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Is Pakistan the target of big powers?

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Though minor in strength and economy, Pakistan is among very important Muslim nations and hence enemies of Islam have destabilized it. Having maintained good relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan has played important roles in Islamic world but, unfortunately, also has been aiding the anti-Islamic nations as well. That is source s and cause of tragedy of Pakistan.

Pakistan played mediatory role between USA and China and brought them together in many ways and today, while USA has destabilized Pakistan, Beijing is seen subsidizing the American economy and capitalism, thereby boosting the imperialist tentacles of all anti-Islamic nations, globally.

Islamabad has not been able to identify or choose its allies. By helping USA and NATO in invading, terrorizing and destabilizing Afghanistan, Pakistan has committed a big sin, willingly or otherwise.

Friendly destabilization

It indeed unfortunate that right from its inception as a new soverign nation in Asia to look after the legitimate concerns of Muslims who hitherto had suffered heavily as a minority in united India under British rule, Pakistan has suffered mainly due to Indian ill-focus seeking make it a weak and destabilized nation. New Delhi has used all techniques to achieve its objective in Pakistan which now stands destabilized and economically weak.

Today Pakistan is being contained not just by India but by both USA and its new strategic partner India which has made efforts to shift its allegiance from Moscow to Washington to retain Jammu Kashmir’s occupational status. Pakistan while the sport Islamabad receives from china is unable to force the Indo-US duo moving about with Asia pivot to stay away from destabilizing Pakistan any further.

It appears, India also achieved to split US-Pakistan relations to some extent. A weak and destabilized Pakistan is the target of US led capitalist-imperialist nations which it has served so long for obtaining mere service charges. With US kicking its major non-NATO ally Pakistan in order to make India happy, Pakistan finds itself increasingly isolated.

Pakistan finds itself in isolation. Possibly Islamabad had never expected its NATO boss insult and abandon Pakistan once its objective of destabilization of Islamic Afghanistan.

Pakistan has never been a strong nation in any respect: in economy, politics technology, territory – not even promotion of Islamic faith as a Muslim nation in South Asia. As for sports and technology Pakistan is a failed state, unable to secure a firm policy for sports and technology except missiles and nukes, thanks to China. Today, Pakistan is big zero in intentional sports arena even in a fake sport called cricket which the Pakistani government promoted as the only “useful” sport for its 100s and 50s making Pakistani batboys the “proud sportsmen”.

In fact, in order to make Pakistan look a big zero even in false sport Cricket, jointly schemed against Pakistani bowlers and got them out of international cricket and Pakistan has to suffer because its American masters ask them to do more on genocides of Muslims in Pakistan and Afghanistan and earn the ”needy” service charges from USA and EU. Pakistan should also know part of money it receives from USA belongs to India which regularly pays huge sums for the continued support its Kashmir claim and for containing Pakistan.

Pathetically, Pakistan is not at all bothered about its weaknesses in every field as it makes its plans only to suit Indian strategic cases. This method caused Pakistan heavily for when India is moving fast in economy and technology, Pakistan is stand still, hoping the USA or China to help and do the thinking as well as for Islamabad. This has been the outcome of a dependent policy Pakistan has pursued so long and deliberate attempt to block non-rich and non-aristocratic families from ruling Pakistan.

Interestingly, all efforts by Pakistan to forge ties with Russia could not take off as both India and USA applied pressure on Moscow not to promote and help stabilize Islamic Pakistan. Russian President Putin was supposed to visit Pakistan on an official agreement but he abruptly cancelled the trip without even specifying the reasons for his harsh action. Obviously, Putin’s behavior belittling Islamabad made New Delhi happy and contented. China put India, seeking big status as being a strategic partner in its place by refusing to let it enter the NSG.

USA is well versed in all tricks of bullying Pakistan to coerce it do exactly what CIA wants. Recently, a former top American diplomat has said the USA should adopt a policy of “total isolation” against Pakistan to send a signal that it faces the prospect of becoming a “second North Korea” if it continues destabilising Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban and Haqqani network.

Such a policy would send a signal to Pakistan that it faces the prospect of becoming a “second North Korea” unless it changes its course on Afghanistan. Khalilzad was the highest ranking Muslim American in the history of the United States. He was the US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W Bush. He also served as the US ambassador to Afghanistan and headed the country s diplomatic mission in Iraq. “If Pakistan truly changes course, then the US should be willing to be supportive in a significant way. But we have to substantially escalate the cost of Pakistan’s hostile policy in Afghanistan,” he said.

Big exploitation

Obviously, USA exploited vulnerable Pakistan for its domestic and foreign needs as its alliance added credence to US lies. Following the Sept-11hoax, Washington easily bullied Islamabad to support the US cause by letting NTO use Pakistani territories for its anti-Islamic terror operations first targeting Islamizing Afghanistan and gradually killing Pakistanis themselves and its military personnel. Pakistan willingly supported all nefarious operations because of India factor.

Over decades of joint operations by USA-Israel on the one hand and USA-Pakistan-Turkey on the other made Pakistan a weak nation depending on foreign aid to sustain its military spending to catch up with fast rising Indian military. Not just a weak nation, but Pakistan is also rendered a slave nation now, unable to decide its requirements as USA refuses aid to Islamabad.

Had Pakistan not joined Indian agenda for invading Jammu Kashmir by annexing parts of Kashmir, perhaps, Pakistan as newly born soverign nation would have freely devised its plans and programs for the better designing of a strong Islamic state!

USA did not let Pakistan to become a strong Islamic nation to advance the Islamic curse along with other Muslim nations, especially Arab nations and Iran and Turkey, for instance. Later, USA made Pakistan a Muslim nation supporting led terror operation as Islam.

Today, Pakistan is a major pauper puppet regime of USA seeking for a comity of puppet nations in Islamic world.

Earlier, as Pakistan was all out supporting the NATO terror operations in Afghanistan, Washington had given Islamabad to understand that whenever, if at all, NATO leaves Afghanistan the USA would make Pakistan the controlling nation of Afghanistan plus all terror goods left behind in Afghanistan after the “war” would belling to Pakistani military. It was just a hard mischief played out on Pakistan to encourage the regime to actively participate in the genocides of Afghans which Pakistani military did in perfection. . .

In order to make things easy, USA has used India to upset Pakistan’s plan for future Afghanistan. “In the aftermath of the US drone attack killing Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, increase the pressure by suspending all assistance to Pakistan — military and civilian — and move towards isolating Pakistan internationally, including not supporting IMF renewal of financial support,” Zalmay Khalilzad, a former top American diplomat in the Bush Administration, said. Khalilzad, who played a key role America’s policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq after 9/11 terror attack, said the US should adopt a policy of “total isolation” against Pakistan.

India fails Pakistan

Right from the day one as a soverign nation Pakistan always has to be on the heels preparing for dealing with any deadly eventuality with India. Then onwards, Islamabad spent all its resources and entire attention on making WMD to take the nuclear challenge from New Delhi very seriously. And Pakistan also became a nuclear power. Like India, Pakistan also refused to sign the NPT after getting nukes arsenals.

Constantly ill-focused by its Hindu neighbor India from which it ceded to form a soverign nation meant for protection of Muslims and promotion of their genuine interests, Pakistan sought to protect its interests by aiding a capitalist-imperialist USA. USA also brought anti-Islamic Israel to be friends with Islamic Pakistan while Israel began selling terror goods to Hindutva India.

And, how far Pakistani military is strong or modern enough to face the new threats from all sources around is not clear as yet. Pakistani regime failed to protect its citizens, protect the interests of Islam because it (Musharraf) attacked the mosques, killing the Imams in order to protect the interests of foreign nations that are deadly anti-Islamic. Pakistan began thinking in US mode and refused to protect the Islamic faith and Muslim interests.

When India, with help from Soviet Russia, blasted it first bomb against all nuclear regulations of UN and IAEA, Pakistan became too scary and worried about its exultance as a weak nation vulnerable to Indian provocations.

The point is Pakistan’s energies were wasted on dealing with challenges of Hindu India as both share parts of neighboring Jammu Kashmir. In order to retain the parts of Jammu Kashmir they occupy in their own ways, both India and Pakistan used the nukes as deterrence.

As India got all sorts of help from Moscow, Pakistan leaned towards the USA for help, but the US help does not come free. As Pakistan moved to get aid cum military assistance from Washington as return favors for helping the anti-Islam8c forces in killing Muslims, Pakistani planning has fallen apart.

Pakistan has taken US help for granted and needs to understand the complexity of post Cold War and relations with Pakistan’s two neighboring states. Pakistan has absolutely failed to maintain robust relations with its all neighbors. Over years of over dependence on US money and terror goods for its existence has brought Pakistan to become a destabilized and confused state.

Surveying all its immediately neighboring countries except China, Pakistan has maintained ties with Nepal and Sri Lanka but failed to sustain good relations with Afghanistan, China, India and Iran. This indicates a failure of Pakistani foreign policy in a region that gave rise to its isolation, which will have serious existential repercussions in the long run.

Pakistan’s obsession with India has strained its western border, affecting its own Pashtun population on its side of the Durand Line, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. Movement across the Afghan-Pakistani border generates revenue for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The two countries exchange goods and services worth some 2.7 billion Euros ($3 billion) annually across the Durand Line. Despite the illegal trade and smuggling, both countries benefit a great deal from cross-border movement.

China factor

Even though a wrong notion was spread in the media about USA supporting and helping Pakistan, the fact is that it is China that has been helping Pakistan even with nuclear development. Both are not one of the fastest relationships developing in the world.

The idea of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor might work for its eastern border but not for its western border with Afghanistan, whose own dynamics must be recognized. The Durand Line as a border is much less relevant to ordinary citizens than to the state. Poverty, poor infrastructure, healthcare and other important state functions tend to be precarious on both sides, and the weak presence of the state has left locals on both sides to provide for their own needs. Pakistan needs to realize that hostile relations with Afghanistan are unsustainable in the light of its growing regional isolation.

Logic fails while Indian economy is steadily rising; Pakistan is getting weakened day by day. As India’s power in Afghanistan expands, especially its soft power, Pakistan is losing its position of economic and strategic privilege. Since India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, he has paid two visits to Afghanistan. On his first visit, he inaugurated the new Afghan parliament building that was built with the support of Indian government, while on his second visit on June 4, to the heart of Asia, he inaugurated the $290 million Indian-funded Salma Dam, one of the country’s biggest hydroelectric projects. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been dealing with the awkwardness of either stating its reputation or support for the Haqqani group or the Taliban insurgent leader Mullah Mansour, killed in a drone attack on its soil.

In fact, America’s Asia pivot targeting Russia and China has brought China still closer to Pakistan as India crawls faster toward USA and Israel- the nations that hate Islam and promote fascism and imperialism.

Weak Islamic faith and crisis

In fact, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia gave credence to American claims of Islamic terrorism and USA used both to propagate anti-Islamic themes, including Islamophobia. But o when it achieved the goal of killing millions of Muslims in what looks like a permanent war on Islam and making Islam look like terror religion, USA dropped Pakistan and adopted India as a strategic partner.

Pakistan has absolutely failed to maintain robust relations with its all neighbors. Surveying all its immediately neighboring countries except China, Pakistan has failed to sustain good relations with Afghanistan, China, India and Iran. This indicates a failure of Pakistani foreign policy in a region that gave rise to its isolation, which will have serious existential repercussions in the long run.

USA and its western allies have isolated Pakistan and Pakistani puppet regime is at fault for its facing isolation now. Pakistan is Islamic only in name sake and the fervor it had when the Islamic nation came into being in 1947 is no more in the vogue. US led war on terror or Islam has made Pakistan look like an anti-Islamic nation, helping all anti-Islamic nations on payment basis. Pakistan does not openly help India because of the Kashmir issue.

The post-9/11 involvement of the international community in Afghanistan and its commitment to quelling the Taliban-led insurgency have, however, left Pakistan regionally and internationally isolated, despite its involvement as a key ally in the War on Terror.

Pakistan readily agreed to US demand for Pakistani lands for the NATO troops to pass through to attack Afghanistan. Possibly Pakistan regime thought if it did not agree that would give opportunity to India on a platter and USA and India would jointly attack Pakistan on the lie that Osama has sneaked into Pakistani tribal areas.

Any way USA did attack Pakistan as well after the fall of Afghanistan even while Pakistan was helping the NATO, killing many civilians and military personnel.

Regionally, the leaders of Iran, India and Afghanistan have signed a historic deal to develop the strategic port of Chabahar in Iran, and agreed on a three-nation pact to build a transport-and-trade corridor through Afghanistan, which could not only help strengthen regional connectivity by boosting economic growth in the region, but by the same token reduce the time and cost of doing business with both Central Asia and Europe. Pakistan’s suspicion of India threatens to entrench relations of conflict and competition at the expense of cooperation and stability with all its neighbors. The knee-jerk reaction of Pakistan’s foreign policy to the Chabahar port was to close down the Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan and enforce visa restrictions for both sides of the Durand Line, leaving those on both sides in the lurch.

Many speculate that the tightening security at the Torkham border is a political move rather than a curb on militant activities

Sure of getting the left over arms of NATO forces in Afghanistan as well as the nation of Afghans for control after the NATO leaves it, Pakistan has failed to utilize the shared cultural, linguistic, economic and ethnic realities of its western borders, while India has moved in to execute huge economic development, both real and symbolic, of the Afghan state. Despite having a Pashtun president in power in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani establishment’s claim of having forged closer ties with Afghanistan’s Pashtun population, ties could not move beyond the historic burden of Pakistan’s deep involvement in Afghanistan.

India’s containment mechanism

The post-9/11 involvement of the international community in Afghanistan and its commitment to quelling the Taliban-led insurgency have, however, left Pakistan regionally and internationally isolated, despite its involvement as a key ally in the War on Terror.

Following the Kargil War in 1999 with India, Pakistan faced international isolation, and national anxieties shifted to its western border, in order to stave off the very real risk of nuclear escalation with India and continue with its proxy war in Afghanistan. Pakistani foreign-policy makers and mostly military elites thought that acquiring the upper hand in Afghanistan and containing the warring tribesmen next door would be a much easier task.

India has been exploiting the isolationist and weakened position of Pakistan to its own advantage.

Regionally, the leaders of Iran, India and Afghanistan have signed a historic deal to develop the strategic port of Chabahar in Iran, and agreed on a three-nation pact to build a transport-and-trade corridor through Afghanistan, which could not only help strengthen regional connectivity by boosting economic growth in the region, but by the same token reduce the time and cost of doing business with both Central Asia and Europe.

Pakistan’s suspicion of India threatens to entrench relations of conflict and competition at the expense of cooperation and stability with all its neighbors. The knee-jerk reaction of Pakistan’s foreign policy to the Chabahar port was to close down the Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan and enforce visa restrictions for both sides of the Durand Line, leaving those on both sides in the lurch.

The anti-Islamic and anti-Pakistan spirit that Indians and their teams display in tournaments is missing among Pakistani team and players. One gets the impression they don’t want India is defeated and they have to help India save its bi brotherly prestige as the deadly faces of a defeated Indian team would be horrible to watch. Or, maybe Pakistanis are really weak. Not very sure

Lessons

International relations are governed by two basic facts, rather plain truths: there is no free lunch and there are no permanent enemies and friendships in international politics. USA helped Pakistan for its own causes in South Asia and Mideast

Depending too much first on USA and now on China for their economic assistance and defending itself from possible Indian maneuvering and attacks, Pakistan does not seem to have any clear cut polices of their own but only follows what the USA and Saudi dictates, supported USA on its own to keep India out of US reach, but the US ally Saudi role in pressuring Islamabad to make Pakistan a safe place for the NATO terror gangs with its target on Islam and Muslims, their resources.

Pakistani policymakers regard the instability of the western border and its Pashtun population’s sacrifices rendered easier to deal with and placate than any disturbance on its eastern border of Punjab, in the context of Pakistan-India relations and engagement with Afghanistan.

Foreign-policy makers interpret the shift in border hostilities from east to west as being in the broader national interest of Pakistan, and they consider tragedies like the Peshawar Army Public School attack, where 140 children were mercilessly killed, or the young lives lost at Bacha Khan University, as collateral damage in the pursuit of Pakistan’s core national interests and territory, particularly Punjab.

Because of USA, Pakistan has failed to utilize the shared cultural, linguistic, economic and ethnic realities of its western borders, while India has moved in to execute huge economic development, both real and symbolic, of the Afghan state. Despite having a Pashtun president in power in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani establishment’s claim of having forged closer ties with Afghanistan’s Pashtun population, ties could not move beyond the historic burden of Pakistan’s deep involvement in Afghanistan.

USA knows too well that there are potential risks in isolating Pakistan, with continuing the current course in Afghanistan and Pakistan and therefore has called for having a contingency plan to deal with the nuclear scenario risks.

Indians say the role that Pakistan has played is that of a double game. It has signaled that it wants to be helpful to the USA in fighting terrorism and stabilizing Afghanistan. But in reality, it has been energetically supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network to achieve the very opposite. “That has been the essence of the Pakistan policy on Afghanistan,” they said.

A sovereign state’s foreign policy changes with the times, and according to its domestic needs and external changes in global politics. Nations have national interests, and there are no permanent enemies and friendships in international politics. Neighboring states can be a boon or a bane, depending on the ability to recognize one’s long-term interests of sustainable peace on its borders.

Pakistan currently has strained and difficult relations with all its neighbors except China which is helping with military and technological briefs.

While India has moved beyond the Cold war mindset, seeking profitable links with various countries of the ideological divide, Pakistan has been unable to define its foreign policy and national interests beyond a Cold War paradigm. An India-centric foreign policy, focusing on Kashmir as being a part of the country, has stalled Pakistan’s natural foreign-policy evolution and tainted its worldview of international politics. However, even though Pakistan is eager to make fronds with Russia, USA and India do not let Moscow pursue it sown foreign policy.

Even while Pakistan would try to formulate its foreign policy at macro and micro levels, it would still expect change of mind in Washington for easy money. That is the problem which Islamabad must confront and over come.

Time is overdue for Pakistani government to search for alternatives in politics, economics, foreign policy and international relations. It is quite likely Pakistan incapable of changes, and so it may not change at all. But for other Muslim countries seeking “ties” with enemies of Islam like USA, Israel and India have a fundamental lesson to learn from Pakistan’s bitter experience. .

South Asia

Rolling back militancy: Bangladesh looks to Saudi Arabia in a twist of irony

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Bangladesh, in a twist of irony, is looking to Saudi Arabia to fund a $ 1 billion plan to build hundreds of mosques and religious centres to counter militant Islam that for much of the past decade traced its roots to ultra-conservative strands of the faith promoted by a multi-billion dollar Saudi campaign.

The Bangladeshi plan constitutes the first effort by a Muslim country to enlist the kingdom whose crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return Saudi Arabia to an undefined form of ‘moderate Islam,’ in reverse engineering.

The plan would attempt to roll back the fallout of Saudi Arabia’s global investment of up to $100 billion over a period of four decades in support of ultra-conservative mosques, religious centres, and groups as an antidote to post-1979 Iranian revolutionary zeal.

Cooperation with Saudi Arabia and various countries, including Malaysia, has focused until now on countering extremism in cooperation with defense and security authorities rather than as a religious initiative.

Saudi religious authorities and Islamic scholars have long issued fatwas or religious opinions condemning political violence and extremism and accused jihadists of deviating from the true path of Islam.

The Saudi campaign, the largest public diplomacy effort in history, was, nevertheless, long abetted by opportunistic governments who played politics with religion as well as widespread discontent fuelled by the failure of governments to deliver public goods and services.

The Bangladeshi plan raises multiple questions, including whether the counter-narrative industry can produce results in the absence of effective government policies that address social, economic and political grievances.

It also begs the question whether change in Saudi Arabia has advanced to a stage in which the kingdom can claim that it has put its ultra-conservative and militant roots truly behind it. The answer to both questions is probably no.

In many ways, Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism and militancy, violent and non-violent, despite sharing common roots with the kingdom’s long-standing theological thinking and benefitting directly or indirectly from Saudi financial largess, has created a life of its own that no longer looks to the kingdom for guidance and support and is critical of the path on which Prince Mohammed has embarked.

The fallout of the Saudi campaign is evident in Asia not only in the rise of militancy in Bangladesh but also the degree to which concepts of supremacism and intolerance have taken root in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan. Those concepts are often expressed in discrimination, if not persecution of minorities like Shia Muslims and Ahmadis, and draconic anti-blasphemy measures by authorities, militants and vigilantes.

Bangladesh in past years witnessed a series of brutal killings of bloggers and intellectuals whom jihadists accused of atheism.

Moreover, basic freedoms in Bangladesh are being officially and unofficially curtailed in various forms as a result of domestic struggles originally enabled by successful Saudi pressure to amend the country’s secular constitution in 1975 to recognize Islam as its official religion. Saudi Arabia withheld recognition of the new state as well as financial support until the amendment was adopted four years after Bangladeshi independence.

In Indonesia, hard-line Islamic groups, led by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), earlier this month filed a blasphemy complaint against politician Sukmawati Sukarnoputri, a daughter of Indonesia’s founding father Sukarno and the younger sister of Megawati Sukarnoputri, who leads President Joko Widodo’s ruling party. The hardliners accuse Ms. Sukarnoputri of reciting a poem that allegedly insults Islam.

The groups last year accused Basuki Tjahaja Purnama aka Ahok, Jakarta’s former Christian governor, of blasphemy and spearheaded mass rallies that led to his ouster and jailing, a ruling that many believed was politicized and unjust.

Pakistan’s draconic anti-blasphemy law has created an environment that has allowed Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatives and powerful political forces to whip up popular emotion in pursuit of political objectives. The environment is symbolized by graffiti in the corridor of a courthouse In Islamabad that demanded that blasphemers be beheaded.

Pakistan last month designated Islamabad as a pilot project to regulate Friday prayer sermons in the city’s 1,003 mosques, of which only 86 are state-controlled, in a bid to curb hate speech, extremism and demonization of religions and communities.

The government has drafted a list of subjects that should be the focus of weekly Friday prayer sermons in a bid to prevent mosques being abused “to stir up sectarian hatred, demonise other religions and communities and promote extremism.” The subjects include women rights; Islamic principles of trade, cleanliness and health; and the importance of hard work, tolerance, and honesty.

However, they do not address legally enshrined discrimination of minorities like Ahmadis, who are viewed as heretics by orthodox Muslims. The list risked reinforcing supremacist and intolerant militancy by including the concept of the finality of the Prophet Mohammed that is often used as a whip to discriminate against minorities.

Raising questions about the degree of moderation that Saudi-funded mosques and religious centres in Bangladesh would propagate, Prince Mohammed, in his effort to saw off the rough edges of Saudi ultra-conservatism, has given no indication that he intends to repeal a law that defines atheists as terrorists.

A Saudi court last year condemned a man to death on charges of blasphemy and atheism. Another Saudi was a year earlier sentenced to ten years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing atheist sentiments on social media.

Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations have long lobbied for the criminalization of blasphemy in international law in moves that would legitimize curbs on free speech and growing Muslim intolerance towards any open discussion of their faith.

To be sure, Saudi Arabia cannot be held directly liable for much of the expression of supremacism, intolerance and anti-pluralism in the Muslim world. Yet, by the same token there is little doubt that Saudi propagation of ultra-conservatism frequently contributed to an enabling environment.

Prince Mohammed is at the beginning of his effort to moderate Saudi Islam and has yet to spell out in detail his vision of religious change. Beyond the issue of defining atheism as terrorism, Saudi Arabia also has yet to put an end to multiple ultra-conservative practices, including the principle of male guardianship that forces women to get the approval of a male relative for major decisions in their life.

Prince Mohammed has so far forced the country’s ultra-conservative religious establishment into subservience. That raises the question whether there has been real change in the establishment’s thinking or whether it is kowtowing to an autocratic leader.

In December, King Salman fired a government official for organizing a mixed gender fashion show after ultra-conservatives criticized the event on Twitter. The kingdom this week hosted its first ever Arab Fashion Week, for women only. Designers were obliged to adhere to strict dress codes banning transparent fabrics and the display of cleavages or clothing that bared knees.

In February, Saudi Arabia agreed to surrender control of the Great Mosque in Brussels after its efforts to install a more moderate administration failed to counter mounting Belgian criticism of alleged intolerance and supremacism propagated by mosque executives.

Efforts to moderate Islam in Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar, the world’s only other Wahhabi state that traces its ultra-conservatism to the teachings of 18th century preacher Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab, but has long interpreted them more liberally than the kingdom, have proven to be easier said than done.

Saudi King Abdullah, King Salman’s predecessor, positioned himself as a champion of interfaith dialogue and reached out to various groups in society including Shiites and women.

Yet, more than a decade of Saudi efforts to cleanse textbooks used at home and abroad have made significant progress but have yet to completely erase descriptions of alternative strands of Islam such as Shiism and Sufism in derogatory terms or eliminate advise to Muslims not to associate with Jews and Christians who are labelled kaffirs or unbelievers.

Raising questions about Saudi involvement in the Bangladeshi plan, a Human Rights Watch survey of religion textbooks produced by the Saudi education ministry for the 2016-2017 school year concluded that “as early as first grade, students in Saudi schools are being taught hatred toward all those perceived to be of a different faith or school of thought.”

Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle noted that Prince Mohammed has remained conspicuously silent about hate speech in textbooks as well as its use by officials and Islamic scholars connected to the government.

The New York-based Anti-Defamation League last year documented hate speech in Qatari mosques that was disseminated in Qatari media despite Qatar’s propagation of religious tolerance and outreach to American Jews as part of its effort to counter a United Arab Emirates-Saudi-led economic and diplomatic boycott of the Gulf state.

In one instance in December, Qatari preacher Muhammed al-Muraikhi described Jews in a sermon in Doha’s Imam Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab Mosque as “your deceitful, lying, treacherous, fornicating, intransigent enemy” who have “despoiled, corrupted, ruined, and killed, and will not stop.”

No doubt, Saudi Arabia, like Qatar, which much earlier moved away from puritan and literal Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism, is sincere in its intention to adopt more tolerant and pluralistic worldviews.

Getting from A to B, however, is a lengthy process. The question remains whether the kingdom has progressed to a degree that it can credibly help countries like Bangladesh deal with their demons even before having successfully put its own house in order.

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South Asia

Is India Fast Becoming a Dysfunctional Democracy?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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When hate invades the human mind, there is no limit to brutal atrocity.  On April 10, a  Guardian story included a video in which there is cheering as an Israeli sniper shoots an unarmed Palestinian a considerable distance away.  Shown on TV in Israel, it has been the subject of some introspective debate.  Then there is news from Kashmir to make anyone, but the perpetrators and their supporters, cringe in horror.

Eight-year old Asifa Bano went in the afternoon to the nearby forest, as she usually did, to bring back the family horses from grazing.  She never returned.  Family and friends searched all-night by flashlights but could not find her.  Five days later her body was found.

“She had been tortured,”  recalls her mother.  “Her legs were broken … Her nails had turned black and there were blue and red marks on her arm and fingers.”

Was this the work of a demented sadist?  No, it turns out.  It was a planned operation intended to terrorize her community of Muslim nomads (Gujjars) to leave this predominantly Hindu area about 45 miles east of Jammu City.

According to investigators, Asifa was taken to a temple where she was held for several days.  The eight-year old was repeatedly “raped for days, tortured and then murdered,” states the charge sheet.  She was strangled to death, then hit twice on the head with a stone.

A retired government officer, Sanji Ram aged 60, calmly planned this horror, aided by police officers Anand Dutta, Tilak Raj, Sunder Verma, and someone called Khajuria.  The outrage over the incident has grown since two ministers from the ruling BJP (Mr. Modi’s party) attended a rally in support of the accused.

Terrorizing Muslims in Kashmir is not new; it has been ongoing for decades.  But terrorizing Muslims, Dalits, Christians and indigenous peoples in India itself has now also mushroomed.

Six Christian churches have been burned since 2015, and a concerted attempt to boycott Christian businesses is underway in the northeast.  The killing of Muslims and Dalits by vigilantes on minor pretexts continues as the country’s democracy turns into a ‘mobocracy’.

It is ‘Democracy a la’ Modi’, a phrase that is the title of a long essay by scholars Sumit Ganguly and Krishna Menon in The National Interest (Jan/Feb 2018) — the title was changed to ‘Making India Great Again?’ in the internet version.  Mr. Modi and his party want to turn India’s “kaleidoscope of languages, religions, castes and cultures” into a culturally Hindu state, even a religious return to Hinduism for they believe that “many Hindus were forcibly converted to, or duped into adopting Islam and Christianity.”  Forget the Islamic injunction against forced conversion or the abundant evidence of tireless Christian missionaries including Mother Teresa.

The National Volunteer Force or RSS in their white shirt, khaki shorts uniform conduct martial drills and “serves as the party’s force multiplier and base”.  It demonizes the other creating the environment for vigilante lynchings of minorities — overwhelmingly Muslim note the authors — to continue with impunity.

“Attacks on minority communities have become common, and academics, students and journalists who highlight the harassment and intimidation are subjected to public calumny, and have occasionally been killed.”

Thus noted Hinduism scholar and University of Chicago divinity professor Wendy Doniger’s book, “The Hindus:  An Alternative History,” which presented a ‘new way of understanding’ Hinduism according to the publisher was banned as vulgar following a Hindutva campaign.  Much worse can happen.  Gauri Lankesh, a prominent woman journalist and critic of Hindu nationalist policies was shot dead outside her home in Bangalore last September.  A list of Indian journalists killed is on Wikipedia.  By the way, no reason has been given by The National Interest as to why the original title of the Ganguly/Menon article has been altered on their website.  Of course the published magazine carries the original title.

It was an RSS man — they claimed he was no longer a member — who assassinated Gandhi for his defense of minorities.  Mr. Modi joined the RSS in 1971 rising to become its National General Secretary.

Such is India today.

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South Asia

How John Bolton as NSA would Impact Pakistan?

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Despite the triumphs Pakistan has had in curbing terrorism, the NSA John Bolton doesn’t believe that Pakistan is internally strong enough to thwart an assumed Islamist takeover of the state.

President Trump on March 23rd announced in a tweet that he was removing H.R. McMaster from his post of National Security Advisor and that John Bolton would take over on April 9, 2018. In any event, President Trump’s arrangements of Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel, to head the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) respectively, aren’t sufficient of an omen, appointing John Bolton as the new National Security Advisor (NSA) solidifies that his foreign policy is going to wind up more forcefully than ever. Bolton will fill in as Trump’s third advisor after Michael Flynn and Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster.

Moreover, Bolton is one of the supposed ‘many people’ who believe that Pakistan’s security agencies are under Islamists’ influence, a suspicion that then manages the US narrative on Pakistan which resultantly paints Pakistan not as a ‘non-NATO’ ally but rather as an adversary; the main cause behind its failure in Afghanistan.

The Bolton account, as is apparent, fits pleasantly into India’s worldwide pro-terrorist projections of Pakistan. Not only will it add to Pakistan’s long list of issues at the international level, for example, the threat of being blacklisted by FATF, in addition it will be instrumental in tilting the regional balance of power in favor of India.

Moreover, it is clear that John Bolton thinks differently about China-Pak ties, as he believes that the US may end up gifting Pakistan to China if the US keeps on putting excessive pressure on Pakistan to do more. He rather suggests in his article for the Wall Street Journal, that the US should utilize its leverage on China to induce Pakistan to ‘sever ties with terrorists and close their sanctuaries. The Trump administration should make it clear that Beijing will face consequences if it does not realize its massive interests in support of this goal.”

Unmistakably John Bolton, particularly like President Trump, needs to squeeze Pakistan; however, he wouldn’t like to do as such by forcing sanctions on Pakistan or by removing the military aid. Rather, his approach is to take action by utilizing India in its strategy of isolating Pakistan and by pressing its significant partner, China.

And whilst John Bolton doesn’t rely on pushing Pakistan too hard, the reason isn’t that he is understanding of Pakistan’s triumphs and forfeits but since he thinks pushing too hard would actualize Pakistan’s assumed control by the terrorist outfits. In an interview given in August last year, he stated: ‘If you push Pakistan too hard, this government in Pakistan is fragile. It has been since the partition of British India. The military in Pakistan itself is at risk, increasingly, of being infiltrated through the officer ranks by radical Islamists. Many people believe the intelligence services unit already is heavily dominated by Islamists.’

In a nutshell South Asia is in a critical need for a careful approach and policy reevaluation from the US government. Be that as it may, if there is one individual with the ability to keep away from disaster, it is simply the President himself. Regardless of whether President Trump has the will to persuade his new team to take part in diplomacy over war-plotting, yet remains to be seen. It is, in this manner, up to Islamabad to ponder the most significant reaction to the possible outcome. Pakistan may only be able to neutralize Bolton’s hostility by drawing him into tactful diplomacy. Any other plans to the contrary, including reciprocating that animosity, are probably going to backfire.

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