Saturday, November 3, 2018
Khashoggi evidently suspected he might be detained although he never expected to be murdered on site.The murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul’s Saudi Consulate at Istanbul has intensified the diplomatic rows on a world scale due to capitalism’s protracted crisis internationally. After repeated denials the kingdom finally confessed that Khashoggi ‘died’ in a “fist-fight” inside the consulate, without disclosing the whereabouts of his body.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official said, “This puts the ball firmly in Washington’s court… Not only will there be more pressure now from the media but Congress will say, ‘Gina, we would love to have you come visit and you can tell us exactly what you heard’.”
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the killing of Khashoggi: “heinous crime… and justice will prevail… all culprits will be punished”. MBS after extensive negotiations with Russian and Chinese delegates at ‘Davos in the Desert’ investment conference said, “Now we know who our best friends are, and who our best enemies are. “Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said on Friday, “… no one should have any grounds not to believe them.”
The Turkish reaction was damning: “How should a real investigation in Saudi Arabia work when one of the main suspects is the crown prince MBS? The US nor the rest of the world should really accept this.”
The abduction-torture-murder of Jamal Khashoggi must have been planned as a kind of perfect crime in which the journalist would mysteriously disappear without a trace. It went terribly wrong. The planners didn’t anticipate that Khashoggi’s fiancé would be waiting outside the consulate with instructions to sound the alarm. Khashoggi evidently suspected he might be detained although he never expected to be murdered on site. They forgot that that he’d be seen on surveillance video entering the building, but not leaving. And overlooked that Turkish intelligence, having bugged the premises, would have audiotapes of the killing and the Erdogan regime would selectively leak information for its own financial bargains and use the murder to undermine its own vicious repression.
They also figured that the US administration would be willing accomplices after the assassination. Initially Trump made every attempt to give the Saudi rulers the “benefit of the doubt” with Secretary of State Pompeo allowing them time “to complete their investigation” (cover-up). In the past the Saudi Monarchy played a crucial role to rescue of Trump’s failing real estate empire. However with the burgeoning international outrage and rising pressure domestically Trump had to retreat: “They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups. I would say it was a total fiasco from day one…Well, the prince is running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.” On 27 October US Defence Secretary James Mattis said, “Khashoggi’s murder undermines regional stability… US intends to take further action.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir criticised the global outcry as ‘hysterical’. The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said, “What we know is sufficient to suggest very strongly that Mr Khashoggi was the victim of an extrajudicial execution and the Saudi Arabia government is implicated in one way or another.”
The Turkish reaction was damning: “How should a real investigation in Saudi Arabia work when one of the main suspects is the crown prince MBS? The US nor the rest of the world should really accept this”
Trump’s main objective is the profits from 110 billion dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the second largest buyer of arms after India. The genocidal impact of imperialist weapons on the people of Yemen was supposed to remain mostly hidden. This means an even greater crisis for Trump’s presidency and the US state and system.
The blatant lies coming from Riyadh collapsed, with each new version exposing the falsity of the previous one. It’s not that anyone actually believed, or was even expected to believe, that Khashoggi had left the embassy, or had been accidentally killed in a “fistfight” during some kind of “rogue operation” – rather, governments and media outlets were expected to pretend to believe it. The bumbling character of the cover-up made the pretence unsustainable.
One member of the hit team of fifteen commandos sent to exterminate Khashoggi has already been killed in a convenient “traffic accident” shortly after returning home. The others according to the secretive regime have been fired or arrested. They were destined to be the scapegoats in hiding the plot. Some may be quietly reallocated; others may even wind up permanently disappeared like Jamal Khashoggi. Whether such measures will salvage MBS’s international stature as a “modernizing reformer” remains to be worked out inside the Royal family’s palatial intrigues and factional knife wars. The consultations among global capital’s corporate and government mafia dons will also be crucial.
This whole episode lays bare the unravelling of geopolitics and the intense crisis of the international relations. Just few months ago MBS was hailed as a ‘reformer’ by the western imperialists. He was a close friend of Trump’s son in Law Jared Kushner. The brutal Egyptian dictator al-Sisi, India’s Narindra Modi and many other pro imperialists quasi-democratic despots and bigots are not touched. Turkey’s autocratic ‘Sultan’ is obscuring his own tyranny through Khashoggi’s murder.
One way or another, these so-called reformers often outlive their usefulness and become disposable. Whether that happens to MBS himself is not certain, given Saudi Arabia’s oil, its massive international investment and financial reach, and its strategic centrality in the war mongering rage against Iran. However imperialists embrace of MBS and others like him make themselves willing accomplices and partners in their horrific despotism. This murder will exacerbate the instability and tensions in the region.
It has also shaken the consciousness of the masses. The already depleted reverence of the Saudi Monarchy as custodians of the Kaaba shall start waning more rapidly. The dangers of a military clash between despotic regimes in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Gulf’s sheikhdoms are looming. Political, economic and social repression is choking and pulverising the youth and working classes. The market economic system is too obsolete and rotten to bring even genuine bourgeois democracy to these neo-colonial societies. Society’s stability and socioeconomic development is in cul-de-sac. Human civilisation faces a dire and barbaric future under this decaying capitalism. In Marx’s words, “The point is to change it.”
By Shabbir H. Kazmi
How urgent is the problem?
Does Pakistan have other options?
Would IMF be willing to extend yet another loan?
What would a next bailout look like?
Till what time Pakistan keep on borrowing?
In the wake of his wife's blasphemy conviction being overturned, Ashiq Masih told DW that his family must constantly move due to threats of violence. He fears his wife may be attacked in prison before her release.
Ashiq Masih, the husband of a Christian woman whose acquittal on blasphemy charges has shaken Pakistan, told DW on Saturday that he is worried for his wife's safety.
His wife, Aasiya Noreen, better known as Asia Bibi, has spent nearly 10 years in prison after neighbors accused her of insulting the Prophet Mohammed. In 2010, she was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. She would have been the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy under the current law and the first woman in Pakistan to be executed.
But on Wednesday, Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled that there was not enough evidence against her and ordered her release, though not until after the court makes a final review of its verdict. The decision prompted angry protests by the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, which only ended after the government under Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to bar Bibi from leaving the country and to release a number of arrested protesters.
What is your reaction to the agreement reached between the fanatical group of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan and the government?
The agreement has sent a shiver down my spine. My family is frightened, my relatives are frightened and my friends are also frightened. This agreement should never have been struck. The three judges delivered the verdict after taking into account all aspects of the case, analyzing all factors, studying the contradictions and basing everything on facts. Therefore, the government should not have come to such an agreement. I think the Supreme Court should take notice of this.
What will happen now?
My wife, Asia Bibi, has already suffered greatly. She has spent ten years in jail. The verdict of the Supreme Court had created a ray of hope; we were excited that we would meet her soon. My daughters were dying to see her free, but now this review petition will prolong her plight. She will have to stay in jail until the review petition is decided.
Will there be pressure on the judiciary now?
The judiciary is very courageous. It has really decided the verdict on merit. But now during the review petition, the clerics might gather outside the Supreme Court and try to influence the verdict. It is wrong to set a precedent in which you pile pressure onto the judiciary. I went to session court, where I could see that the judge was under tremendous pressure to convict Asia. The lower court gave the decision against us but we did not threaten any judge, nor did we say anything against him. We went to Lahore High Court and the decision was upheld; we did not say anything against the judiciary, preferring to wait for years, but now when the decision has come in our favor these people want it to be reversed. Clerics want to prove that the Supreme Court is wrong. This is a negative trend. Despite all this we hope that the verdict will be decided on merit in the review petition.
Will you feel safe going to the Supreme Court to attend the review petition?
The current situation is very dangerous for us. We have no security and are hiding here and there, frequently changing our location. I think that the clerics will encircle the Supreme Court on the day of the hearing. I will really feel very afraid of going on that day. But I think God has been protecting us and he will also continue to protect us. I place all my trust in God.
What is the condition of Asia Bibi?
I did not meet her after this verdict, but when they reserved the verdict after the hearing I met her. At that time she said that she would accept whatever verdict the court would deliver. The situation is dangerous for Asia. I feel that her life is not secure. We must remember that two Christian men in Faisalabad were gunned down years ago after a court set them free. They were also accused of blasphemy. So, I appeal to the government to enhance Asia's security in jail.
This interview was conducted by S. Khan, DW Asia correspondent in Islamabad, and edited for clarity.
Experts say that an agreement between the government and Islamists to bar a Christian woman recently acquitted in a blasphemy case from leaving the country shows that radical groups are more powerful than the state.
When Prime Minister Imran Khan, who took office in August, addressed the nation on October 31, the day when the top court accepted Asia Bibi's appeal against her death sentence for alleged blasphemy, many observers hoped that the government would deal with agitating Islamists with an iron hand. Khan had warned the TLP not to mess with the state power. But the premier left for China the day after, and instead of taking stern action against TLP activists, his government surrendered to the group's demands by sealing a controversial agreement with Islamists.
But for three days the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party (TLP) managed to paralyze Pakistan's major cities, with its supporters blocking streets and highways and vandalizing private and public property. TLP leaders declared the Supreme Court judges who had acquitted Bibi infidels and urged their followers to assassinate them. The TLP had also called for a mutiny within the Pakistani military, with soldiers supportive of their Islamist narrative to oust General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the army chief.
According to the agreement, the TLP will end the nationwide protest (which it has); the government will release arrested protesters without charge; the government will not block a review of Bibi's acquittal in the Supreme Court, and most critically, will take measures to ban Bibi from leaving Pakistan. She and her family continue to receive death threats. Her lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, left for a European country Saturday morning, saying his life was under threat. Unconfirmed reports claim Mulook was heading to the UK.
"The government has promised to implement the agreement within 100 days. If it doesn't do it, our activists will take to the streets again," Pir Ejaz Shah, a TLP spokesman, told DW.
He denied claims that Pir Afzal Qadri, a senior TLP official, had apologized for criticizing the military. Instead, according to Shah the government officials apologized to them for hurting the sentiments of the Muslims through the Supreme Court acquittal verdict.
Bibi was arrested in June 2009, after her neighbors complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam's Prophet Muhammad. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death under the country's strict blasphemy laws, despite strong opposition from national and international human rights groups.
Pakistan's rights activists and civil society groups had lauded the top court's judges for their bold decision to overturn Bibi's death sentence.
"It is a historic ruling and will be helpful in promoting religious harmony," Ayub Malik, an Islamabad-based political analyst, told DW after the October 31 ruling. "Bibi's acquittal proves that most blasphemy cases in Pakistan are fabricated."
"This is a landmark verdict. The judges and lawyers have demonstrated great courage," Farzana Bari, an Islamabad-based rights activist, told DW.
"But the government's real test starts now, as it faces a backlash from extremists," Bari added.
But the way PM Khan's government "surrendered" to Islamists – and in such a short span of time – has left Pakistan's liberals baffled and scared.
"The government's writ has been weakened tremendously after it signed and agreement with the TLP. The move will further destabilize Pakistan and more groups like the TLP will now blackmail the state," Ali K. Chishti, a Karachi-based security analyst, told DW.
Waqas Ahmed Goraya, a blogger and activist based in the Netherlands, who was detained by Pakistani security agencies in January 2017 and subsequently released, told DW that the state has completely "lost its writ" after the agreement.
"If TLP leader Khadim Rizvi declares himself a caliph tomorrow and bring his supporters to the street, how would the Pakistani state deal with him?" said Goraya.
"All state institutions tried to avoid confrontation with Islamist protesters. The surrender will make Islamists more powerful and more resilient," he added.
Bibi's future and Pakistan's international isolation
Khalid Hameed Farooqi, a senior Pakistani journalist based in Brussels, says that while Bibi's acquittal decision was hailed by European diplomatic circles, the government's agreement with Islamists has damaged the country's image.
"The Pakistani rulers must understand that such moves will increase their country's international isolation. The deal has caused much harm,” Farooqi told DW.
The question remains whether Khan's government will put Bibi on the Exit Control List (ECL) and bar her foreign departure.
Zahid Gishkori, an Islamabad-based journalist associated with Geo TV, believes the government is only buying time and will not ban Bibi from travelling abroad. "Only the top court or the government can put her name on the ECL. I think PM Khan won't do that. Also, I don't see the acquittal review stand in the court of law as it was a unanimous verdict by Supreme Court's judges," Gishkori told DW.
Analyst Chishti says Bibi's future remains uncertain as "she is stuck in a friendly country's embassy awaiting documentation."
"The government-TLP agreement would not affect her departure. But it would make the lives of other blasphemy victims more difficult," Chishti said. "The government has failed; it has once again surrendered to fanatics."
Experts say Pakistan is heading toward more chaos, which is evident by the fact that a prominent religious leader, Maulana Sami Ul Haq, also known as "father of the Taliban," was assassinated by unknown attackers on Friday.