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The Ukraine Safari

I don’t usually write about cultural products from my own country, but I must make an exception for Slovenian filmmaker Miran Zupanič’s new documentary Sarajevo Safari, which details one of the most

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5 mins read

Cost of China’s Miscalculation

Signals from China clearly indicate that the Chinese government has evolved a strategy and action plan, to be partly implemented in medium term and the rest to be implemented in long term and emerge as the most dominant country in

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Our Military Plan will Not Adjust – Putin

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5 mins read

In conclusion of his visit to Uzbekistan, Vladimir Putin answered journalists’ questions. Following excerpts adapted from the press release published by Kremlin

Question: Now that the SCO summit is over, summing it up, can you tell us how you regard the SCO’s development prospects and what the most important thing is for Russia in the SCO?

Vladimir Putin: The most important thing always and everywhere is economic development. And the SCO, cooperation with the SCO countries, creates conditions for the development of the Russian economy, and thus for the social sphere and for resolving the tasks related to improving the living standards of our citizens.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation includes countries whose population, as has been said many times, comprises almost or even slightly more than half of humanity. It is 25 percent of world GDP. And, most importantly, the national economies in the region, those of the SCO member states, are developing much faster than others in the world.

Now we had a separate meeting. I sat next to the Prime Minister of India at the working dinner. India’s GDP grew by 7 percent, China’s by more than 5 percent. China was in the lead for quite a time and its potential is tremendous. Our trade with these countries is growing fast. If these rates are preserved, and they are bound to be for many objective reasons, we will be one of these countries, next to them, ensuring our interests. This is what we are doing and this is the main point.

Question: This question is certainly worrying very many people in our country. People have already developed certain concerns over the course of the special military operation in Ukraine. We are increasingly seeing strikes, raids and acts of terror even on Russian territory. We are hearing all the time very aggressive statements that the final goal of Kiev and the West is Russia’s disintegration. Meanwhile, many think that Russia’s response to all of this is very restrained. Why is that?

Vladimir Putin: There is nothing new about this. Frankly, I find it even a bit strange to hear your question because Western countries have cultivated the idea of the collapse of the Soviet Union and historical Russia and Russia as such, its nucleus.

I have already cited these statements and studies by some figures in Great Britain during World War I and after it. I cited excerpts from Mr Brzezinski’s writings in which he divided the entire territory of our country into specific parts. True, later he changed his position a bit in the belief that it was better to keep Russia in opposition to China and use it as a tool to combat China. It will never happen. Let them address their own challenges as they see fit. But we are seeing how they are handling them and, most likely, they are doing harm to themselves in the process. Their tools are no good.

But they have always been seeking the dissolution of our country – this is very true. It is unfortunate that at some point they decided to use Ukraine for these purposes. In effect – I am answering your question now and the conclusion suggests itself – we launched our special military operation to prevent events from taking this turn. This is what some US-led Western countries have always been seeking – to create an anti-Russia enclave and rock the boat, threaten Russia from this direction. In essence, our main goal is to prevent such developments.

With regard to our restrained response, I would not say it was restrained, even though, after all, a special military operation is not just another warning, but a military operation. In the course of this, we are seeing attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks and damage our civilian infrastructure.

Indeed, we were quite restrained in our response, but that will not last forever. Recently, Russian Armed Forces delivered a couple of sensitive blows to that area. Let’s call them warning shots. If the situation continues like that, our response will be more impactful

Terrorist attacks are a serious matter. In fact, it is about using terrorist methods. We see this in the killing of officials in the liberated territories, we even see attempts at perpetrating terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation, including – I am not sure if this was made public – attempts to carry out terrorist attacks near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power plants in the Russian Federation. I am not even talking about the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant.

We are monitoring the situation and will do our best to prevent a negative scenario from unfolding. We will respond if they fail to realise that these approaches are unacceptable. They are, in fact, no different than terrorist attacks.

Question: Kiev recently published draft security guarantees for Ukraine. What can you tell us about this, and what is your assessment of this project?

Vladimir Putin: Frankly, I am not familiar with what they have come up with this time. We, in fact, started with this when we were negotiating with the incumbent Kiev authorities and, in fact, completed this negotiating process in Istanbul with the well-known Istanbul agreement, after which we withdrew our troops from Kiev in order to create the proper conditions for concluding this agreement. Instead of concluding an agreement, Kiev immediately turned down all agreements, shoved them into a box and said they would not seek any agreement with Russia, but instead would pursue victory on the battlefield. Let them try. They are just now trying to do this with the counteroffensive. Let’s see how it ends.

As for security guarantees, and these were fairly tough security guarantees, they were required from our side, from the main NATO countries and regional states, including Turkiye. Overall, we agreed with this – to a large extent. There were some things that required minor adjustments but overall we agreed and these were quite serious requirements. However, the Kiev authorities shelved them.

What have they come up with? I don’t know because they change their position on every issue almost every day. I must have a look.

I would like to recall in this connection that before the start of the special military operation, we talked about security principles and measures on ensuring the security of Russia itself but nobody deemed it necessary to respond to this. Unfortunately.

Q: Could you please share your opinion on the course of the special military operation? Is it necessary to adjust the plan?

Vladimir Putin: No, the plan will not be adjusted. The General Staff takes real-time decisions in the course of the operation and some are considered a key, the main goal. The main goal is to liberate the entire territory of Donbass.

This work continues despite the attempts of the Ukrainian army to launch a counter-offensive. We are not stopping our offensive operations in Donbass itself. They continue. They continue at a slow pace but consistently and gradually, the Russian army is taking more and more new territory.

I must emphasise that we are fighting not with a full army but only with part, with contracted forces. But, of course, this is linked with certain personnel parameters and so on. This is why we are not in a rush in this respect. But essentially, there have been no changes. The General Staff considers some objectives important and others secondary but the main task remains the same and it is being carried out.

Question: Did President of Turkiye Erdogan make proposals on your meeting with Zelensky at this meeting?

Vladimir Putin: He always suggests meeting with Zelensky. He has been doing this for a long time and there is nothing bad about it. The President of Turkiye is making a substantial contribution to normalising the situation, including resolution of the food problem. The export of Ukrainian grain via Odessa is largely the result of his work. So, he is really making a tangible contribution to resolving a number of serious issues that are arising in connection with this crisis. And, of course, it is only natural that he also suggests meeting with President Zelensky, thinking that it may produce some positive result. He did not raise it at this meeting.

Question: On what conditions could there be dialogue with Ukraine now, if it is possible at all?

Vladimir Putin: But they refuse. The first condition is that they agree to it. But they do not want it. Mr Zelensky has publicly announced – I do not know where exactly, but he said it publicly – that he is not ready and does not want to talk to Russia. Well, if he is not ready, fine.

Click here to read the rest of this press interaction

Tamil Nadu: Time to Tame Hate Campaign

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For the last several decades, there have been hate campaigns against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not-so-subtle manner.

Initially, it was a hate campaign against Brahmins and the Brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked.  Fearing such conditions, many Brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad.  Now, the Brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against Brahmins were responsible.

 Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared Brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. 

For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view.

However, in the last eighteen months in Tamil Nadu after the new government has taken over, the hate campaign against Hindu religion has resumed with full vigour and now it appears to be at the peak.

Even during one of the earlier regimes, when Tamil Nadu was ruled by the same party as at present, the then chief minister called Hindus as thieves and questioned the claim of   Hindu God Ram constructing the Sethu bridge and derisively asked as to in which engineering college Hindu God Ram studied.  In spite of such obnoxious remarks, Hindus really did not react in any significant way then.

Now, the worst has happened with a member of parliament who belongs to the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, publicly stating that Hindus are children of prostitutes.

What is particularly shocking is that the Tamil Nadu government has not taken any action against this man. By remaining silent, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and his colleagues appear to give an impression that they agree with the statement of this man.  This is unfortunate.

We know that in the case of Christians or Muslims if anyone were to make an objectionable remark against their region and practices, Muslims and Christians will rise as one man and protest. Of course, the Tamil Nadu government would have immediately taken action against the persons who criticize Islam or Christianity. This is as it should be.

The disturbing question is as to why in the case of Hindu religion, the Tamil Nadu government allows the anti-Hindu hate campaigners to go scot-free.

Though the present Tamil Nadu government claims that it is secular in outlook, several recent actions of Tamil Nadu government against Hindu religious practices appear to give a contrary impression,  that it may not really be secular, in letter and spirit as far as the Hindus are concerned.

In the last eighteen months, after the present government has taken over in Tamil Nadu, one of the focus points of the government is Hindu temples.   With the claim of protecting the interests of Hindu temples and with the claim of “reforming” the Hindu religious practices, there has been gross interference in the affairs of the Hindu temples.  For the first time, archakas (priests) in Hindu temples are being appointed by the government of Tamil Nadu after providing some sort of “training” for a short period. These appointed priests do not know several procedures in Hindu temples and in the process, several well trained Hindu archakas serving for long years have lost their jobs.

The government is taking over the gold, silver and other assets of the temples and is melting them, though these silver and gold have been donated to temples by devotees in the last several decades. Tamil Nadu government behaves as if it is the owner of the Hindu temples and seem to assume that it can do anything  as far as Hindu temples are concerned.   So many other acts of Tamil Nadu government against Hindu religious practices can be readily cited. 

One striking practice that cannot be ignored by anyone is that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and his ministers would not greet Hindus during their festivals but would inevitably greet Christians and Muslims on the occasion of their festivals. Why is this?

The situation has now reached an alarming level that any Hindu hate campaigner can write or say anything against Hinduism and can get away with it without being hauled by the authorities. Dangerous and chaotic conditions are now developing in Tamil Nadu,  where Hindu religion, with more than 80% of the Tamil Nadu population being Hindus,  is targeted,  criticized, abused day in and day out, with the  Tamil Nadu government watching the scenario as if it has not heard them. 

Hindus in Tamil Nadu are known to be very tolerant and peace loving and perhaps, this is why such anti Hindu campaign are being conducted, taking the reactions from Hindus for granted. However, with the hate campaigner going to the extent of calling Hindus as children of prostitutes, the breaking point has been now reached. This situation should not be allowed to continue.

Whatever may be the personal view of the Chief Minister and ministers in Tamil Nadu government and the leaders of some of the alliance parties with ruling party, Tamil Nadu government should stop this hate Hindu campaign forthwith and put down the hate campaigners with an iron hand.

 If Tamil Nadu government were to fail to do this, the consequence would be too severe to imagine.

Certainly, Tamil Nadu deserves better.

Dictator Biden’s Double Standard

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4 mins read

As blood-red lighting stained the backdrop, the dark black sky rendered an eerie aura of despotism. Members of the military stood guard clutching their weapons in a show of power. Like a tyrannical allocution, US President Joe Biden lifted his hands clenched tightly into a fist and condemned his political opposition as being extremists and a threat to democracy. He propagated words of division to an already heavily-polarised population split along lines of party, politics and ideology.

Joe Biden took to the stage in downtown Philadelphia to issue a speech of mere opprobrium pointed bluntly toward the rivals of his political camp. His clenched fists thrown into the air complemented by his bared teeth and glare of hostility reminded the world of Hitler’s speeches at the Nazi conventions in WWII Europe.

By declaring that former President Donald Trump and his supporters are a threat to American democracy, Joe Biden essentially promulgated that over 77 million of his own people are extremists. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic”, Joe Biden raged.

The timing of his schismatic speech is politically felicitous as it comes a few weeks before the 2022 mid-term elections – an event that could witness a return of the Republican party to control the House or Senate. The botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan, the immigrant crisis on the Southern border and the devastated economy are some of the principal talking points of the Republican camp.

White House officials termed Biden’s address as the ‘battle for the soul of the nation’ and Biden claimed that he speaks to America on ‘sacred’ ground. This sort of language reminds any political reader of the authoritative attributes of the famous Big Brother, in George Orwell’s classic; 1984. This is of course complemented by the widespread censorship of opposing political views on mainstream media and big tech platforms as well as the rampant cancel culture that seems to have infiltrated social life across the globe.

As the Biden-Harris administration plummets to become the second least popular duo in office, White House officials work hard to put on a dazzling show before the mid-terms. However, being flanked by Marines complemented by Nazi-like lighting behind the president is probably the worst backdrop that the strategists could come up with.

Biden’s comments on his political opponents come as a result of the forced entry of Trump supporters into the US Capitol on 06 January 2021 – for which court cases and trials are open to date. The US judiciary, politicians and legal system have arrested, are trying and will sentence scores of Trump supporters for storming their government buildings.

Yet the very sanctimonious posturing lies in the hypocritical statements of Western representatives with regard to the Sri Lankan Aragalaya regime change operation. While Biden condemned insurrectionists as ‘extremists’ threatening American democracy, his ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, hailed the Sri Lankan insurrectionists as ‘peaceful protesters’. Why is it that the insurrectionists of Sri Lanka were defended as peaceful yet when America is threatened in the same way, their insurrectionists are castigated as a threat? Perhaps post-colonial neo-imperialism is the underlying impetus.

The Aragalaya movement in Sri Lanka was the propulsion of mob violence driven by behind-the-scenes political strategists. Kumar Gunaratnam’s Peratugami and the Anthare played pivotal roles in the planning, organising and executing of the protest-riot compilation. The raging mob violence left millions of rupees in damages in Galle Face alone. The same mobs burned down over sixty homes of lawmakers, destroyed over fifty public and private vehicles and waged incendiarism in the current President’s residence – but yes, according to Ambassador Chung, they are ‘peaceful protesters’.

When Sri Lanka attempted to protect her national assets by making the insurrectionists leave the invaded government buildings, including the Presidential Secretariat, Presidential Residence and Prime Minister’s Residence, the US and Western officials released tweets and reports against President Wickremesinghe’s actions. Yet when their own Capitol building was invaded by insurrectionists, the US government deployed over 26,000 National Guard troops to quell the demonstrations. The double standard in handling crises is not just appalling, but rather vituperative in the larger sense of geopolitical regard.
Of course, this sort of hypocrisy is not new to the table as the same Western governments that unfoundedly accuse Sri Lanka of unsubstantiated war crimes and manipulated ‘genocides’, enjoy immunity from condemnation for their crimes in wars across the world, especially during the Invasion of Iraq and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria.

Biden’s antagonist-like monologue lambasted the Trump-aligned population of America as being “a clear and present danger” who placed “a dagger at the throat of [American] democracy”. Does the US diplomatic community suggest that Sri Lanka is not in ‘clear and present danger’ from the politically charged regime change operation that transpired here?

The American state and people have been a friend of Sri Lanka for decades. The political bond that was enjoyed during the JR-Reagan period is one of diplomatic brilliance and political prosperity. Likewise, the US military has always had a cordial relationship with its Sri Lankan counterparts. Amongst several instances, the US Navy Pacific Command provided intelligence to the Sri Lankan government of LTTE terrorist activity to hunt down terrorist ships and crew during the war. Alternatively, the Sri Lankan military provided Jungle Warfare training to foreign troops. The potential inconvenience to this politico-militaristic relationship stems from mishandled diplomacy on both sides of the spectrum; including the double standard view of the US government as well as the failure of the Sri Lankan diplomatic corps in building a stronger relationship with its Western counterparts.

The LTTE international network carries out its compelling strategy of lobbying, litigation and lawmaking in the global arena. By lobbying foreign politicians with funds and votes, the LTTE international body attempts to achieve the vision of separatism through international geopolitics after having failed to achieve it through sheer brutal terrorism on the island. At the same time, the ongoing shift in US foreign policy away from the political ecosystem of the Middle East and towards the Indo-Pacific region signals a potentially intense power play in the region.

The Sri Lankan government and diplomatic corps must immediately understand the severity of this impending materialisation and prepare themselves at the earliest. The economic condition of the country and the failing political stability have rendered the nation a regional punching bag, as rightly commented by President Wickremesinghe. A punching bag will not survive the storm – only a ship with a sturdy sail and adept steering can make it through. It is time Sri Lanka builds her sail and firmly lays her hands on the helm. The storm is coming.

War on Terror: 9/11 in Retrospect

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6 mins read

As the hands of the great chronograph of time strike to symbolise twenty-one years since that day of sheer terror in downtown New York, the world reflects upon the new type of war that has enkindled the world for all these years. As the haunting wails of victims pulsated across the globe, the extremist Islamist brand of terror took the centre stage of destruction.

9/11 marks a tragic memory of loss for the American people. People gathered at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan to observe an annual ritual of remembering the nearly 3,000 lives that were lost in the terror attacks. The crowd raised the popular slogan, “Never Forget” to pay tribute to the precious lives lost and to the resolve of the American nation against terrorism. Army General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remembered it as “an attack on the American nation as a whole” and the failure of terrorists in destroying the freedom of the nation. The attacks on 9/11 reflected a growing threat to the peaceful community of the world.

Bin Laden’s model of terror resembled an idiosyncratic fusion of politico-religious fundamentalism as well as anti-Americanist sentiment. The newspapers on 9th September 2001 reported, “America is under attack”. People watched in disbelief as the most powerful country in the world seemed vulnerable and helpless in the face of such blatant provocation. The unipolar world power of the 90s was struck in the heart by an ideological fiend of terror. The very magnitude of severity with which the mighty Global Power was assaulted shocked the ends of the earth. 9/11 is still regarded as the single deadliest attack on US soil.

As al-Qaeda openly and brazenly provoked the US, the latter vindictively declared a counterattack against al-Qaeda and their organisational haven in Kabul – the Taliban. Then-President George W. Bush announced that the US will “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them”. This announcement materialised through the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 07 of the same year, when US Army Special Forces, colloquially known as the ‘Green Berets’ were deployed into Afghanistan to decimate the al-Qaeda operational infrastructure and network. The operation also aimed to oust the Taliban government from Afghanistan due to the very national security threat that the country posed to the US. This operation which was launched with a clear aim in mind, soon turned into an ambiguous and controversial war – famously dubbed the War on Terror.

The War on Terror became the longest war ever fought by the US spanning over twenty years. The Taliban regime collapsed a month after the attack and Bin Laden fled Afghanistan and remained in hiding for close to a decade. When the war completed its first ten years, Bin Laden was finally struck down by Seal Team Six (DEVGRU) in 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan. With that, the primary goal of the US was accomplished which was to rout both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. At this stage in 2011, the US had planted the pro-US government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.

The remainder of their operations in Afghanistan was fought without any particular goals to accomplish – something that had been up for debate for several years with multiple high-profile figures advocating for withdrawal. The US claimed that its goal was to create a strong democratic government in Afghanistan so that the Taliban can never roll back into power. Fast forward to 2021, the Taliban rolled back to power stronger than before and with the mighty brunt of the US arsenal courtesy of the Biden-Harris administration.

The War on Terror was jointly supported by many countries. Although combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other affiliated regions have greatly ceased, other aspects of the war like the prevention of financing terrorism persist. The successes of this war are plentiful on the operational dimension; however, it has also garnered multitudes of criticism on accusations of aggravating the threat. Various proxy campaigns, especially under the Obama administration have led to Made in USA weaponry getting into the hands of insurgents, terrorists and radicals. In the Syrian theatre, US funding and weapons strengthened rebel groups against President Bashar al-Assad, yet it irresponsibly led to the arming of the Islamic State in the region.

Due to the War in Afghanistan, the US not only faced external condemnation but internal criticism as well. As the war prolonged, the cost of the war increased over time, in the form of both human and financial losses. The US spent over USD 2.31 trillion with over 243,000 deaths in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre, neologistically referred to as AfPak within US foreign policy circles. This made the American public ‘war-weary’ and the war goals were seen as unworthy in the face of human and financial costs. On the other hand, the international community started calling out the US as this war had no end in sight. One of the most criticised aspects of war was the use of drones by the US. UN experts expressed this concern by calling drone strikes ‘counter-productive’ as they do more harm than good owing to heavy civilian casualties. Obama’s warfare strategy incorporated the launching of thousands of drone and air strikes in war zones in the Middle East and Central Asia, killing scores of civilians in the process. In addition, the countries whose territories were used in waging this war became the frontline against terrorists. For instance, a report by Nobel prize-winner concluded that around 80,000 people were killed, both directly and indirectly, in Pakistan alone as a result of the war on terror.

On the positive side, 9/11 and the War on Terror rapidly mobilised the Western security community to realise dormant terror cells within their borders. This enabled the dismantling of various foreign terrorist networks including Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In the mid-2000s, the Western security apparatus dismantled multiple funding links between the LTTE international network and the LTTE terrorists in Sri Lanka’s North and East. Numerous LTTE front organisations that disguised as cultural and charity institutions were raided, investigated and proscribed for terrorist financing, arms procurement and war taxes. Among these, the World Tamil Movement (Canada) and World Tamil Coordinating Committee (US) received much of the limelight.

The underlying impetus that al-Qaeda used to garner support from Muslim countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia was the prevalence of anti-Americanist sentiments. The Muslim world sees the US as a foreign force that attempts to enforce its rule over smaller nations. The unilateral invasion of Iraq, wars in Afghanistan, and the non-resolution of the Palestine issue are some of the major reasons for such sentiments. When the propagation of the thesis of ‘Clash of Civilisations’ was carried out by Western intellectuals and disseminated across Western media, a natural aura of insecurity engulfed the Muslim world, which was vaguely isolated in the world.

The US fighting wars in Islamic regions of the world was perceived as evidence of ‘US vs Muslim’ sentiments – something that was and is capitalised on by extremists across the world. Osama bin Laden exploited these sentiments to achieve his ulterior ambitions, just as Zahran Hasheem did in order to launch the 2019 Easter Sunday Attacks. Although the violent activities of terrorists should be unquestionably condemned, distorted strategies by the Western security community – especially the invasion of Iraq – should be condemned as well.

Even after fighting the beasts of terror for twenty long years, the US failed in its attempt to militarily stop the Taliban from gaining power in Afghanistan. The Doha Peace Deal between the US and the Taliban in 2020 was seen as the acceptance of this failure. By sitting at the same table with the Taliban and accepting them as major stakeholders in Afghanistan, the US fundamentally declared that the two decades spent on the war were a lost cause. After all this time, the Biden-Harris administration handed over the reins of power back to the Taliban – the very group that was denied rule in 2001. The relations between the US and the Taliban have seen many surprising changes; from being the supporters during the Soviet War in Afghanistan from 1979-1989 to being the cut-throat enemies after 9/11, the relationship evolved. Finally resulting in the most current development where both parties showcase a feigned acceptance of the co-existence of each other.

The Doha Peace Deal led to the total withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. After this withdrawal, Kabul fell on 15th August 2021 without any resistance from the US-trained Afghan army. US-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul before the Taliban terrorists entered the capital. This raised many eyebrows across the world as the CIA had predicted otherwise. Reports suggested that the United States has spent almost $83 billion on the training of the Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). Thus, the Marshall plan by the US to develop and equip the Afghanistan government’s resilience against terrorist organisations fell headfirst into the ground. Despite thorough attacks that often resulted in civilian casualties, the top militaries of the world were unable to dismantle a terrorist network that primarily operated from Afghanistan cave systems. Alternatively, the Sri Lankan military was able to decimate the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world (FBI statement 2008) and that too after conducting the world’s largest hostage rescue mission by rescuing approximately 200,000 civilians from the trappings of the LTTE’s human shields.

Although 9/11 raised an outcry for action from every section of American society, the retrospective view of the decisions taken by the Bush administration reveals the very inefficiency and miscalculations of some of those actions. A very prominent example is the Patriot Act, which was passed 45 days after the attacks. It was passed under the cloak of combating terrorism but is accused of jeopardising the civil rights of people in America and proved that the ambitious US government even used 9/11 as an opportunity to achieve its goals.

9/11 is rightly described by analysts as the most striking event of the century that reverberated across space and time. Afghanistan became a war-torn country; Pakistan faced the spillover effect of terrorism in the neighbourhood and multiple affiliated regions were stuck in the vicious cycle of terrorism. On one side, 9/11 reinvigorated an exceptional sense of unity among the people of the US. On the other hand, it created havoc in Afghanistan that lost any semblance of stability and prosperity.

Time to Unveil Trump’s Basement Documents

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1252 views
8 mins read

Whatever your feelings about former President Trump, there are reasons to be skeptical when government officials say it was necessary to raid his Florida home to recover classified documents that threatened national security.

Like the former president, I was once accused by the government of mishandling classified information connected to my representation of a detainee at Guantanamo Bay. There was nothing in my client’s file that posed any danger to national security. My client was an innocent shopkeeper who was sold to the Americans back in 2003 when the U.S. was paying bounties to corrupt Afghan warlords to turn in Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, and then shipping those men 8,000 miles to our newly built prison camp in Cuba. The government decided to classify every document in the detainee files as “secret,” not to protect national security, but so it could lie with impunity and tell the American people that the prisoners at Gitmo were the “worst of the worst,” and “terrorists” captured on the battlefield.

I never revealed any classified information. I got into trouble after writing an article criticizing the government’s practice of classifying certain evidence above the security clearance level of the detainee’s lawyer, making it impossible to challenge. Following a hearing at the Department of Justice, I was allowed to keep my security clearance long enough to see my client released back to his home and his family after 12 years of unjust imprisonment.

I was never in serious legal jeopardy. But the experience opened my eyes to the ways that our government abuses its power to classify information as “secret” to protect its own officials from embarrassment or criminal exposure. Since 9/11, the people most aggressively pursued for mishandling classified materials are whistleblowers, not traitors.

Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange revealed official crimes such as the murder of unarmed Iraqi civilians and journalists. Daniel Hale revealed that our drone assassination program regularly slaughters innocent civilians, contrary to public statements about surgical strikes. John Kiriakou revealed inconvenient facts about our torture program. Edward Snowden revealed an illegal mass surveillance program. All these truth-tellers were aggressively pursued under the Espionage Act. Assange may die in prison for telling the truth about the crimes of our leaders.

While Trump may not fit the mold of a selfless whistleblower, there is still cause for concern. First, the official justifications for the raid on Mar-a-Lago are highly suspect. Initially we were told that Trump possessed “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons” that he might sell to a foreign government like Saudi Arabia. This shocking accusation has been quietly dropped. Now we are told that the government has “grave concern” that Trump might blow the cover on “clandestine human sources” described in the mainstream media as the “lifeblood” of our intelligence community. “Disclosure could jeopardize the life of the human source,” a former legal adviser to the National Security Council told the New York Times.

This second justification—to protect sources—is also dubious. The DOJ has been in negotiation with Trump’s lawyers since he left the oval office with his boxes of documents. If the government was just concerned about protecting its informants, a deal could have easily been struck wherein government lawyers would go to Mar-a-Lago and redact the lines in the documents that identify informants without the need for a full-blown raid.

The sudden concern in the mainstream media about protecting informants in order to take down Trump is short-sighted. The U.S. has a long and sordid history of using corrupt, lying informants to launch disastrous policies like the Iraq War. In 2002-03, we were told by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell that the government had “solid intelligence” that the Iraqi regime possessed mobile production facilities for biological and chemical weapons. Had ordinary Americans then had access to the intelligence reports—leaked years later, after the disastrous war was in full flight—we would have learned that the “solid intelligence” about mobile weapons labs came from a single informant named “Curveball,” who had been described by his handlers as “crazy” and “probably a fabricator” and his intelligence as “highly suspect.” Had some brave patriot leaked these reports in real time, millions more Americans would have taken to the streets in 2002 to stop the planned invasion of Iraq.

The media should be demanding more information from our government, especially about its use of informants, and not more secrecy. It is a basic rule of journalism that governments lie, and they often bribe (and sometimes torture) informants to support those lies.

Many innocent men, including my client, were sent to Guantanamo Bay on the word of informants who were bribed with large cash rewards. If these informants are the lifeblood of our intelligence service, then that service should be defunded.

A more plausible explanation for the Mar-a-Lago raid was provided by two high-level U.S. intelligence officials who told Newsweek’s William M. Arkin that the true target of the raid was a personal “stash” of hidden documents that Justice Department officials feared Donald Trump might weaponize. This stash reportedly included material that Trump thought would exonerate him of any claims of Russian collusion in 2016 or any other election-related charges. “Trump was particularly interested in matters related to the Russia hoax and the wrong-doings of the deep state,” one former Trump official told Newsweek.

This explanation is corroborated by former senior director for counterterrorism Kash Patel, who prepared a key House report that revealed “significant intelligence tradecraft failings” in connection with the Intelligence Community’s Assessment on Russian interference. But the CIA has blocked the release of Patel’s report by classifying it as “secret.”

Kash Patel, who is a current board member of Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG), began his career in government under President Obama as a national security prosecutor and later held several positions in the Trump administration. In April 2017, he was picked to lead a team of investigators for the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republican Devin Nunes (now CEO of TMTG), and tasked with evaluating the “Intelligence Community Assessment” (ICA) on Russian interference. Although the media touted the ICA as the consensus view of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, it was in fact a rushed job completed in the final days of the Obama administration by a small group of CIA analysts led by then-CIA Director John Brennan.

Patel’s team obtained and reviewed the key documents underlying the ICA’s conclusions, and interviewed around 70 witnesses under oath. His demands that intelligence agencies produce relevant documents caused a stir among deep state officials unaccustomed to being called to account for their actions. As the Washington Post reported, “Democrats criticized the unusual direct requests to the agencies” by Patel’s team of investigators. Patel, a former public defender, apparently believed that even the intelligence community should be subject to the rule of law.

In March 2018, Patel’s team produced a report that found serious flaws in the CIA’s Russia investigation and called into question the intelligence community’s key claims that Russia ordered a cyber-hacking and interference campaign to help Trump. The CIA’s response to Patel’s report was to classify it as secret and block its release.

During the next three years, Patel and others, including then-President Trump and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, pushed for declassification of Patel’s report on the ICA. But the heads of the intelligence agencies continued to obstruct, claiming that releasing the report “would compromise intelligence sources and methods” and cause “harm… to national security, including specific harm to the military.” Trump eventually backed down.

Then in December 2020, according to the Post, Trump tried to fire Gina Haspel as CIA director for “resisting efforts by Trump and Patel to declassify” Patel’s report. But once again, Trump backed down and the document still remains under lock and key. Not surprisingly, in its article about Patel’s battle with the intelligence community, the Washington Post sides with the CIA, describing CIA Director Haspel and her colleagues, who demanded that Patel’s report criticizing their work be kept secret, as “courageous officialswho sought to protect the government.”

Patel has publicly voiced his frustration with the CIA for blocking release of his report on the ICA. “I think there were people within the IC [Intelligence Community], at the heads of certain intelligence agencies, who did not want their tradecraft called out, even though it was during a former administration, because it doesn’t look good on the agency itself,” Patel said in an interview. Patel also said he has been threatened with criminal prosecution just for talking to the media about his classified report. The power of government officials to say, ‘we have classified your report and if you even talk about it to the media we might put you in jail,’ is the power of a despot.

In an interview with the Grayzone’s Aaron Maté, Patel disputed the claim that releasing his report harms national security, noting that his committee released similar reports of its other investigations and “we didn’t lose a single source, we didn’t lose a single relationship, and no one died by the public disclosures we made, because we did it in a systematic and professional fashion.”

For example, in January 2018, Patel authored a report that showed serious abuses by the FBI in the Carter Page investigation, which caused a former FBI lawyer to plead guilty to falsifying information that was used to apply for warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This report criticizing the FBI was released to the public, suggesting that it is still permissible to criticize the FBI, but not the CIA.

Patel’s public statements suggest his agreement with Newsweek’s report that the true motivation for the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago was seizing documents relating to the Russia investigation that Trump took with him when he left the White House. In a recent interview with Real Clear Politics, Patel noted that “the same corrupt FBI government gangsters, the same agents that were involved in Russiagate, the same counterintelligence agents that were involved in making the bad false call on Hunter Biden’s laptop,” are also involved in the raid on President Trump’s home, with the intent to make sure the American public never gets the full story on Russiagate.

The saga of the Mar-a-Lago raid sheds some light on the important question of who really controls what we are permitted to see about the inner workings of our own government. While the sitting president may in theory have unilateral authority to declassify and release information to the American people, the deep state bureaucracy still holds the power to obstruct the president. As one former bureaucrat told CNN, the process for declassification must include signoff from the agency that classified the information in the first place “in order to protect the intelligence-gathering process, its sources and methods.”

Whatever one thinks of Trump, is it really in the public interest to have a deep state controlling what information gets out to the public? In 1953, the CIA directed a military coup that overthrew democratically elected Iranian leader Mohammad Mosaddegh, and in 1973, the CIA helped overthrow democratically elected Chilean leader Salvador Allende. These leaders were targeted not because they were unfriendly to the American people but because they were unfriendly to international oil and copper interests that wanted to exploit those countries’ resources. And while the people of Iran and Chile knew in real time who was responsible, the American people were kept in the dark for decades until key historical documents were finally declassified.

Many scholars believe the CIA was complicit in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Yet 60 years later, thousands of key documents remain redacted or under seal. President Trump came to office promising to release those records, as required by the JFK Records Act. But deep state bureaucrats opposed the release, claiming it would cause “potentially irreversible harm to our Nation’s security.” Trump backed down, quite possibly recalling the fate of the last president to go to war with the CIA.

It’s not necessary to side with Trump to oppose excessive secrecy. It’s our government. We have a right to see whatever secrets Trump had hidden in his basement. And if government bureaucrats are truly concerned that one of their informants might be outed, they can redact those few lines from the reports. But show us the rest.

This article is distributed in partnership with Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Systematic Violence in Canada

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Violence against Indigenous women is “escalating like never before,” the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) has warned. A series of tragedies have rocked the city of Vancouver (unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh lands) in recent months, including the discovery of the body of a 14-year-old Indigenous child, Noelle O’Soup, in May.

“Apathy and injustice prevail among the authorities while the intersecting crises of MMIWG2S+ [missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, and others], the colonial child welfare system, homelessness, and the opioid crisis are literally killing our people,” said Kukpi7 (Chief) Judy Wilson, UBCIC secretary-treasurer, according to a press release by the organization.

Noelle O’Soup was found in an apartment approximately a year after she went missing from a group home in Port Coquitlam, while under the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), British Columbia. Reports on the circumstances of her disappearance and the investigation into her death have revealed negligence by both the police and the government. “The major investigative oversight occurred despite multiple visits to, and apparent inspections of, the single room occupancy unit where Noelle O’Soup’s remains would finally be discovered,” stated Global News. Her case, unfortunately, is more the rule rather than the exception in Canada.

An Ongoing Genocide

In 2019, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (NIMMIWG) released its final report, declaring that the violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual) people amounted to “genocide.”

The NIMMIWG emphasized that this genocide had been “empowered by colonial structures evidenced notably by the Indian Act, the Sixties Scoop, residential schools, and breaches of human and Indigenous rights, leading directly to the current increased rates of violence, death, and suicide in Indigenous populations.”

The inquiry found that “Indigenous women and girls are 12 times more likely to be murdered or [go] missing than any other women in Canada,” with the figure soaring to 16 times when compared to white women in the country.

A report by Statistics Canada released in April 2022 stated that 56 percent of Indigenous women have experienced physical assault, while 46 percent have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime. Constituting approximately 5 percent of Canada’s population of women, Indigenous women accounted for 24 percent of all women homicide victims between 2015 and 2020, according to the Statistics Canada report.

The likelihood of experiencing violence seems to be higher in cases where Indigenous women live in rural and remote areas, if they have a disability, have experienced homelessness, or have been in government care—81 percent of Indigenous women who have been in the child welfare system have been physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Statistics Canada.

“Across multiple generations, Indigenous peoples were and continue to be subjected to the detrimental harms of colonialism,” acknowledged the report. Not only are Indigenous children disproportionately represented in Canada’s child welfare system (52.2 percent), but advocates have also found that more children have been forcibly separated from their families now than during the brutal Indian residential schools period.

Along with its final report, the NIMMIWG also made a key intervention in prevailing definitions of genocide, stating that “In actuality, genocide encompasses a variety of both lethal and non-lethal acts, including acts of ‘slow death,’ and all of these acts have very specific impacts on women and girls.”

“This reality must be acknowledged as a precursor to understanding genocide as a root cause of the violence against Indigenous women and girls in Canada,” the NIMMIWG added, “[n]ot only because of the genocidal acts that were and still are perpetrated against them, but also because of all the societal vulnerabilities it fosters, which leads to deaths and disappearances.”

‘The Police Don’t Protect Us’

The remains of Noelle O’Soup were found in Downtown Eastside (DTES), a neighborhood referred to as “ground zero” for violence against Indigenous women. Residents face disproportionate levels of “manufactured and enforced violence, poverty, homelessness, child apprehension, criminalization, and fatal overdoses.”

Approximately 8,000 women live and work in DTES, where the rates of violence have been more than double compared to the rest of Vancouver, according to data provided by the police.

Indigenous women have an acute vulnerability to violence, and yet the institutional response has been to stigmatize the women in DTES for having “high-risk lifestyles.”

“Harmful stereotypes that are perpetuated against Indigenous women are used as an ongoing tool of colonization to enforce their vulnerability to violence,” stated Christine Wilson, director of Indigenous Advocacy at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center (DEWC), in an interview with Peoples Dispatch.

In 2019, the DEWC published “Red Women Rising,” a historic report produced in direct collaboration with 113 Indigenous survivors of violence and 15 non-Indigenous women in the DTES who knew Indigenous women who have experienced violence, have gone missing, or have overdosed. “Red Women Rising” was published in response to the final report of the NIMMIWG.

Echoing the argument put forth in “Red Women Rising,” Wilson reiterated that “the criminal justice system constructs Indigenous women as ‘risks’ that need to be contained, which leaves them unsafe and exacerbates inequalities.” Widespread bias within the policing system has not only influenced whether police take Indigenous women’s complaints seriously, Wilson explained, but also whether Indigenous women approach the police at all.

“The police don’t protect us; they harass us,” stated DJ Joe, a resident of DTES, in the report by DEWC. “Native women face so much violence but no one believes a Native woman when she reports violence.”

In cases involving missing or murdered women, there is a lack of proper investigation and adequate resources, Wilson stated, adding that family members of victims were subjected to insensitive and offensive treatment, alongside general jurisdictional confusion and lack of coordination among the police.

Police have also been actively hostile and abusive toward Indigenous women in Canada. They continue to be targets of sexual violence by police forces, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), which has been deployed on contract policing services in 600 Indigenous communities.

Lack of police and judicial protection also overlaps with criminalization, thereby exacerbating violence against Indigenous women and girls. Wilson added, “Indigenous women are more likely to be violently attacked by their abusers and then more likely to be counter-charged by the police, compared to non-Indigenous women.”

Colonial Patriarchy Poses the Highest Risk

As “Red Women Rising” outlined, “Settler-colonialism intentionally targets Indigenous women in order to destroy families, sever the connection to land-based practices and economies, and devastate relational governance of Indigenous nations.”

The report identified “[m]ultiplying socioeconomic oppressions within colonialism,” including loss of land, family violence, child apprehension, and inadequate services, which worked to displace Indigenous women and children from their home communities.

Forty-two percent of women living on reserves lived in houses requiring major repairs, according to the report, and nearly one-third of all on-reserve homes in Canada were food insecure, with the figure soaring to 90 percent in some areas. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Indigenous women lived off-reserve, in areas such as DTES.

Displacement is closely linked to housing insecurity, with all members of DEWC having experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.

The violence that Indigenous women face is tied to poverty, which in turn “magnifies vulnerability to abusive relationships, sexual assault, child apprehension, exploitative work conditions, [and] unsafe housing,” stated the “Red Women Rising” report.

Not only are Indigenous women disproportionately criminalized for “poverty-related crimes,” but Indigenous families are also investigated for “poverty-related ‘neglect’” eight times more as compared to non-Indigenous families. “[H]igher stressors associated with living in systemic poverty such as drug dependence and participation in street economies are used against Indigenous women in order to apprehend Indigenous children, thus perpetuating the colonial cycle of trauma and impoverishment,” the report pointed out.

As a result, activists argue that what is needed is an “assertion of Indigenous laws and jurisdiction, and restoration of collective Indigenous women’s rights and governance,” and “individual support for survivors such as healing programs.”

“Red Women Rising” had made 200 recommendations to address violence against Indigenous women. Meanwhile, the NIMMIWG had issued 231 “Calls for Justice,” stressing that they were legal imperatives, not recommendations. However, in the three years since the release of both these reports, the Canadian government has made “little progress.”

“While there have been crucial acknowledgments on the subject of violence against Indigenous women,” Wilson told Peoples Dispatch, “now we need actions. We need funds for reparations, we need housing, and we need clean water on the reserves.”

This article was produced in partnership by Peoples Dispatch and Globetrotter.

Ukraine: The Missing Link

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I once asked my younger son if he could pass the salt, only to be met with the response, “Of course I can!” When I repeated my request, he snapped back: “You asked me if I could do it, and I answered you. You didn’t tell me that I should do it.”

Who was freer in this situation – me or my son? If we understand freedom as freedom of choice, my son was freer, because he had an additional choice about how to interpret my question. He could take it literally, or he could interpret it in the usual sense, as a request that was formulated as a question out of politeness. By contrast, I effectively renounced this choice and automatically relied on the conventional sense.

Now, imagine a world where many more people acted in everyday life the way my son did when he was teasing me. We would never know for sure what our partners in conversation wanted to say, and we would lose an immense amount of time pursuing pointless interpretations. Is this not an apt description of political life over the last decade? Donald Trump and other alt-right populists have capitalized on the fact that democratic politics relies on certain unwritten rules and customs, which they have violated when it suits them, while avoiding accountability by not always explicitly breaking the law.

In the United States, Trump’s Republican Party lackeys are pursuing such a strategy ahead of the next presidential election. According to a fringe legal theory that they have embraced, a loophole in federal election law would permit a state’s legislature to appoint its own presidential electors if the secretary of state decides that he or she cannot certify the result of an election. Republican election deniers are now running for the offices that they will need to override the will of the voters in 2024. The GOP thus is attempting to destroy one of the basic conditions of democracy: that all political participants speak the same language and follow the same rules. Otherwise, a country will find itself on the verge of civil war – an outcome that almost one-half of Americans now expect.

The same conditions apply to global politics. For international relations to work, all parties must at least speak the same language when they talk about concepts like freedom and occupation. Russia obviously is undermining this condition by describing its war of aggression in Ukraine as a “special operation” to “liberate” the country. But Ukraine’s government has also fallen into this trap. Addressing the Israeli Knesset on March 20, 2022, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “We are in different countries and in completely different conditions. But the threat is the same: for both us and you – the total destruction of the people, state, culture. And even of the names: Ukraine, Israel.”

Palestinian political scientist Asad Ghanem described Zelensky’s speech as “a disgrace when it comes to global struggles for freedom and liberation, particularly of the Palestinian people.” Zelensky “reversed the roles of occupier and occupied.” I agree. And I also agree with Ghanem that, “every possible support must be given to Ukrainians as they resist [Russia’s] barbaric aggression.” Without Western military support, most of Ukraine would now be under Russian occupation, destroying a pillar of international peace and order: the integrity of borders.

Unfortunately, Zelensky’s Knesset speech was not a singular event. Ukraine regularly takes public positions in support of the Israeli occupation. In 2020, it quit the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; and just last month, its ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, declared that: “As a Ukrainian whose country is under a very brutal attack by its neighbor, I feel great sympathy towards the Israeli public.”

This parallel between Israel and Ukraine is totally misplaced. If anything, the Ukrainians’ situation is closest to that of the West Bank Palestinians’. Yes, Israelis and Palestinians at least acknowledge their adversaries’ otherness, whereas Russia claims that Ukrainians are really just Russians. But not only does Israel deny that the Palestinians are a nation (as Russia does with Ukraine); the Palestinians also have been denied a place in the Arab world (like Ukrainians vis-à-vis Europe before the war). Moreover, like Russia, Israel is a nuclear-armed military superpower that is de facto colonizing a smaller, much weaker entity. And like Russia in the occupied parts of Ukraine, Israel is practicing a politics of apartheid.

While Israel’s leaders welcome Ukraine’s support, they have not returned the favor. Instead, they have oscillated between Russia and Ukraine, because Israel needs Russia’s continuing toleration of its own military strikes on targets in Syria. But Ukraine’s full support for Israel mainly reflects its leaders’ ideological interest in presenting their struggle as a defense of Europe and European civilization against a barbaric, totalitarian East.

This framing of the fight is untenable, because it requires glossing over Europe’s own roles in slavery, colonialism, fascism, and so forth. It is crucial that Ukraine’s cause be defended in universal terms, around shared concepts and interpretations of words like “occupation” and “freedom.” To reduce Ukraine’s war to a struggle for Europe is to use the same framing as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “court philosopher” Aleksandr Dugin, who draws a line between “Russian truth” and “European truth.” Confining the conflict to Europe reinforces Russia’s own global propaganda, which presents the invasion of Ukraine as an act of decolonization – part of the struggle against Western neoliberal domination and a necessary step toward a multipolar world.

By treating Israel’s colonization of the West Bank as a defensive struggle for freedom, Ukraine is validating another power’s aggression and thus compromising its own fully justified struggle for freedom. Sooner or later, it will have to make a choice. Will it be truly European, by participating in the universal emancipatory project that defines Europe? Or will it become a part of the new right’s populist wave?
When Ukraine asked the West, “Can you pass the howitzers?” the West did not cynically quip, “Yes, we can!” and then do nothing. Western countries replied reasonably by sending weapons to fight the occupiers. Yet when Palestinians ask for support of any kind, they receive nothing but empty statements, often accompanied by declarations of solidarity with their oppressor. When they ask for the salt, it is handed to their opponent.

Courtesy: Project-syndicate. Click here to read the original

Future of Salafists and Deobandis

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Twenty-one years ago, the 9/11 attacks in the US set off a range of social and political changes in Muslim societies. The Middle East was the flashpoint as it was believed that the Al Qaeda ideology was deep-rooted in the political conflict and prevalent religious thought in that part of the globe. In subsequent years, the ‘Arab Spring’ largely failed in leading to a democratic change in the region. Now, the Gulf monarchies are trying to bring about the changes which many expected a democratic process to deliver.

The monetary and political cost of the ‘change’ envisioned and set out by monarchies in the Middle East is low, but its impact seems enormous: it is changing Muslim societies worldwide. Many anticipate that the ongoing moderation or religious reform in Saudi Arabia, and the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE will counteract and weaken the radical groups in Muslim societies that have long been thriving on the Gulf states’ financial and political support. Although the claim thus far lacks empirical evidence, the pace and outcome of the ‘change process’ will make its validation easier.

Events and developments in the Middle East influence ideological and political trends in Pakistan. But the latter is also concerned about the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, political changes in Iran, and the rise of communal hatred in India. All these and other externalities and the state’s response to them are slowly changing the country’s sociopolitical and ideological outlook. The change, which will take time to become visible, will not only reshape religious thought but also determine the future trends of extremism in society. So far, non-state actors, religious groups, and power elites are trying to understand the changes in the region and will shape their strategies accordingly.

Pakistan’s growing financial dependence on the Gulf region will not only influence its geopolitical and strategic choices, but also the state’s attitude towards the religious groups which play on their close sectarian affinity with Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia. The religious reform in Saudi Arabia has brought about a big challenge for the conservative Salafi and Deobandi religious groups in Pakistan, which find it difficult to change their outlook overnight. More than 20 Salafi groups and parties were thriving on the Gulf states’ support, apart from the violent Deobandi sectarian groups which were aligned with them. A few groups are trying to adjust to the changes to keep their financial support from the Gulf countries intact.

However, some resist and try to find alternative foreign funding sources or expand their local support bases. Over a period, the Pakistani state has also changed its approach toward certain militant and radical religious groups that once enjoyed the patron[1]age of state institutions. The state has changed its approach after external pressure, and especially the FATF, led it to review its policies. The banned Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), a major Salafi group in Pak[1]istan with an armed wing, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), is undergoing a transformation. This transformation can help in understanding how the changes in the Middle East and the policies of the state institutions together impact radical forces in Pakistan. Right now, three disparate views persist within the organisation.

The first view favours abandoning the militant path and focusing only on educational and preaching activities. Proponents of this view also support Mohammed bin Salman’s policies in Saudi Arabia and the Abraham Accords. There is also a strong opinion within the group for adopting the path of electoral politics. The JuD had participated in the last general election and invested huge resources, but its performance was abysmal. How[1]ever, the young leadership sees politics as a reasonable safe exit to deflect the pressure from their cadre demanding the restoration of organisational activities.

The view is not popular among the main leadership, but JuD workers and supporters have an appetite for it, as they compare their strengths with the Barelvi Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan that they believe has filled the vacuum which the JuD left behind. Besides these two views, there is also a faction within the group that still insists on jihad, does not want to quit the path of militancy, and is willing to continue its activities without the support of state institutions.

The JuD cadre is confused; they have not only devoted their lives to the group but also brought their families into the organisational fold. Most of them were surviving on the financial support provided by the JuD, but now they are struggling and need immediate engagement. The state has not provided any rehabilitation to these abandoned workers. Now they are an easy target for groups like Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K). Other banned groups are also facing the same challenge. The Salafists, stigmatised by various violent and nonviolent expressions of fundamentalism, are left with little choice. They have Mohammed bin Salman on one side and IS-K on the other. They can choose between the two, with almost no option for a middle ground.

The Deobandis are fragmented too, as always, but their significant majority, including the violent sectarian groups, still feel in line with the Saudis. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has also given them a sense of victory. The Saudis will have an interest in continuing to support them for the sake of countering Iranian influence in the country both on societal and state levels. The state institutions would also have in mind the utility of these outfits for future political scenarios. However, they would not allow the Deobandi madressahs to nurture another generation of the militants that would ultimately hurt the state institutions’ interests.

The Gulf states cannot develop a relationship with the wider civil society in Pakistan because of the latter’s democratic credentials, and they will keep depending on their old allies among the religious parties. It is not certain that the Gulf states will try to impose any change on the religious groups until they serve their purpose. Iran, too, has no interest in abandoning its Shia allies in Pakistan. The religious groups will not change overnight, but the changes in the Middle East will impact them slowly and steadily.

Assam: Emerging Epicenter of Islamist Extremism?

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There are few noted arrests were made by police to nullify multiple ABT (Ansar al-Islam/Ansarullah Bangla Team)-linked/inspired modules, spread across Dhubri, Barpeta, Bongaigaon, Goalpara, Morigaon, Kamrup (Metropolitan) and Nagaon Districts, which have come to focus since March 2022. On March 4, 2022, the Assam Police arrested five ABT cadres including Saiful Islam aka Haroon Rashid, a Bangladeshi national, from Barpeta.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over Saiful Islam’s case on March 22, 2022. According to the NIA First Information Report, there is an active module of ABT in Barpeta District, led by Saiful Islam, who entered India illegally and was engaged as an Arabic Teacher at the Dhakaliapara Masjid. Saiful Islam was active in motivating impressionable youth/men to join jihadi outfits and to work in modules, Ansars (sleeper cells), to create a base for Al-Qaeda and its manifestations in India. The other members of the module were Khairul Islam, Badshah Suleiman Khan, Noushad Ali and Taimur Rahman Khan. All the accused persons were involved in the commission of various offences, including conspiracy, waging war against the state, harbouring, and collecting funds for committing unlawful and terrorist acts.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 30 ABT-linked extremists have been arrested by the Police from different Districts of the State since March 4, 2022, (till September 11, 2022).

Though details about ABT activities are still emerging, Assam Chief Minister (CM) Himanta Biswa Sarma stated on August 4, 2022, that ABT had increased its focus on Assam during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the administration and police were busy handling the crisis. He disclosed,

These people [ABT cadres] were working as preachers in mosques – as a cover job – their aim was to wage jihad against India and establish ‘shariat’ law. Several training camps were organised by these people especially during COVID-19 times. They were trained in tradecraft (techniques/technology used in modern espionage), radicalisation, indoctrination, gun training and bomb-making… They [ABT] do not use mobile calls but use chat apps to communicate. Not Telegram, but these chat apps found are unheard of. They are peer-to-peer encrypted chat apps and are more sophisticated and beyond the end-to-end chat apps.

Further, on August 28, 2022, Special Director General of Police (Law and Order) G. P. Singh noted that, “till now, we haven’t received any indication of arms training’’. When asked whether the madrasas (seminaries)-linked to ABT were registered, he asserted, “We will take action if they are not as per govt guidelines.” Earlier, on April 25, 2022, Additional Director General of Police (Special Branch) Hiren Nath added that, though “there was no formal arms training” by the ABT, they have “started indoctrination”.

Also, on September 1, 2022, a long-time observer of militancy in the Northeast, Rajeev Bhattacharya, comparing ABT with others like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), wrote, “Jamatul-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), for instance, was structured unlike the ABT which is loosely organised and decentralized.”

There have been earlier instances of infiltration by ABT into Assam as well. The interrogation of a Bangladeshi ABT cadre, Faisal Ahmed, arrested from the Bommanahalli area of Bangalore city, Karnataka, on July 1, 2022, revealed that he had arrived in Silchar in the Cachar District of Assam in 2015. He, thereafter, made a fake voter ID card under the name, Shahid Majumdar, and also obtained an Indian passport. Importantly, Faisal Ahmed was one of the four ABT militants convicted for killing Bangladeshi blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in thr Subidbazar area of Sylhet on May 12, 2015. On March 30, 2022, the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal-based in Sylhet convicted and sentenced four persons, including Faisal Ahmed to death.

Meanwhile, another Bangladesh-based Islamist terrorist group, the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) continues with its efforts to extend its influence in Assam. The presence of JMB came to notice when, on October 2, 2014, Shakil Ahmed and Suvon Mandal aka Subhan, both active members of the JMB, were killed, and Abdul Hakim aka Hassan sustained injuries in an accidental explosion in a rented two-story house at Khagragarh under the Burdwan Police Station of Burdwan District, West Bengal. All three were found to be Bangladeshi citizens. A spate of arrests that followed the incident underscored the extent of the spread of the outfit.

According to the SATP database, since October 2, 2014, at least 61 JMB cadres have been arrested in Assam. The last arrest was made on July 7, 2022, when two JMB terrorists, Mokkodos Ali Ahmed and Sofiqul Islam, were arrested from Barpeta District.

The interrogation of arrested JMB militants revealed that their objective was to counter purported ‘Bodo aggression’. Between 2008 and 2014, there have been periodic clashes between Bodos and Muslims in lower Assam.  In 2008, at least 55 persons were killed in such clashes; 109 were killed in 2012 and 46 in 2014.

Before the advent of these Bangladesh-based jihadi groups, several Islamist extremist formations existed in Assam. The then Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rockybul Hussain informed the State Assembly on December 15, 2014, that between January 2001 to November 2014, a total of 130 Islamist extremists, including 106 Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) militants, 14 Harakat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) militants and 10 JMB militants had been arrested in the State. Since then (December 1, 2014) another 149 Islamic extremists [including 55 JMB, 30 ABT, 26 Muslim Tiger Force of Assam (MTFA), 21 MULTA,10 Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen (HM), five Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), one each from Muslim Liberation Army (MLA) and Peoples United Liberation Front (PULF], have been arrested in Assam.

A majority of the Islamist militant groups in Assam were founded between 1990 and 1996 with the prime objective of safeguarding the ‘overall interests’ of the minority Muslim communities in the region. These groups had the backing of Pakatan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led regime in Bangladesh. According to SATP, at least 21 Islamist terror formations have operated in Assam at different periods.

The entry of the Bangladeshi groups is partly due to the severe crackdown by the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government of Bangladesh that had disrupted the networks of all Islamist groups, including the JMB and ABT, forcing them underground or to seek refuge in bordering regions of Indian states like Assam, Bengal or Tripura, where the demographic composition is favorable for concealment.

Moreover, the present polarized political debates have created a perception of targeting/isolating religious minorities (especially Bengali speaking Muslims) in the state, due to recent events, including the Supreme Court monitored updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951, followed by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as well as administrative measures such as ‘anti-encroachment drives’ to free government land. The division of Muslims along ethno-linguistic lines can also be a pull factor for these jihadi groups.

The conflict in Assam is largely shaped on the discourse of identity-based politics based on insider-outsider identification, as well as claims to autochthonous status and primacy over local resources, but has gradually been transformed into a religious struggle, and a polarizing politics to consolidate electoral gains. The dominant narratives are likely to be counterproductive, rupturing social bonds and leading to destabilization.

This article is a part of SLG Syndication project. Giriraj Bhattacharjee, Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management in Delhi wrote this for South Asia Terrorism Portal, where this piece first appeared. Click here to read the complete article.

The Queen dies, long live the King

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This is a moment of history as Queen Elizabeth II, a beloved monarch who has reigned for over 70 years, is dead. Her legacy in winding down a vast British Empire and forming a bond between the sovereign and subjects in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the New Commonwealth, has tremendous significance in the world as well.

Queen Elizabeth’s presence is still embedded in British life in coins and banknotes, stamps and post-boxes, in royal warrants, but more in the hearts and minds of her people, who have turned out in their thousands to line the route of the cortege a distance of 100 miles from Balmoral estate to the Palace of Holyrood House overnight, before being moved to St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, where it will lie in state on Monday 12 September 2022, ahead of her State Funeral on Monday 19 September in the Palace of Westminster, which has been declared a bank holiday.

Queen Elizabeth had much affection for Scotland as her family, her mother Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, was Scottish and her beloved husband, Prince Philip took the title, The Duke of Edinburgh. Her love of everything Scottish was legendary.

The proclamation of King Charles III

It is also the time for Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall who has waited 53 long years in preparation to the throne, proclaimed as His Majesty King Charles III in legal succession.

It is the first time that there was pomp and ceremony as well as mourning, as the Crown passed, as it has done for over more than 1000 years, to the new monarch.

State trumpeters sounded the royal salute, before the Kings Guard lifted their hats over their shoulders, to give three cheers to their new King at St. James’s Palace, in London on Saturday 10 September 2022.

At one stroke the people of Great Britain become one family from the four corners of this nation, to acknowledge their allegiance to their King. Many had forgotten that the national anthem now demands “God save the King”.

Constitutional Monarchy vs Current Absolute Monarchy?

Most modern kingdoms are considered constitutional monarchies. Monarchs are generally ceremonial heads of state with public responsibilities, with meaningful political authority granted to a Prime Minister or President by a constitution.

Fifteen Governments and 36 nations in the Commonwealth have King Charles III as the reigning monarch and ceremonial Head of State, as in Great Britain.

Absolute monarchies, where the monarch is the final authority are few and far between. There are currently among five including Brunei, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and Qatar. An absolute monarchy can have a political constitution, with a hereditary Head of State.

Has modernity replaced tradition, call it ritual?

Now as Britons reel from the death of their dearly beloved Queen, her lasting contribution to the nation, the Commonwealth as well as to the world at large, is remembered as the embodiment of both modernity and continuity, in a world of continuous change.

The British monarchy is all about tradition, continuity and the evolution of the style of British democracy over many hundreds or thousands of years.

However, all great institutions have to change to keep in step with the values and aspirations of the people they serve.

Queen Elizabeth’s reign lasted from the industrial age to the internet age, some 70 years of endurance and stoicism in which she graciously helped steer Britain through the loss of its empire and its emergence as a multicultural nation.

Britain is the home to 270 nationalities speaking 300 different languages, foundered on tolerance and respect for difference.

Britain is a global hub for travel and commerce, with nearly 5000 international journalists in London to cover the ceremonial lying of state and funeral of the late Queen.

We are told an estimated 2 billion spectators across the world will see the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, 19 September 2022.

King Charles III is already visiting the realms of the Crown in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with his Prime Minister, Liz Truss to meet the people of Great Britain in person.

King Charles III has also anticipated the will of the people and has conferred the title of Prince and Princess of Wales on Prince William and Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge ahead of his own Accession and Coronation. This in itself shows how fast things are moving in His Majesty’s realm.

The buttoned down approach to life in Britain has changed with the consent and cheers of his people, who are no longer considered as subjects of the realm, but participants in the change going forward.

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