>CPGS conducted a webinar on “POST COVID-19 RELEVANCE OF BRI: FOCUS ON CPEC” on Tuesday 19th May, 2020. Guest speakers brought the different aspects of the subject matter to light including the exclusivity of CPEC, Indian concerns and efforts to sabotage CPEC, security perspective of CPEC, American context in CPEC and possibilities that the CPEC holds for the future of Balochistan. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is considered as the most important economic project after the “Marshall Plan” to reconstruct the war-torn Europe. Although spread over 70 countries stretched over three continents (Asia, Europe and Africa), BRI is a world level game changer. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) can be considered as the core of BRI. It will provide land route to world’s largest oil seeker to the world’s 3rd largest oil reservoirs. It will also provide cheap and shortest route to Chinese industry to purchase raw material and sell their goods. CPEC is not only pivotal to China but is equally important for Pakistan. Tying this knot will present Pakistan as China’s strategic partner and will help bring the political isolation of Pakistan to an end. Pakistan and the region at large facing waves of terrorism will bring other stakeholders onboard in order to prevent active to terrorism. Every economic activity needs peace, so Pakistan will have many partners to maintain law and order on its soil and eventually make the region stable and peaceful. Pakistan is facing state terrorism along Line of Control (LoC) and eastern border is in dire need of more partners to face the challenge and CPEC will ensure that success as well.

By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Apr 10, 2020

“Public health is really closely tied to the social, political and economic issues of the world. Where they go awry, public health can quickly go awry.”

– Michael Osterholm

The world is currently grappling with the yet untamable monster of COVID-19, as the global tally of people infected is on an upward march. Until 10th April, 2020 early morning, more than 1,596,496 have been tested positive for the virus globally; with more than 95,506 dead, and 354,006 recovered. As clichéd as it sounds, the world as we knew has completely changed. Undoubtedly, the post COVID-19 world will have a different reality, as compared to the one we were living in.

From increased distrust of global institutions erected post World War II (especially financial ones), to a growing international skepticism and waning trust between states, rise of authoritarianism, and a surging state surveillance impinging upon citizen’s privacy are some of the long-term impacts of this pandemic, which are going to re-shape the world.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the world is officially in a global recession. The fund stated that this recession would be worse than the one following the 2008 economic crisis with no respite in sight. Undeniably, the pandemic has injected a lot of economic uncertainty across the globe with almost the entire world in a shutdown mode. In the first three months of 2020, the global stock markets have crashed around by 30 percent. The longer the lockdown lasts, the worse the economic conditions will get. The global supply chains have been upended, and it will take time for them to become functional again. An unprecedented level of unemployment is on the rise globally, with no clarity on when businesses will open and normal life will resume. Though researchers are on task to find a vaccine and treatments for the virus but it will take time, from some months to year or more, until then social distancing and lockdown is the only way forward to break the transmission chain and contain the spread of pandemic.

The third world countries will be hit the hardest. As per the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report released on 30th March stated that, “developing countries, including Pakistan, will be hit hardest by the economic shockwaves caused by the novel coronavirus crisis that has shaken the world and will need a support package of up to $2.5 trillion to cope with the damage.”

The wave of economic distress across the globe will further erode the perception of international organizations like the UN, IMF, and WTO etc. which have already been under severe criticism from different quarters. The states will adopt more inward policies in order to protect their interests and it will have a negative impact on global trade and cooperation.

The bilateral cooperation between states which was already under strain prior to the pandemic will further weaken. The countries will view each other with more skepticism and the transparency in relations will further erode. The US intelligence has alleged that China has hid the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak which aggravated the situation globally and is not revealing the real number of pandemic casualties, so much so that the US President went ahead and termed the novel coronavirus as the “Chinese virus.” Moreover, these allegations against China are now being echoed by the rest of the world as well, as they hold Beijing’s silence complicit in the spread of the virus. China has rejected these accusations.

One of the after-effects of the pandemic is going to be the undermining of democracy as an institution and an increase in authoritarianism around the world. A glimpse of this has been seen already in the form of Hungary’s new “Corona Virus laws”, which give the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban sweeping new powers, without any time limit. Although the EU and others have criticized this move, it is worrying that other states are considering to implement similar measures. Authoritarianism is creeping slowly and steadily into the power capitals of Europe and other regions, where populist leaders are ‘using the pandemic as an excuse to tighten control over their countries.’

Another victim of the post COVID-19 world will be the civil liberties and privacy of citizens. Currently, several states like Iran, China and Israel have launched coronavirus applications to monitor location of its citizens. Such measures can continue post the pandemic with States making news laws infringing upon citizen’s privacy with an increased electronic surveillance in the name of protection.

One of the positive impact amidst all this, which has already been announced, is the ban on the consumption and farming of wild animals by China. This step will help in curtailing any future epidemic or disease which might spread from the eating or trading of wild animals.

In order to prevent a future epidemic or pandemic, developed countries, multinational corporations and conglomerates will now invest more in research and development, because the novel coronavirus has shaken the foundations of the global economic system and exposed the world’s lack of preparedness to fight this deadly disease. It is hoped that in the post COVID-19 world, states would review their strategies, and will give scientists and healthcare professionals their due in protecting the people.

History is witness that humanity has overcome a number of deadly pandemics and epidemics over the centuries. Undoubtedly, the world will come out of this pandemic albeit shaken but not broken. The human spirit will prevail. The complete financial and political repercussions of this pandemic will only come to the forefront after it is over, but it must not stop the cooperation between states because only by working together, we can achieve milestones and miracles.

The writer is the founder and Patron in Chief of a non-partisan think tank; the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), she is a prominent politician, academician and practitioner in the areas of regional, international defense and strategic studies. She has served as an elected Member of the Upper House of Parliament of Islamic Republic of Pakistan from 2012-2018, until May 2019 she was the Member Senate of Pakistan Forum for Policy Research (SFPR). She has also remained the member of Senate committees on Defence, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and the convener of the Pakistan-Saudi Parliamentary Friendship Group at the Senate of Pakistan. Twitter @SeharKamran

OpEd by Senator Sehar Kamran(TI)
Mar 23, 2020

“No constitutional plan would be workable in a country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, namely, that the geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should also be constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign….”

81 years ago, these were the words which formed the basis of the famous resolution, later came to be known as the ‘Pakistan Resolution’, on 23rd March, 1940. During the 27th annual session of All India Muslim League held under the Chairmanship of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the resolution was moved by the Chief Minister of Bengal Maulvi Fazal-ul-Haq and seconded by Chaudhri Khaliq-uz-Zaman. It was unanimously accepted. It was a watershed moment because for the first time in the history of the region, the majority of the 80 million Muslims living in the Sub-Continent called for the establishment of a separate nation, and the calls for a separate electorate changed into a quest for an independent homeland, where they could live freely and practice their beliefs in the manner they chose.

Originally called the Lahore Resolution comprised of five paragraphs, and each was a sentence long. Amon the lesser known facts about the resolution is that it was passed on 24th March, 1940 and was presented on the 23rd. The name Pakistan was nowhere mentioned in the resolution, in fact, the term ‘Pakistan Resolution’ was given by the hostile Hindu press following this convention. The Muslim League adopted it and thus Lahore Resolution came to be known as the Pakistan Resolution.

The founding fathers of the country shared a vision of a pluralistic, egalitarian, peaceful, and prosperous homeland, where all citizens would be treated equally irrespective of their religion, cast, culture, and background. This was even mentioned in the Lahore (Pakistan) Resolution which stated, “Adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative, and other rights.”

It was only because of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s will and determination that Muslims of the Subcontinent were able to achieve Pakistan only after seven years, in 1947. It was Jinnah’s farsightedness that he foresaw what would happen if Muslims lived under a Congress-led Hindu majoritarian government.

Today, we see in India how Muslims are being treated as second class citizens by the RSS-inspired Hindu nationalist government. How their rights are being curbed and an organised state brutality is being unleashed against them, just because of their religion.

The plight of the people of the Indian-held Kashmir must also be remembered. Kashmiris have been in a state of forced lockdown and curfew since August 5, 2019. The Indian government’s highhandedness in dealing with the people of Kashmir has even made its former allies admit that perhaps their ancestors made a wrong choice in ceding with India. As the Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in an interview said, “We have been let down by the same nation we ceded to” and that “it seemed as though the state had made the “wrong choice” in aligning with India rather than Pakistan during partition in 1947.”

Despite the naysayer’s, Pakistan became a reality and will continue to exist until the world does. Undoubtedly, the country faces a myriad of internal and external challenges, but as history bears witness, we as a nation have the ability to defy the odds and emerge successful.

As we are aware that world is currently facing an outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Without any globally available antidote or vaccine, this virus infection has the ability to wreak havoc on the global economies and the way people lead their lives all around may also change forever. The complete financial and political repercussions of this pandemic will only come to the forefront after it is over, but undoubtedly it has already shaken the foundations of the global economic system and exposed the world’s lack of preparedness to fight a deadly disease. Pakistan, too is in the throes of this pandemic with cases increasing exponentially by every passing day.

We as citizens can prevent and fight off this virus by adopting our founding father Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s motto of ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline.’ The people of Pakistan are resilient and have successfully faced many extreme challenges, and this infection too requires unity and cooperation from the people. As a nation we must act responsibly and commit to our national duty of adopting preventing measures like self-isolation, and keeping the vulnerable segment of society safe. On this Pakistan Resolution day, we must adhere to the principles of Jinnah and defeat this pandemic by acting as responsible citizens and adopting cautionary steps. If we stay united and resolute, we can emerge victorious.

The writer is the founder and Patron in Chief of a non-partisan think tank; the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), she is a prominent politician, academician and practitioner in the areas of regional, international defense and strategic studies. She has served as an elected Member of the Upper House of Parliament of Islamic Republic of Pakistan from 2012-2018, until May 2019 she was the Member Senate of Pakistan Forum for Policy Research (SFPR). She has also remained the member of Senate committees on Defence, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and the convener of the Pakistan-Saudi Parliamentary Friendship Group at the Senate of Pakistan. Twitter @SeharKamran

By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
March 09, 2020

“First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”

—Martin Niemöller

In the last week of February, amid the ongoing riots and violent protests, the US President Donald Trump concluded his first two-day trip to India since assuming office in 2016. Trump’s visit to India highlighted the significance of the Indo-US relationship and took place ahead of the upcoming Presidential election, which will take place later this year. India is one of the few countries in the world where Trump’s personal approval rating is above 50 per cent. This visit marked the fifth meet in eight months between the two leaders.

The reason behind Trump’s visit to New Delhi was multifold. The first, obviously being the trade deals. Currently, the bilateral trade between the two countries stands at $160 billion dollars. It is no secret that President Trump wanted to secure a big trade deal in his election year, to please the domestic audience with his ‘deal-making skills’, but no such breakthrough took place. One development which needs to be noticed is the fact that prior to Trump’s visit, the US stripped India from ‘its list of developing countries that are exempt from investigations into whether they harm American industry with unfairly subsidized exports.’ It means that India will now be unable to reap the GSP benefits under the trade deal which is being negotiated between the two countries.

The second reason behind the visit was the China factor. It is no secret that the US-China relations during Trump’s tenure in office have been rocky, to say the least. The American President has not hesitated to censure Beijing on a number of issues, the foremost being trade agreements. Similarly, India fears China’s ever-increasing rise in the region, and has time and again presented itself as a regional counterweight. This visit to India has reiterated the strategic significance New Delhi holds for Washington. The US and India concluded a $3 billion deal. Under the agreement, New Delhi will buy ‘24 SeaHawk helicopters from Lockheed Martin equipped with Hellfire missiles and has plans to order six Apache helicopters.’ Apart from this, no major breakthrough deals occurred during this visit. The defence agreement can be viewed as a move to balance the rise of China in the region.

The third reason for this visit is the US domestic politics, upcoming elections, and appeasing the Indian American voters. Approximately 4.5 million people of Indian origin reside in the US, and they are a growing political force in the country. Many of them support Trump on his anti-Muslim rhetoric and appreciate his close friendship with the Indian Premiere Modi, especially the Hindu nationalists. These voters can play an important role in clinching the second Presidential term for Trump. This became evident as immediately after Trump’s visit to India, his ‘campaign launched a five-figure digital ad buy targeting Indian Americans.’ It is the first time that a Republican candidate is targeting this demographic on such a big scale. According to a senior official, the ad campaign is set to run for two weeks and it is currently targeting users on ‘Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, streaming services and other online publishers.’

Upon his arrival, the US President was given what was described as a “King’s welcome”. A “Namaste Trump” rally was held in the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It was attended by more than 100,000 people. However, despite the publicity and much hoopla created by the Indian government and officials, the US President’s visit was overshadowed by communal violence which resulted in the death of at least 47 people in the Capital city of New Delhi.

Even though when asked about the matter of India’s treatment of its minorities, the US President Trump tried to underplay the communal violence and the Indian state’s deliberate targeting of Indian Muslims through its controversial Citizen Amendment Act, by stating “that’s up to India”. His comments drew censure from all segments both nationally and internationally, including the Democratic Presidential nominee Senator Bernie Sanders who tweeted that President Trump’s refusal to address New Delhi’s mistreatment of Muslims was “a failure of leadership on human rights.”

The rising intolerance, religious extremism, communal violence, and deliberate targeting of the Indian Muslims by the RSS-led Hindu Nationalist government of Premiere Narendra Modi is a point of grave concern. Trump’s visit to India and the consequent violence which took place amplified the morose state of Indian Muslims and the organised state brutality being unleashed against them, just because of their religion.
It is no secret that the ground situation is indeed dire in India, and the world is not paying enough attention. The anti-Muslims programme being carried out by the extremist Hindutva government of PM Narendra Modi bears the hallmarks of the Nazi Kristallnacht. It seems, once again, history is repeating itself. The world powers must exert pressure on India and call New Delhi out on the inhumane treatment of its minorities because the worsening social and religio-political situation in India can jeopardise the peace of this already volatile region and the world, which is something nobody can afford at the moment.

Same version of the article appeared in The Nation

By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Mar 7, 2020

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal – Martin Luther King, Jr It has been more than 18 years since the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, and initiated Operation Enduring Freedom.

To this day, the war has cost more than 700 billion dollars resulted in the killing of hundreds and thousands. An entire generation of Afghans has grown up under the shadow of war and conflict. Rounds and rounds of dialogue have been held between the conflicting parties to achieve peace in Afghanistan, but they only added to the uncertainty. As the US Presidential reelection date drew near, there was a growing fear especially among the regional countries that the US may suddenly announce its unilateral withdrawal just like it did in Syria. As it would further plunge the entire region in a new wave of violence and bloodshed which the region cannot afford. This fear and perceptions were led to rest on 29th February, when the US signed a historic peace deal with the Taliban in Doha. The four-part accord was signed by the US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, whereas the Taliban delegation was headed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The agreement ceremony was attended by the foreign ministers and other representatives from 50 countries. This deal provides a withdrawal to the US and foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the course of next 14 months. It was also announced 10th March ‘as the date for an intra-Afghan dialogue with Ghani’s government’.

As per the newly signed deal, within 135 days the number of US troops in Afghanistan would be reduced from 13,000 to 8,600. Washington would work ‘with its allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan over that period if the Taliban adhere to their commitments.’ Taliban have also agreed to not use Afghan soil for launching attacks on other countries. The Doha agreement is significant because, for the first time in over 18 years, the two warring parties have agreed upon a conclusive peace deal. It also comes at a crucial time, right before the US Presidential elections which are set to take place this year. This peace agreement can prove to be beneficial for President Trump in his reelection bid because it would fulfil his promise of ending the Afghan conflict and bringing the US troops home, something which his republican and democratic predecessors have failed to achieve.

However, there are still many challenges in the way of achieving this peace deal. Iran, an important player in the Afghan conflict has already rejected this agreement. The biggest threat to the future of this deal comes from the Afghan government. Even though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stated that he hoped “the US-Taliban peace [deal] will lead to a permanent ceasefire,” but just after a day of the accord, rejected the clause of prisoner swapping included in the agreement, stating that it was not the US’s place to decide for the government. It is no secret that there has been a constant power struggle within the Afghan administration. Last year, President Ghani fired his foreign ministry spokesman Sibghatullah Ahmadi for his welcome remarks over Pakistan’s talks with the Taliban. It is no secret that Ashraf Ghani and his allies will lose power if this agreement becomes successful. Perhaps, it is one of the reasons why Afghan ruling elite has been resisting and advocating against the peace talks. Apart from the Taliban, the US, and the Afghan government, the biggest stakeholder in this long-standing conflict has been Pakistan.

After Afghanistan, Pakistan has burnt the impact of this long-standing conflict the most. The country’s socioeconomic fabric has been significantly damaged owing to this prolonged dispute. Despite a plethora of challenges and limitations, no one can deny the constructive role played by Islamabad in the success of this agreement. On a number of occasions, President Trump and Ambassador Khalilzad along with others have applauded Pakistan’s contributions and positive role in not only bringing the Taliban to the negotiation table, but working towards establishing a long-lasting peace in its neighbourhood. It is important that Islamabad proceeds with caution. The state of Pakistan must ensure that its interests remain protected in whatever form of government eventually takes office in Kabul. As Islamabad has always maintained that peace in Pakistan can only be ensured if there is peace in Afghanistan, and the country firmly believes in the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliatory efforts.

Undoubtedly, the next 14 months are going to be crucial for the region. Will this peace deal stand the test of times? It is only hoped that both parties will adhere to the agreement, and ensure that peace is fully achieved. However, only time can tell about the durability of this peace deal. For the sake of Afghan people, their future, and this region – let us hope that peace finally comes to Afghanistan. The country and this region has seen enough bloodshed and destruction to last a lifetime.

Same version of the article appeared in The Nation

By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Feb 24, 2020

Pakistan is facing a myriad of challenges. Some of them are unavoidable while others are self-created. The recent increase in the price of everyday commodities, especially food items, has affected all segments of society. Lack of an economic vision along with policy dictation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), poor governance, administrative inexperience, and official incompetence are some of the factors that have led to the spiraling cost of living in the country.

According to the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, inflation jumped from 12.6 percent in December to 14.6 percent in January, scaling the highest level in the last 12 years. The PBS figures also suggest that inflation has hit the rural areas more than the urban ones because the majority of the country’s population resides in small towns and villages.

Economic experts have attributed the rising inflation to the IMF bailout package that was approved last year. It is no secret that the Fund has indirectly dictated Pakistan’s economic and fiscal policies for nearly a year now. The current government has been unable to strike a balance between IMF demands and the economic necessities of vulnerable social segments. Instead of mitigating the impact of food inflation on the marginalized, officials are taking cosmetic measures such as launching crackdowns against alleged hoarders. Over the years however, we have seen that such measures do not yield substantial results but only trigger panic and instability on the ground. In addition, the constant hikes in electricity and gas prices have not only directly contributed to the increase in inflation but has hit the common man the most in economic terms.

Incompetence accompanied by hubris is a recipe for disaster. The present government needs to realize that it cannot continue with its knee-jerk responses and myopic economic policies anymore

Sehar Kamran

According to the IMF, GDP growth is projected at 2.4 percent in the current fiscal year which constitutes a sharp decline from 5.8 percent in 2018. Similarly, the Fund has noted that there will be a rise in inflation and unemployment in the coming months. It predicted that unemployment will be 6.2 percent higher than in 2018 and 2019 when it stood at 6.1 percent.

Ever since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government assumed the country’s political power in August 2018, the economic condition has taken a turn for the worse. When the ruling party came into power, it promised to create 10 million jobs in five years. Instead of generating more employment opportunities, however, it has even threatened existing ones.

GDP growth has drastically decreased which has resulted in an economic slowdown and unemployment. Every sector of the economy is suffering due to the lack of proper policy and direction. Government officials claim that they have a plan, but their statements are not translating into anything substantial on the ground. The instability and confusion in the economic realm is growing with each passing day.

It is feared that before the official 2020 budget, a mini-budget will be unveiled owing to the Federal Board of Revenue’s tax collection shortfall of Rs. 387 billion in the first seven months of this fiscal year. Experts say the shortfall may reach Rs. 700 billion by June this year if there is no [mini] budget. To make matters worse, the position of FBR chairman is currently vacant. The indecision of the PTI government is hurting ordinary citizens. Some economists have predicted the worsening situation might push at least 1.8 million people into poverty during the present fiscal year.

Incompetence accompanied by hubris is a recipe for disaster. The present government needs to realize that it cannot continue with its knee-jerk responses and myopic policies anymore. The country’s economy is struggling, and things are only getting worse. The monetary terms being dictated by the IMF at the cost of the livelihood of ordinary Pakistanis are unacceptable because the poor cannot keep up with rising inflation. It is impacting their quality of life and will inevitably generate a massive socioeconomic backlash in the longer run.

The incumbent government cannot continue blaming previous administrations for its own inaction and lack of economic foresight. Unfortunately, the hesitation and delay in taking important decisions have already cost the country much. People are rightly getting impatient since the current situation is no longer sustainable.

*Sehar Kamran is teh President of the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), she is a prominent politician, acadmeician and practitioner in the areas of regional, international defense and strategic studies. Twitter @SeharKamran

Same version of the article appeared in The Arab News

Same version of the article appeared in Seharkamran.com

Senator Sehar Kamran
Feb 08, 2020

 You can’t have occupation and human rights.”? Christopher Hitchens

Last week, the US President Trump unveiled a 181-page Middle East peace plan. This much hyped and long-awaited plan was termed as the “deal of the century” by the American President. It has been crafted by Jared Kushner, Trump’s inexperienced son-in-law who is also currently serving as the senior White House advisor, along with Jason Greenblatt former lawyer in the Trump Organisation, and David Friedman, the US Ambassador to Israel famous for his pro-settlement stance.

It didn’t come as a surprise when this much touted but one-sided peace plan which has been in the making since President Trump took office was declared dead on its arrival by the Palestinian authorities. The credibility of this plan was evident from the fact that Palestinians were kept out of the negotiations and deliberations, and only the Israeli leadership was facilitated. US President hosted both the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political opponent Benny Gantz at the White House, for discussions. Despite being the most important stakeholder to the conflict, the Palestinian leadership was not consulted, thereby leaving a big question mark on the credibility and viability of this proposal.

The plan as envisioned by President Trump retains the concept of the two-state solution previously pitched by the American administrations. According to an image of the concept map, tweetedby the American President on the social blogging website Twitter, showed an even shrunk version of the state of Palestine than that proposed in the 1993 Oslo peace agreement.

It proposes making Jerusalem the capital of undivided Israel, whereas Palestinians would be allowed a form of sub-capital on the outskirts of the city, handing over control of over some 30 percent of the West Bank including the Jordan Valley to Israel.

The most contentious points of the plansuggeststhat on the West Bank, Israel would stop building new settlements for four years if Palestinian authorities recognize Israeli sovereignty over the existing settlements, which have been deemed illegal under the international law. During this timeframe, a Palestinian statehood will be ‘negotiated’. It should be noted that since Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, approximately 140 settlements have been built in which more than 600,000 Jews reside.

In addition, this plan which resembles the talking points of Israel’s administration ‘offers a path to some form of Palestinian statehood but with no army.’ So much so that sovereignty over Gaza’s territorial waters is proposed to be handed over to Israel. The preconditions to a Palestinian independence also include “complete dismantling of Hamas”, which governs Gaza. It also refuses the Palestinian refugees their “right of return” to their homes, in areas now comprising Israel, as a result of Palestinian territory loss in previous conflicts.

At best, this half-baked, one-sided proposed peace plan seems to have no future apart from the fact that it may help President Trump in his reelection bid, later this year. The timing of thisproposal is significant as it intends to target one of the strongest voting blocks of Republican Party and President Trump himself – namely the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the evangelical Christians and conservative Jewish Americans. Also, it may provide a temporary relief to both the US President Trump from his ongoing impeachment proceedings, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who is facing three sets of corruption charges.

It is notable that President Trump’s peace plan has received a lukewarm response from the United Nations andthe European states. While the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and Arab League have rejected Trump’s proposed peace plan, the Arab states reaction can be best described as muted and divided.
Despite maintaining some reservations, important Arab states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Morocco have come out in support of the US President’s efforts to establish peace in the Middle East, but have withheld their endorsement of this proposal. On the other hand, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Tunisia, and Algeria have categorically rejected it.

Pakistan has always demonstrated its support and firm position for the “establishment of a viable, independent and contiguous State of Palestine, on the basis of internationally-agreed parameters, the pre-1967 borders, and with Al-Quds Al-Sharif [Jerusalem] as its capital”. It is significant that Islamabad continues its diplomatic support for the cause of Palestine and stands with the Palestinian brethren in their time of need in the global arena.

This latest diplomatic treachery against the cause and people of Palestine will not be the last one, the onus lies on the international community to recognize its commitments and United Nations resolutions made on Palestine.

It is no secret that the Middle East peace process will only be successful when the grievances of the people of Palestine are acknowledged and international resolutions regarding the Palestinian issue, honored. Palestinians are an equal party to the conflict, and any proposal which legitimizes Israel’s occupation will not be accepted by Muslims around the world. It is not an exaggeration to state that there is no future to this proposed Middle East peace plan, as it will only fuel resentment and anger in the already troubled region.

Same version of this article is posted on The Financial Daily

US-Iran Escalation in Middle East: Implications and Way Forward for Pakistan

US-Iran Escalation in Middle East: Implications and Way Forward for Pakistan


The Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies Islamabad (CPGS) organized a Round Table Conference at Islamabad on 10th January 2020, in the wake of rising tensions in Middle East after a series of skirmishes between Iran and the United States (US).

Middle East is on the verge of full scale war due to rising military tensions between Iran and the US following a series of events including limited use of weaponry and tirade of words . The gravity of issue forced the world leaders to speak out to defuse the tensions.

The US claimed that its bases and personnel in Iraq were being targeted by Iran backed militia, and an s attack on military base in Kirkuk had claimed life of a civilian US contractor and left a number of US troops wounded on 27th December 2019. In response, the US carried out airstrikes against the militia outfit on 29th December 2019 in the border region of Iraq and Syria. The deadly airstrikes left more than 20 persons dead and about 50 wounded.

In the follow up, the US accused Iran of orchestrating attacks on US facilities in Iraq while Iran denied its involvement in any such incident. However, on 31st December 2019 US embassy in Baghdad was stormed by the protesters chanting slogans in favor of the people killed in the US airstrikes earlier. Even though no loss of life was recorded at the event but it was enough to put US in the compromising position. Trump administration vowed to make Iran pay for the audacity while Iran once again denied the accusation and stated that the attack on US embassy was a reaction by people of Iraq.

In the gravity of events, on 3rd January 2020, a US drone strike killed General Soleimani of the elite Quds Force of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) when he was leaving the Baghdad airport in Iraq. Killing of General Soleimani pushed the relations of Iran and the US to the breaking point. The action was met with mixed response from allies and rivals of the US. Iran vowed to avenge the General’s death while President of the US Donald Trump reiterated time and again that retaliation from Iran will result in devastating consequences and even threatened to target the cultural center s of Iran.

On 8th January 2020, Iran launched ballistic missiles targeting the largest US military base in Ain al-Asad, and another in Erbil, in Iraq. In the follow-up, US denied any casualties and announced to impose further sanctions on Iran threatening that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear technology. The two countries refrained from further military engagement but the danger is still looming over the region.

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 ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad-based Think-Tank says the Middle East (ME) peace plan presented by US President Donald Trump will have a negative impact on Kashmir issue.

A concept paper issued by Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) states that US president’s plan for ME legalises state terrorism, brutal suppression and demography change by Israel and the same was being carried out by India in held Kashmir.

CPGS President Nasir Sheerazi said the US patronage had already encouraged the incumbent Indian government to give constitutional cover to their illegal occupation of Kashmir.

“Only two countries, Israel and India, behave in this manner in occupied Palestine and occupied Kashmir respectively,” Mr Sheerazi said.The concept paper highlighted that Pakistan’s stance on Palestine conflict had been clear from the beginning.

“Pakistan does not recognise Israel and has always been vocal for the rights of Palestinians and public sentiments in Pakistan have always been with the people of Palestine,” the paper said.

Support for Palestinian cause is deeply rooted in the ideological basis of Pakistan as it was with the Kashmir issue.

CPGS said like Palestine, Kashmir is also under illegal foreign occupation.

The paper said Pakistan had never conceded Indian claim on occupied Kashmir, and it did not recognise Israel as a state.

Pakistan has always reiterated that it supported a two-state solution to Palestine conflict as conceded by multiple UN resolutions.

The CPGS slammed the recent move by US president saying the so-called “Deal of Century” has the potential of initiating political crisis leading to diplomatic failure and violence.

The paper said that pro-US bloc in Middle East will be weakened because peace plan will be represented as a historic compromise. “It will invite chaos and disorder in population of Middle East even if the governments choose to support the plan,” it added.

CPGS president said taking recent history of Middle East into account, public pressure does not sit well with regimes in Muslim world and chaos becomes inevitable in the region.

The Palestinian cause was taken by Muslims as a religious issue and a large number of civil activists consider it a humanitarian issue; similar situation was visible in Kashmir and the conditions could open doors to repetition of violence and conflicts.

Same version of this Article is published in Dawn News

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