Tag Archives: Democracy

Volodymyr Zelensky: From Satire to Sovereignty

Volodymyr Zelensky, 41, a comedian-turned-politician has been showered by votes, getting a landslide against the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko in recent Ukrainian presidential elections. No political mantras used, no aggression shown, no word for policy reforms said, Zelensky managed to win in a sweepingly unconventional way by a margin of nearly 73 per cent. Instead, he sold positive messages like, ‘I want to see joyful faces around’, and used catchphrases like ‘no promises’ ‘no disappointments.’ The victory is the upshot of a very subtle campaign led by Zelensky through the social media and his long-run sitcom, ‘the servant of people’ which attracted a huge influx of people. It was, Moshe Reuven Azman, the chief rabbi of Kiev said, ‘a miracle’ occurred on Sunday night. However, his clinching to power as a comic actor might come as a surprise, but the process behind it was still political in nature.

To put it more bluntly, his appearance in his self-produced sitcom as a teacher-turned president is no wonderful coincidence, but a noteworthy political act. World politics has changed and so have the ways of attaining political aims, but what is clear is that one cannot exclude the features of politics while achieving those gains.

What’s more, he has also studied law, which as a subject is deeply intertwined with politics. It can be argued that he was much more a politician doing comedy than a comedian entered the politics. It was noticeable that along with Zelensky’s comic identity, his Jewish originality was also ignored during the campaign despite the fact that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Ukraine. Zelensky’s triumph is significant because he has utilized his charisma, in a short span of time, to secure the highest position of the country. Volodymyr Fesenko, director of Kiev’s Penta think tank, said the comic’s popularity was underpinned by ‘a political myth created by the TV series.’

While Ukrainians have taken it as a moment of rejoicing, political analysts of the country are suspicious of the development saying whether, a person, having a grip on his comic characterization on television can do equally well in the political arena. Indeed, he shall not be able to use those dramatic techniques in realpolitik, at least, not while having any strategic dialogue with Russia on eastern Ukraine. However, before making a cloud of suspicion over Mr Zelensky’s abilities to run the country effectively, merely on the basis of his background, it is requisite to ensure that world, which is governed by politically savvy, is more adequate and faultless. Isn’t it disastrous in terms of governance where peace does not appear to be an option? Why, in the world, long-fought wars and conflicts have endured, despite the bilateral and multilateral initiatives taken by world leaders with strong political background and knowledge? One who is more politically-correct is more exploiting the system.

Ukrainians have chosen Zelensky as a new face, they had desired. Melinda Haring, a Ukraine expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, said ‘it was clear the people wanted someone without the same baggage and connections to political dinosaurs.’

Furthermore, Zelensky is not the only conflicting figure in politics, but history is replete with such examples where actors have turned to be politicians. Fred Thompson, who was once a polished actor turned to politics, became the senator of the US, and served for nine years. Al Franken, former US senator, is a remarkable figure who despite his capabilities, had to face hardships because of his identity as a TV performer and comic author with zero political experience. Moreover, India is of much significance in this context where politics seems to be the final destination of many senior film and TV actors, governing as ministers or MPs.

Apart from the entire jigsaw, what matters most is commitment and credible approach towards the issues of which people are frustrated and are previously not taken on serious note i.e., corruption, mismanagement, crimes, and other civil society issues. Criticism and controversies would fade away if steps are taken in the right direction. In line with the presidential victory, Zelensky has to maintain a similar pace in the forthcoming parliamentary election as well, which will be a fate decider for him. It remains to be seen in reality, if Zelensky can do justice with the character he played on TV.

The author, Aciph Alee, is a researcher in PIIA. 

References:

Dmytro Gorshkov and Olga Shylenko, ‘Zelensky: Ukrainian clown or political wonder boy?’, The Times of Israel, 20 April 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/zelensky-ukrainian-clown-or-political-wonder-boy/

Tamila Varshalomidze, ‘Five things to know about Ukraine’s presidential vote winner’, Aljazeera, 22 Apr 2019, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/5-ukraine-presidential-vote-winner-190422063051756.html

Andrew Higgins, ‘Ukraine’s Newly Elected President Is Jewish. So Is Its Prime Minister. Not All Jews There Are Pleased’, The New York Times, 24 April 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/world/europe/volodomyr-zelensky-ukraine-jewish-president.html

Ukraine election: Comedian Zelensky wins presidency by landslide, BBC, 22 April 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-48007487

Video: PIIA event on Afghanistan

PIIA recently held a talk on the Afghan conflict and foreign forces are to blame for the Afghan conflict according to Rustam Shah Mohmand. Indeed, the former Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan urges Pakistan to shift focus away from India.“The India-centric approach will have to be reviewed because it doesn’t deliver much” he said.

My Dawn Years: Exploring Social Issues

An absolute must read for anyone in media and journalism

It was like coming full circle for veteran journalist and columnist Zubeida Mustafa for the launch of her book My Dawn Years: Exploring Social Issues at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday. “She worked here as a researcher first,” said Dr Masuma Hasan while introducing the journalist, admired and looked up by many present there at the PIIA library lining up for the author to sign their copies of the book. “Later she joined Dawn newspaper and that was really where she built her career,” Dr Masuma continued. Mohammad Ali Siddiqi, Dawn’s Readers’ Editor, joked that recently when in a piece published in the paper he referred to himself as “a Dawn man” he received much flak for it because readers wanted to know if the journalists in Dawn called themselves that then where did the women journalists fit in?

“So we had it corrected in the online version,” he said turning to his former colleague to proudly say that they had worked together for four decades.

“In chapter 12 of her book, Zubeida writes that she has worked with four editors — the legendary Ahmad Ali Khan, who hired her in 1973, Saleem Asmi, Tahir Mirza and Abbas Nasir. But you will come across the mention of Khan Sahab again and again,” said Mr Siddiqi, adding that he was her mentor and mentors became like family members for their mentees. Continue reading

Dr Masuma Hasan’s Welcome Speech: PIIA’s South Asia Peace Conference 2017

 

thumbnail_3Conference on Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges, 15 – 16 November 2017, Address of Welcome, Dr. Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. Mr. Mamnoon Hussain, President Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Zubair, Governor of Sindh, Ladies and gentlemen. It is indeed a great honour and privilege for me to welcome you to this session which His Excellency Mr. Mamnoon Hussain has graced with his presence. I am extremely grateful to him for being with us today inspite of other pressing engagements. He is the symbol of the federation of Pakistan and those who are aware of the politics of our country are also aware of the positive role he has played to consolidate democracy in our country. With his wisdom he has shown a deep understanding of international politics and has represented Pakistan at many important diplomatic initiatives abroad.

The Institute has organized this Conference on Peace in South Asia to mark 70 years of its founding. We have chosen the theme of peace not only because of its contemporary relevance but also because of its historic link to the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan when he inaugurated the Institute. In his speech on that occasion he said “That so soon after the establishment of Pakistan, a Pakistan Institute of International Affairs has come into existence is a matter of gratification.” Calling for world peace, he continued, that international affairs effect not only governments; they also effect the people. What happens in one part of the world has its reactions in other parts. If peace is disturbed in one continent it has its effects in another. Continue reading

President Mamnoon Hussain’s Speech: PIIA’s South Asia Peace Conference 2017

Mr. Mamnoon Hussain, President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Address to the “Conference on Peace in South Asia” (Karachi: November 15, 2017). “Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Raheem”. Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production, Excellencies, Experts in International Relations—and Respected Ladies and Gentlemen! Assalam-o-Alaikum.

It is a matter of great pleasure for me to participate in this conference on peace in South Asia under the auspices of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). The foundation of this institution was laid by Quaid-e-Millat Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan had a very real and deep understanding of contemporary foreign policy issues, especially about peace, stability and progress in South Asia. I still believe that best results can be achieved by following the principles enunciated by Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan and other founding fathers of Pakistan in our quest for regional peace and security. It is encouraging to see deliberation on such matters in the face of modern day challenges and changes in the regional and global landscape, for which I congratulate PIIA and its team. Continue reading

Raymond Davis’s New Book: An Old Device For Defamation

The Pakistani establishment does not act as clients to USA or other international powers as portrayed in Davis’s book. Unlike many other countries in the region, for example Afghanistan, the Pakistani establishment is smart enough to look after its own interests.

There has been a history of dealing with spies in the international relations. During war times, arrested spies were exchanged with mutual consent. There has been also a practice of killing these spies brutally. Mata Hari, a Dutch spy who worked for German cause during the First World War, was executed by firing squad. The recent case of Kulbushan Yadev and Raymond Davis are two peas of the same pod. They belong to different countries but their objective was same. Both were arrested by Pakistani government and convicted in the courts and given death sentences. Raymond Davis was released dramatically the details of which have been available in his recently published book The Contractor: How I landed in a Pakistani prison and ignited a diplomatic crisis. The story of 49 days from January 27, 2011 to March 16, 2011 has been narrated by him in a novel-type style. He has described how politicians and the Army manipulated things for his safe exit from Pakistan.

The role of General Pasha, the then ISI chief has been mentioned repeatedly that how he and his ISI had pressurized the family of murdered Faizan Haider and how the lawyer Asad Manzoor Butt was kept away from the last day proceedings. The story has two dimensions: one to defame Pakistani establishment as clients to USA which has been served to some extent because there is nothing new for people to buy. Secondly, it implies that how arrested spies increase the bargaining powers of weaker states against comparatively big powers. Continue reading

Panama Papers: The Report of the JIT

The full report of the Joint Investigation Team JIT, formed in the aftermath of the revelations contained in the Panama Papers, be found here. The report is not a judgment and commentators are divided over whether the document is sufficient to lead to the removal of prime minister Nawaz Sharif from office. NDTV reports that the JIT accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam of presenting fake documents on two 2006 declarations to the probe team using the “Calibri” font which was not commercially available till January 30, 2007. The JIT, which is probing allegations of money laundering against Mr Sharif and his family, said Maryam Nawaz, her brothers Hussain and Hassan Nawaz as well as her husband Captain Mohammad Safdar (retd), had signed false documents to mislead the Supreme Court.

The team that probed offshore assets of Sharif family said in its report that Maryam Nawaz claimed herself to be “trustee not the owner” of Avenfield properties in London, which linked her to Minerva Services and Samba Financial, Geo News reported. The JIT said that her claim turned out to be completely wrong and it was proven that she owned the properties managed by Minerva Services. The JIT concluded that Mr Sharif’s daughter was the real and ultimate beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments. Continue reading