Dina Powell, Trump’s first Arab-American appointee, draws bipartisan praise

Dina Habib Powell. (AP)
Updated 16 January 2017

Dina Powell, Trump’s first Arab-American appointee, draws bipartisan praise

WASHINGTON: US President-elect Donald Trump has been heavily criticized this week for controversial tweets and a fiery press conference.
However, one announcement from the incoming administration is garnering positive feedback and bipartisan praise: The appointment of Dina Habib Powell as assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives.
Powell, 43, is the first Arab-American to make it into the Trump White House, five days ahead of his inauguration. She was lauded in the transition team statement as someone with “a tremendous talent” and “a stellar record of public service as well as a great career in the private sector.”

Cairo’s daughter
Powell was born in Cairo in 1973 and is fluent in Arabic, the only language she knew before her parents immigrated to the US in 1977.
In their new home in Dallas, Texas, her father Husni, a former captain in the Egyptian Army, worked as a bus driver and ran a convenience store.
Her mother, Huda Suleiman, a graduate of the American University of Cairo, raised the family.
Powell quipped once that her parents, like most Arab-American families, “wanted their daughters to reach their full potential.”
She added: “I joke that they said, ‘We left our homeland so you could pursue your dreams, as long as you’re a lawyer, doctor or engineer.’”
The good education Powell received as a graduate of the Ursuline Academy and University of Texas helped propel her political career as an intern with former Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
Her work on Capitol Hill, Texas roots and fluency in Arabic later secured her a seat in the George W. Bush administration, where she served as assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs at the age of 32.
In that capacity, the top ranking Arab-American dealt directly with outreach to the Middle East, joining Cabinet members and presidential envoys on their trips to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
After the Bush years, Powell moved to New York to work on Wall Street, where she joined Goldman Sachs in 2007 as a managing director, and later to become a partner in 2010. Her work at the finance giant involved pioneering efforts to promote women entrepreneurship, such as the “10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses” project that earned Powell wide acknowledgment in the political and business communities.

Bipartisan praise
Following the new White House appointment, Powell was dubbed by CNN as “Ivanka’s woman in the White House,” in reference to Trump’s influential daughter who reportedly enjoys a good working relation with Powell. Contacts between the two started a few months ago as part of Ivanka’s outreach on women’s issues.
Beyond the Ivanka nod, however, Powell’s recognition and praise at her appointment has been coming from both Republicans and Democrats.
Arianna Huffington, a liberal columnist and co-founder of The Huffington Post, tweeted:
Even former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who called Trump a “con man” during the campaign, applauded the appointment, tweeting:
There was also some criticism of the appointment as being the fourth from Goldman Sachs into the new administration.
Ziad Asali, former president of the American Task Force for Palestine, told Arab News that Powell could play a key role “in helping Trump and the Kushners (Ivanka and her husband Jared) navigate the Washington scene” and its many policy quarters.
Asali said he would not be surprised if Powell acquires a lead role in driving Middle East policy, improving Trump’s image in Middle Eastern countries after a campaign that saw a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. Trump called for a Muslim ban in December 2015, before walking back on those plans less than a year later.
Powell follows in the footsteps of Donna Shalala, Ray Lahood, John Sununu, and a large league of Arab-Americans who made it to the White House and served US presidents.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.