Monday, February 19, 2018

Benazir Bhutto showed you can be a mother and prime minister – I know, I am her son



By Bilawal Bhutto

After Jacinda Ardern announced her pregnancy, some questioned how she would cope. They should look at Pakistan’s late leader.
The news about Jacinda Ardern struck a nerve with my sisters and I. It is indeed uplifting to see the world rejoice at her good fortune.
While there are the detractors and naysayers, the barrage of good wishes, the #knitforJacinda campaign and countless other little gestures, has been overwhelmingly positive.
But it was only natural for me to look back and compare this situation with the one my mother faced 28 years ago when she became the first world leader to give birth while in office.
At the time, as her children, we didn’t appreciate how extraordinary her life was. Looking back it is clear that despite her accomplishments, every day she had to prove that as a woman she had every right to be who she was, larger than life and leading from the front, every step of the way.

The news about Jacinda Ardern struck a nerve with my sisters and I. It is indeed uplifting to see the world rejoice at her good fortune.
While there are the detractors and naysayers, the barrage of good wishes, the #knitforJacinda campaign and countless other little gestures, has been overwhelmingly positive.
But it was only natural for me to look back and compare this situation with the one my mother faced 28 years ago when she became the first world leader to give birth while in office.
At the time, as her children, we didn’t appreciate how extraordinary her life was. Looking back it is clear that despite her accomplishments, every day she had to prove that as a woman she had every right to be who she was, larger than life and leading from the front, every step of the way.
As her children we didn’t comprehend the scale of her challenges because we never saw her complain, not even in private, about how she was held to a different standard just because she was a woman.
My mother began her political journey as a symbol of hope and resistance to the repressive, regressive, Islamist regime of General Ziaul Haq. He imposed dictatorship, hanged my grandfather – the first democratically elected prime minister – on trumped-up charges, and brutalised Pakistani society under the most authoritarian regime our country has ever seen.
He radicalised Pakistan to such an extent that we are still haunted by his actions today. So aggressive and pervasive was the misogyny that as a result of his extremist legislative rollbacks Pakistan became the first country on earth to revoke rights already granted to women.
Zia’s regime decided that a woman’s worth would be half that of the man in the eyes of the law. It was in this environment that my mother cut her political teeth, and led the political campaign against the regime.
Enduring imprisonment, solitary confinement, exile, assassinations of family members and associates was what she had to live through as a young woman.
A poet of the time encapsulated the patriarchal regime’s fear of my mother quite succinctly: “Dartay hain bandooqon walay, aik nihatti larki sai.” (How the people with guns fear an un-armed girl.)
In 1988 my mother led a nationwide election campaign, wrote a bestselling book, had her first child and became the youngest and first female prime minister of the Muslim world. All in one year! For her detractors this wasn’t good enough. She was unacceptable because she was a woman.
Disregarding her overwhelming popularity and mandate, a public campaign was launched to say Islam did not allow for women to rule.
So-called scholars issued fatwas decreeing that if anyone voted for her their marriage would be null and void. This kind of overt misogyny continued while she was prime minister.
Perhaps most controversially when she was pregnant with my sister, Bakhtawar, her prime ministership was challenged for that fact. There were calls for her dismissal, the setting up of a caretaker government because a pregnant woman had no right to be prime minister. It’s not like the constitution allowed for maternity leave.
My mother, being who she was, took this all in her stride with a smile on her face, had her baby in secret and was back at work the next day. For misogynists, no matter what women do, it was and is never good enough.
When my mother was not married, they would say, “Oh, good women are married, so why isn’t she married?” When she did get married, they would say, “Oh, why did she choose to marry him?” Then they would say, “Why is she not having children?” Then when she did have children, they said, “Oh, why is she always pregnant?”
Growing up we just did not appreciate these challenges. Her final campaign was against the military dictatorship of General Musharraf and the scourge of violent extremism in Pakistan.
She led the long fight against Musharraf, fought consistently for democracy, and advocated for the release of political prisoners, including my father who at this point had spent a collective 11-and-a-half years in prison without a conviction. All the while raising her children as a single mother, lecturing and giving speeches to make a living, making time to have a meal with us every day, taking us to the mosque every Friday, helping us with our homework, and much to our annoyance, never missing PTA meetings!
Driven always by a sense of destiny and a duty to her people, she returned to Pakistan to lead the fight against extremism and dictatorship. In doing so she spoke out against religious fascists with a brand of courage not shown by any of her contemporary male politicians.
Ultimately the forces of dictatorship and extremism robbed me of my mother but she lives on as a symbol of hope, a role model for women across the world. She proved beyond a doubt, with her life and relentless courage, that women can certainly do everything. While the political pygmies who opposed her will be forgotten, she lives on in history as a global icon.
I know every child thinks of their mother as superwoman, I certainly did.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Taylor Swift - …Ready For It?

Video Report - "THIS IS A HUGE DEAL!!!" Bernie Sanders' BRILLIANT Reaction to the Trump-Russia News

Florida teen shooting survivors announce 'March for Our Lives' demonstration in Washington






  • Teen survivors of the school shooting massacre in Florida last week are calling for a march on Washington to demand action on gun control.
    Student organizers of the protest told ABC News' "This Week" Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday that they are determined to use protests and political action to make the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida, a turning point in the national debate over gun control.

    “People keep asking us, 'What about the Stoneman Douglas shooting is going to be different, because this has happened before and change hasn't come?'” Cameron Kasky, an 11th-grader told Raddatz. “This is it.”
    “People are saying that it’s not time to talk about gun control. And we can respect that,” Kasky added. “Here’s a time. March 24th in every single city. We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives.”
    Called "March for Our Lives," the demonstration should transcend politics, according to Kasky and four of his classmates whom Raddatz also interviewed -- Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Alex Wind and Jaclyn Corin.
    "This isn't about the GOP," Kasky said. "This isn't about the Democrats. This is about the adults. We feel neglected and at this point, you're either with us or against us."
    “Any politician on either side who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this,” the high school junior said of the shooting on Feb. 14 that killed 17 students and teachers at the school. “At the end of the day, the NRA is fostering and promoting this gun culture.” Kasky said the point is to "create a new normal where there's a badge of shame on any politician who's accepting money from the NRA.” Gonzalez added that the student activists from Parkland want to have conversations about guns with President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican.
    “We want to give them the opportunity to be on the right side of this,” she said.
    Raddatz asked Gonzalez what she would say to other students around the country to encourage them to join the protest.
    The high school senior said, "The kids who need to take part in this are kids, everyday kids just like us. They are students who need to understand that this can very quickly happen to them ... They need to join us, and they need to help us get our message across. All students should realize that a school shooting could happen anywhere."


    Student survivors of Florida shooting slam Trump over FBI tweets




    Katanga Johnson
    Student survivors of the deadliest-ever shooting at a U.S. high school reacted angrily on Sunday after U.S. President Donald Trump said the FBI may have been too distracted with a Russia probe to follow leads that could have prevented the massacre.
    “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter,” Trump tweeted late Saturday. “They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion.”
    Trump offered no evidence that there was any connection between the investigation of Russian meddling and the FBI’s failure to prevent the Florida shooting.
    “Oh my god. 17 OF MY CLASSMATES AND FRIENDS ARE GONE AND YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO MAKE THIS ABOUT RUSSIA???!!,” Morgan Williams, a 16-year-old junior, tweeted in response to Trump’s message. “HAVE A DAMN HEART.”
    The FBI has acknowledged it failed to act on a tip warning that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, possessed a gun and the desire to kill. Cruz is charged with 17 murders at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Ft. Lauderdale.
    Another student said they wanted authorities to take action, not engage in a blame game. “You know what isn’t acceptable?” said Carly Novell, a senior at Douglas. “Blaming everyone but the shooter and the lack of gun control in our country. You even blamed the students. We did report him, we tried. But how were we supposed to know what would happen? Your lack of sympathy proves how pitiful of a person you are.”
    The students’ outrage over Trump’s comments came one day after hundreds of gun control advocates rallied at the Broward County federal courthouse with students who survived the attack, parents and community leaders to demand a ban on the sale of assault weapons in the state.

    Video Report - CNN FAREED ZAKARIA GPS 2/19/18 - Iran's increasing influence in the Region

    Ghazal - Tahira syed - Yeh Aalam Shauq ka dekha na jaaye

    Music - Mehdi Hassan ...Rafta Rafta Woh Meri

    Music - Lokan do do yaar banaye - Afshan Zebi

    Video Report - Bilawal Bhutto interview to @IndiaToday at Davos in WEF18

    Video Report - President PPPP Asif Ali Zardari's exclusive interview with Adil Abbasi on ARY NEWS

    What accounts for Pakistan’s troop deployment to Saudi Arabia?

    Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have historically had close military partnership in the Middle East, and Islamabad has recently announced that it is sending troops to the oil-rich kingdom on a “training and advice mission,” without specifying the exact role the soldiers will play there.
    Pakistan Army announced the deployment decision after a meeting between Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf Saeed al-Maliki at the army headquarters in the eastern Pakistani city of Rawalpindi on February 15.
    It came after General Bajwa paid a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this month and met with high-profile officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Commander of Ground Forces Lieutenant General Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Abdulaziz.
    It was reportedly the Pakistani commander’s second trip to Saudi Arabia in two months, which apparently played a role in the Pakistani Army’s decision to deploy soldiers to Saudi Arabia.
    There are already 1,379 Pakistani servicemen deployed in Saudi Arabia, most of whom are from Pakistan Army, along with a few Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Pakistan Navy (PN) officials, according to security sources.
    This is while no official word on the number of additional Pakistan troops being sent to the kingdom has been released. The fresh deployment is said to be slightly over 1,000 soldiers.
    The development is notable because Saudi Arabia has been pushing Pakistan to provide ships, aircraft and troops since 2015 for its devastating military campaign against Yemen.
    Pakistan’s parliament, however, has decided against the deployment to avoid backlash from sizeable Pakistani Shia Muslim community, and above all, deterioration in relations with neighboring Iran, which is supporting the Houthi Ansarullah movement in their fight against the Saudi aggression against Yemen.
    The major policy shift comes as former Pakistan Army chief, General Raheel Sharif, is the current head of the so-called Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), which is based in Riyadh.
    Sharif has already won Bin Salman's trust and expects Pakistani military officials to further expand military ties with Saudi Arabia.
    Moreover, Saudi Arabia wants to drag Pakistan into its regional adventurism and aggressive campaign against Iran.
    While the Saudi military is well-equipped with an array of advanced European and American fighter jets and state-of-the-art munitions, the kingdom’s combat forces are not as experienced and versatile as Iranians.
    Saudi officials hope that the Pakistani Army would whip their ground forces into shape.
    Pakistan has long been involved in protecting Saudi Arabia and the House of Saud, but ultimately it is Islamabad, which is more dependent on Riyadh.
    Pakistani pilots take part in a Saudi-Pakistani joint military exercise at an undisclosed location in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Reuters)
    Saudi Arabia, for example, gave oil to Pakistan in 1998 to help Pakistan weather international sanctions against it for conducting a nuclear test.
    The Saudis also saved former Paksitani prime minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, after he was overthrown in a military coup in 1999, and he is thus indebted to them.
    The new deployment plan comes against the background that Pakistani soldiers have frequently been deployed in Saudi Arabia.
    Pakistan helped formation of the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) in the 1960s and trained its first jet fighter pilots.
    Pakistani combat pilots also flew RSAF English Electric Lightning supersonic fighter aircraft during the al-Wadiah War between Saudi Arabia and the People's Republic of South Yemen in 1969.
    Pakistani troops also assisted Saudi forces in suppressing the Grand Mosque seizure, which occurred between November and December 1979.
    Moreover, nearly 15,000 Pakistani troops were posted in Saudi Arabia throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
    Up to 13,000 Pakistani troops and 6,000 advisors were posted in Saudi Arabia during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991 as well.
    Under a bilateral security cooperation agreement struck in 1982, Pakistan has accepted to help Saudi Arabia with military training, defense production and joint military exercises.
    Pakistani troops have frequently taken part in maneuvers inside Saudi Arabia alongside Saudi Armed Forces.

    http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/02/18/552820/What-accounts-for-Pakistans-troop-deployment-to-Saudi-Arabia

    #Pakistan - There's nothing that Imran Khan has added to politics - ''The zero man''





    By Cyril Almeida


    ALLOW yourself a little irritation. Forget hate or love for a minute. Whether you love him or hate him or will vote for him to the end of eternity or never in a million years, forget that.
    Allow yourself to be a little irritated with Imran.
    Because, by God, is he annoying. The Lodhran loss could be a blip or it could be confirmation of what many have long suspected — that Imran can’t win, doesn’t know how to win.
    That’s fine.
    Many have lusted after power, few have achieved it. Imran has over-promised and under-delivered for so long now that a definitive defeat the next time round wouldn’t be such a big deal.
    At this point, Imran winning may be the bigger surprise.
    But even in defeat, an impact can be had. So you don’t get to be in government or parliament in large numbers, but there’s still a chance to shape the governance agenda or the national discourse.
    Kinda like the PPP did with the south-Punjab-province gamble. Knowing it was heading for a walloping in the last election, the PPP tried the ethnic card: vote for us and we’ll give you your own province.
    There’s nothing really — nothing new, significant or potentially lasting — that Imran has added to politics here.
    It was all kinds of stupid. Two Punjab provinces would have doubled Punjab’s share in the Senate and representation in the CCI, ECP, NFC and sundry federal bodies. It would have given Punjab two high courts, possibly funnelling more Punjab judges to the Supreme Court.
    If the smaller provinces think they have a bad deal of it right now, two Punjab provinces would have been a whole other headache.
    But the PPP was desperate, the Seraiki vote was its only chance in Punjab and an election had to be fought.
    It did cause a change of sorts, though. Alarmed by the possibility of their prized possession being split and concerned that the separatist genie may be difficult to put back in the bottle, the PML-N began to take south Punjab seriously.
    A decent electoral haul from south Punjab followed and the past four years have been spent pouring money into the region. South Punjab isn’t and will never be Lahore, but the political distance between Lahore and south Punjab has shrunk.
    The heavy turnout in the by-election was a clue as is the problem of having too many winners in the PML-N camp. Having too many winners in the same constituency fighting for the same ticket can be a problem, but it’s a better problem than having no winners.
    Point being, the PPP’s desperation forced the PML-N to respond to the ethnic card by doing more of the stuff the N-League is handy at, like pouring cement and tar and sprucing up infrastructure and handing out stuff.
    So back to Imran. Imagine he disappears and the PTI implodes. Poof, gone, suddenly, all of it. What would the contribution left behind be, to national politics, to what other parties do, to how the system behaves?
    That’s what’s so irritating about Imran.
    You can’t think of anything.
    It’s all the more frustrating because of how far he’s come. From a party of one he’s dragged the PTI all the way to becoming the second largest party in the country. Even now, he’s still got a realistic shot at power in a few months.
    But there’s nothing. Nothing durable that the PTI has contributed, by design or accident, to the national game. PTI groupies harp on about the anti-corruption stuff, but it’s mostly more of the same.
    Sure, Imran has made anti-corruption his signature message, but by narrowly focusing on Nawaz, and occasionally Zardari, he hasn’t moved the needle on systemic corruption. ‘My opponent is corrupt’ isn’t exactly a novel political message.
    PTI haters will flag the coarsening of political rhetoric that the PTI has effected. It’s true that Imran has been crude and the PTI got a jump on the social-media game with a mocking, ugly tone.
    But tales of what BB suffered at the hands of the IJI and the PML-N before the Sharifs became holier-than-thou are hardly forgotten. And the universality of social-media ugliness suggests it’s less the PTI and more the medium that has unleashed wretchedness globally.
    Up and down and through the PTI agenda you can sift and search and there’s nothing really — nothing new, significant or potentially lasting — that Imran has added to politics here.
    There’s nothing even that Imran has forced the PML-N to change tack on.
    Unless Nawaz barnstorming the country like Imran is considered a change. Given the success Nawaz seems to be having with it, if you were the PTI you’d probably rather that Nawaz hadn’t taken to matching jalsa for jalsa.
    Electoral reforms were the great possibility — and the catalyst was definitely Imran’s campaign to delegitimise the results of the last election. But once it became clear that the PML-N wasn’t about to be ousted, Imran lost interest in electoral reforms.
    In the end, the electoral reforms package was overshadowed by the Nawaz-as-party-president clause and the repulsive character who arrived in Faizabad.
    So vote for PTI or don’t vote for PTI, love Imran or hate Imran. But also allow yourself a little irritation.
    Because for all the noise Imran has made, for all the votes he’s won, for all the disruption he’s caused, he’s managed to achieve virtually nothing.
    He doesn’t seem to know how to win nor has he forced, directly or indirectly, deliberately or unwittingly, positive change in anyone else or the system itself.
    It’s annoying, irritating and exhausting.

    #Pakistan - Justice for Zainab - #JusticeForZainab






    The verdict in the Zainab rape and murder case has been as expected, with the anti-terrorism court sentencing her murderer Imran Ali to death on four counts. Zainab’s family has hailed the verdict as have other; and perhaps the verdict offers some sense of justice. DNA testing and forensic evidence had left little doubt that Imran was the culprit, and he had confessed to the crime during the trial. It also appears that he was responsible for the rape and murder of at least seven other girls in Kasur. There are, however, many questions that come to mind, questions that should perhaps have been asked when the Kasur child pornography and sex abuse racket broke in 2015 and we learnt how between 2006 and 2014 at least 280 children had been sexually abused, filmed, the footage sold to pornographic rings and money extorted from their parents.

    The main question is that of the vulnerability of children, especially those from lower-income groups, who cannot always be protected by cars, tall boundary walls and household staff. These children must face the dangers of the streets and in too many cases their parents are forced to hand them over to madressahs or to work as labourers in households or workshops. The year 2001 Javed Iqbal case, in which 100 boys were murdered and their bodies dissolved in acid, had exposed what risks were faced by children who had run away from home because of tensions or domestic violence within their homes.
    Sadly the media, schools, society and other groups have neglected the problems which lead to tragedies such as that of Zainab. The manner in which the Zainab case was highlighted at a specific time and politics pulled into it highlights the character of our country and the willingness to exploit a dead child, even before she had been buried, in order to hit out at political enemies. The media allowed itself to become a tool in this game – forgetting the broader aspect of what we can do to prevent other children from facing the same fate as Zainab or cracking down on abuse which is entrenched deep within our society. The death sentence rids us of one man. But there are many others like him who have still to be punished And, until there is a major overhaul in our mindset, we will be unable to protect the weak and the vulnerable.

     In a country where students are lynched to death and sexual assault is common, apathy still prevails. Should nothing end up changing, this verdict will do little to make us a safer, fairer society.

    Asma Jahangir is no more — but her formidable legacy lives on




    By Raza Rumi

    The earliest and the only judgment against a military coup is attributed to her name.

    It will take some time to accept that Asma Jahangir has gone silent. That she is not at the centre of Pakistan’s political discourse. As a formidable and relentless fighter, Asma Jahangir personified the struggles Pakistanis have waged against executive excesses, shameful cultural practices and discriminatory legislation throughout the country’s history. Jahangir kept the torch of public liberty, freedom and democracy alive for decades. Since her foray into activism as a young woman, Asma Jahangir remained a fearless champion of democratic rights and, in many ways, the conscience of Pakistan during the last forty years.
    A leading Pakistani lawyer, Jahangir was most renowned for her role as a human rights activist. This was a role which resulted in her confronting the military dictatorships of General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf, as well as civilian autocrats. In 1972, when Asma Jahangir was a teenager, she filed her first petition to have her father — who had been arrested for denouncing war crimes in Bangladesh — released from prison. She won the case. In fact, the earliest and the only judgement against a military coup is attributed to her name. Her resistance to the Pakistan army’s active role in politics was legendary. In 1999, when sections of Pakistan’s civil society welcomed the apparently secular Musharraf, hers was the only clear, unequivocal voice against military intervention. A decade later when Pakistan rallied behind judges and lawyers to oust Musharraf, Jahangir was once again at the forefront.
    In 1980, Asma Jahangir and her sister Hina Jilani partnered with other women lawyers formed the first law firm established by women in Pakistan, named the AGHS Legal Aid Cell. To date, AGHS has provided legal services to several women and members of minority groups, and it continues to be a benchmark against which the legal profession and public law in Pakistan will be judged in the annals of Pakistani history.
    During Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship, Asma was also at the vanguard of activists who created the Women’s Action Forum (WAF). Jahangir, along with other women activists, led protests against enforcement of fundamentalist laws, specifically the Law on Evidence (which made a woman’s testimony inferior to that of men), together with demonstrating against the conviction of a 13-year-old blind rape victim for zina (adultery). WAF was the first spark of resistance against military rule and inspired men and women of all faiths, ethnicities and backgrounds to rally against a repressive dictatorship. Her struggles continued thereafter even when civilian governments were ruling Pakistan. She was as outspoken as before and refused to adopt a partisan line. Within years, Jahangir received global acclaim and became a symbol of progressive and liberal-democratic elements within Pakistan. She was recognised and honoured across the globe for her stellar contributions to human rights and advocacy for marginalised segments of Pakistani society.
    Another key contribution by Jahangir was the establishment and nurturing of the formidable Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Today, it is the biggest and most credible network of rights’ activists in Pakistan with a presence in all corners of the country. Jahangir remained the Co-Chairperson of the HRCP for several years. She was also one of the founders of the South Asia Forum for Human Rights.
    Even though Jahangir will always be remembered for her work in Pakistan, her influence had turned global in the past two decades. The United Nations appointed her as a Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Religion of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. From 1998-2004, she also worked as a Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary or Summary Executions, a job, which took her to Afghanistan, Central America and Colombia. In recent years, she was UN’s special rapporteur for Iran and her straight-talk angered the hardliners in Iran as well.
    But it was home where she dazzled. In 2010, she was elected as the first ever woman president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. This was a time when she was also a fierce critic of the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Jahangir supported Chaudhry when Gen Musharraf wrongfully fired him in 2007 but once the judge regained his position, Jahangir was back to business of checking abuse of power. As the bar leader, Jahangir brought some sanity amid hyper-activism of the Supreme Court during 2010-2012.
    Yet, her credibility at home was always challenged by fundamentalists and the all-powerful establishment. Her opponents in the Mullah-Military combine left no stone unturned to defame her. She was declared as a Western agent and, in recent years, an Indian stooge. The reason was obvious: Jahangir stood for peace with India and vociferously articulated an alternative vision for Pakistan which was secular, democratic and based on regional cooperation.
    Her consistent stance on principles of human rights and democracy unnerved every ruler in the country. During Musharraf’s time, she was a fierce critic of his regime and he even named her several times in a disparaging manner. In 2005, she was abused and manhandled during a mixed gender marathon which had been organised to raise awareness about violence against women. Little wonder then that after Musharraf launched his second coup in the guise of an emergency in 2007, Jahangir was placed under house arrest.
    Unlike many in Pakistan’s fractured civil society, Jahangir shunned public offices. Benazir Bhutto, in her two stints as Prime Minister, wanted Asma Jahangir to become a judge of the superior courts but Jahangir refused.
    In 2013, Nawaz Sharif was elected as the prime minister for the third time. From the very start, it was evident that Sharif’s relationship with the establishment would be rocky to say the least. And it turned out to be just the same. A long drawn civil-military conflict culminated in the judicial ouster of Sharif. Throughout his tenure, Jahangir supported the primacy of civilian institutions and after Sharif’s controversial dismissal by the court, she was the staunchest of voices against the judicial excess. The opposition leader Imran Khan and his party distorted her position as political support for Sharif. Jahangir called out Khan for his soft stance on Islamic extremism and his bidding of the military establishment to destabilise Sharif. Jahangir’s detractors, therefore, multiplied as Khan’s young supporters saw her as the foe. In addition to being anti-Pakistan, an Indian agent, enemy of Islam, she was also painted as an apologist for ‘corrupt’ Sharif dynasty.
    Jahangir fought back and with her usual gusto. Never deterred by personal attacks she was unmoved. Her positions on all matters, political and legal, remained unchanged. This was her real strength and confidence in principles she had remained loyal to.
    This larger-than-life commitment to her passion and gritty hard work came at a cost. Her health suffered. Leading a highly stressful life — waging multiple battles at the same time — perhaps ended in that fateful cardiac arrest last Sunday. For many of us, it will be a black Sunday for we are yet to determine all that has been lost with the passing away of an exceptional individual.
    Even in her death, Jahangir overthrew conventions and her public funeral was attended by women who are generally not allowed to pray with men. The right-wing has created a furore with fatwas flowing in. A nasty campaign on TV and social media continues defamation. But these desperate attempts are likely to fail in dwindling her legacy of resistance and hope.
    Rest in power, Asma Jahangir. You showed us what a meaningful life entails.

    #AsmaJehangir - My friend Asma







    A little lawyer from Lahore became the greatest defender of human rights in the subcontinent. What a life to celebrate for a long, long time.
    I cannot recall exactly when and how I first met Asma. Did I see her when I was invited to dinner by her father, Malik Ghulam Jilani, to meet Nawab Akbar Bugti, who was staying with him? Not sure. But in the early 1980s I have several images of her in my mind. In one image she is standing between me and Aitzaz Ahsan, whose protégé she at that time was supposed to be, by the bedside of Mahmud Ali Kasuri. Mian Kasuri sahib was unwell and wanted to discuss with his young friends how to strengthen the Lahore High Court Bar Association’s challenge to the Zia tyranny.
    However, I was soon attracted by Asma’s campaign against the Hudood Ordinances and her defence of its victims, especially the visually impaired Safia Bibi, who had been sentenced to imprisonment and flogging for committing zina. She established herself, in my estimation, as a doughty fighter worthy of our respect. This impression was deepened when she was accused of having provided justification for the addition of the blasphemy provision to the Penal Code. I was among the many defenders of civil liberties who rallied to her defence.
    Beginning in the 1990s, Asma won an embarrassingly large number of international awards. She took these awards in her stride. She valued her title of Senior Supreme Court Advocate more.
    This was a period of great ferment in Lahore’s political circles. The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD, a name coined by top journalist Nisar Osmani) had been founded in 1981. Ziaul Haq had used the hijacking of a PIA plane to fill the jails with PPP leaders and a large number of leftists, and to proclaim the first Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). He had also embroiled Pakistan in the Afghan conflict. At the same time the world had started looking at Zia’s arbitrary curtailment of the legal protection to citizens. All these developments influenced Asma’s mind and she decided to broaden her concerns and address human rights.
    A distinct image in my mind is that Asma is standing in the door of my small room at Mazhar Ali Khan’s brave weekly Viewpoint and I am scribbling something. She says: “Rehman sahib, let us set up a Human Rights Commission“. And I say without lifting my head “All right, let us do that“. For many years she would repeat this scene to chide me for my casual response to her momentous announcement and to remind me that I had been wasting my time writing in small letters something of little value.
    Of course, she had been talking to a lot of people, especially after she had established the Malik Ghulam Jilani Foundation to continue her father’s work following his sudden death. The Foundation held a convention in Lahore. It was at this gathering that the decision to set up the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) was taken.
    The convention had the stamp of Asma’s organisational capacity. Everybody who was doing something for women’s rights, for political prisoners’ release and welfare, or for the liberation of bonded labour was invited (Asma had already played a key role in the case of Darshan Masih in which the Supreme Court started the train of events that led to the abolition of bonded labour).
    A distinguished guest had brought some posters and other display material to expose the excesses committed by the Bhutto regime. Asma put her foot down. She refused to allow the convention to be marred by unnecessary controversies. The honourable guest was free to walk out.
    HRCP was founded in October 1986 and it came at the right time. Martial Law had been withdrawn, Muhammad Khan Junejo had become prime minister after a party-less poll. Benazir Bhutto had returned. MRD had conducted a movement three years earlier and another was only a year away. With Justice Dorab Patel as its head and a governing body full of eminent fighters for basic rights, Asma as Secretary General launched HRCP on a full-throttle drive to defend the people’s human rights.
    The commission had its office in Asma’s law chamber above a shop on Hall Road. For three years it received no donor support and all office-bearers themselves bore their expenses on attending its meetings. The commission started getting financial support in 1990 and it shifted to a flat that Asma had bought for herself in Gulberg.
    1998 was a remarkably successful year in Asma’s life. This was the year that Asma gave a dazzling display of her lobbying skills. We were in the midst of a regional human rights conference when we received reports that the National Assembly had passed a bill for the enforcement of the religious code, similar to Ziaul Haq’s 9th amendment that had been passed by the National Assembly but had lapsed due to the Junejo government’s failure to table it in the Senate. Within a few hours Asma persuaded the leaders of all opposition parties to block the measure in the Senate. The last one to fall in line was Akbar Bugti. He was asleep and woke up at midnight and immediately nodded concurrence. The bill was never sent to the Senate. It lapsed.
    One other example of Asma Jahangir turning her sole voice into the voice of the majority was the demand for increase in women’s seats in legislatures. A large convention was organised jointly by HRCP and Sustainable Development Policy Institute to discuss the quantum of women’s seats in assemblies. Most organisations present were thinking of 10-12 per cent seats for women. Asma said: “Nothing less than 33 per cent.”
    A long debate ensued. She was supported by Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, the then HRCP vice-chair for Punjab, and Aziz Siddiqui, and one or two others. By and by, Asma’s supporters grew and by the end of the convention women’s demand for seats in legislatures had been fixed at 33 per cent.
    Beginning in the 1990s, Asma won an embarrassingly large number of international awards, including the King Baudouin Prize for development, which they wished to give to Asma alone but she put HRCP as a co-awardee and gave all the prize money, a substantial amount, to HRCP. She took these awards in her stride and valued only a few, such as the Right to Living Award, said to be an alternative to the Nobel Prize. Four foreign universities gave her honorary doctorates – two Canadian, one Swiss and one American – though she never used the prefix ‘Dr’. She especially valued her title of Senior Supreme Court Advocate. There was an unmistakable glint in her eyes when she told me about this. The little girl who had dared to defend Safia Bibi had arrived among the highest category of the country’s lawyers. She had found a place of distinction among her peers.
    The most important thing that happened in 1998 was her nomination as the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. She decided to consult Aziz Siddiqui and me about whether she should accept the job. She talked about her practice, her work at AGHS Legal Aid Cell, her duties to HRCP. Apparently she wanted us to endorse her entry into the UN system and perhaps an assurance from us that HRCP’s work would not suffer. We duly helped her accept the UN offer.
    With her work against extra-legal killings Asma took off into the international orbit. Important world leaders – presidents, prime ministers, academics, artists – sought her company and some advice too. She grew up fast. She acquired a deeper understanding of men and matters. She quickly learned to comprehend the problems related to extra-legal killings in various countries and also mastered the art of writing concise reports. She outpaced most of the people who at one stage or another considered themselves as her mentors.
    The first UN mandate was renewed after three years and continued till 2004. This was in accordance with the normal practice. A bit unusual was the fact that without any break she was given a second mandate – on Freedom of Religion and Belief – that continued till 2010. This mandate enabled Asma to further refine her thought process and her advocacy skills. She also became more circumspect. The way she carried herself in public changed and she began to care for what she wore. Quite a few things did not change, though. Smoking, for instance. Doctors’ warnings persuaded her to switch over to lighter brands. For some time bidi was the thing. Then back to thin cigarettes.
    Also gossip sessions with friends were not given up. The core group comprised friends since childhood – Seema Iftikhar and Nazish Attaullah, followed by Mona Kasuri and Saleema Hashmi. The common factor among them was that all of them, including Asma herself, had themselves made their lives and each one of them had excelled in the area of their choice. Asma would often relate with pride the hard struggles they had to wage before achieving success. She adored her friends and she also admired them.
    Her love of having regular meals did not change either. Lunch was usually out of office and she did not care what she ate. But dinners were always elaborate affairs. She liked to cook for guests and especially for her children in foreign lands. She had a special liking for fish and would buy it from a choice shop in Islamabad and Karachi, to be carried home for the family, the bad smell making fellow travellers uncomfortable sometimes. During drives in the interior, especially in Sindh, she would like to stop at the first tikka shop by the roadside. She ate little but enjoyed a fresh tikka to cleanse her palate.
    She was a good mother to her children. A good governess helped while the children were small. She gave them full freedom to become whatever they wanted to be and her husband, Tahir Jahangir, played his role quietly. They gave the children opportunities for studying in the best institutions of Canada and the US. If any one of them had a health problem Asma would take the child to any part of the globe where treatment was possible.
    Asma loved crowds. Active crowds, and crowds that kept moving forward – Jaloos. She would issue the call whenever the crowd grew to a sizeable number.
    We were having a workshop in Mirpurkhas with an unusually large number of correspondents and field workers from all parts of Sindh, around 650 of them. The Commissioner had imposed section 144 but that didn’t deter Asma. She asked me about taking out a procession. My view was that a procession could be carried out if the people who had come to listen to the speeches exceeded 3,000. By afternoon the crowd had swelled to more than 3,000 and Asma’s wish could not be denied. With Iqbal Haider jumping up and down in the frontline, the procession marched along the town’s roads. The administration struck back by picking up senior activist Akhtar Baloch. But Asma made so much noise that he had to be released after ‘first aid’ treatment only.
    Beginning with 2010 when she became the first woman president of the Supreme Court Bar Association she led a more hectic life than even a far stronger body could bear. The long line of litigants at her office grew longer. Even the General who had wanted to slap her wished her to defend her. Constant travelling between Lahore and Islamabad, with frequent breaks for flying visits to London, Geneva, Toronto and New York City, catching bits of sleep in cars and on planes, making notes, checking e-mails in short journey breaks, she took too much liberty with her body. She was a sound manager of time but there is a limit to which hours and minutes could be stretched.
    Several times I called on her to slow down, because I saw a thin screen of pain on her face, which many thought was a sign of annoyance. Her remark always was, “I am OK”. She literally worked herself to death.
    There were quite a few things she left undone. But any mortal will be proud of what she had done. A little lawyer from Lahore had become the greatest defender of human rights in the subcontinent and one of the bravest voices in the world against injustice, falsehood, autocracy, patriarchy, intolerance and humbug.
    What a life, my friend Asma, and what a life to celebrate for a long, long time.

    Saturday, February 17, 2018

    Video Report - Yogurt may reduce heart disease risk.

    Video Report - Homeless in the US

    Video Report - #FloridaSchoolShooting #FloridaShooting - The calls for action get louder as the Parkland community grieves

    Video Report - FBI & police knew the Florida shooter posed a threat, but ‘protocol wasn't followed’

    #FloridaSchoolShooting - Obama on Florida shooting: We are grieving, 'but we are not powerless'

    BY REBECCA SAVRANSKY 

    Former President Barack Obama said Thursday that "we are not powerless" against gun violence in the wake of the deadly shooting at a Florida high school.
    "We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job," Obama tweeted.
    We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we're doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change.

    At least 17 people died and more than a dozen were wounded after a gunman opened fire Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
    Since the shooting, multiple lawmakers have called for Congress to act to prevent another tragedy.

    #FloridaSchoolShooting - Clinton urges political action in response to Parkland shooting



    By Dan Merica

    Hillary Clinton urged political action Friday in response to the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, pushing her followers to "remember these feelings in November, and VOTE."
    "This week we lost 17 Americans in Parkland - the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2012. Since then, 438 people have been shot and 138 killed in over 230 school shootings," she wrote. "Now is the time to listen to the students, teachers, and parents demanding that we end this carnage once and for all with gun safety laws that keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them."
    Clinton tweeted about David Hogg, a student at the high school, who urged Congress to take action during an interview with CNN.
      "Please! We are children. You guys are, like...the adults," Hogg said. "Take action, work together, come over your politics, and get something done."
      Clinton retweeted the video of Hogg's comments, adding: "We owe it to this young man who lost classmates."
      Clinton continued: "Mass shootings are not inevitable. The majority of Americans support common sense gun reform. Though we feel angry, heartbroken, even helpless now, we have the power to elect people who will protect lives, not gun sellers' profits. Remember these feelings in November, and VOTE."
      The messages came soon after the Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Clinton, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the indictments.
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