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Teaching Pakistan Studies: a relook July 28, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan Studies is taught as a compulsory subject in schools, colleges and universities in Pakistan. However, teaching of the subject leaves much to be desired. It needs to transcend its present narrow unimaginative and stodgy content and to go beyond the narration of mere facts and events within a repetitive ideological framework. This is especially so if the aim is to build socially conscious, progressive and robust-minded Pakistani youth who are abreast with regional/global developments and needs.

Pakistan Studies, as a subject, cannot be studied in isolation. Pakistan’s recent and past history is inextricably linked with Britain, India, West Asia and Central Asia. Every nation has its own version of history, narratives and heroes to eulogize and romanticize. Although our perspectives and heroes may not be the same as perceived by our neighbours, understanding the counter-narratives offered by others would make us more empathetic to them.

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Does Pakistan need soft power? Challenges and prospects (Part 2) July 3, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan lies at confluences of east, west and Central Asia. Although it has good relations with the Arab world it is intrinsically South Asian. Ties with India have to normalize as it is dragging both countries down. Since the 1990s, India has made a shift from hard power to soft power. Pakistan is a culturally diverse and rich country. It has Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and British influences. Exhibitions, road shows, student exchanges, art, sports and cultural visits of delegations can help build the soft power of a country. Propaganda can be part of soft power, but must be based on facts to be credible. Moreover, soft power employment is less competitive and involves lesser financial and material resources. It is the power of ideas, of attraction and persuasion, that are important. But if soft power becomes too condescending the real message could be easily lost.

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Does Pakistan need soft power? Challenges and prospects (Part I) July 2, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , Comment

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Non-traditional security has become more salient since the end of Cold War. Multiple issues, such as stagnating economies, adverse effects of climate change, energy crisis, repressive governments, cronyism and corruption, poor governance, cross-border interventions, refugees and internally displaced people, drug and criminal mafias – all necessitate revising the traditional security paradigm. Pakistan has also faced domestic turbulence in the last decade due to its proximity to war-wracked Afghanistan.

The term ‘soft power,’ coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye Jr., gained currency in the 1990s and is now widely used in international affairs by scholars and statesmen. ‘Soft power’ is the ability to seduce, persuade and convince through values that mankind holds dear: democracy, art, culture, human rights, welfare, good governance and societal harmony. Nye differentiates between two types of power: ‘Hard power’ is ‘the ability to get others to act in ways that are contrary to their initial preferences and strategies’ On the contrary, ‘soft power’ is the ability to get ‘others to want the outcomes that you want’ and more particularly, ‘the ability to achieve goals through attraction rather than coercion’. Finally, Nye introduces ‘smart power’ fusing hard and soft power. Nye does not reject the realist paradigm, which focuses on military power, but thinks that a discreet combination will make a country vibrant and internationally credible.

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Blurred lines: business and partying among Pakistan’s elite April 9, 2015

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Rosita Armytage

As we walk from the cul-de-sac clogged by Land Cruisers, Mercedes and BMWs towards a residence in one the city’s most exclusive suburbs, trickles of laughter and music drift down to greet us. Drivers emerge to open back doors, while the shalwar kameez clad workers of the construction site opposite survey the procession of suits and gowns from where they rest on tomorrow’s stacked bricks. A white-suited staff member leads us through the fairy-lit and manicured gardens, and a waiter descends with a tray of glasses of red and white wine, immediately offering to make my companion something stronger. Across the lawn, men in black suits stand about smoking, drinking whiskey and water, talking politics and business, while brightly decorated, bejeweled and kohl-lined women gather uneasily on couches, eyeing one another critically whilst loudly proclaiming how pleased they are to see each other.

This is Islamabad, and being invited to this party means you’ve made it: to a club where the grass is green, the liquor imported, and the wealth is unimaginable.

At parties like this one the lines between social and business networks blur, as one mingles with the highest tier of Pakistan’s commercial and political elite. Favor-giving and exclusive social networking are critical features of how big business gets done at the uppermost tier in Pakistan – or anywhere, really. But while these are universal characteristics of elite-level business, in the context of Pakistan’s weak regulatory structure the exclusionary element of this world is both compounded and solidified – serious profit-making depends on access to decision-makers and the influential people around them, and it is an access that is extremely difficult to obtain.  As a result, at its uppermost levels, the country’s economic system is closed, and the elite, not legal statutes, create, control, and guard their domain, serving as gatekeepers to those outsiders who might seek to gain entry.

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India-Pakistan relations: quo vadis? December 23, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

It is ironical that while India and Pakistan are jointly honoured with Nobel Peace Prizes they should be lately engaged in cross-border skirmishes along their borders.

The Indian view is that Pakistan first provoked the border tension by sending cross-border militants. Also, many Indians took umbrage over Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech in September 2014 UN General Assembly session in which he raised the Kashmir issue. Another contributory factor could have been the exceptionally warm reception by US during the UN session. The US “pivot Asia” policy has also encouraged India as a partner against China in East Asia. The Indian stance, moreover, maintains that the perpetrators of 2001 Mumbai attack have still not been punished by Pakistan.

Justifying cancellation of Indo-Pakistan secretary-level talks, it seems the Indian forays were meant to divert the focus of the Pakistan military from fighting in FATA. In the wake of the US military exit post-2014, so the argument goes, India would not let its bargaining position weaken vis-a-vis Pakistan.

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Malala and Salam: crusaders for education November 20, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Maqsudul Hasan Nuri

Pakistan has had the distinction of winning two Nobel Prizes in its nearly seven decades of existence: Professor Abdus Salam in science and recently Ms Malala Yusufzai for girl education. Salam had shared his prize with two others while Malala is co-winner with Kailash  Satyarathi – a committed Indian social activist for children education and rights.

Interestingly, both Nobel Laureates hail from humble backgrounds and belong to the lesser developed and remote regions of Pakistan: Swat in KPK and Jhang in Southern Punjab. The parents of both were school teachers but suffused with a passion for giving education to their wards; both prize-winners faced cynical reviews by many of their countrymen when they won the coveted Nobel Prize: Salam, for belonging to the Ahmadiyya community, while Malala for being a tribal, teenage girl – too young with insinuations of being exploited by Western motives. The cynicism has turned morbid that she or her family had allowed her to be deliberately shot at for attracting public attention and sympathy.

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Seeking accountability and failing to find it September 25, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Rosita Armytage

It started off fun. The Azadi (freedom) March led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman and former cricketer Imran Khan, and the Inquilab March (Revolution March) led by Tahir Ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) party have created a festival atmosphere in the nation’s capital of Islamabad. Both Khan and Qadri are demanding that elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif resign and have stated that they and their supporters will not leave the protest site until he does. Protest is an important part of democracy. But demanding the resignation of an elected leader, rather than a return to the ballot or a recount of the votes, is not democratic.

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Life for all: nourished now & forever? July 5, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

A Ercelan and Muhammad Ali Shah

In Pakistan, the right of expression is being increasingly eroded by actual assassinations and threats of assassination carried out by those who trade in religious militarism. Such acts of terrorism should not succeed in deflecting attention from increasing economic vulnerability. This is the reason for the following discussion.

This year, 2014 marks a decade for the UN Right to Food Guidelines. Their report for this year states in part that:

“[T]he right to food remains one of the most frequently violated of all human rights.  As such, the 41st session [of the UN] is an opportunity to generate a renewed political commitment towards advancing the implementation of the right to adequate food, as well as towards addressing the most important challenges in that regard, including: ensuring the primacy of human rights, human rights accountability, and human rights coherence at all levels.”

Yet, South Asian children and their mothers suffer endlessly; too many have even died because of hunger and malnutrition. Pakistan’s low and sluggish labour compensation accompanied by its high and rising prices for goods and services has even forced its Supreme Court to ponder the meaning of “dignified survival”. Yet despite their acknowledgement of widespread hunger, the Supreme Court did not seriously admonish the authorities for creating the causes of this hunger nor hold them responsible for its result, the untimely annual termination of hundreds of thousands of lives. This despite the fact that in Pakistan today, hunger and malnutrition kill vastly more people than the wars of terror. (more…)

Will China ‘wedge’ India and the US? June 5, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

Commentators have generally assumed that the Obama Administration’s wrong-footedness over Modi’s US visa, along with the latter’s pragmatic approach to Chinese investment in Gujarat, signal a new tilt by the BJP away from the United States and toward China. Neville Maxwell, writing in the Times of India, urges India to seize the opportunity offered by Modi’s election to achieve a border breakthrough with China.

Writing in the Global Times, Liu Zongyi, of the Shanghai Institute of International Studies, has hailed Modi as ‘India’s Nixon’ and characterised his pragmatic approach to the conduct of business and foreign relations as ‘very close to Chinese practices’.

India would certainly favour a thaw in relations with China so it can get on with the urgent task of infrastructure development and economic uplift of its people, including with Chinese investment in the otherwise etiolated international investment climate. If we take a long-term view, however, we can discern a number of wildcards that may complicate relations between India and China.

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Reign of radicalism in Pakistan April 30, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Pakistan , comments closed

Abdul Razaque Channa

In recent times, a lot has been articulated in the endeavour to understand the roots of radicalism in Pakistan. Based on the print media’s discourse, the Ziaul Haq rule remains the root of the present face of fundamentalism. A few columnists have even named two-thirds of the total population born after 1977 as ‘Zia’s children’. The question for deliberation is why they are called Zia’s children. Where are Quaid’s children? Why has there not been enough resistance if there were ever Quaid’s children? [Quaid refers to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.]

Right-wing politics and fundamentalist discourse have been engraved into the Pakistani masses and it is not a phenomenon created in 1977 or one that has arisen afterwards. In fact, its development is based in various regimes of power and its function is ubiquitous. The taxonomy of such regimes of power can be divided into four eras: pre-partition, post-partition (up to Zia), Ziaul Haq’s rule and finally post Ziaul Haq to today. During all these regimes, fundamentalist discourse based on binary opposition has succeeded significantly. By fundamentalist binary opposition I mean Muslims and non-Muslims (read, the infidel ‘kaafir’). The binary opposition has always existed in Pakistan. During pre-partition it was based on Hindus versus Muslims and after independence it was mixed up with Americans/Israelis/Indians versus Muslims.

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