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US-Iran Conflict in Historical Perspective

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The US-Iran conflict has become critical in wake of US Drone Strike that assassinated Iranian top general Qassem Suleimani since the US considered him the imminent threat to the United States but Trump administration has been heavily criticized by Political Circles.

The political analysts and foreign policy experts are of the view that Donald Trump has committed the extrajudicial killing of General Suleimani and has deliberately escalated the situation with Iran to escape impeachment which is likely to commence as Nancy Pelosi has announced the impeachment managers. The Impeachment Process has already begun.

In a historic perspective, the US has always meddled in the affairs of Iran. The 45 years of hostility towards Iran has sowed the seed of hatred when US and UK agencies orchestrated a plan against a democratically elected secular Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq to overthrow his Government since he tried to nationalize Iran’s Oil Industry.

Oil has been the alluring industry for the US and Mossadeq’s attempt to nationalize Iranian Oil cost him his Premiership in 1953.  The Political Analysts call it a historical blunder to meddle in the affairs of Iran.

Later, the US-backed the dictatorial ruler Shah of Iran- Mohammad Reza Pahlavi despite being aware that his regime was incompetent and the rising autocratic Governance model has been weakening.

The streets started flooding with protesters against Shah of Iran’s Regime and he was forcibly ousted by secular and religious forces in 1979, known as the Islamic Revolution.

This growing dissent and turmoil in Iran paved the way for the return of the exiled Islamic Religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The referendum was held and Iran was formally proclaimed as the Islamic Republic of Iran on 1s April 1971.

US backing to Shah of Iran resulted in growing hatred and antagonism against America. The angry protesters ransacked the US Embassy in Tehran and made the whole staff as a hostage in 1979. After President Ronald Reagan took the office, the 52 hostages were released by Iran after 444 days in 1981.

US-Iran relations witnessed another Setback when the US secretly shipped arms as the exchange of Iran’s help in the release of US hostages held by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. This Iran-contra scandal-hit US hard when the benefit such as arms supply channelled to rebellion group in Nicaragua that caused a severe political crisis for American President Ronald Reagan.

Similarly, as Iran has mistakenly downed Ukrainian Passenger jetliner in which 176 passengers were killed, American warship had also shot down an Iranian Passenger plane killing all 290 passengers on board.

Most of the victims were Iranian pilgrims bound for Makkah. Unlike Iran, the US had made a similar statement that the Airbus A300 was downed by mistake considering it a fighter Jet.

This incident had also increased antagonism and hatred against America in Iran.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 incident, in 2001, the US carried out strikes against Taliban in Afghanistan terming Osama bin laden as a most wanted terrorist and for the regime change in Afghanistan.

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Meanwhile, the Iranian opposition group revealed that Iran has been engaged in nuclear Program having set up Uranium enrichment Plan, however, the Iranian Government denied such charges.

American President George W Bush during his union address denounced Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil” along with Iraq and North Korea, thus opening another chapter of conflict.

The UN Watchdog IAEA inspected Iran’s Nuclear Program. Consequently, tough sanctions were imposed on Iran by the US, EU and UN that crippled its economy during the regime of President Mehmood Ahmed Nejad. The economic sanctions devalued Iranian currency that caused abrupt inflation and economic condition became volatile.

The relations between US and Iran grew closer as the moderate and secular president Hassan Rouhani took office and after decades of stiff relations, the ice started melting when US president Barak Obama phoned Hassan Rouhani after three decades.

Following such gesture from the US, the diplomatic channels worked for Iran prompting to sign a long-time nuclear deal in 2015 with great power group containing  US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

Through the deal, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear programme allowing International Inspectors. In return, the crippling economic sanctions were lifted that had affected the country very hard especially its Oil exports -the main source of income for the country to strengthen its economy.

Trump administration has become a great headache for Iran since Iran’s nuclear deal was abandoned by President Donald Trump and threatened to impose economic sanctions against Iran and against those who intend to buy oil from Iran.

Such a hard attitude instigated the conflict even further since the Iranian Economy was already under heavy recession.

As a result of above the statement, US President Donald Trump re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Iranian Oil in May 2019 while Iran started a pressure campaign against the US.

The series of Incidents happened thereafter such as Explosions hitting tankers in Gulf of Oman and Iran’s shooting down a US drone hovering over Strait of Hormuz. The US claimed the drone was over International waters whereas Iran said that it was over their Territory.

Given the US Sanctions and blame game, Iran started rolling back from its commitments as reflected in the nuclear deal and started Uranium enrichment.

Finally, when US Drone strike assassinated Iranian Top General Qassem Suleimani in Iraq, the Iranian people became united.

Millions of people attended the funeral prayers of General Qassem Suleimani and protested against America in Iraq and Iran.

The analysts said that it was the biggest protest after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran as millions of people participated in the last rituals of General Qassem Suleimani.

Iran announced to take revenge to shun angry protesters that demanded retaliation against US aggression.

Under-Pressure Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei approved targeting US Military basis in Iraq by firing dozen Cruise Missiles but there were no casualties.

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Since then, Donald Trump has been heavily criticized for the extrajudicial killing of General Qassem Suleimani. Even Middle East crisis worsened following the Iraqi Parliament resolution demanding US Troops and Allies for leaving Iraq after Qassem Suleimani’s  Assassination. The Iranian Proxies may attack US military basis since Iran has a strong network of proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Palestine.

Now the Questions arises that will it be a world war-III the answer is “No” since, after strikes, both countries have shown sensibility and restraint as plane tragedy has spread shocking tremors after Iranian Revolutionary Guards claimed the responsibility of mistakenly downing a Passenger Jet carrying 174 passengers in the limits of Tehran’s International Airport. Iran, at first, denied the incident, but after international pressure accepted that the passenger jet was downed by mistake.

Iran has publicly apologized for the mistake and announced compensation for the bereaved families but the Ukrainian and Canadian Governments have demanded a thorough investigation and apologize through diplomatic channels.

Mike Pompeo has also sought help from Pakistan for de-escalation as both countries do not want war. All the world powers have urged both the US and Iran to de-escalate tensions and resolve the conflict through negotiations.

The European Union, UK, Russia, China and other NATO members have started diplomatic efforts to prevent both countries going to all-out war as War will bring miseries and destruction for humanity since both nations are nuclear capacious though Iran has not announced its nuclear capability.

UN and European Union must play their role to engage both parties in negotiation so that Possibilities of World War-III may be averted to save humanity falling prey to destruction, hunger, Economic crisis, homelessness and disease. Negotiations will also pave the way for the lifting of tough economic sanctions against Iran that have crippled the fragile Iranian Economy causing Inflation and Price hike.

Moreover, US-Iran conflict may jeopardize US-Taliban talks for which Pakistan has played a key role to make the deal Possible as Afghan Peace will be beneficial to the whole region including Pakistan. Terrorism emanating from Afghanistan has affected Pakistan very badly especially Economy that has also been volatile owing to corrupt practices of politico regimes and rising debts.

The world must wake up from the slumber to play their role to de-escalate the tensions between US –Iran so that diplomatic relations stalemate may be scrapped and the new chapter of Economic cooperation and relations may be written that will benefit the people of both beleaguered Nations having tumultuous and alienated history causing the existing crisis that has made the Middle East and Gulf Crisis even worse.

Given the situation in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, world leaders especially EU and UN must come forward to save the humanity falling prey to World War III that will be disastrous and destructive owing  Nuclear Technology. The world cannot afford to see tragedies like Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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Diplomacy

For The First Time In 74 Years, Pakistan is Going To Turn Gems, Jewelry And Minerals Into An Export Industry: PM

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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.

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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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Canada

Socio-Economic Implications of Canadian Border Closure With U.S

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After doing a  detailed analysis of the situation emerging from the closure of the border between    Canada and  US, it could be assessed that how damaging the decision is for the  Economy of Canada, and how beneficial, it will be for Canada, if it decides to re-open the Border which is closed over the fears of an outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic.

Since, some people think that given the maximum number of  Covid-19 cases and several deaths worldwide, the decision should stay as there are thousands of cases and deaths over covid-19 in the US. They deem it a good step to keep the border shut over the fears of  Novel Corona Virus with the US and Mexico. 

Though some sections consider the move as a right decision based on the covid0-19 statistics some experts term it very dangerous for  Canadian Economy as it will be affected as major industries such Tourism and Travel, Immigration affected very badly and economic cannot be put on hold for long as the numbers show that  75% to 80% Canadian exports go to the US while 30% to 40% US exports make their way in  Canada.

Thus the economy has been hit very badly due to this prolonged closure and shutdown of Economic activities will ultimately pose a grave threat to falling in Recession and Falling of  Reserves.

The Canadian authorities will have to swallow a hard pill to re-open the b border for essential and non-essential travel since both types of entries in the country contribute to the economy of the country.

At the moment, Canada has limited Covid-19 infections as compared to the US that has a massive number of infections in the world.

According to the Border Management Experts, this could be the only problem that might have prompted  Canadian Prime Minister to extend the closure for another month until some  SOP’s may be developed to ensure on border covid-19 Testing and Scanning so that preventive measures should be taken to keep the infection ratio low in Canada.

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 The World economies are affected very badly over the lockdowns announced to prevent Covid-19 outbreak and their economy has been under pressure already and the financial experts predict the worst type recession shortly. 

The people of both countries are of the view that the Prolonged border closure has caused an economic crisis and several Industries such as Hotel Industry, Travel Tours and Immigration, Food and beverages Industry, sports Industry, Education have been affected very badly and both Canada and the US cannot afford to sustain more jolts to their economy as economic activities have dropped to almost  80%  and ring the alarm bells for the leadership to decide immediately what their next plan will for the border.

Whether they will reopen it in phases or provide restrict access to essential travel such health workers, Airline Crew, Food and Goods services, People visiting ailing relatives and other related activities that fall within the purview of  “ essential”.

Although, the global Pandemic has created a situation like recession which is going from bad to worse each Passing day, yet in such scenario “keeping borders Closed” for trade and Business Opportunities and other travel, entertainment industry, will incur an irreparable loss to the Economy of both Canada and US as both countries have signed several Trade Agreements and US has been losing millions of Dollars in terms ” US Entry Waivers” and this is putting pressure on world’s biggest economy. 

Even it is a great blow to the Immigrants who wish to travel to neighbouring countries.

Both Canada and the United States are providing millions of dollars to people as relief package, Health and social security and other procurements such  Covid-19 testing kits and establishing new isolation and Quarantine centres as the infections surge in the US and worldwide.

In such circumstances halting economic activities are suicidal for  Canada and Virus affected the US  by keeping borders close for non-essential or optional purposes despite putting some curbs on essential travels such putting immigrants in 14 days quarantine and other immigration-related curbs. 

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The economists fear that what would be the consequences if the covid-19 vaccine was unavailable till the end of the year 2021, will they still keep the border closed, sounds like insensible and disastrous for all types Industries and Sectors including  Immigration and Border services. 

So, it would be prudent on the part of Both Canada and US  to think over the re-opening of their border so that people intending to visit their relatives on both sides of borders may have uninterrupted access and they must be facilities at the border checkpoints for covid-19 so that the fears of  Canadian authorities about getting soaring infections may be dispelled by assuring them safety measures at border crossing points.

Furthermore,  the fears cannot be treated with medicines but they could be soothed with confidence-building measures as the statistics show that  65% Canadian fear to get contracted by Virus while over 60% US people have a similar situation for contracting virus.

Despite all this, nobody knows that when these borders will reopen for general people apart from essential travel as most people are in the grip of fear and prefer staying at home as per WHO guidelines, that may be the issue that both Canadian and US Governments are lingering on the issue and prefer extending closure as both nations enjoy cordial relation and the closure is a mutual decision of both countries.

Recently, though some Tour industry groups recorded their protest and demanded to re-open the border. The decision could not be influenced until the general public presses their respective Governments to review the decision and take some bold steps to save their economies falling to prey to this pandemic.

Both Canada and the US  cannot afford to lose millions of Dollars in border trade and border revenues such as Entry waivers, customs etc to boost their economies.

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Economy

PM to Inaugurate the First One-Window EHSAAS Center Tomorrow

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Under the Ehsaas umbrella, there are many programs for 14 different target groups. But often, a poor family is not aware of the benefits they are entitled to and, if they are aware, they have to go to multiple offices to seek help. With One Window Ehsaas, the aim is to deliver services through a single window, a one-stop shop.

One Window Ehsaas has six pillars: A One Stop Shop, the Ehsaas Center; a public facing digital information and services platform; mobile app; back office consolidated digital interface; Cognitive API architecture, or the integrated national socioeconomic database; and finally, the Ehsaas One-Window Beneficiary Selection and Targeting Policy.

The first One Window Ehsaas Center is opening in Sitara Market today in Islamabad. In this center, all Ehsaas services can be accessed in one place. To facilitate Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiaries, whose families receive stipends, both Point of Sales machines as well as cash machines or ATMs have been placed in the One Window Center. Partner banks have opened their branches in the center, and NADRA office has been set up as well.

Having all these services in one center can significantly facilitate an Ehsaas Kafaalat beneficiary, who often previously needed to go to many offices to get complaints resolved. Ehsaas stipends for children can be accessed at the center also. The digital system, which has recently been put in place does real time verifications from three data sources before the child is enrolled in the program and if the child doesn’t have a Birth registration form—which is a prerequisite for enrollment—the mother can just walk the courtyard to get it made in the NADRA center rather than taking taxi to go to another site. Ehsaas Nashonuma services are also available in the center.

Children at risk of stunting and pregnant mothers can get specialized nutritional food from the office and cash stipends from the ATM. They get awareness session as well on health and nutrition. Antenatal services and immunization services are available at the center. Students can walk into the center and get information about Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship, and they don’t have to pay in an internet café to fill their application.

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In the One Window center, there is free use of internet, computer and printer. In the One Window center, someone, looking for a livelihood opportunity can visit Ehsaas Amdan and Ehsaas Interest Free Loan Desks. A person in need of financial assistance for health can find out about Sehat Sahulat and, if not entitled in Sehat Sahulat or not in an empaneled hospital can be channeled to Ehsaas Tahafuz or PBM’s health related financial assistance systems. In One Window service, there also are many care services. Somebody wanting to spend a night in Panagah can book a bed and get free One Star bed and breakfast facility.

People can admit a child in an orphanage; and a young woman can get information and be admitted in a vocational center. A street child can be admitted in one of our free schools. Ehsaas Registration Desks have been set up where people can get surveyed, to ascertain if they are eligible for Ehsaas benefits. In the center, Dashboards, display information relevant to people’s needs and complaints are addressed in real time.

There is also a beneficiary retiring room, in case a woman comes with a child and needs to feed her. A differently abled individual can have multiple avenues of redress in the center. Processes are being made simpler so that they can get a disability card made with ease. In the same disability room, NGOs are given space to provide free prosthesis and orthoses. Also, a customized wheelchair can be ordered.

The second part is the digital e-portal with people centered information; this was built learning from the questions on social media about various Ehsaas programs. The third part of One Window Ehsaas is an app which mirrors information on the digital portal but in addition, it also marks locations of our service sites: Langars, Panagahs and payment sites. When opened from a mobile, an individual can be navigated to the address.

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This app is enabled with a camera, which allows a photograph to pick the geolocation of an Ehsaas social welfare site to be mapped. The fourth part is the integrated digital interface facing the back office, which facilitates access of all those working in the Ehsaas ecosystem to appropriate links and resources. The fifth component of One Window Ehsaas is the integrated database. Previously the 2010 BISP data was siloed; even provincial social protection agencies had to do paperwork to access the database and there were costs involved.

Now, under the Ehsaas data reform, all federal Ehsaas implementing agencies will be able to access data from the 2021 Ehsaas National Socio-economic Registry through APIs with no cost at all. This two-way data sharing will also enrich the data repository. Data integration will also enable transparency. Agencies will be able to see what benefits an individual or the family are getting, and the entitlements they have in terms of various Ehsaas programs.

The sixth pillar of One Window Ehsaas, is the Standardized Beneficiary Targeting Policy. Previously, all agencies used their own eligibility ascertainment system—this Policy will compel standardized beneficiary targeting using the Proxy Means Test, which uses information on household and individual characteristics to compute an algorithm generated score (0-100) for each household, which then serves as a proxy for welfare status.

The information needed to generate the score comes from the National Socioeconomic Survey. So, in the One Window Policy specific PMTs were stipulated for each program and a policy devised to do away with duplications. “We will open Ehsaas One Window Centers in every district”, said Dr. Sania.

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