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Anticipated Outcomes of OIC meeting in Pakistan

Overview:

During the past time, Pakistan remarkably has hosted a number of major Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) events. Last year in December 2021, Pakistan held an extraordinary 17th session of OIC exclusively on Afghanistan. This year, Pakistan will again host OIC’s 48th session of Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) on 22-23 March, in Islamabad and that is a matter of great honor. For the particular session, Pakistani officials have confirmed the participation of the 48 Muslim countries’ foreign ministers until now. The Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi has been invited for the event as a “guest of honor”. Apart from that, a high-level Russian delegation would also take part in it. The meeting will be coinciding with the celebrations of Pakistan’s 75th Independence anniversary and the ministers will attend the 23rd March Pakistan Day parade.

Theme of the Meeting:

The session will be conducted under the theme of “Building partnerships for Unity, Justice and Development”. The General Secretariat will address the implementation of activities, projects and resolutions adopted on different issues in the Islamic world including Kashmir and Palestine. In addition, issues of Islamophobia, terrorism as well as developments in Afghanistan and its humanitarian consequences for the Afghan people will be the important part of meeting’s agenda. Cooperation issues with international community, specifically the United States, the Russian federation and the European Union will be discussed while considering the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis.

Prospects:

As the host country, Pakistan seeks to foster unity among OIC members, advance the cause of justice for Muslims, and accomplish the mutually reinforcing goals of prosperity and development for all OIC members. Right now, the majority conflicts in the world including Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Palestine and other regions depict that Muslim communities are at high risk, which implies the urgency of OIC’s function and position more crucial than ever. Issues such as peace, security, economic development, cultural and scientific collaboration and the role of the OIC will be discussed. Over the last few years, the organization’s activities particularly in relation to Kashmir and Palestine have received notable attention. The forthcoming CFM will be a great chance for member states to establish a common ground that will help to build ‘partnership’ and work as a bridge to address the variety of challenges that Muslim Ummah is facing. In OIC, Pakistan has taken a leadership role for countering Islamophobia which resulted in a good conclusion. On March 15th, United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution that was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In the imminent meeting, OIC will focus on Islamophobia and associated aspects such as hate speech, discrimination, intolerance and negative stereotyping against Muslims. This time OIC would be a significant platform and a voice for Muslim countries regarding their concerns that are needed to be heard in the international arena.

Kashmir will be the part of extensive agenda, ahead of the 48th session; Pakistan has drafted a resolution seeking adoption with the goal of directing its anti-India rhetoric at Kashmir. Hurriyat Conference members are also invited at the conference that will highlight the humanitarian challenges and will remind the world to look upon the stance of Kashmiris. The last OIC’s summit which held in Pakistan, ended with the establishment of the OIC-led Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan to channel aid, as well as the designation of the OIC Secretary General’s Special Envoy to work alongside the UN in the war-torn country. Moreover, the members will review the previous decisions on Afghanistan in this session.

In the view of contemporary challenges, OIC will be a unified voice not only for member countries but for the Muslims around the world. The world is going through difficult times and experiencing a renewed cold war due to Ukraine crisis. Therefore, the upcoming meeting holds importance for Pakistan along with other members in this regard. The OIC meeting will have the opportunity to examine increasing threats and the options available for the Islamic world to deal with the ongoing issues. Also, it will provide an opportunity to build a common attitude in attaining peace and stability at regional and global level.


Pakistan is looking forward for a productive session and has become a center stage of attention. Its efforts as well as contributions are being acknowledged and appreciated by the member countries. In the following event, brotherhood and unity which are also core Islamic values will be portrayed and this will create an image of cooperation and strong bonding of Muslim states worldwide.




Pakistan and Oman take part in Naval Drills in North Arabian Sea

Oman is the nearest Arab country to Pakistan, because of this, they both share a maritime boundary with each other. Pakistan and Oman cooperate in diverse sectors to enhance the bilateral economic, military and trade relations. Pakistan and Oman share common interests in ensuring maritime security and free flow of commerce through the region. Accordingly, navies of the two countries have been cooperating on a wide range of issues in maritime domain. Both navies have been regularly participating in Maritime Security Operations at sea. In the area of human resource, PN is providing officers and men on deputation to Omani Navy to support RNO in fulfilling its maritime and naval obligations. The two navies have also been closely collaborating in the field of training of respective officers and men.

This year The Pakistan Navy and Royal Navy of Oman (RNO) participated in the naval exercise ‘Thamar Al Tayyib 2021’ (TAT-21) in the North Arabian Sea. The exercise conducted in Pakistani territorial waters from December 13-18 included the participation of surface and air units, besides special operations forces from both navies. The Omani Navy Task Group comprised RNO ships Al Dhaferah and Al Seeb. Maritime patrol aircraft of Royal Air Force of Oman also participated in the exercise. The sea phase of the exercise comprised counter-terrorism, anti-air and anti-surface warfare operations with an overall aim to curb illicit activities at sea. Exercises between the two navies have regularly been conducted since 1990. The last exercise in the TAT series was conducted in Oman waters in 2019. During the harbour phase of the exercise, operational and tactical-level discussions and pre-exercise conferences were conducted. The sea phase of the exercise included counter-terrorism training, anti-air and anti-surface warfare operations with a focus on curbing illicit activities at sea, according to the official statement. Gwadar Port and Salalah Port can be used to create efficient communication channels between the two countries because both ports possess excellent infrastructure and other facilities.  Regular conduct of bilateral naval exercise between the Pakistan Navy and the Royal Navy of Oman are indicative of long-standing brotherly relations between the two countries in general and both navies in particular.




The Houthis, Saudi Arabia and the War in Yemen

The Houthis have a complex relationship with Yemen’s Sunni Muslims. The movement has discriminated against Sunnis, but also recruited and allied with them. Under the leadership of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthis, the group emerged as an opposition to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they charged with massive financial corruption and criticized for being backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The Houthi movement attracts its Zaidi-Shia followers in Yemen by promoting regional political-religious issues in its media, including the overarching U.S.  Israeli conspiracy theory and Arab “collusion”. In 2003, the Houthis’ raised a slogan, “God is great, death to the U.S, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam”, and it became the group’s trademark. Houthis officials, however, have rejected the literal interpretation of the slogan. Iran is widely accused of backing the Houthis, a Zaydi Shiite movement that has been fighting Yemen’s Sunni-majority government since 2004. The Houthis took control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September 2014 and continued on towards Aden, Yemen’s largest city. In response to Houthi advances, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states launched a military campaign in March 2015.

Recently, The Houthi armed group has fired artillery and ballistic missiles indiscriminately into populated areas of Yemen’s Marib governorate resulting in civilian casualties, including women and children, and causing a new wave of civilian displacement. And now Houthi rebel attack on the Saudi Arabian town of Jizan resulted in two casualties and seven injured. The Houthi–Saudi Arabian conflict is an ongoing armed conflict between the Royal Saudi Armed Forces and Yemeni Houthi forces that has been taking place in the Arabian Peninsula, including the southern Saudi regions of Asir, Jizan, and Najran, and northern Yemeni governorates of Saada, Al Jawf, and Hajjah since the onset of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen in 2015. On December 7, 2021, Reuters reported that the Saudi-led coalition bombed military targets in the capital Sanaa after the Iran-aligned Houthis launched ballistic missiles and armed drones into Saudi Arabia.

What is happening in the conflict now?

As the war has dragged on, Houthis have stepped up the boldness of their attacks on Saudi Arabia. Using drones and missiles, the Houthis have launched attacks on Saudi airports, oil facilities and military sites.

While Houthi attacks have failed to cause massive devastation, they have been enough to rattle global oil markets. Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia have more than doubled this year compared to last year. CSIS records 78 Houthi attacks per month this year on Saudi Arabia, compared with 38 a month in 2020.

In Yemen, there is much criticism of the Saudi-led coalition’s attacks for targeting civilians in one of the world’s poorest countries. More than 80% of the population of 30 million requires food assistance. Estimates on the number of fatalities caused by the conflict vary widely, though at least some 130,000 have been killed over the course of the conflict. By contrast, the UN estimates the conflict will have claimed 377,000 by the end of the year, both through the direct and indirect consequences of war, such as disease and starvation.




The UAE-Israel Relations and its Impact on Palestinians

Introduction

For many decades, Arab and Muslim states have remained hostile towards Israel and supported the Palestinian cause. The 21st century has seen many developments that Israel has established with the world, especially the Arab countries. The Middle East has tried to modernise with time, including its foreign policy that has sparked debate on sensitive issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict and the new peace deal. While Israel’s peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain provides opportunities for trade, cybersecurity cooperation and lessens Israel’s isolation, it questions the chances of Palestinian independence.

The new peace-deal

Many experts and authors have tried to assess the significance of the peace deal in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Different narratives emerge from the literature and media as the challenge to resolve the conflict increases. The ancient normative approach that has been applied to this issue was to isolate Israel, by countries closing their borders and restricting any economic exchange. This has resulted in assuring Palestinians that they have support from around the world. The emerging consensus among some scholars is that if Arab/Muslim countries establish peace with Israel, a better policy solution can be formed to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, the question is to what extent can the Muslim countries benefit from Israel’s growing economy and innovation by establishing trade relations?

 

As experts and authors continue to reflect on the advantages of the peace deal, it is important to reflect on the intention of the countries recognizing Israel. The true nature of the peace deal seems to be based off on economic and trade relations, rather than to encourage a two-state solution regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The initial statement issued by the UAE for the peace deal was to obstruct Israel’s plan of annexing the West Bank. However, as proclaimed by the Israeli officials, the UAE statement is invalid.  The DAWN news published the reality of the “peace treaty” illusions developed by the UAE, that may cost the Palestinians their land and their rights. As per Turkey and Iran, the anti-Israel states, claim that the former US President Trump influenced the motive of establishing the peace deal, in order to promote US’ Gulf state allies’ bilateral relations. So, when the idea of reforming the methods to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict is concerned, the real intentions of the states must be acknowledged. This is because the ideology of a state has a great impact on its politics. If a capitalist country decides to recognise Israel to better trade relations, then the threat to Palestinians is significant. The new approach towards Israel may still put the Arab/Muslim countries in a difficult situation.

Cybersecurity perspective

The cyber security cooperation between Israel and the UAE has been established in the recent years. According to Al Jazeera, the UAE has poured hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase the Pegasus spyware from Israel based on the conditions set by Israeli Intelligence service. A Palestinian analyst, Issa uncovers that “the Palestinians are at the weakest point ever in history”.

The NSO group is an Israeli company that sells the product called Pegasus, which is a spyware for mobiles. The company was founded in 2010 and has over 500 cyber security experts. Pegasus is the company’s essential product, used for offensive hacking. According to Cooper Quintin, a cyber security specialist, Israel is one of the most sophisticated cyber actors in the world. This is because the Israeli forces are training its military officials to use such offensive hacking in their Defence department. The NSO company claimed that it was launched to detect and prevent terrorism but the people it has targeted is questionable, as human right activists, politicians, and the elites are usually the ones targeted. So, the question arises, who are the NSO clients? Although the company is supposed to work for the government and is legally advised to not sell its services, it extends it services to other countries. The spyware service has been sold to Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UAE and even Colombia.

 

A possible analysis of UAE-Israel cybersecurity cooperation clearly indicates Israel’s ability to exploit confidential information of countries top officials with an advanced spyware in use. Israel can easily attain a position where rather than asking the US, it can turn to Saudi Arabia or UAE to make Palestinians accept a deal favourable for Israelis.

Conclusion

To witness Israel’s strength in cybersecurity and innovation, an allied sentiment of the Muslim countries on Israel-Palestinian conflict may be difficult to achieve. To approach Israel with a proposal for Israel-Palestinian conflict is risky business, as Israel has better and advance technology that can cause serious damage politically and economically to other countries. Considering the imbalance of power between majority of the Muslim countries and Israel, a safe approach would be to get Israel to recognise its boundaries with Palestine’s agreement before more countries open its borders to Israel with the intention of trade.




Israel’s 4th Election in 2 years

Israel had its fourth legislative election in a two-year period to establish a single dominating party rather than a coalition. Despite staying short of a clear parliamentary majority, Netanyahu’s Likud party has remained popular. The recent election results on 23rd March 2021 signified the possibility of another election in the summer to end the political deadlock. While Netanyahu remains popular, protests have erupted in Israel against Netanyahu’s policies and leadership. Critics have also accused Netanyahu of seeking new elections solely for the purpose of gaining enough support in parliament to pass legislation to end the legal proceedings against him. Netanyahu has refuted the charge, as well as any personal involvement in any potential criminal immunity moves.

The candidates who ran in the elections are as follows.

Benjamin Netanyahu – Likud party leader and runs his campaign on hopes to vaccinate the population and normalise ties with some Arab countries. But he is the first sitting prime minister to be indicted and is facing three corruption trials, earning him the title of “Crime Minister”. In his campaign, he has used his vaccination success and is offering one state solution and peace with the Arabs. Then is Naftali Bennet who belongs to the right-wing Yemina party and has criticised Netanyahu’s approach towards the pandemic but is likely to join Netanyahu’s coalition. Another right-wing candidate is Gideon Saar, the leader of New Hope party which supports settlement construction in the occupied west bank and opposes the Iran Nuclear deal. His campaign agenda is similar to Netanyahu’s. Then there is the TV host turn politician, Yair Lapid, the leader of opposition Yesh Atid party. He is considered the main challenger candidate to Netanyahu, even though he has served as a coalition partner in Netanyahu led government in 2013.

Exit polls showed the country remained divided, according to Mr Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, and a fifth national election remained a viable choice. “At the same time, if Bennett joins his alliance, Netanyahu would be closer than ever to forming a narrow government comprised of the most radical elements of Israeli society,” Mr Plesner said.

On Twitter, Netanyahu remained cautious with his words to declare victory, he said, “It is clear that a clear majority of Israeli citizens are right wing”, expressing the country’s ideological preference. This allows for further analysis on why the citizens are maintaining the stable right-wing government in Israel.

Likud is expected to be the largest party with 30 seats, down from its existing 36 seats. Yesh Atid, the centrist opposition party led by Mr. Yair Lapid, came in second place with 18 seats. Mr. Lapid, 57, had hoped that the anti-Netanyahu bloc would be big enough to depose the veteran leader, who has been in power since 2009. Although, the results appeared in favour of Netanyahu, he would have to stitch together an unlikely coalition that might include Yemina party, Jewish ultra-Orthodox, ultra-nationalist and Arab parties to secure another term.

 

United Arab List (UAL) leader Mansour Abbas has proposed collaborating with Netanyahu to resolve the needs of Israel’s 21 per cent Arab minority – a stance opposed by most Arabs, and which forced Abbas’ faction to break from a coalition of Arab parties ahead of the vote. However, it seems unlikely that Mansour Abbas will be added to the Netanyahu led coalition. Netanyahu may provide Abbas some benefits under Socio-economic development and political representation but not a seat in the government. Although Bennett’s right wing Yemina party is yet to decide if he wants to join Netanyahu’s coalition, there is a good chance that it will. What he has said to the press is that he will do what is good for the state of Israel, which indicates that he will go with Netanyahu and extract a high price from him. Since analysts highlight that Bennett is interested to gain the position of Minister of Justice and to implement changes in the ministry of Justice, it is possible that Netanyahu negotiates a position in the ministry of justice for Bennett. Besides, for helping Netanyahu form a government, he may want a rotating prime ministership as well.

So, what does the new coalition mean for Israel? Since Israel has not had a budget for three years, they need a stable government to revise the 2018 budget. However, the new coalition could be less stable than anticipated, this is because the coalition parties can influence and raise demands from Netanyahu, resulting in a fairly unstable government. Despite Netanyahu being the Prime Minister for the past 2 years, he has not had majority in Knesset supporting his government, resulting in coalitions that have time and gain failed to bring political stability in the country.

Another aspect of Israel’s frequent election is because analysts believe that Netanyahu does not want to loose his power and revisit the corruption charges. He is scheduled to be back in court by the second week of April, possibly as the serving Prime Minister. But since he has not gained enough majority in the Knesset, his influence to revisit the charges may be low. It was anticipated that after winning majority, Netanyahu may replace the court judge who may work in his favour, however, with the new coalition he may feel the threat to be prosecuted on corruption charges.

Israel’s population faces the dilemma to vote for an alternative who is better than Netanyahu, however, the opposition fails to provide such a leader that the population could vote for. It is fair to say that Netanyahu has made great progress to vaccinate the population and end the lockdowns which affected many layers of the society. However, the critical masses of the opposition remined intact and even grew slightly in the past two years. The current polls indicates that Netanyahu has exhausted the electoral pool of which he has been living as Prime Minister.




Is there an End to Yemen War?

Half of the Saudi’s crude oil production was attacked on September 14th, when a drone hit the Aramco facility. The Houthi’s accepted the responsibility of the attack but Iran is blamed for the drone attack by the United States as well as Saudi Arabia. The war in Yemen poses a serious threat to the regional security, as it can lead to a full scale war which will destabilize the region and eventually have dire consequences for the global economy. After the attacks, the risk is very much real that Yemen can be a participant in a full scale full between states, which is obviously not going to be proxy war, as it is now. Almost every family in Yemen has lost someone to the war, they have seen their relatives and friends dying due to the bombing.

In the future, if the anti-Houthi bloc, led by a Saudi coalition, which is composed of Sunni Islamists win the war and achieve its objective of capturing the northern territory, it will only result in a protracted conflict, resulting in more bloodshed and chaos in a situation of an already complex civil war. The prospects of peace are very bleak because the structure of talks is problematic as both parties are seeking to gain militarily thus unwilling to talk. The war has devastated the infrastructure in Yemen, that’s why country needs not only a huge time to recover but also strong political arrangements and resources in order to prevent any conflict in future. But if the war doesn’t come to a halt, the sectarian violence will intensify fragmenting the population which eventually can result into a territorial disintegration. In such a scenario, there will be a rise in new refugee crisis in Middle East which definitely undermine the security of Gulf States and other neighboring countries in the region. This will be an opportunity for the violent terrorist’s forces to benefit from the situation, which will exacerbate the crisis and make it difficult to reach to a solution.

The future of Yemen is very gloomy and unpredictable, as since the very beginning Yemen was a poor country depending on its neighbors for support and there are many players involved in the conflict which makes it very complicated. Yemen is an example of world’s worst humanitarian crisis and if the war doesn’t reach an end, thousands of people will die from inadequate health facilities, unavailability of clean water can worsen the diseases and most of all malnutrition. The cost of proxy war in Yemen is being paid by the men, women and children. According to the UN stats the death toll in Yemen is 7,000. If the crisis prevail this can increase much more, and this will only lead to complex sectarian tensions. It is still unclear, whether at the end of crisis, if there will be any, Yemen will emerge as one country or divided into two territories. But what must be realized is that the government led by Hadi will have no future in the times of peace, as it is becoming increasingly unpopular. The only solution to achieve a peaceful and stable Yemen lies in negotiating a political settlement between the parties to the conflict.

BY