Volume 21 Issue 11 November 2017
By Dr. Raza Khan

Dynastic politics have been a key feature of the political culture of Pakistan and even after entering the 21st century, tribalism and traditionalism have kept Pakistani democracy hostage. Dynastic rule yet has been manifesting the country’s politics all along.

By S.G. Jilanee

“A question has arisen,” as Mahatma Gandhi would say. “Why South Asians continue to elect families to the highest political office despite their poor records sometimes?” This, no doubt, is a weighty question that merits deep reflection. One possible explanation could be that it is part of the local culture to extend the respect given to an individual, as well to other members of his family - his spouse and offspring.

Another could be the hero worship sentiment. Some political leaders, especially, if they are founders of the party, treat it as their personal property, where succession passes by nomination among members of the family as an inheritance.

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Syed Jawaid Iqbal

Zeba Jawaid

Javed Ansari

Faizan Usmani
Khawaja Amer
Syeda Areeba Rasheed

S. G. Jilanee

Sanghmitra S Acharya
Sajjad Ahmad
Dr. Moonis Ahmar
Mirza Mujtaba Baig
Huzaima Bukhari
Muhammad Ali Ehsan
S. M. Hali
Dr. Ikramul Haq
Muhammad Omar Iftikhar
S.G. Jilanee
Dr. Mehtab S. Karim
Dr. Raza Khan
Zehra Khawaja
Taha Kehar
Dr. Syed Ali Madni
K. A. Naqshbandi
S. Mubashir Noor
Maryam Sadriwala

Kamran Ghulam Nabi
Haroon Rasheed
Riaz Masih


Syed Ovais Akhtar

Hira Sarwar

Muhammad Aamir

Aqam-ud-Din Khan

SouthAsia is published every month by Syed Jawaid Iqbal for and on behalf of JAWZ Communications (Pvt.) Ltd.

Views expressed by the contributors are not necessarily shared by the editors.

Published since 1977 as Thirdworld, the magazine was re-launched in 1997 as SouthAsia.



By Mirza Mujtaba Baig

Pakistan is the only country in the world where a fake surname is brazenly used just to retain the throne of a political party. Benazir Bhutto’s surname became Zardari after her marriage while Bilawal Zardari chose to be called a Bhutto after the assassination of his mother. Maryam is proud to be called Maryam Nawaz rather than Maryam Safdar. She is married to Capt. (R) Safdar. It seems they could not have afforded to keep surnames to retain their political persona. It is possible, that if they had done so they could have lost the political crown given to them by their parents.

When the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touched base with Pakistan’s top leadership, the ice is said to have been broken in the relationship, Though Pakistan’s proposal got a lukewarm response, hope was kindled that Islamabad and Washington will take tangible confidence-building measures (CBMs) based on mutual respect to balance the trust deficit created after the announcement of President Donald Trump’s new Afghan strategy and his accusations to the effect that Pakistan was harbouring terrorist safe havens on its soil. It was undoubtedly very heartening to see Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and General Qamar Javed Bajwa meeting the US Secretary of State in complete unison and with one voice, giving a clear message that both the civil and military leaderships in Pakistan were on the same page.

The visit, or more appropriately, the stopover of the US Secretary of State in Islamabad on his way to Delhi from Kabul, was too brief to discuss a heavy agenda. How much the 90-minute meeting held at the Prime Minister’s house could clear the air between the two cannot be confirmed as there was no press briefing after the meeting. However, a 30-minute video was released by the PM office in which Tillerson could be heard telling the Prime Minister that Pakistan is “important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for greater economic relationship.”
According to reports, during the meeting Pakistan briefly presented its own grievances ranging from undermining its anti-terror efforts to giving India a greater role in Afghanistan. While speaking in the Senate Khawaja Asif also said that the Secretary of State was informed in clear-cut terms that India could only play the role of a spoiler in Afghanistan and, as such, Pakistan would not be responsible for failure of the United States’ South Asia strategy nor was it ready to be made a scapegoat.

If memory serves right, former U.S. President Bill Clinton made a 5-hour stopover in Pakistan in March 2000 on his travels in-between India and Bangladesh. While Bill Clinton sounded tough, talking about contentious issues such as the restoration of democracy and relations with India over Kashmir with Gen. Pervez Musharraf, he graciously witnessed the signing of trade deals worth $4bn with India. There are many similarities in the recent visit of the U.S. Secretary of State with that of President Clinton’s. Tillerson also sounded tough with Pakistan and mentioned the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be co-hosted by the U.S. and India in Hyderabad in November.

There can be no two opinions that Pakistan is an extremely important country in the region. Pakistan’s strategic location and its sharing of borders with both Iran and Afghanistan serve as a bridge between the Middle East and the nations of Central Asia. This makes the country a natural ally of the U.S. Pakistan provides the main access route for U.S. aid and military equipment going to Afghanistan as, without these, continued U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would not be possible. It is not easy for Washington to simply throw out Pakistan from the equation as this could possibly force the country to get closer to China and tilt towards Russia, an option the Trump Administration just cannot afford. Likewise, Pakistan also cannot afford to part ways with America. The U.S. economic and military assistance to Pakistan has a long history stretching over decades. Several American governments have pumped billions of dollars into Pakistan.

There are a number of reasons for maintaining close and supportive relations between the two countries. Unfortunately, the U.S. has almost always maintained its relations with Pakistan on an as-and-when-required basis, keeping in view the changing priorities of its global policies. Munir Akram, former Pakistan Ambassador to the UN rightly said, “Since U.S. goals and priorities change periodically, at times rapidly, Pakistan- U.S. ties have often resembled a roller-coaster ride. One day Pakistan is America’s ‘most-allied ally’, the next its ‘most-sanctioned’ ally.” Now it seems that this attitude is changing and the time has come to establish bilateral relations on the basis of strict mutual respect for the sovereign rights of each country.

Later, Rex Tillerson reportedly said in Washington that he did not visit Islamabad to lecture or coerce Pakistanis but to tell them that Washington was determined to eradicate terrorism from the region with their support or “in a different way”. Diplomatic correspondents in Washington, commenting on the war of words between the two countries, noted that tough remarks from both sides reflected their frustration in the lack of progress in normalizing bilateral relations. The bottom line is that mere rhetoric accusing each other will not work. The two governments must continue to sort out issues through talks respecting each other’s sovereignty. Though the best way to ‘resolve the‘ conflict is through negotiations but if the U.S. Administration continues to repeat the Do More mantra, Pakistan will be left with no choice but to revisit its foreign policy. If the U.S. can come up with a new South Asia strategy involving India and Afghanistan to pressurise Pakistan, why can’t Pakistan frame its own new South Asia strategy with China and Russia to foil the U.S. approach. ’

Syed Jawaid Iqbal
Editor in Chief


Rising Air Pollution

Though the Modi-led government has achieved a number of milestones mostly on the political front, it has miserably failed in addressing the pressing issue that is related to the rising level of air pollution across the country, particularly in New Delhi. According to a latest research report that appeared in The Lancet, a globally-recognised medical journal, India tops the list of countries affected by air pollution and smog. In 2015, according to the study, one out of every four premature deaths in India was attributed to pollution. In addition to that, the United States Environmental Protection Agency finds New Delhi, India’s capital city, as the most polluted city on earth. These findings do not bode well for India and it needs to take some drastic measures to bring down the rising levels of air pollution in the country’s urban areas in particular. Is Modi ji listening?

Arjun Kumar,
Chhattisgarh, India.

Future of Local Bodies

Political uncertainty is always at its peak in Nepal while those political institutions that strive to perform as per the expectations of the general public are hit by needless legislation and bureaucratic protocols. Yet again, this has been done by the Parliamentary Development Committee of Nepal that has recently endorsed a bill related to the local bodies. The bill, which was on hold for more than two months for no obvious reasons, has curtailed the power of selected local bodies’ representatives, depriving them from a huge chunk of development funds that were supposed to be used in the implementation of various projects related to land registration and public infrastructure development. As a result, local level governments in Nepal have been reduced to dysfunctional institutions, being at the mercy of those sitting in the Rastriya Sabha (National Assembly). To be very honest, local bodies have no future in today’s Nepal.

R. F. Dharmalal,
Lalitpur, Nepal.


American Pipedream

This is with reference to last month’s cover story on the US’s new policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan. While there is nothing new in the latest U.S. pronouncement, what we can easily foresee is a further disaster in the making prolonging the never-ending misery of a war-torn region. The US approach can be referred to as face-saving measures that aim to recover the glory the US forces have lost since the launch of ‘War on Terror’ in 2001. What one can easily deduce from the US over-reliance on military power and from its desire to have a decisive victory in its self-imposed war on terror is the fact that American policymakers and political strategists are too arrogant, conceited and quite holier-than-thou. They seem to follow a different definition of human goodness and have some other ideals of humanity that place Americans higher than the rest of the human beings. Sorry to say, the American Dream has gone from being attainable to impossible.

Fahad Pirhar,
Karachi, Pakistan.

Attainment of SDG Goals

Compared to the rest of South Asian nations, Bangladesh has performed well in such crucial areas as poverty alleviation, human development, women’s emancipation, climate change, etc. However, the country’ progress in terms of four specific SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) targets under Goal 16 i.e. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, is not that impressive as it should have been at this year’s end. According to Transparency International Bangladesh, the progress on SDG implementation is being hindered by various government agencies owing to the dominance of the executive branch, centralisation of power and rampant political influence over state matters. Falling short of the SDG targets, the Bangladeshi government needs lots of soul-searching to uproot the well-ingrained culture of impunity that has been harming the nation’s progress to becoming a well-developed country.

Ruqayya Aftab,
Sylhet, Bangladesh.

Accountability of Judiciary

Despite being one of the world’s smallest nations in size, Bhutan has taken a giant step by deciding to review the country’s judicial system and its practices. Quite a bold move, the decision is based on the general perception that the Bhutanese judiciary has been reduced into a closed institution, while some members of the higher judiciary are accused of unfair and arbitrary performance. The negative perception about the country’s court system is resulting in public distrust in the judiciary and the people at large are reluctant in seeking justice. As per a 2015 judicial integrity scan report, some judges of the lower and higher court were found indulging in abuse of office, bribery and influence peddling. This is a very serious matter and the Royal Audit Authority of Bhutan must carry out its investigations to clean the judiciary from reprobates and black sheep hiding under the cloak of black robes.

Phuentsho Dorji,
Paro, Bhutan.

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