Tag Archives: pakistan

Another fixed election in Pakistan?

As I sit down to pen my thoughts on Pakistan’s 2024 elections, I find myself grappling with a mix of emotions – hope, concern, and an overarching sense of urgency. The events that unfolded on February 8th of that year marked a pivotal moment in Pakistan’s democratic journey, leaving an indelible imprint on the nation’s political landscape.

Picture this: former Prime Minister Imran Khan, a charismatic yet controversial figure, confined behind bars, facing a staggering 150 charges. As the country geared up for the polls, an air of optimism lingered, only to be quashed by the de facto ban imposed on Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI). The loss of their political insignia echoed a silent but powerful blow to the democratic spirit.

Yet, against these odds, the PTI displayed resilience, ingeniously manoeuvering to field independent candidates in both national and provincial elections.

Election season in Pakistan is a vibrant spectacle, a celebration of democracy where citizens adorn their surroundings with banners of political allegiance. However, this festive atmosphere is invariably tainted by the persistent spectres of corruption and electoral rigging, exacerbated by the country’s reliance on a paper-based voting system.

Prime Minister Khan, in an earnest bid to restore faith in the electoral process, championed the introduction of voting machines.

Alas, this progressive move encountered resistance from the Election Commission, casting shadows on the prospects of a transparent election.

The unfolding drama of the 2024 election was nothing short of a political thriller. As results trickled in on that fateful evening, a concoction of distress and surprise gripped the nation. Independent candidates, buoyed by PTI support, emerged victorious, capturing a significant vote share. A staggering 70% voter turnout, coupled with

20 million new voters painted a canvas of democratic enthusiasm, particularly among the youth ardently rallying behind Imran Khan.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

United States

The ripple effects following the ejection of Kevin McCarthy from the Speaker’s chair in the US House of Representatives are severe and wide-reaching. The issues most affected are moderates in the Republican Party, Ukraine and the credibility of the United States.

The mainstream of the Republican Party – or at least the congressional caucus – is not as unreasonably far-right as it is portrayed. Out of the 221 Republican members of the lower house, only 40 are signed up members of the right-wing Freedom Caucus. And of those, only about 20 could be considered extreme right by American standards.

The problem is that the Freedom Caucus – especially the far-right 20 or so members – are really a separate political party using the broad coattails of the Republican establishment to pursue policies which are antithetical to their own party. They can succeed in their aims because the Republicans’ majority as a whole is so narrow that the Freedom Caucus holds the balance of power.

In practice this means that the next Speaker could easily be Congressman Jim Jordan, a rabid Trump supporter and founding member of the Freedom Caucus. He has already secured the ex-president’s endorsement.

It also means that Ukraine will find it difficult to secure the next tranche of US military aid it has been promised. For the Freedom Caucus and Donald Trump the issue of self-determination and respect for the rule of law comes after support for Vladimir Putin.

The ejection of McCarthy also makes a US government shutdown almost certain.  It was McCarthy’s successful 11th-hour deal to prevent a shutdown which provided the straw that broke the back of the caucus camel. Any future Speaker will be all too aware that he will suffer the same fate if he allows Biden’s budget through Congress.

All of the above bolsters the belief that political divisions are rendering the US ungovernable. This in turn undermines credibility at home and abroad. America is the recognised standard bearer of world democracy. Alternative systems—especially Russia, China and Iran—argue that if democracy can’t work in America… then it can’t work.

Ukraine

Support for Ukraine this week suffered a blow on the European side of the Atlantic as well as the American.

It came in the form of an election victory for the pro-Russian Slovakian politician Robert Fico and his Direction-Social Democracy (or SMER-SD) Party. Fico’s party failed to win an outright majority in parliament, but with 24 percent of the votes it is the largest single party and is currently in coalition talks with smaller pro-Russian parties.

They have until 16 October to form a government and in the interim period have announced an end to all aid to Ukraine; a block on Ukrainian membership of NATO and an end to Slovakian support for EU sanctions against Russia.

Unlike most of the current batch of European populist parties, SMER-SD is left as opposed to right-wing. This, however, has not prevented Hungary’s populist right-winger Viktor Orban from welcoming Fico’s victory. Clearly common ground on the populist positions on the EU, Russia, gay rights, woke culture, immigration, media restrictions, curbs on the judiciary, sanctions and the war in Ukraine trumps the political spectrum issue.

This is not Fico’s first run at Slovak prime minister. He was initially elected to the job in 2012 with a whopping 83-seat majority. He was forced into coalition after the 2016 election and shortly afterward ran unsuccessfully for the presidency. In 2018 he was forced to resign as prime minister after the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. He had been investigating the Slovakian mafia and police later linked Maria Troskova, Fico’s assistant, to the gangs.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Pakistan

Pakistan is sliding back into military rule. Actually, it never really left it. The military and its friends in the intelligence services have for decades been the puppet masters pulling the strings of successive nominally democratic governments. Quite often they don’t even bother with the veneer.

Imran Khan knew this. That is why he came to a modus vivendi with the army early in his premiership. Unfortunately for the cricketing star that arrangement did not last. He tired of both the orders and the corruption and decided to be his own man and clear the Augean Stables. Unfortunately he ended up being cleared out himself.

He is now languishing in gaol and barred from elected office. His crime was failing to report an estimated $600,000 in gifts from foreign dignitaries. It is an interesting crime. If properly enforced a large chunk of the Pakistani political establishment would be sharing Imran Khan’s jail cell.

Not satisfied with jailing their opponent, the military have also organised a postponement of elections. Under the Pakistani constitution, elections have to be held within 90 days of the dissolution of parliament. The Pakistani parliament was dissolved on Thursday, but new army-friendly Prime Minister Shebaz Sharif said elections would be “postponed for several months”. This was ostensibly because the electoral commission needed time to re-draw constituency boundaries following the acceptance of a census report just last week.

But before dissolution, the government did manage to rush through two bills increasing the powers of Pakistan’s omnipresent intelligence agencies. They can now search and arrest anyone they suspect of a “breach of official secrets”. Furthermore, anyone who reveals the identity of an intelligence agent will now be automatically sentenced to three years in prison.

Possibly in anticipation of this new law, 157 Pakistani political activists “disappeared” last month.

History control

George Orwell famously wrote in his book “1984”: “Who controls the past controls the future.”

The words are profound, wise, correct and often followed. Which is why we have two examples of history control this week. The first, perhaps not surprisingly, is out of Moscow. Vladimir Putin’s educationalists have rushed through a new secondary school textbook aimed at “educating” 16-18-year olds about the Ukrainian political facts of life.

The new “patriotic curriculum” declares that Ukraine is an “artificial state.” Russia launched its “special military operation” as part of a programme of “denazification and demilitarisation.” The goal of the West is to “destabilise Russia” and Moscow is “a victim of Western aggression and fighting for its very existence.”

On the other side of the world, in the sunshine state of Florida, we have another attempt to control the political debate through teaching. There the target is wokeism. To battle it, presidential hopeful Ron de Santis has employed the skills of Prager University to produce a series of history online and off-line videos.

Prager University is not a university. It is a conservative video production company run by conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager with the avowed intent of spreading conservative values to counter the “evil liberal elitist values” of most American universities. Its videos are completely unaccredited and disavowed by most serious educationalists.

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Pakistan a wicket away from Authoritarianism

I want to dive into a topic that has been keeping me up at night: the current situation in Pakistan. Specifically, I’m deeply concerned about the suppression of journalistic freedoms and the erosion of democracy happening over there. It’s not just a distant issue either; as a British Pakistani, it hits close to home and raises serious worries about the safety of our loved ones.

Let’s start with the alarming case of journalist Imran Riaz Khan, who was detained without proper justification. It’s a blatant attack on free speech and a direct threat to transparency and accountability. When journalists can’t do their jobs without fear of retribution, it shakes the very foundations of democracy. We need to stand up and fight for their rights, not just for their sake, but for the sake of a free and open society.

One incident that shook me to the core was Imran Khan’s arrest, right from the premises of a court hearing. The aftermath of this arrest was devastating, with riots erupting and tragically leading to the loss of 50 innocent lives as security forces opened fire on protestors. It’s incredibly disheartening to see such violence and a blatant disregard for human life in the pursuit of political agendas.

But let’s not forget that the challenges faced by PTI politicians go beyond this shocking event. They are subjected to immense pressure and intimidation, forcing them to abandon their parties merely to secure bail. It’s truly unfathomable to think that elected officials, who should be representing the voices of the people, are being subjected to physical abuse and torture simply for standing up for their beliefs. It’s a stark reminder of authoritarian regimes, where political dissent is suppressed, and individual freedoms are trampled upon.

As members of the Liberal Democrats, we have a duty to protect democracy and uphold human rights. Our historical ties with Pakistan, combined with the significant British Pakistani community, give us a unique opportunity to make a difference. We need to be vocal advocates for press freedom and condemn any erosion of democratic values. By doing so, we can contribute to the well-being of British Pakistanis and support a stable Pakistan that embraces democratic principles.

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The continuing threat to democracies

I wrote an article earlier this week about the hope for renewed democracy in Turkey should the opposition leader – Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu – be successful in the upcoming Presidential elections. But democracy continues to come under threat across the globe, as more countries seem to be sliding down the steep path to dictatorship and the abolition of civil liberties and human rights.

Human Rights Watch has today published an article focusing on the state of affairs in Tunisia. The authorities have placed a further 17 current or former members of Ennahda, the largest opposition party in the country, in prison. That means that, as of today, over 30 political figures who are critical of President Kais Saied are behind bars accused of “conspiring against state security”. According to Human Rights Watch, the detainees include former ministers, the party President, two vice presidents and the former Speaker of Parliament. The Tunisian authorities have simultaneously shut Ennahda’s offices across the country.

In Myanmar, the military has used a “thermobaric” munition – designed to cause the maximum amount of casualties – on the village of Pa Zi Gyi in response to an opposition-controlled administrative office being opened. The blast was followed by helicopter assaults using cannons, grenades and rockets as innocent civilians tried to flee. A resident confirmed that the anti-junta People’s Defence Forces was present at the opening, but that the office was for tax filing, town meetings and judicial events, not for military purposes.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Pakistan

Pakistan is a nuclear power with an estimated 165 nuclear warheads and bombers and missiles to deliver them. This is important to remember as the country slides into political, economic and social chaos. Also remember that Pashtos are the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan (18 percent) and the largest (42 percent) in neighbouring Islamic fundamentalist Afghanistan.

Mustn’t forget either that Pakistan’s Pashto community are supporters of the Taliban and that Al Qaeeda and ISIS are re-establishing bases in that benighted and dangerously unstable Afghanistan. Then there is also the fact there have been 434 terrorist attacks in Pakistan this year, the majority by Islamic fundamentalists with links to groups based in on the western side of the Hindu Kush.

Another concern is that China holds 30 percent of Pakistan’s $100 billion debt. The country’s foreign reserves have virtually disappeared to pay for oil imports. General inflation is running at 34 percent and food prices are soaring at an estimated 50 percent.

Finally, Pakistan’s army and intelligence community pull the country’s political strings. Politicians cannot stay in office without their support. Which is big part of Imran Khan’s problems.

He had the military’s support when he became prime minister in 2018 at the head of a coalition. But the former international cricket star was the wrong person to head a coalition. Khan is used to giving orders rather than compromising, and was soon publicly attacking his coalition partners. But the final straw came when he began toying with the idea of curbing the power of the military.

Last April, Khan lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence. He rejected it and has refused to resign. In response the succeeding government has charged him with more than 100 offenses ranging from fraud to blasphemy. It should be said that this is standard political practice in Pakistan. The successor prime minister to Khan – Shehbaz Shaif – was released on bail for corruption charges to enable him to lead the government.

The 232 million Pakistanis have meanwhile split between pro and anti-Imran Khan Factions with the military leading the anti-faction. Riots and demonstrations have become a daily feature of life in Pakistan.

Ukraine

The much anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive remains much anticipated. The promised 230 Western tanks have arrived as well as 1,500 armoured vehicles. An estimated 60,000 Ukrainian troops appear to be ready to attack. The assault could literally be launched any day.

The most likely battle site is in the south around Kherson. A strike there could sever the land bridge between the Russian forces in Crimea and the Donbas Region.  The problem with that plan is that the Russians have constructed one of the most elaborate defensive systems ever seen. The Ukrainians could end up hurling themselves against a 160 mile long Russian brick wall off trenches, mines, anti-tank traps and razor wire.

They could suffer the same fate that has befallen the Russian Wagner Group in their months’ long attempt to capture Bakhmut. Russians casualties in Bakhmut are estimated by Western intelligence to be as high 60,000 with 20,000 of them being fatal. The town has been reduced to an unrecognisable pile of rubble.

Wagner head Yevgeny Prigorzhin blames the failure of his prison-recruited force on the official military’s refusal to provide his convicts with enough ammunition. He has even released an expletive-laden diatribe attacking Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the head of the armed forces, Valery Gerasimov.

Prigorzhin is probably right. The Russians are reported to be low on ammunition and the official military establishment wants to husband its resources for the coming Ukrainian counter offensive. But the row between the Wagner Group exposes a deep division and absence of a clear command structure within the Russian military establishment. This can only benefit the Ukrainians when they finally launch their much anticipated assault.

Northern Ireland

There was really nothing new in the substance of Biden’s remarks this week about Northern Ireland. What was new and unfortunate was the language he used.

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Is Pakistan heading for a Sri Lankan-style meltdown

Pakistan, meaning the land of the spiritually pure and clean, is, alas effectively skint.

Ten thousand containers sit at ports unless payment is received, industry has no power for production, and an agricultural state is now importing food..if it can afford to.

A macroeconomic meltdown is underway with all the conventional smoke signals: a collapsing economy, rising inflation of 30%, a run on the currency (thus making imports more expensive for locals), depleting reserves (less than the cost of a decent Premier League side …ie shy of $3bn), fuel and now food shortages, with the staple chapati flour in short supply.

Wages arrears threaten food security, health outcomes have worsened with malaria on the rise, education attainment is appalling, and literacy rates are barely over 50%.

Successive failure of policy since independence in 1947 has led to this outcome – IMF bailouts, Arab largesse, US dollars to keep the Taliban at bay, Chinese mercantilism of late –  none of it has stalled the longer-term trend towards a failing state. The risks of a Sri Lankan-style total collapse are now real, even if there is a short-term sugar rush of IMF support and additional Gulf financing.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

While a Chinese balloon floated through American skies President Joe Biden stepped up to the podium to deliver his annual State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress.

The events were notable for two reasons: They exposed an irrational Yellow Peril fear that more than matches the Red Scare of Cold War years and pointed to a possible new era of American isolationism.

Conspicuous by its absence from Biden’s address to the Joint Session of Congress was any mention of foreign policy. With war raging in Ukraine, Turkey and Syria devastated by earthquakes, South America in political turmoil and China expanding, spying and rattling sabres over Taiwan. one would have thought Biden would have focused more on the world situation.

Instead he spoke about domestic concerns. Biden’s success in creating jobs; protecting American industry and controlling inflation. With at least one eye focused on next year’s elections, he is stealing Republican clothes by shifting to a more isolationist stand.

In this respect, the president appears to be following rather than leading US public opinion. The latest polls show a significant drop in American support for the war in Ukraine. China, however, is a different matter. The Chinese spy/weather balloon (probably a bit of both) did secure a passing reference in the president’s speech; probably because of the hysteria it generated among the American public. The fact is that countries spy on each other. The US spies on China. China spies on the US. Russia spies on….

Most of the spying is unseen. Intelligence operatives skulking in the corridors of power or satellites in space. The balloon, however, could be seen as it floated from Alaska, over missile silos in Montana and North Dakota and then finally to the Atlantic where it was shot down by US fighter planes.

The much discussed Asian Pivot was this week back in the news. For a start, American troops are returning in big numbers to the Philippines. The reason? The threat of China and the need to maintain international access to the South China Sea and protect Taiwan.

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Observations of an expat: elephants and grass

When the elephants fight it is the grass that suffers. So goes the ancient proverb of Kenya’s Kikuyu tribe. And at the moment, the adage is particularly apt.

The war in Ukraine is creating an energy and food crisis. This is combined with the effects of climate change, recession and the continuing effects of the Covid pandemic. The world is in the thick of a perfect political and economic storm of global proportions.

Within the developed world, allies are starting to bicker as rich countries use their buying power to outbid their less well-off neighbours in order to hoard dwindling resources.

Money allocated for the welfare of people at home and abroad has been redirected to pay for the wasteful costs of war.  $350 billion has been set aside for rebuilding ravaged Ukraine.

Meanwhile drought, famine and war are ravaging the Horn of Africa. In Kenya the UN reports that 4 million people are “food insecure.” In Ethiopia the fifth drought season in succession is exacerbated by a civil war. And in Somalia Islamic fundamentalists and drought are estimated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to have displaced 6 million people.

On the other side of Africa, desertification in Mali, Niger and northern Nigeria is forcing farmers off the land and providing fertile recruiting conditions for Boko Haram.  Nigeria is also suffering from recent floods which destroyed 175,000 acres of farmland and displaced 1.4 million people.

Africa is not the only continent to suffer. It will take Pakistan years to recover from its recent floods. A quarter of the farmland was lost in a country where a quarter of the country’s national income is dependent on the agricultural industry. The total damage will exceed $40 billion or about one-sixth of the country’s GDP.

In the meantime, Western countries are borrowing heavily to finance subsidising energy price. This is on top of record borrowing related to the Covid pandemic. The World Bank and IMF have declared their financial policies “unsustainable.”

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Tom Arms’ World Review

USA

Who are the MAGA Republicans that Biden claims are threatening American democracy?

For a start they support the cult of Donald Trump and cults are antithetical to democratic values. Next they propagate the lie that Trump won the 2020 presidential elections. And unless an estimated 40 million voters drank a hallucinogenic Kool-aid they know that Trump is lying. Or alternatively, America is facing a major mental health problem. Finally, they feel so threatened by the values and policies of the Democratic Party that they are prepared to jettison truth, the rule of law and a much-revered constitution in the pursuit of power.

The current battle ground for what Biden has dubbed the “soul of America” is the mid-term elections to the Senate in House in two months’ time. His threat to democracy speech this week at Independence Hall in Philadelphia was Biden’s opening salvo in the campaign. Only a few months ago the received political wisdom was that the Democrats faced a drubbing at the polls and the likely loss of both houses of Congress. But that was then.

In the intervening period Biden has proved himself a legislative mastermind by pushing through his economy and climate change package. Missing top secret papers have been found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago hideaway. Support for the Ukraine war has grown. Abortion has become an election campaign with polls indicating most voters favouring controlled termination. Inflation has stalled and gasoline prices tumbled.

Sleepy Joe has woken up, come out fighting and rapidly climbed five percentage points in the opinion polls. Trump backers are, however, standing firm. In fact, every attack on the ex-president and every legal investigation is greeted with cries of “witch hunt” and “conspiracy.” The MAGA squad have invested too much in the cult of Trump. They cannot afford to fail and are likely to resort to increasingly desperate claims and acts. This should be one of the most interesting US mid-term elections ever.

Pakistan

Two thousand-plus dead so far. More rain. More death. More destruction to come. Baked mud homes returned to mud and washed away. A bill which so far is expected to easily surpass $10 billion. Pakistan’s monsoon floods are a humanitarian disaster and another climate change warning.

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Observations of an expat: Pakistan – next to recognise Israel?

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Wafting through the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and across the parade ground of military headquarters in Rawalpindi is an interesting political rumour: Will Pakistan be the next Islamic country to recognise Israel?

If it does it will not be so much a feather in the Israeli-American cap as a full-sized Native American war bonnet. Only Saudi recognition would beat it as a diplomatic coup.

But is the rumour likely to become a reality? Diplomats say that such a move is possible. But set against the brick wall of political realities it is highly improbable.

For a start, the political, social, economic and cultural conditions in Pakistan are completely different from those in the countries that have recently recognised Israel—Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan. The UAE is an extremely wealthy states ruled by absolute monarchs. Their largely pliant population is happy to stay out of politics as long as the oil money keeps rolling in. Bahrain is not enormously wealthy, and its population is divided between Sunnis and Shias. But the ruler is an absolute monarch and in lock step with the UAE.

Sudan is not so wealthy. But its diplomatic position has been bought by Washington. As one of the centres of Islamic terrorism, it languished for years on America’s economic blacklist. US aid and investment is now pouring in.

Pakistan, in comparison is poor and its politics are Byzantine. The per capita income of the 212.7 million Pakistanis is below that of Sudan at $1,357 a year. They are 154th in the world wealth stakes.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is a perfectly competent and charming man, but he is politically circumscribed. The real power in Pakistan is the military—the sixth largest in the world. The prime minister is allowed to operate freely, but only within parameters established by the military, especially the army. If he steps outside the parameters than he runs the risk of removal—even a military coup.

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Why Britain should worry about Kashmir

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Kashmir is one of those decades-long conflicts which rarely makes it into the mainstream UK media;  until recently. In June this year 20 Indian soldiers died in fighting with Chinese soldiers, on the border between Indian-administered and Chinese-administered Kashmir.

So what is the nature of the conflict and why has it become much more dangerous this year ?

Central to the recent upsurge in violence, lies China-India relations. To understand, we must start with ‘British India’.

After Indian independence following WW2, Kashmir was divided into Pakistan administered and Indian administered territory, with two smaller areas controlled by China. Both the Pakistani and Indian administered sides are majority Muslim, except (Buddhist) Ladakh, on the Chinese border.

India and Pakistan have more than once gone to war over territory, and so have India and China.

When Indian administered Kashmir was established, the spectre of future Kashmiri independence was raised, and significant autonomy provided for in Article 370 of the Indian Constitutions, later also by Article 35A.

Among these provisions were restricted involvement of the Indian state (foreign policy, defence etc). Land ownership and receipt of public services like education and health were restricted to Kashmiris. Article 370, leading potentially to independence, was a factor in the measure of acceptance by Kashmiris of Indian administration early on.

However, in the late 1980s an insurgency by Muslim Kashmiris against Indian administration started, with various forms of support, overt and covert, from Pakistan. This rise in violence against Indian rule was largely a result of gradual erosion of autonomy and democracy;  and fading prospects of independence.

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Observations of an ex pat: Kashmiri powder keg

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi should consider the age-old truism “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Actually, to say that Kashmir isn’t broke would be putting an optimistic gloss on the Asian sub continent’s number one flashpoint. Since independence and partition in 1947, the mountainous region has been the cause of three wars and numerous border clashes which have threatened to escalate into full-blown conflicts.

Kashmir is a simmering political cauldron whose lid has largely been kept in place by two clauses in the Indian constitution which give the Muslim-dominated, but Indian-controlled region autonomy in all matters except foreign affairs, defence and communications.  Kashmir has its own flag and has passed laws favouring the property rights of the Muslim majority. Modi has revoked the constitutional clauses—articles 370 and 35A—and dropped big hints that he wants to develop Indian-administered Kashmir with imported Hindu settlers.

The result has been riots, demonstrations and the recall of the Pakistani ambassador to India. But that could only be the start. Both states are armed with about 150 nuclear weapons each and blinkered by a dangerous religious zeal. The conflict also has the potential to drag in China and possibly the US. China’s interest is its claim to a desolate and sparely-populated section of Kashmir.  The Chinese have also $46 billion investment in Pakistan to protect.

America’s position is more ambivalent. It needs Pakistani support the fight in Afghanistan, but is angry at what President Trump has called Pakistan’s  “lies and deceit” in combating the Taliban. At the same time, Trump and Modi enjoy close personal relations through a shared right-wing populist approach to political issues.

The problems started with partition. Kashmir has three religious populations: Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are Muslim. But at the time of partition it was ruled by a Hindu Rajah. As the sub-continent edged inexorably towards partition, Irregular troops from Pakistan moved into Kashmir to claim the entire country. The Hindu Rajah, Hari Singh, appealed for help to the Congress Party in India who dispatched troops to the region.

The result was a stand-off; A UN-mediated ceasefire and the division of Kashmir which left Pakistan in control of the under-developed provinces of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir which are 100 percent Muslim and India in control of the more prosperous Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir  provinces which are 66 percent Muslim with the balance made of up Hindus and Buddhists.

The UN ceasefire agreement included a clause for a referendum over the decision of who governs the whole of Kashmir. The Indians failed tocomply with this part of the agreement as their part of Kashmir was 66 percenty Muslm.  Instead they came up with the compromise of autonomy in the form of constitutional clauses 370 and 35A. The Muslims in Indian-administered  Kashmir were generally satisfied  with this. They were not as zealous as their co-religionists in Pakistan and were happy to remain part of India as long as they were allowed control of domestic affairs.

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Lord Eric Avebury writes…Polio and Terrorism

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO),has reduced the number paralysed by polio from 350,000 in 1988 to 405 in 2013, and the number of countries where the disease is endemic has been cut from 125 to just 3 –Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. But progress has come to a grinding halt, with Pakistan reporting 174 new cases so far this year out of 193 worldwide.

The WHO says there is a high risk that this highly infectious disease will spread to other parts of the world, paralysing many of its victims.

Three quarters of all cases are reported from two lawless areas of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) and the misleadingly named Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In these provinces terrorists call the shots, intimidating and murdering those who don’t agree with their fundamentalist brand of Islam.

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Lord (Eric) Avebury writes…Pakistan’s Army stands firm against the Taliban

The Pakistan Army’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) has condemned Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan’s statement in which he called former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Chief Hakimullah Mehsud a martyr.

In fact, Mehsud was a mass murderer, motivated by implacable religious hatred, and his killing by a US drone on November 1 was fully deserved. Under his leadership the TTP slaughtered Pakistani soldiers and civilians, men women and children indiscriminately. He targeted Shia Muslims, of whom 700 have been killed so far this year.

The objective of the TTP is to overthrow the state of Pakistan and to replace it with …

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Eric Avebury writes…We must heed the cries of the Hazaras

Just over a week ago a massive bomb was detonated in a packed bazaar on the outskirts of Quetta, killing at least 92 people and seriously injuring more than 200.

Last month a double suicide bombing on Alamdar Road, Quetta took the lives of 108 people

These were the latest in a crescendo of genocidal attacks on the Shia Hazara community in Pakistan since the turn of the century, which was considered in a packed meeting I chaired at the House of Lords yesterday, February 25.

According to published accounts, these atrocities have left over 1,100 dead and 1,300 injured. In fact the …

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Opinion: we must act to make sure all girls have access to education

Yesterday, in the Swat region of Pakistan, a 14 year old girl was shot. Her name is Malala Yousafzai, and she was walking home from school with her friend when she was shot in the side of the head. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shooting.

The question on all our minds is ‘Why would anyone try and kill a 14 year old girl?’.

Because Malala Yousafzai stood up for something that scares and horrifies the Taliban – she dared to speak out for girls’ right to an education.

Malala was 11 years old when she started writing about life under the …

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A longer read for the weekend: how Obama orders the death of terrorists

This week the New York Times ran a fascinating, detailed study of the drone war being fought by Barack Obama as he decides which alleged terrorists will be targeted by the American military:

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The Saturday debate: Do we pay too much attention to news from the US?

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

The tragic killing of six and injuries to thirteen others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, have received heavy coverage in the UK media, not only in response to the shooting itself but also following up the story subsequently. Yet other recent political deaths from countries around the world have received, at most, very little media coverage in the UK.

There are partial explanations – such as the murdered Nigerian politician being a local government figure rather than a national figure and the

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How to defeat Al Qaeda

The cover of Bruce Riedel’s The Search for Al Qaeda shows a group of armed men working their way up a hillside overlooking a beautiful valley that stretches away to rolling hills. It captures the wonder and the tragedy of Afghanistan in one frame.

The book itself is similarly crisp, packing a wide-ranging history of Al Qaeda and its key figures into only 150 pages of moderate size print. It is penned by an ex-CIA man of thirty years service who was frequently closely involved with the figures and events painted in the book, but not so closely as to make the reader fear it is more a justification of his career than a fair account of events.

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Nick Clegg writes about his visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan

In an email sent this afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has written about his trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Earlier this week this week I went to Afghanistan and Pakistan to see for myself the problems and challenges that those countries face. The coalition government is committed to playing our part to helping ensure that the region has a peaceful and prosperous future.

It was my second visit to our armed forces in Afghanistan, where I saw again the bravery and professionalism of our troops. Whilst the situation in the country is still difficult, I believe

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Daily View 2×2: 14 February 2010, featuring news from India and the easiest delivery round ever

It’s Sunday. It’s 9am on the day when in 1984 Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won gold at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. You want to see the easiest leaflet delivery in the world, don’t you? But first, the news and blogs.

2 Must-Read Blog Posts

What are other Liberal Democrat bloggers saying? Here’s are two posts that have caught the eye from the Liberal Democrat Blogs aggregator:

Spotted any other great posts in the last day from blogs that aren’t on the aggregator? Do post up a comment sharing them with us all.

2 Big Stories

You probably know the news from the UK. So here’s the news from India.
Blast breaks lull – Foreigners among bakery bomb victims

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Daily View 2×2: 25 October 2009

Morning all. Clocks changed? Good. Now it’s time to catch up on the news including, as it’s a Sunday, another in my occasional series of “Forget Obama; forget West Wing – now THIS is what we should be copying from US politics”.

It’s the political ad that is just bursting to be copied for our next party political broadcast. Send you lobbying email to Cowley Street now. (Probably best do that now rather than after watching the ad. In case you don’t agree with me. But you’d be mad not to. This is quality political advertising at its very best.)

2 Big Stories

Pakistani army takes Taliban chief’s hometown

Pakistani soldiers captured the hometown of the country’s Taliban chief Saturday, a strategic and symbolic initial prize as the army pushes deeper into a militant stronghold along the Afghan border. An army spokesman said the Taliban were in disarray, with many deserting the ranks.

The 8-day-old air and ground offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region is a key test of nuclear-armed Pakistan’s campaign against Islamist militancy. It has already spurred a civilian exodus and deadly retaliatory attacks.

Washington has encouraged the operation in the northwest because many militants there are believed to shelter al-Qaida leaders and are also suspected to be involved in attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. military has also kept up its own missile strikes in the lawless tribal belt, including a suspected one that killed 22 Saturday. (Associated Press)

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Daily View 2×2: 31 May 09

Welcome to the Sunday outing for our Daily View. As it’s a Sunday, today’s comes with a special examination paper supplement. If you spot anything for future posts, do let us know on [email protected].

2 Big Stories

Opinion polls

It’s been a tale of two polls: a disappointing Populus poll on Saturday followed by a spectacularly good ICM poll in today’s Sunday Telegraph, putting the Liberal Democrats in second place in both general election and European election voting intentions:

The ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph is the worst possible news for the Prime Minister as he enters his most important week since taking

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Daily View 2×2: 24 May 09

Welcome to the Sunday outing for The Voice’s new daily post series highlighting two big stories from the media and two “must read” blog posts from Liberal Democrats. As it’s a Sunday, there’s also a bonus extra supplement. If you spot anything for future posts, do let us know on [email protected]

2 Big Stories

MPs’ expenses
Heading into its third week, the MPs’ expense story shows no sign of abating. The latest scalp is that of Andrew MacKay, again. The story has been running for so long that not only was he one of its first victims (losing his Conservative Party job) but …

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Better news from Afghanistan and Pakistan

An update on two of the the trio of stories I blogged about earlier this month, all relating to the treatment of women.

In Afghanistan, the controversial law which would have severely curtailed the rights of women, for example by requiring married women to get permission from their husbands before leaving the house, has been shelved.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, the public flogging of a teenage girl in Swat (footage of which was broadcast on Channel 4) has now triggered a government inquiry.

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged | 1 Comment

“Women Erased in Israel, Flogged in Pakistan and Restricted in Afghanistan”

The New York Times headline neatly wraps up three stories about the at times grim, and in the photoshopping case verging on farcical, struggle for women’s rights across much of the Middle East:

On Friday, The Associated Press reported that Israeli newspapers “aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jewish readers” digitally manipulated a photograph of the new Israeli government, to remove two female cabinet ministers, Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver…

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports on Friday that Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, is “taking serious notice of the public flogging of a girl in Swat” and “has ordered the authorities to inquire

Posted in Europe / International | Also tagged and | 1 Comment
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