Saturday, August 11, 2018
The Washington Post tackled on Wednesday the diplomatic row between Canada and Saudi resulting from the former’s complaint about the latter’s decision to arrest two prominent female activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah, citing the statement made by KSA foreign ministry which described that the Canadian move as a “blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs” and an “unacceptable affront to the Kingdom’s laws and judicial process.”
The US paper noted that Saudi wants the whole world to view its practices in a different way, adding that the Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland “fortunately refused.”
“On Aug. 2, she wrote on Twitter that Canada was ‘very alarmed’ about the detention of the two women. Ms. Badawi is the sister of Raif Badawi, a blogger serving a 10-year jail sentence for running a website that was critical of Saudi’s strict religious authorities.”
The Washington Post also pointed out that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has been intolerant of dissent and jailed dozens of critics, including intellectuals, journalists and advocates of women’s right to drive, adding that most have been thrown in jail for long periods without any semblance of due process.
“When Ms. Freeland called for the Badawis to be freed, the crown prince answered by expelling Canada’s ambassador and severing trade, travel and student exchange links. The intended message: Other countries should mind their own business, or else.”
According to The Washington Post, what Ms. Freeland and Canada correctly understand is that human rights and basic liberty are universal values, not the property of kings and dictators to arbitrarily grant and remove on a whim.
“Saudi Arabia’s long-standing practice of denying basic rights to citizens, especially women — and its particularly cruel treatment of some dissidents, such as the public lashes meted out to Mr. Badawi — are matters of legitimate concern to all democracies and free societies.”
The Washington Post regretted the US administration’s stance which called on Canada and Saudi to resolve their differences without “championing freedom and human rights abroad”, considering that Canada should not hold the human rights banner alone.
‘It is the traditional role of the United States to defend universal values everywhere they are trampled upon and to show bullying autocrats they cannot get away with hiding their dirty work behind closed doors.”
Finally, The Washington Post called on the US and the rest of the G7 nations to support Canada in face of the Saudi “autocrats.”
“Every leading democracy — let’s start with the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations — should retweet Ms. Freeland’s post about the imprisoned Badawis. Basic rights are everybody’s business.”
By Ali Al-Mujahed and Sudarsan Raghavan
In a tweet, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the attack struck a bus carrying children in Dahyan market in Saada province, which borders Saudi Arabia. A hospital supported by the aid group has received “dozens of dead and wounded,” it said, adding that “under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected during conflict.”
“Body parts were scattered all over the area, and the sounds of moaning and crying were everywhere,” said Hassan Muwlef, executive director of the Red Crescent office in Saada, who arrived an hour after the attack Thursday morning. “The school bus was totally burned and destroyed.”
Bodies were burned beyond recognition, while many of the injured were riddled with shrapnel, he added.
Most of the children were under the age of 10, tweeted Johannes Bruwer, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Yemen.
The assault was the latest airstrike against civilians carried out by an American-backed regional coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The coalition entered Yemen’s civil war more than three years ago to fight northern Houthi rebels, who seized power from Yemen’s internationally recognized government. The conflict has also turned into a proxy war for regional dominance between the Sunni Muslim coalition and Iran’s Shiite theocracy, which is widely believed to be backing the rebels.
Aid agencies on Thursday demanded an independent and thorough investigation into the airstrike and other recent attacks on civilians.
“We have seen a worrying rise in these incidents and no action has been taken to hold the perpetrators to account,” the aid group Save the Children said in a statement. The group’s Yemen director of advocacy, Sylvia Ghaly, said Thursday’s attack was “yet another example of the blatant violations of international humanitarian law that we have seen in Yemen over the past three years.” “It’s the people of Yemen, not the warring parties, who are paying the ultimate price,” she said.
According to the U.N. human rights office, more than 16,000 civilians have been killed or injured since the war began, the vast majority by airstrikes.
Yusuf Alhadheri, a rebel Health Ministry spokesman, said the death toll had reached 50 by the afternoon. With more than 77 injured, including some in critical condition, the death toll is expected to rise, he added. The ICRC reported that it was scrambling to send more medical supplies and other assistance to the hospital.
The bus was carrying about 60 students, between the ages of 8 and 14, as well as teachers, said Alhadheri. The group, all part of a summer camp, was en route to visit a mosque in the center of the province, a three-decade-long tradition to celebrate the end of summer vacation, he said. The airstrike occurred around 9 a.m. as the bus neared the market, he said.
In a statement Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition said the strike was a “legitimate military action to target elements that planned and carried out” an attack that targeted civilians in Jizan, a border city in southwestern Saudi Arabia.
On Wednesday, Col. Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the kingdom’s air defense had intercepted a ballistic missile fired by the Houthi rebels at a densely populated civilian area in Jizan, according to the Saudi Press Agency. The alleged attack left one Yemeni resident dead and 11 civilians wounded, Maliki said.
But others disputed that the area of Thursday’s attack posed a military threat.
“I am really shocked because there is no military base or troops in that area,” said Muwlef, the Red Crescent director. “Why would they carry out such an action?”
The United States is helping the coalition, the only party in the conflict to use warplanes, with refueling, intelligence and billions in weapons sales. The coalition mostly uses U.S.- and British-made fighter jets. Human rights groups and Washington Post journalists have seen remnants of U.S.-made bombs at attack sites where civilians were struck. The U.S. assistance has come under sharp criticism from some members of Congress and the international community as civilian deaths have continued to multiply, even as the coalition promises not to target civilians.
Last week, Yemeni rebel health officials accused the coalition of launching airstrikes in the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, killing at least 28 people and wounding scores. But Maliki denied it had done so, declaring to a Saudi-owned television network that the coalition “follows a strict and transparent approach based on the rules of international law.”
Hodeida has been under siege since June, despite U.N. peace efforts. The coalition is seeking to push the Houthis out of the strategic city, whose port is an essential gateway for supplies that fuel the rebels’ ability to dominate the capital, Sanaa, and the north.
Hodeida is also a key entry point for food, medicine and other aid for more than 22 million Yemenis — three-quarters of the population — in need of assistance in what the United Nations describes as the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis.
Mohammed Ali Ganesh, 52, drove all day Thursday from the capital to Saada. Three of his sons were injured in the airstrike. The two older ones had shrapnel wounds, but the youngest one, Yahya, was in the intensive care unit being treated for injuries to his head, face and lungs.
“I don’t know if he will make it,” said Ganesh, his voice audibly choking over the telephone. “When I went in to see him, he did not recognize me.”
“What have those innocent children done to face such a fate and punishment?”
By Curtis Stone
Scholars of international relations are worried that the United States under President Donald Trump is creating a dangerous place for America. In The New York Times, 35 scholars of international relations signed a statement titled “Why We Should Preserve International Institutions and Order” (later an online petition titled “Preserving Alliances"), calling on scholars in the field to defend the US-led alliance system, but ignoring the fact that alliances such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are Cold War relics and should be relegated to the dustbin of history.
The signatories of the statement argue that the post-World War II world—defined largely by the Western system of military and political alliances, provides important benefits to the United States and its allies, and they warn that Trump’s recklessness poses a threat to the future security and prosperity of America and its allies.
The statement warns that Trump is hurling a wrecking ball at the strategic alliances that underpin American influence, but it also acknowledges that the international system needs reform. “We should reform but not destroy the system that has served the United States and its allies well for over seven decades,” the statement reads. “The global order is certainly in need of major changes,” it adds.
It goes on to say that institutions—the rules that govern cooperative behavior—are much harder to build up than they are to destroy. “Almost nobody benefits from a descent into the chaos of a world without effective institutions that encourage and organize cooperation,” the statement reads.
Without question, it is much easier to undermine trust and cooperation among countries and regions than it is to build up partnerships and institutions for cooperation. Take for example the Paris Agreement. For the first time in history, almost every country in the world joined together to combat climate change. It was a history-making agreement that took years to negotiate and a great achievement in international politics, and the world was shocked and angered when America undermined it.
Trump’s assaults on multilateralism are indeed reckless, and countries should push back against his attempts to kill multilateralism and weaken cooperation. Not only did he pull out of the historic Paris Agreement, but he also abandoned the multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran, among other things, and his trade policies are a menace to the global economy. Utter disdain for the mechanisms and principles of multilateralism, as enshrined in the UN-based international order, will not keep the world safe or create a more prosperous future for all.
Nevertheless, Trump’s disdain for, or at least his questioning of whether it is worth preserving the US-led alliance system—a relic of the Cold War, is a positive development, because it shines a spotlight on the need for reform of the international system. We should move beyond the traditional theories of international relations and build on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter to make the world a better place for all countries and not just for America.
Preserving US alliances is not the best way to encourage and organize cooperation among countries and regions. What is needed is a new type of international relations that better reflects the interests of all countries and that values partnerships over alliances and win-win cooperation over zero-sum competition.
#PakistanElections2018 - If religious parties were not elected into power, is the Pakistani voter thus “moderate”?
By Raza Habib Raja
Besides other things, one crucial aspect that truly distinguished these elections from previous ones was the intense whipping up of religious sensitivities – like bringing up the Finality of Prophethood (pbuh) – by several parties. Although this issue had been raised earlier as well, it took centre stage during the elections.
Due to the nature of these religion-infused campaigns, people were expecting religious parties to gain some ground, as the battle was being fought around their typical slogans and they were better equipped to capitalise on it. Some were even expecting them to win more seats this time. However, the results have apparently shown that, by and large, Pakistan does not vote Islamist, as religious parties have collectively not been able to even cross the threshold of 10% of the total seats. Despite its revival, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) could only win 12 seats, whereas the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) could not even win a single seat in the National Assembly. Despite a highly charged campaign, it could only win two seats in the Sindh Assembly.
This result has apparently allayed the fears of moderates and reassured the world that in Pakistan, religious extremism is only at the fringe.
However, would it be true to infer that since Pakistan does not vote for religious parties, its voter is thus more “moderate”? I have often seen overzealous Pakistanis taunting Indians on social media over how their country is more “extreme” as it voted for a “religious” party like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whereas Pakistanis never vote in overwhelming numbers for similar kinds of extremist parties. By this logic, for them, Pakistan is more religiously “tolerant’ than India.
I wish this was true. The problem is that these aggregate numbers hide a far more complex story. Yes, religious parties do not get seats, but that does not mean the Pakistani electorate does not give weight to religious sloganeering and is immune to the weaponisation of sensitive religious matters.
If anything, this election actually saw mainstream parties like the PTI and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) actively whipping up religion for electoral gains. If religion was not a factor, then these parties would not have spent so much effort in pandering to it. Both Imran and Shehbaz Sharif courted influential pirs, with the former going to the Khatam-e-Nabuwat conference and alleging that Nawaz Sharif had deliberately changed the oath-taking to appease some western powers!
There is a reason as to why both mainstream parties played so hard on this wicket. In Pakistan, an ordinary voter may not be voting for religious parties, but religion nevertheless is a critical factor in his or her decision-making calculus. In other words, while religion may not be the only factor, it is definitely a very critical factor.
This is why mainstream conservative parties like the PML-N and PTI constantly use religious sloganeering. In fact, one reason as to why religious parties don’t get that many votes is that religion is not their exclusive domain, as all parties are using it.
Secondly, another fact which many are overlooking is that while religious parties did not get too many seats, they nevertheless did take a good number of votes in certain pockets of the country. It should be remembered that Pakistan follows the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system, in which the candidate with the most votes in a constituency wins. This system has often worked to the disadvantage of religious parties, whose vote is substantial but thinly spread across the country.
For example, despite being a new party, TLP still got more than 2.2 million votes in this election. However, since this vote was spread all across the country, it could not translate into many seats. If Pakistan was following the proportional representation system, then TLP would have ended with more than 10 seats in the National Assembly.
TLP’s performance in some urban areas of Punjab and in Karachi is an indicator that their message resonates with millions. This is a cause for worry, as their entire campaign was based on a single issue upon which they incited hate and violence against other parties, particularly the PML-N. In Punjab, TLP has dented the PML-N’s vote bank considerably, resulting in PTI winning some closely fought seats. Moreover, the presence of TLP forced both PTI and PML-N to also adopt a more hard-line stance.
This election is a grim reminder that in Pakistan, religious parties always end up affecting the political discourse more than their actual electoral strength. Further, the way this election was fought, I fear this will become a permanent template for the future as well. Yes, the religious groups may not have won many seats, but there is nothing to take comfort from within these results.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has lost its two-third majority in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly following the changes in the results of some seats.
However, the Imran Khan-led party still has a simple majority, so it can form the government. Combining general seats, reserved seats and independent candidates, PTI had 83 members in the assembly – they needed 82 for a two-third majority.
After the recount in PK-70 Peshawar, PTI’s Shah Farman lost the election. In PK-23 Shangla, where PTI’s Shaukat Yusufzai won, the election has been declared null and void since only 5% of the voters were women. The Election Act 2017 says that the number of female voters has to be at least 10% of the total votes in the area.
The party also lost a reserved seat for women – they now have 14. The party also has two minority seats. The KP Assembly has been summoned on August 13 where the newly elected MPAs will take oath.
Daily Times has received a copy of the written orders restricting University of Peshawar faculty members from talking to the media; seemingly in accordance with the regulations of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Establishment Department. Bluntly put, this is akin to crushing academic freedom. In other words, outright censorship is the order of the day.
Higher education institutes are meant to be the epicentres of critical learning and self-reflection. Without commitment to the aforementioned no nation can hope to sufficiently progress to realise its true potential. And knowledge has no currency unless it is shared beyond the realms of academia. The University’s actions are therefore extremely alarming. For even if academics are governed by civil service rules, such antiquated constraints need to be done way with.
Indeed, when the breathing space shrinks to the point whereby critical thinking itself becomes an act of rebellion — the fallout can be devastating. As the tragedy of university student Mashal Khan chillingly reminds. In fact, earlier this year the then PTI government filed an appeal with the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to challenge the acquittal of 26 people in connection with the murder. The move was just. It was also a bold one given that trumped up blasphemy charges had been used to justify the killing.
The last five years have been tough for Pakistanis. Against the backdrop of the country’s first-ever transfer of civilian power, freedom of expression is under threat. Over past years, journalists and civil society activists have been routinely picked up and/or intimidated. Government departments have encouraged the citizenry to snoop on each and report ‘blasphemous’ rumours with intended consequences. Much of the fourth estate has accepted the path of self-censorship as a means of not falling foul of the ‘blacklist’ ball.
DW's Shamil Shams, who was in Pakistan to cover the July 25 general election, explains why reporting freely and independently from the South Asian country was not an easy task despite no direct threat from authorities.
Let's be clear that there were no direct threats, or warnings, to foreign journalists on what not to report during last month's general elections, either from Pakistan's caretaker government or the country's powerful military and its ubiquitous security agencies. But there was an indescribable feeling that journalists must be careful in what they report about the polls.
The informal discussions with security analysts, who mostly toe the military's line, and sources close to Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, Movement for Justice) party, almost always conveyed the message that Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was jailed for ten years on corruption charges, is a problem for Pakistan, and that the military only wants to clear the mess created by Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N)-ruled former government.
There were some explicit complaints too. I was told that foreign media only presents a mono-dimensional picture of Pakistan, where the military is maligned and "corrupt politicians" praised. "We are here to put across the military's point of view also," I told a retired military officer, who is now a defense analyst. "But please keep in mind that our reference point is democratic supremacy," I added.
"Democracy" is not a popular word in Pakistan. The common people I met with in the cities of Lahore and Islamabad during the July 25 election coverage associate parliamentary democracy with three decades of incompetence, bad governance, unemployment, inflation, corruption and nepotism. To many, Sharif's PML-N and Former PM Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which is now headed by her son Bilawal, are responsible for Pakistan's "misfortune" at the governance level. An increasing number of working class Pakistanis are looking to Islamist parties for relief.
The educated urban middle-class also blames the PML-N and the PPP for the country's ailing economy, a lack of security, and Pakistan's "negative image" abroad. For these people, Khan, who is on course to become next prime minister after securing most seats in the next parliament, is an "outsider," who can put things in order. And the military is still a "holy cow" that not many — barring some civil society activists and intellectuals — dare to criticize.
Sharif's "defiance" to the military generals, that they should perform their constitutional role and do not get involved in politics, was a core issue not only for DW but also for other international media organizations. The other major topic was the pre-poll crackdown on media and rights activists that supported Sharif's narrative, or were at least sympathetic to it. IA Rahman, one of Pakistan's most respected human rights campaigners, told DW that the fairness of an election can't be judged by voting but by the run up to the election. In his opinion, Sharif's party was not given a level-playing field by the military establishment, which obviously affected the PML-N's performance in the election. The European Union's election observers also noted the same in their preliminary findings a day after the polls.
Although the military's deployment on polling stations was massive, and local and foreign media didn't get any proper access to the voting centers, the establishment, through its propaganda machinery, made sure that people only focused on voting mechanisms. We were told repeatedly that the polling went smooth, that Khan's party won the election fair and square.
Now as journalists, we are not supposed to take sides. The voting was largely fair, but it would be a big mistake to take it on its face value. It was a "controlled election." From who can contest the election to last-minute PML-N disqualifications to "discarded votes" on the polling day, the 2018 election was arguably the best "managed" election in Pakistan's history.
We, as journalists working for international media, could only point to it in our reports; it would be violating journalistic rules had we said that the 2018 election was "rigged." So we hoped that if we presented all facts clearly, our readers could see the "big picture."
Military's point of view
There is no escape for journalists from the invisible shadows of the military, as my former media colleagues and journalist friends told me time and again during my brief stay in the country. We tried to reach out to the military to get their point of view, but to no avail. Only the military's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department talks to media on such issues. The ISPR higher-ups are not easily accessible although DW tried to contact them. We still hope that they would like to share their views with our audience.
But by talking to retired military generals, who have found a new and lucrative profession as "security/defense analysts," one can get an idea about the military's thinking. And the military's mindset is very clear on certain issues. Firstly, Pakistan is facing a number of security challenges and it cannot afford "corrupt politicians" demonizing the army, which is the only institution that can tackle these issues. Secondly, the country needs stability — both political and economic — and the military wants to safeguard these interests.
Good luck, democracy!
Khan's aides and supporters share this view, as they conveyed to me during interviews. They also complain that Western media have a grudge against their leader.
"Western media do not like Imran Khan, but we don't care about them. Our leader will make Pakistan great again," they say.
I told them that I wish PM-elect Khan best of luck and hope that under his leadership the country progresses by leaps and bounds.
"But if he ever fell out with the military, independent media — both local and foreign — will continue to be the strongest voice in his favor and also in favor of democracy and constitutional supremacy in Pakistan," I said.