Sunday, March 30, 2014
http://www.bernama.com/Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak Sunday assured that the Malaysian government was fully committed to the search operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370, and will not stop until the plane was found. As the search operation entered the third week, the prime minister said his thoughts and prayers were always with the families of the passengers and crew of the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft that vanished on March 8. "As we enter the third week in the search for MH370, be assured that the Malaysian government is fully committed to the search operation and we will not stop until the plane is found," he said in his latest Facebook posting. Najib also expressed his appreciation to the Australian government and other countries taking part in the search for the plane. "I would like to take this opportunity to convey my gratitude to the Australian government and other nations involved for their tireless efforts in locating our missing plane," he said. The plane with 239 passengers and crew onboard, went missing about an hour into its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight after taking off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12.41am. Najib announced on March 24 that Flight MH370 had ended in a remote region of the southern Indian Ocean.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said here on Saturday that China will never allow the Philippines to occupy the Ren'ai Reef off China's Nansha Islands in any form. Hong Lei, the spokesman, made the remarks in a written statement in response to the Philippines' action of sending a supply ship to the Ren' ai Reef with journalists on board on Saturday. He said the Philippines' action was aimed to hype up the South China Sea issue, so as to serve its attempt to illegally seize the Ren'ai Reef. The Philippines' action can not change the fact that China owns sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, including the Ren'ai Reef, and can not shake China's resolve to safeguard its national sovereignty, said the spokesman. He stressed that China would never allow the Philippines to undermine the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by China and ASEAN member countries in 2002. The Philippines grounded a warship near the Ren'ai Reef in the South China Sea in 1999 and refused to retrieve the ship. In a recent statement, the Philippine side claimed that the stranded warship has served as a permanent installation since 1999. The Philippines has also repeatedly attempted to deliver construction materials to build on the reef, in order to intensify and expand its military presence.
A court in Bahrain has sentenced 13 pro-democracy protesters including several teenagers to life in prison, as the Al Khalifa regime steps up its crackdown on dissent. The court issued the verdicts on Sunday after convicting the defendants of allegedly attempting to kill a policeman and participating in an anti-regime protest outside the capital city of Manama in March 2012. Mohammad Al-Tajir, a lawyer for the convicted Bahrainis, said another person was sentenced to 10 years in prison in the same case. He added that the defense plans to appeal. On March 26, another court in Bahrain handed jail terms of up to 10 years to 29 anti-regime protesters. The prosecution accused the men of being behind an attack with petrol bombs and iron rods on a police center in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, in April 2012. A policeman was wounded in the incident. The defendants, however, dismissed the accusations, insisting that they were tortured and their confessions were obtained under duress. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters. Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds injured and jailed by the regime forces since the uprising broke out. Last month, Amnesty International denounced the “relentless repression” of anti-regime protesters in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, blaming Bahraini security forces for their repeated use of “excessive force to quash anti-government protests.”
David Montgomery, a geology professor at the University of Washington, talks about what caused the deadly weekend landslide that killed at least 24 people and left scores missing.
Halfway home from a trip to the Middle East, Secretary Kerry turned back after refueling his plane in Ireland and arrived in Paris late on Saturday. He held talks with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Sunday about a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Kerry was welcomed at the Russian ambassador's residence in Paris by Lavrov and the two men posed for a photograph before starting a meeting on a plan to ease the worst East-West standoff since the end of the Cold War. The talks are being held behind closed doors.
AT present, the pervasive characteristic of Pakistan’s security policies — regarding the TTP, Afghanistan and India — is reactive incoherence. TTP: Despite the TTP’s escalated violence, the government has persisted in its preference for ‘talks’. The objectives sought to be achieved are unclear. Obviously, the government cannot accommodate any of the main demands of the TTP without compromising Pakistan’s Constitution and the country’s progress and prosperity. What is required in essence is the TTP’s surrender. Can this be achieved through talks and at this time? The right time to negotiate with the TTP would be once it is militarily and politically on the defensive. This is the lesson of other successful counter insurgencies. Islamabad has reversed this order. Nor can negotiations succeed unless these are conducted with the ‘principles’. Neither of the negotiating committees contains these. The TTP is a hydra-headed monster, which includes a score of extremist parties and groups, with diverse aims, composition, locations and affiliations. A large number of its members are foreigners — Arabs, Uzbeks and Afghans. Its affiliations are complex: Al Qaeda supports it; Afghan intelligence collaborates with it, and Indian intelligence has infiltrated it. Can negotiations succeed with these elements? Perhaps the government is smarter than presumed and will utilise these talks to divide the TTP into the good, bad and ugly. Perhaps it needs to go through the motions of these talks to justify the military action that will be inevitably required to defeat the TTP. Whatever the policy, it needs to be clearly articulated and secure public support. Else, it will fail. Afghanistan: The ongoing transition in Afghanistan is likely to be messy and potentially dangerous for Pakistan. Yet, Islamabad is strangely silent on the developments next door. There has been no concerted response to President Karzai’s repeated diatribes against Pakistan and its security forces and agencies. Nor has any view been expressed on the US plans to leave behind a rump force in Afghanistan post-2014. Even if Washington secures Afghan agreement to this, sustaining this reduced force will be difficult. Thus, unless a negotiated peace is achieved, Afghanistan is likely to descend into civil war. This will spread to Pakistan and also compromise Pakistan’s goal of neutralising the TTP. Pakistan is well placed to promote a negotiated peace in Afghanistan. But to do so, it has to exercise its reputed influence with the Afghan Taliban; separate them from the TTP; build confidence with the successors of the Northern Alliance; promote dialogue with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China to forge regional support for a negotiated settlement. India: The Pakistan government has made several gestures and pleas for good relations with India. These overtures have not been reciprocated. New Delhi has refused to engage with Pakistan except on terrorism and trade. It is obviously a tactical imperative for Pakistan to ease tensions with its eastern neighbour, particularly while it is preoccupied with internal security challenges and the difficult situation on its western border. But the gestures made to India need to be calculated and well-timed. Above all, these should not compromise Pakistan’s vital interests or positions. The thesis that trade is the panacea for resolving Pakistan’s problems with India is naive and fallacious. Policies should not be adopted merely to ‘look good’. Offering MFN status to India on the eve of its elections and while the US and EU are filing WTO complaints against Indian trade restrictions, is to say the least, bad timing. Islamabad needs to recognise, as New Delhi has, that Pakistan-India relations will remain adversarial. The primary requirement is to manage relations in ways that avoid crises and conflicts. Two issues are central to such management: Kashmir and the military balance. India’s ongoing repression in Kashmir can erupt at any time into widespread violence and spark a crisis. Pakistan needs to deploy its diplomacy to halt Indian excesses in Indian-held Kashmir and draw world attention to the legitimate aspirations of the Kashmiri people. Absent this, the Indian narrative of ‘Pakistan-sponsored terrorism’ will gain greater credibility. Second, the international community must be made to realise that India’s feverish arms build-up is likely to create a situation where a future crisis or conflict between Pakistan and India can escalate quickly to the nuclear level. Unfortunately, this danger was not projected by Pakistan at the recent Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague. The management of relations with India will become immensely more difficult if Narendra Modi becomes prime minister. Being business friendly is Modi’s slogan; in essence he remains a Hindu supremacist. His animus towards Pakistan, and Indian Muslims, may soon become visible. How will Pakistan respond? There are three preconditions for policy clarity and their effective implementation. One, a strategic vision. Is Pakistan’s leadership still guided by Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan as a democratic, progressive and tolerant state? If so, our policy direction should be clearly opposed to that of the religious extremists. Two, effective and professional institutions. Unfortunately, barring pockets of brilliance, Pakistan’s institutions of governance have steadily deteriorated over the past six decades. Three, consultation and coordination. Unless the executive and its ministries, parliament and the judiciary, as well as the armed forces, operate in unison, incoherence will not be overcome in policy formulation or execution. Pakistan needs to get its policy house in order. The Ukraine crisis has illustrated how internal confusion, corruption and chaos can quickly become an existential threat to a nation.
Raza Habib Raja Raza Rumi, whom I consider a good friend, elder brother and a mentor, was attacked two days ago. He survived whereas his young driver, Mustafa could not make it. When it happens to a person known well to you and to whom you owe a lot, the incident becomes personal at many levels. Suddenly, you realize that words which are being written and spoken are not just a harmless exercise but entail life threatening consequences. And it also makes you realize that in this country- where ironically you are mocked at by titles like “Pseudo Liberal”, “Fake Liberal”, “Dollar Khor”, “Indian and US Agents”- you are always risking your life and despite the risk, continue to be mocked by our sick urban middleclass. And Raza Rumi was risking his life daily and yet I know from Twitter ( where he is very active) that he was mocked by many, in particularly from supporters of the cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan. Mr. Khan himself called liberals as “scums” and “hungry for US dollars”; thus setting an example for hordes of his crazy young followers. Mr. Khan, whom I used to worship as a teenager, has constantly acted as apologist for extremists and his largely dumb followers ( some of them have voted for the first time in life and think that they have become experts on politics), have assumed the responsibility of defending every nonsensical BS which he utters. He is the prime political actor in perpetuating a narrative which the extremists want. No wonder, that they nominated him as one of the members in the committee constituted by them for “peace” negotiations. And narrative is important because the war is also ideological and they won’t spare anyone too vocal in challenging the dominant narrative. In some sense, the extremists should not be worried as to what is being said and written about them. They are after all hidden from the public view and are not conscious of cultivating a “good” image, something which could possibly lead to hitting those who speak against them. They are wary of dissident voices because right now the dominant narrative is that extremism is nothing but a reaction, albeit horrific, of the US war on terror. This narrative feeds on US hatred and the assumed Muslim moral superiority and is reinforced by an overwhelming right wing media. Consequently suicide blasts, despite being claimed by TTP and allied groups, do not lead to revulsion and anger but rather shift the blame to external forces. Despite knowing that suicide blasts are inhuman as many of these use 11 to 13 year old kids and are targeting innocent, a huge bulk of the population displays apathy and worse still, comes up with apologetic defense. Lack of consensus, confusion over the course of action and even twisted sympathy for the extremists, is created and sustained by this narrative and that is why defying counter narrative assumes importance for the militants. And here the narrative is not merely defied through arguments but where essential, backed by threats and actual violence. But even in arguments, the space given to rightwing “experts” on electronic media is generally greater and moreover they are often supported by the anchors themselves. If you do not trust me, see the space given to Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan. In Urdu print media, there are hardly any dissenting voices and whereas English print media does feature people who raise a dissenting voice, but due to language constrains are not that effective. And even then, they continue to be mocked upon and yes, face material dangers. Where Raza Rumi became really intolerable was when he started a program on electronic media in Urdu. He was in many ways, a lone voice, and yet even that was not acceptable. He nearly lost his life for simply saying in what he believes. And despite almost losing his life, he is constantly mocked upon by some. . In this increasingly crazy society, you can only survive if you adhere to one kind of narrative. Pakistan just belongs to those who believe in that narrative, either out of conviction or fear. Dear Pakis, have your “Naya” Pakistan. It belongs to you. Keep on giving shameless apologetic defense to murderers while calling us “fake liberal”, “libidos”, “Pseudo Intellectuals” and yes, “Dollar Khors”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has set out demands for a neutral and federal Ukraine, ahead of crisis talks with his US counterpart in Paris. Sunday evening's meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry was hastily arranged after President Vladimir Putin phoned Barack Obama on Friday. Russia has annexed Crimea and there are reports of thousands of Russian troops massed close to Ukraine's borders. Mr Lavrov has categorically denied any plans for an invasion. But he has stressed Moscow will protect the rights of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers, after pro-EU protests in Kiev led to the ousting of Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych. He had faced months of protests after pulling out of an association deal with Brussels. Hours before the Paris talks were due to take place at the Russian ambassador's residence, Mr Lavrov told Russian state TV that Ukraine should come up with a new constitution "providing for a federal structure" and neutrality.
The Russian foreign minister said Moscow, the US and European Union should act as a support group for Kiev to begin a nationwide dialogue that did not involve the "armed radicals". Moscow claims that fascists have taken power in Ukraine, jeopardising the safety of Russian speakers. In an interview on Saturday, he said Russia had been deceived after being promised "there would be no movement of Nato military infrastructure closer to our borders". Nato's outgoing Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned on Sunday that Russia's government was "[flouting] the principle that every state is sovereign and free to choose its own fate". Mr Putin is also thought to be demanding that Washington accepts Crimea's independence from Ukraine. Separately, Moscow is keen to tackle the issue of Trans-Dniester, a pro-Russian separatist region of Moldova on the south-western border of Ukraine. It accuses Ukraine and Moldova of "blockading" the area while the EU and the US stay silent.
US officials are divided over whether Mr Putin is seeking to ease tensions or is still planning further military action, BBC Paris correspondent Christian Fraser reports. The Pentagon believes Moscow has massed tens of thousands of troops close to Ukraine's eastern border. Food, medicines and a field hospital are said to be among the supplies moved into position, officials say, which would not be necessary for any spring military exercise.
The World Health Organization reports one in three women around the world will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter calls abuse of women the most serious human rights issue facing the world today. In an interview with VOA, and in his new book A Call to Action, he outlines the seriousness of the abuse — both globally and in the United States. Human rights organizations and activists hope his attention to the issue will give them a boost in fighting the problem. Former President Carter learned about these abuses through the global work of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, where abuse of women was the focus of a 2013 human rights conference. "The most serious problem is murder of baby girls by their parents. And the abortion of the girl fetus if the parents find out she's going to be female," Carter said. "We've been dealing with 79 different countries, and as I've been in those foreign countries, and also throughout the United States, I've seen the tangible examples of how horribly women and girls are treated, much worse than anyone knows," he added. His research into the scope and seriousness of abuse against women culminated in his 28th book, A Call to Action, which explores the culture and causes of the abuse. He says the United States is not immune to the problem. "One of the worst places in America for sexual abuse or rape is on the great university campuses," he said. "On university campuses, about one out of four women are sexually assaulted while she is in college. About four percent, one in 25, ever reports a rape when it's committed." But for Elizabeth Powley of the Chicago-based non-profit Heartland Alliance, there is no shortage of heartache and pain in the stories she hears from abroad. "Violence against women is a transnational issue, it's not an issue just for women overseas," said Powley, who has spent time working with women in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. "Simply the lack of street lighting at night [in Haiti] made it extremely dangerous for them to leave their homes, to leave their tents at night to go out in search of water or whatever it was they needed to take care of their family," she said. "And we saw incidents of rape and violence skyrocket in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake." She views President Carter as an ally in the fight against the abuse of women, and she said his voice in the issue helps combat long held views and attitudes, particularly with men. "Gender based violence won't be solved if only women want to solve it, so he brings an extremely important voice to the conversation," said Powley. She said one of the best ways to curb the growing violence is by educating boys and young men to respect women, leading to better decision-making when they become adults.
Six people were killed on Sunday in clashes between groups backing rival candidates in Turkey's municipal elections, which turned into a referendum on the rule of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Security officials said four people were killed in a gun fight between two families in the village ofYuvacik in the eastern province of Sanliurfa, which borders Syria. Such clashes have occurred at previous local elections. In Hatay province, also bordering Syria, two people died in a gunbattle between relatives of two candidates in Golbasi village, the officials said. Candidates in the voting for these local officials are not party-affiliated. Tensions rose in Turkey in the build-up to the elections, with Erdogan trying to fight off graft allegations and stem a stream of damaging security leaks. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_03_30/Turkey-Clashes-erupt-during-municipal-elections-six-dead-6575/
Bangladesh crashed out of the World Twenty20 after going down to a 50-run defeat to Pakistan in their Group 2 tie of the Super 10 on Sunday.
Afghan women voters want peace and stability so they can defend the freedoms they've gained since the fall of the Taliban.
In a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Hamid Karzai accused Pakistan of being behind a recent series of attacks and of blocking his government from striking a peace deal with the Taliban, the Afghan president's office said Sunday. Karzai routinely makes such accusations against Islamabad, but his tone in recent days has been particularly pointed and direct. They come after run of three attacks in five days in the capital Kabul, the latest a Saturday machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade barrage of the country's electoral commission ahead of general elections set for next week. Karzai told Kerry on Saturday the attacks were complex in nature and stage-managed by "foreign intelligence agencies," a reference to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence. He also told Kerry that he did not accept U.S. arguments that it had no influence "over countries that support terrorism," and said U.S. refusal to go after the Pakistani intelligence agency could further hurt U.S. relations with Afghanistan. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the recent violence in Kabul. Islamabad has a long and complicated relationship with the group, but few analysts accept Karzai's allegations that Pakistani intelligence agencies and not the Taliban are staging attacks. Pakistan denies that it is assisting the Taliban. Karzai is not allowed to run for re-election in the April 5 ballot, as he is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term in office. He is seen as positioning himself for life after the presidency, depicting himself as a tough-speaking nationalist. Karzai has also refused to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States which would allow for the U.S. and NATO to leave behind a residual force of about 12,000 soldiers after the final withdrawal of international combat troops takes place at the end of this year. Despite widespread support for the agreement, Karzai says he first wants the U.S. to move forward with a peace pact with the Taliban, presumably by putting pressure on neighbor Pakistan. During the telephone conversation, according to the Afghan presidency, Karzai told Kerry that the Taliban were willing to talk to his High Peace Council, an 80-member body tasked by the president to spearhead reconciliation with his armed opposition, but Pakistan was preventing them. The presidency did not provide further details. The Taliban has denied any talks with Karzai and says it does not want to speak with the Afghan president. However several Taliban leaders have met with members of Karzai's High Peace Council in the United Arab Emirates, according to both Taliban and high peace council members, who have previously spoken to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity so as not to disrupt the delicate diplomacy. Also on Sunday, a roadside bomb killed a service member with the international military coalition in Afghanistan in a southeastern province, said Coalition spokesman Capt. Patrick Simmons. The bomb was set off by remote control as a convoy reached the outskirts of Qalat, capital of Zabul province, said district governor Abdul Khaliq Ayubi. He said another three troops were wounded. NATO usually waits for member countries to announce the nationalities of casualties. Most of Afghanistan's security is now in the hands of the Afghan National Security Forces ahead of the withdrawal of international combat troops at the end of December. Still, international service personnel occasionally patrol troubled areas and assist Afghan troops when requested. A stubborn insurgency still rages in Afghanistan's south and east.
India will get tougher on territorial disputes with China and in its old rivalry with Pakistan if Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) leader Narendra Modi becomes the prime minister in May after a general election, two of his aides said. Modi, who is the front-runner to win the five-week Lok Sabha election starting on April 7, has taken an aggressive tone against the two neighbouring nations. On the campaign trail, he has warned Beijing to shed its "mindset of expansionism" and in the past he has railed against Pakistan for attacks by militants in India.
"I swear in the name of the soil that I will protect this country," Modi said at a rally in Arunachal Pradesh last month, a region claimed by China. India, China and Pakistan are all nuclear powers. They are also jockeying to take positions in Afghanistan as Western troops start to withdraw from the war-torn nation after a 12-year insurgency. India has fought three wars with Pakistan and had a 1962 border skirmish with China. It came close to a fourth war with Pakistan in 2001 but since then, its foreign policy has been mostly benign. Modi has painted the Congress party, which has been in power for more than 50 of the 67 years since India became independent, as weak on national security. However, India is one of the top buyers worldwide of military hardware, purchasing about $12.7 billion in arms during 2007-2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, everything from basic military goods to an aircraft carrier. Modi's two advisers said that while his foreign policy would be muscular, it would also aim to keep a lid on regional tensions to allow a focus on reviving the economy. "Ours will be an economy-driven foreign policy and the whole idea is to build India's economy so solidly that you can deal with other countries on our own terms," said a strategist involved in formulating the manifesto of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
As leader of the economic-powerhouse state of Gujarat for more than a decade, Modi has courted investment from China. As prime minister, the advisers say, he would seek to steer a course between defending India's security interests and growing business links with the world's second-biggest economy. Modi has never clearly spelled out his foreign policy vision, but he has praised former BJP prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee - who ordered a series of nuclear tests in 1998 - for adopting a strategy based on both 'Shakti' and 'Shanti', Sanskrit for power and peace. "The Chinese will understand the new PM is not a wimp and they won't do anything adventurous," the BJP strategist said. Hundreds of intrusions According to India, China has made hundreds of intrusions along their disputed border in recent years. China denies crossing into Indian territory. Adding to disquiet in India are China's forays into the Indian Ocean and its involvement in building a string of ports stretching from Pakistan's Gwadar to Chittagong in Bangladesh. The BJP wants a rapid naval build-up and a firmer response to border violations. It also plans to speed up construction of roads and communication lines along the land border to narrow the gap with China's infrastructure on the Tibetan plateau. The advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the BJP's manifesto is still under wraps, said Modi would move quickly to lay out India's core security interests in its neighbourhood, replacing what they dismissed as a reactive policy under the Congress party.
Topping the list will be an early settlement of the border dispute with China, an assertion of India's primacy in the Indian Ocean, and a low tolerance of militancy that India believes is often backed by Pakistan. "You will see a more nationalistic approach on issues relating to terrorism in our neighbourhood. It is a much more hard view of these things," said one of the advisers. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pushed for peace with Pakistan, and had hoped to visit his birthplace in Pakistan's Punjab province in a final gesture of reconciliation before leaving office. But his efforts were stymied by opposition at home over Islamabad's failure to act against those India holds responsible for masterminding a 2008 attack on the city of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed by 10 gunmen from Pakistan. Rajiv Dogra, a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan, expects a more forceful policy under a BJP government, both because of domestic pressure and an uncertain regional environment as the United States pulls out troops from Afghanistan. "So far there has been a consensus in India - irrespective of the complexion and change in government - on the broad foreign policy contours," he said. "But this time, if there is a change in government, I do expect a break from that tradition."
2800 female nurses have won their struggle against the government in Punjab. Despite their brutal and vicious tactics, the government had to face a humiliating defeat.On 11 March, ad hoc nurses from different government hospitals in Lahore started a protest, in front of office of the Punjab Director General Health. They were protesting the recent dismissal of 2800 nurses. But not only did the Punjab Government refuse to accept the demands of the nurses, on 14 March it deployed the police to baton charge the protest. nurses-2In this violent and brutal attack a seven months pregnant nurse was severely injured and only narrowly escaped death. Instead of defeating the movement though, this brutal act of state violence only served to escalate the struggle. The initial offer from the government negotiating team - led by Punjab Health Adviser, Khawaja Salman Rafiq - only offered the nurses minor concessions. However, the nurses defied the violence and refused to accept this offer. Instead they escalated and broadened their movement.
In the movies, half naked or totally naked women run around happily showing their assets, but that is not the case in the ‘land of the pure’. Men are frustrated that they cannot have intimate relations any time they wantPakistan, the strange country that no westerner can really understand. So many contradictions and so many half-truths — what is Pakistan really and how can a westerner comprehend this? How can a westerner, especially a woman, understand Pakistan? Is it possible without the language? Yes, one can read about the culture, religion and moral values. So what are the moral values of the young generation in Pakistani? Where is the truth and were are the lies? I would venture to say: somewhere in between the two. They evoke God but they do not follow true Islam; it is almost as if religion is the last resort and turning to God can alleviate all sins. They do not pray five times a day. I have seen this again and again and I do question their relationship to God, a relationship they use all the time. It seems almost ironic that one can praise God and lie at the same time at a minute’s notice. It is a phenomenon that I have observed during my four visits to Pakistan. First of all, every foreigner is a CIA agent. They do not have any concept of an academic who wants to learn and see how real Islam works and what it truly means. As a western, white woman one can be a novelty, a toy to play with and almost a showcase for some. At times, one can feel like a strange animal in a zoo: “Come take a look! She is dressed in our national clothing.” Until you scratch deeper, you never really see the truth and that is rather puzzling from the western point of view. Of course, you are their guest and, as a guest, you will receive a present as a way of being welcomed. It is hard to compare this young generation, which wants so desperately to be western, to anything I have ever seen. They critique the west, especially the US, since its drones kill their people but, at the same time, they love western clothing, western music and slang, which they have learned from western movies. They do not have an understanding of slang, I will venture to say. “Nigger” seems to be in style and, on numerous occasions, I have tried to tell these youngsters that if they used this word they would offend not only black people but also most Americans. My words of caution usually fell on deaf ears. Then again, one has to be tolerant since many young people in Pakistan have never been to the west, and the west of the movies is so totally different from western culture. In the movies, half naked or totally naked women run around happily showing their assets, but that is not the case in the ‘land of the pure’. Men are frustrated that they cannot have intimate relations any time they want. Sex is a taboo and, of course, it is done behind closed doors. At times, I wonder what their knowledge of sex is — it is so different from the way we view sex here. It seems to me that men here do not understand what a woman needs; how could they? They have never had sex education in school and they are taught that sex is the biggest sin in Islam. Many young women will pretend that they are virgins when it comes time for them to get married. The contrast with the way men treat their sisters and the women they sleep with is a paradox. One does not marry without a parent’s permission. Young men who in the west are considered to be grown up, act like teenagers here with the mentality to match. It is hard to believe that any one society could produce so many mentally crippled men. They are so afraid of their parents that the truth becomes a lie in the name of respect. For young people in Pakistan, the future is bleak: no promising jobs and no opportunities. Many young man do emigrate to seek them and a few of them are lucky enough to go. At times, I felt ashamed to be so privileged and have so much: the education, the trust of friends and no fear of the truth and the whole wide world open to me. However, here in Pakistan, I had to take a deep breath, look around and realise that this was not the Islam I was prepared to see. There are lies, which produce more lies and it becomes like a maze. At times I feel as if nobody knows anymore what the truth is and what the lie is — they merge all into one. Of course, I am being a bit overly general here but on the whole it is the norm.
The horrific incident of an attack on Express TV’s anchor Raza Rumi in Lahore on Friday night underlines the precarious condition of security for the media in Pakistan. Two motorcyclists, who Rumi thinks were waiting to ambush his car, opened fire with submachine guns while he was on his way home from work. The hail of bullets killed his driver and wounded his police guard. Fortunately Rumi received only minor cuts and abrasions. Reports say the killers had obviously been carrying out reconnaissance on Rumi’s routine. The media group he works for has had more than its share of unwanted attention from violent elements of late. This attack in Lahore is the fifth on the group since last August. Two attacks on the group’s offices in Karachi last year wounded five people, three of its employees were murdered in cold blood when their TV van was ambushed in Karachi, a bomb planted outside the group’s Peshawar bureau chief’s residence was fortunately disabled, and now this first of its kind attack in Lahore has yielded one death and injuries. The question arises why the group has been targeted in this manner. One explanation on offer is that the media group’s policies have annoyed extremist elements that are now seeking to silence it. Certainly this can be claimed in the case of Raza Rumi without fear of contradiction since he is well known for his outspoken views against the Taliban. Rumi himself did not speculate about the identity of the attackers when speaking to media after the incident, but did point to the reports of a hit list prepared by the Taliban to target media they considered ‘hostile’. Given this background, the cast of usual suspects is headed by the Taliban, specifically the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which ironically is engaged these days in ‘peace’ negotiations with the government. The TTP, as we have repeatedly argued in this space, is playing a tactical game of ostensibly engaging in peace negotiations while ‘sorting out’ some of its perceived enemies, particularly in the media. These actions are not only not claimed by the TTP, they are denied and ascribed to ‘rogue’ or ‘splinter’ groups such as the Ahrarul Hind (claimed to have been responsible for the Islamabad courts complex attack but which some reports say was ordered by the TTP). While the Lahore attack has been roundly condemned by everyone from top to bottom of the government, political parties, traders, lawyers, doctors and other citizens, the journalists’ bodies had resolved to carry out protests on Saturday.
Unfortunately, these bodies too have ‘woken up’ late to the threat posed to the media in Pakistan. A number of journalists have been killed over the years, earning Pakistan the dubious title of the most dangerous country in the world. According to Reporters Without Borders, seven journalists were killed in Pakistan over the last year alone. Alarmingly, neither the media industry itself nor the authorities seem to have any plan in mind to protect and secure journalists. Pakistan’s other dubious distinction, despite its lively media, is that it occupies 158th position out of 180 countries in press freedom rankings. This status is owed to pressures from powerful state and non-state actors, both of whom often use muscle when ‘persuasion’ fails to get their way. It must be admitted though that the terrorist threat is not confined to the media alone. PPP patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has revealed that he has received a threat from the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and said if anything happened to him, the Punjab government would be held responsible for its alleged soft attitude towards groups like the LeJ, widely believed to be based in Punjab and enjoying relative freedom of movement and action from there. It is good that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has responded to the report by ordering an investigation into the matter. The Punjab government has faced criticism over the last six years for allegedly allowing sectarian groups like the LeJ safe havens and operational freedom in Punjab, which arguably has fed into their sectarian horrors against the Hazara Shia in Quetta and Shias generally. The greatest illusion regarding groups like the TTP and LeJ is that they would be ‘grateful’ for such concessions, if any, and repay the ‘generosity’ by keeping their ‘base’ peaceful. Any attempt to keep one province an oasis of peace while the rest of the country burns is not something likely to enjoy a long shelf life, thanks to the predilections of the terrorists.
THE motive for attacking Raza Rumi, a liberal and outspoken national commentator on politics and society, is relatively easy to guess: it was meant to silence his voice forever and to send a message to anyone else espousing similar views in the public sphere. For the media as a whole, the attack in Lahore on Mr Rumi, in which a driver lost his life and a guard was injured, is yet another ominous sign that the pressure building on the media may be about to reach the point of explosion. While individuals, including Mr Rumi, have been named in militant hit lists, the signs are that something far bigger and terrible in scale and impact against the media may be imminent. Quite what that may be is difficult to know, but the lethality and ferocity of the militants and their willingness to kill and intimidate must never be underestimated. The challenge really is for the media now to band together and figure out an effective strategy to counter the militants’ pressure. The Express Media Group, which had been targeted four times, tried the tactic of muting any criticism of the TTP and sundry militant groups after three of its employees were killed in January, but that has clearly not worked. In truth, there is little individual media houses or under-threat journalists can do on their own to ensure the safety of all who work in their organisations. However, collectively there is much that can be done — if owners, editors and heads of news channels sit down together and urgently work out both a set of demands and recommendations. The state is not entirely powerless and the militant groups are aware of the power of the media to inform the public and shape national discourse — which means a united front by the media can help win back the space that has been eroded for an independent and free media to operate in. The stakes could not be higher. A democratic polity in which the rule of law, civil society and democratic institutions dominate is only possible when the media is free to inform and act as a watchdog. Whatever the flaws of the media, surely a frightened and intimidated community of journalists is a disservice to everyone.