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Pakistan’s troubles with religious parties could be solved using an Iranian solution

The best way to stop dangerous protests is to cut off the motive for obstructionist movements.

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For several weeks, the streets of Islamabad, Karachi and other Pakistani cities have been filled with protesters organised by the ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah party and other religious hard-line groups. The origins of the protests are opposition to a new legal clause removing the requirement for all lawmakers to accept the Prophet Muhammad as the final Prophet of God.

Pakistan’s democracy has often been held to ransom by the ability of religious hard-line groups to mobilise popular support for their causes. They also have the ability to take issues that are at times minor in terms of the overarching responsibilities of government, and transform them into wider protests aimed at ruling parties and governing elites.

The fact that this happens on a fairly regular basis in Pakistan, is a clear indication that there is a flaw in the governmental structure of the country that can be easily remedied. If left unresolved, Pakistan’s political landscape could be constantly marred with street battles between the authorities, religious hardliners and progressives, while little gets accomplished in terms of passing laws that make any one group happy.

The solution is not a novel one, but one which is borrowed in-part from neighbouring Iran. With relations between Islamabad and Iran at their best since 1979, there is nothing to lose from considering the experience of the Islamic Republic which has produced an effective model for balancing the forces of progressive politics with religious concerns.

In reality, Pakistan’s progressive and centrist parties are more secular than those in Iran, but likewise Pakistan’s religious factions tend to be more prone to extremes than those in Iran. This is all the more reason why Pakistani leaders should consider the importance of Iran’s Guardian Council and its role in Iran’s legislative process.

Iran’s Guardian Council is made up of 12 Islamic scholars who are appointed by the Supreme Leader for a 6 year term. The role of the Guardian Council is to insure that legislation passed by the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) and that candidates standing for elected office are in fitting with the Islamic nature of Iran’s constitution.

Because of the differences between Pakistan and Iran’s constitutions, such an assembly in Pakistan would function differently by critically, would provide similar public assurances to religious factions in the country.

If Pakistan’s President or National Assembly were to appoint a council of religious scholars to oversee the final phase of legislation and/or the approval of new parties and candidates, it could do a great deal to make religious parties feel included in the governance of the country, while removing their incentive for obstructing the rule of law and obstructing the free flow of streets and thoroughfares.

If Pakistan’s version of the Guardian Council were to hold veto power of any kind over legislation, it would be crucial to appoint scholars who while respected among religious communities, are also deeply ingrained with the security and political apparatus of state. In reality, the role of such a council would be less to use a veto than to approve new legislation, as its role would be one of giving a religious stamp of approval for measures taken by centrist parties.

I would not except the creation of such a body to deprive religious political parties of influence all at once, however over time, such a body could persuade religious conservatives to gradually support more centrist politicians, or at least not obstruct the work of centrist parties, because they would be safe in the knowledge that all legislation would ultimately be reviewed by religious scholars to make sure that nothing haram (forbidden by Islam) could become part of Pakistan’s corpus of law.

Because of Iran and Pakistan’s different histories, while the Guardian Council in Iran is often described as a chamber used to deter or strike down overly liberal or socially radical pieces of legislation, in Pakistan it would serve to do the opposite. In Pakistan such a body would serve to restrain ultra-conservative religious forces who do not believe centrist parties are passing legislation that is sufficiently Islamic in nature and scope.

I realise that if I did not mention that such an idea is inspired from Iran, it might gain more support among patriotic Pakistanis, but as Pakistan is the South Asian leader in pursuing multi-polarity, patriotic Pakistanis should embrace inspiration for reform from all angles, irrespective of their origin.

Iran is of vital importance for Pakistan’s greater regional connectivity which explains why past disputes, particularly over Afghanistan, are no longer obstacles to cooperation. As China and Russia have offered the only realistic international peace proposals for Afghanistan, and one which itself owes a great deal to Pakistani proposals, there is no reason for two neighbours not to learn from one another as they embrace a century of enhanced global connectivity on all fronts.

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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