Tag Archives: Syria

Pakistan’s ‘Role’ Defined for Resolving the Syrian Crisis

Map of Pakistan

Map of Pakistan (Photo credit: Omer Wazir)

Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...

Pakistan and Syria are the countries that used to share the same silk route. This served as a ‘communication link’ between the two countries. Consequently, religious connection was further strengthened by the ‘civilization exchange’ and trade. Regional diplomatic ties of Islamabad and Damascus resemble slightly, keeping in view the tension between Syria and Israel on one hand and the inherent rivalry between India and Pakistan on the other. The extremism fomenting within their boundaries, also, has a common ‘Al-Qaeda connection’. Crudely, there is foreign intervention in both the countries to curb terrorist activities.

Islamabad had supported its spiritual partner during the Ramadan war (Yom Kippur War) of 1973 by sending military personnels to Syria. Economic and military assistance continued even after the war. In addition to this, the Syrian stance over Golan heights was supported by Pakistan in the United Nations in 1974. Oil was imported from Syria by Pakistan, where as Pakistani wheat and rice were sent there. However, ties between the two countries wavered when General Zia ul Haq rejected Hafez Al Assad’s (father of Bashar al Assad) plea of absolving Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from the trial or at least with drawing the death sentence in 1979. The former premier of Pakistan, was hanged. He is known for reorienting Pakistan’s foreign policy by flinging open the Eastern window and joining hands with the Middle East. Hafez al Assad was discontent with the way his plea was rejected altogether. He was, perhaps, the second person after Colonel Qaddafi to chant the loudest against General Zia ul Haq’s adamant stance over Bhutto’s trial that led him to the gallows.

This chequered diplomatic faux pas was healed after Hafez al Assad’s son, Bashar al Assad, now the protagonist of the Arab spring rose to power in the year 2000. In 2005, Pakistan and Syria agreed to cooperate in the field of science and technology. An interesting involvement of Syria is linked with the historic 2006 unification of India and Pakistan under the umbrella of Non-aligned movement (NAM). This was the 14th meeting of this movement that has done little to implement the long list of declarations against US hegemony. However, Syria was appointed as the Deputy Chairman during this meeting. The distinctive characteristic of NAM’s 14th summit was regional economic blockade formed by Brazil, Russia,India, China and South Africa (BRICS). 40% of the world’s population and 25% of the global GDP is represented by BRICS.

Since then, multi polarity and regional alliances have been essential components of NAM (although that is contrary to its original purpose of formation). Pakistan,Iran and Saudia Arabia are also member states of the NAM. However, Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan to be the persuader on behalf of its Western ally, the United States, for resolving the Syrian crisis. On her visit to the US , Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar is expected to land at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on January 1, 2013 for an abbreviated visit. As Pakistan assumes the rotational presidency of United Nations Security Council, the oil rich Kingdom along with the West, wants Islamabad to convince Beijing and Moscow in return. The role for Pakistan has been defined, but it is contrary to the stance adopted by Iran (which also has the presidency of NAM now). Brazil, India and South Africa have already supported China and Russia in the UN Security Council. This explicitly indicates that negotiating with Moscow and Beijing circumvents BRICS. Considering the pliancy of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the past, it is likely that the ruling party will bend in favour of the United States, but any diplomatic strangle with BRICS and Iran cannot be afforded. As regional isolation may lead to severe repercussions for Pakistan.



Posted by on January 4, 2013 in International Affairs


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New Turkish Politics, Arab Spring and the Role of Media – Lecture

Alper Y. Dede delivering the lecture in Hameed Nizami Conference room, Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab

Alper Y. Dede talking to the students. Seated Right- A Turkish guest, Left – Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz (Director Institute of Communication Studies)

In a special lecture arranged at the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Alper Y. Dede (Turkish PhD scholar) explained the political evolution of Turkey, the foreign policy of Turkey in the context of Arab Spring and the role of media in purporting the transitions of the Arab World. The lecture was delivered in the Hameed Nizami Conference room of the Institute and was hosted by the Director of the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz.

Before starting off with the topic Alper admired the hospitality of the Pakistani people. He especially mentioned his predilection for the Pakistani food. He appreciated the Director of ICS, Prof. Dr. Ahan Akhtar Naz for arranging an important lecture keeping in view the contemporary ‘global politics’. Alper Y. Dede is an International Relations expert and his area of interest includes; state and society relations, Turkey-Egypt ties, Turkish foreign policy and comparative politics. Alper distinctly explained Turkish policies, Arab Spring and the role of media, later on he connected the distinct parts that aided the students to understand and learn. While elucidating the evolution of Turkish politics, Alper told the students that Turkey used to be a ‘Statist’ country (a term used in political science for countries where social and economic policy is controlled by the government to some extent). He said that the domestic problems such as education, social services remained unresolved till the 1980’s. According to Alper, the government at that time introduced economic liberalisation and a new class of businessmen (conservative and liberal) precipitated out in Turkey. In a geographical context, he stated that 30 % of Turkey’s land lies in the European continent and the rest in Asian continent. Istanbul, lies in the European portion and it is the hub of Asian Tigers (Anatolian Tigers) who represent the conservative class of businessmen. The economic progress of Asian Tigers helped them to establish their own institutions and media outlets, which made them powerful in domestic politics. However, Turkey’s ruling party (Justice and Development Party) drifted away from the conservative Virtue Party and gained popularity over a short period of time. Alper linked the dramatic change in Turkey with the election of 2002, during which Justice and Development Party took a sweeping victory.

His viewpoint about the Arab Spring endorsed the pivotal role of national, international and social media while covering the protests in the Arab World. “Assumption before Arab Spring was that political transition would be gradual, but the street protests starting from Mohmmad Bouzizi’s appalled the entire world,” said Alper. Y. Dede. He connected the variance in transitions of different parts of the world in terms of the media coverage. The Turkish Scholar believed that Syria and Libya banned reporting of events as the protests started. On the other hand, Tunisia and Egypt allowed it. Talking about the Turkish media, he opined that like many others media voices of Turkey were both hesitant and unprepared for the coverage of the Arab protests. The media reflected a mixed perception of optimism and pessimism. Alper told the students that Turkish foreign policy had been influenced by how the media presented the unfolding of events and much to his dismay the Turkish foreign policy in Syria had been unsuccessful. He was disappointed while telling the students that Syria is at the mercy of global powers like Russia, China, France, UK and the U.S (being the elephant in the room). However, Alper suggested that Tukrey could’ve adopted a better diplomatic course by serving as a mediator because foreign support existed for Syria (Russia and Iran). Alper predicted that Bashar al Assad is likely to stay in Syria for the next few months, at least!

The students keenly listened to his lecture, thanked him for imparting his knowledge and raised questions. The Director of the Institute of Communication Studies, Prof. Dr. Ahsan Akhtar Naz, in his final note, briefly discussed the history of Pak-Turkey ties in three phases. The Director told the students that Turkey and Pakistan had a historical relation starting from before the partition, during the Khilafat movement. The second phase was during the rule of General Ayub Khan when a Regional Cooperation for Development was established between Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. The Director said that in his view the third phase revolves around the recent strengthening of economic cooperation between the ideologically bonded states. However, he suggested that Turkey should be more considerate while dealing with the Muslim countries, it can play a significant role through platforms like O.I.C (Organization of Islamic Conference). The Director admired the effective negotiations of Turkey to ensure the recent ceasefire between Israel and the Palestine. He expressed his gratitude towards Alper Y. Dede for enhancing the knowledge of the students and contributing towards the aim of maintaining friendly relations between Turkey and Pakistan, through such lectures.


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A US – led Syria and Beyond. . .

The Syrian massacre has flooded the news items all around the world. It’s been a year since Obama administration, for the first time, called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down and let Syrians have their right of self-determination. However, the obdurate dictator turned a deaf ear to this call. The clash between the ‘regime loyalists’ (supporters of Assad) and myriad rebel factions has claimed thousands of lives in Syria for almost seventeen months. The roots of this ongoing civil war can be traced to Benghazi, Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi refused to surrender in front of the rebels. His forces were ready to fight and what they couldn’t resist was the ‘overreached’ retaliation by NATO which had entered the conflict on behalf of the rebels. China and Russia allowed the resolution which gave NATO such sweeping powers to pass, but Russia along with South Africa criticized NATO’s role after the death of Qaddafi. This dispute in the UN Security Council created an unpleasant atmosphere as there was a disagreement between the members at a time when an agreed response to violence in Syria had to be chalked out. It was Russia which insisted on quelling the pressure from Assad’s regime and including the President while deciding any future political set up for Syria. This was the reason for the appointment of Kofi Annan (the U.N.-Arab League joint envoy to Syria) in February 2012 who worked on ”mission impossible” (as he himself quotes it). After failing to devise an ‘agreed’ plan, for a political transition that did not explicitly require Assad’s departure, Annan has now resigned. The persistent efforts of Washington to dislodge Assad through negotiations have failed utterly, especially after the resignation of Kofi Annan. The U.S blames Russia and publicly denounces it for purporting a dictatorial regime. On the other hand, Annan blames the Security Council giants (big western states) for name-calling Russia and China. Other than the obviously disgruntled, Moscow and Beijing, the U.S shouldn’t ignore Brazil, India and South Africa which are also in the list of dissenters this time. All four of them are established democracies.

From the Geneva recommendations to the six-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, nothing was endorsed with consensus. It is interesting to highlight that both the drafts had a common agenda which favoured a democratic transition at the cost of dismantling authoritarian rule. For this purpose, the notion of a government of ‘national unity’ (which allows the opposition and those already in the government to share power) was presented. This clearly indicates that the U.S isn’t ready to back a complete ‘regime change’ and wants to maintain some of the institutions in Syria which will have to abide by its standards of ‘human rights’. Moreover, there is an unattended question which inquires about the composition of Syrian opposition factions. The most ripe option is that of ‘rebels’ being fed by Washington’s Gulf allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. With the infiltration of Al-Qaeda jihadis, increased involvement of Turkey, influx of arms and intelligence support from the U.S, Assad is likely to depart especially after the defection of Syrian Prime Minister, Riad Hijab. There is nothing better for the U.S. other than deciding an abominable fate like that of Qaddafi for Assad or pushing him behind the bars like Hosni. However, the focus is now on the post-Assad Syria that is a more daunting task, orchestrated a decade ago.

U.S General Wesley Clerk, former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe, is on record informing US journalist Amy Goodman that within weeks of the terrorist atrocity on 11th September 2001, the then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld wrote a memo describing “how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran,” (after invading Afghanistan). This seems to be somewhat ‘real’, but delayed plan in the wake of all that is being done to carve out the fate of Syria. However, the failure in Iraq and the 2006 Israeli defeat in Lebanon has compelled the U.S to alter the old ‘core strategy’ of direct occupations. It has now embarked upon the mission of encouraging destabilisation, clandestine operations and feeding civil strife in the targeted regions.

Syria is the latest victim in the grip of a bitter conflict in which Al Qaeda-type terrorists have established a foothold similar to the one in neighbouring Iraq. It nurtures armed thugs and terrorists being indirectly supported by the U.S. The long Turkey-Syria border is one of the main routes for smuggling armed men and weapons into Syria. The Syrians represent the heart of what Jordan’s King Abdullah called the “Shia crescent”: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. It is the opposition of this crescent against Israel which irks Washington and the ‘advocates’ (Egypt and Jordan) of Israel in the Arab world. Lebanon was bombed and invaded in a US-backed Israeli invasion in 2006, but was repelled by Syrian-backed Lebanese resistance led by Hezbollah. Efforts are now also being made by Saudi Arabia to weaken Hezbollah, the Shi’ite organization that is being backed by Iran. Iraq is disintegrated and bleeding heavily, with daily sectarian terrorist atrocities. Iran is the target for which Israel and the U.S are bloodthirsty in order to ensure Israel’s hegemony in the region. The post- Assad Syria driven by ‘U.S aspirations’ will not only be worse than Iraq, but will also allow the accomplishment of anti-Iranian proxy war under the U.S, Saudi, Qatar leadership, with the easy consent of Britain, France and Israel.
Not to forget what the naïve rebels who initiated the peaceful uprising wanted- a democratic transition ‘without’ any foreign intervention no matter how well-intentioned it might be. A ceasefire and political adjustment can include the rebels into the process of negotiation, who are being deliberately turned into terrorists. The idea of militarisation is still strongly condemned, even by the democratic organizations in Syria. The Syrians must accept the fact that they are still not the decision-makers of their country. A glittery illusion from the U.S in the name of human-rights has turned their homeland into a battlefield tilting in favour of Israel.

The verbal content of this post was originally published in Jahangir’s World Times- September 2012

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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in International Affairs


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