Why the Fatal attacks on the Russian Envoy in Turkey and the Chinese Workers in Pakistan

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 4, 2017;  www.aljazeerah.info

Attacks on the Russian envoy in Turkey and attacks on the Chinese workers in Pakistan depict attempt at containing regionalism through kinetic force. If  Turkey changes its stance towards the war i…

Source: West’s Containment of Regionalism in Emergent Economies – A Look at the Attack on Russian Envoy in Turkey

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Politicians’ Ill Use of the Word “Politics” is a Red Flag Over Democratic Culture in Pakistan

Carried by Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 20, 2017

In political science, ‘public representation’ entails the ability to assess the wishes of a polity, to fathom their needs, to articulate the same constructively through speech, to address the same through sincere care consisting of policy planning and implementation. Public reps are political beings. Politics is defined as the rules, norms and functions that make an existing state more useful to its citizens. Though democracy as an uninterrupted phenomenon is two hundred and fifty years old, (if you date it from its formation in USA), humanity has yet to design formal education leading to the creation of a public representative, such as Masters or Ph.D  or Post Doc. in public representation, though formal education in political science does exist and philosophically addresses the myriad manifestations of political existence.

In the absence of a formal and scientific academic design aimed at creating professional public representatives, the latter are self-initiated professionals. However, aptitude is as much at the core of this profession as any other. Without the ability to assess the wishes of the public, without caring to fathom public needs, and without the ability that innovatively and dexterously addresses those needs, one cannot be a good public representative. There is a general assumption that only a good public representative will make it to office because his or her selection depends on the choice made by the majority of public.

Because the public representative can come into a governing position without prior training, his/her mettle is to be tested while in office. The imperatives of his/her status require the public rep to move beyond articulation of public needs and policy promise, into the domain of conceiving and implementing policy that addresses public needs successfully. Though trained bureaucrats in their hierarchic office for a long period help public reps govern, yet the latter must exercise leadership in the office they hold. Unless the leaders deliver healthy leadership, the democratic political process is hollow within and unproductive without.

Pakistan calls itself a new democracy because only recently  has there been uninterrupted hand over of power from one representative government to another since Pakistan emerged as a sovereign state in 1947. Paradoxically, it is only during this time, (since 2008) that public reps have started unwittingly making statements regarding their political role that disparage the role itself. This tendency is a red flag over Pakistan’s democratic political culture. If it is not checked by civil society, Pakistan’s nascent democracy will grow akin to a python slowly eating its own tale.

The most significant example of the unhealthy tendency of describing public role disparagingly is the pronouncements made by the representatives of the ruling party PML(N) about their leader and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s  speeches in parliament and his address to the nation post Panama Leaks.  Nawaz Sharif gave one explanation of asset acquisition to the parliament and the public, and another to the Supreme Court during hearing of Panama Leaks case. Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer and other members of his party are explaining away the inconsistency by calling the speeches Nawaz Sharif, the elected office holder at the helm of government, made in his address to the nation on TV and in the elected Parliament of Pakistan as merely “political” statements, that should not be accorded importance during a judicial examination  of Prime Minister’s ‘political character,’ (which ultimately is what the Panama Leaks case hearing is about).

Prime Minister submitted to the court that he bought the extravagant May Fair flats in London with the money raised from investments in Qatar.  Only a letter from a Qatari prince was submitted as proof of the same. During hearing in December 2016, justice Aijaz ul Hassan asked why the PM didn’t mention Qatari investment in his address about Panama Leaks to the nation and the parliament.  Nawaz Sharif’s counsel Salman Butt replied by stating the Prime Minister’s speech cannot be a judicial record as it was only a political speech. !!!!!

No clarification was issued later from the office of the Prime Minister regarding the disparaging comment made about the speech of the Prime Minister of a country in the Parliament and on air as address to the nation.

There are innumerable instances of usage of the concepts “political” and “politics” by Pakistan’s political elite as frivolous, non-serious, unworthy, self-seeking or self-aggrandizing. For instance, when-ever there is a terror attack that claims a large number of lives, the government’s response to criticism regarding its security policy is always the advice that members of the opposition should not do “politics” over a tragedy of national proportions.  The interior minister Chaudhy Nisar Ali Khan has often used the word “politics” in similar manner. On January 28, 2016, a week after the terror attack on Bacha Khan university, Chaudhry Nisar responded to the opposition party PPP’s  criticism of government’s inability to implement the National Action Plan against terrorism in the following words;  “If some one does not like my personality, no matter; but don’t do ‘politics’ on national issues.” Speaking in the aftermath of the tragic Landhi train accident that killed 22 and injured 60, 28 year old Bilawal Bhutto, who studied social sciences  at Oxford, also seems to have succumbed to this culture when he said that there should be no ‘politics’ over terrorism and accidents.

The state is defined as the highest form of community and aims at the highest good. It is founded on political association. ‘Politics’ defines the nature and function of the state. A state’s political rulers and politicians aim at the good of citizens of a state.

The phrase “office politics” is used as a disparaging phrase at unit levels, referring to self seeking behavior, focused on who gets what, when and how. Office politics is perceived as an impediment to the main function of the enterprise. Pakistan’s public representatives, who are quintessential political beings, attach similar meaning to the word politics. They thus not only undermine their own professional credibility as politicians, they belittle democratic culture itself as one devoid of accountability, ethics, and respectable norms with deference to which democratic politics function.

Pakistani politicians’ description of politics fails to take cognizance of the true definition of politics. The manner in which politicians describe their chief function in society has a bearing on the quality of the function itself. Misappropriation of the concept of ‘politics’  is a red flag over Pakistan’s nascent democratic culture.

West’s Containment of Regionalism in Emergent Economies – A Look at the Attack on Russian Envoy in Turkey

Attacks on the Russian envoy in Turkey and attacks on the Chinese workers in Pakistan depict attempt at containing regionalism through kinetic force.

If  Turkey changes its stance towards the war in Syria and joins Russia and Iran to support Bashar ul Assad in the war, just so to end the war sooner by supporting the side that is most likely to win, it will be impossible for the US  and its allies to dislodge the regime in Syria. Similarly, if Turkey weaves an economic regime of greater trade ties with Russia, Turkey will have no more need for supporting NATO in future.  The  recent anti Russian activism on the streets of Turkey had very thin attendance. Considering how politicized the Turks have become as a polity post failed July coup, the level of attendance at a rally denouncing Russian  role in Allepo shows the absence of  wide spread anti Russian sentiment in Turkey. Oddly, it is the Russian envoy who is attacked in Turkey and killed a day before Russia, Turkey and Iran were to hold tripartite talks about Syria. Similarly odd, there have been consistent attempts at attacking and killing the Chinese workers in Pakistan post the forging of greater Pak-China trade ties.

Pakistan and Turkey are commercially important countries. Pakistan connects Central Asia to international markets through the Arabian sea while Turkey connects  Asia to Europe through its commercial hubs called Bosphorus and Dardannelles.

Both Turkey and Pakistan are in the process of forging new direction in their foreign and trade policy. Both are in the process of formulating unprecedented regional trade ties . Russia and China are the pivot of these ties for Turkey and Pakistan respectively.  The former are unquestioned regional hegemons and rising global powers.

The problem for both Turkey and Pakistan is that Russia and China are perceived in the West as foes.

The Soviet era “ideological” frameworks are absent from West’s rivalry with Russia and China. Hence, global bloc formation, cemented by the soft power of multinational economies of scale,  is no  longer deployed in aid of such rivalry. The Eurasian/Asian and western rivalry is happening at the time of declining power of the west and rising power of the Eurasian and Asian states. West can no  longer feed its rivalry with multidimensional soft power tools. Its activity on the containment front is thus dangerously confined to kinetic activity, be it overt or covert.

The west is specifically focused on kinetic activity in Asia and North Africa due to its regional formation called the war on terror. It has become increasingly difficult for the Muslim political elite to explain their collaboration with the west in what seems to be a renewable war on terror.  The war is wrecking the economies of developing countries and destroying their internal equilibrium, yet the west keeps pushing the regional governments deeper and deeper into the quagmire of civil wars with no clear end in sight.

The rise of the ‘new hegemons’ is a neighborly and continental affair for both Pakistan and Turkey. Hence both the Sharif government and the Erdogan government, (the latter especially post failed July coup) have started to promote regionalism in trade ties by forging better relations inside Asia and Eurasia, which would inevitably lead to greater political and military ties between Russia and Turkey and Pakistan, China and Russia.

The west perceives regionalism in trade as a threat to its economic and political interest. All significant commercial sea ports lie in Asia and Africa. Significant commodities are abundant on the two continents as well. However, where previously the trading regimes were built and controlled by the west, now the same are being built and controlled by Russia and China. The west thus must come up with containment strategies to frustrate, delay, or altogether destroy regionalism that is beginning to relegate the west, especially the US, to the periphery of international economic relations in the 21st century. Unfortunately for the masses in the west, their leaders are using traditional military ways  to deal with new, unprecedented threats. They are  using war on terror as a renewable resource in pursuit of containment of regionalism in economic relations.

The Chinese in Pakistan are building power projects and economic corridors. They do not move about with guns, but with hard hats. Yet, there have been several terror attacks on the Chinese workers in Pakistan ever since 2002. The most recent was in Sindh where a remote control bomb targeted Chinese engineers just days ago. Pakistan has raised a special force of several thousand military personnel just to safeguard the CPEC, China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Military supply line for coalition forces in Afghanistan also transits through over a thousand miles of Pakistani territory, yet no need was ever felt to raise a special military force in Pakistan to protect the supply route.

Turkey has traditionally sought a place for itself in Europe.  Pakistan too preferred ties with the west after becoming a sovereign state in 1947. Come twenty first century, those ties have significantly decreased and if Islamabad continues to forge composite regional ties at the current rate, its ties with the west will obviously end as an exercise in self-contradiction (unless of course, the west changes its posture towards Russia and China from confrontation to cooperation).

For now, Pakistan’s natural linkage to central Asia has been temporarily broken by the US occupation of Afghanistan. Greater ties with China is Pakistan’s way of getting round that blockage.  China is Pakistan’s economic hope,  and yet there have been relentless terror attacks on the Chinese workers in Pakistan.

These attacks tell us that the west’s ‘renewable’ war on terror is being used as a source of containment of regionalism in Asian and African economies.

In containment of post war communism, the west utilized a mixture of hard and soft power.  In containment of current regionalism in Asia and Africa, west’s  soft power is starkly absent.

The absence of this ‘healthy’ mix is what is increasingly defining the 21st century as the century of the West and the “Rest,” to borrow a phrase from American academic Zachary Karabel.

The Consistent Pattern of Shattering of Consensus in Pakistan

There is a consistent pattern at work in Pakistan since 2013, (or before, if you date it from Benazir’s assassination in the run up to the 2008 general election). Every time a political consensus evolves regarding core issues, some extraneous event impacts the consensus adversely and shatters it. First time it happened post 2013 election was on November 1st, 2013, when Hakim Ullah Mehsud, the leader of Pakistan’s militant group, the TTP, was killed by a US drone in North Waziristan.  Mehsud was acting as the guarantor and facilitator of the peace deal the newly elected Sharif government was trying to make with the Pakistani Taliban for ceasefire and end to abetment of the Afghan resistance in return for pardon and massive development work in the FATA region.  Pakistanis in general were happy with the peace prospect. All political parties welcomed it. Hopes were pinned on Hakimullah Mehsud as the man with enough clout to make the peace deal stick. His death put a swift end to all hopes of peace in FATA through negotiation. A war followed that continues to this day.

The second time political consensus was shattered was on April 19th, 2014, barely eleven months after Nawaz Sharif’s government was sworn into office and had just begun to get its grip on affairs of governance.

On April 19, 2014, a reputed journalist and one of Nawaz Sharif’s close friends, Hamid Mir, was shot repeatedly in his lower body while being driven to his office in the city of Karachi. Hamid was lying unconscious in the intensive care unit of a hospital when his brother accused the Director General of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, of masterminding the attack on Hamid Mir. Mir’s employer and Pakistan’s largest TV network, GEO, began to show pictures of DG ISI minutes after the allegation was leveled by Mir’s brother. Very quickly, the sensational news was common currency in national and international media without the presentation of any evidence by Geo News Network in support of repeated allegation.

The absence of evidence turned mass sympathy for Hamid Mir into anger at Geo News Network for denigrating Pakistan’s security apparatus without a shred of evidence.  During this rise in mass anger, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on Hamid Mir to inquire after the latter’s state of health.

Mir is no ordinary journalist. He is Pakistan’s best known anchor person and a friend of Nawaz Sharif. Under ordinary circumstances, the PM calling on such a personality after he is shot by terrorists would be in order. Under special circumstances created post Mir’s employer Geo News Network’s repeated yet baseless allegation, PM’s visit was a serious mistake on his part. The mass anger in Pakistan shifted from Geo News Network to Nawaz Sharif’s person.

At the time of Hamid Mir shooting, the Sharif government was doing well. On its watch, the Rupee had risen ten points against the dollar for the first time in a decade. Nawaz had succeeded in winning a national consensus on his policy of negotiating peace with the insurgents in Pakistan’s FATA area. There was a general hope that peace will prevail under the Nawaz led government.

Nawaz’s unwise response to the events post Mir shooting eroded the above mentioned consensus as the Pakistani street began to question their prime minister’s patriotism. People began to wonder why Nawaz Sharif chose to side with the subversive forces inside a commercial venture (i.e. Geo News Network) rather than defending the integrity of the state’s most vital institutions. Questions rose as to why the PM had never called on any of the bereaved whose sons and spouses had died with their boots on during the war on terror.

Street anger soon crystallized into organized agitation calling for Nawaz’s ouster. In mid-August 2014,  Imran Khan and Tahir Ul Qadri joined hands to stage a sit in outside the parliament. During the four months long sit in with impressive attendance, Imran Khan rose as the national hero. A new national consensus developed as people began to envision Imran Khan as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. By the end of 2014, the nation began to anticipate the fall of the Sharif government and mid-term election.

This consensus was shattered again by an act of terrorism and Imran Khan’s unwise response to it. A school in Peshawar was attacked by terrorists on December 16th, 2014. The School attack killed 132 Pakistani students in the provincial capital of KPK. On the  heels of the shock and grief caused by the horrific attack,  Imran Khan called off his movement against the government at precisely the time he had promised to take it to the next level – i.e., street agitation all over Pakistan.

Political leaders cannot afford to build hopes and then dash them suddenly. It is the worst thing they can do to their following. Hence on December 18, 2014, as Imran was pictured embracing the very Sharif he had been vilifying for four months, the consensus that had built around Imran Khan began to corrode.  The same has not been rebuilt with similar conviction ever since.

Having weathered the sit in, Nawaz Sharif and his ruling party, the PML-N (or “Noon League” as it is called in Pakistan) began to concentrate on governance. The PML-N seemed to have gotten re entrenched as the local body election results in 2015 and 2016 showed the Noon League in forefront at the grass roots nearly all over Pakistan. The local body election results gave birth to a fresh belief that the PML N will sweep the next general election, to be held in 2018, as no other party in Pakistan seemed strong enough politically to challenge its nationwide strength. PML-N cushioned itself again as a fresh national consensus evolved regarding its leadership prowess.

It was at this juncture that the Panama Leaks, an extraneous event, suddenly catapulted Nawaz Sharif’s leadership into crisis which kept getting deeper and deeper as the ruling Party failed to manage the allegation of money laundering by its leader wisely. Nawaz Sharif denied the allegation of money laundering. His denial lacked cogency.  Despite that, PML-N party cadre supported Nawaz, which brought the integrity of the entire party into question. The case is now in Supreme Court amidst an intensive media trial. Every day there are new revelations regarding Sharif family’s ill-gotten wealth as new witnesses surface to tell their first-hand account on TV channels.

The Panama Leaks have shattered the belief that Nawaz Sharif and his PML –N would continue to lead Pakistan beyond 2018. Because of the political mishandling of Panama Leaks at the party cadre level, should Sharif be removed from office due to court verdict or some other development, the fall of the central government is eminent.

A corrosion of consensus weakens not just a polity but also the incumbents, who must rule in the vacuum produced by the shattering of the very consensus they previously enjoyed in office. In addition to suffering from a repeatedly shattered political consensus, Pakistan is plagued by a government whose top executive is besieged by the investigation of money laundering.

At the time of writing, no political party is strong enough to fill the vacuum created by PML-N’s political enfeeblement post Panama Leaks. Meanwhile, as Pakistan moves away from the US, it is forging regional ties rigorously. Pakistan is forging stronger commercial ties with China through CPEC and with Russia through unprecedented joint military exercises. During this period of transition, two of Pakistan’s immediate neighbors, Afghanistan and India, have joined forces against Pakistan. Both are backed by the US, Pakistan’s ally no more yet a country with strong intelligence network inside Pakistan and unprecedented military presence in Central Asia. Pakistan is thus sitting on two fault lines, each crossing the other at critical political junctures.  One fault line is created by the fact that Pakistan’s structural shift away from its traditional ally, the US, is not accompanied by a shift in software application that would end the operation of intensive and extensive US intelligence within Pakistan. The other fault line is the political power vacuum caused repeatedly by the shattering of consensus through events triggered by forces extraneous to Pakistan’s main political function.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are indeed relevant to its defense, but the force Pakistan needs to manage its current risks is that of human intelligence.

Cuba’s Castro No More

Young educated intellectuals from the southern hemisphere emulated Fidel Castro’s looks during the days when beards were associated with communism, not terrorism. Castro was fascinating because he showed the world that leaders of the South can successfully resist pressure from the mighty North; that South can rise despite the odds.

Fidel Castro survived half a century of relentless undercover machinations by America’s Central Intelligence Agency against his rule as well as his personal charisma. He survived overt war waged against his tiny Island by a super power. He survived the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, when Cuba was in the eye of the storm. In the aftermath of the crisis, the American media feverishly tried to convince the Cuban public that Castro was a schizophrenic ideologue, ready to scarify the entire Cuban nation, and it was only Kennedy’s wisdom that saved the Cubans from nuclear annihilation. The heavily funded campaign ended in vain, like every-thing else the US tried against Castro’s entrenched leadership in a tiny island that lay a stone throw away from US’ own landmass. Castro’s ties with his people were so strong that nothing could break them.  His leadership survived the economic hardship caused by the decades’ long US economic embargo. He survived the ending of the Soviet subsidy in 1992 when the USSR collapsed.

The important thing to remember as we mourn the passing of this great leader is his unflinching love of his people. Castro loved his people. He loved the down trodden among them. The plans he made for the development of Cuba stemmed from this quintessential love of the people of  Cuba. No leadership can ever aspire to greatness without such love.

Just as Castro stood against exploitation of the weak by the strong within Cuba, within the international system, he stood against western hegemony and neo imperialism. Castro must have died a satisfied man as he saw the south rising in the world he leaves behind him. Brazil, South Africa, India, China are powers from the ‘South’ that have emerged strong. Neo imperialism is losing its strength as new structures replace it in Asia, Eurasia and Africa.

Castro is no more but Cubans will always remember his governance as the proudest period in Cuba’s history.

TRUMP’S IMPACT ON ISRAEL

 

There is a unique aspect about the event in Israel’s Knesset that made news on November 17, 2016, when Ahmad Tibi performed an azan using the very sound system his Jewish colleagues used to call for a ban on the volume at which Azan is made. For the first time, the visuals of Jewish Muslim tensions coming out of Israel presented the spectacle of a quarrel between brothers, instead of brutal violence between sworn enemies. Some members of the Knesset were smiling at what Tibi did, some were waiving their hands to ward off the sound he made, and some chastised Tibi out loud. Order in the assembly was called to no avail as Tibi, unperturbed, finished the azan in entirety.

Those who watched the video of the proceeding were amused.

Donald Trump has not even entered the White House yet, and the political landscape of Israel is already softening.  The criminality of Israel’s conduct towards the Muslims was sponsored by the American political elite’s need for Jewish financial support. Fearing reprisals, the elite refrained from stepping on the toe of the influential Jewish lobby. Donald Trump’s election campaign halted this trend. Whether it is because he is a man of independent financial means, or because his politics is uncompromisingly tied to the ‘America First’ slogan is beside the point. The significant fact about Donald Trump’s rise in American politics is that Trump neither sought Jewish financial patronage, nor has he shown any deference towards the Jewish lobby during his campaign, and yet he has won the election. For the first time in history, the Zionist nerves are rattled in America, where power has been taken by the nationalists.

The Jewish lobby in the US is by far the most powerful ethnic group.  According to the former director of National Affairs of the American Jewish Community, Stephen Steinlight, Jewish political power and influence is disproportionately concentrated in the television and news industry. That is why Donald Trump is the only President elect who is so scathingly criticized in the US media these days. There is a scientific campaign underway to make it look like a freak has made it to the Presidency, due to a defect in the electoral system, instead of acknowledgement that a smart politician has successfully catered to the popular desire for tough action on core issues. The same media has, in the past, accepted rehabs and alcoholics, senility and frailty of age with equanimity. It predicted Hilary Clinton’s victory with certainty that was no more than wishful thinking, as events latter proved.

It is quite obvious that Trump’s victory heralds an era when the American decision making will not be tied to the Jewish preferences in international affairs.

The hawks in Israel have lost their most comfortable cushion to date. The political consequence of this change is likely to be a positive one for the region Israel is located in. A solution to the Jewish-Muslim problem in the Middle East, (incorrectly labeled as Arab-Israeli problem) may be possible during Trump’s presidency.

 

Trump versus Hillary;Who WILL WIN

 

It is 9:16 a.m on the East Coast in America, Tuesday the 8th of November, 2016,  as I try to extrapolate whose chances of winning are greater in the current US election.

It will not surprise me at all if Donald Trump wins the current election for a very simple reason: he represents  “change. ” In 2008, Americans voted Obama in because they had a strong desire for change. The desire has since become overwhelming as Obama has not satisfied it during the last eight years.

The ongoing slow-down in US economy is relentless. Economy is currently less than half of what it was in fifties and sixties. Productivity growth is less than half of one percent of what it used to be in living memory of those who are now in their sixties. According to a recent study by Harvard Business School, the growth in productivity figure puts America within the group of the last three countries in the OECD. The young urban professionals, who lost jobs and homes during the last eight years, have yet to regain the prosperity levels they ‘believe’ they deserve as Americans. For the next two decades, the Americans will continue to vote for change if things don’t turn around for them, for that is how long it takes a population to accept the fact that its living framework may have changed permanently.

Under the circumstances, it seems poor planning on the part of the Democrats to field a candidate seeped in established ways and so opposite of what Obama represented as a candidate in 2008. Hilary is not likely to win because she is a woman any more than Obama did not win because he was Afro-American. Obama won the 2008 election because of his rhetoric of change.

Trump may not be as media savvy as Obama. Though self-assured, he is no-where near as rhetorical as Obama, but he caters to the desire for change in 2016 just as Obama did in 2008, even more so. Americans long for transparency and truthfulness; Hilary reminds them of Bush era secrecy and lawlessness. They believe their financial institutions have been irresponsible in handling their money and no one has tried to regulate them better because their leaders are “afraid.” Trump appears bold enough to undertake change, even to a seemingly scandalous extent.

Early voting has already shown a 45% turn out, hence the apathy factor is not there. It is telling me that those who were previously yielding are now going to demand that power be shared and their candidate of choice for conveying the same demand is going to be Donald Trump.

Obama campaigned for Hilary with much rigor. Obama’s rhetoric may fail him in 2016.