Here we go folks, we’re about to step into another hostile era in all probability. The story is that amid the recent contestations between the two superpowers: America and Russia, the former’s long-held monopoly is shrivelling up as it is being met with an immediate showdown by the latter, which is all set to reassert its control over the states that once formed the Soviet Union. Apparently, a broader campaign, it purports to the expansion of the Russian sphere of influence, a concept American diplomats have already rejected. Though the animosity between the heavyweights never faded out anytime among history leaves, it never has fomented in last three decades this way as it could be seen right at this moment!
What’s going on by the way?
This is for sure that imperialism isn’t going to fade away.
Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, didn’t seem to hold back any punches. In his exact words, he goes: “We have been very clear with Russia on the costs and consequences of further military action or destabilization.” A loud and clear warning sign for Russia to hold back if it is having any such violent ideas up its sleeves!
So is this it? Do we have any chances of reconciliations, cordiality reflowing, or any resurrecting shades of settlements? Honestly, from the Russian end, it is a dead end. If you doubt us, let’s catch up with someone from the Russian high office: Deputy foreign minister, Sergei A Ryabkov, who terms the outcome of failed nexus–Europe and America–to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “dead end.” Yes, you’ve heard it right, dead-end!
If on one hand, Russia demands that NATO, an alliance founded to contain Soviet power, drastically scale back its presence near Russia’s borders in Eastern Europe, it is playing between too many contradictions to date. While tens of thousands of Russian troops already amassing over the peripheries of Ukraine, President Vladimir V Putin’s assertion of having no interest in invading Ukraine is deemed as another tactical strategy he is well known for.
The strength of Russia’s “sphere of influence” and America’s superpower status is certainly the key players here, ready to lock horns, while the background goes fading. It is said that any time warping to the 1980’s styled confrontation has been ruled out since the dynamics of contemporary wars are changed. The experts say that the power matrix has evolved more into digitals than just material. The physical invasion of 20th-century styles has either gone a bit obsolete or it might simply leave a bad taste in the mouth owing to several socio-political modifications that happened in last two decades.
So the wars aren’t going to be fought on battlefields and rather on computers, right?
The answer is “partially yes.” The cyber attacks are on the surge. Amid Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, the cyberattacks targeting Ukraine’s government websites have gone beyond numbers. The hackers posted a message, recently, on the site of the Foreign Ministry saying, “Be afraid and expect the worst.” As expected, the provenance of the hacking could not be delineated.
Despite Putin’s prodigy at Cyberattacks to influence elections, United States’ soft-power influence in former Soviet states could not be snubbed considering the lion’s share of technology gadgets are yet to be flown in from America. Therefore, it looks quite cumbersome for Russia to beat America in a technology face-off.
Besides technology, Moscow might face a strong disagreement from former Soviet republics’ youth that is now having “a degree of liberal yearning” and impartial attributes have grown among them, contrary to what their forerunners possessed. The younger generation doesn’t want trouble and they are not as battle-hardened and rugged as their predecessors were. If Moscow ropes in with any territorial expansion adventure, the perils might wreak havoc on multiple fronts, including chances of development of insurgencies within Russian terrains, backed up by non-state actors. According to the former British ambassador to Russia, Andrew Wood, if Putin goes for the kill, it won’t be easy for him to safeguard reputation and cordiality with youth: “It’s a big mistake. Being a successful bully lasts for a time, perhaps, but it doesn’t make you love somebody.”
The United States, having actively participated in several meetings at Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna to dissuade Russia from its vehemence intentions towards Ukraine, looks all set to combat on propaganda platforms. With Washington already accusing Moscow of sending diversionists into eastern Ukraine that could provide Putin exculpation for sabotaging Ukraine, it looks like the diplomats have called it a day!
So what would happen if no dialogues exist? Is war imminent? Who is going to be the winner?
We could just assume, forecast, and prognosticate. However, the winner might be someone just been introduced to the table! It seems China has its moment. Its humongous economic roller coaster has begun to climb the first hill and that too without any apprehensions. This is, probably, the ideal time for China to stamp its authority worldwide as a true financial leader, and boy, America wouldn’t want that. In the straits, where the Taliban surged back to power two decades after US-led forces toppled its regime in what led to the United States’ longest war, the United States wouldn’t want to open up another war field, for sure.
According to the director at the Atlantic Council, Barry Pavel, It’s the return of history, where great powers go at it and things get really bad sometimes. Expect a very tumultuous decade. Most importantly, let’s not undermine the words of Andrew Wood, the former British ambassador to Russia: “China will be watching carefully,” to see which move the United States makes. Russian success in invasion without meaningful deterrence would “prove that the U.S. is not a formidable enemy.”
This is for sure that imperialism isn’t going to fade away. However, what consequences we might counter when regional powers with growing ambitions proceed opportunistically to expand their territorial control and influence in the modern era is a point to ponder. While the whirlwind dialogues between Russia and the rest are dying out in the face of stubborn Moscow; America’s reputation, without any doubt, is at stake. In the pandemonium, the decision made by Washington shall have serious implications for not only America’s reputation but also a test for Biden’s administration.
The end of Germany’s self-confined foreign policy
When Germany’s new foreign minister Annalena Baerbock took office in December 2021, there was careful optimism in Berlin that she would embody a more assertive German foreign policy.
Germany’s foreign policy has often been criticized as too restrained and reluctant in relation to its economic weight and critical calls by other nations for more engagement have indicated increased expectations for actions from Germany in global affairs. While there have been some episodes of a more active role by Germany in the international arena, for instance during the financial crisis in 2010, the refugee crisis in 2015, and the negotiations of the Iran nuclear deal, Bearbock’s predecessors in the Foreign Ministry remained largely unnoticeable on the global stage and their foreign policy was mostly a continuation of Germany’s low profile foreign policy.
Despite the careful optimism that Baerbock might stand for a more disruptive and assertive German foreign policy, it seemed doubtful whether she would be able to overcome the two major causes for Germany’s somewhat self-confined foreign policy: 1. Germany’s extreme dependence on international trade (including natural resources) and 2. Germany’s historic reluctance to engage in military interventions. These two factors are largely responsible for the gap between Germany’s value-orientated foreign policy principles as well as objectives and its actual actions to implement such, especially in relation to human rights violations, autocrats, and aggressors.
Now, however, it seems that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has abruptly eradicated one of the two causes for Germany’s self-confined foreign policy. Within a matter of two days, Germany’s stance on international security policy changed completely. On 26 February, the German Defence Ministry declared that, despite its historic position against the supply of arms to conflict zones, it would deliver anti-tank systems and Stinger air defence systems to Ukraine.
The day after that in an extraordinary parliamentary session, Olaf Scholz announced that Germany, after years of debates, will raise its military expenditure to 2% of its GDP (making it Europe’s top spender on defence) and establish an extra 100-billion-euro fund for investments into the Bundeswehr in order to become Europe’s most modern and effective army. The German chancellor also pledged to expand Germany’s troop presence in Lithuania and to provide German air defence systems to Eastern European NATO members.
These movements represent a major break with Germany’s self-perception of its role in the world and with the depictions of Germany as a ‘reluctant’ or ‘civilian’ power that is not comfortable with the pursuance of a more assertive role in foreign policy, mainly attributed to a political and public culture that has roots in the legacy of post-war pacifism.
The apparent re-consideration in Germany about the role of military means in foreign policy, Annalena Baerbock’s fresh take on Germany’s objectives, and the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine will significantly shape German foreign policy in the coming years. This does not necessarily mean that Germany’s foreign policy will be totally different from now on, but it could represent the beginning of a new era of a less self-confined foreign policy more willing to put its value-orientated foreign policy objectives into actions and as such more assertive to confront adversaries.
While Germany’s historic responsibility and preference to realize foreign policy objectives through economic cooperation and multilateral institutions with the resort to military means being only admissible in exceptional situations will continue to be the norm, there will be less stigma around the Bundeswehr and more space for hard power elements in German foreign policy debates and policies.
Yet, the second cause for Germany’s self-confined foreign policy, the country’s extreme dependence on international trade (as the world’s third-largest exporter and importer), is going to continue to put a heavy hand on the country’s decision makers when choosing foreign policy options. But, even here the painful realisation by Germany of being trapped in its reliance on Russian gas and therefore limited in its ability to sanction Russia in response to the invasion in Ukraine might be a learning experience leading to the reconsideration of its dependence on international trade in general, especially when it comes to its economy’s extreme reliance on exports to China, which one day might as well become a problem.
Parliamentary System vs Presidential System: What’s Better for Pakistan?
The failure of the parliamentary system in the country has raised concerns regarding its effectiveness. The populace is divided between the pros and cons of transitioning to a presidential form of governance yet again after the pathetic display of the politicians in the Parliament over the budget proposals. The overarching concern, in either case, is for the delivery of democracy and good governance to the grassroots level.
Bad governance has been construed as a seminal issue in Pakistan. So much so that the country’s populace has been deliberating over Pakistan’s parliamentary system vs a possible presidential system. The country, through history, has experienced different kinds of governments; from democracy to military dictatorship, to civilian martial law by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Pakistan inherited its current government system, the parliamentary form of government, from its former colonial rulers, the British. Ironically, while the parliamentary system has been successful for governance in the latter, the case for Pakistan is on the contrary.
The failure of the parliamentary system in the country has raised many reservations. Does a single solution of a parliamentary form of government resolve all problems? Considering the varying demography, culture, and history of both countries, how can one size be fit for all? Recently, a debate on transitioning to the presidential system has surfaced on social media. The population is divided between the pros and cons of each form of the governing system.
However, in either case, the overarching concern is for the delivery of democracy and good governance to the grass-root level. Both schools of thought are, hence, unanimous regarding their concern for a strong government. The question, however, remains as to which of the governing systems can deliver upon these values effectively.
Pakistan has experienced both forms of governments, yet a large number of the population is unaware of the merits and demerits of either; an essential understanding is lacking about the deep-seated problems vested within the governmental structure of Pakistan. One of the major reasons for this downfall is the perennial tug of war for power.
Understanding the Presidential and Parliamentary Systems
Many in the country believe that the presidential system is synonymous with dictatorship as it is a ‘one-man’ rule. The main cause behind this perception is that some leading analysts and media persons continue to protect the parliamentary system that has bogged the nation down. To clear such fallacies, one must understand the true meanings and merits of the presidential system.
It is erroneous to tantamount the presidential system with dictatorship as those are two different notions. Moreover, the presidential system is a form of the democratic system; many countries which are perceived as the torchbearers of democracy are under this form of governance. The champions of democracy must realize that the presidential system fuels the argument for effective democracy and is not undemocratic.
In the presidential system, the president is elected by the people directly which makes the power concentrated in his office. This makes the perception of a one-man rule somehow true yet it also leads to a strong government. It preserves the head of the government from the fear of being ousted by the opposition which leads to focus on public development and service delivery.
This lack of fear also entails the depoliticization of administration; talented and skilled manpower is sought to ensure efficient service delivery as the president must maintain his/her popularity with the masses. Moreover, the coercion for compromises inflicted by opposition parties is not there. It provides irrevocable fixed terms to legislators and executives.
As far as the question of one-man rule is concerned, the president can be impeached but by the approval of both houses; the process of impeachment is quite intricate as compared to the parliamentary system. This provides the government with enough strength to deliver favourable services to the common citizens of the nation.
The presidential system engages talented people and paves the way for good governance by limiting the legislature to focus on governance and delivery. In the presidential system, unlike the parliamentary system, the budgetary allocations and spending are delegated to the people at the grass-root level in union councils with checks and rudimentary transparency. The presidential system ensures the separation of power between legislative and executive branches.
It is relevant to mention here that the presidential system ensues the peril of becoming a dictatorship in some cases if the president starts to victimize its political rivals; it becomes complicated to halt his/her activities through impeachment due to the complexity of the system. It can further augment the notion of being discriminating amongst minorities or those factions which are not averse to the president on an ethnic or lingual basis.
On the other hand, the parliamentary system is much weaker in terms of strength as compared to the presidential system. Impeaching a prime minister is easier in the parliamentary system than doing so in the presidential system. The government thus remains perplexed about its stability as there is no irrevocable fixed term of the executive and legislatures in the parliamentary system.
This forces the governments to make inevitable compromises and compensations to the opposition parties to keep the government intact. These compromises result in a friendly opposition and can hamper a check on the government because the former often seems eager to jump on the bandwagon of the latter to protect its vested interest – which is not about the public service delivery in most of the cases.
The advocates of the parliamentary system posit that it provides equal representation and voice to all the people of the state without discrimination. A major demerit of the parliamentary system is that it does not separate the power between the executive and legislative branches of the government which leads to the politicization of the administration of the country. This politicization then stimulates the culture of patronage, corruption, and decline in the reliance upon professionalism.
Successful Presidential Systems in the World
The United States is exemplary for a successful presidential system. In the US, the presidential system has been deployed since the inception of the country. The United States is a cauldron of different cultures making it a heterogeneous society. The success of the presidential system in the US is no secret; it was its governmental structure that made it a superpower in the world despite being a former colony of Britain which is a parliamentary democracy.
One of the salient features of the United States’ governmental structure is its system of checks and balances of the legislature, judiciary, and executive which ensures the functioning of the three branches constitutionally and in favor of the public interest.
The country has made unprecedented progress in history due to its strong government which may not be the case in the parliamentary system. The system hampers the president to victimize his political rivals thus negates the notion that it can lead to dictatorship. Furthermore, the powers concentrated in the office of the president enable him/her to make crucial decisions that are in favor of the country without compromising with the opposition to secure his/her term.
The presidential form of democracy and its performance in the country amply denote that this form of government can produce exemplary impact, particularly in cases where the parliamentary system has failed – Turkey is one such example.
One cannot disagree with the sharp rise in the soft power among the Muslim countries and progress of Turkey in the recent past which was not possible erstwhile. For this purpose, Turkey revoked its parliamentary system and adopted the presidential system. Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – the former prime minister of the country – has changed the system of the government in the country to ensure strong governance, allowing him to take prompt decisions for the good of the country.
The powers are now separate in the country. Legislative powers are vested in the Grand National Assembly while executive powers are exercised by the Council of Ministers which is directly appointed and headed by the president. The rationale behind the change in the structure of government in Turkey was to have a strong government that could make bold and efficient decisions without facing hindrances from the opposition.
The example of China and Russia would be pertinent to cite here as the governmental structure in both these countries concentrates powers in the office of the president. Some might oppose these examples as they are not democratic countries, however, these countries comprise strong and stable federal governments which along with many other factors have contributed to the rise of both these nations in the 21st century.
Parliamentary System vs Presidential System in Pakistan
Good governance has been the core issue of the country. Pakistan has experienced both forms of government in history: the presidential form under the military rules and also during the civilian martial law of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and the parliamentary system during the democratic regimes. If we look at the facts and figures of the progress and prosperity of the country, it is easily understandable that the country was doing well in terms of improving living standards, education, health, and development during the three military regimes when the presidential system was in effect.
The local body system was also endorsed in its true spirit as stated by Ishrat Hussain, Advisor for Institutional Reforms and Austerity of Pakistan, in his book Governing the Ungovernable: Institutional Reforms for Democratic Governance in Pakistan. Although the presidential form of the government was experienced under the non-democratic military rule yet the progress made during the military rule by no means justifies the intervention of non-democratic forces in the democratic process.
Pakistan comprises of heterogeneous society and all the segments of the society must get equal representation in the government which is only possible in the parliamentary system. This argument is used by the advocates of the parliamentary system in the country but the question is that has this equal representation resolved the issues of the people that are being represented? The answer is a big no.
The plight of the people of Baluchistan, Sindh, and FATA is an utter substantiation of the bad performance of the parliamentary system. Most of the politicians in the country are averse to the debate on the change of the governmental structure arguing that the presidential system is dictatorial. In reality, the presidential system is not undemocratic instead it is one of the forms of the democratic systems imposed in many countries of the world.
The presidential system is not perilous for the democracy but, in reality, it is a threat to the vested interest of the corrupt political elite of the country. Many argue that the parliamentary system is working well in Britain, Canada, and many other countries but the reality is that the literacy level in these countries is much higher than that of Pakistan.
Most of the politicians in the latter country are feudal lords who lack the essential knowledge regarding the functioning of the democracy and parliamentary system, and also the competence to rule the country effectively. It is a common perception in the country that most of the politicians are corrupt and they participate in politics to serve their interests.
Pakistan inherited the parliamentary system from its former colonial ruler. The structure bequeathed by the British to the subcontinent was deliberately designed to centralize the monopolistic control through political mafias as the former were least concerned about their colonial subjects.
The populace of Pakistan needs service delivery to the grassroots level. For this purpose, a country needs strong, well-structured, and agile local governments which are fully accountable to the people and can also eliminate the notion that resources are not allocated equally in every region which is possible in the presidential system as has been experienced in previous such governments in the country.
The agile local governments can also be used to curb the sentiment of being dealt unfairly by the central government. If the parliamentary system was able to do so then the plight of Baluchistan would have been different which delineates the failure of the parliamentary system in Pakistan.
The wealthy elite, through the parliamentary system, succeeds to reach the apex ministries in Pakistan based on its influence while being incompetent. The history of the country is replete with such instances. Unfortunately, the country’s politicians who are seen to be the torchbearers of the democracy manifest such undemocratic attitudes.
One such example is the statement of the Minister of Railway after the recent accident when he refused to resign from his office. If a similar incident would have happened in Britain or any other parliamentary country, the situation would have been otherwise. Hence, keeping the undemocratic attitude of the people and politicians of the country in mind, it is unjust to compare the country with Western countries where the parliamentary system is performing best.
In Pakistan, a fresh debate of the parliamentary system vs the presidential system must be launched by the political scientists and leading think tanks to assess which form of government is most effective for the country’s performance. Pakistan severely needs strong governance and political stability in light of its declining condition under the parliamentary system.
This failure, by no means, advocates the military’s intervention in the country. Nevertheless, the political elite must become actualized of their corruption and incompetency which paves the way for non-democratic forces to intervene.
A change of system or at the very minimum, a healthy and lucrative debate on this subject is crucially needed for the continuity of democracy in the country, and further to remove the resentments of the minority factions and destitute of the country. The essential concern must remain the amelioration of the plight of the people and not merely an adherence to a specific governance form.
For The First Time In 74 Years, Pakistan is Going To Turn Gems, Jewelry And Minerals Into An Export Industry: PM
Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of the Gems, Jewellery and Minerals Task Force. The meeting was attended by Federal Minister for Industry Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Special Assistant Dr. Shahbaz Gill, Chairman Gems and Jewellery Task Force Engineer Gull Asghar Khan, Atif Khan, members of the task force and relevant senior officers. During the meeting, recommendations were made to the Prime Minister on the restructuring of the Gems, Jewellery and Minerals Division of the Task Force and the proposed Mineral City.
The meeting was informed that Pakistan has a potential of USD 5 billion annually in terms of exports of precious stones which will have a positive impact on the national economy and create millions of jobs. Pakistan currently has reserves of 99 types of precious stones and is the eighth largest producer in the world. Moreover, according to conservative estimates, Pakistan consumes 200 tons of gold annually. With effective legislation and better management of this sector, it will be transformed into a major export industry.
The meeting was informed that Gems and Jewellery have been given industry status and its implementation will be ensured as per the strategy of the task force. In order to increase exports, special attention will be given to export promotion for which assistance will also be sought from Pakistani embassies. In addition, a Gems and Jewellery City will be set up to pool resources, provide one-window operations to address the problems the sector is facing and provide incentives to investors. Initially, a public-private partnership model will be adopted using existing resources.
Pakistan will also actively seek sector-related certifications for access to international markets. It will not only improve the standards of not only precious stones but also precious metals but will bring the current standards at par with internationally recognized standards. The meeting was also informed that despite the availability of research resources in this field, no significant progress has been made. According to the strategy, all modern standards will be introduced by utilizing the research sector. The meeting was also given a detailed briefing on the establishment of Mineral City.
An area has been identified for the chemical and mineral industry in Pakistan where industrial value addition from crude minerals will not only help reduce imports but also increase foreign exchange from exports. The Prime Minister said on the occasion that the government was restructuring the sector with modern technology by changing the traditional practices of the minerals and precious stones sector. The Prime Minister further directed that all the resources that are being wasted should be utilized and a schedule should be worked out for the implementation of this strategy with clear-cut timelines as well as the existing barriers for investors should be eradicated.
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