Friday, May 26, 2017

Pakistan - TTP splinter groups ‘allowed’ opening offices in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

The government and the security establishment came under fire in a Senate body meeting when a lawmaker said that some splinter groups of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been “allowed” to open offices in some parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
At a huddle of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, lawmakers also came down hard on the security establishment for, what they called, glorifying surrendered TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan on TV channels. A demand for Ehsan’s trial in several terrorism cases was also raised.
The critical remarks came while Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Defence Rear Admiral (r) Faisal Lodhi was briefing the committee on the revelations made by Ehsan after his surrender and the government’s future policy to treat such terrorists.
Fata Senator Saleh Shah told the committee the government was facilitating some TTP groups and they had opened their offices in Tank, Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu.
He mentioned that groups of TTP led by Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazaullah had been using “cards of foreign countries while Sajna Group using local cards or resources”.
“Some of the surrendered groups, with the facilitation of government, have established their offices and they were providing justice to the locals through their own judicial system,” he said.
The government had given incentives to these groups who were “using foreign cards”, he said while criticising the “government’s unannounced policy of reintegration of militants”. He sought explanation on the government’s policy about the ‘glorification’ of former TTP spokesperson. “This was not a right step, ” he said. The additional secretary told the committee that Ehsan was allegedly involved in a number of onslaughts, including Bacha Khan Airport attack, terror hit on tourists in Gilgit-Baltistan, Wagah border bombing, Mohmand Agency attack and the killing of former Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada.
Describing the reasons for Ehsan’s surrender, he said, this was because a large number of youth of his age group, who were involved in such activities, were doubtful about their future because of the rifts within Taliban. “Ehsan had made an attempt to secure his future,” he said.
“His revelations have proved the point that militant organisation Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), a splinter group of TTP, had a direct link to RAW and the Afghan government. Ehsan does not look much important but he remained an insider of the TTP and much more information could be extracted from him,” he said.
“The rule of law and the due process of law would be followed in this case and this case would not be disposed of instantly,” he said, adding that there was no good or bad Taliban and this was the stated policy of the government when MQM Senator Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif said that there were useful and non-useful Taliban. Responding to a question, he said that Ehsan was in the custody of an intelligence agency.
The ministry of defence officer said that the security agencies got their operational level objectives with the airing of confessional statement of Eshan on TV channels and there was no intention of his glorification at all.
The remarks of additional secretary opened a plethora of questions from the lawmakers as MQM legislator Tahir Mashhadi said former TTP spokesperson should be tried under relevant laws if due process of law would have to be followed.
“Then stop presenting him as a hero on TV channels,” he said. “We should treat the terrorists the way they maltreated us,” he added.
Barrister Saif refused to endorse the revelation of Ehsan that JuA had links with RAW and Afghan intelligence agency NDS. “After the death of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, there was split in TTP and reason behind the creation of JuA was differences between Mullah Fazaullah and Omer Khalid Khorasani.,” he said. Rejecting the statement of Lodhi that much information could be extracted from Ehsan, Saif said that how was it possible that Ehsan was presented on TV before debriefing him. He condemned the policy of presenting terrorist on TV channels, saying this would create hurdles during prosecution and the same was the case with Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.
Committee Chairman Rehman Malik said that former TTP spokesperson openly accepted militant organisation Daesh or Islamic State. “If the government wants to make him approver, then proper procedure be adopted. The government should not bring him to TV,” he said while condemning this act and protested over this action on behalf of the committee. The chairman also raised some questions the way the government contested the case of Jadhav in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and asked why the attorney general did not represent the case and the ad hoc judge was not appointed.
The committee also directed the Ministry of Interior to form a task force to launch a probe into reports of smuggling of narcotics through PIA planes. An officer of the Narcotics Division informed the committee that the UK’s National Crime Agency had not given information about the incident to it in black and white.
The committee also observed that the deduction of one percent amount from all projects of the Ministry of Interior, out of its allocated budget, for CPEC project was unfair and the government should make a separate allocation. The chair remarked that the committee would move a privilege motion against the interior minister and the state minister of interior in case they did not attend the meeting next time after PPP Senator Mukhtiar Ahmed Damrah walked out over their absence.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

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Pakistan - Ban on social media can lead to anarchy, warns Chairman Senate

Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani said on Tuesday that restrictions placed on social media can lead to anarchy in the country.
The Chairman Senate was addressing students at a private university in Islamabad. He said that for different classes exist separate levels of justice.
“If we had respected the constitution then the institutions would have been strong,” said Rabbani.
“One channel to express views is opened, which is also being restricted over the pretext of state institutions,” said Rabbani.
The Chairman Senate said that the authorities are closing down the avenues of communication on their own.
He said that Pakistan was supposed to be a welfare state but it has turned out to be a security state.
The Chairman Senate criticised the government saying that former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf was not presented before the courts.
“Musharraf is dictating courts from abroad,” said Rabbani giving the example of the former military ruler.
The Ministry of Interior has launched a crackdown on blasphemous and profane content on social media.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar on Wednesday had directed the chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to prepare a framework for regulating the use of social media and targeting blasphemous and sacrilegious content.

کوټه کې د تښتول شويو چینیانو درک لا هم نه دی لګېدلی

د مشال راډيو خبریال د چارواکیو له خولې وايي درې تنه چينيان چې دوې ښځې او يو نارینه د خپلې هستوګنې په سیمه کې بازار ته په سودا پسې وتلي ول او له هغه ځايه په ستنېدو ول چې په يوه موټر کې سپرو کسانو د وسلو په زور وتښتول.
پوليس وايي، هلته څېرمه يوه کس د تښتول کېدونکیو چينيانو د خوشېکولو هڅه هم وکړه، خو وسله‎والو هغه کس په پښه وويشت، په دغه لاس او ګرېوان حالت کې يوه چینۍ ښځه په تېښته بریالۍ شوه او هغه دوه نور چې يوه یې ښځه لو لینګ لینا او يو سړى لي زینهېنګ وو له ځانه سره بوتلل.
د وسله‎والو له منګولو د چینايي وګړیو د خوشېکوونکي عبدالظاهر ورور رسنيو ته وويل:
"ورور مې دفتر ته روان وو، مخ ته په يوه موټر کې ناست کسان لاس او ګرېوان ول، ورور مې له موټره ورکښته شو او د دغو کسانو د تښتونې مخه‌ يې نيولې، هغوى ته ‌يې ږغ کړ دا کسان ولې په زوره موټر ته خېژوئ، هغوى ورته وويل چې موږ د پوليسو استخباراتي ادارې کسان يو، ورور مې ورته ويلي، که داسې وي نو خپل کارډونه راښکاره کړئ، تر دې منځ له موټر يو سړى راکښته شوى او زموږ ورور يې پر پښو ويشتلى او تښتېدلي دي."
د کوټې پوليسو يوه مشره اعتزاز ګورايه رسنيو ته وويل، دغو تښتول شويو چینايانو له څه مودې راهيسې په کوټه کې د ژبې ورښوولو په يوه اکاډمۍ کې چينۍ ژبه ورښووله او د ښار په جناح ټاون سيمه کې يې استوګنه کوله.
دوی وايي، دوى به د کوټې ښار سيمه‌ييزې جامې اغوستلې، خو د چارشنبې په مازيګر نامعلومو کسانو د وسلو په زور وتښتول چې تر دې مهاله‌يې لا د دوى د تښتونې په تور څوک نه‌دي نيولي.
د بلوچستان اعلا وزير نواب ثناءالله زهري د دې پېښې په تړاو د اړوندې سيمې د دوو پوليس افسرانو دندې ځنډولې او د چینايي وګړو د تښتونې پېښه‌ يې د دوى غفلت بللى دى.
د تښتول شويو چینايانو د تښتونې هدف څرګند نه‎دى او نه‌ يې هم تر اوسه چا د تښتونې مسؤليت منلى دى.
هلته په اسلام‎اباد کې د چېن سفارت هم دا پېښه تائيد کړې او رسنيو ته‌ يې ويلي چې دوى د بلوچستان له حکومت سره په تماس کې دي او د خپلو وګړو د راخوشېکولو لپاره ګړندۍ هڅې کوي.
د چین – پاکستان اقتصادي راهدارۍ تړون له لاسليکېدو راهیسې د بلوچستان په ګوادر بندر کېګڼ چینيان د اقتصادي پروژې په بېلابېلو برخو کې په کار بوخت شوي او ورسره د پاکستان په بېلابېلو ښارونو کې د چینۍ ژبې د زده‎کړې کورسونه پيل شوي دي چې په دې لړ کې يوشمېر چینيان په کوټه کې هم چیني ژبه ښيي او دا لومړى ځل دى چې له داسې پېښې سره مخامخېږي.

China condemns couple's kidnapping in Pakistan

China condemned on Thursday the armed kidnapping of a Chinese couple in Pakistan, after the abduction raised safety concerns for Beijing's multi-billion dollar investments in the country.

"The Chinese government attaches high importance to the safety of Chinese citizens overseas," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing.

"We condemn all forms of kidnapping activities," Lu said, adding that the government was working closely with Pakistani authorities to ensure their release.

The abduction happened on Wednesday afternoon in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern province of Balochistan, which is at the heart of the $50bn China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project but is racked by separatist and Islamist insurgencies.

"They were dragged into a vehicle without number plates by three unknown men," senior local police official Aitzaz Goraya told AFP. 

One Chinese woman managed to escape as the men began firing in the air to scare off onlookers.
A passer-by, Muhammad Zahir, was shot as he tried to prevent the abduction. 
He told AFP he saw three men forcing a Chinese woman into a white car but she was resisting and crying. 
"I stopped to observe the situation but they had forced the woman in the car by then and were pushing the man.
"So I rushed to them and asked what they were doing. One of them said, 'We are from the crime branch of the police and we are taking them for investigation' and I told them that they should not misbehave with people. Then the driver came out and shot me in my leg," the 35-year-old said.

China's deputy chief of mission in Islamabad, Zhao Lijian, said the kidnapped pair had been studying Urdu at a language centre. Local police had earlier said they were teaching Chinese.
China is ramping up investment in Pakistan as part of a plan unveiled in 2015 that will link its far-western Xinjiang region to Gwadar port in Balochistan with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.
Mineral-rich Balochistan has been plagued by Islamist and separatist insurgencies since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.

A greater push towards peace and development by Pakistani authorities, including with CPEC, has reduced the violence considerably in recent years.

Pakistan - The Borrower’s Budget

Commenting on the upcoming budget, Vice-President PPPP, Senator Sherry Rehman, regretted that the government has taken Pakistan deeper into the borrowing trap more than ever before. “This must be the only government that is happy about its trade imbalance,” she said, when responding to the launch of the Economic Survey.

The Senator said, “By putting everything on CPEC, which is a unique FDI opportunity, the government is sitting back and explaining away all its missed targets and growing deficits on that! Instead of even pretending to balance its budget, this government is going headlong into the next financial year by deepening the huge annual current account deficit”.

“This is unprecedented even for this government which has run the treasury on empty. According to the Annual Plan 2017-18, this budget will be a chronology of their incessant borrowing, more indirect taxes, surreal deficits and skyrocketing debt,” Rehman added.

“It is projected that our current account deficit will reach a staggering $10.4 billion from $7.2 billion last year. This is mainly because our trade deficit amounts to almost $26.9 billion which was roughly $16.5 billion during PPP’s last year in government. Estimates suggest that this year’s current account deficit rose by 42% compared to last year. How is this not raising any red flags for the government?” questioned the PPPP Vice-President.
Rehman noted, “PPP has continuously pointed out the dangerous downward trajectory that our economy is taking. Since this government came to power, our current account deficit has constantly been increasing. Trade deficit and borrowing have reached record highs, exports are down, remittances are falling and FDI is plummeting”.
The Senator also lambasted the government’s track record and failed campaign promises saying, “Exports have declined by $3 billion, external debt has increased by $6.3 billion, domestic debt has increased by 78.5%, there is a decline of 2.8% in remittances and circular debt has reached over $ 4 billion in the span of 4 years. Whatever happened to the big promises the PML-N made during the campaign?”

Rehman further elaborated, “The government has once again, for the fourth consecutive time, failed to meet the target GDP growth due to their own ruinous economic policies and poor performance. Economic indicators are gloomier since they have missed all of their major economic targets. The fiscal deficit for instance is 4% over the target and key sectors such as agriculture and service are not showing encouraging signs.”
“Indirect taxation is another point of concern. How can a country address its huge social inequalities if it continues to rely on indirect taxes? And a fiscal policy with no plans for raising revenue at home will just end up in more borrowing. In fact, according to reports, Pakistan is already planning to get $8.1 billion in new loans. We cannot afford that. As it is, we are already stuck in a merry-go-round of borrowing,” said Rehman.

 “The government does not have a coherent economic framework, nor does it seem to be bothered by this economic freefall. Everyone, from top economists to the IMF and World Bank pointed out the need for structural reforms and clearer policies. No one in the Ministry of Finance seems to pay heed,” continued Rehman.
“There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from looking at all these figures and it is that this government’s regressive economic policies have failed and severely damaged Pakistan’s economy. No country can become truly sovereign if it relies on loans and foreign aid as a matter of form. Borrowing in the form of short-term loans has become the Finance Minister’s de facto policy and as many have warned, this is could be catastrophic,” concluded the Senator.

Pakistan - US-Saudi nexus of evil

The US-Saudi joint show in Riyadh is over.
Leaders from some 55 Muslim-majority countries attended the so-called summit where they were lectured by none other than Trump and the Saudi King on how to fight ‘Islamic’ terrorism and what God really wants, among other things. They were told in categorical terms that the root of all evil in the Middle East, and even in the world at large, was Iran. They listened and came home.
Now we will see where they stand.
The silent participation of leaders from these 55 countries does not mean that all of them support this US-Saudi plan for exacerbating the sectarian divide and flooding the region with even more chaos and war. These leaders were gathered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to underscore its leadership of the Muslim world and that seems to be pretty much it.
Did they, for instance, have any say in drafting the belligerently anti-Iran Riyadh Declaration? I doubt it.
The hypocritical rhetoric and platitudes aside, this is what the declaration, issued at the end of the so-called summit on behalf of the 55 leaders gathered there, had to say about Iran:
“1- The leaders stressed the rejection of sectarian agendas, citing their dangerous repercussions on the security of the region and the world at large.
2- The leaders confirmed their absolute rejection of the practices of the Iranian regime designed to destabilise the security and stability of the region and the world at large and for its continuing support for terrorism and extremism.
3- The leaders condemned the Iranian regime’s hostile positions and continuing interference in the domestic affairs of other countries in a flagrant violation of the principles of international law and good neighbourhood, confirming their commitment to confront that.
4- The leaders are committed to intensify their efforts to observe the security of the region and the world at large, and firmly confront the subversive and destructive Iranian activities inside their countries and through joint coordination.
5- The leaders underlined the dangerous Iranian ballistic missiles programme and denounced the Iranian regime’s continuing violations of Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
” The points about Iran are tucked away towards the end of the declaration but they are far more significant than what precedes them. Initiatives like the Terrorist Financing Targeting Centre and the Global Centre of Combating Extremist Ideology that the declaration showcases are mere frills. The US-guided Middle East Strategic Alliance floated in the declaration is a new tag for old partnerships. The real thrust of the declaration is aimed against Iran.
Interestingly, the declaration welcomes the readiness of a number of Islamic countries to participate in the Saudi Coalition and finally clears the mystery about its mission; “to provide a reserve force of 34,000 troops for support operations against terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq”. And who would the Saudi coalition support? Not the Syrian government forces and its allies including Iran who are successfully defeating the terrorists for sure.
Under which international law would the Saudi coalition send troops to fight in the sovereign state of Syria? Or will it take the cue from the US-led coalition which bombs where it pleases and intervenes where it wants, regardless of what international law says? And who would the Saudi coalition forces support: The same imperialist coalition that has destroyed one Muslim country after another on the pretext of saving them? This much is written on the wall. The US-Saudi nexus has made its intentions on the Middle East clear. They intend to intensify and coordinate more closely their wars of aggression in the Middle East, and rally more countries to join in. They intend to continue to pay lip-service to fighting terrorism even as they spawn proxy terrorists and launch them on states and societies resisting their hegemony. They would add $110 billion worth of weaponry to the conflicts in the Middle East. The question is: Where do the 55 countries whose leaders had gathered in Riyadh stand on the Riyadh Declaration that was released on their behalf? More importantly: Where does our government stand on this US-Saudi partnership and our role in the Saudi coalition? Some explanation is surely in place, especially because we were constantly told that our inclusion in the Saudi coalition would not be at the expense of our ties with Iran. Was the Pakistani delegation consulted on Riyadh Declaration before it was issued? Did we give our consent to what it declared? Or, like our inclusion in the Saudi coalition, did we find out about the Riyadh Declaration after it was announced? Now that it has been announced, and it is clearly a declaration of war against Iran, what do we have to say?
Are we going to go along with what the Saudi royals decide for us, like we did in the case of our inclusion in the Saudi coalition without our knowledge, let alone consent? We were told back then that it is only an idea and nothing is decided about the coalition so we should wait to see how it develops and even influence its direction. Why embarrass our Saudi benefactors by pulling out of a coalition on paper, seemed to be the official logic. Now that there is no doubt left about why the Saudis are assembling their coalition and under whose umbrella, should Pakistan still be so polite? Why should we be forced to take sides?
There is a broad consensus in Pakistan not to get embroiled in foreign wars, especially at a time when the situation at home requires the undivided attention of our security forces.
International counter-terrorism cooperation is all very well but, as far as Pakistan is concerned, its focus should be on stabilising Afghanistan, where China, Russia, Central Asian states and Iran are our natural partners. It is no longer a secret that our long and supposedly close counter-terrorism cooperation with the US in Afghanistan was a fickle fraud.
We must never forget our partnership with the US and Saudi Arabia back in the 1980s when we all joined hands to flood Afghanistan with mercenary mujahedin.
Pakistan is still paying the price for that partnership.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari concerned over bid to stifle freedom of expression

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed grave concern over the government’s bid to make a pitch for stifling dissent and freedom of expression just when frontiers of human rights were expanding worldwide.
In a statement today he said that freedom of expression has been increasingly attacked by both state and non-state actors on various pretexts. “This trend must be resisted and reversed”. Next to the right to life, the right to freedom of expression is fundamental as all other rights flow from this right, he said. “Curbing right to freedom of expression in effect means curbing all other rights”.
The PPP cannot and will not allow it, he said.
Clamping a ban on social media and otherwise curbing expression and dissent in the name of vaguely defined ‘national security’ must not be allowed to go unchallenged.
The government cannot be allowed to wield power arbitrarily or whimsically. There has to be balance between concerns of ‘national security’ on the one hand and the fundamental right of people to freedom of expression on the other, he said. “The balance must be tilted in favor of freedom of expression in accordance with best democratic practices”
Zardari recalled how the previous PPP government endured media criticism that at times was vicious against his person and other leaders of the Party but at no stage the Party contemplated clamping curbs on the media.
Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar added that Zardari has already directed the Party’s legislative committee to deliberate on the issue and suggest appropriate legislative measures to ensure that the right to freedom of expression was not curbed on any pretext.
The PPP will forcefully resist bid to silence political dissent or curb freedom of expression in the name of security or ideology, he said.


Pakistan was helplessly wringing its hands over the rapidly developing strategic overhaul in the region as U.S. President Donald Trump danced the sword-dance with Saudi King Salman and condemned non-attending Iran at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh on Sunday. The Arab leaders, whose citizens Trump doesn’t want to visit America, sat and listened. What did Trump get for this tour de force? Nearly $110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years, in Saudi purchases.
Trump wanted predecessor President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran squashed and didn’t care if Europe, which was also part of the deal, got offended. He accused Iran of spreading terrorism in the Middle East; but Iran remains the only state fighting the Islamic State together with the United States while Turkey and Russia are more focused on targeting Syrian resistance and the Kurds. Trump accused Iran of spreading extremism in the region just as Tehran re-elected a moderate president in contrast to Saudi Arabia’s monarchic state. And while Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the summit, the Iranian border-guards fired four cautionary mortars into Pakistani territory. Trump has pocketed Saudi dollars and will land in Washington shouting “more jobs for Americans” while Europe and the Middle East mull the crisis of handling the Islamic State.
Pakistan doesn’t want to ruin its equation with Iran which could have solidified into mutual dependence had it not been for U.N. and American sanctions against Iran. Also, it can’t refuse to go along with Saudi Arabia given its economic dependence on its expat labor in the Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates plus many other unpublicized financial concessions. As it meditates sadly on its three alienated neighbors, Pakistan sees India getting along fine with the Kingdom while cozying up to Tehran, buying its gas-fields and building its ports. India doesn’t mind Trump getting close to Israel after decades of alienation over Palestine while Pakistan will feel greatly embarrassed by Arabs and Israel sailing in the same boat against “nuclearizing” Iran.

Pakistan’s foreign-vs-domestic policy dilemma

By Farhan Bokhari

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who spent part of the last week in China and seeks to spend the coming days in Saudi Arabia, is following in the footsteps of many other leaders. Apparently tired of staying at home to solve some of the most pressing internal challenges, Sharif appears to be turning increasingly towards a ‘foreign’ focus to establish his credentials. It’s an ironic choice by a leader who has failed to appoint a full-time foreign minister in the last four years of his five-year tenure.
Until recently, two of his advisers (one was fired apparently over leaking information to a Pakistani journalist) ran the Foreign Ministry and in the process apparently divided an institution once known for its excellence. With reports of foreign ministry officials beset by loyalty to one adviser or the other and with elections looming in a year’s time, its already too late for Sharif to begin repairing the damage. Even if a foreign minister is appointed to unify Pakistan’s main diplomatic arm, that will be too late in the day to begin repairing the damage.

As the discord deepens surrounding Pakistan’s tools of conducting its foreign policy, the prevailing challenges are much too vital to be ignored. Today, all of Pakistan’s borders with the possible exception of a slice of the border with China, are either under dispute or shared with neighbours who are increasingly wary of Islamabad. And while Pakistan indeed lives in a tough neighbourhood, its failure to redouble its own conduct of foreign policy has badly exposed the south Asian country to increasingly difficult challenges.
One part of this dilemma rests on the difficult issue of what appears to be a directionless Foreign Ministry with the absence of an empowered leadership at the top. There is no clear-cut answer on exactly why Sharif has failed to appoint a top leader as a minister to run the Foreign Ministry. Perhaps the prime minister prefers to keep the top levels of the ministry on a tight leash with a view to closely dictating its day to day workings. It’s no secret that a top bureaucratic aide to Sharif, with unprecedented authority, has won for himself an apt title — “de facto prime minister”. Irrespective of whatever has drawn Sharif to run the foreign policy apparatus without a foreign minister, the choice is a mind boggling one given the challenges the country faces.
Ultimately, however, the obsession with taking control of domestic affairs could well be the key driver. Ironically, though, with plenty of evidence suggesting the many contradictions in Pakistan’s internal outlook, the writing on the wall is all too clear. The past year has seen Sharif focus squarely on a battle for his own survival, following revelations of large-scale wealth belonging to his three children and subsequently discovered in the so called ‘Panama leaks’ scandal. The matter is far from resolved though the Supreme Court in Pakistan allowed some breathing space to the prime minister by ordering a further investigation. Even if Sharif wins this battle, he will still be haunted by allegations of corruption in the run-up to next years’ elections.
In the meantime, Sharif’s response so far has been driven by how he knows best to tackle political challenges. In recent weeks, the prime minister has travelled across Pakistan to attend public gatherings, where he has promised to speed up the process of development. Promises of building new highways and public transport projects have typically appeared central to Sharif’s vision of the future. In response to attacks on corruption, he has invited his opponents to appreciate his promise of a better future.
And yet, the promising future as spelt out by Sharif has failed to mask the many adverse challenges still waiting to be tackled. In sharp contrast to the promised highways and new fancy transport initiatives, Pakistan’s farmers have suffered one of the toughest economic downturns during Sharif’s tenure. And in spite of Sharif’s widely publicised credentials as the scion of a prominent business-cum-industrial family, Pakistan’s industry and sectors responsible for the country’s exports have continued to under-perform. Altogether, these powerful realities have failed to improve prospects for almost one-third of Pakistan’s population that lives in abject poverty.
In the meantime, while security conditions related to activities of militant Taliban have indeed improved since Sharif became the Prime Minister, the credit goes mainly to Pakistan Army for keeping up the pressure. The credentials of Sharif’s civilian regime was badly exposed recently when a widely respected former police officer revealed that meaningful progress had only taken place on three out of 20 fronts from a widely publicised set of security-related objectives. Clearly, Sharif’s government has much catching up to do beyond its frequent claims of running one of Pakistan’s most progressive governments.
And with Pakistan’s domestic outlook clearly in disarray beyond the mere lip service of the government, the country’s ability as a foreign policy player is increasingly in question. Irrespective of how many foreign destinations Sharif manages to touch down upon, its clear that Pakistan’s internal outlook today is no better than what the prime minister had inherited. And with elections due next year, Pakistan will likely witness only a few of the many pressing reforms that must have been solidly put in place to improve the country’s outlook by now.

Why the Trump-Led Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia Was a Disaster for Pakistan

The Donald Trump-led Arab Islamic American summit, held in Riyadh this weekend, was supposed to be Pakistan’s moment to cash its first check on the diplomatic investment it has made in the Saudi-led Islamic military coalition  – which former Army Chief Raheel Sharif militarily heads. After all, the long standing U.S.-Saudi relationship has helped Islamabad ally itself with both, and at a time when the duo was spearheading an “Islamic” summit it was natural for Pakistan to expect a share of the spotlight.
With this in mind, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent the entire duration of his flight to Riyadh rehearsing his address to the summit, which included leaders of 55 Muslim-majority states. It was time to drive home Islamabad’s perspective on countering Islamist terrorism – the theme of the event – considering Pakistan’s unique role as both victim and counterterrorism proponent. Raheel Sharif heads the counterterror militia, and the country is fourth on the Global Terrorism Index in terms of the most affected states.
Yet Nawaz Sharif wasn’t invited to address the summit. Neither was Raheel Sharif.
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It was bad enough that Pakistan didn’t get a say in what was predictably reduced to a Gulf gathering, rather than an “Islamic” summit. Trump’s speech itself further added salt to the wounds.
Not only did the U.S. president identify India as a victim of terror, he failed to acknowledge Pakistan as one. This at a time when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has stayed the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav – an alleged Indian spy convicted of terrorism in Pakistan – and when deeming Kashmiri separatist militancy synonymous with “Pakistan-sponsored terrorism” is the official New Delhi stance.
It very well might not have been his intention, but by singling out India alone as a victim of terror among the South Asian states, Trump upheld New Delhi’s narrative on Kashmir, and completely shelved Pakistan’s claims of “India-sponsored terrorism,” specifically in the volatile province of Balochistan.
This would’ve been a setback at most gatherings, but for the U.S.-Saudi leadership to silence Pakistan’s narrative at an “Islamic” summit was particularly damaging, considering that Islamabad has long held Islam as a foreign policy tool and has based its support for the Kashmiri struggle on religious affiliation as well.
Trump also snubbed a request for a meeting with Nawaz Sharif, whom he only met with on the sidelines of the summit, while having well publicized talks with many other leaders.
As the U.S. president joined Saudi King Salman in being high on anti-Iran rhetoric, asking the Muslim world to isolate the nation that Trump said had “fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror,” Pakistan’s repeated claim of the Saudi-led coalition not targeting a particular sect or state was significantly dented as well.
In jumping aboard, and militarily spearheading, the Saudi-led military alliance, Islamabad has alienated Tehran to a point that Iran is now openly threatening attacks inside Pakistan to uproot what it calls are “safe havens for Sunni jihadists.”
With its decades-old racist foreign policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan backfiring, ties with India continuing to plunge,  and now Iran earmarking it as an integral part of the Saudi camp, Islamabad is surrounded by a hostile neighborhood that is finding common ground in uniting against militancy originating in Pakistan.
And as Pakistan’s immediate neighbors accuse it of supporting terrorism, the snub for Pakistan at a counterterror conference, hosted by the country that Islamabad is going out of its way to protect against the much-touted “Shia crescent,” means that there are no buyers for Pakistan’s narrative on its role against terrorism.
Despite Saudis talking up Pakistan as a “leader of Muslim Ummah” whenever they need military support, Riyadh has never backed Islamabad’s stance on Kashmir, or even condemned Kabul for what Pakistan portrays as Indian voodoo forcing Afghanistan to act out against a “Muslim brother.” In fact Saudi Arabia has multiple defense agreements with India – the country Islamabad claims is responsible for funding terrorism in Pakistan.
While Washington sidelining Islamabad following Trump’s election was long coming, it is the continued lack of Saudi support at the international level that has reduced Pakistan’s status for the Kingdom of al-Saud to that of a security guard, without any contribution in narratives.
If Islamabad still needs a reason to abandon Islam as a foreign policy determinant, it only needs to look at its relations with its “Muslim brothers” in the neighborhood, and the consistent Saudi refusal to even allow Pakistan a say in the global Muslim narrative.
This is especially true when China, the only state that is backing Islamabad and giving it an economic lifeline, has staunch anti-Muslim policies in the region that is going to help Pakistan sustain itself.

Two Chinese language teachers kidnapped in Pakistan

Armed men pretending to be policemen kidnapped two Chinese language teachers in the Pakistani city of Quetta on Wednesday, provincial officials said, a rare attack on Chinese nationals that is likely to worry Beijing.
China has pledged to invest $57 billion in Pakistani road, rail and power infrastructure in a flagship project of its vast Belt and Road initiative for a network of modern-day "Silk Road" routes connecting Asia with Europe and Africa.
China's ambassador to Pakistan and other officials have often urged Islamabad to improve security, especially in the province of Baluchistan, where China is building a new port and funding roads to link its western regions with the Arabian Sea.
Anwar ul Haq Kakar, a Baluchistan government spokesman, said men pretending to be police officers kidnapped the Chinese teachers and wounded a passerby who tried to stop them.
"A Chinese couple has been kidnapped," Kakar told Reuters, adding that officials had earlier mistaken the wounded passerby for a security guard.
"(The passerby) inquired why they were doing this and they said they were from a law enforcement agency, but when he asked for their identification cards, they shot him," added Kakar.
No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but in the past Islamist militant groups have kidnapped foreigners in Pakistan to seek ransom or drum up publicity for their cause.
China's embassy in Islamabad confirmed two of its nationals had been kidnapped, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said.
China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment sent after office hours.
Quetta police chief Razza Cheema said the teachers did not work on the Beijing-funded China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as they did not have guards. Pakistan provides security for all Chinese workers on CPEC projects in Baluchistan.
"Armed men took the couple into custody at gunpoint when they were coming out from the center," Cheema told Reuters.
Another Chinese woman narrowly evaded the kidnappers outside a language center in Jinnah, on the city's outskirts, he added.
The numbers of Pakistanis studying Mandarin has skyrocketed since 2014, when President Xi Jinping signed off on the vast CPEC funding plans.
Security in Baluchistan has improved in recent years but separatists, who view the project as a ruse to steal natural resources, this month killed 10 Pakistani workers building a road near the new port of Gwadar.
Pakistan faces pressure to keep Chinese workers safe and reassure Beijing about its vast investments, said Vahaj Ahmed, a research analyst at investment bank Exotix Partners.
But the Quetta kidnappings were unlikely to "put the Chinese interests off track," he added.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

#SAUDI WAHABISTAN - ''A dangerous coalition''

THE obscenely opulent reception arranged in Donald Trump’s honour, with Arab autocrats lining up to pay homage to the American president, forgetting his inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric and his likening of the Saudi royal family to ‘slaveholders’ in the past, did not come as a surprise. Nor did the US leader’s softened tenor as he addressed the so-called Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh last week.
Indeed, there was no mention in Trump’s speech of ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, a term he often used during his election campaign. But what excited the Saudi and Gulf kings gathered at the forum was Trump’s tirade against Iran which he declared was the centre of terrorism and extremism. In the midst of their insecurity, these remarks struck a chord. In the new American president, the Arab despots found a trusted ally and protector that they had missed in his predecessor.
What was supposed to be an alliance against terrorism and extremism has virtually turned into an anti-Iran coalition further widening the regional geopolitical divide. By citing Tehran as the centre of gravity of terrorism, the American president has encouraged sectarian warfare among the Muslim-dominated countries thus diverting attention from the actual sources of extremism plaguing the region and beyond. What was supposed to be an alliance against terrorism has virtually turned into an anti-Iran coalition. Surely Tehran too is to be blamed for the ongoing proxy wars in the Middle East along sectarian lines. It is actively involved in the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars. But targeting the country as the bastion of terrorism and extremism is extremely dangerous. Ironically, Iran and the US forces have been collaborating in fighting the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq, while Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are supporting some extremist Sunni militant groups fighting in Syria.
This approach of containing Iran is bound to further inflame the situation in the Middle East that will have spillover effects in other Muslim countries, especially Pakistan. Interestingly, it’s all happening as the Iranian people re-elected Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, as their president who was also responsible for reaching a landmark nuclear deal with the United States and other nuclear states.
Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states were strongly opposed to the treaty and called for tougher US action against Tehran. The Iran nuclear deal was also the reason for the widening gap between Riyadh and Washington under the Obama administration. The Saudis were extremely worried by the possibility of a US-Iran rapprochement. But those fears lessened after the election of Trump who advocated a tougher stance against Iran and also vowed to scrap the nuclear deal — though it may not be possible considering there are five other signatories.
Hence the grand reception for the new US president when he chose the kingdom as the first destination of his maiden foreign visit as president. The Saudis have also obliged him by signing a multibillion-dollar arms deal and promising to invest billions more in infrastructure development in the US.
Those business deals with the prospect of generating thousands of new jobs in the US have certainly thrilled Trump. The development has also marked the return of the US to its traditional Saudi-centred Middle East policy.
However, given the Middle East civil war and the rise of more dangerous global terrorist groups like IS, a partisan American policy could complicate the situation, further destabilising the region.
It will certainly encourage Saudi Arabia to adopt a militarily more aggressive approach in Yemen and other troubled spots. It may also lead to an escalation in the Iranian proxy war in the region. There is some indication of a realignment of forces in the Middle East with Israel providing implicit support to the Saudi-led coalition of the Gulf countries. What is most worrisome is that any escalation may provide greater space to jihadi groups like IS and Al Qaeda.
This situation raises serious questions about Pakistan’s involvement in the Saudi-led alliance, sometimes described as the ‘Arab Nato’, with its clear anti-Iran bias and apparently divisive agenda. Whatever ambiguity there was about the aims and objectives of the 41-member coalition must be clear by now after the speech at the summit by Saudi King Salman Abdul Aziz who did not mince his words, describing Iran as the main enemy. A major question is whether we also agree with the Saudi agenda.
Frankly speaking, it didn’t matter that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was not granted a private meeting with Trump or that he was not given an opportunity to address the summit. The main question is whether such a divisive Islamic alliance (in sectarian terms) in any way serves our national security and foreign policy interests. It certainly does not.
It was so obvious from the outset that the alliance would not work when its formation was announced unilaterally by the Saudi crown prince in the midst of the kingdom’s military intervention in Yemen. It was a major mistake to commit ourselves to the coalition without having a clear idea about its objectives. Even worse was allowing retired Gen Raheel Sharif to head a phantom Islamic army.
With a former army chief in the top position, we cannot pretend that Pakistan is not an active partner in the military alliance. The government’s decision was in complete violation of the parliament’s resolution to not get involved in the Middle East civil war. It is also a failure of our foreign policy as we have been unable to clarify our position on the anti-Iran stance at the Riyadh summit. Indeed, it will now be much more difficult for us to extricate ourselves from what is rightly described as a ‘Sunni’ coalition without further antagonising Riyadh. But staying in an alliance which gets us involved in an intra-sectarian conflict will be extremely dangerous for the country.
One had hoped that an inclusive alliance of Muslim-majority nations would help bridge the sectarian divide and bring an end to the civil war in the Middle East. But the so-called Arab-Islamic-American Summit has dashed that hope and only added to the prevailing instability.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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China - Is The New York Times writing Chinese spy novels now?

By Curtis Stone 

On March 20, The New York Times reported that the Chinese government systematicallydismantled CIA spying operations in the countrykilling or imprisoning more than a dozenCIA sourcesBut at least one part of the report is falseand many Chinese are upset.
Xiakedaoa social media account run by the overseas edition of the Peoples Dailyresponded by wondering if the authors read Spy Games one too many timesbecause thereport reads like it has been ripped from the pages of the fiction spy novel.
According to The Times’ reportChinas national security organ “killed or imprisoned” about a dozen CIA “informants,” one of which was allegedly shot on the spot in front ofcolleagues in the courtyard of a government buildingThe story seems farfetched to saythe least.
As the report by Xiakedao explainsChinas national security organ is part of normal stateorgansThough Chinas national security forces exercise special powers to fulfill their dutyto protect the nations security and intereststhey must nonetheless comply with legalproceduresIn Chinaonly the Supreme Peoples Court has the power to deprive people oflifeCasually shooting suspected spies dead on the streetThis only happens in JamesBond 007 spy movies.
Xiakedao called this blockbuster-style approach to news reporting unreasonableUsingcommon senseone can see that the activities of Chinas national security forces areundertaken in accordance with the law and that the national security organ is notuntethered or rogueBut rather than investigate who was behind the U.Sspy network orwho their handlers were in BeijingThe Times wrote a story that rivals the best of Westernspy novelscreating confusion for those who seek to understand the situation.
Many netizens on Weibo reacted in anger at the reportAs one Weibo user commentedThe New York Timesin the absence of any evidenceblatantly accused China of “killing” U.SagentsHe called the report an “extremely sinister” way to provoke Americanresentment and hatred against China and added that China must not be indifferent orsilent. “The irresponsible American media should be condemned for grandstanding andmaking trouble out of nothing,” he wrote.
Chinese remain convinced that the sensationalized report is a figment of the authors’ imaginationand that common sense is needed to understand ChinaShot on the spotSounds like something one of the associates would do to stop China from crippling theoperationsuggested the report by Xiakedao.

The Baneful Apocalyptic Triad of USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia

Trump effectively blessed Saudi Arabia as a pillar of moderate Islam as part of his “Muslim reset”.

One Arab writer even hailed Saudi-US ties as one that “shaped the wider world” and although the wider world would undeniably agree with that reality, it would nevertheless consign such ties to the very negative end of the global affairs spectrum.
The Israeli press celebrated Trump’s royal treatment in Riyadh and observed how the president and select members of his cabinet danced with swords in a ceremony that must have nauseated the families of 9/11 victims.  Syrians, Yemenis and Christian minorities worldwide would have also watched that macabre spectacle with a foreboding sense of horror. 
Just about every symbolism linking Saudi Arabia and Israel was explored and publicized by the latter’s media, including a historic “first direct flight” from Riyadh to Jerusalem – reflecting the correct order of priority, both domestic and foreign, facing any US presidency!
One wonders when these two Middle Eastern lovers would emerge from the closet to announce a union, albeit a temporary one, to jointly exercise “regional peace” under Washington’s patronage.
Shadow Plays and Iran
Saudi Arabia remains the prima inter pares of the Washington-Riyadh-Jerusalem triad. This was underscored by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who secretly begged Trump not to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There are good monetary reasons for such shadow play. According to US investigative journalist Robert Parry, Saudi Araba provides billions of dollars for Israeli West Bank settlement construction in return for secret Israeli security cooperation.
Two primary issues currently preoccupy the triad. The first concerns the amount of wool needed to be pulled over the eyes of a historically corrupt Palestinian leadership as well as the Islamic world. This should nevertheless be a cinch sans any tectonic shocks to an admittedly fragile global system.
The second, far more vexatious issue concerns neutralizing Iran. While other major Middle Eastern oil producers have been devastated by post-9/11 invasions, regime changes and “civil wars” which render them prostrate before Saudi diktats, Iran continues to provide oil in significant quantities to an energy-hungry Asia. Without complete control over the Middle Eastern oil spigot, the triad cannot extract geopolitical concessions out of Asia which is rapidly weening itself away from fossil fuel dependency.
India is paving the way here. Sensing geo-economic insecurity on the horizon, it intends to become a “100 per cent electric vehicle nation” by 2030, backed by developments in its space program and a fast-growing native nuclear industry. The message is clear: Asia will not hedge its future on any Washington-brokered Middle Eastern “peace process” that is bound to fail.
A Doomed Religious Triad
Washington’s much-fantasized New World Order cannot be forged without neutralizing major oil producers such as Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Furthermore, any NWO requires a religious leap of faith. But how are the modern flag-bearers of three ancient, mutually-hostile religious ideologies going to resolve that?
Perhaps, the answer can be found in common apocalyptic undercurrents within the triad.
American evangelicals and “Messianic Christians” (who mimic Jewish forms of worship) had for the past five years eagerly awaited the destruction of Damascus as recorded in Isaiah 17:1. The cruelties perpetrated on Christian women and children from Damascus to Mosul did not trigger intercessory prayers from American evangelicals or their offspring worldwide. Instead, there was rapture-like rejoicing! The Christian teaching of repentance leading to vastly difference prophetic outcomes, including for Syria as recorded in Isaiah 19: 23-25, is routinely ignored by the Ayatollahs of the American religion.
One needs to study the heretical roots of American Christianity to realize why it hardly preaches or takes cognizance of the Ninth Commandment which reads “Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness”! Presenting false evidence annually at the United Nations to contravene other great commandments – namely Thou Shall Not Kill and Thou Shall Not Steal/Covet – never registers as “national sin” in the rabid evangelical psyche.
While Trump was hailed as Cyrus-incarnate by his Judas priests, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s Cyrus-like role in protecting his Christian minority went unacknowledged. Christians should revisit the following verse “I will bless those who bless you” (Genesis 12:3) and contemplate contemporary American reality. Instead of divine blessing, the US is reaping curse after national curse with its children plumbing new nadirs like trading sex for food.
The Assad government, facing a US-Saudi-facilitated international terrorist invasion from 90-odd nations, is being blessed with victory despite the triad’s efforts to reduce Syria into a pile of rubble. Russia, which has upheld Christian principles and precepts, remains remarkably resilient in the face of US-led Western sanctions. As a result, even Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov admits that Muslims fare better in Russia than anywhere else.
American evangelicals however frequently mistake “bloodletting” for “blessing.” Their cultic racket thrives as the religious arm of US foreign policy.
This resonates with the apocalyptic narrative of radical Islam; one where another Syrian landmark, namely the obscure town of Dabiq, plays a defining end-times role. Many (largely non-Arab) Islamists harbour hopes that a future Pakistani army may form the nucleus of a horde that will annihilate infidels from Khorasan to Jerusalem. The Muslim NATO being created by Saudi Arabia with US blessings has a Pakistani commander to underscore this popular doomsday narrative. Not surprisingly, the Saudis picked the Jewish firm of Burson-Marsteller to handle the public relations end of business.
Israel remains the ultimate eschatological raison d'être of any Muslim NATO. It cannot annul the prophecies of Islam but it can placate the Saudis by continually attacking Syria. Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant, whose ministry is the suspected recipient of Saudi largesse, even went as far as advocating the assassination of Assad just before Trump’s visit to Riyadh.
Pressure to attack Iran – which has the economic backing of Russia, India and China – can be delayed indefinitely by raining gradual misery on Syria. In any case, the downfall of Iran means the automatic ascension of Israel as the primary bogeyman of global jihad. Maybe, the Israeli deep state is expecting help from Saudi clerics to stoke the diversionary fires of Ghazwa-e-Hind – an event now interpreted as an apocalyptic showdown between Pakistan and India, although it has no basis in established Muslim traditions. Can Israel get Pakistan on-board via a Saudi shadow play?  
As long as Israel remains focused on playing up the Syrian and Iranian bogeyman, the Saudi-led bloc of “moderate Islam” may even grant some tactical, indirect imprimatur for the construction of the Third Temple for “all of humanity.” This scatter-brained hope is shared by a surprisingly motley lot, including Turkish sex cult guru Adnan Octar.
But what happens to the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of Rock which currently stand in the way? As soon as they are razed or when the first Temple brick is laid down, “moderate” Arabs will revoke all prior tacit acquiescence. Perhaps, this is when the United States steps in to execute the greatest betrayal in modern history…