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IN PROTEST OF ISRAELI MEASURES
Prayers held outside Al-Aqsa Mosque
Eurasia Review
 
FOR THE eighth consecutive day since Israeli authorities installed increased security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, hundreds of Muslim worshippers performed prayers outside of the compound gates in protest, as Palestinian political and religious officials expressed their strong opposition to the new Israeli restrictions. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site of the Muslims after Makkah and Medina.
In the wake of a deadly shoot-out between Palestinian assailants and Israeli police officers on July 14, Israeli forces shut down the Al-Aqsa compound for two days, only to reopen it after having installed security cameras, metal detectors, and turnstiles at the entrances of the compound.
Full Story
Eurasia Review
 
FOR THE eighth consecutive day since Israeli authorities installed increased security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, hundreds of Muslim worshippers performed prayers outside of the compound gates in protest, as Palestinian political and religious officials expressed their strong opposition to the new Israeli restrictions. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site of the Muslims after Makkah and Medina.
In the wake of a deadly shoot-out between Palestinian assailants and Israeli police officers on July 14, Israeli forces shut down the Al-Aqsa compound for two days, only to reopen it after having installed security cameras, metal detectors, and turnstiles at the entrances of the compound.
Palestinians have said the move is the latest instance of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and repressive measures against Palestinians.
Palestinians have protested the measures by praying outside of Al-Aqsa’s gates, with mass demonstrations across the occupied territory on July 21 erupting into violent clashes that left three protesters killed.
 
Journalists debarred
Witnesses told Ma’an News Agency that hundreds of worshippers prayed outside of the Lions’ Gate and the Council Gate to the compound during midday prayers, in the presence of dozens of Israeli police officers who prevented the call to prayer and forced journalists to leave the area.
A funeral prayer was also performed outside of the compound for a deceased Jerusalemite man, after his family refused to go the metal detectors to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Following midday prayers, Israeli forces detained a young Palestinian man, identified as Ahmad al-Shawish, and questioned several others.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri reported that two Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat were detained on Sunday morning near the illegal Israeli separation wall for being in possession of fireworks, which police officers suspected they were planning on using against Israeli forces during demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent reported that Israeli forces injured at least 21 Palestinians on Sunday evening following the Isha night-time prayer — 15 of whom were hit by rubber-coated bullets, while at least six were injured after being hit with batons.
Al-Aqsa Mosque compound director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani confirmed to Ma’an that he would continue to oppose all procedures that could eventually result in “changing the historic and religious status quo in Jerusalem and its holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
 
Orthodox Archbishop’s solidarity
Meanwhile, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sabastiya Atallah Hanna stood in solidarity with Al-Aqsa during a speech outside of the compound on Sunday.
“As Jerusalemites, in spite of all the pain, grief, suffering, and injustice, we will continue to hold on to our city and defend our holy sites,” he said. “Jerusalem is the city of national unity between Muslims and Christians. It is a city that unites us as children of one Palestinian people.”
“Targeting Al-Aqsa and plundering our Christian endowment properties are two faces of one policy targeting us all as Palestinians in this holy land,” Hanna stated, adding that Israeli policies in the city sent a message that “you Palestinians are unwelcome in Jerusalem.”
 
Racist policy
“Our response to that racist policy is that the occupation is unwelcome in Jerusalem and must disappear from our city and our holy sites.”
In the besieged Gaza Strip city of Rafah, demonstrators marched in solidarity with Palestinian Jerusalemites on 22 July evening, as Haidar al-Hout, a leader of resistance committees in Gaza, hailed Palestinians’ “determination and toughness” in standing up to Israeli measures in East Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) opposition to the security measures at Al-Aqsa, stating that “sovereignty of the mosque is our right, and it is us who should be standing at its gates.”
Abbas said on 21 July that he had decided to suspend all contacts with Israel until the latter lifted recent security measures in occupied East Jerusalem — including, allegedly, ceasing security coordination with Israel, through which the PA has been accused of carrying out a “revolving door” policy funneling Palestinians from PA jails to Israeli prisons.
The move, Abbas said, was “not an easy decision at all, but they (Israeli authorities) have to do something about it.”
While Abbas said that the PA opposed terrorism, he countered that Israel had long depended on Palestinian security forces to carry out the bulk of efforts to quash possible attacks against Israeli targets.
Both the PA and the Hamas movement, the de facto ruling party in the besieged Gaza Strip, called for Palestinian national unity on Sunday to face Israeli aggression in Jerusalem — albeit on starkly different terms.
In a statement released on 22 July, the Middle East Quartet — consisting of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and the United States — said that it was “deeply concerned” by the developments in Jerusalem.
The Quartet said it “strongly condemn(ed) acts of terror, express their regret for all loss of innocent life caused by the violence,” while calling on all parties to work to de-escalate tensions.
“The Quartet envoys reiterate that violence deepens mistrust and is fundamentally incompatible with achieving a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the statement added.

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Annulment of 16th amendment ensures judicial independence

Faruque Ahmed
 
Democratic institutions and rule of law are under pressure world over from right wing or ultra left political establishments—either in power or outside power—as their leaders are blindly trying to establish absolute control over national  institutions to hold authoritarian power on the people. 
The latest three examples are USA, Poland and no less Bangladesh. Moreover Venezuela is in total chaos at the moment as socialist President Nicolas Madura is trying to hold his grip on power ignoring opposition controlled parliament to play a role in running the country.
Full Story
Faruque Ahmed
 
Democratic institutions and rule of law are under pressure world over from right wing or ultra left political establishments—either in power or outside power—as their leaders are blindly trying to establish absolute control over national  institutions to hold authoritarian power on the people. 
The latest three examples are USA, Poland and no less Bangladesh. Moreover Venezuela is in total chaos at the moment as socialist President Nicolas Madura is trying to hold his grip on power ignoring opposition controlled parliament to play a role in running the country.
Egypt is another example where parliament and judiciary run basically derives power from military rulers. Attack on democracy and rule of law is on rise almost everywhere. 
Bangladesh Supreme Court only recently scrapped the 16th amendment to the constitution which had earlier in 2014 empowered parliament to impeach Supreme Court Judges blamed for misconduct and inability to run office. It replaced the Supreme Judicial Council to remove judges with the reported intent to send message to the judges that their disloyalty to the government may end up losing their jobs.
The situation in Bangladesh proved otherwise where the decision of parliament dictated by the Prime Minister is the last word and the President is just expected to put his seal whether or not it reflects the aspiration of the people.
The most inspiring fact is that Bangladesh Supreme Court did the job scrapping the controversial amendment which seemed to be a sword of Damocles hanging over them. However the parliament lost its authority to impeach any apex court judge as the Supreme Court upholding a previous High Court verdict that declared illegal the 16th amendment of the constitution.
A seven-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha unanimously declared the amendment illegal, dismissing a government appeal. Announcing the short verdict, the chief justice said they dismissed the appeal unanimously with some findings – after hearing the arguments for and against the appeal for over 11 days. Now the Supreme Judicial Council, which was repealed through the amendment, will be restored for impeaching any judge.
The parliament had passed the amendment in September 2014, repealing the provision of the Supreme Judicial Council that had been empowered to probe allegations against judges and recommend removal.The original constitution of 1972 had empowered parliament to remove SC judges. But the fourth amendment to the constitution in January 1975 bestowed the authority on the president by abolishing the parliament’s power.Many believe it will remain a landmark judgment in the country’s constitutional history and rule of law.  
Nine senior lawyers who along with three others were appointed amici curiae by the Supreme Court to give their opinions on the 16th Amendment to the Constitution establishing parliament’s power to remove SC judges suggested annulment of  the amendment. On the other hand, one amicus curiae—Barrister Ajmalul Hossain QC —- talked in favour of the amendment while two others —- Barrister Rafiqul Haque and ex-Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed – did not place any deposition.
The nine amici curiae recommended upholding the High Court order declaring the 16th Amendment to the Constitution illegal. The scrapping immediately prompted acrimonious debate in parliament where some senior law makers denounced the verdict saying being elected by people and in the light of the basic structure of the 1972 constitution that said only parliament can impeach judges, they will not cede their power to impeach judges. They are not obliged to accept the verdict as various national dailies reporting on parliament debate said the following day.
The Supreme Court verdict was however candid when it said impeaching judges of higher judiciary by a unicameral parliament is dangerous since MPs can’t vote outside party guideline. It could have been befitting for a bi-cameral parliament.    
President Andrzej Duda vetoed in people’s favour
Poland faced a similar situation in recent past. In a move the ultra-nationalist Polish parliament had amended the constitution that empowered law makers to approve recruitment of Supreme Court Judges and decide on their removal. It caused nationwide protest and unlike the approval to such constitutional changes in Bangladesh that was silently signed by President, Polish President Andrzej Sebastian Duda has paid heed to the protest of the vast majority and declined to approve the amendment.
He has vetoed the bill in a bid to protect the independence of higher judiciary to make sure that human rights and political liberties of the people enshrined in the constitution in conformity of the European Union’s Charter of Citizens rights and human liberties need to be upheld.
Since the right wing Polish government was paying no heed to the protest of the people and EU’s advice not to pass such law, the EU leadership recently warned Warsaw that it would face sanctions if it moves with the controversial amendment bill to take over control over the judiciary.
The Polish President Andrzej Duda deserves praise as his action came as a surprise when the ruling rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) party was sure of his assent to the bill.
Duda is reported to have made his decision after extensive consultations with political parties and legal experts when thousands of people took to the streets across Poland urging him to veto the proposals aimed at curbing the rule of law and power of judiciary.
 
Rule of law under attack in the USA
The other threat to democratic institutions and American values is now destabilizing the USA as President Donald Trump, who is already known as a highly volatile person in the White House, is trying to use every government institutions to promote his ultra-right politics of white supremacy to the dismay of almost the entire nation.
He has removed James Comey, the former FBI director as he was running investigation into Russian connection of Trump’s campaign team during 2916 election was mist shocking.
Trump at first asked Comey to drop the probe and later removed him as he remained unshaken. Now he is also threatening to sack Robert Mauler the Congressional Counsel probing the entire Russia collusion in November 2016 in which suspension runs high Trump’s victory was largely facilitated by Russian help.
He does not stop here. The President has now become highly suspicious and also very disappointed to his Attorney General former Senator Jeff Session, who was the first Republican Senator to voice support for him and ran the election campaign. He even met Russian ambassador in Washington on several occasions who has  become a key figure in election engineering for Trump to defeat Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton.
Earlier he had also sacked the first Attorney General in his early days in the White House for her refusal to implement Trump’s executive orders on entry restriction of visitors from seven Muslim countries saying it is unconstitutional.
Trump is now blaming his present Attorney for withdrawing involvement in probe into Russia connection in election matter because of his reported involvement in the collusion. But Trump is blaming him for doing nothing to protect him when he wants help from anybody and everybody to protect his presidency.   
Earlier he also removed his first national security adviser and close friend Micheal Flynn who played prominent role in election but when the Russia connection of the former Army General surfaced as a paid Russian agent Trump had no option but to ask him to leave.   
In fact his authoritarian outlook and neglect to rule of law has otherwise made him to ask others in high offices to break constitutional oath to protect him.  IT is a big threat to US establishments. 
His Muslim hate and intolerant outlook to immigrant population in the USA who makes up the vast majority of the nation is moreover destabilizing every aspects of the American society.
The daily media disclosure is highly damaging for him. His administration has now become entirely dependent on his son, son-in-law, daughter and such other patty loyalist because he can hardly believe any one as leaks on the messy White House situation is making his inner administration terribly shaking. He is also shaking up key figures of the administration as he is losing trust in them.
Rumours run high that Trump will sack his Attorney General as he is refusing to abuse his office or resign. On the other hand he is also boasting himself as saying he has the power to pardon himself, his sons and other election aides to suggest that he will not stop misusing power to defeat possible indictment on Russia charge if any.
Unfortunately the US tragedy with its democratic institutions and values originate from Donald Trumps unflinching resolve to win election and continue in power telling all that lies and blackmailing voters using populist slogans like America First in his election campaign. 
The Polish President saved his country from falling into lawlessness. Bangladesh Supreme Court saved the country and the present government from a big blunder. But attack to democracy sees no end.

 


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A tangled nation’s struggle to swim or sink

Shahid Islam
 
It is not a fictionalization depicted in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869) through the mouths of the aristocrats, nor is it a replay of the surrealistic Holy Mountain (1973) movie of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Bangladesh’s desperation is real as it smacks the crossroads of reinventing democracy, the rule of law, basic human rights, method of changing government, and, struggles ever harder to survive under constant battering of nature and the nation’s elites who are utterly and irreconcilably spiteful of each other.
Full Story
Shahid Islam
 
It is not a fictionalization depicted in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869) through the mouths of the aristocrats, nor is it a replay of the surrealistic Holy Mountain (1973) movie of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Bangladesh’s desperation is real as it smacks the crossroads of reinventing democracy, the rule of law, basic human rights, method of changing government, and, struggles ever harder to survive under constant battering of nature and the nation’s elites who are utterly and irreconcilably spiteful of each other.
In the midst of this doom and gloom, the Election Commission (EC) is busy in posturing a road map and finalizing the voter list for an election that may or may not happen, while the inordinate moving of political dices within and outside the country reignite the fears of déjà vu, or the worst.  People are totally confused as to what transpires in the shifting lights, focus, and the swaying shadows of a thriller on the play in a big screen.
 
Ershad’s euphemism
This week’s main cast is not PM Sheikh Hasina whose party and the police had heaped more unsavory reputation on her regime. Nor is it Khaleda Zia who the ruling party bosses claim to have fled the country. The redolent, rejuvenated cast is former military dictator HM Ershad; who had visited India and said upon return that a change in government in Bangladesh has been ‘ensured by Delhi’ and had thrown its backing on him and his Jatiya Party (JP). “The JP will put 300 candidates to independently contest the next election,” he bragged.
Ershad may be anything, but he’s not a moron of negligible depth. Moreover, Delhi didn’t rebuff his comment. His brash revelation about India deciding who will rule Bangladesh next comes within three months of Delhi’s signing of a defence agreement with Dhaka in April and offering of US $4.5 billion line of credit to help Dhaka implement vital projects, and, another $500 million to support defence related procurements, mostly from India. Call it an attempt of integration of the two armed forces to do things jointly. What that mission will be is no more a secret, as we discovered anew.
 
Collapsing governance
Delhi’s U-turn away from the AL, coinciding with the Dhaka-friendly President Pronob Mukherjee’s departure from power, deserves dissection and deeper drill to enable extrapolation of the right perspective.  As we have been warning of a palpable desperation brewing in Delhi, Beijing and Washington relating to Bangladesh, we now find the dots meshing well with what is roiling Bangladesh internally.
Foremost, there is no denying that the regime of Sheikh Hasina is hunkered in a deeper hole; battered by the menaces of flooding and landslides that had tarnished flatly her beleaguered regime’s haughty assertions that the nation under her leadership had attained food sufficiency, and, export capability too. Now, rice imports have been rendered tax-immune and ships loaded with rice keep arriving at Chittagong port, mostly from Vietnam, to calm down an upwardly spiralling market where coarse rice per kg is selling between Taka 50-60, comparably highest in the world.
The food related worries are compounded by price hikes in other commodities, making lives of common people too onerous to subsist and sustain while millions more remain marooned in major cities, some traveling by boats on streets that never saw water rising so high.  Tidal surges, river erosion, and landslides are rooting out millions others already survived by the loose thread of daily labour.
Foreign remittance, fuel for over 68 percent of rural households, had fallen by over 20 percent, as did export earnings. Industrial productivity and foreign-invested projects are registering stymied growth, prompting a group of Chinese investors to caution, for the first time, the necessity to outpacing the slow momentum sooner. Agree or not, growth is not only stalled, it is retarding at faster paces and stands to undo all the goods the Awami League regime can lay claim to.
 
Administrative un-buckling
The cries of the marooned and the landslide victims notwithstanding, the governance has run out of verve while police and party hirelings are making lives unbearable for the ordinary folks. In the last few days, a UNO named Tarek Salman, stationed in Barguna, found himself arrested on a defamation allegation filed by a local ruling party leader for using hand-crafted image of the father of the nation drawn by a grade-five kid, and the judge hearing the case ignoring under political pressure the due process of authenticating whether a class- one gazetted officer could be arrested and brought to court without government permission.  Judge Md. Ali Hossain even lied later to claim he didn’t order a remand for the victim UNO.
Why the police processed the case without permission from higher authorities is the concern that makes many sleepless about how local ruling party mandarins control the police, lower judiciary, and all else.
Within last week, police also blinded in Dhaka by point blank tear gas firing a student demonstrator, Siddiqur Rahman, who sought with thousands of other students an examination schedule. People watched in live TV video clips how Rahman was singularly targeted by police due to his beard and religious cap; giving the impression of an Islamic activist hated by police. In Khulna’s Khalispur police station, a vegetable trader, Shahjalal, has had his eyes gouged and blinded by police. His marginally poor, aggrieved mother screamed: “I want eye for an eye.”
 
Regional geopolitics
Who doesn’t want eye for an eye to leave the country blind? Did any of the major parties spare eyes of its opponents in the course of the nation’s 46 years of history? That frenzy of vengefulness must now draw its curtain due to what is boiling and billowing outside the country’s border. After all, Dhaka’s equi-fraternity with both Delhi and Beijing serves well when the Indo-China relationship flows hitch-free, which is no more the case. It’s a time zone in which nuclear armed India and China have once again locked horns on disputed bordering areas abutting Bhutan, and, Delhi has begun to blame Beijing of stationing nuclear armed missiles in Pakistan to hit targets in India.
Consequently, Dhaka’s geo-strategic balancing is faced with its toughest challenge so far. Dhaka must now choose between Beijing and Delhi, and hence, H.M Ershad’s claim of Delhi putting him and his party to power is not a usual nonsense often gushed out from the mouth of this unpredictable former dictator. The dilemma is hauntingly excruciating.
India is a neighbour and friend, so is China. In recent years, Chinese investment and trading had reached new heights vis-à-vis Bangladesh; bilateral annual trading hitting nearly the US$ 7 billion mark. In October 2016, Beijing assured Dhaka of $24.45 billion in bilateral assistance for 34 projects and programmes, on top of another $13.6 billion in 13 joint ventures. The totality, $37.51 billion, is the biggest ever collaborative pledge to Bangladesh by any single country.
 
USA’s take
The USA and India find this scenario extremely threatening at a time when Russia, China, Turkey, Pakistan and Iran have coalesced to constitute a global power hub that Washington is trying desperately to counterbalance by taking onboard India, once a Russian ally, along with its other Asia-Pacific partners like Japan, South Korea and Australia. Earlier, New Delhi had thoughtfully changed its track and joined hands with the USA on the fear that the strengthening of military cooperation between Beijing and Islamabad may result in their joint aggression against India. Delhi became further alarmed when reports showed a 90-member Chinese military contingent participated for the first time in the Pakistan Day parade in Islamabad on March 23, demonstrating how the two armed forces increased their mutual trust and inter-operability to launch a joint attack on India.
The USA also agreed to help India join the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and provided licences to Delhi for top US defence technology production and usage. A Forbes magazine article summarized the growing India-USA-Pakistan tangle as: “While the South China Sea may seem far off from India, China is breathing down India’s neck, up close and personal.”
Against this backdrop, China-Pakistan collaborative momentums increased manifold since August 2016 following the signing of a defence agreement between Delhi and Washington in August 2016 (The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)) that allows the two allies to use each other’s military facilities for checkmating China’s growing influence in South Asia. Besides, like Bangladesh, Pakistan too has economic reasons to grapple while setting agendas for bolder ties with Beijing. For instance, the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a Beijing-funded network of road, rail and pipelines linking western China with Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, is an economic and military boon for both the countries.
 
China-India-Bangladesh tangle
Is the ongoing China-India border tension an illustration of India’s increased military muscularity under the US influence? Partly; although reports claim India has only 16 days’ worth of ammunition in stock to fight a two-enemy war with China and Pakistan simultaneously, aware that Pakistan waiting exasperatedly to recover the disputed Indian controlled Kashmir and seeking redemption from the 1971 debacle when Delhi sliced off erstwhile East Pakistan from Islamabad’s tutelage.    
The Chinese assertiveness turned louder last week when its defence ministry warned India not to harbour any illusions about the Chinese military’s ability to defend its territory, amid the festering border dispute on a plateau next to the mountainous Indian state of Sikkim abutting China. The two neighbours share a largely disputed 3,500-km (2,175-mile) frontier. “Shaking a mountain is easy but shaking the People’s Liberation Army is hard,” defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said.
The border crisis dates back to the 1950s although the latest flare up erupted when, early in June, Indian guards crossed into China’s Donglang region and obstructed work on a road over the 269 sq. km. plateau. Troops of both countries confronted each other close to a valley controlled by China that separates India from its close ally, Bhutan, which is barred by Delhi to having even diplomatic ties with Beijing.
In 1988, the Chinese army crossed into Bhutan and took control of the Chumbi Valley, below the Doklam plateau. China maintains, the withdrawal of Indian border guards is a precondition for resolving the standoff, while Chinese state media warned India of a fate worse than the defeat it suffered in the 1962 war.
Situation deteriorated since the wee hours of June 5 when Chinese troops retaliated in strength, destroying Indian rock-and-earth bunkers known as sangars, built on the Bhutan side of the de facto border, near an Indian-guarded position identified by code-name Lantern. The action was in retaliation of Indian troops crossing the Doklam boundary on the Sikkim side into Chinese territory. “This is different from what was before in India-China boundary. Bhutan is an internationally recognised country and its sovereignty is to be respected. Even if the boundary is delimited, no third party should interfere and make irresponsible comments,” insists Beijing.
A Bhutan like helplessness now awaits Bangladesh. For Delhi, controlling the Doklam plateau is vital to stopping China making a military thrust across India’s West Bengal to occupy the so called chicken neck abutting Bangladesh, through which passes all roads to the Indian north eastern states. Indian strategists have a handy plan to move hurriedly through Bangladesh to forestall that danger of China severing seven north eastern states from the Indian mainland. And, that squares the argument why Delhi is so intent on who shall rule Bangladesh in coming days, besides its defence agreement with Dhaka.

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Why China offered to mediate in the Kashmir dispute
Siddiq Wahid
Scroll.in
 
CHINA’s offer to mediate in the dispute over the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, amidst its border stand-off with India in Doklam, has evoked political speculation, positive interest and even some war-talk in the northern state. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has cited it to spur Delhi into initiating dialogue on Kashmir in order to thwart the “foreign hand”.
Full Story
Siddiq Wahid
Scroll.in
 
CHINA’s offer to mediate in the dispute over the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, amidst its border stand-off with India in Doklam, has evoked political speculation, positive interest and even some war-talk in the northern state. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has cited it to spur Delhi into initiating dialogue on Kashmir in order to thwart the “foreign hand”.
Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq have weighed in by thanking Beijing and hoping that the Chinese interest would give salience to the plight of the Kashmiris and the dispute over the state. There was also wild speculation in Srinagar, following a baseless report by a Pakistani TV news channel, that a significant military clash had taken place in Doklam, leading to the death of over 150 Indian soldiers. In summary, China’s hostile statements and India’s refusal to blink are cause for concern.
Undoubtedly, Beijing’s mention of Kashmir was intended to alert Delhi to its potential territorial vulnerability: “If you take a hard stance on Doklam, we will assert ourselves in Jammu and Kashmir.” The argument is cut from the same strategic cloth as Delhi’s mention of Pakistan’s Balochistan in 2015, albeit with greater fanfare and braggadocio. Such are the games states play.
However, the point is that despite such episodic sabre rattling, there is a broader principle at work here. The Doklam stand-off illustrates the political will of the larger regional powers to assert power – even if over the smallest patch of territory – in what they see, paradoxically, as their “peripheries”. In this context, the entire Himalaya must be seen as a complex seam of cultures fraught with potential for conflict between two ambitious demographic giants. How Delhi and Beijing, and the Himalayans themselves, deal with such confrontations will be of great import for the future of politics on the Eurasian landmass.
 
Complex history
First the Doklam stand-off. The agreed upon sequence of events, from a reading of several security and military experts, seems to be this: in early June, some Indian bunkers were destroyed by Chinese border guards in the area. In mid-June, the Chinese restarted work on a road in the area and the Indian military physically blocked this activity. It is still unclear whether this was with or without a priori leave from Thimphu. Regardless, the first formal Bhutanese response came on June 29 with a demarche to the Chinese embassy. Beijing’s uncharacteristic daily protests over Indian involvement and even threats from opinion makers in the Chinese media have persisted since the start of the crisis. Beijing’s toughest response came from its embassy in Delhi in the first week of July: that there will be no negotiations until India unilaterally withdraws from Doklam.
 
Critical junctures
Why this sudden outbreak of hostilities? Expert opinion is varied. Beijing tends to provoke contention at critical junctures, such as during Xi Jinping’s visit to India in 2014 and, today, Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States. It is a response to Delhi’s rejection of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. It has taken place because China wants to wean Bhutan away from India. It is a tactical move by China designed to gain geo-military advantage close to the Siliguri Corridor, which would leave India’s North East vulnerable.
Finally, China is irked by India’s build-up of hardware and troops along the 3,500-km Himalayan boundary since the 2000s.There has been some speculation among security experts, the military, policy academics about the possibility of war over Doklam. Although few have ventured to predict the probability of war, many have expressed anxiety over that possibility for reasons ranging from domestic compulsions in Beijing and Delhi to an accidental shootout between nervous soldiers.
 
Historical attitudes
From the perspective of the Himalayan peoples, the immediate reasons for the current impasse are less important than the history – and historical attitudes – that have informed Chinese and Indian actions. History not so much in the minutiae of the treaties and agreements or the skirmishes and wars from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century that have punctuated relationships in the region, but more in how they have affected the peoples of the Himalaya.
To explain: the British Indian strategy towards the Himalaya may have been tactically secretive but it was strategically transparent. In its broadest contours, it was defined as a choice between a “forward policy”, which was territorially expansive, and its opposite, “masterly inactivity”, which was territorially and politically neutral. The latter won the day more often and meant laxity towards territorial and political sovereignty. But, in exchange, it required an unambiguous political allegiance to British India over any interest shown from the north – Russia or the Soviet Union and, selectively, China – an approach that prevailed until the British withdrew from South Asia. These were policies that had minimal material impact on the peoples.
 
New realities
After 1947, the “forward policy” and “masterly inactivity” debate was rendered anachronistic for British India’s successor states because of the revolutionary changes in communications, transport and technology – not to speak of the paradigm shifts in the international political order. Today, China and the former colonies of South Asia are politically independent, but struggle with the structures of their political institutions. Their political institutions are different, of course, but they are similar in one way – all seek greater control over the populations and territories they inherited from the British and Qing empires.
These policies have had two consequences. First, they have radically altered how the state’s writ is enforced – it is no longer nuanced in application. Secondly, their complexity has left the modern and nascent states of China, India and Pakistan with a legacy of lingering disputes, of which the peoples of the Himalaya have become the greatest victims.
To return to Kashmir, the Hurriyat’s appeal to China is the deployment of the maxim that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. The argument speaks to the absence of a positive strategy, one that is people-oriented rather than dominated by territorial concerns, on the part of China, India or Pakistan. This short-sightedness in deferring the resolution of disputes in and on their “peripheries” can lead to a Himalaya-wide logjam from Arunachal Pradesh to J&K, involving territorial disputes not only among the three large states but the smaller sovereign states as well. The centrality of Bhutan in the current India-China stand-off is a case in point. In this context, invoking Kashmir in the west during a confrontation over Doklam in the east is not as far-fetched as it may seem.
[Siddiq Wahid is a historian and founding vice-chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology, Kashmir.]

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Punjabis have a feline thirst for blood

Fakir Syed Aijazuddin
 
When the Lion of the Punjab —- Maharaja Ranjit Singh —- predicted that, after him, his kingdom would be overrun by the red of British occupation, he had not anticipated how deep that colour would seep into the soil of his beloved Punjab. It tinctures even today the politics of this region, 175 years after his death.
Full Story
Fakir Syed Aijazuddin
 
When the Lion of the Punjab —- Maharaja Ranjit Singh —- predicted that, after him, his kingdom would be overrun by the red of British occupation, he had not anticipated how deep that colour would seep into the soil of his beloved Punjab. It tinctures even today the politics of this region, 175 years after his death.
The release of a film titled The Black Prince is a reminder of how much or how little the politics of the Punjab has changed. This low-budget film (about $5 million worth) recounts the life of Ranjit Singh’s ‘accepted’ son Maharaja Duleep Singh, from his turbulent accession to Ranjit Singh’s golden throne in 1843 to his death as an indebted pauper in a seedy hotel in Paris in 1893.
Gifted with nothing more than a contested lineage inherited from his father Ranjit Singh and from his mother Rani Jindan a pair of beautiful eyes (an admirer described them as ‘magnificent orbs’), Duleep Singh, still a child, witnessed the murderous convulsions that followed Ranjit Singh’s death. Understandably, he converted from Sikhism which he associated with barbarism to the more genteel alternative – Christianity. Transported to England, there he became a bejeweled, colourful ornament at the court of Queen Victoria. He acquired a huge unaffordable estate in Norfolk where he could indulge himself in a sport in which he excelled. He was regarded as one of the top five shots in the United Kingdom.
He returned to India in 1861 and being reunited with his mother, by then almost half-blind, he brought her back with him to London. Within two years, the redoubtable Rani managed to dismantle the Christian persona his tutor Dr John Login and Queen Victoria had assiduously fabricated. From being three-quarter British/one quarter Sikh, he became a full-blooded Punjabi determined to reclaim his sovereignty.
His ambitions however exceeded his resources. Dismayed by the ennui of the Tsar of Russia who he had hoped would assist him organise an uprising against the British, Duleep Singh retreated penniless to Paris where he died, unmourned, a footnote in Punjab’s history.
To modern Sikhs, hungry for heroes, Duleep Singh’s reversion to his paternal faith is a case study in belated nationalism, ripe for resurrection. Ignoring the advice of the writer Khushwant Singh not to make a heroic figure out of Duleep Singh (he could see the fault-lines in the marble they proposed to use), reconstructions of his life such as the film The Black Prince serve Punjabis as a moveable Wailing Wall, a reminder of their lost heritage, of glories squandered, of nationhood forfeited.
The producers of the film, like Duleep Singh himself, face an uphill task in re-awakening Punjabi nationalism. One reason may be the attitude of Punjabis on either side of the border. The only Sikh visible in Lahore’s Cineplex cinema where the film was screened recently, had bought a ticket to see a 3D action thriller showing in an adjacent hall, because he had no idea who The Black Prince was or Maharaja Duleep Singh.
History has shown that blood flows like the sixth river of the Punjab. Its banks are murder and mayhem. Pakistan’s first prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in Rawalpindi in 1951. Pakistan’s first post-1971 prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Rawalpindi jail in 1979. His daughter Benazir Bhutto – herself twice prime minister – lost her life in Rawalpindi in 2007.  A sitting Governor of the Punjab Salmaan Taseer was gunned down in Islamabad in 2011. And in 2015, the Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada was murdered.  One has lost count of those hundreds of others —-civilians and officials —- who have been martyred in suicide attacks or bomb blasts because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Future historians will detect a level of sophistication Punjabis have perfected in recent years. Today’s political assassinations use weapons that leave no smell of cordite or trace of gunpowder. They are cloaked in a lawyer’s brief. Liquidations are conducted in broad daylight, amplified by the media.
There can be no rational-minded Pakistani who predicts a productive outcome of the gladiatorial contest between the PTI and the Jamaat-i-Islami and their victim prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Should Nawaz Sharif be disqualified for being unable to justify his wealth, so will Imran Khan. Both could be faulted by the Supreme Court for suffering from accounting amnesia.
Whatever may be the decision of the Supreme Court in either case, one thing is clear. The country is flying on autopilot. Its cockpit is overcrowded with would-be pilots determined to snatch the joystick from the designated captain.
Napoleon, a contemporary of Ranjit Singh, once explained: “Anarchy is the stepping stone to absolute power.” Our high-flying suicidal litigants might heed that canny Frenchman’s warning.
[The writer is a columnist of the Dawn, Pakistan]

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