Monday, March 9, 2015

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Syria’s ancient sites under attack

By Wissam Abdallah

Syrian civilization can be described as an outdoor museum. Museums and archaeological sites are scattered all over Syrian territory. As the fire of war has reached the people and the stones, the country’s civilization, both in terms of the archaeological sites and Syria’s identity, has become a part of the war.
A source who is well informed about the protection of Syria’s heritage affairs told As-Safir that the country’s heritage has been impacted by the war. He said, “The map of the affected Syrian archaeological sites can be divided into four administrative divisions. From this division, the reports of the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums are based, as well as the figures included in the directorate's recent report on the fourth quarter of 2014.”
The source estimated that nearly 104 sites have been damaged in the country's east, which includes Deir ez-Zor, Hasakah and Raqqa. In Raqqa, the museum was damaged in a blast. In Hasakah's countryside, illegal excavation and digging activities were conducted, as occurred in Tel Barde, Tel Abu Hamza and Tel Jalal. Secret excavation activities took place at the Dura-Europos site in Deir ez-Zor, yet they were halted after the archaeological layers were almost completely destroyed. In north Syria, including Aleppo and Idlib, about 39 sites have been damaged.
In the old city of Aleppo, the Suwaika market and al-Sultania mosque were damaged. Yet the damage inflicted to the antiquities in the countryside was greater, as thieves conducted excavations at the Church of Saint Simeon Stylites. They detonated explosives among the olive trees located inside the southwestern wall and have completely destroyed 20 shrines.
In the Dead Cities of Idlib, the ancient church columns at the Fasouq site were smashed and used in construction works, and the ancient monastery columns at al-Bara site were also smashed. The Harem Castle walls were damaged and excavation equipment was stolen. Most of these sites are included on the World Heritage List.
In the Homs countryside, nine archaeological sites were looted and ruined. They were also severely damaged by the excavation activities and the outbreak of battles. They include Tel Taybeh, the Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi, the archeological Byzantine cemeteries, the Western and Eastern cemeteries, al-Tawil street and the popular traditional museum.
Finally, in southern Syria, 15 damaged sites were identified in the countryside of Daraa, including the Tel Shihab Castle, Izra, Kherbe and Kawkab.
The source noted that the demolition of Syria’s antiquities is not simply the natural consequence of battles occurring in the area. There is a clear methodology aimed at tearing down a civilization. "In Aleppo, the old city was targeted," said the source. "Its old market, which is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, was gutted by fire. Moreover, large parts of the Umayyad Mosque were ruined, and its library was looted.” The Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums has described the archaeological sites “as cultural disaster areas.”
Syrian civilization will not be brought down through the destruction of archaeological sites alone. Looting is a key part of the work of antiquities dealers during the war. The source said that armed groups are communicating with antiquities smugglers outside the country. He pointed out that the authorities managed to seize three antique artifacts that were stolen from the funerary bed in the Taibul Tomb, in addition to 10 pre-Islamic artifacts in Idlib. “Reports indicated that most of the smuggling routes are toward Turkey, where artifacts are seen and sold in Syrian-Turkish border towns to finance the armed groups’ military operations,” he said.
Thefts have escalated over the last three years as Syrian antiquities have been sent abroad, just as the people are emigrating. Artifacts were stolen from nearly 15 museums, including the looting of the gilded bronze statue of the Aramaic god from the Hama museum and a marble piece from the Apamea museum.
The source added that Western museums in Germany, Britain and the United States desire to acquire these objects and to place them in the sections for the Greek and Roman eras. It is known that many Syrian artifacts were on display in various international museums before the outbreak of the crisis, such as the Walters Art Museum in Maryland in the United States, which includes artifacts from Hama.
The source said that there are several goals behind the destruction of antiquities. “The destruction of shrines is justified from a religious perspective. The looting and selling of antiquities [is justified] to buy weapons, alongside the desire of antiquities dealers to sell the objects at auction. Moreover, Western museums have a strong desire to acquire these objects and to put them in their collections.”
He said: “We certainly cannot overlook the fundamental idea of targeting the Syrian identity. Heritage is one of the basic rules that can be built upon to have a unified identity, upon which the idea of ​​citizenship is built. By destroying the antiquities, this basis is undermined, and fear is sowed. The destruction and looting of the monasteries and churches is designed to intimidate the Christians. The displacement of Assyrians from their villages in Syria, along with the Mosul museum destruction, is a message stating that they no longer have a place there, be it in history or in the future.”
The Syrian government is trying to halt the looting, protect the archaeological sites and recover the stolen objects by activating international laws regarding the protection of heritage and antiquities in the world.

Pakistan: ISIS graffiti inside, outside Mosque threatens Shiite Muslims

The graffiti of ISIS terrorist group outside and Inside of mosque of Sahib-ul-Asr-Zaman done by pro-ISIS terrorist group of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ) aka Sipah-e-Sahaba.

Last year in December 2014, terrorist group also carried the graffiti in a youth hostel located in Sachal Colony area of Larkana.

In mid of year 2014, takfiri ISIS terrorist group had made wall chalking in Shikarpur, where they carried out a huge suicide blast inside a Shia Mosque during Friday prayer.

The aim of graffiti in Larkana is to send a message to Shiites of area to be ready for probably massacre.

Government, Police and Law enforcement agencies area sleeping and they have not taken initial steps to prevent the probably terrorist attack in Larkana.


By Alessandro Bruno
The Syrian civil war has been completely lost in the quagmire that is ISIS and the wider problems stemming from Iraq and the war waged upon it by President Bush and the neoconservative establishment. The dangers of meddling in Iraq were clear to anyone who had read even a few pages of modern Middle Eastern history, but few in Western power circles were honest enough to question the policy and call on their governments to think twice before meddling in Middle Eastern affairs.
Iraq’s straggling reconciliation and seemingly permanent state of crisis failed to discourage the West – and other governments that should have known better (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to name three) – from interfering in the wave of protests that broke out in Syria shortly after the revolts of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt had reached a mature point coined as the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011. The media interpreted the coincidence of the timing of the Syrian protests as an expression of the desire for democracy. Regional and world powers, meanwhile, saw an opportunity to change the Baathist government that had ruled in Damascus for almost 50 years, skillfully navigating through many traps to maintain a degree of independence, and bring Syria into their ‘sphere of influence.’
Little attention was given to the more expert analyses that the Syrian ‘awakening’ never actually happened; democratic ambitions were dormant then and remain ever more lethargic today. Much like Tunisia, the original impetus for the protest came from farmers looking for compensation and improved water supply, especially in the southern regions – and the town of Dara’a in particular – that had suffered intense periods of drought for at least three seasons. The Syrian leadership made a significant mistake: it used hardline methods against the protesters rather than suffocating the issue with some good old fashioned largesse (which could have been limited to infrastructure improvements in Dara’a or inviting a few protesters to the presidential palace to meet the president in an atmosphere of reconciliation).
In Tunisia, the protests also started in an area affected by drought. However, close ties between the European Union and the Ben Ali dictatorship, cemented through intense economic cooperation, tourism, and migration, kept the EU at bay. The United States had relatively few ambitions in the Maghreb; and Tunisia does not border Israel – in fact, bilateral relations were relatively good. The Tunisian protest grew organically, following its own tempo rather than one tuned by foreign interference. President Ben Ali himself, moreover, never received due credit for realizing that his time was up such that on January 14, 2011, he left Tunisia to seek exile (surely encouraged by the secret police and the armed forces), sparing his people from a prolonged conflict. Tunisia, unlike Syria, has a rather uniform ethnic makeup in the context of Arab states. It is 99% Sunni Muslim, featuring a well-integrated Berber population, and held together, unlike many Islamic states, by a well-rooted tradition of secularism and strong institutions. Ben Ali could leave knowing that there were few chances of a civil war mutating into an ethnic or religious conflict while Tunisia’s main and best organized Islamist expression, al-Nahda, is dominated by the most liberal wing of the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of Rashid Ghannouchi. Syria, meanwhile, has endured ethnic and religious sectarianism and the al-Assads, like many other dictators in the Arab world, have proven to be adept at balancing divisions (if by force) in order to establish the kind of stability that allows a country to grow and even develop.
The Syrian civil war, with its causes and eventual outcome, is being largely ignored. World attention is now concentrating on the Frankenstein like side-effects of the Iraq war – Islamic State (IS or ISIS) – and its spillover into the fertile anarchy of Syria. The Assad presidency, whose dire predictions of chaos to foreign meddlers have become too embarrassing for the latter to concede, is now but a footnote on the issue of regional terrorism. The West wonders how it could have come to this; how many of its youth have become drawn to the struggle in Syria (and Iraq), ignoring the causes and their tremendous responsibility for the current state of affairs.
For this reason alone, Bashar al-Assad and the Baathist party in Damascus are worthy of consideration. Indeed, it is time for al-Assad to be rehabilitated and included in the process of resolving – if such a verb is even legitimate given the extent of the anarchy – the problem of ISIS and the Syrian civil war itself. That fight has been stolen from him – Western, Saudi, and Qatari-funded foreigners rather than native Syrians have taken over and they have made the very kind of progress in Syria that the West claims to have been fighting since the 9/11 attacks in the United States. The rebels (at least those that have any power and influence) are motivated not by democracy but by the ultimate installation of an Islamic state.
Many media pundits should consider Hillary Clinton’s statement when she visited Jordan two years ago and, looking over at Syria from Mt. Nebo, proclaimed like a reincarnation of Col. T.E. Lawrence and General Allenby that “Assad must go.” King Abdallah of Jordan, who has found his sense of leadership and royal legitimacy through his country’s new war against ISIS, is likely very grateful that President al-Assad ignored Ms. Clinton’s vacation suggestions, staying on to contain the Islamist tide from spilling over to Amman. Syria is not Tunisia, and al-Assad is not Ben Ali.
It is not a stretch to suggest that had al-Assad gone into exile, by now the Caliphate would be based in Damascus rather than the middle of nowhere.

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German remorse highlights Japan’s disgrace

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's two-day visit to Japan has drawn the attention of the world, given both countries' past atrocities before and during WWII. What's more, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

Merkel visited Japan because Germany will host this year's G7 Summit and she should pay each member state a visit before the event. Thus, war history is not supposed to be the major theme of her Japan visit. 

However, the international media did not agree, choosing to focus on what Merkel said about wartime issues in their reports. 

In sharp contrast, Germany, a role model that atoned for its war crimes, has managed to reconcile with the victims of its invasion, while Japan, a headstrong denier trying to disavow its past atrocities, has engaged in a marathon wrangle with its neighboring victims.

Merkel did not evade historical issues in her speech in Tokyo. She reminded Japan of the need to squarely confront its wartime past, and also stressed that its neighbors must do their job to achieve reconciliation. Merkel has attached equal importance to Japan's attitude and its neighbors' generosity.

It needs to be noted that before Merkel's visit, Tokyo was quite nervous about whether she would mention the war. 

However, in contrast, its wartime victims, notably China and South Korea, saw this visit in a carefree way. It signifies that Tokyo is self-conscious in historical issues.

Holding a grudge following the defeat in WWII and trying to whitewash its atrocities, the Japanese right wing is leading the country to an abyss. Japanese society is probably admiring what Germany has become after 70 years, which has long been relieved from heavy historical burdens.

Apology and redemption did not embarrass Germany. On the contrary, it helps Germany redeem its dignity. But the same problem has become a killer of Japan's reputation, which has become increasingly notorious due to its lack of heartfelt apologies and even denial of its crimes.

Therefore, China and South Korea are forced to be mired in this endless squabble over history with Japan. The entire Northeast Asia is stirred into a tempest, and it will cost Japan the most.

Merkel's statement and reminder to Japan, from another perspective are headline-grabbing. Each time the world draws attention to this, Japan's hypocrisy over historical issues will be exposed a bit more.

The unaddressed wartime past has become a negative asset for Japan. It distorts the values of some Japanese, who have waged a meaningless war to defend the delusion of national pride.

Neither China nor South Korea intends to stigmatize Japan for its past atrocities, and Japan had better stop being paranoid and bringing disgrace upon its own head. Northeast Asia needs to work together to settle the issue and move on. 

Putin Says Plan to Take Crimea Hatched Before Referendum

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he ordered officials to start work on taking control of Crimea weeks before a referendum which, the Kremlin has asserted until now, prompted the region's annexation from Ukraine.
Russian state television channel Rossia-1 aired a brief extract of an interview in which Putin said he had called an emergency meeting in February last year to discuss the overthrow of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych hours earlier.
Yanukovych, a Russian ally, had fled to the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk after being forced out by anti-government protests.
"He would have been just annihilated. … We got ready to get him out of Donetsk by land, by sea and by air," Putin said about his meeting in the Kremlin with commanders of special forces and Defense Ministry officials.
"This was on the night of Feb. 22 through to Feb. 23. We finished around 7 in the morning. And, while saying goodbye, I told all the colleagues: 'We have to start the work on Crimea's return into Russia.'"
This account, broadcast on Sunday, appeared to be at odds with previous assertions from Russian officials that the annexation decision was taken only after the referendum on March 16, when Crimeans voted to become part of the Russian Federation.
The virtually bloodless seizure of Crimea — a Black Sea peninsula with an ethnic Russian majority and where Moscow has a naval base — was followed by a pro-Moscow insurgency in the east of Ukraine.
About 6,000 people have been killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. A fragile cease-fire, agreed last month in Minsk, has largely held so far.
Western governments have condemned Russia's intervention in Crimea as illegal, with the European Union and United States imposing sanctions on Moscow.
In the months since, Putin has adjusted his account of what happened. He initially denied Russian troops were providing security for the referendum, but later acknowledged special forces had been deployed.
Russian soldiers who took part have been given state medals with the citation "For returning Crimea," which give the starting date of the operation as Feb. 20, before Yanukovych was ousted.
Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper often critical of Putin, published details last month of what it said was a document presented to the presidential administration some time between Feb. 4 and Feb. 12 last year. It said the document described a plan to annex Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin called the newspaper's report nonsense.

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U.S - Republicans are beginning to act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president

By Paul Waldman

It’s safe to say that no president in modern times has had his legitimacy questioned by the opposition party as much as Barack Obama. But as his term in office enters its final phase, Republicans are embarking on an entirely new enterprise: They have decided that as long as he holds the office of the presidency, it’s no longer necessary to respect the office itself.
Is that a bit hyperbolic? Maybe. But this news is nothing short of stunning:
A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letterto Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.
Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.
“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”
It’s one thing to criticize the administration’s actions, or try to impede them through the legislative process. But to directly communicate with a foreign power in order to undermine ongoing negotiations? That is appalling. And just imagine what those same Republicans would have said if Democratic senators had tried such a thing when George W. Bush was president.
The only direct precedent I can think of for this occurred in 1968, when as a presidential candidate Richard Nixon secretly communicated with the government of South Vietnam in an attempt to scuttle peace negotiations the Johnson administration was engaged in. It worked: those negotiations failed, and the war dragged on for another seven years. Many people are convinced that what Nixon did was an act of treason; at the very least it was a clear violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits American citizens from communicating with foreign governments to conduct their own foreign policy.
This move by Republicans is not quite at that level. As Dan Drezner wrote, “I don’t think an open letter from members of the legislative branch quite rises to Logan Act violations, but if there’s ever a trolling amendment to the Logan Act, this would qualify,” and at least it’s out in the open. But it makes clear that they believe that when they disagree with an administration policy, they can act as though Barack Obama isn’t even the president of the United States.
And it isn’t just in foreign affairs. In an op-ed last week in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Mitch McConnell urged states to refuse to comply with proposed rules on greenhouse gas emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency. Never mind that agency regulations like these have the force of law, and the Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s responsibility under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions — if you don’t like the law, just act as though it doesn’t apply to you. “I can’t recall a majority leader calling on states to disobey the law,” said Barbara Boxer, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “and I’ve been here almost 24 years.”
The American political system runs according to a whole series of norms, many of which we don’t notice until they’re violated. For instance, the Speaker of the House can invite a foreign leader to address Congress for the sole purpose of criticizing the administration, and he can even do it without letting the White House know in advance. There’s no law against it. But doing so violates a norm not only of simple respect and courtesy, but one that says that the exercise of foreign policy belongs to the administration. Congress can advise, criticize, and legislate to shape it, but if they simply take it upon themselves to make their own foreign policy, they’ve gone too far.
But as has happened so many times before, Republicans seem to have concluded that there is one set of rules and norms that apply in ordinary times, and an entirely different set that applies when Barack Obama is the president. You no longer need to show the president even a modicum of respect. You can tell states to ignore the law. You can sabotage delicate negotiations with a hostile foreign power by communicating directly with that power.
I wonder what they’d say if you asked them whether it would be acceptable for Democrats to treat the next Republican president that way. My guess is that the question wouldn’t even make sense to them. After all, that person would be a Republican. So how could anyone even think of such a thing?

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Islamic State has significant presence in Pakistan through propaganda website

The Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh, has significant presence in Pakistan through a website managed by terrorist group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Amid confusion and a struggle to remove legislative lacuna to deal with cyber crime-related issues, relevant authorities are reluctant to block the terrorist groups’ propaganda website — which, according to security analysts, is also being used as a launching pad by the Daesh and al Qaeda.
An announcement by the TTP spokesperson can still be accessed on the website through which the terrorist group declared war against Pakistan. The group also claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December, 2014.
Officials tend to blame each other for their inability to disable the website. Currently, a cyber crime wing is functional in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), while a vigilance cell is also operating in Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA),which exclusively deals with such violations with the assistance of its IP wing. However, officials in these wings are not ready to block the website, citing some judicial and administrative hurdles.
The website carries the TTP flag, verses from the Holy Quran, jihadi songs, statements and videos containing sectarian hate and propaganda material — especially against security forces. It also has pictures of slain TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud and his successor, and incumbent chief, Mullah Fazlullah.
Referring to a controversy, PTA’s senior official Abdul Samad said an NGO, Bolo Bhi, which works for the rights of internet users, took the authority to the Islamabad High Court, which restrained the Inter-Ministerial Committee from functioning. The committee decides if a website should be accessed or blocked in Pakistan.
In response to a question, he said an IP wing is still functional in the authority. The PTA official said the NGO had challenged the legal position of the Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Websites (IMCEW) on blocking websites, and questioned the transparency of the committee’s working. The dormant committee has the representation of the interior ministry, PTA, ministry of IT and others to take appropriate action.
The PTA official could not give any details of the defunct committee. Relevant officials in the FIA, PTA, interior ministry and information ministry don’t know where the inter-ministerial committee sits, who the members are, the merit the members are chosen on, how they work, its postal/email address, how they evaluate the blockade of websites, where the list of blocked websites are and why they were blocked, and how to get a website unblocked.
However, in the same case, PTA chairman Ismail Shah recently told the court that the authority had blocked 64,000 websites, of which 50,000 pertain to pornography and the remaining relate to blasphemy.
Mudassir Hussain, member Telecom from IT, requested the court to revisit its earlier order in which it had restrained the authority from blocking any website without approval of the court. He said that the ministry is receiving many complaints against certain websites, and he requested the court to allow their blockage.
On the other hand, Bolo Bhi’s counsel Babar Sattar argued that the workings of the committee had been non-transparent and dubious. He maintained that policy is not a law through which websites had been blocked. Further, he argued that the government can move to stop anything in future. He added that if the government is interested in blocking websites, it should introduce a law in this respect. Otherwise, such policy directives were illegal.
State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman said that the cyber crimes bill 2015 (Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill) is being thoroughly reviewed in order to make it consistent with the National Action Plan (NAP). This is so that it can cater to the growing needs of the drastically changing and challenging scenario in the wake of an increase in terrorism in the cyber space, said Rehman.

Pakistan - Return of IDPs

THE pledge by the Pakistan Army to begin the return, in a phased manner, of an estimated 150,000 families displaced by the military operations in the North Waziristan and Khyber agencies is a welcome sign that the leadership has some understanding of the need to fight a people-centric counter-insurgency.
To avoid a familiar cycle of violence peaking and subsiding over a period of time in most insurgency-hit areas, the local population needs to be on the side of the state.
That is possible, but only through the careful management of the needs of the local population.
To begin with, the affected population needs to be equipped with enough resources to make resettlement as painless a process as possible.
The military and the Fata administration have accumulated a fair amount of experience in this regard and it appears that a reasonable amount of resources have been allocated to the task. But setting aside a quantum of resources and aid is one thing; ensuring that the families that it is intended for receive it in a manner that is dignified and as trouble-free as possible in the circumstances is another.
Far too often, the good intentions and the well-designed plans fail at the point of contact with the affected population: the lowest tiers of the military are not trained to deal with population and those of the administrative set-up rarely think of themselves as public servants.
What is then designed thoughtfully and with care in Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Islamabad tends to not work as well on the ground in Fata.
This has been a recurring theme over the years with IDP management and returning them to their homes in Fata. Then, there is the sense that after the IDPs have been returned and several months have passed, they are essentially left to their own devices, with the military dominant in the area but focused on protecting territory and the civil administration all but displaced and non-functional.
That turn of events over the medium term is a failing on the part of the military. If Fata is ever to be normalised – and not simply returned to the pre-insurgency state of affairs – it has to have a sustainable, responsive system of government running the gamut of civil administration to the administration of justice to law and order. Worryingly, the military leadership appears unwilling or unready to permit meaningful Fata reforms.
Finally, there is the long term: what is the military’s exit strategy from Fata? One hundred and seventy five thousand troops cannot remain there forever, but militancy in Fata is intrinsically connected to the situation across the Durand Line, management of the border and broader foreign and national-security policies.
The military leadership pledges to wipe out terrorism, but a militarised anti-terror strategy combined with a shield still seemingly provided to old militant favourites does not seem to be the right way ahead.

Pakistan - PMLN violating Charter of Democracy

Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, while talking to media in Nanakana sahib today said that the government was violating the Charter of Democracy (COD) because it was not respecting the mandate of the PPP that had emerged as the single largest Party in the recently held Senate elections. It has the right to elect Chairman and Deputy Chairman and hectic efforts of the PML (N) for its own candidates at this stage were violation of the essence of the agreement, he argued.
Earlier, Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo while addressing the PPP workers, Office bearers and the district Presidents in Nanakana sahib condemned the government for using the state machinery to intimidate the voters to cast vote in favour of ruling Party candidates. PPP is going to write to the Election Commission of Pakistan to disqualify the PML (N) candidate to contest the elections because government is using the provincial administration in gross violation of the election laws, he added.
He further said that the PML (N) government had failed to deliver and its credibility among the people was at the lowest ebb. They promised to the people to control load shedding in months than years but now they are maintaining it was not possible to control it even within the next three years, he added. They lied to the people then to get their votes and they are lying now as well, he asserted.
Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo also constituted a three-member high level Committee consisting Tanvir Ashraf Kaira, Raja Riaz and Chuadhry Manzoor Ahmed, that would coordinate and supervise the bye-election campaign in NA-137 where Shah Jehan Bhatti was the PPP candidate.
He also constituted 31 sub-committees of all union council of the constituency consisting influential PPP local leaders in the respective union councils mandated to go door to door and seek the votes of the people by projecting their candidate is a committed to their welfare. PPP is the only Party that has the doable programme to solve the problems of the poor people.
Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo also criticized the present government for its anti-farmers policies adding that basmati, sugarcane and potatoes growers had been ruined due to the step motherly treatment of the government. PPP expresses its total solidarity with the Kisssan Ittehad who has been protesting for the acceptance of their demands, he stated.
He strongly condemned the use of force against the farmers in Vehari adding the use of blatant force would not deter the Organization not to confront the tyranny of the government.
He added that farmers always got handsome return of their produces during PPP government that evolved a system in form of TCP to stabilize the market prices in the best economic interests of the growers.
At the meeting, Mian Younous Shah, an independent candidate, announced his withdrawal from the election in favour of PPP candidate.

Being coy doesn’t change the reality of modern Pakistan — a a corrupt, politically savage, and physically broken society


Pakistan wilfully became an Islamic Republic and allowed religious bigotry to overwhelm its population
Living in the Middle East makes you particularly hateful of political correctness. I’ve often recalled how I’m wished a “Happy Christmas” by Muslims in Beirut but am personally enraged when I’m greeted with “Happy Holiday” by New Yorkers. The further you go from the land of three religions, the more frightened you are to utter their name. I noted how an “Asian gang” were held responsible for the rape of underage girls in Oxford 18 months ago – but never called Muslims. Now I’ve discovered a flipside version of the same correctness. In Rotherham, up to 1,400 children were sexually abused, predominantly “by gangs of British-Pakistani men”. That’s how it was reported. In a 2010 case in Rotherham, five men found guilty of sexual offences were “of Pakistani heritage”. Abid Naseer, convicted in New York last week of participating in an Al-Qaeda bomb plot, was called “a Pakistani student”. And the Rochdale resident Nazakat Ali, sentenced to 15 years last week for stabbing his wife 14 times because she wanted to take English lessons, was referred to as “a Pakistani man”. Abid Naseer has appealed. And the British MI5 agents who gave evidence in the US in make-up, wigs and a beard, scarcely added lustre to James Bond’s lads and lasses.
But the real problem for me were the phrases “British-Pakistani men”, “of Pakistani heritage”, “a Pakistani student” and “a Pakistani man”. Save for a passing reference to Naseer’s upbringing “in Peshawar, Pakistan, in a wealthy, middle class family” – his father was a government contractor and property developer – I could not find a single reference, anywhere, which might lead us to take a second look at the national identity of all these men. The last time this phenomenon occurred was in the 9/11 crime against humanity, where the perpetrators were usually described as “Muslims” or “Arabs”, but where the nationality of the majority of them – 15 of the 19 were Saudis – either disappeared from the story or failed to provoke any reflection. Why so many Saudis? And now, why so many Pakistanis?
The problem, as almost anyone in the Middle East will tell you, is that Pakistan itself is a deeply corrupt, politically savage and physically broken society, founded – like other dangerous nations – on the basis of religion, carved out, in Pakistan’s case, as a homeland for India’s Muslims. It was created as well over seven million Indian Muslims crossed the British partition frontier in one of the greatest migrations of souls in history. So ill-managed was this venture that within three decades, Pakistan was “re-partitioned” by the loss of West Bengal in a war that witnessed frightful atrocities by soldiers of the Pakistani army.
Now, I’m one of the few Brits I know who likes Pakistan. Although its history, its society, its attempts at democracy, its films – even its food – are recognisably Indian, its people have maintained their dignity. Their love of books, their admiration for the rule of law (the courage of the country’s lawyers is, alas, in inverse proportion to their achievements) and their sense of national pride in education, make Pakistan a wonderful country for any visitor – if the traveller can avoid being kidnapped, raped, murdered or imprisoned. For Pakistan wilfully became an “Islamic Republic” and allowed the worst perversions of religious bigotry to overwhelm its population. Child marriage, “honour” crimes against women, violent patriarchy, mass slaughter of religious minorities, political assassination and corruption – from the shoe-shine boy to the presidency – have blighted the lives of all 182 million of its people.
The Taliban is as much a child of Pakistan as were the Afghan mujahedin fighters who struggled against the Russian army. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence became a tool of the Russians, the Afghans, the Saudis, the Americans – Turkey’s intelligence agencies are fast acquiring the same reputation now they “control” the access routes to Isis-Syria, the Arab Afghanistan. The Pakistani commission of enquiry into the US assassination of Osama bin Laden – another of Pakistan’s frightful “guests” – was immediately suppressed by the government; and a thorough reading of its pages (courtesy of an Al Jazeera scoop) demonstrates why. Here, for example, is the chief minister of what we used to call the North West Frontier province – by chance, the original home of Abid Naseer – speaking of his own country. “In Pakistan, individuals including dictators mattered more than institutions and processes… The governments of the past had not displayed a real allegiance” to Pakistan. “We are a very weak state and also a very scared state. We will take anything and not respond.” The minister said a US intelligence official had told him: “You are so cheap … we can buy you with a visa, with a visit to the US, even with a dinner…”
The great and late Pakistani philosopher Eqbal Ahmad – a friend of the equally late Edward Said – described the relationship between Pakistan and America: “There is an increasingly perceptible gap between … our move toward revolution and America’s belief in the plausibility of achieving reforms under the robber barons of the ‘third world’, our longing for absolute national sovereignty and America’s preference for pliable allies.” The gap was widening, Ahmad said, “between our sorrow and America’s contentment”.
This national tragedy does not – how often one has to go through this mantra – excuse the grotesque behaviour of the gangsters mentioned above. But it provides a detective’s clue to the crimes, a periscope view of the dark land from which all these men came, a geographical centre for the sick abuse of female children, the assault on women, the belief in absolute violence.
So don’t be politically correct. Call it Pakistan.
Trusty ‘Bel Tel’ bids for tabloid immortality
On a visit to Belfast, I grabbed that mainstay of all veteran Northern Ireland journos, the Belfast Telegraph, the “Bel Tel” as we used to call it in the ’70s. It was always scrupulously non-sectarian and soaked in the oldest clichés in journalism. Imagine my relief when I discovered nothing had changed. Efforts are still “bids”, and a local man who “rubbed shoulders with the cream of Hollywood” (yuk) celebrated a Bafta as a “shot in the arm” for Northern Ireland’s films.
But it got better. A local seafood restaurant planned to “tickle the tastebuds” of its customers, while a poll’s conclusion that the Northern Ireland accent was “sexy” was due to the “dulcet tones” of Liam Neeson. And – horror of horrors – Amal Clooney (representing men brutally interrogated by the Brits in 1971) was “one of the most photographed barristers in the world” who “hit the headlines last year when she married Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney”. Why, it seems only days ago that our “heart-throb” “popped the question” (Daily Mirror) to the lawyer whose resume includes (the “Bel Tel” again) “some of the most seismic legal cases in the world” – the return of Julian Assange to Sweden and the Elgin Marbles to Greece. The paper depicts Mrs Clooney in a pink suit – so no wonder “the column inches focus on her stunning looks and fashion”. Maybe this was the paper’s contribution to the Good Friday agreement: to bore the antagonists to death with clichés. And then, I suppose – whoops! – the guns fell silent!

When Pakistan questioned its history

Salil Tripathi 

21 February resonates with special meaning for Bangladeshis. That morning in 1952, hundreds of students of what was then known as Dacca University came to their campus to protest against restrictions placed on public assembly. The students were part of the movement that sought equal recognition for the language spoken most widely in East Bengal, and the mother tongue of most, Bangla. Bangladesh was part of Pakistan then, and the national language was Urdu. The police arrested some students, and more students went to demonstrate at the East Bengal Legislative Assembly. When some students attempted to enter the premises, police opened fire and several students were killed. For Bangla nationalists, 21 February became martyrs’ day; the language movement, which would ultimately culminate in what Bangladeshis call the war of liberation, and the country’s independence in 1971 was now unstoppable.
On 21 February this year, I was in Lahore. I entered the hall at the impressive Alhamra Art Centre, the home of the Lahore Literary Festival, before a nearly-packed audience of Pakistanis, who were curious about my book, The Colonel Who Would Not Repent: The Bangladesh War and its Unquiet Legacy, published last November. The talented radical musician Taimur Rahman, who is part of the progressive group Laal, and teaches political science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, had the unenviable task of steering a discussion about my book—and the 1971 war, which broke Pakistan—that was bound to reopen old wounds. My co-panelists were Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi, a poet from Dhaka who has worked for the rehabilitation of birangonas, as the Bangladeshi women who survived sexual violence in 1971 are known, and the brave human rights activist from Lahore, Hina Jilani, who protested against the war and would later during that hour tell us about her experience of trying to get Pakistanis to oppose violence in East Pakistan by signing petitions on Mall Road in Lahore, only to be ridiculed, and she recalled others telling her they were occasionally spat at. Taimur was generous in his praise for my book; he called it “a readable unreadable book,” saying it was easy to read, but the stories it contained made him uncomfortable as a Pakistani. Our initial conversation was like in a tense test match—straight deliveries, played back with a straight bat. But then Taimur turned, as he should, to the tougher questions: here I was, in Lahore, telling Pakistanis what they had done. How did I feel? It wasn’t an easy question to answer.
The audience included at least half, if not more, who weren’t born at the time of the war. They were interested in literature and ideas; they were Lahore liberals, willing to listen to another point of view. They had shown courage in attending a literature festival, taking place within days of a bomb blast. There were security vehicles and armed guards outside the arts complex to prevent any terrorist act; there were snipers on the rooftops, and uniformed men with weapons inside the complex. They knew, and applauded, Jilani’s views on Pakistan’s army. But what I had written about went close to the bone. Some probably saw me for what is part of my identity—a man born in India, with a Hindu name. India, not any other country, but the one with which Pakistan fought wars, and which local textbooks blame for dismembering Pakistan and deviously helping Bangladesh become independent. We all have our baggage: my textbooks told me that India intervened in 1971 only after the Pakistani Air Force struck Indian airfields on 2 December, and that Indian motives were primarily driven by the humanitarian impulse—to end conflict, to bring peace, and to help the nearly 10 million refugees return home—a view not only many Pakistanis, but some Bangladeshis, too, question. Those in the audience in front of me were not responsible for what Pakistan’s army did in 1971. Yahya Khan wasn’t elected; his was a military dictatorship that was refusing to hand over power to the Awami League, which had won the majority of seats in the elections.
All Pakistanis did not endorse the government. So I mentioned some courageous, positive examples—like the story of an air force officer who became conscientious objector and refused to bomb civilians; of a colonel who left the army, and over the years wrote poetry and tried to reconcile the two nations; of another officer, who wrote about the incidents of rape he knew were happening; of an anguished Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who would write the moving ghazal, known as Dhaka se wapasi: Ham ke thehre ajnabi itni madaaraaton ke baad Phir baneinge aashna kitni mulaaqaaton ke baad (The Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali translated it as: After those many encounters, that easy intimacy, we are strangers now—After how many meetings will we be that close again?) Horrible things were done in your name and there has been no accountability, I said to the audience. Hina Jilani was not one to let her compatriots off easily. She challenged my interpretation; she said that hardly any Pakistani spoke up. She recalled how her father, who wrote a letter to Yahya Khan protesting the military crackdown, was arrested and was kept in jail from March to September 1971. She recounted the humiliating taunts pacifists on Mall Road endured. Things were done, she said; we were silent, she reminded the people; we were responsible. And she got resounding applause. Taimur then asked me about the controversy over numbers—were three million people killed? Or 26,000, as the Hamoodur Rahman Commission said? And were indeed 250,000 to 500,000 women raped? I had explored this in my book. What did I mean? I explained my conclusion—that the number is not crucial, what happened is crucial. It wasn’t as low as 26,000, and may not be as high as three million—but many, many innocent civilians were killed; there were dozens of camps where women were taken against their will; many were raped often every night; and this went on for months. Doing the math gives you a very large number. Was it a quarter million? Half a million? How can we estimate, when the few records that were kept had been destroyed, many children were adopted, and many fetuses aborted? Sadaf Saaz Siddiqi explained how the records were unfortunately destroyed:
Bangladesh is a conservative society, and rape carries a stigma. For privacy reasons, the records were not kept, she said. But one consequence of that is that it has become difficult to establish what had happened, and making a legal case against alleged perpetrators has become complicated. After 1975, when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated, the rehabilitation work ended. It is now carried on by NGOs like Nijera Kori and Naripokkho, among others. But the women are alive, and many still live with that experience. Sadaf has met them, and so have I. She spoke movingly about the lives that birangonas live today. They are growing old; some of their families have disowned them, sometimes years after the war, sometimes by children who discover what was done to their mothers and they conclude it is their mothers’ fault somehow; some are told they won’t be buried with their families. Their lives have been ruined. At this point, a man rose from the audience and shouted loudly: “This is rubbish.” He began walking out of the hall, saying, “This is Indian propaganda; Pakistan army zindabad.” I told him to let Sadaf complete, but he ignored me. Several Pakistanis shouted at him, saying he should be ashamed; that Pakistan owed Bangladesh an apology. The mood had begun to turn. A man got up and emotionally apologized to Sadaf and all his Bengali sisters. Others too rose, asking why they were not being told what really happened in 1971. The conversation that was difficult to begin in Pakistan was finally getting started, on 21 February. The man who had heckled was escorted out. But his intervention allowed others to challenge me. Ahsan Akbar, the British-Bangladeshi poet who attended the session, later told me: “Too often, we romanticize the notion that the youth of today’s Pakistan are right-thinking and want to acknowledge and apologize for the atrocities of 1971.
It is romanticization because I was there and the packed auditorium was tense. I saw the number of young people who challenged what Sadaf and you had to say. It is not only the elderly who are stuck to one view. The damage is deeper and too often, we like to be optimistic, and say, ‘at least the next generation is acknowledging,’ even though I’m the first to say it is not their fault at all. But that is not always the case, as I witnessed and learned from speaking to people in Pakistan.” And those questions followed: what about the atrocities committed against Biharis? What about the war crimes of the Mukti Bahini? Taimur said that my book does not spare the Mukti Bahini, and there is a part where I write about the Bihari plight. But one man said: “That’s not what you are saying. Your speech is not neutral.” How does one stay neutral talking about rape? But instead of saying that, I spoke of the perils of whataboutery: two wrongs don’t make something right; a wrong committed by X does not permit Y to commit a similar wrong, nor does Y’s committing a wrong absolve X of what he did. Hina Jilani rightly explained the overriding principle: that a state is held to higher standards than a non-state actor—which the Mukti Bahini was, being a rebel army. An army accountable to a state cannot retaliate the way it wants against a guerrilla force. I mentioned the obligations international humanitarian law, through Geneva Conventions, places on armies. Read the book, I told the skeptics. “If you don’t believe me, and if you don’t want to buy it, borrow it from a library, but read it first,” I said. Is it possible to move on? Can there be closure? Taimur asked me.
And I recounted what the Bangladeshi researcher and academic Meghna Guhathakurta had told me, and that story became part of my book. Her father, professor Jyotirmoy Guhathakurta, was one of the first intellectuals killed by the Pakistani army on 25 March 1971. She said it is easy to ask the victim if she is willing to forgive and move on. But before she can forgive, there has to be someone expressing remorse. And where is the remorse? And what would remorse look like? If Berlin can have a Holocaust Museum, can Islamabad have one? At this, there was applause, louder than I have heard anytime when I’ve spoken. It was long and thunderous; it still reverberates in my ears. It was a powerful sentiment, and it possibly made many people uncomfortable, but it needed to be said. And I was merely the messenger; the voice came from the survivors of 1971. Later that afternoon, many Pakistanis came to me and asked me how I could stay so calm when challenged. I said I believed in the power of the stories I had heard, which I believed, and which I had told in the book. And I wasn’t taking it personally, just as I was not accusing anyone personally in the audience. If what you are saying is the truth, then you are never alone, as Mohandas Gandhi had taught us in India, I said. Many bought my book and got me to sign their copies. Several came and took photographs with me. Some exchanged email addresses, a few have written and I’ve written back. Most of them were young.
They had grown up on histories written by the Establishment. They were discovering parts of the past kept hidden from them. They found those stories understandably uncomfortable. Mofidul Hoque of Dhaka’s Liberation War Museum once told me the story of a young Pakistani woman who visited the museum and made a video, addressed to her parents’ generation, where she says: Tumne chhupa ke rakha Meri kaum ne chhupa ke rakha Hamne chhupa ke rakha (You kept it hidden. My community kept it hidden. I kept it hidden.) In Kamila Shamsie’s 2002 novel, Kartography, Maheen tells Raheen: “The truths we conceal don’t disappear, Raheen, they appear in different forms.” Pakistan needs such conversations. 21 February is now recognized as the International Mother Language Day.
The day after in Lahore, I read in local newspapers that young students in Sahiwal, a town 170km from Lahore, had danced and performed folk songs, celebrating the International Mother Language Day. At the Lahore Literary Festival itself, there were conversations not only in English and Urdu, but also in Saraiki and Punjabi. Somewhere beyond that auditorium, in spite of that heckler, and in spite of understandable scepticism among some in that audience, a simple message was getting across—that people have the right to speak and express themselves in the language of their choice, and which comes naturally to them. And, as Romila Thapar had reminded us while opening the festival, history is a dialogue between the present and an assumed past, and therefore, we should all question our histories.
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