‘A German Perspective on Pakistan and its Big Neighbours’: A Talk by Professor Conrad Schetter

‘Power depends on economics and not on military forces’ – Watch Video

Professor Conrad Schetter, Associated Member of the Center for Development Research (ZEF), Directorate of the University of Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany recently addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on A German Perspective on Pakistan and Its Big Neighbours. He is a notable scholar and some of his coauthored publications include Local Security-Making in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (2016), Security: What Is It? What Does It Do? (2016) and Protected Rather Than Protracted: Strengthening Displaced Persons in Peace Processes (2015). His key expertise concerns the civil-military nexus, the politics of interventions and local politics. Professor Schetter is also involved in numerous ongoing projects including On the phenomenon of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan and Protected rather than protracted – Strengthening refugees and peace.

In his talk on 13 December 2016 chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, he emphasised Germany’s strong relationship with Pakistan pointing out in that regard that the name of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet, is very significant because he studied in Germany and was awarded his PhD from Munich University. He also highlighted that it is high time for Pakistan to realign its tactics in its own neighbourhood because in today’s global politics, economic power is more important than military or strategic power.

Coverage about the event in Dawn can be extracted as:

The talk revolved around Pakistan’s role in the international community, its interconnectedness as well as its increasing isolation from global politics. Professor Schetter stressed the need for the narrative in the region to shift from geopolitics to geo-economics. In his view:

Power depends on economics and not on military forces or approaches.

He attempted to explain how despite the economic development within Pakistan via the CPEC being considered positively, in reality many of Pakistan’s neighbours were several steps ahead with economic engagements on more fronts and with several countries simultaneously.

These projects include the Chabahar Port, as well as several other Eurasian projects where a new economic corridor was being built up. Thus, he said, it was imperative that Pakistan engaged economically with other countries, in specific its immediate neighbours.

India, he said, was in a much better position economically and had tapped into this advantage internationally, while Pakistan had over the years lost trust in several quarters, and one such was in Central Asia.

Professor Schetter is also director for research at the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), and will be the first member to represent peace and conflict research in the Board. He has written extensively as well as worked in the field in countries such as Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, and in certain Central Asian states such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. He shared several anecdotes with regards to his travels which highlighted an increasing isolation of Pakistan in a global context and said:

A couple of years ago I was invited by a think tank in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. When we talked about Eurasian projects … they shared their fears mostly about Afghanistan and its growing Islamism. But Pakistan was considered the real problem. There is a great loss of trust in respect to Pakistan while there is a great deal of trust in India.

Turning his attention to India, he said both countries needed to resolve their political issues which contributed to instability in the region. Trust building, increased economic trade, multi-track diplomacy was needed between the two, as was a departure from nationalist, territorial logic. He several times, during his talk, also emphasised on the German government’s support towards helping Pakistan resolve its issues.

Innovation is essential, according to Professor Schetter, towards Pakistan becoming more connected with the world. One such way, he elaborated, was to set up a knowledge-based economy which the country lagged behind in.

The CPEC was also debated on and in his discourse, his word of caution concerning China’s engagement in Pakistan centred on whether China really considered Pakistan a friend or a mere economic partner. He said that feudalism and the biradri system is preventing any social change in Pakistan’s society.

However, some of his observations regarding Pakistan were counter-argued by Dr Masuma Hasan. She specially negated his view about how the country needed more social change to economically evolve and said:

I think there are very few countries in the world, under-developed or developed, in which there has been so much social change as in Pakistan. It is estimated that within the next few years, 50 per cent of Pakistan’s population is going to be urban, which is a big social change.

She also spoke about how issues of feudalism and the biradari system in Pakistan are seen by western scholarship in a stereotypical way. Summing up, she concluded:

Why don’t you focus on how these systems have broken down? How so much change has come about in traditional power relations? Go into the field and you will see the change.

Germany’s consul general Rainer Schmiedchen was also present at the occasion and expressed his desire of more joint research projects between Pakistan and Germany.

It was also said that China’s focus is not on Gwadar, but Eurasia, building high-speed railway system between China, Central Asia and Russia to Europe. It will make traffic of Kabul from China to Europe much easier and cost effective in comparison to sea route. Pakistan deserves a better image because if you follow German media, Pakistan is always mentioned when something bad has happened connected to religious extremism and violence and sometimes Germans got the impression that Pakistani politics was using insecurity in the country to attract international politics.

Though it is just a road between two countries, Pakistan and China, CPEC is highly critical and provides Pakistan much potential to become a cross road, linking several countries. Many of its neighbours have also already stepped up similar activity. Iran’s Chahbahar harbour, close to Gwadar is an example. Moreover, Iran has already built up a full corridor to Turkmenistan, working it to link Afghanistan to Central Asia. On the other side, the Turkmenistan has built a new railway system to Afghanistan.

Professor Schetter placed key value on the Indo-Pak relationship for the whole region. There is a need of economic cooperation between both countries, as it is a tool for trust building. Germany has very good contacts in economic sector of both countries and could play a role of bridge for Indo-Pak economic cooperation. He was also critical of the relationship between Pakistan and China saying that “friendship” is not the right word to describe it. China only advancing its own economic interests and now Pakistan has to think hard about if it will only depend on China or will it take the time to enter into new partnerships elsewhere.

‘A German Perspective on Pakistan and its Big Neighbours’: A Talk by Professor Conrad Schetter

” Following A School Bus” ( short story) By F. Sheikh

Mostly I get up early in the morning and hit the road to go to work before school buses start rolling on road.  If you are stuck behind a school bus, on one lane each direction street, and it makes frequent stops to pick up the children, then it tests the limit of your patience, especially if you are getting late. Your eyes are focused on flashing stop sign sticking out of the side of bus. You are hoping and praying that soon the bus will make a turn on next street so you can move on.

 One morning last week, I got up late and by the time I hit the road to go to work, the school buses are already on the streets picking up children. Few streets before the local highway, where I usually make a turn, I encounter a school bus making a stop to pick up children. School bus stop sign is flashing red. I stop about 30 feet from the school bus. There are few cars behind me but no traffic from the opposite direction. My eyes are on flashing stop sign, and I am thinking—even if it delays people, but it is a good safety traffic law that all traffic should stop from both directions while the school bus picks up the children. While I am in this thought, suddenly a small school bus appears from the opposite direction and zooms by us without stopping.

I have ironic smile on my face and meanwhile school bus moves along. The bus is picking up small children for the elementary school. This time I am looking at the parents and children. Bus’s next stop is in front of a driveway, few feet before the next street. A mother with a child is standing near the curb and father is standing in the middle of the driveway, more near the house than the curb of road. Both are in sleeping gowns. The child is standing on left side of the mother and mother’s left hand is on the child’s left shoulder giving a gentle tug to embrace mom’s thighs. Father is looking more towards the house than the child or bus, and seems like was dragged out to prove his love. The child boards the bus, the mother is still standing and waving hands until the bus starts moving, but father has already waved, turned around and is near the house entrance door.    

On next stop, near a street corner a mother is standing holding child’s wrist with one hand and a lunch box in the other hand. The child boards the bus and mother tries to give the child the lunch box but he refuses to take it. Mother has a frustrating look on her face and child’s face and body is in slump posture in embarrassment. Perhaps child wants to eat school lunch and feels embarrassed to bring mommy’s lunch. The bus driver is waiting patiently with flashing stop sign for this stand off to resolve. Ultimately the mother gives up, waves with one hand and still holding the lunch box in the other hand. The bus moves on and I reach the entrance to local highway, I hesitate for few seconds to take the turn and want to follow the bus for few more stops, but make a turn on highway on my way to work.



“Abraham, Jesus And Muhammad Party Together In Heaven” By Lawrence Toppman

The painting with this column has no title; the one in the headline is my own. It comes from a medieval Qur’an, the holiest book in the Islamic religion, and you can see it through Jan. 8 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in an extraordinary exhibit. (If you can’t go, you can see some of the objects and listen to the audio guide online.)

Prophets in Heaven

Prophets in Heaven

“Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven” depicts art from three great religions for whom that city remains the center of the faith: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (I list those in order of chronology, not importance.) This is my favorite piece of art from that extraordinary show.

Look closely at this picture. After you get past the horse with a human head – he’s Buraq, a steed in Islamic myths who transported the prophets – you notice that the three main figures seem to be on fire. Christian painters of the period depicted saints with golden halos; Muslims used flames.

The Jewish prophet Abraham and the Christian prophet Jesus (for so Muslims would call them) are welcoming Muhammad to heaven. The women on the left, houris promised to the devout by the Qur’an, await the founder of that religion.

This small painting makes nonsense of two assertions. Fanatics of one kind insist today that Islam does not allow images of Muhammad, but he showed up in Islamic art for a millennium after his death. And fanatics of another kind would claim the three faiths can never meet on a common ground.

All the art of this exhibit comes from the period of the Crusades, when control of the Holy Land went back and forth between Christians and Muslims. Even then, the three People of the Book (as they were and are known) had much in common. Both Jews and Muslims honor Jesus as an interpreter of God’s teachings, and Islam frequently depicts his mother with respect.

The intricately designed Christian crosses, haggadahs (Jewish prayer books containing the Passover service) and Qur’ans in this exhibit can be appreciated partly for their visual beauty and partly for their sacred significance.

“Jerusalem” doesn’t ignore the violence of the era: It displays censers and swords, in a mix of piety and political power. But it mostly reminds us how much we’d have in common, if we truly studied and applied the ideas of the God we share.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

Shared by Azeem Farooki

posted by f.sheikh

Is tide turning in Pakistan?

( The following news article and a column by Nadeem Paracha, PML-N moving towards center, is a hopeful sign for Pakistan to turn away from militancy. F. Sheikh)

Pakistan honors Nobel winner in physics 37 years late. But his religion still stirs anger.

In most countries, it would hardly require an act of courage for the government to rename a university science center after a native-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist who died two decades earlier.

But the belated honor that Pakistan announced Tuesday for the late Abdus Salam was a bold step in the ­Muslim-majority democracy, where officials often feel the need to appease religious hard-liners at the expense of progress and international stature.

Salam was a member of the Ahmadiyya community, a minority sect that is ostracized and reviled by many Muslims in Pakistan, and whose schools and places of worship have been the frequent target of attacks.

So touchy are Pakistan’s majority Sunnis about Ahmadis — who consider themselves Muslims but are widely viewed as heretics — that the decision to add Salam’s name to the National Center for Physics is the first official honor he has received in his homeland. Salam won the Nobel in 1979, sharing it with two theoretical physicists from the West. He died in 1996 in London.

“The government should be congratulated for correcting a historic injustice,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University, where the center is located.

The move shows that Pakistan is finally “ready to move ahead in science . . . irrespective of faith,” Hoodbhoy said. “It will help soften Pakistan’s image, which is badly needed when we are accused of being intolerant and terrorist.”

But even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement saying Salam’s “remarkable achievements earned fame and prestige for the country” and “deserve to be valued,” critics were cursing the physicist in online posts as a “thug,” a spy and a “traitor to Islam.” Salam left Pakistan in the 1970s after its legislature declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, and he worked from then on in the West.

Other Pakistanis, while praising Sharif for taking a step no previous government leader had risked, said it meant little as long as members of the country’s 4­-million-strong Ahmadi minority are still persecuted.

“This is indeed welcome news, but can the prime minister explain to us why the Ahmadi community is being hounded, beaten, jailed and brutalized?” one woman commented on Facebook.

In the past several years, Ahmadis have faced deadly attacks, some by local Muslims whipped up by conservative Islamist preachers and others carried out by terrorists. In 2010, suicide attackers from a Sunni militia killed 94 people and wounded more than 120 in simultaneous assaults at two Ahmadi community centers in Lahore.

Last month, a more subtle but damaging episode took place: a whisper campaign suggesting that one of the top candidates to become the army chief had family ties to Ahmadis.

Read more

posted by f.sheikh