Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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#China - India’s use of Dalai Lama card tactless

The 14th Dalai Lama started his visit to "Arunachal Pradesh" (South Tibet of China) on Tuesday. The Dalai Lama has been to the disputed region before, but what makes this trip different is that he is received and accompanied by India's Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju. When China raised the concern over the visit, Rijiju commented that China shouldn't intervene in their "internal affairs."

When the Dalai Lama clique fled from Tibet, he sought shelter at Dharamsala of India, thus the Dalai question became one of the problems that upset Sino-Indian relationship. New Delhi takes a stance that opposes the Dalai Lama engaging in anti-China activities on the soil of India; however, it has long attempted to use the Dalai Lama as a card.

When India emphasizes the relationship with China, it would place a tight control on the Dalai. When it has a grudge against China, it may prompt the Dalai to play certain tricks as a signal sent to China.

Recently, India has been strongly dissatisfied with China for not supporting its membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Its request to name Masood Azhar, head of Pakistani militant group, to a UN Security Council blacklist was disapproved by China, resulting in some Indians calling for a boycott of Chinese goods. The Dalai's visit to Arunachal Pradesh this time is seen as New Delhi using the monk as a diplomatic tool to put pressure on China. 

But this is a clumsy and rude move. The Dalai is a highly politicized symbol in China's diplomacy. For any country, its attitude toward the Dalai Lama almost affects the entire relationship with China. The West has fully recognized the nature of the Dalai as a diplomatic card and is extremely prudent in using it. When the Dalai travels to the capital of a Western country, who will meet him, when and where would be carefully weighed.  

Before this trip, the Dalai Lama was received by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in December. At a time when the Dalai has been given a cold shoulder in many places of the world, New Delhi is bucking the trend and treating him as a favorite. 

It is worth mentioning that India is dissatisfied with China mainly in the international multilateral field, while the Dalai Lama question is purely a China's domestic issue. China also suffered setbacks when applying for the membership of international organizations. Its proposal to blacklist some terrorist group had also been refused. However, as dissatisfied as China was, it didn't make an issue of them. 

New Delhi probably overestimates its leverage in the bilateral ties with China. The two countries in recent years have continuously strived to improve their relationship and the peace on the border area has been maintained. India has benefited from the good momentum of bilateral relationship as much as China. If New Delhi ruins the Sino-India ties and the two countries turn into open rivals, can India afford the consequence?

With a GDP several times higher than that of India, military capabilities that can reach the Indian Ocean and having good relations with India's peripheral nations, coupled with the fact that India's turbulent northern state borders China, if China engages in a geopolitical game with India, will Beijing lose to New Delhi? 

China considers India as a friendly neighbor and partner. China has never provoked bilateral disputes or made any pressing demand on India over the Dalai Lama. New Delhi should respond to Beijing's goodwill with goodwill.  

Assad Must Stay: 'A War Involving Fighters From 86 Countries Isn't a Civil War'

Only days before the US made its decision to carry out cruise missile strikes against Syria, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley dug up some Obama-era rhetoric that Syrian President Bashar Assad must go. In response, Syrian Ambassador to Ukraine Hassan Haddur explained why the US pretext for toppling the Syrian government is completely nonsensical.

Last Monday, a day before the suspected chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in rebel-held Idlib province, and a few days more before the US launched dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Ash Sha'irat airbase in Homs province, Ambassador Haley told reporters that Syrians don't want Assad as president anymore.
Washington, she said, would find it unacceptable for Assad to remain president after elections. "We don't think the people want Assad anymore. We don't think he is going to be someone that people will want to have," Haley noted, indirectly responding to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's earlier comments that the president's status would be determined by the Syrian people. 

"We have no love for Assad. We've made that very clear. We think that he has been a hindrance to peace for a long time. He's a war criminal. What he's done to his people is nothing more than disgusting," Haley added, as if to preempt the rest of the week's events. The US immediately blamed the Syrian government for Tuesday's chemical attack, despite ample evidence that Damascus wasn't involved, and went on to rain cruise missiles down on the country just two days later.
Offering a detailed response to the UN envoy, Syrian diplomat Hassan Haddur explained to Ukraine's '2000' newspaper why Haley's opinion about the views of the 'Syrian people' has absolutely no merit.
For starters, Haddur pointed out that the war which Syria has suffered over six years couldn't really be classified as a civil war in the first place. "Civil wars take place within a country between people who live in that country. But kindly tell me, is it possible to consider a war in which terrorists from 86 countries take part a civil war?"
The diplomat recalled that in March 2011, at the very start of the unrest, Syria "did indeed see demonstrations. But these were peaceful protests, where legitimate demands were put forward. The state, I would like to stress, fulfilled everything that the protesters asked." This included the government's agreement to create a new constitution in 2012, including provisions for free elections, presidential term limits, the removal of the Ba'ath Party's monopoly on political life in the country, and guarantees to a series of social and political rights and freedoms.
Furthermore, Haddur emphasized that Syria had engaged in socio-economic reforms since the early 2000s, when President Bashar Assad first came to power. "By 2011, these reforms had made it possible for Syria to have essentially zero foreign debt. On the whole, progress had been felt in many areas of life. In addition, in 2011, Syria was among the top ten safest countries in the world. At that time, our country was able to almost completely ensure its food security, first of all in wheat. The same was true in the production of medicines: we provided for 95% of our own needs."

This was also true so far as rights, including women's rights, were concerned, the diplomat stressed. "The freedoms we have in our country relating to women – they do not exist in any other Arab country! Imagine it: in 2010 there were seven women ministers. There were many women representatives among politicians as well.
"Furthermore," Haddur recalled, "in our country, the representatives of various religious communities have always coexisted. After all, the representatives of over 29 nationalities live in Syria. And we were very proud of the fact that conditions had been created in our country – both cultural and religious, for the representatives of all nationalities and communities."
Such a peaceful state of affairs had persisted in Syria for centuries, the diplomat added. "For this reason, there is no justification to the suggestion that the war currently taking place in Syria is a civil war, much less a religious one between supporters of different denominations."
Unfortunately, Haddur lamented that the government's concessions in 2011 and 2012 did not lead to the abatement of protests, which had instead begun to turn violent. He emphasized that foreign powers would eventually contribute immense amounts of money and resources toward destabilizing the country.
Many foreign powers were involved, the official said, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Western powers. Their tactics included the recruitment of agents among Syrian officials, sometimes even high-ranking officials, to participate in the country's destabilization in the very first days of the conflict.
The 'foundation' for the opposition quickly became Wahhabi Islam, Haddur added. "On the eve of the war, the extremist Wahhabi current of Islam became more active in Saudi Arabia. They adhere to the following rule: that Muslims who do not support Wahhabism are apostates. Many Syrians worked in Saudi Arabia over many years, and when they came home, they were to a greater or lesser extent carriers of this radical religious current."
Furthermore, the diplomat stressed, when the crisis began to turn violent, "Saudi Arabia whipped up huge resources to spread this [strain of Islam] in Syria, mainly in those regions where people had low levels of education. In time, this led to a situation where a number of people for whom a state of [religious] war became a normal state of affairs."
There were geo-economic considerations for foreign involvement too, Haddur added, particularly among the Gulf monarchies seeking to lay oil and gas pipelines through Syria.
"Indeed, shortly before the [2011] events began, Qatar made a proposal to lay a pipeline through our territory to Europe. Here I would like to note that Syria has its own gas and oil resources. And the Syrian government cannot make decisions or approve proposals from outside which are contrary to our national interests. Along with Qatar, we received offers from other countries. The Qatari offer was actually less lucrative than the others. But in rejecting these proposals, we were governed by the central principle: first and foremost to protect the interests of our country."
Finally, the ambassador stressed that then, as now, the main agent among the powers pushing the 'Assad must go' narrative was the US. "Before the start of the Syrian events, the voice of the US was the strongest in the world. It's really no secret who had the most interest in seeing a change of power in Egypt, Libya, Yemen or Iraq."
Emphasizing just how insulting the US's regime change rhetoric really is, Haddur suggested that "it would be interesting to see how the people of the United States, France or the United Kingdom would react if someone came from outside and said: your president must go. After all, posing such a question is not only a geopolitical or economic consideration. It is a sign of disrespect for the people of the country where a change of power is sought."
Haddur stressed that the so-called 'Friends of Syria Group', the collective of Western and Gulf countries supporting President Assad's ouster, "had held mass discussions, from the very start, on the possibilities for war, rather than on how to avoid the conflict. They attempted to implement the US plan for dividing the country. Factually, these 'friends' are participants in a large-scale conspiracy against us. The number of terrorists, according to our calculations, is about 150,000 persons."
"As for the so-called international coalition, it's worth recalling that everything that it's doing, including the bombing of Syrian territory, is aggression against our government, the violation of our territorial integrity." The ambassador recalled that from the very beginning of the Western coalition's campaign of airstrikes, the territory controlled by the Daesh terrorists only grew. "Only after Russia came to assist us – following an official request from Damascus, did we see progress. Then the terrorists began to retreat."
Israel too has played an active role in seeking to depose Syria's government, the diplomat explained. "The policy of this country is undoubtedly aimed at expanding its territories. For Syria, Israel is an aggressor country. Their occupation of the Golan Heights is confirmed by Israeli officials themselves. Even now, numerous reports in the media (both Western and in the Middle East) show that Israeli hospitals are providing medical support to the militants. In doing so, they are supporting the terrorists fighting in Syria."
Ultimately, commenting on President Assad's recent expression of hope that the Syrian war would come to an end in the near future, Haddur stressed that this will be possible only when foreign support for the terrorists comes to an end.
"The war in Syria will end only when those who have come from abroad and who are fighting on the territory of our state no longer receive foreign support. If the UN Security Council demands that the borders with Syria are closed, preventing the entry of militants into our country, the war will end very quickly. If, as now, the border with Turkey is not blocked off, and 50,000 militants come to Syria from the country, and tomorrow another 10,000 will come, and the next day even more, then the war will go on forever."

Nonetheless, "of course, we hope for the best. Of course, we expect that the war will end, and that peace will come," the ambassador concluded.
Commenting on Friday morning's cruise missile strikes, Syrian military expert Hasan Hasan told Sputnik Arabic that unfortunately, "their purpose is not to end the war, but to see the further escalation of the conflict."
For his part, Ali Ahmed, an advisor to the Syrian Information Minister, lamented that the cruise missile attack was part and parcel of the "framework of a common aggressive policy against Syria –pushing for the creation of a 'New Middle East', controlled chaos, and Tel Aviv's interests."
Still, Ahmed stressed that he was confident that Syria would not suffer the same fate as Iraq or Libya. "It was possible to rip apart these countries after the destruction of their state institutions. Syria, in spite of a protracted war and the presence of hundreds of thousands of militants on its territory, continues to preserve its territorial integrity. Salaries are paid on time, even to those in terrorist-controlled areas. Educational and medical institutions continue their work. In the north, wheat is being grown, agriculture is lively."

Russia vetoes West’s 'misconceived' Syria resolution at UN Security Council

Moscow has vetoed a US-backed resolution condemning the Khan Shaykun incident on April 4 as a chemical attack while demanding that Syria open up its military bases to inspections.
Russia, which has veto power as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, was joined by Bolivia in voting down the resolution. China, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained.
Ten states, including the US, the UK and France – the Troika that put together the text of the resolution – voted in favor.
“The main objection to the resolution is that it apportioned blame prior to an objective outside investigation of the incident... The outcome of the vote was predestined, because we disagreed categorically with a document that was fundamentally misconceived,” said Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy envoy at the Security Council, who also accused other states and international organizations of making “no effort” to inspect the site of the alleged attack.
Accepting the resolution would also “legitimize” the April 7 air strike carried out by the US on the Shayrat airbase in northern Syria, from which Washington claims government planes carrying the deadly sarin nerve gas took off, Safronkov said.
Britain’s representative Matthew Rycroft said Russia’s veto – the eighth since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 – was "indefensible," and reminded Moscow of its own promise to rid the country of chemical weapons following an alleged attack in 2013.
France's President Francois Hollande said Moscow was taking on a "heavy burden of responsibility" for "obstructing" the efforts to end the Syrian crisis.
Washington's envoy to the Security Council, Nikki Haley, noted she was still hopeful of future cooperation with Moscow, and urged Russia to exert its influence over Bashar Assad to stop the "madness and violence" of the conflict, in which over 400,000 people are estimated to have been killed.
Unlike the earlier drafts of the resolution on the alleged incident, the final document did not lay the blame for it on Damascus. It also referred to the incident as the “reported use of chemical weapons” rather than stating that such use did take place as a fact.
However, the draft leaned heavily on the Syrian government in terms of demands to submit to an investigation of the incident. It said inspectors chosen by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) must be given prompt and unrestricted access to “any and all sites” they choose, provided with flight plans and logs they request, and given the names of military officers “in command of any aircraft” they probe.
Damascus would also have to “arrange meetings requested, including with generals or other officers, within no more than five days of the date on which such meeting is requested.”
In the event of non-compliance with the terms, Syria could be exposed to military action mandated by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
The rebel forces controlling Khan Shaykhun were only asked to “provide delay-free and safe access” to the site of the reported incident.
The data which, according to the US, “purports to be evidence [of the Syrian government chemical attack]” is “very flimsy” and “relies on mainly open source materials, by which they [the US] mean evidence from jihadi sources, evidence from al Nusra [Front] and what they called the social media,” the former British ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, told RT.

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Malala Yousafzai – honored abroad, maligned at home

Rights activist Malala has been named as the UN Messenger of Peace. The 19-year-old delivers lectures all over the world on girls' right to education, but there is one place she can't visit - her home country, Pakistan.
At a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday gave Malala Yousafzai the top award, saying he was inspired by her "unwavering commitment to peace" and "resolve to foster a better world."
In her speech, the 19-year-old activist didn't forget to mention her country, where she was shot and wounded by the Taliban in 2012. She expressed her love for the Islamic country and insisted that Pakistan shouldn't be viewed as an extremist country. 
"I want people to know that I represent Pakistan not the extremists, not the terrorists. They are not Pakistan," Malala said.
But do Pakistanis also believe that Malala Yousafzai represents their country?
Some of the alleged militants who tried to kill Malala are now behind the bars. The Pakistani government says it is ready to provide the activist adequate security if she chooses to return to her home country. But can Malala actually go back to Pakistan?
Karachi-based journalist and documentary filmmaker Sabin Agha says that if Malala decides to return, she could be targeted once again. "Girls like Malala symbolize defiance, and there are many in Pakistan who don't like that, especially if it comes from a female," Agha told DW.
And Malala did pay a big price for her "rebellion" when she was in Pakistan: She was shot by militants in October 2012 in the Swat Valley of Pakistan's restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack and said in a statement that Malala had been attacked for promoting "secularism" in the country. After receiving initial medical treatment in Pakistan, Malala was sent to the United Kingdom where she is presently residing with her family.
Before being shot, the teenager had been campaigning for girls' right to education in Swat and was a vocal critic of Islamic extremists. She was praised internationally for writing about the Taliban atrocities in a BBC Urdu service blog.
Malala has come a long way since then. She has now become an international icon of resistance, empowerment of women and right to education, and has received numerous awards, including the European Union's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize. The teenager was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year. However, in her own country, she is looked down upon by many, who accuse her of being a US agent, set out to malign Pakistan and Islam.
Malala attackers 'arrested'
In 2013, the Pakistani army announced the arrest of the men suspected of trying to kill Malala. But experts say the fact that some of her attackers are now in the military's custody won't make the country any safer for her.
"A country which cannot guarantee the safety of its former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - who was assassinated during a public rally in the city of Rawalpindi in 2007 - cannot protect Malala or any other activist critical of the Taliban. I don't think that Malala can return to her homeland anytime soon," said Farooq Sulehria, a London-based Pakistani researcher and activist.
Agha says that Pakistan is still not a safe place for rights activists, government and military critics, as well as journalists: "In the past, the army had conducted many operations against the terrorists; however, we have not seen the level of violence go down."
A polarizing figure
Despite the fact that liberals hail Malala as a symbol of pride for the country, she has become an extremely divisive figure in Pakistan. A majority of conservatives alleges she is working against Islam and Pakistan's sovereignty.
"Isn't it strange that many Pakistanis share the Taliban's views on Malala?" asked Shareef Ahmed, a Karachi-based peace activist. "I think it shows that the Taliban ideology is popular in the country. Malala has exposed quite a lot of people, even those who are not hardcore extremists."
Many in Pakistan believe that local and international media are unnecessarily creating hype around the young activist. Right-wing parties in the South Asian nation claim that the "campaign" to promote Malala is proof that there is an "international lobby" behind the whole issue.
"I don't think that Malala deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. I think there were more deserving people in Pakistan who should have been given the award," Karachi-based Shiite activist Syed Ali Mujtaba Zaidi told DW. "Just because she (Malala) got shot by the Taliban does not make her worthy of these prizes," he added.
The mindset
Supporters of the 19-year-old say that the "Malala haters" are running a smear campaign against the teenager. They argue that until the mindset of the people is changed, Malala's return to Pakistan is almost impossible.
"Malala has been portrayed as a western agent in Pakistan - a country brimming with anti-West sentiment. Anyone seen as pro-West in the country becomes a target for scorn, ridicule, hatred, and even violence," Sulehria said, adding that the country's progressive section was too weak and fragmented to ensure Malala's safety.
Agha insists the issue is not just about Malala but the overall situation of women's rights in the South Asian nation.
"Isn't it ironic that Pakistan is considered a safe place for national and international terrorists but not for its own female population?" Agha asked. "We have to change this scenario, and also the patriarchal mindset which supports violence against women."

At Least Five Killed In Kabul Explosion

At least five people were killed on Wednesday afternoon in a suicide bombing in Kabul city. 
A security source said the attack took place in front of the presidential palace's administrative affairs office, which is close to the PD2 headquarters and the defense ministry.
Eyewitnesses said two presidential palace guards are among those killed.
Photographers at the scene also reported that presidential palace guards (PPS) had deleted their photographs. 
The Ministry of Interior said earlier a suicide bomber on foot had detonated explosives.
The presidential palace issued a statement Wednesday afternoon condemning the suicide bombing in Kabul.
The statement said: “Terrorist groups cannot attain their nefarious ends by creating fear among the people.”
President Ashraf Ghani said in the statement the enemies of Afghanistan are targeting people along highways, in cities, in mosques and schools because they are against development and stability.
He extended his condolences to the victims’ families.
CEO Abdullah Abdullah also condemned the incident and said: “I condemn the terrorist attack martyring innocent civilians in Kabul. Work for peace is important but saving lives is a top priority.”


Tensions between Russia and the U.S. are again flaring up in the Middle East, but this time it’s not about Syria or chemical weapons. Instead, the conflict is over a potential peace deal in Afghanistan that could bring an end to 16 years of war that has ravaged the country. The Kremlin is slated to hold a meeting Friday in Moscow aimed at brokering a resolution between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Washington has refused to attend, instead accusing Russia of arming Taliban fighters and undermining NATO’s efforts to bring peace and security to the region.  
The meeting is the third peace summit held by Moscow since December. At the first, Moscow only invited China and Pakistan to the table, angering both Washington and Kabul. At the second, in February, it invited Afghanistan, but excluded the U.S. Now, finally invited to the talks, the Trump administration says it questions Russia’s motives.
Russia has denied giving weapons to Taliban fighters, while conceding that it did reach out to the militant group in its efforts to broker the peace deal. Russia has also called for an end to sanctions against Taliban leaders.
As a candidate ahead of the November elections, Trump said he would improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but his White House has already caught Moscow’s ire after vowing to uphold sanctions against Russia, introduced after the country’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and, more recently, ordering an airstrike against the Syrian government on April 6 in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 people. The bombing marked the U.S.’ first military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally to Russia. Moscow described the strike as an act of aggression.
It’s perhaps a sign of how bad things have become that the Kremlin, which once awarded Secretary of State Rex Tillerson its Order of Friendship, initially denied that Putin would meet with him during his official visit to Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday. Officials were expected to discuss how to end Syria’s nearly six-year civil war. Putin has met with other U.S. secretaries of state in the past.
Russia’s relationship with the Taliban is of major concern to Washington. The Taliban controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 until the U.S.-led invasion that divided the nation. The militants now rule over roughly half of Afghanistan’s population and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly urged Taliban leaders in recent years to agree to a peace deal.
Russia could be looking to regain influence in Afghanistan after its 1979 invasion and 10-year occupation of the Central Asian nation. Afghanistan is considered strategically important, particularly in relation to economic and national security concerns in nearby India, Pakistan and Iran, while Afghanistan has also claimed its mineral resources are worth around $3 trillion.
Moscow says its reason for getting involved in peace talks is to prevent instability from spilling over to central Asia. Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, claimed last month that any accusations from the Afghan government and its allies over alleged weapons deals were being used to “justify their own failure on the battlefield.” Russia has also said it’s particularly worried about the presence of the Islamic State group, which the Taliban opposes. Despite the Kremlin’s concerns, security experts say the group is not a significant threat to Afghanistan or the wider region.
In assisting the militants, Russia would also undermine NATO forces in the region at a time of growing tensions between Russia and NATO in Europe. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at a press conference in London on March 31 that he was aware of Russian “activity” concerning the Taliban. “I'm not going to say at this point if that has manifested into weapons and that sort of thing, but certainly what they're up to there in light of their other activities gives us concern,” Mattis said.
Another senior defense official was less cautious. “I think it is fair to assume [Russia] may be providing some sort of support to [the Taliban], in terms of weapons or other things that may be there,” U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel told members of Congress on March 29. “I believe what Russia is attempting to be [is] an influential party in this part of the world.”

The New Cold War Politics in Afghanistan

Pakistan - The Saudi led military alliance

Sleepwalking into a quagmire Of late, the PML-N government is pursuing a course of action that undermines Pakistan’s status as a neutral referee in the Muslim world. A perception is gathering strength that the country is being taken for granted by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Deputy Crown Prince announced a military alliance and Pakistan’s flag was shown along with those of other countries who joined the alliance. Soon after the alliance was announced in December 2015, Sartaj Aziz gave unsatisfactory answers to the Senate which showed he was as ignorant about the nature and scope of the alliance as the other Senators. To the Senate Chairman’s comment that: “So you have joined a military alliance about which you are still foggy,” Aziz claimed: “We will come to parliament once details are available.” During the next year-and-a-half , he had nothing to tell the Parliament on the issue. Suddenly, the government announced it had given an NOC to former COAS Sharif to take over as the chief of the Saudi-led alliance.
It seems the government is continuing to kowtow to the Kingdom. Iran has publicly expressed its displeasure over Pakistan’s move to allow its former COAS to lead the alliance cobbled together by Saudi government for purposes still kept secret.
Once the government has accepted to provide a military chief to an alliance with sectarian connotations, Saudi Arabia will dictate the next moves. The claim that the alliance will only go to the support of governments who ask for it is highly naive. To start with, the formulation allows the coalition troops to enter Yemen if requested by the Saudi supported regime or to take action to suppress the majority Shias in Bahrain at the instance of the Saudi supported Sunni ruler. Pakistan must not be a party to the sectarian wars being fought in the Middle East.
As things stand there is no need for a military alliance of the Muslim countries. Better spare energies for putting life in the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) to pressurise India to hold talks with Pakistan, and to tell Israel to end illegal construction and hold meaningful talks for an independent state of Palestine.

Pakistan - Waiting for the Panama verdict


IT has been a long wait for the Panama case judgement which is likely to change the country’s political dynamics. More than six weeks have passed since the court concluded the hearing and went into a huddle. There was no short judgement and it does take some time to arrive at a decision especially when there are five highly independent-minded judges examining all the legal aspects of this extremely complicated case with serious political ramifications. The nation seemed to have been put on hold waiting anxiously for the outcome.
Not only does Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s political fortune hang in the balance, the impending ruling will also define the future course of Pakistani politics. What has heightened the suspense is the observation made by Justice Asif Khosa, the head of the bench during the hearing, that the judgement would be remembered for the next two decades. Surely it would be historic, but one is not sure how.
It is also the judges who seem to be on trial. It is not just the legal aspect of the case, but the politics of it that makes things much more complicated. Although all sides across the political divide repose confidence in the apex court, there are obviously partisan expectations in such a high-profile case implicating the country’s most powerful political dynasty. The past baggage of the doctrine of necessity and allegations of politically biased judgements too cast their shadows on the judiciary. Surely the pressure is enormous.
It is more than a year since the Panama leaks, about offshore companies and expensive real estate owned by the prime minister’s children caused a political maelstrom to erupt in the country. The series of conflicting and self-contradicting statements given by the prime minister and his children in their defence added to the tumult and provoked a call by the opposition for an impartial inquiry into the leaks.

There seems to be no good scenario for the prime minister.

A dubious letter from a Qatari prince revealing a family business connection with the Sharifs turned the whole episode into a political comedy. The judiciary appeared compelled to take up various petitions filed by the opposition political parties against the prime minister and his family. A more simplistic explanation is that the failure of the investigative agencies left the country’s highest court with no other option but to intervene in the matter. But one tends to believe that it was more to do with opposition political pressure that finally worked in getting the court’s attention. Not surprisingly, the case became the centre of a political battle.
While the judges heard the arguments, the PML-N and PTI fought it out outside the courtroom and on TV talk shows every evening accusing each other of corruption and declaring victory even before the hearing was concluded. Matters seem to be getting more intense and extremely bizarre with the expectation of the judgement any day.
No doubt, the political stakes are high for both the government and the opposition, particularly the PTI, the prime mover of the Panama petition. But it is the prime minister and his family who stand to lose the most in case of an unfavourable judgement. The scandal has already caused him huge political damage and it is extremely hard to recover from it even if the court spares him the ultimate humiliation of being removed from office. There is certainly a precedent where the Supreme Court disqualified a sitting prime minister, but few believe it could happen to Sharif. That is perhaps also the reason for the confidence of the ruling side.
But some would argue that the present court is very different from courts in the past with far more independence allowing it to bear pressure even from the most powerful executive. The observations made by the judges during the hearing reinforce that perception.
Surely the judges are not supposed to decide the case along political lines but on its legal merits. Most legal experts agree that the Sharif family has failed to prove the money trail to the offshore companies and the London properties that it owns. But is this sufficient to declare the prime minister guilty of wrongdoing? This is for the judges to decide. Whatever the ruling may be, it is not hard to envision the political fallout.
It could not have come at a worse time for Nawaz Sharif, as he finally looked politically more stable with civil-military relations seemingly better and no real threat from the opposition political parties. His supporters appeared extremely confident of the coming elections. But it may not be that easy any more irrespective of whatever the ruling may be.
There seems to be no good scenario for Sharif even if he is personally not held guilty. It appears that it will be hard for the courts to grant a clean chit to the entire family with so many anomalies in their statements. One thing is certain — Sharif cannot get out of the Panama scandal unscathed. What are his choices in case of an unfavourable ruling?
There is strong speculation he will dissolve the National Assembly and call early elections. But that would be quite risky. One is not sure that all the provinces will follow suit. Such a situation could create greater political chaos. It may be true that the party is still deeply entrenched in Sharif’s stronghold of Punjab.
But an adverse judicial verdict could change the electoral situation quite drastically. There is a big question mark about whether the party could retain its unassailable position in Punjab and hold on to the periphery in other provinces. He may well have to wait for the general elections that are only one year away.
It is now just a matter of time when the judges will come out with their ruling on the Panama scandal. The judgement will surely be remembered for many decades with Sharif’s political fate at stake.