Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sharif's Offshore Co Defense; India Threat to Bangladesh Water; Sykes-Picot Centenary

How was Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's parliament speech defending his family's offshore assets received in Pakistan? Was he perceived as sincere? Was his speech effective? Did it answer the 7 key questions posed to him by the combined Opposition? Or did it raise many more questions than it answered? How will Panama Leaks impact Pakistani politics and governance going forward?

How severe is India's drought? Will India's massive $400 billion project to divert Brahmaputra and Ganga Rivers solve India's water crisis? How will it impact Bangladesh? Will it devastate the livelihoods of 100 million Bangladeshis living downstream? Does Bangladesh have any recourse with India similar to the mechanisms built in India-Pakistan Indus Water Treaty (IWT) to protect Pakistan's interest?

What is Sykes-Picot accord that was signed between Britain and France in May 1916 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire? Why is ISIS bulldozing the Middle East borders created by Sykes-Picot? And why do the Kurds share this goal with ISIS? Has the colonial-era Sykes-Picot contributed to the rise of ISIS today? What about the contribution of subsequent events like the creation of state of Israel and western invasions of the Middle East to the rise of ISIS?

What happened to EgyptAir Flight 804 flying from Paris to Cairo? Did an act of terror bring it down? Or was there a fire on board due to a technical failure like an electrical short-circuit in the cabin? Why was there a smoke alarm on board prior to the crash? Was it a bomb? Why has there been no claim of responsibility by any terrorist organizations so far?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with panelists Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (

Sharif's Offshore Co Defense; India Threat to Bangladesh Water; Sykes-Picot Centenary from Ikolachi on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Panama Leaks Impact on Pakistan

India River Projects Impact on Bangladesh Water Security

Sykes-Picot Centenary and ISIS

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Talk4Pak Think Tank

VPOS Youtube Channel

VPOS Vimeo Channel


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's #NawazSharif to Have Open-Heart #Surgery. Had Heart Surgery in 2011 for Rapid Hearbeat, Hole in Heart.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, who has been facing increased political pressure over the extent of his family’s wealth, will undergo open-heart surgery next week in London, his daughter and government officials said Friday.

It will be the second open-heart operation for Mr. Sharif, 66, who has been treated for heart problems over the past five years.

Mr. Sharif left for London last Sunday for a medical checkup and had been scheduled to return this week. In his absence, Ishaq Dar, the finance minister, a relative of Mr. Sharif’s, is managing the day-to-day running of the government.

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the defense minister, said Mr. Sharif would return to Pakistan one week after the surgery, if allowed by his doctors.

Details of the prime minister’s impending surgery were reported Friday by his daughter, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, in a series of postings on her Twitter account.

Ms. Sharif said a team of surgeons had advised her father to undergo the surgery after scans and tests, but she did not describe precisely what the surgeons would do. She said Mr. Sharif would be on medication for the next three days and undergo the operation on Tuesday.

The prime minister first underwent open-heart surgery in 2011 after a cardiac procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heart rate, resulted in a perforation of his heart, his daughter said. He has required regular medical checkups since.

In April, Mr. Sharif abruptly went to London in the middle of a political crisis over revelations in leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm, known as the Panama Papers, that his family had amassed secret offshore wealth. The London visit led to rumors, which proved unfounded, that Mr. Sharif might not return.

The leaks revealed that three of Mr. Sharif’s children controlled shell companies through which they owned expensive residential properties in London.

The revelations have caused an uproar in Pakistan, an impoverished country with a history of corruption and malfeasance, and opposition politicians have pressed Mr. Sharif to resign.

Mr. Sharif, whose family’s riches were made primarily through dealing in steel, has denied any wrongdoing and has offered to be investigated.

But differences persist between the government and opposition political parties over how an investigation would be done, and lengthy negotiations are taking place between the two sides to establish the terms.

Riaz Haq said...

Two centuries of oppression in #Kashmir. #India misrepresents protests as #Pakistan sponsored #terrorism @AJENews

The furious protests that erupted in Indian-administered Kashmir on July 8 are a poignant reminder that popular sentiment cannot be ignored merely because it does not fit in with the nationalist narrative of an unrepresentative government.

That is especially true where popular sentiment is grounded in the cause of a unique identity.

In the absence of legitimate political forums, such sentiment foments unrest which builds until circumstances provide a martyr such as Burhan Wani, the young rebel whose killing by Indian security forces has ignited the protests in Kashmir.

Often, such protest movements are acts of desperation without a chance of success, so they ebb and flow in cycles linked with angry violence and inconclusive attempts at political engagement.

The outcome is more violence between armed occupiers and young activists who become increasingly militant over time.

Unsurprisingly, the emergent generation of stone-pelting young Kashmiris identify with their Palestinian counterparts and are calling the new wave of protests an "Intifada".

Another similarity is that the situation in Kashmir is a mess created by departing Western colonialists.

In drawing up the map for the division of the Indian Subcontinent in 1947, the British viewed Kashmir entirely through the spectacles of recent history.

Riaz Haq said...

#Hollywood's Oliver Stone’s #American History: ‘We’re Not under Threat. We Are the Threat’ via @grtvnews #terrorism

As he launches his new TV series offering a critical view of US overseas exploits, the film director tells MEE he didn’t always see it that way

American controversies are Oliver Stone’s forte.

The Hollywood movie director has turned his cameras on the assassination of John F Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the 9/11 attacks.

But, when researching his television series, The Untold History of the United States, it was American exploits in the Middle East that left him with the most lasting impression, he told Middle East Eye on Wednesday.

“When I studied the untold history, one thing that really hit me hard was the history of our involvement in the Middle East,” Stone said.

“It was a nefarious involvement.”

Stone traces Washington’s hand in the region back to the 1930s, but he says it reached a peak when President George HW Bush sent hundreds of thousands of US troops to liberate Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion of 1990.

The Soviet Union had recently collapsed and the region was wide open to a lone superpower, he said.

“We never got out of there. Once we were in, we’re in forever,” Stone said.

“We’ve destabilised the entire region, created chaos. And then we blame ISIS for the chaos we created,” he added, referring to the Islamic State (IS) group that now rules swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Stone researched and wrote the series and book with Peter Kuznick, a scholar at the American University who specialises in the US nuclear strikes on Japan that ended the Second World War.

“It’s all about the oil. You remember the bumper sticker: What is our oil doing under their sand?” Kuznick told MEE.

Washington’s hunger for fuel underpins its alliance with Saudi Arabia, the CIA-backed coup against Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and its support for anti-Soviet religious militants in Afghanistan in the 1980s, he said.

“We create these messes, then we have a grand military plan to solve them. And the military solutions just don’t work,” he said.

The views of Stone and Kuznick are not likely to raise eyebrows on the streets of Cairo, Moscow or Paris.

But in the US they are not mainstream.

The way Stone tells it, Americans live in a bubble and are spoon-fed information by a school system, politicians and a media that portrays the US as a beacon of stability and a force for good in the world.

In one famous example, former President Ronald Reagan called the US a “shining city on a hill”.

“It’s very comforting to be an American,” Stone said.

You get the sense that you are safe and have prosperity of material goods, and that you have enemies everywhere – Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

You get into this cocoon where you have a big country, two oceans, but that you’re always under threat.

Stone says he understands this well because he lived it himself.

He was raised in New York, the son of a Republican stockbroker, Louis Stone. He was always creative – he often wrote short plays to entertain his family – but never questioned how his history teachers puffed up the US, he said.

“I had only gotten a part of the story, which emphasised American exceptionalism, America as a selfless and beneficial country to the world,” he said.

In 1967, Stone volunteered to fight in the US Army and served in Vietnam. He was wounded twice and was honoured with a Bronze Star for heroism and a Purple Heart for his service.

“I came back from Vietnam puzzled, completely confused about what was going on there,” he said.

“But I did get a heavy dose of the doublespeak, the militarese talk.”

He started asking questions and reading up on “progressive history” at the same time as he studied filmmaking at New York University under Martin Scorsese and other teachers, he said.

These ideas fed his politically orientated filmmaking in the 1980s.

Riaz Haq said...

#Hollywood's Oliver Stone’s #American History: ‘We’re Not under Threat. We Are the Threat’ via @grtvnews #terrorism

Salvador (1986) was set in a 1980s war in Central America. Platoon (1986), Stone’s directorial breakthrough movie, dramatised a young soldier’s tour of duty in Vietnam, starring Charlie Sheen.

He continued probing that war in Born on the Fourth of July (1989), starring Tom Cruise. JFK (1991) showed his conspiracy theories about the former president’s killing; movies such as Nixon (1995) and W (2008) tackled subsequent commanders-in-chief.

The release of his movie about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has been delayed until 2016, he said.

He has also interviewed foreign statesmen who defy Washington – from the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro to the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Untold History of the United States, a 10-part documentary series and a 750-page book, offers Americans an alternate perspective on US history from the Second World War through the Cold War to the present day.

Stone says he wants to counter the “educational crime” of misleading American schoolchildren.

“American exceptionalism has to be driven out of our curriculums,” he said.

“We’re not under threat. We are the threat.”