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.
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.
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
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are back on track
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is visiting Saudi Arabia at the personal invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Riyadh ahead of this high-profile visit to lay the groundwork for what is being described by the media as a major boost in Saudi-Pakistan ties, especially in terms of economic, trade and environmental cooperation.
This augurs well for the two brotherly countries, as their historic friendship faced an unfortunate rupture last year.
Luckily the leadership on both sides was resilient enough to see through the challenge and bring Saudi-Pakistan ties back on track.
To be sure, this resilience is rooted in the people-to-people relationship, which eventually helps them overcome temporary glitches and sustain cooperation on issues of mutual concern and interest. This time is no different — and here is why.
Soon after his election as prime minister in August 2018, Khan was able to develop a personal relationship with the crown prince.
He traveled to Saudi Arabia twice in the next two months, the second time at the personal invitation of the crown prince to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference as part of Saudi Vision 2030.
Khan had inherited a serious balance of payments crisis. So Saudi Arabia took the lead in offering a financial relief package of $6.2 billion, including $3 billion in loans and a $3.2 billion deferred oil payment facility.
Taking a cue from Riyadh, the UAE followed suit by offering $6 billion in additional support to Pakistan.
When the Saudi crown prince visited Pakistan in February 2019, he was personally driven by Khan to the prime minister’s house in Islamabad, up on the hill in Islamabad.
In another example that symbolized the personal chemistry between the two charismatic leaders, the crown prince cheerfully told the Pakistani premier: “I am your ambassador in Saudi Arabia.” (Later in the year, the crown prince would offer his personal plane to Khan to fly to New York for the UN summit. And even while Saudi-Pakistan ties briefly experienced a bad spell in 2020, Khan declared: “Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will always remain close friends.”)
That historic visit to Pakistan by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019 witnessed a major transition in Saudi-Pakistan strategic relations in the economic sphere, with the announcement of $20 billion of Saudi investments in Pakistan, including a $10 billion Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the strategic port city of Gwadar.
The rest of the investments were in the mining and renewable energy sectors.
This was in parallel with the efforts to sign the Free Trade Agreement to increase the volume of bilateral trade, which was worth $2 billion.
In the past, the two nations cooperated closely in security and geopolitical matters, and Saudi economic help was confined to oil concessions. Now, for the first time, the Kingdom was interested in the long-term economic development of Pakistan.
“This promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by breakthroughs on different fronts.“
–Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri
In particular, the choice of Gwadar for such an investment stake indicated the Saudi inclination to join the wider regional integration network: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
In the natural order of things, the next logical step would have been to jointly work out the development plans for the proposed Saudi economic projects in Pakistan.
Unfortunately, international forces inimical to Saudi Arabia’s exceptional position in the Muslim world, and the historic Saudi-Pakistan alliance, could not digest the fact that the two brotherly nations were taking their relationship to a different level, where their interests could be geo-economically intertwined in future.
What happened next is a sad part of our current history, which is not worth recalling.
What is worth stating, however, is that Saudi Arabia is, and will remain, the heart of Islam for the Muslims of the world, and no other country can claim such a right: That the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is the sole representative body of 57 Muslim countries and no attempt to create an alternative Muslim bloc will ever succeed; and, of course, the fact that Saudi-Pakistan ties are well-rooted in the love and affection that their people have for each other, and hence no conspiracy can hamper their organic evolution as historic partners.
That is why the false narrative regarding the OIC’s role in Kashmir did not take hold for long. That is why the dismal portrayal of Saudi economic support for Pakistan finally failed the test of times.
Fortunately, both nations have formal and informal channels of communication to overcome any instance of grave misunderstanding or deliberate misinformation impacting their relationship.
Their bond is unbreakable as it is founded on the will of the two peoples.
Hence, the two brotherly nations have always stood shoulder to shoulder with each other in difficult times. From defending the sanctity of the two holy mosques to defeating the scourge of terrorism, Pakistan has always been a key Saudi partner.
Likewise, Saudi Arabia has never disappointed Pakistan when it is faced with hard times, be it the wave of terrorism post-9/11 or the devastating earthquake of 2005.
The two countries also closely cooperate to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan. The current or emerging Saudi engagement in Pakistan reflects the same spirit of camaraderie with Islamic roots.
In retrospect, what the visit of Prime Minister Khan to Jeddah shows is that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is back to the level it was at when the crown prince visited Islamabad more than two years ago.
The decision by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to roll over $2 billion loans to next year implies the resumption of their respective financial relief packages, which Pakistan desperately needs to ward off the devastating effects of the third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The visit is expected to kick-start work on the $20 billion Saudi development projects in Pakistan, especially the Aramco oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar.
To boost bilateral trade, a comprehensive customs cooperation accord is also reportedly on the agenda.
Moreover, General Bajwa’s almost week-long interaction with his Saudi counterparts, and the recent appointment of retired Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar as Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will ensure enhanced coordination in defense and the strategic relationship between the two countries.
In fact, this time the relationship is expected to deliver deeper cooperation beyond defense and the economy, on issues of climate change in particular.
Khan shares the vision of the crown prince as set out in the recently announced Saudi Green and Green Middle East initiatives, which align with his government’s Clean and Green Pakistan initiative.
And, luckily, this promising moment in Saudi-Pakistan ties is occurring amid a favorable turnaround in regional geopolitics, marked by the Saudi olive branch to Iran, the end of the Qatar crisis, and the India-Pakistan cease-fire in Kashmir.
These developments surely open up the diplomatic space for Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to concentrate their joint efforts for economic development and regional stability.
• Dr Ali Awadh Asseri served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan from 2001 to 2009 and received Pakistan’s highest civilian award, Hilal-e-Pakistan, for his services in promoting the Saudi-Pakistan relationship. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Beirut Arab University and authored the book ‘Combating Terrorism: Saudi Arabia’s Role in the War on Terror’ (Oxford, 2009).
Finance Minister for KP and Punjab called on the Minister for Finance and Revenue
Finance Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) Mr. Taimur Saleem Khan Jhagra called on the Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Mr. Shaukat Tarin, at the Finance Division today. SAPM on Finance and Revenue Dr. Waqar Masood and Secretary Finance Division Kamran Ali Afzal were also present during the meeting.
The Provincial Finance Minister from KP briefed the Finance Minister about efforts undertaken by the Provincial government to curtail expenditure and rationalize spending with a key focus on providing maximum relief to the masses amid COVID-19 pandemic. He also outlined measures taken to enhance provincial tax collection by expanding tax base and reducing the number of taxes.
The Provincial Finance Minister KP further apprised about commitment of the KP Government to streamline pay and pension expenditure which takes the biggest chunk of the overall Budget.
In his remarks, the Finance Minister Mr. Shaukat Tarin urged the Provincial administration to adhere to strict financial discipline and work out modalities to rationalize expenditure and divert savings towards socio-economic development in the Province particularly amid COVID-19 and in post COVID-Scenario. He stressed to stimulate economic activity through out-of-box thinking for enhancing revenues, rationalizing workforce and harmonizing tax structure aiming at improving service delivery in the Province.
While discussing Budget proposals, the Federal Finance Minister stressed that Education and Health are the key priority areas and must be given preference during the Budget making exercise. He encouraged consultative process between the Federal Government and Federating units for effective resource mobilization.
Later, Finance Minister for Punjab Makhdoom Hashim Jawan Bakht also called on the Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Mr. Shaukat Tarin at the Finance Division.
The Provincial Finance Minister briefed the Federal Finance Minister about the overall fiscal position and upcoming Budget considerations during the meeting. He highlighted the steps taken by the Punjab Government to provide maximum relief to the vulnerable segments of the society during these testing times. He spelled out the vision and commitment of the Punjab Government to increase revenues, control expenditure, job creation, reduction of poverty and facilitating agriculture, Industrial and service sectors to tap true potential of these sectors for an export-led growth.
In his remarks, the Finance Minister emphasized the need for value-addition in Budget making exercise. He urged the Provincial Finance Minister to rationalize expenditure and harmonize taxation policies for a growth-oriented Budget.
The Finance Minister held meetings with the Provincial Finance Ministers as a part of an overall consultative process with key stakeholders including Provinces to seek valuable inputs for formulation of a people friendly growth-oriented Budget.
Freelancer.com Q1 FY21: Record breaking-quarter
Freelancer Ltd., the owner of Freelancer.com, has reported a 39% rise in gross payment volume to $192.9 million (AU$249.7 million) in Q1 2021 and a 32.1% rise in net cash receipts year-on-year to $12 million (AU$15.6 million). Both figures have set record highs for the Sydney-based company.
Freelancer Ltd. includes both its freelancing marketplace and Escrow.com, an online escrow service founded in 1999 in San Francisco and purchased by Freelancer.com in 2015.
Freelancer.com’s Q1 gross marketplace volume (payments to freelancers) totaled $25.9 million, up 23.6% y-on-y, and its cash receipts set another record at $10.1 million, up 31.4% y-on-y. The group reports that 72% of its revenue is in USD and 4% is in AUD.
Freelancer (FLN) has traded on the ASX in Australia since 2013 and in March 2021 it began trading in the US on the OTCQX Best Markets under the symbol FLNCF, upgrading from the Pink market. At the time of writing, FLN shares were up 8.81% and FLNCF was trading at $.65, up 3.26%.
Freelancer Enterprise, the company’s virtual workforce management system, grew its gross marketplace volume by 83.4% y-on-y and the average spend by key accounts is up 2.3x y-on-y. In addition to financials, Freelancer.com reported reaching 52.7 million registered users and 19.7 million jobs, with 1.9 million users and 519,000 jobs added in Q1, and a 105.7% increase in website traffic y-on-y to 16.4 million users.
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