EDITORIAL: Foreign interventions in Bahrain and Libya - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\16\story_16-3-2011_pg3_1

Although Bahrain’s monarch had requested the Gulf Cooperation Council, comprising six Gulf countries, to send their forces to contain the protests in Bahrain, it is nonetheless a foreign intervention. The 1000-strong contingent sent by five neighbouring countries of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, will be used to suppress Shia protesters, who are demanding political and economic rights in a country ruled by a minority Sunni elite. Arguably, Saudi Arabia was more worried than the rest of the Gulf countries because its oil-rich, Shia-dominated eastern area borders Bahrain and if the Bahraini Shias manage to gain the upper hand, it might spell disaster for the Saudi monarchy’s own existence, which has kept its Shia population backward and deprived for decades. It is in the interest of all reactionary monarchs of the Gulf to not let things get out of hand, hence this collaboration. There is no reason to open fire on unarmed protesters, but when an insecure minority is ruling over a restless majority as in Bahrain, perhaps this is inevitable. It would be pertinent to mention that Pakistan’s retired military officers and civilians are being rapidly hired by Bahrain because they are reputed to be most aggressive. It is not certain if the Bahrainis, who have been out on the streets for a month, would be able to sustain their struggle in the face of a brutal crackdown that now seems on the cards.

When the wave of insurgency started from Tunisia and spread to Egypt, in both cases yielding results quickly and relatively peacefully, an optimistic illusion was created that this would be replicated in all Arab countries where the public had risen. It has turned out that all Gulf countries are not at the same juncture of history where their regimes had been hollowed out from within and needed just the kind of push that the people in Egypt and Tunisia provided. Yemen’s long-serving dictator is not yielding to the protesters’ demands to relinquish the office of president, which he has been holding for the last 32 years. There have been protests in Oman as well without much hope for success. In Libya, there are reports that the tables have been turned by Gaddafi’s use of military force and a vow to fight till the last drop of blood. The rebel forces in Libya that had taken over eastern towns are now being pushed back through the use of navy, air force and artillery bombardments. The imbalance of power between the two sides is so great that an untrained, lightly armed, scattered guerrilla force cannot win over a conventional military force in set-piece battles. Being largely a desert excepting the northern periphery, it will not be easy for the rebels to sustain guerrilla warfare against Gaddafi’s air power. It seems that Gaddafi still has the backing of his military and certain tribes who are aiding him.

In this scenario, saner heads in the West are advising the hawks led by France against military intervention in the name of ‘humanitarian’ action. It has been proved in recent years that such intrusions are, after all, not entirely altruistic and are driven by vested interests. The UN Security Council is unlikely to yield to the proposal of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. It is dangerous thinking, this talk of military intervention and will lead to the expansion of war in Libya and the region. A fig leaf has been created in the shape of the Arab League’s endorsement of a no-fly zone, but this is unlikely to impress anyone. The Arab League has lost credibility over the years and cannot necessarily be taken as representing the interests of the Arab people. Gaddafi may have resiled from anti-imperialist Arab nationalism and may be cracking down on his people, but this should not be used an excuse to call for a foreign intervention. The Arab people must be given the opportunity to settle their affairs themselves. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Rewriting the past

As far as loan write offs go, Pakistan probably heads the list. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has suggested that the Supreme Court (SC) constitute a commission, headed by a retired judge, to deliberate on and resolve the mega billion rupees loan write offs that have plagued the country since 1971. This particular matter has cost the country a shocking Rs 256 billion, where many of the beneficiaries of these write offs have enjoyed this form of looting and plunder just because they had the right political connections and influence. The current effort at accountability is a belated one but to be appreciated nonetheless on an issue that has been taken too lightly so far.

The courts have ordered that the SBP makes sure the details of everything regarding this commission be made public in the print media so that the key factor of transparency be made a defining feature of this body. This is commendable because accountability was never before prioritised when it came to obliging many of these defaulters. It is encouraging to see that the SC has introduced some transparency to the whole affair.

It is being proposed that the commission be granted the authority to question people under oath, receive evidence on affidavits and issue further commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents. This is all well and good but, at the end of the day, this exercise should not remain a superficial one or a further cover up if it is to be meaningful. With the SC handling the case of loan write offs it is expected that all those who used their political affiliations will have to have their day in court. It is hoped that now shady deals behind closed doors will be made a thing of the past, at least where the business of loans is concerned. Pakistan needs to closely scrutinise everywhere it has gone wrong as far as financial setbacks are concerned. Given the current economic crisis we face, any attempt to allow these defaulters off the hook will perpetuate our financial debilitation. While there may be some cases of genuine need to write off loans, those who have used unwarranted means to escape accountability must be brought to book and made to return the money. *

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