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Pakistan-Saudi rift: What happened? | Saudi Arabia News



Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan has reaffirmed the strength of its relations with Saudi Arabia this week after a diplomatic spat sparked by perceived inaction by the Gulf kingdom on the issue of Kashmir threatened to derail what has been one of the South Asian country’s strongest alliances in the region.

Earlier this month, Pakistan accused the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of 57 Muslim-majority countries that is led by Saudi Arabia, of inaction over the Kashmir issue – a key policy issue for Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan – and threatened to hold a rival meeting that would bypass the group.

“I am once again respectfully telling the OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation,” said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a television news appearance on August 4.

“If you cannot convene it, then I’ll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris.”

Pakistan has been trying to drum up international support following New Delhi’s decision to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status last August.

The call was a shot across the bows, ostensibly challenging Saudi Arabian hegemony over leadership of the Muslim world, analysts say, and cut to the heart of the Gulf kingdom’s foreign policy.

“It was extraordinary and unprecedented,” says Cyril Almeida, senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and a Pakistani journalist. “No one had ever seen anything like it before [in the Pakistan-Saudi relationship].”

In response, Saudi Arabia withdrew a $1bn interest-free loan it had extended to Pakistan in November 2018, when the country was in dire economic straits and required foreign reserves to avoid a possible sovereign default.

The kingdom has also, so far, refused to renew a deferred oil payments scheme that was part of the same package, aimed at helping Pakistan ease its import bill.

On August 17, Pakistan’s powerful Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant-General Qamar Javed Bajwa was dispatched to Saudi Arabia for talks that were downplayed by a military spokesperson as being “routine” and dealing with “military-to-military” matters.

Days later, Pakistan’s foreign office issued a statement that was glowing in its praise of the OIC’s role on Kashmir, and on Monday, Foreign Minister Qureshi appeared to walk back the comments that initiated the rift.

“The OIC has passed many resolutions on Kashmir and there is no ambiguity in them,” he told reporters in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. “They are clear, they are assertive and they are in line with Pakistan’s position.

“I can say to you clearly today: on the issue of Kashmir, Saudi Arabia does not have any difference of opinion [with Pakistan].”

So, what exactly happened?

‘Very out of character’

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have historically held very close ties, with the former dependent on the Gulf kingdom’s oil supplies and financial largesse in times of economic strife.

Last year, the two countries’ trade relationship totalled more than $1.7bn, of which 74 percent consisted of Pakistani oil imports from Saudi Arabia, as per Pakistani central bank data. In all, Pakistan imports roughly a quarter of its oil from Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is also home to more than 2.5 million Pakistani expatriate workers, whose remittances form a major portion of Pakistan’s incoming foreign reserves every year. Last month, Pakistanis resident in Saudi Arabia sent home more than $821m, roughly 30 percent of all remittances into the country, according to central bank data.

The two countries have also had close military ties, with Pakistan providing troops and training to the kingdom at its request.

“The military partnership with Pakistan is important to Saudi Arabia,” says Madiha Afzal, a foreign policy fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution.

“And Pakistan’s population brings a venue for Saudi religious soft power and influence – Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world, it is majority Sunni, and Saudi Arabia wants it squarely in its corner.”

Given the close ties, Afzal says Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi’s initial remarks were “very out of character for Pakistan”.

Moreover, the threat to convene a meeting bypassing the OIC “would directly undermine Saudi Arabia’s posture, and position, of leadership in the Muslim world”.

This is not the first time Pakistan has posited the possibility of an alternate bloc. In December, Malaysia hosted the Kuala Lumpur Summit, a group that rivalled the OIC and was initiated by Malaysia, Saudi rival Turkey and Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Khan pulled out of attending the summit at the last minute, and in later remarks attributed his decision to Saudi objections to the group.

Pakistan has also objected to growing ties between Saudi Arabia and India, Pakistan’s eastern neighbour, with whom it has fought three full-scale wars since both countries gained independence from the British in 1947.

On a visit to Islamabad in 2019 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) signed $20bn in projects with the South Asian country.

A visit to New Delhi immediately after saw MBS say he expected to invest more than $100bn in Pakistan’s regional rival. Saudi-India bilateral trade stands at more than $30bn.

In recent years, under MBS, a more pro-active Saudi Arabian foreign policy has seen countries such as Iran, Turkey and Qatar fall squarely in its crosshairs.

But could Pakistan pivot away from its historic sponsor?

“The issue really was challenging Saudi leadership of the Muslim world,” says James Dorsey, a Singapore-based academic and journalist who has studied Pakistan-Saudi ties for decades. “It would mean Pakistan hooking up with Turkey, Iran, Qatar and possibly Malaysia and Indonesia, three of which are Saudi rivals.”

That pivot, however, is unlikely to happen given current circumstances, says Dorsey.

“Pakistan needs energy supplies, finance and investment. The Saudis seem to have called finance and potentially energy into question given the lack of response to a Pakistani request for an extension of the delay in Saudi oil supplies,” he says.

Given Pakistan’s still tenuous economic prospects – the economy shrunk by 0.38 percent in the last financial year, the first time it has done so in more than 60 years – why pick the fight at all, then?

“It is a bit of a mystery,” says Almeida, the journalist.

“Conventional wisdom since Qureshi’s outburst on local TV is that the foreign minister got carried away – that he was likely tasked by the [Pakistani] military to diplomatically raise Pakistan’s concerns with Saudi Arabia, but delivered a message that in substance and tone was beyond the brief he was given.”

‘Delicately walk back’

Qureshi’s remarks this week, and an earlier Foreign Office (FO) statement, appeared at stark odds with those made earlier, and appear to signal a de-escalation in tensions, analysts have said.

“I think that [FO] statement, more than anything, suggests that Pakistan will not take the actions [the foreign minister] hinted at in his remarks,” says Afzal. “And it suggests that the Saudi reaction – including on the [Pakistani army chief’s] trip – has led Pakistan to delicately walk back Qureshi’s comments.”

Afzal says the Pakistani walk-back indicated that the country “does not have the option of [turning away from Saudi Arabia] in any significant way”.

Dorsey believes the tensions will continue to simmer, albeit in private rather than public.

“Both sides likely will want to downplay the spat and prevent it from escalating,” he says. “But even if the Saudis back down, it will leave scars.”

For Almeida, Pakistan has developed other foreign allies to rely on in times of economic distress – notably China, with whom it is building the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – but the possibilities afforded by those relationships are not endless.

“The rise of China and the centrality of Pakistan to the Belt and Road Initiative has given Pakistan new strategic options,” he says. “China is believed to have provided emergency funds to Pakistan after the Saudis demanded a part of their loan back.

“[…] While surely neither Pakistan nor Saudi would want a rupture in ties, Pakistan is not as dependent on Saudi assistance as it may once have been.”

Afzal says Saudi Arabia appeared to have drawn a clear line in the sand and pushed Pakistan back across it.

“Pakistan’s expectations from the OIC and Saudi Arabia on Kashmir have now been tempered, and realism has set in on that front for Islamabad,” she says. “This ties Pakistan’s hands a bit on the issue of Kashmir’s autonomy.”

With that new boundary established, ties may soon resume at close to their previous tenor, she says.

“As long as Pakistan doesn’t push Saudi Arabia where it doesn’t want to be pushed (on Kashmir), the two countries can get past the spat.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

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Britain’s unequal troop commemorations due to ‘pervasive racism’ | Racism News




Inquiry by Commonwealth War Graves Commission finds Black and Asian troops who fought for Empire were not properly memorialised.

As many as 350,000 Black and Asian service personnel who died fighting for the British Empire might not have been commemorated in the same way as their white comrades because of “pervasive racism”, a report has concluded.

The inquiry commissioned by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), in its report released on Thursday, says that between 45,000 and 54,000 individuals of predominantly Asian, Middle Eastern and African origin who died during World War I were commemorated “unequally”.

“A further 116,000 casualties [predominantly, but not exclusively, East African and Egyptian personnel] but potentially as many as 350,000, were not commemorated by name or possibly not commemorated at all,” the report said.

The CWGC works to commemorate those from Commonwealth forces who were killed in the two world wars and to ensure all those killed are remembered in the same way, with their name engraved either on a headstone over an identified grave or on a memorial to the missing.

It issued an apology in the wake of the inquiry’s findings.

“The events of a century ago were wrong then and are wrong now,” said Claire Horton, head of the CWGC. “We recognise the wrongs of the past and are deeply sorry and will be acting immediately to correct them.”

‘Watershed moment’

The CWGC commissioned the report in December 2019 after Unremembered, an investigative television documentary presented by opposition Labour Party MP and shadow justice secretary David Lammy.

The Unremembered investigation found that Africans killed in World War I had not been treated equally and revealed an example of a British governor saying: “The average native of the Gold Coast would not understand or appreciate a headstone.”

It also uncovered how African soldiers’ graves were abandoned in Tanzania, while European officers’ resting places continued to be maintained.

According to Thursday’s report, another officer, who later worked for the CWGC’s predecessor – the Imperial War Graves Commission, had said: “Most of the natives who died are of a semi-savage nature”, and concluded that erecting headstones would be a waste of public money.

The inquiry said decisions that led to the failure to commemorate the dead properly – or even at all – was the result of a lack of information, errors inherited from other organisations, and the opinions of colonial administrators.

“Underpinning all these decisions, however, were the entrenched prejudices, preconceptions and pervasive racism of contemporary imperial attitudes,” the report concluded.

The United Kingdom’s Secretary of Defence Ben Wallace was expected to address Parliament about the findings later on Thursday.

Lammy hailed the report as a “watershed moment”.

“No apology can ever make up for the indignity suffered by the Unremembered,” he tweeted.

“However, this apology does offer the opportunity for us as a nation to work through this ugly part of our history – and properly pay our respects to every soldier who has sacrificed their life for us … The arc of history is long but it bends towards the truth.”

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OPINION: Leave Katikkiro Alone Until the Person Who Appointed Him Thinks Otherwise




By Dr Roy Mayega

One of the ‘Prima Facie’ principles of Medical Ethics is ‘Autonomy’. Autonomy includes confidentiality and privacy. Confidentiality means non-disclosure unless permitted by the patient.

Privacy means “having control over the extent, timing and circumstances of sharing oneself with others.” You cannot for instance, as a practitioner, order the patient to immediately dress down in the public area and to bend over so that you stick your fingers up their rectum when everyone is watching.

You need to give them ample time to organize themselves; to do the necessary ‘local’ preparations before they feel comfortable to be undressed; and to get a sufficiently private space.

One of the biggest dilemmas faced by a person who has received a diagnosis of a chronic disease is when, how much, and to whom to disclose. It’s not a simple pedestrian matter: It’s a real hassle – the publics always stigmatize everyone with a chronic disease however moderate it is.

The time it takes for people to process their medical situation and to decide to expose themselves varies widely between individuals and is based on the type of disease, their personality, sensitivities, the medical information they have, their values, their prognosis, and the desire to protect others close to them. Some people want to ‘wait and see’.

Being ‘Prima Facie’, ethical principles are inherently binding, unless they clash with another ethical principle in which case there is an ethical dilemma to be re-solved. There is no ethical dilemma here! Ethics is not freaking morals – leave your self-righteousness to yourself. Ethics is not freaking gut feelings; and neither is ethics about culture. Beliefs and morals die, ethics doesn’t.

I have seen many social media idlers blaming the Katikkiro for ‘not taking the pedestal several months ago to describe what was wrong with the Kabaka.

The Katikkiro cannot unilaterally issue a communique without the freaking permission of his boss! And none of the idlers has any evidence to show that his boss told him to announce and he categorically refused – don’t be publicly silly.

Secondly, people have no right to deny a diagnosis of ‘Allergies’ on the basis of pedestrian medicine. Patients are not examined in videos and diagnoses are not validated by rumors. Doctors are much more sophisticated than that.

Let his physicians be the ones to dissent, or let the Kabaka’s wife declare that what was said was wrong.

Severe allergic reactions and autoimmune diseases can be severe enough to cause anything, independently in their own right, without having to collaborate with social media witchery.

It’s so funny how social media has suddenly caused an upshot in ‘male rumor-mongers’ and ‘cyber-sorcerers’.

Leave the Katikkiro alone, until the person who appointed him thinks otherwise. The person who appointed him has never been devoid of grey-matter.

Good thing is that all of you will one day grow older and experience your own chronic diseases – then we will see if you can willingly stick out your private ‘parts’ in public whenever the publics demand so. Some of you cannot even tolerate a routine prostate exam and you are here asking others to undress?

Read: Questions Abound About Kabaka Mutebi’s Health

The post OPINION: Leave Katikkiro Alone Until the Person Who Appointed Him Thinks Otherwise first appeared on ChimpReports.

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India Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan dies of COVID-19 | India News




Ninety-six-year-old Khan, who authored more than 200 books including a two-volume commentary on the Holy Quran, died on Tuesday.

Indian Islamic scholar and peace activist Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has died in the capital New Delhi after contracting novel coronavirus, his family members announced on Tuesday.

Ninety-six-year-old Khan was recently admitted to a hospital in New Delhi after testing positive for COVID-19.

“The great Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan breathed his last, late this evening. Doctors failed to revive his sinking heart. Pray for his maghfirat [penitence] and high station in Paradise. Amin,” Zafarul Islam, Khan’s eldest son, tweeted on Tuesday.

The author of more than 200 books, Khan has been honoured with several awards. This year, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honour.

Born in Azamgarh, India, in 1925, Khan has been internationally recognised for his contributions to world peace.

In 2009, Georgetown University in Washington, DC’s list of 500 Most Influential Muslims of 2009 named him “Islam’s spiritual ambassador to the world”.

In 2001, he established the Centre for Peace and Spirituality to promote and reinforce a culture of peace. Khan went on a 15-day Shanti Yatra (peace march) through the western Maharashtra state in the wake of the demolition of the 16th-century Babri Mosque by Hindu hardliners in the state of Uttar Pradesh in 1992.

He also wrote a two-volume commentary on the Holy Quran.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “saddened” by the news of Khan’s loss.

“He will be remembered for his insightful knowledge on matters of theology and spirituality. He was also passionate about community service and social empowerment. Condolences to his family and countless well-wishers. RIP,” Modi wrote on Twitter.

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said he was “deeply grieved” by the demise of Khan, saying: “Maulana Wahiduddin made significant contributions to peace, harmony and reforms in the society. My deepest condolences to his family and well-wishers.”

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