Korea in the past, he would immediately change the subject, and his Japanese friend would be profuse in his thanks. One day his friend asked about his dead parents, and if he could visit their graves to pay his respects. From then on, it became so easy for them to discuss their dark past.

GMA tried joint exploration
DU30 and Yasay were not the first ones to mention the possibility of joint exploration of marine and mineral resources in the South China (West Philippine) Sea. In 2004, during the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration, the Philippines and China already agreed to conduct joint exploration for oil and gas in the disputed waters. In March 2005, Vietnam became the third party to the Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking (JMSU).

This, however, fell apart because of maritime incidents between China and Vietnam, and certain controversies involving China’s big business contracts in the Philippines. There was also a move to question the constitutionality of the JMSU before the Supreme Court. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has taken the lead in discussing the Philippine claim as against China’s so-called “nine-dash line” in various forums, maintains that any joint exploration with China as an equal partner would violate the Constitution, which permits foreigners not more than 40 percent equity in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

Marine Peace Park
But Carpio is willing to adopt the idea of Dr. John McManus, professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami, that the disputed areas be converted into a Marine Peace Park for the benefit of all. This is not much different from a previous proposal in this column that the area be declared a common heritage of mankind, free from any kind of military weapons, particularly nuclear, or the political control of any nation, but for the benefit of all. This sounds like an idea whose time has come, although rather utopian; but I fear it would be immediately shot down by the military powers who see the South China Sea not only as the great waterway through which passes $5 trillion of the world’s annual trade but also as an irreplaceable playground for the world’s most powerful aircraft carriers, warships and submarines.

Without any means to compel China to comply with a ruling that invalidates its so-called “nine-dash line,” there is obvious need for the Philippines and China to talk and avoid inflammatory rhetoric and counterproductive political or military initiatives. As I have said a few times before, we have no need of war with China, nor can we afford it. Given our limited resources, how do we feed 1.3 billion Chinese, if they survive such a war, and should we win it?

US and China must talk
But since the real conflict is the geopolitical rivalry between the world’s lone superpower and Asia’s rising regional power, there is even more urgent need for them to sit down and discuss the terms upon which we are to build a new world order. The basic conflict is civilizational, and must be resolved as such.

As the British author and journalist Simon Winchester puts it in his book Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers, the Eastern civilization on the West side of the Pacific and the Western civilization on the East side of the Pacific have finally met to turn the Pacific into the inland sea of tomorrow, where the Mediterranean was the inland sea of the ancient world, and the Atlantic the inland sea of today. America has dominated the Pacific for the past 60 years, but its declining economic and political power has rendered it insecure about China’s phenomenal economic, political and military rise.

Search for equivalence, avoiding the ‘Thucydides Trap’

America needs to see, Winchester writes, that China is not interested in replacing or challenging the US as a world power. It does not intend to colonize, enslave or dominate any country or people like the Western powers, but simply wants to “enjoy equivalence.” This mistaken fear of China, left unchecked, could lead to what has been called the “Thucydides Trap,” in which a rising power causes fear in an established power which inevitably escalates toward war. We learn this from the History of the Peloponnesian War, which happened when after Athens and Sparta defeated Persia, Sparta’s growing fear of Athens led the two former allies to destroy each other.

In a major 2015 article in The Atlantic, Prof. Graham Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government asked whether the US and China are headed for war because of the Thucydides Trap. A few years before that, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a speech before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on March 3, 2012, warned the US against falling into such a trap.

Chinese President Xi Jinping himself has said, “We all need to work together to avoid the ‘Thucydides Trap’—destructive tensions between an emerging power and established powers… Our aim is to foster a new model of major country relations.”

Indeed this can be avoided, not by demonizing the rising power or trying to prevent its rise, but by peaceful and constructive engagement, which begins to happen when the contending parties sit down without any preconditions to talk.

fstatad@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Why we Failedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/why-we-failed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-we-failed http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/why-we-failed/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:13:56 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146184 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jul 22 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Qandeel Baloch’s horrific murder in the name of ‘honour’ is testimony to the failure of the women’s movement to overturn patriarchy in Pakistan. Against the backdrop of the spate of anti-women violence, comes a report by Dr Rubina Saigol written for the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a German foundation. Titled Feminism and the Women’s Movement in Pakistan: Actors, Debates and Strategies, this excellent document should provide much food for thought.

57912e07d04f6__The author, an eminent sociologist, touches the heart of the issue — especially in cases like Qandeel’s — when she points out that there are “silences” (neglected subjects) that surround questions of family and sexuality, the mainstay of patriarchy and women’s subjugation. These have generally not been addressed by the women’s movement and she recommends that they should be.

But that is not all. More than these silences, the author points out, feminists have failed to devise a successful strategy to empower women and create public spaces for them. That accounts for their inability to make a profound impact.

Feminists here never tried to be inclusive.

Dr Saigol observes that today there is “a deafening disquieting quiet in the women’s movement”. She quotes a number of well-known feminists who contend that Pakistan lacks an autonomous vigorous movement, notwithstanding the vocal female protests against the oppression of women.

She substantiates her argument by pointing to the absence of a “common collective vision of a better world, agreed upon strategies to create such a world, and shared understandings of the world in which we live and work”.

One would agree with the writer who traces the history of the women’s struggle in Pakistan to show how it evolved in response to internal politics and external events along with the globalisation that began in the post-cold war age.

But to formulate a unified stance has not been possible given the many serious constraints that exist, many of which are deeply rooted in our socio-cultural values, such as a general trend towards glorification of patriarchy that is reinforced by religion, the adversarial relationship between feminists and the state, and the depoliticisation of the women’s struggle. The impression conveyed is that the feminist movement has been a victim of circumstances — be they the induction of donor-driven NGOs or extremist religious ideologues in the country.

However, the women’s ‘movement’ in Pakistan has always been bifurcated by great schisms. At no stage was a common platform created where women of all views could gather on a minimal common agenda. The fact is that feminists of all shades never tried to be inclusive. Hence no group had the numerical strength to assert a claim to supremacy. WAF had the greatest potential for leadership due to its financial and political autonomy. Yet it never brought in its fold non-professional disadvantaged women who constitute the bulk of Pakistan’s female population. It focused on them only in nuanced consciousness-raising and, to its credit, condemned strongly individual cases of abuse of underprivileged women.

This activism didn’t go very far although it pushed the women’s issue on the national agenda. Some laws were changed but never implemented. The lives of the majority of women didn’t change. Though they support large families, as Qandeel did, they have to bow before patriarchy. They have no time to be mobilised to learn about their rights which they know would never be actualised.

However, the same women are willing to respond to a call which offers them services that to an extent facilitate them in fulfilling some of their basic needs. That is why various development NGOs working in the education and (reproductive) health sectors — even the donor-funded but honest ones — have been able to achieve more than the feminists in creating awareness of women’s rights.

Many of them have taken the indirect, but more effective, route to empower women and instil in them a vision of a better future. They understand the importance of female participation to create awareness in them. The next generation of women definitely show the promise of being more skilful in negotiating their way through rough patriarchal waters.

Had the advocacy groups tried to link up with the services groups they would have reinforced each others’ work. I remember the iconic development worker, Perween Rahman, lamenting the inability of the women’s movement to mobilise huge numbers to protest against injustices inflicted on women. She recognised the fact that women’s development was possible only if their rights were given full recognition. “But we are so busy attending to the basic needs of men and women that we have no time and resources to do advocacy. If the women’s rights movement were to join hands with us, we would definitely support them as that is what we also want.”

What needs to be recognised is that human development is an integrated and holistic process. To be effective, rights activists must address all areas and classes of human development simultaneously.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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The Americans Should Have Their Own Chilcothttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-americans-should-have-their-own-chilcot/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:59:48 +0000 Mohammad Badrul Ahsan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146181 By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
Jul 22 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Ever since the Chilcot Inquiry vilified former Prime Minister Tony Blair on July 6 for taking the United Kingdom to war in Iraq, the world is waiting for the other shoe to drop. If Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, the report assessed he had done it at the behest of his American ally George W. Bush. That gives sufficient ground for the Americans to have their own Chilcot. Blair had bought the distribution rights on this of the Atlantic for the biggest lot of hogwash Bush sold to the entire world.

op_1_Bush and Blair remind one of America’s most notorious criminal couple, Bonnie and Clyde. In the movie made on their life in 1967, Bonnie Parker tells Clyde Barrow after he rebuffs her romantic advances, “Your advertising is just dandy… folks would never guess you don’t have a thing to sell.” We don’t know if the former British premier ever had the pride of an embarrassed Bonnie to tell his friend Bush before, during or after the Iraq invasion that he didn’t have a thing to sell when he lied about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

The world knows that George Bush lied. It knows he fabricated that story to invade Iraq for more reasons than overthrowing its ruler. And, it doesn’t seem to be an honest mistake or an error in judgment because Bush has never apologised, accepted responsibility or shown remorse for his decisions. Meanwhile, the global chain reaction he set off has already killed thousands of men, women and children, and continues to convulse the world.

UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond said after the Chilcot report was released that the US blunder in Iraq led to the rise of IS. He criticised the US decision to dismantle the Iraqi army, when 400,000 unemployed soldiers, many of them Saddam loyalists, were let loose to graze on the fields of anger and vengeance.

In fact, it’s not clear till today what has been accomplished by trashing a country to topple its dictator. It has been more than nine years since Saddam was hanged on an Eid day, but Iraq is bloodier, ever more violent and ever more confused. Pakistan is paranoid, Afghanistan is antsy, Syria is seething, Yemen is yelping, Turkey is terrorised, and European cities are reeling under terrorist attacks. Even a previously quiet country like Bangladesh has to look over its shoulder. IS has also turned its wrath on Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

An American Chilcot inquiry should look into what goat George Bush had in this fight. Did he want to seek vengeance for the plot Saddam once had allegedly hatched to assassinate his father? Did he have a crusade mission to invade a vulnerable country and throw a monkey wrench into the Muslim world? Did he go after Iraq’s oil? What did he actually want?

That Bush didn’t go for the WMDs is clear already because he knew he couldn’t find what wasn’t there. He also didn’t go there to fight terrorism because Saddam hasn’t been linked to terror groups, which carried out the 9/11 attacks. He also didn’t go to liberate Iraq, which is squirming under the oppressive burden of foreign invasion.

The United States needs a Chilcot-like investigation to answer these questions. It may take seven years or so, but better late than never. The Americans don’t need to carry the burden of one man’s guilt on their conscience. They, like the British people, have the right to know why their former leader had lied to take their country to a wasteful war.

It will be nice if the American inquiry summons Tony Blair as a witness. The investigators should have him sit together with George Bush at the same table and observe how they defend each other. Then both men should be provided with calculators to work out this simple math. Problem: Saddam was executed for the murder of 148 Iraqi Shi’ites. Solution: How many times should a devious duo be hanged for their misguided or mischievous policies that have killed nearly a million in Iraq, thousands in Syria and many more in other countries as collateral damage?

If the United States sincerely wishes to help other countries in their fight against terrorism, it must go back to the original sin and exonerate itself. It must explain to a disgusted world how an architect of anarchy could trigger turmoil worldwide and then enjoy the perks of a retired president without having so much as a rap on the knuckles!

Injecting air bubbles into the bloodstream can lead to brain damage or even death. An American inquiry needs to investigate how George Bush’s “hot air” has created a similar medical condition across the world. Those left brain-damaged are ruthlessly killing, while others are helplessly dying in vain. Shame!

The writer is Editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
Email: badrul151@yahoo.com.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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There is No Honour in Killinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/there-is-no-honour-in-killing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=there-is-no-honour-in-killing http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/there-is-no-honour-in-killing/#comments Fri, 22 Jul 2016 14:06:00 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146178 By Rose Delaney
ROME, Jul 22 2016 (IPS)

“Honour” is a paradoxical word. Initially, it draws to mind characteristics of integrity and dignity combined with an all-knowing air of greatness.

However, tradition has conditioned many men into the association of being “honourable” with an assertion of superiority over their female counterparts.

The recent honour killing of Pakistani social media star, Qandeel  Baloch, has triggered global outrage and spread the message that there is no "honour" in the practice of  ruthless murder.

The recent honour killing of Pakistani social media star, Qandeel Baloch, has triggered global outrage and spread the message that there is no “honour” in the practice of ruthless murder. Photo: Twitter

“Honour” also seems to entail the adoption of a “strong” masculine image one must project onto the public sphere, and a means of justifying acts of repressive control.

Historically speaking, the world over, women have been indoctrinated into the belief that their sexuality is somehow dangerous, a shameful secret that must be kept hidden for fear of “indecent exposure”.

Qandeel Baloch, a Pakistani social media star, who came from a society with a deep-rooted fear of female sexuality, attempted to break free from the status quo.

However, did Qandeel’s rebellious actions in the face of male-perpetrated oppression trigger any radical social change? In other words, did her suggestive Facebook photos do no more than make her another product of the “meat market”? Or did her “honour-death” raise the global awareness so desperately needed by women from her region?

Ultimately, did Qandeel’s definition of “sexual liberation” only result in the dishonouring of her family, and her eventual murder?

In the aftermath of Qandeel Baloch’s death by suffocation, the cold-blooded murderer was revealed as no less than her own flesh and blood brother. Upon his arrest, he stated that “he had no regrets” as his sister’s behaviour was “intolerable”.

Somewhere along the line, his societal upbringing ingrained within him the ideology that he not only had the power to control and suppress women but also condemn and punish them for their “indecent” actions too.

While Qandeel took her final breath of life, her brother’s outburst of violent frenzy was somehow self-justified. Deep down, his subconscious drove him to take a woman’s life in the name of dignity and “honour”.

He is one of many young men across the world, especially in South-Asia, who view murder as a reasonable resolution to “de-shaming” the family name from the stain of “dishonour”.

What’s more puzzling in the Qandeel Baloch case is the contradiction surrounding her parents outrage towards her murderous brother’s actions.

Qandeel’s father, Muhammad Azeem, recently expressed his disgust by stating that his son should be “shot on sight”.

Ironically, Qandeel’s father considers the further perpetration of violence as the only solution to his daughter’s murder.

In this sense, has Qandeel’s murder only deepened the vicious circle of vengeance surrounding honour-based violence? Or, will her parents public shaming of their son’s brutality act as a catalyst for change in Pakistan?

Pakistani journalist and activist, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy emphasized the fact that honour killings are an ongoing epidemic. “It appears it is very easy to kill a woman in this country and you can walk off scot-free”.

Legitimized by the perpetrators as a fundamental duty to follow a timeless “code of honour”, familial killings are commonplace in many, particularly rural, regions of Pakistan.

Whilst Qandeel Baloch’s murder exploded across global media outlets and her killer was relentlessly castigated, for another Pakistani woman like Samia, with no fame or fan base behind her, the path to justice was a predestined failure.

Samia ran away from her abusive husband and filed for divorce. When her family met with a lawyer to finalize the documents, a stranger was lurking nearby.

This man later revealed to be a hit man hired by her husband, pulled out a gun and shot a bullet into Samia’s head before she could fully legalize the separation and regain her freedom.

The police refused to prosecute the murderer as they justified the horrific incident as an “honourable” killing.

Both Qandeel and Samia’s narratives represent the thousands of women who have been ruthlessly murdered in the name of an “honour” that appears to be nothing more than a form of bloodthirsty misogyny.

We now must pose the question as to whether the international media pickup of Qandeel’s honour killing will shine a light on the atrocities happening on a daily basis to conventional women like Samia who, most likely, have limited access to social media networks and fear voicing their concerns will only lead to grave consequences.

In the aftermath of Qandeel’s merciless killing, will society place more of an importance on the need to condemn the perpetrators of honour-based violence? Only time will tell.

As of yet, the international organization Honour-Based Violence Awareness network estimates roughly 1,000 women a year are killed in honour killings in Pakistan.

The practice of “honour killing” is no contemporary trend, it dates back to earlier times when Arab settlers occupied a region a known as Baluchistan in Pakistan.

The Arab settlers had patriarchal traditions such as live burials of newly born daughters which is still practiced even today in many parts of the world.

The settlers also enforced the belief that a woman should have no say when it came to the matter of her virginity.

In their view, her sexuality belonged to the family. Undoubtedly, The importance placed on virginity and purity during this time still dominates the ideology of many countries in South Asia.

The very definition of masculinity, particularly in rural villages of the region, also contributes to violence against women. In certain communities, violence is closely linked to honour and the assertion of masculine status.

The resistance to give into western ideals of gender equality also contributes to the persistence of patriarchy in the South Asia region. Many are reluctant to abandon traditional customary practices such as honour killings.

Unfortunately, the future appears grim for the thousands of women subjected to honour-based acts of violence.

South Asian women’s lack of empowerment and economic independence will be of no help in their strive for the eradication of gender-based atrocities.

As long as women remain financially dependent in a male-dominated economy, they will continue to suffer from the violence and misogyny that traditional societies justify as a “code of honour”.

In light of ongoing honour-based violence and murder, Qandeel Baloch’s refusal to conform to repressive societal norms should inspire suppressed women across the world to practice their right to the freedom of speech.

It’s time to redefine the definition of “honour” and rise in the face of violence. Now, we must put the practice of patriarchal “codes of honour” to a halt, and demand the universal right to justice and equality.

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Devastating Droughts Continue as El Nino Subsideshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/devastating-droughts-continue-as-el-nino-subsides/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=devastating-droughts-continue-as-el-nino-subsides http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/devastating-droughts-continue-as-el-nino-subsides/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 20:21:17 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146171 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/devastating-droughts-continue-as-el-nino-subsides/feed/ 0 Convicting Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/convicting-children-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=convicting-children-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/convicting-children-2/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 17:28:49 +0000 Zainab Malik http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146169 By Zainab Z. Malik
Jul 21 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Like 73pc of Pakistan’s population, Ansar Iqbal’s birth had never been registered. And like most juvenile defendants in Pakistan, he was erroneously charged and tried as a 23-year-old adult because the police thought that’s how old he looked.

The writer is a human rights lawyer working with the Justice Project Pakistan.

The writer is a human rights lawyer working with the Justice Project Pakistan.

During Ansar’s trial, his lawyer produced government-issued birth records demonstrating his juvenility. The courts however, chose instead to rely upon the police’s appraisal of his physical appearance. In 2015, he was issued a birth certificate by the National Database and Registration Authority that unequivocally confirmed his plea of juvenility. Despite this, the Supreme Court of Pakistan refused to consider the new evidence placed before it. “It was raised out of time” and so, Ansar’s review petition was rejected.

An arbitrary visual assessment had sent Ansar Iqbal on death row for 23 years, and ultimately to the gallows in September last year. He was 38 years old.

A flawed juvenile justice system is rigged against those it seeks to protect.

Sentencing juveniles to death is prohibited under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000 and under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This has not counted for much since the six-year moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in December 2014. Pakistan has knowingly executed at least six juvenile offenders in the face of credible evidence supporting their minority. In June 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its concluding observations on Pakistan’s fifth periodic report noted that it is “seriously alarmed at the reports of execution of several individuals for offences committed while under the age of 18 years”. A study by the Justice Project Pakistan and Reprieve discovered that as many as 10pc of Pakistan’s 8,000 strong death row were juveniles at the time the alleged crime took place.

That’s 800 children convicted as adults.

Almost 46pc of Pakistan’s population has no form of official registration. At the time of arrest, it is virtually impossible to prove their age. Police, in the absence of documentary proof, arbitrarily record an age that is above 18 years to avoid applying protective procedural safeguards for juveniles during detention. Pakistan has consistently failed in its obligation to effectively investigate juvenility claims.

If a plea of juvenility is raised at the trial, the courts place the burden entirely upon the defendant. Not only is this difficult to dispel, given the dismal birth registration rates, it is also a violation of international law principles. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recognised the need for a medical or social investigation in the absence of proof of age. And even if there is conflicting or inconclusive evidence “the child shall have the right to the rule of the benefit of the doubt”.

Where government documents are presented by defendants, courts often dismiss these as unreliable. No further investigation into the prisoner’s social history to determine his age is conducted. If there is a disparity in the available evidence, the burden of doubt is almost never granted to the juvenile.

The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance provides limited guidance on how to determine age. It only states that if a question of juvenility arises during a criminal proceeding, the court must “record a finding such inquiry which shall include a medical report for determination of the age of the child”. This clearly does not contain sufficient detail to ensure that determinations of age are conducted in accordance with international standards.

The lack of clear and comprehensive age determination protocols has led to radically different interpretations by the courts. In the cases of ‘Amanullah vs the state’ and ‘Majid Khan vs the state’, the high courts held that a birth certificate should always be preferred over medical examination. However, in ‘Ghulam Rasool vs the state’ and ‘Majid Khan vs the state’ medical tests are given clear precedence.

Similarly, in ‘Zafar Hussain vs Ayyaz Ahmed’, the Lahore High Court held that the onus to prove juvenility lies upon the defendant and no benefit of doubt should be given to him whereas in ‘Saddam vs state’, the Sindh High Court stated that the provisions of the JJSO should be construed liberally and all benefit of doubt regarding age should go to the accused.

It is imperative that the government of Pakistan develop age determination mechanisms for juvenile offenders in order to fulfil its international human rights obligations and address the manifold human rights violations inherent under its criminal justice system. The National Commission on Human Rights and the newly appointed child rights commissioners serve as the ideal institutions to develop and ensure implementation of age determination mechanisms at each stage of the arrest, trial and appeal.

It has been almost one year since Ansar was executed. How many others will we lose before we reform our juvenile justice institutions so that they can fulfil the objectives they were designed to serve?

The writer is a human rights lawyer working with the Justice Project Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Is Kemalism on Its Way out in Turkey?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:48:48 +0000 Taj Hashmi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146166 By Taj Hashmi
Jul 21 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The enigmatic coup-attempt in Turkey on the night of July 15 and 16 signals something ominous about the future of Turkey, NATO, and the entire region. There’s more to read into the event than what appears on the surface. We don’t know much about the nature of the coup, but it has definitely tarnished the “Turkish Model” of success, which its Arab neighbours envied, and European ones admired for the co-existence of liberal Islam, secularism, and democracy. The “abortive coup” seems to have further consolidated Erdogan’s power, at least for the time being. Seemingly, Erdogan and his followers are marching together toward “illiberal democracy”, if not toward the utopia of Islamist totalitarianism.

A man lies in front of a Turkish army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. PHOTO: AP

A man lies in front of a Turkish army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. PHOTO: AP

Kemalism turned Turkey too secular too soon to sustain for generations. Thus, the resurgence of political Islam in Turkey indicates the country is preparing itself for a departure from Kemalism. One’s not sure as to how this seesaw is going to affect Turkish society and politics in the future. I think the following are Turkey’s nemeses, which we need to understand as to what might happen to the country now: Kemalism; the Kurdish problem; Turkey’s neighbours; and Turkey’s relationship with America.

Turkey is very unique from its European and Muslim neighbours. Being straddled on two continents, this Muslim-majority country is officially secular in the strictest sense. It’s not just another postcolonial country in the Muslim World, it’s rather a former colonial power, the centre of the mighty Ottoman Empire, which once ruled parts of Eastern Europe, West Asia, and North Africa for several centuries up to the end of World War I. Turkey’s Ottoman legacy of ruthless subjugation of European nations – including forcible conversions of Christians into Muslims, and the infamous Armenian Genocide – is still a factor behind its exclusion from the EU by European nations.

Turkey isn’t a nation state. Fifteen million of its 80 million people are ethnically and linguistically non-Turkish Kurdish Muslims, in the process of being fully integrated into the main stream of population. Turkey has a checkered history of military rule and democracy; and many Turks aren’t sure if they are primarily Asian, Muslim, or European.

Now, to look at the enigmatic “abortive coup”, one may agree with an analyst that: “Erdogan is using this failed coup to get rid of the last vestiges of secular Turkey.” Some people question the coup and whether it was staged to further consolidate his power, and to turn Turkey into an Islamist autocracy. The amateurish and excessive brutal behaviour of the soldiers on the street, who didn’t even close down all electronic media outlets, including cell phones, and TV stations, raises questions among people whether it was really a coup-attempt, or a false flag operation!

Interestingly, while Erdogan blames his former ally and present adversary, Hanafi Sufi Master Fethullah Gulen – self-exiled in the US – for the “coup-attempt”, Gulen points fingers at the President for staging the whole thing for further consolidation of power. To Erdogan, Gulen is corrupt and a terrorist, although there’s no Turkish court decision to charge Gulen with any terrorist activity. The day after 9/11 attacks, he wrote an article in the Washington Post and stated: “A Muslim cannot be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.” Contrary to Erdogan’s allegations, Gulen believes in interfaith dialogue, multi-party democracy, and asserts: “Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshipping God”.

The end of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 and the Kemalist Revolution of 1923 transformed Turkey into a modern, ultra-secular country, where the military and urban classes became the main custodians of secular democracy. With the end of the Cold War and the acceleration of the globalisation process, and the IT Revolution in early1990s, Muslims across the world became more Islamised than before. Henceforth, Turkish Muslims started questioning the utility of Kemalist “Godless” secularism. Erdogan became one of the bold advocates of political Islam. He is not only an Islamist but also an admirer of “authoritarian democracy” – a euphemism for dictatorship, a la “Mahathirism” in Malaysia.

As Erdogan’s support for Islamist rebels in Syria has contributed to the instability in Turkey and, so is his tacit support for the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Turkey is accused of having bought cheap oil from the ISIS controlled Iraqi oilfields, and it didn’t stop foreign nationals at its border from entering ISIS-occupied territories in Syria to join the terror outfit, till the recent past. Why so? One assumes to topple the pro-Iranian Assad regime, and to stop secular nationalist Syrian Kurds from gaining any foothold in Syria.

The Kurds are in Turkey by default since 1919. The League of Nations arbitrarily divided Kurdistan into four parts, giving each to Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Up to 2009, Kurds in Turkey couldn’t publicly speak their language or sing any Kurdish song. Turkey didn’t even recognise them as Kurds, but as “Mountain Turks”. After the US-led Iraq invasion of 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan has become an autonomous entity. The Turkish government is very uncomfortable with this development.

Erdogan tried his best to make Turkey a EU member. The EU has been unwilling to accept Turkey as a member so far. European and North American NATO members have had no problem in having Turkey as a member of this military alliance. However, as The New York Times has pointed out [“The Countercoup in Turkey”, July 18, 2016]: Erdogan’s use of Islamist language and harsh retaliatory measures against his secular opponents might “compromise Turkey’s democracy and its ability to be a stabilising influence in NATO and the region”.

In view of Erdogan’s position vis-à-vis the democratic and secular values of the EU and the West, it’s strange that till the other day Turkey was insisting its main strategic relationships remained with the NATO and the EU, and that it had “zero-problem” with European neighbours. But now it seems like Erdogan and his party may be laying the ground for the creation of a Muslim bloc. Both the EU and US seem to have emerged as the biggest nemeses for Turkey.

To conclude, one is least likely to be enamoured by Erdogan’s authoritarian Islamism; his attitude towards the Kurds; mass arrests of journalists, opposition supporters, and alleged coup makers; his promotion of Islamist rebels in Syria; and last but not least, his alleged links with the ISIS at least in the earlier stages. However, one can’t solely blame Turkey or Erdogan for the drift in Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies, which are deviations from Kemalist principles of secular democracy. Western obduracy, racism, and Islamophobia are also responsible for the messy situation in Turkey. This doesn’t bode well for regional and global security in the long run.

Turkey, its European and Asian neighbours, and America must find out a durable solution to the problems dogging Turkey and the entire Middle East and North Africa, and their mutual relationship with each other.

The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University in the US. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (Sage, 2014). Email: tajhashmi@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Feminism Slowly Gaining Support at United Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/feminism-slowly-gaining-support-at-united-nations/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 04:22:27 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146150 Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 2016 (IPS)

Achieving gender equality has long been one of the United Nations’ top priorities yet the word feminism has only recently begun to find its way into speeches at UN headquarters.

Croatia’s Vesna Pusic, one of 12 candidates for the post of UN Secretary-General, explained why she thought her feminism made her suitable for the UN’s top job, during a globally televised debate, on 12 July.

“I happen to be a woman, I don’t think this is enough, I happen to be a feminist and I think this is (important),” Pusic said, to applause from the diplomats and UN staff filling the UN General Assembly hall.

Pusic joins other high profile feminists at the UN including British actor Emma Watson, whose September 2014 speech about her own feminism gained worldwide media attention.

More recently, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at a UN meeting in March 2016 that there shouldn’t be such a big reaction every time he uses the word feminist.

“For me, it’s just really obvious. We should be standing up for women’s rights and trying to create more equal societies,” he said.

Perhaps more significant though than these speeches is Sweden’s recent election to the UN Security Council on a feminist foreign policy platform.

“I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.” -- Emma Watson

Sweden will join the 15-member council for two years in January 2017, the same month that the new Secretary-General will take office. There are hopes that the UN’s ninth Secretary-General, will be the first woman to lead the organisation, with women making up half of the 12 candidates currently under consideration.

“There could be a lot of elements coming together to finally create some momentum for progress,” Jessica Neuwirth, one of the founders and Honorary President of Equality Now told IPS.

Even the number of female candidates running represents a change for the UN, Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK told IPS.

“Not only has no woman ever held the UN’s top job, but just three of 31 formal candidates in previous appointments have been female.”

The push to select a female Secretary-General has seen all candidates, both male and female, eager to show their commitment to gender equality.

Whoever is selected will be continuing on work already started by current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said Neuwirth, who believes that Ban has shown a commitment to gender equality at the UN, even if he may not use the word feminist to describe himself.

“I’m not a person who really lives or dies on the words, I think what people do is really much more important than what they call themselves,” said Neuwirth, who is the director of Donor Direct Action, founded to raise funds for frontline women’s groups.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever heard (Ban) use the word feminist, definitely not to describe himself,” she added. “On the other hand as somebody who had the privilege of working at the UN during his tenure I did see first hand the efforts he made to increase the representation of women at the UN at the highest levels, he made a very conscious effort to increase those numbers.”

“It’s still not 50:50 and it’s even slid backwards which is disappointing, but he showed that one person can make a big difference.”

Samarasinghe also noted that even if the word feminist is not explicitly used at the UN, its meaning is reflected in the UN’s many objectives for achieving gender equality.

“Feminism is about women and men having equal opportunities and rights – something reaffirmed countless times in UN documents, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights onwards.”

However Samarasinghe noted that the word feminist remains controversial. The UN’s 193 member states include many countries which lag far behind outliers such as Sweden and Canada on gender equality.

“Being a feminist is a complete no-brainer. It’s like having to explain to people that you’re not racist. But clearly the word is still controversial so we have to keep using it until people get it,” she said.

Emma Watson noted in her high profile UN speech, that the word feminist is not as easy to use as it should be.

“I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

“Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even,” said Watson.

In late 2015, some media reported that Watson had said she had been advised not to use the word feminist in her speech.

Neuwirth who was present when Watson made her speech told IPS that Watson’s choice of words ultimately had a strong impact.

“That was an incredible event, I mean the level of emotion in that room was so high it was kind of shocking to me.”

“There were so many diplomats there, which was a good thing, and it was just really a powerful speech that she made, and it moved them, you could just see visibly that it moved them,” said Neuwirth.

However since Watson’s speech, progress on gender equality at the UN has not always been easy.

Media organisation PassBlue, which monitors gender equality at the UN, has noted that the number of women appointed to senior UN positions has been slipping.

When Sweden takes up its position on the Security Council, it will have big strides to make on both improving women’s representation in decision making positions at the UN and enacting policies which promote gender equality more broadly.

In fact, it is anticipated that all 15 permanent representatives on the UN Security Council in 2017 will be men, unless the United States chooses a woman to replace Samantha Power, who is expected to leave her post by the end of 2016.

Sweden hopes to use its seat on the Security Council to increase women’s involvement in negotiating and mediating peace agreements, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at a media briefing hosted by Donor Direct Action on 30 June.

Neuwirth welcomed Wallstrom’s comments, noting that in Syria, for example, women continue to be shut out of peace negotiations.

Syrian women “are trying to play a meaningful role in the negotiations over Syria, which are totally a mess,” she said, “yet these women really just are struggling so hard to get even inside a corridor let alone to the table.”

“Why wouldn’t they just give these women a little more of a chance to see if they could do better, because it would be hard to do worse?”

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Lessons of a Failed Couphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/lessons-of-a-failed-coup/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lessons-of-a-failed-coup http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/lessons-of-a-failed-coup/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 19:12:05 +0000 Zahid Hussain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146159 By Zahid Hussain
Jul 20 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The spectacle of unarmed civilians blocking army tanks, overpowering soldiers and forcing them to the ground in the streets seemed surreal. It was a rare show of people’s power defeating a coup attempt. What happened in Turkey last weekend is a sign of changing times.

zahidAlthough it was a putsch by renegade members of the armed forces, the events of the past week have completely altered the power dynamics in the country where the military had for long wielded supreme authority. It may not be a victory for democracy, but certainly if a triumph for a populist elected leader-turned-autocrat.

Editorial: Post-coup Turkey

For almost a century, since the birth of modern Turkey, the military had remained the guardian of the country’s secular tradition. The military’s political role has been enshrined in the constitution that legitimised its frequent intervention in the country’s politics. It had successfully staged three coups in the last century and had executed elected leaders. The Islamists were barred from politics for not being in line with the country’s founding vision.

The danger of the military striking back has not gone away as Erdogan consolidates his power.

But the situation changed dramatically over the past decade with the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a socially conservative party with an agenda for economic development led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2002. The party has won four elections since then. Its popularity went up each time it pulled out the country out of political instability and perpetual economic crisis. Turkey became one of the fastest-growing economies. The country has earned a coveted place among the top 20 global economies.

This remarkable economic turnaround of Turkey strengthened the civilian authority and consequently undermined the power and influence of the military. Erdogan, who earlier served two terms as prime minister and was recently elected as the country’s president, had opened up cases against retired top military officers for plotting a coup against elected governments, many of whom are serving jail sentences. He had further consolidated his power by purging the military.

This accumulation of power has made Erdogan unarguably the most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey. That has also turned him into an autocrat. He has ruthlessly crushed any opposition and clamped down on the independent media. His rule has also eroded the secular character of the country, raising its Islamic identity. All these factors could be the reason behind the mutiny within the military.

For sure, it was mostly Erdogan supporters who came out on the streets defying the rebels, but secular forces too backed the government despite being victimised by the increasingly authoritarian rule of Erdogan. That underlines the growing political consensus in Turkey that a military takeover is not a solution.

It, however, remains to be seen whether the triumph would make Erdogan more autocratic, or return him to the democratic path. The danger of the military striking back has not gone away as Erdogan consolidates his power. It is hard to imagine the same kind of public uprising against a more organised and coordinated coup attempt in the future.

What happened in Turkey has triggered intense political debate in Pakistan about whether the same could happen here in the event of a military intervention. With a common tradition of frequent military coups in the two countries, the comparison seems inevitable. Imran Khan has further fired up the controversy by declaring that the people would come out in support of the military in Pakistan. One is not sure whether it is just wishful thinking of a political leader longing for some ‘divine’ help or whether he is merely reflecting the public frustration with the Sharif government.

Surely the PTI chairman is not the only one predicting a smooth takeover if the generals decide to move in. Pakistan’s past experience may lend some credence to such arguments.

Yet one must not ignore the changing political dynamics in the country that may not allow the return of military rule, notwithstanding the public disenchantment with the government and desire of some politicians and self-serving TV anchors. Surely the military leadership is mature enough to understand the cost and political ramifications of any Bonapartism.

There is little probability of a Turkey-like popular resistance to any military takeover bid in Pakistan. Yet there is no mass welcome waiting for a potential coup-maker either. Indeed the armed forces have regained public respect and won admiration for their role in fighting militancy and terrorism in the country.

Gen Raheel Sharif may well be the most popular person in the country. But it would certainly be a different situation if he decided to intervene. Imran Khan and others of his ilk are grossly mistaken about the public’s likely reaction to a military takeover. It is no more a situation where the generals could just walk into the corridors of power amidst public cheering. Despite bitter political rivalries, most of the political parties are in agreement not to support any direct military intervention.

Interestingly, days before the bungled putsch in Turkey, posters imploring Gen Sharif to take over appeared in all the major cities of Pakistan. Similar posters appeared earlier too when some obscure groups took out rallies in support of the army chief. But there was no groundswell of support for the move. It only brought embarrassment to the general, who has already announced he will not seek another term in office.

Despite all the problems of governance and ineptitude, the political system is still working. Unlike in the past, all the major political parties have stakes in the present political order. All of them are part of the power structure and are not likely to support any move to derail the system, notwithstanding Imran Khan’s dire predictions.

What Imran Khan has failed to understand is that it would be a collective failure of the political forces and not just of the Sharif government if the military returns to power and is greeted by the people. Pakistan may not be Turkey, but those inviting military intervention must learn some lessons from the events of the last week.

The writer is an author and journalist.
zhussain100@yahoo.com
Twitter: @hidhussain

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Has the World Gone Mad?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/has-the-world-gone-mad/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=has-the-world-gone-mad http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/has-the-world-gone-mad/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:09:28 +0000 Nadine Shaanta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146157 By Nadine Shaanta Murshid
Jul 20 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Has the world gone mad? No. Violence is a part of our history, as mankind – we’ve known it all our lives. But, never before have we been exposed to violence in the manner that we are now, because of cable news coverage and social media. Before this age of rapid transfer of information, it took us much longer to learn about acts of violence in far away lands.

Photo: www.tapwires.com

Photo: www.tapwires.com

[One example is Cambodia – its people experienced genocide while the world had no clue. It wasn’t until much later that people started to learn about what was happening, about Pol Pot’s Red Army of children, the plan to start from “zero.” There is genocide going on today as well – but we are clued in much earlier than used to be the case (for example, the Rohingyas in Myanmar), because they make headlines and because “civilians” report from the ground.]

So, while we are experiencing huge exposure to violence, there is little understanding of the reasons for the production of violence.

To understand the violent world in which we live today, it is important to understand that with neoliberal policies came rapid globalisation (that fostered international trade, privatisation of national institutions, deregulation, and competition) and that includes, as we can see, globalisation of terror and acts of terror. An excellent example is ISIS. Their “franchise system” that allows group membership to anyone willing to commit an act of terror in any part of the world – which ISIS can then claim responsibility for – has been a successful model because of social media and networking capabilities that are enhanced via the internet, the mascot, if you will, of the globalised world.

The UN had declared in 2011 that internet-access is also a human right (for reasons such as freedom of expression). And countries have responded well – but, for many under-developed and developing nations of the world, the internet has been an easier “upgrading” of infrastructure in the absence of real ones: roads, railways, institutions. This nod from the UN has allowed neoliberal policymakers, hand in hand with the Facebooks and the Googles of the world, to aggressively push last mile internet connectivity for deeper reach to the “Bottom of the Pyramid” to garner more consumers. So, we have a situation in which we have populations that do not have decent healthcare facilities or schools, but have internet-enabled smartphones.

In some ways, this can be seen as “development” (indeed, some pluses include mobile banking services for the poor that fosters financial inclusion). But, this also highlights the old concept of uneven and combined development that doesn’t keep par with economic growth, that in turn makes way for a class-based structure, in which many are left behind, disenfranchised.

It is, thus, fairly easy and profitable to recruit foot soldiers in a system that has produced enough disenfranchised individuals, primarily youth, looking for meaning. Indeed, meaning-making for young people has become a challenge in a system where even universities are in the business of producing skilled labour for the neoliberal regimes of the world, which isolates them as they strive to take personal responsibility for structural problems that they did not create; fighting in a system that’s rigged against them.

So, if neoliberalism and its neoliberal education systems have created isolation among youth across social and cultural barriers, youth who find “brotherhood” in a “cause” that they can get behind, it has also created inequality and injustice. Together, isolation, disenfranchisement, inequality, and injustice form a potent pill that breaks people. So much so that they have nothing left to lose. Such spaces can easily become hotbeds for terrorist recruitment, given the high supply of broken people to cash-in on. That some private universities in countries like Bangladesh have become such hotbeds is not a coincidence.

We must realise that the violence that we see around us is not about the moral compasses of those who commit such acts. Nor is it about parenting. It’s about the system that has let them down.

Unless we fix the system that creates disenfranchisement and inequality, we will continue to see violence erupt in all corners of the world. And because of the way media works, we will hear the most nitty-gritty details of it all. And those acts of violence will be “co-opted” by groups like ISIS who will claim responsibility for them – and that will feed more hate – and in this case Islamophobia, and that will create more hate towards the West, and the cycle will continue.

We need to create a class-neutral world for its citizens. We need to really undo this Empire that enables certain groups to have all privileges, while marginalising all other peoples.

There are declared and undeclared wars going on around the world that are being televised and hash-tagged for consumption. Some people make money and gain power in war economies.

Surely, we know who they are?

The writer is Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work, University at Buffalo.


This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Kashmir on Firehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/kashmir-on-fire-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kashmir-on-fire-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/kashmir-on-fire-2/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 16:10:17 +0000 TAIMUR ZULFIQAR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146147 By Taimur Zulfiqar, second secretary embassy of Pakistan Manila
Jul 19 2016 (Manila Times)

Kashmir is bleeding once again. Many innocent civilians have been brutally killed and many more injured by the Indian security forces. Surprisingly, there is a deafening silence in the local media. No views, no comments whatsoever have appeared. Strangely, the media, which is otherwise very active and springs into action on the slightest violation of human rights, kept mum as if Kashmiris are not human, their blood carries no importance and is cheaper than water. Many nowadays are voicing serious concerns about the rights of drug addicts killed by the police but not a single word for Kashmiris.

Views and opinions apart, there was a complete blackout in the local print media about the recent incidents of human rights violations in the Indian-occupied Kashmir by the Indian military and paramilitary forces against those protesting the killing of Kashmiri leader Burhan Wani, who was extremely popular among the masses. As a result, dozens of innocent Kashmiris were killed, over 2,100 have been injured, 400 of whom critically. People have been denied access to basic emergency services and right to health. There have been incidents of violence, harassment and shelling of teargas in hospitals to prevent access to hospitals and restrict the movement of ambulances. The brutality can be gauged from the fact that Indian Security Forces used pellet guns above waist-height, resulting in many injured, including those who lost their eyesight.

The use of excessive force against innocent civilians, protesting over extrajudicial killings, is deplorable and a blatant violation of the right to life, right to freedom of expression and opinion, right to peaceful protest and assembly, and other fundamental human rights. In fact, Indian forces have since long employed various draconian laws like the Jammu and Kashmir Disturbed Areas Act, and the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act and Public Safety Act in killing the Kashmiri people, and for the arbitrary arrest of any individual for an indefinite period.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have pointed out grave human rights violations in the Indian-controlled Kashmir. In its July 2, 2015 report, Amnesty International highlighted extrajudicial killings of the innocent persons at the hands of Indian security forces in the Indian-held Kashmir. The report points out, “Tens of thousands of security forces are deployed in Indian-administered Kashmir … the Armed Forces Special Powers Act allows troops to shoot to kill suspected militants or arrest them without a warrant … not a single member of the armed forces has been tried in a civilian court for violating human rights in Kashmir … this lack of accountability has in turn facilitated other serious abuses … India has martyred 100,000 people. More than 8,000 disappeared (while) in the custody of army and state police.”

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, after his visit to India in March 2012, called on the government of India to continue to take measures to fight impunity in cases of extrajudicial executions, and communal and traditional killings. In his report he stated, “Evidence gathered confirmed the use of so-called ‘fake encounters’ in certain parts of the country … the armed forces have wide powers to employ lethal force.” A high level of impunity enjoyed by police and armed forces exacerbate such a situation, owing to the requirement that any prosecutions require sanction from the central government—something that is rarely granted. “The main difficulty in my view has been these high levels of impunity,” the Special Rapporteur stressed.

India has been justifying these atrocities under various pretexts, such as by portraying these as internal affairs, stating that Kashmir is part of India. In addition, it tries to equate Kashmiris’ struggle with terrorism and blames Pakistan for fomenting militancy.

India is wrong on both counts. First of all, Kashmir is not and had never been part of India. It is a disputed territory with numerous UN Security Council Resolutions outstanding on its agenda. A series of UNSC Resolutions have been issued reiterating the initial ones issued in 1948 and 1949. Calling it an internal matter to India is a violation of UNSC Resolutions. The current situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and the indigenous movement for self-determination, which is going on for a long time in IOK, is a manifestation of what the Kashmiris want. They are resisting against the Indian occupation of their territory and want to exercise their right to self-determination. They want UNSC to implement Resolutions on the Kashmir dispute and fulfill their promise.

In addition, the disputed status of Kashmir is also supported by the Indian leadership in the past. Prime Minister Nehru, of India, in his Statement on All India Radio on Nov. 3, 1947, said: “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. The pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”

Later, while addressing the Indian Parliament, on Aug. 7, 1952, he said, “I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir; it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. …

“I started with the presumption that it is for the people of Kashmir to decide their own future. We will not compel them. In that sense, the people of Kashmir are sovereign.”

There are plenty of statements by Indian leadership and the UN to the effect that Kashmir is a disputed territory and its future is to be decided by seeking the wishes of the Kashmiris through a plebiscite under the auspices of the UN.

India’s portrayal of Kashmiri’s struggle as terrorism is another farce, which unfortunately has been taken at face value by the international community. Most probably, such a stand is driven by economic/commercial and other similar interests in total disregard of the moral principles contained in their Constitutions, the UN Charter, etc.

None seem to have asked India as to what necessitates deployment of more than 600,000-strong army in the occupied Kashmir with a population of 10 million, i.e., one soldier for every 16.6 natives. And why such a huge deployment, despite its repressive policies, has been unable to check the freedom struggle. As per some estimates, more than 80,000 have died and thousands are missing since 1989. Moreover, it is a fact that every year, when India celebrates Independence Day on Aug. 15, Kashmiris on both sides of the Line of Control and the world over observe it as Black Day, to convey the message to the international community that India continues to usurp their inalienable right to self- determination. This very day is being marked by complete shutdown, as deserted streets, closed businesses and security patrolling the streets could be seen in the Indian-held Kashmir. To express solidarity with Pakistan, Kashmiris hoist the Pakistani flag on Aug. 14, the Pakistan Independence Day. Indian-occupation authorities often impose stringent restrictions in Srinagar and other towns, and deploy heavy contingents of police and troops to prevent people from holding anti-India demonstrations on these days. All this is a clear manifestation that the struggle is predominantly indigenous, and equating it with terrorism is nothing but a gross injustice on the part of India. India should realize that such tactics would never be able to change the basis of the just struggle that has been waged by the Kashmiri people since 1947. Had India fulfilled its duties toward the Kashmiri people, all these killings would have been avoided.

Pakistan unequivocally extends political, diplomatic and moral support to Kashmiris in their struggle for self-determination. Pakistan’s principled position on the issue of Kashmir is that it should be resolved according to UN Resolutions. Kashmir is a universally recognized dispute with numerous UNSC Resolutions outstanding for almost seven decades. Wars have not succeeded in resolving the issue of Kashmir. Dialogue is the best option to amicably resolve all issues between India and Pakistan, including the dispute of Kashmir. Pakistan remains ready for dialogue. It is for the international community to urge India to resolve issues through dialogue.

Kashmiris are resisting against the Indian occupation of their territory and want to exercise their right to self-determination. Nothing can deter the Kashmiris’ resolve to continue their struggle. For a people alienated and wronged for decades, any provocation will set them aflame. India should realize that the Kashmir dispute will not vanish unless their aspirations are met. Oppressive brutalities and inhuman measures cannot stop them from claiming their right to self-determination, in accordance with the UNSC Resolutions.

The international community should rise from its slumber and tell India that the treatment being meted out to the Kashmiris is simply unacceptable. India should honor its human rights obligations, as well as its commitments under the UNSC Resolutions to resolve the Kashmir dispute in a peaceful manner.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Reluctant Warrior?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/reluctant-warrior/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reluctant-warrior http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/reluctant-warrior/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:35:26 +0000 Mudassir Ali Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146145 By S. Mudassir Ali Shah
Jul 19 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Much to President Ashraf Ghani’s relief, Nato has extended its mission in Afghanistan through 2017. The alliance reaffirmed its commitment to the troubled campaign at the Warsaw summit, as mass migration from Afghanistan continues to cause ripples across Europe.

mudassirAlthough the participants pledged to continue funding and training Afghan security forces, the overstretched alliance itself is up against the odds. The recent bombing in Nice, the war in Syria, the botched military coup in Turkey and growing confrontation with Russia are some of the key challenges before it.

Given the scale of the multiple crises, the coalition is unlikely to turn around the bleak situation in the conflict-torn country. On the face of it, Nato’s renewed vow is a signal it is not rushing for an exit. The decision follows President Barack Obama’s announcement to leave 8,400 troops in Afghanistan through the end of his term

Unable to cope with the progressively dismal security and economic conditions on the domestic front, Ghani’s effusive appreciation of Nato’s move is understandable. It will give him much-needed breathing space.

In the build-up to the summit, Obama proclaimed the 15-year war in Afghanistan would drag into the tenure of his successor. True to form, he went back on his vow to withdraw all American men and women in uniform from the country before his exit from office.

Obama has chosen to prolong the war in Afghanistan.

His latest volte-face is chiefly driven by what he calls the precarious security situation in Afghanistan, whose defence establishment is still not as strong as it needs to be. In all fairness, the decision is a dangerous nostrum that may lead to wider anarchy in the country.

If his tactical gambits in the past are any guide, the new shift is unlikely to help his successor take an easy decision on America’s presence in Afghanistan. In fact, his 2014 statement rang truer: It is harder bringing wars to a close than starting them.

During his two terms in the White House, the president looked rather pushy about setting arbitrary timelines — and then changed his mind without any good reason. To boot, his kaleidoscopic moves have tended to reinforce a ruthless Taliban insurgency that has undermined the writ of the government in Kabul.

Without learning a jot from the Iraqi quicksand, Obama — branded as a reluctant warrior — chose to prolong the war in Afghanistan. The militant Islamic State group, rising from the ashes of hostilities, has now found new breeding ground in Afghanistan.

Today, Daesh fighters are making inroads into eastern and northern Afghanistan. High-casualty attacks and firefights in Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan and Badakhshan provinces have not only highlighted the tenuous hold of the Ghani administration, but also underscored America’s debatable military strategy.

Despite an exponential increase in targeted killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, IS is steadily expanding its foothold in different countries. After the Iraq debacle, the US ratcheted up troop levels in Afghanistan in 2009 but then pulled them back faster than commanders on the ground suggested.

Exasperated by his failure, he promised a responsible end to the war and a reduction in troop numbers to the normal embassy presence. Knowingly or unwittingly, he has put more US troops in harm’s way by pledging to maintain the present military presence until 2017.

Obama’s unworkable plans have neither brought security to Afghanistan nor enabled him to reclaim the ‘American Dream’. His obsession with the military option notwithstanding, the president still acknowledges the only way to achieve a full drawdown of foreign forces from Afghanistan is through a durable political settlement.

At the same time, the Afghan Taliban’s assertion that their persistent fighting prowess is the main factor behind Obama’s oscillation also sounds accurate. In the circumstances, there is little reason to be optimistic about the future of the long-elusive peace parleys. Efforts by the Quadrilateral Coordination Group to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table have fizzled out largely due to Washington’s ambivalent policy.

With the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a drone strike, the US has intentionally hampered result-oriented talks. In addition to laying bare America’s double standard, the raid has also driven the Taliban further away from the negotiating table.

How can you interact with a group whose leadership you take out at a critical time? How can you woo Pakistan, Afghanistan’s immediate neighbour, into facilitating reconciliation talks by violating its sovereignty with a disturbing frequency?

To make sure 15 years of American investments and sacrifices in Afghanistan come to fruition, Obama’s successor would have to embrace the patent reality that military power alone cannot translate into outright victory in the absence of political courage to own up to past mistakes and keep them from recurring.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Peshawar.
Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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The Importance of Soft Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-importance-of-soft-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-importance-of-soft-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-importance-of-soft-power/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 15:02:07 +0000 Syed Mansur Hashim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146141 By Syed Mansur Hashim
Jul 19 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The world is at war with extremists. Developed and developing nations, whether it is France, the United States, Russia or China, the Middle East or countries in the sub-continent, we are all battling one form of Muslim militancy or another. And while alliances are being forged on a regional or trans-continental basis to fight outfits like the Boko Haram, Al Qaeda or the Islamic State (IS), and battles are being fought out on land in Iraq Syria, Libya or Yemen, on the streets of Paris or in Dhaka, every nation that has faced the onslaught of extremists who are connected to a global network of jihadists that is increasingly sophisticated, the realisation that they are now battling for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the populace is emerging.

soft_power_The extremists’ distortion of religion and their success in disseminating information has policymakers the world over going back to the drawing board and reassessing the threat – not just in military terms, but also incorporating a new strategy that makes use of media activity, to new school curricula, to effectively counter jihadist propaganda. It is the realisation that this is an ideological battle and the war must be fought on two fronts, both militarily and undermining extremist ideology that will put a dent in their recruitment efforts.

Taking the actual message of Islam to the schooling system is one approach being tried out in some countries. It is now obvious that if young Muslims are to be stopped being turned by jihadists, something has to be done about teachings and preaching in mosques, seminaries and educational institutions. The use of religious text that prove that arguments put forth by extremists that mass killings are condoned by the Qur’an is false, that Islamists are toying with young impressionable minds – is essentially at the forefront of this new effort. Unless hard-line teachings can be countered, the “war on terror” will be a losing battle.

Adam Garfinkle of the Foreign Policy Research Institute put all this into context: “we face not an esoteric intellectual but a full-fledged sociological problem in the greater Middle East…The larger and deeper social context, which feeds off collective emotion rather than the tracts of Sayiid Qutb or the tape-recorded rants of Osama bin-Laden, explains why newly vogue US counter-messaging efforts are a waste of time and money. Those efforts are bound to fail because those messages are…disembodied from the social networks in which ideas are embedded and give life. The notion that a bunch of people on the fifth floor of the State Department are one fine day going to discover the perfect set of words placed in perfect order and translated perfectly into Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto and so on – and that set before fanatics these words are going to suddenly change their entire point of view – is a rationalist fantasy.”

One approach that has worked to counter gang violence in developed countries is now being tailor made to go counterterrorism in developing countries. Tailor-made in the sense that experts take into account local conditions, but the success of such approaches largely depend on the willingness of local stakeholders that include the respective governments to cooperate to change their corrupt and abusive behaviour. The idea that criminal gangs and terrorist outfits possess similarities in outlooks based on socioeconomic conditions is giving criminologists ideas to come up with programmes that may be implemented in various countries to counter the philosophies espoused by militants. Some basic elements are the same. The feeling of hopelessness in the face of police brutality, the need to belong to a club or a congregation of people who face similar identity crisis, the overwhelming hatred for the ‘establishment’, the need to feel powerful, proactive and invincible, etc. The counter-messaging efforts that are emerging differ from region to region.

For any effort to succeed, the respective governments must be open to ideas. The United States State Department has tried to find common ground with Bangladesh police to introduce ‘community policing’ that would help devise a strategy based on police-civilian partnerships. That initiative never went anywhere because local conditions and culture were not factored in. A country where the larger populace is in fact alienated from the police due to a myriad of reasons, and also corruption amongst certain elements of the citizenry provided the grounds for failure. No solution can be imposed from the outside. What works in El Salvador will probably not work in Bangladesh and vice versa.

What will work of course is bringing on board the religious leadership of the country who control the mosques and religious schools and the Islamic scholars to work with authorities. This will only work if the vast majority of the religious opinion leaders are convinced that it is time to forge a partnership with the State to counter a force that threatens their way of life too and not just that of the State’s. The State for its part has to step back from wholesale suppression of any dissent which is giving rise to much of the anger that is being utilised by jihadists to reach their own end goals. At the end of the day, we have to realise that ideas must be fought with ideas. No amount of policing and counterterrorism will root out militancy. Only when the State takes into confidence the people can there be any meaningful resistance to the spread of ideals (no matter how distorted) amongst the youth – illiterate or otherwise.

The writer is Assistant Editor, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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