Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Arab Music Video - Haifa Wehbe - Yabn El Halal

Why Is Saudi Arabia Heading a UN Human Rights Council Panel?

Salil Tripathi

The Human Rights Council is beholden to outmoded protocols that allow rotating member-states to assume control of issues they’re least qualified to address.
In a normal world, Saudi Arabia would be arraigned for its appalling human rights record, not appointed to head an important panel at the international human rights monitor. And yet, it was revealed Monday that over the summer Saudi Arabia was appointed to a panel at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that would interview and short-list experts, from among whom successful candidates would then be nominated to examine specific human rights challenges. These challenges may include the human rights record of a particular country or a specific theme, and those themes can include violence against women, the rights of migrants, religious freedom, or sexual orientation.
The hypocrisy behind this decision need hardly be stated. The Saudi government is unelected and run by one large family, or clan. Not only does it have the death penalty on its statute, it executes prisoners with particular relish, turning their executions into a public spectacle. Torture is routine in its prisons and offenders of certain crimes are flogged in public. The denial of the right to drive is among the least of the abuses women suffer in the country.  Foreigners who live in Saudi Arabia—be they well-paid expatriates or construction workers living in slavery-like conditions—have to be on the guard constantly so that they don’t fall foul of its laws that violate the norms of free and fair trials. Its vast wealth is used to acquire weapons at home and finance fundamentalist movements abroad which cause havoc in distant societies, transforming native forms of Islam into Wahhabism which bears little relation to the universal declaration of human rights.
Hillel Neuer, executive director at UN Watch, which tracks some of the grander absurdities of the UNHRC, called Saudi Arabia’s appointment “scandalous” because it “has beheaded more people this year than ISIS.” Ensaf Haidar, whose husband Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for blogging about free speech in Saudi Arabia, said the appointment would in effect give “a green light to start flogging [Badawi] again.” Others have blamed the power of oil wealth—“oil continues to trump basic human rights principles,” Neuer added, according to reports.
Given Saudi Arabia’s record, the rage is understandable—it would get to recommend experts who may not be experts, or whose understanding of human rights is at variance with the vast majority of those who care for human rights.
But the global fury is directed at the wrong target. Agnes Callamard, director of Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression and Information initiative (disclosure: I am part of its team of experts), told The Daily Beast: “What has happened is that Saudi Arabia is now a member of the advisory committee that produces recommendations to the president of the Human Rights Council who makes final decisions regarding the appointing of mandate holders. The composition of the advisory group is five representatives from all regions. It is a rotation within regions, so nobody appoints anybody. The real problem is that Saudi Arabia was appointed to the Human Rights Council and its being a member of the advisory committee is just a logical consequence. And the UN is not responsible for the appointment in any way.”
What has given rise to such ire is Saudi Arabia’s appointment to the UNHRC’s consultative group. This group is made up of five members, one from each of the five regional groups recognized by the United Nations. This group interviews and recommends candidates for dozens of experts, called “special rapporteurs” or “independent experts” whose job it is to examine specific human rights challenges and make non-binding recommendations to the human rights council. The recommendations are not binding.
These appointments represent important work; the mandates help set the norms about how the world can enhance respect for, and protection and fulfillment of human rights, and how that should be at the core of every action. But changes are gradual. A special rapporteur on violence against women, for example, may produce path-breaking research and offer advice on how states can stop that, but states are under no legal obligations to implement those recommendations. If a special rapporteur criticizes a particular country’s conduct against minorities, the country can brazen it out—it can even deny the rapporteur the right to visit the country to undertake investigations. As important the mandates are, they are toothless. And that is because the member-states want it that way, just as it is the member-states which want Saudi Arabia to be in the consultative group and in the UNHRC.
Within the Council, Saudi Arabia is part of the Asian group, and as per standard UN practice, the groups nominate their representatives, usually by rotation and by consensus. According to reports, the other current members of the consultative group are Algeria, Chile, Lithuania, and Greece. These countries are drawn from 47 members of the UNHRC, who are elected according to their regions, and the regions represent Cold War-era thinking and geopolitics—13 from Africa, 13 from Asia, six from Eastern Europe, eight from Latin America and the Caribbean, and seven from Western Europe and other countries.
While the UN General Assembly is expected to consider the candidate states’ contribution towards promoting and protecting human rights as well as their commitments to uphold international human rights standards, it is clear that realpolitik prevails. Current members include countries with a poor human rights record, including China. It also includes the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, and Japan, but it is nobody’s case that these Western states have a perfect record on human rights, nor have they necessarily ratified most human rights instruments, such as covenants and conventions that form the body of human rights laws.
By all means the international community needs to take a long and hard look at how it elects members to the UNHRC. By all means that process needs serious reform. Indeed, countries with a poor human rights record should not be part of such a council. And, indeed, there should be clear criteria to determine whose record is worse than others’, and countries that are politically strong should not get a free pass, and countries that are convenient to dislike are not excluded. Those are far bigger issues, and far more significant concerns, than arguing whether Saudi Arabia should be the temporary chair of an advisory panel, whose recommendations would simply be that—recommendations.

The Guardian view on Yemen: remember the forgotten war

While so much international attention is again focused on Syria because of the refugee crisis in Europe, another less noticed war, less commented on, yet equally vicious, especially for the civilians who bear its brunt, continues to tear at the Middle East. Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe shows no sign of relenting. Yet it generates only a fraction of the attention focused on Syria.
The Yemen war is a conflict in which a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab states has, since March, launched an all-out air campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthi armed groups who seized the capital Sana’a a year ago. Saudi Arabia’s stated objective is to roll back the Shia Houthis and reinstate Yemen’s president, Abdu Mansour Hadi, who fled last year as the insurgency gained ground. Saudi methods have been dismally indifferent to the plight of civilians. The indiscriminate targeting of populated areas has become routine. Bombs and shells have been fired at hospitals, schools, factories and refugee camps. The death toll has reached 4,500 in six months. According to the United Nations, 80% of Yemen’s 25 million population is on the brink of famine.
Nor are there signs of improvement. Indeed the indications are that things could soon get worse, as the Sunni coalition and Hadi loyalists are preparing a ground offensive on Sana’a. This is certain to be a disaster for a population that already faces food and medicine shortages, as well as drastic water cuts. Diplomatic efforts again falteredon Sunday when the possibility of peace talks, tentatively set for this week, suddenly collapsed after factions loyal to Mr Hadi announced they would not take part until the Houthi side recognised a UN resolution in support of the deposed leader.
Yemen’s history has always been marked by tribal and religious tensions, and the Houthi insurgency has been going on for some years. However, the heart of the current chaos and misery is the larger reality that Saudi Arabia and Iran have both made Yemen a testing ground for their regional strategic rivalry, against a backdrop in which the United States, the major supplier of arms to the Saudis, is simultaneously attempting a significant thaw in relations with Iran. All the Gulf states except Oman have joined the Sunni military coalition in recent months, yet the US has largely turned a blind eye to the war crimes being committed. Its priority is to allay Sunni fears that the old alliances could be compromised after the nuclear deal was reached with Iran.
Yet America’s balancing act may fail. The security vacuum created in Yemen, and the radicalisation that the conflict has accentuated, have opened up more space for al-Qaida-affiliated groups. Recent US drone strikes underline that what is happening in Yemen is military escalation, not stabilisation. A negotiated settlement is long overdue, but it will only happen if strong international pressure, including from the US, is exerted on the Saudis. If even more instability is to be prevented on the Arabian peninsula, there must be a preparedness to name, shame and restrain those who are conducting atrocities against civilians in Yemen. Current western complacency and silence will only bring more chaos and strife.

Red Cross president: 'Yemen after 5 months looks like Syria after 5 years'


"Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years," the head of the international Red Cross says, describing the devastation from a conflict that has left more than 1,900 people dead since March.
Peter Maurer, fresh off a trip to the war-torn country in the Arabian Peninsula, said entrenched poverty, months of intensified warfare and limits on imports because of an international embargo have contributed to "catastrophic" conditions in Yemen.
"The firepower with which this war is fought on the ground and in the air is causing more suffering than in other societies which are stronger and where infrastructures are better off and people are wealthier and have reserves and can escape," Maurer told The Associated Press at his office in the headquarters of the International Committee for the Red Cross.
"The images I have from Sanaa and Aden remind of what I have seen in Syria," the Swiss-born ICRC president said. "So Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years."
The conflict that escalated on March 26 pits Shiite rebels known as Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and troops loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are leading a U.S.-backed Arab coalition that is carrying out airstrikes against Houthi forces.
The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday that at least 1,950 civilians have been killed in the fighting.
Backed by the Red Cross' reputation for neutrality, Maurer and his delegation had an unusual opportunity to cross front lines in the conflict and assess the aid response. Sanaa, the capital, "is quieter than it has been before" and infrastructure in the port city of Aden appeared able to take in more humanitarian assistance, he said.
"The question is whether it will come," Maurer said, adding that people he had spoken to during the trip last week indicated that recent gains by the southern resistance have "not materialized in a dramatic increase in the influx of goods."
The Red Cross now has four offices and 250 staffers in Yemen — about 50 of them from other countries, making it one of the most active humanitarian aid organizations on hand in the country.

Video - Hillary Clinton Speech at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention

The Soft Bigotry of Ben Carson

Charles M. Blow

The Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” At first, he stood by that outrageously prejudiced remark, but after coming under fire from not only Muslim groups but also many conservatives, he soon tried to walk it back, to cushion and to caveat it.
On Monday night, he posted a message on Facebook that included this line: “I could never support a candidate for President of the United States that was Muslim and had not renounced the central tenant of Islam: Sharia Law.”
Then on Tuesday, at a news conference, Carson said, “It has nothing to do with being a Muslim.” He continued: “That was the question that was specifically asked. If the question had been asked about a Christian and they said, ‘Would you support a Christian who supports establishing a theocracy?’ I would have said no.”
Only his original comment was unambiguous: It had everything to do with being a Muslim. And it was bigoted.But this isn’t Carson’s first time at this rodeo. This has become his modus operandi.
Carson has a way of speaking in a flat, sing-song-y tone while flashing his toothy, 100-watt smile, that can be utterly disarming, if not completely charming.
His undeniable pedigree as an acclaimed pediatric neurosurgeon adds an air of gravitas to his nonsensical utterances and provides some cover for what can be poisonously harmful, over-the-line invectives. Carson says in low register what others shout in anger, and he gets a bit of a pass because of the discordant message and method of delivery.
Just because a person is soft-spoken doesn’t mean that he is well-spoken.
Since Carson used his 2013 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast to criticize President Obama’s policies to his face, he has been lionized in conservative quarters.
It’s not that others have not criticized the president before or since, but it was the particularity of the racial imagery of Carson’s critique — one smart, accomplished black man undressing another in public — that gave it particular power. It insulated the attack from racial characterization. He said things from the lips of a black conservative that roiled the minds of white ones. And it represented a prominent breaking of ranks, a slicing off of black solidarity from not only Democratic loyalty but also from fidelity with this president.
Since then, Carson’s rhetoric has seemed to get only more reckless.
He has called Obama a psychopath and a liar. He has compared Obama’s supporters to Nazi sympathizers. He has said that Obamacare is the “worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” even worse than the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
He has asserted that being gay is “absolutely” a choice as evidenced by people who “go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.” He later apologized in a statement that read in part:
“I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation. I regret that my words to express that concept were hurtful and divisive. For that I apologize unreservedly to all that were offended.”
And even when his rhetoric isn’t reckless, it can be wrongheaded. He has used the shallowness of race as a biological construct to disavow and diminish the depth of racism as a very real cultural construct.
And he makes the mistake many people do, of using his personal story of success as a societal prescription for all problems. I have always held that working hard and following the rules are their own reward, but I am not naïve enough to believe that personal behavior can completely countervail structural oppression.
Carson knows that his outrageous antics in his role as the anti-Obama are a most profitable enterprise. He mixes political critique with Christian theological messaging to rake in quite a bit of money on the lecture circuit. As Politico reported in July, Carson “brought in nearly $2 million delivering inspirational speeches to faith-based groups like Christian high schools and pregnancy centers in 2014,” with speaking fees ranging “from $12,320 to $48,500.”
This is a sad turn — spurred, I believe, by profit motive — for such a great legacy.
I, like many other African-Americans, had come to see Carson as a hero before his foray into politics because of the resonance of his personal story — a poor inner-city child being raised by a driven single mother who valued education and instilled in him a sense of character that would allow him to become a staggering success.
Carson was the embodiment of possibility. His 1990 book, “Gifted Hands,” was required reading for many young people.
But as a political figure, his stature is diminished as he reveals himself to be intolerant, bordering on soft bigotry, and also reckless and needlessly inflammatory. No one can discount what Carson accomplished professionally, but those accomplishments must now stand shoulder to shoulder with this new persona: whisper-soft purveyor of hyperbolic hucksterism.

#NYT - EDITORIAL - The Republican Attack on Muslims

The Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is drawing criticism over the bigoted comments he has been making recently about Muslims. It is well deserved, and is not a matter of “P.C. culture,” as Mr. Carson has claimed. Nor does Mr. Carson represent some minor fringe element in the Republican Party.
This latest sordid mess to arise from the G.O.P. nomination contest touches on bedrock American values, constitutional principles and American history. It reflects a pernicious habit among the leaders of the Republican Party to play with fire by pandering to an angry, disaffected and heavily white base by demonizing selected minorities. Muslims are just the current target.
Mr. Carson declared Sunday on ”Meet the Press” that Muslims are unfit to run for president because a president’s faith should be “consistent with the Constitution.” Later, he told the newspaper The Hill that Islamic Shariah law isn’t consistent with the Constitution because “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”
Leave aside for a moment the unintentionally funny spectacle of a member of the current Republican Party declaring that religion should be kept out of public life, and that Mr. Carson, as an African-American, is a member of a much belittled minority. The freedom of religion embedded in the First Amendment rules out the very idea of a religious test for public office, as John F. Kennedy so eloquently argued and then proved by becoming the first Catholic president.
As for Shariah law, Catholicism has canon law and Judaism has the Halakha and nobody is painting them as threats to the republic — at least not this year.
Following Mr. Carson’s comments, some Republicans tried to suggest that anti-Muslim feelings existed only in parts of the party’s grass-roots base. Some argued that former President George W. Bush drew a line between the country’s antiterrorism efforts after 9/11 and a broader campaign against Muslims. “We’ve worked so hard to try to make it clear that that isn’t the case,” said Tony Fratto, who was a press aide to Mr. Bush. “But each time somebody does this kind of thing, it makes it harder.”
But Mr. Carson is hardly alone in his demagogy. Donald Trump has accused President Obama of being foreign born, and is continuing to stoke suspicions that Mr. Obama is a Muslim — a myth that a disturbing number of Republicans believe. Last week, Mr. Trump welcomed a question from a man who asserted “we have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims,” that “our current president is one,” and the man asked “when can we get rid of them?” Instead of telling the truth, that Mr. Obama is an American-born Christian, Mr. Trump said, “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”
Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina publicly disagreed with Mr. Carson, but neither truly matters in the campaign or the party. Other Republican hopefuls — Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey and John Kasich of Ohio, and Jeb Bush at least deigned to acknowledge that Mr. Obama is American and is not Muslim. But these efforts have been tepid, at best, because the Republicans are playing to polls that show support for Muslims ranks far below other religious groups among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters.
The phenomenon isn’t new. Claims that Mr. Obama was not a citizen and was a Muslim dogged him since 2008, fanned by people like Mr. Trump. Even in 2012, Republicans did not forthrightly deny the lie. Rick Santorum, for example, grudgingly said, Well, if Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, then I have to take him at his word.” Running in 2008, Senator John McCain, at least, shook his head and said “No, Ma’am” when a voter called Mr. Obama an Arab and said he was a “decent family man, citizen. Former President Bush sometimes said the right things about fighting extremism, not Islam, but instituted a system of detention, torture and trial that applies only to Muslims.
Anti-Muslim sentiment is playing out in the refugee crisis caused by hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Muslims, fleeing wars in the Middle East. The United States recently agreed to take an additional 30,000 refugees per year by 2017, but some conservatives are objecting, claiming they will provide a recruiting pool for radicals. Closing the country’s doors to Muslims would buy into Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump’s vilification and dishonor the thousands of Muslims who have joined Irish, Italians, Germans, French, Jews, Russians, Latinos, Africans and many others in becoming honorable citizens and perhaps, one day, president.

Hillary Clinton calls for Canada-U.S.-Mexico climate change plan

Hillary Clinton has released a policy paper that calls for a wide-ranging, co-ordinated Canada-U.S.-Mexico climate-change plan one day afterannouncing her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.
The position paper from the presidential contender added a new wrinkle Wednesday to an issue that has already inserted itself in two national elections — the current Canadian one, and the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
Clinton wants to follow up her opposition to Keystone with a more ambitious climate program that includes immediately launching negotiations toward what she's called the North American Climate Compact.
It's the first time a prominent U.S. politician has explicitly linked the pipeline issue to more action on climate change from Canada — something President Barack Obama has never done.
 'I am announcing a comprehensive strategy to modernize American energy infrastructure and forge a new partnership with Canada and Mexico to combat climate change across the continent'- Hillary Rodham Clinton
It's also a significantly more aggressive plan that the current continental working group on climate change which aims to upgrade infrastructure but does not set out firm greenhouse-gas targets.
"Building a clean, secure, and affordable North American energy future is bigger than Keystone XL or any other single project. That's what I will focus on as president," said the Clinton paper.
"That's why today I am announcing a comprehensive strategy to modernize American energy infrastructure and forge a new partnership with Canada and Mexico to combat climate change across the continent...
"As president, I will immediately launch negotiations with Canada and Mexico to forge a North American Climate Compact."

Wants strong targets and accountability

Clinton says she would seek strong national targets to cut carbon pollution; ensure all three countries demonstrate a commitment to climate action; and create accountability measures to make sure each country respects its commitments.
Other parts of the paper mention speeding up ongoing safety upgrades to rail tanker cars that carry oil, new regulations for pipeline safety, and repairing older, leak-prone pipelines.
The paper comes one day after she stunned allies of the Keystone project by announcing opposition to a pipeline she'd once said she was inclined to support, and she called Canadian oil the continent's dirtiest fuel.
That announcement instantly became a 2016 U.S. election issue, as Republicans pounced on her. In Canada, the governing Conservatives issued a cautious statement defending the project while the Liberals and NDP jumped into it.
The Liberals support the Alberta-to-Texas pipeline and blame its delays on the Harper government's inaction on climate change. The NDP opposes it, on the grounds that it would ship refining jobs to the U.S.

President Obama & Pope Francis Meet in the West Wing

Video Report - Pope Francis gets political addressing US nation on deeply divisive issues

Eid Song - Eid Ka Din Hay Galay Hum Ko Laga Kar Miliay

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Music Video - katrina kaif dancing in ishq shava jab tak hai jaan

Music Video - Mashallah - Ek Tha Tiger - Salman Khan & Katrina Kaif

How the U.S. Wasted Billions of Dollars Rebuilding Afghanistan


As the Obama administration plans to finally close the book on the long and tragic U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by December 2016, we’re beginning to see tallies of the amount of American blood and treasure expended there over the past 14 years.
“The plot that led to the murder of 2,977 people on Sept. 11, 2001, originated in Afghanistan,” Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, recently wrote in The Washington Post. “Since then, more than 2,350 U.S. service members have sacrificed their lives in Afghanistan to help ensure that no more innocent Americans are victims of such savagery.”
Thornberry was arguing that the U.S. and allied forces should keep a significant residual force in place beyond next year, to preserve hard-won gains against the Taliban and back up the new government of President Ashraf Ghani. But on Tuesday, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko, the government’s watchdog over U.S. spending in Afghanistan, provided a troubling reminder of the vast sums of taxpayer dollars wasted on reconstruction efforts during America’s longest war.
Sopko has spent years documenting waste, fraud and abuse in the U.S. military’s efforts to rebuild war-torn Afghanistan. To put it in some perspective, he said, the U.S. has spent $110 billion on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. When adjusted for inflation, that total exceeds the value of the entire Marshall Plan effort to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.
“Even now, 14 years on and with the U.S. military presence much diminished, nearly $12 billion more in reconstruction funds wait in the financial pipeline, appropriated but not yet spent,” he said. “The United States and our allies have pledged billions more for years to come.”
Over the past four year, Sopko’s independent government organization has issued 136 reports that contained nearly 400 recommendations and identified over $1 billion of potential savings. In addition, SIGAR's investigations unit has conducted 538 investigations that resulted in 73 arrests, 69 convictions or guilty pleas, and savings of over $500 million.
But progress has been limited. And despite frequent warnings from SIGAR, officials have moved ahead with projects that led to “massive U.S.-sponsored failures,” including:
  More than $8 billion in spending on counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan that have “failed by every conceivable metric.
 The purchase of nearly $500 million worth of airplanes that never could fly and had to be turned into scrap.
  Construction of a building that literally began to melt when it rained.
  A $500,000 health clinic that lacked water and electricity. Newborn babies had to be washed in a nearby river.
Beyond the massive waste of U.S. funds and personnel in trying to rebuild the war-torn country, the failed U.S. efforts to try to discourage Afghanistan’s production of poppies used in the manufacture of heroin has had serious social and financial repercussions in the United States and Europe.   
Last year, Sopko reported that despite $7.6 billion of counter-narcotics efforts over the past ten years, illegal opium poppy cultivation was at a record high in Afghanistan. This has helped fuel a heroin epidemic in the United States that has drawn the attention of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and other prominent politicians.
“In past years, surges in opium poppy cultivation have been met by a coordinated response from the U.S. government and coalition partners, which has led to a temporary decline in levels of opium production,” Sopko wrote at the time. “However, the recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of those prior efforts.”
Sopko said Tuesday that there has been no improvement in the situation and that the heroin crisis is bedeviling Great Britain and other European countries as well as the U.S. “Afghanistan’s problems extend far beyond its borders and we ignore them at our peril,” he said. “Afghan heroin floods the streets of European cities and Afghan refugees are estimated to make up the third largest group crossing European borders.”
In conclusion, he said that the mission to reconstruct Afghanistan remains critical – for both humanitarian and national-security reasons. And with $12 billion of spending by U.S. agencies still in the pipeline, “There is both a necessity and urgency to improve the effectiveness of our efforts, and the time to finally making lasting difference in the outcome.”
 “However, we should not kid ourselves about Afghanistan,” he said. “It will continue to be a long struggle. Defeating a determined insurgency, improving health and education, altering attitudes toward women, reducing corruption, and building government competence are not casual, short-term undertakings.”


Laal Masjid’s takfiri terrorists were planning to kill Allama Raja Nasir Abbas and Allama Amin Shahedi
Laal Masjid’s takfiri terrorists Haris Rasheed and Haroon Rasheed, who were arrested today in Islamabad and were the sons of Molana Abdur Rasheed and nephews of Laal Masjid’s khateeb Molana Abdul Aziz, revealed during investigations that they were planning to target MWM Pakistan’s leader Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafri, Allama Amin Shahedi and other major Shia clerics.

Pakistan - A Love Story - The Ruling PML N leadership and banned, ISIS-affiliated Deobandi terrorist group ASWJ-LeJ

Riaz Malik Hajjaji

As a fervent supporter of the “Liberal” cause in Pakistan, I stand with PML N’s public love affair with banned, ISIS affiliated terrorist group, ASWJ-LeJ. As someone who pines to be part of the JANG-PML N-JS-ASWJ-LeJ “anti-establishment” nexus (and the resultant goodies of free trips, meals and paydays) this is my ‘umble ode to the public love affair between PML N and ASWJ-LeJ
When I read how the Government is “mulling the criminalisation of those who declare other sects as Kafir” ;  and it became clear to me that IRONY is alive and kicking in Pakistan.
After all, this is the same “anti-establishment” PML N whose Federal Interior Minister is seen cosying up to Muawiya Tariq – an upcoming leader of the banned, ISIS-affiliated ASWJ-LeJ. This is the same “anti establishment” Chaudhary Nisar who along with Shahbaz “I am Faiz” Sharif had the privilege of holding solitary, mid-night soirees with the former D G ISI and COAS, General Kiyani – a privilege that was even denied to former PM Gillani and President Zardari and the other 4 provincial chief Minsters.
This is the same PML N whose media spokespeople like Hamid Mir and Najam Sethi have given every opportunity to banned, ISIS-affiliated Deobandi terrorist groups like ASWJ to promote their hate on their TV channels at the “anti establishment” GEO/JANG channel and the Friday Times blog. Najam Sethi’s Friday Times blog even allowed the ASWJ-LeJ chief to pass off his hate speech that declares other muslim sects as “Kafir” as “Just a political slogan”!
“anti establishment” Nawaz Sharif does not want to be left out and is seen “praying” with Maulana Sandwich aka Sami ul Haq – who still fervently supports all manner of Taliban. Like many senior “leaders” of his “anti establishment” PML N, Nawaz Sharif also included ASWJ-LeJ chief, Ahmed Ludhyanvi to accompany him.
Of course, who can forget the role of the Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah who plays the role of the umbilical cord between PML N and ASWJ-LeJ. Rana Sanaullah believes in Equality when it comes to the State-sponsored massacre of Sunnis, Shias, Christains and Ahmadis – by his buddies from the Deobandi ASWJ-LeJ. He himself has personally facilitated the massacre of anti-Taliban Sunnis in Model Town in 2014.
Ofcourse, since he is the “Law” and still enjoys the support of PML N’s legal offices aka the Pakistani Supreme Court, he is free.
It is juxtapositions like these which make us all remember why the Saudi establishment stooge PML N is often portrayed as “anti establishment” by Pakistan’s Good Liberals. You know those liberals who talk of peace with India in one breath and then indirectly align with ASWJ-LeJ and its Kashmir affiliates like JeM in the other.
When ASWJ-LeJ vice-president Malik Ishaq was killed as part of the ongoing army operation against religious extremists, Pakistan’s liberals seemed dumbfounded. Some of them started to abuse and misrepresent the relieved Sunnis, Shias and Christians. Some of them who are particularly imaginative in their dishonesty even initially congratulated PML N – even though PML N never authorised the killing of Malik Ishaq and is still a very reluctant partner in going after religious extremists.
These pictures are not that old and are between 2012-2015 and paint the ongoing love affair between PML N and ASWJ-LeJ.

Pakistan - Speed bump: Plans to open Islamia college campuses in FATA scrapped

The dream of setting up Islamia College University (ICU) campuses in the tribal belt will remain just that – something that is marked on an unattainable wish list.
The project, which has been planned since 2007, faced a hiccup at the eleventh hour after Governor Mehtab Ahmad Khan refused to give it the green light.
Insiders familiar with the matter told The Express Tribune Mehtab returned a dossier sent to him by ICU Vice Chancellor Ajmal Khan. The file contained documents to kickstart construction work on the campuses in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which had to be signed by the governor. However, Mehtab refused to sign it and did not provide a justification for his decision. The dossier was accompanied with a letter to the VC urging him “to focus on [his] campus.”
Speaking to The Express Tribune, ICU officials said the governor had issued the order in total disregard of the headway made on the project.
A well-placed official in the FATA Secretariat said the decision came as a surprise as the governor had asked the ICU administration to begin construction work on the campuses two weeks earlier.
Open and shut
The suggestion to set up ICU campuses in Fata was made in 2007 by the then governor Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai. He had urged ICU to open more campuses to impart quality education to tribespeople.
According to an insider, a meeting was held in April 2008 between the then additional chief secretary and the VC to implement the project.
“The initial plan was to set up two campuses; one in North Waziristan and the other in Bajaur,” he said. “During the meeting, the ACS had directed the planning and development department to prepare PC-I which was immediately approved by the governor.”
Similarly, a team comprising officials from the ICU and Fata Secretariat visited Mirali, North Waziristan Agency and held meetings with tribal elders and the political administration. As a result, 500 kanals of land was donated towards the cause by tribespeople.
Orakzai’s successor, Owais Ghani, also took special interest in the project and vowed to ensure its completion. With time, NGOs threw their weight behind the cause and managed to attain more land for the varsity campuses. Ownership of the land was transferred to ICU.
The varsity’s administration decided to broaden its horizon and open two more campuses in Sadda and Parachinar in Kurram Agency. The move was aimed at stemming the alarming increase of sectarianism in the area with education. Subsequently, Government Commerce College Parachinar and Avon Public School Sadda offered portions of their buildings for the campuses. ICU allocated Rs10 million for this venture.
However, things took an unpredictable turn when the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan abducted Ajmal in September 2010. The project screeched to a grinding halt even though 95% of work on the project was completed.
After he was released after four years in August 2014, Ajmal took up the matter once again and discussed it with the Pakistan Army. The army pledged support for the project and teams comprising the varsity’s administration and FATA Secretariat officials visited construction sites in March. A final meeting was held with the governor on March 20. During the meeting, Mehtab voiced his willingness to initiate work on the project.
Left in the lurch
Speaking to The Express Tribune, an ICU official said the decision is likely to have drastic implications.
“We have lost the opportunity to do away with sectarianism and militancy in various parts of Fata,” he said.
The ICU official said a large number of students had been admitted into varsity programmes in Kurram Agency.
When contacted, the VC said that work has been stopped on the project.
“The project is still on cards and work is expected to be launched in the near future,” he said.
Mahtab was not available for comments as he was performing Hajj in Saudi Arabia. Additional Chief Secretary Muhammad Aslam Kamboh could not be reached for comments despite several attempts.
When contacted, Minister for State and Frontier Region expressed his ignorance about the matter. “I do not have any information. I can only comment on the FATA University being set up in Darra Adamkhel.”

Refugees from conflict ridden areas of Pakistan also heading to Europe

Just like the people from the war ravaged regions of the Middle East fleeing their homes, heading for Europe to save their lives, people from the conflict-hit areas of Pakistan also have been fleeing and heading for Europe, Australia, America and Canada.

In fact the people starting migrating from Pakistan much before the unrest started in the Middle East after the emergence of Dai'sh or the IS (Islamic State). People migrating from Pakistan fall in two different categories. First, who were initially affected by the war on terror spearheaded by the US against Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and later they got sandwiched between the militants of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistan Army, when the large-scale military operation 'Zarb-e-Azb' was launched against the militants, particularly focused on the Tribal Areas of Pakistan and in general all over the country. And, the second are the religious minorities like Shia Hazara community of Baluchistan and the third is a small number of Ahmadis, a community declared non-Muslims by Pakistan constitutionally.

"Both the Shias, especially the Hazara community in Baluchistan and the Ahmadis are victims of religious persecution. Though these Pakistanis are not migrating in hoards like we have been seeing from Iraq and Syria but there has been a steady trickle for many a years now," said Mubarik Ahmed Virk, a veteran Pakistani journalist.

Unable to fulfill legal requirements, very few Pakistanis believe to follow the legal process for immigration. Majority of them adopt a course, which is not only illegal but full of hazards, to reach the shores of Europe. They spend hefty amounts to smugglers and traffickers of criminal syndicates to take them to Europe. They sell them false dreams of green pastures through death-defying road to Europe. The amount they pay to their agents ranges between $8,000 and $13,000.

"I spent Rs1.3 million ($13,000) to reach here after journeying for nine months. Now, I am waiting for an opportunity to cross into England. In last five months, I was caught three times while hiding in a lorry. I hope to succeed this time," said Shoaib Afridi, a resident of Jamrud town of Khyber tribal region. "I've now stopped interaction with my family which sent me here with high expectations. I've not sent a single penny in last nine months and they ask for paying off the debt they had borrowed for sending me here," he said. Afridi lives with six Pashto-speaking Afghan nationals in a tent in a forest in Calais, France. About 600 Pashtuns, most of them from Afghanistan, live under tarpaulins and tents in densely forested area of Calais along with about 2600 imigrants from other countries waiting for their chances to enter England, their dream world.

In the past, majority of Afghans traveled to Europe, Australia and Canada along with Pakistanis on route passing through Baluchistan into Iran via Taftan border. Nevertheless, after December 16, 2014 attack on school in Peshawar, Pakistani authorities started a crackdown on Afghan refugees and the harsh treatment meted out to them by police compelled them to leave the country. Those who have returned to Afghanistan now use a route that passes through their country's Nimroz province into Iran and then onwards to Turkey and other European countries.

From Taftan, a border area between Pakistan and Iran, the immigrants travel on foot and at times changing vehicles to reach the Turkish border and then onwards to. From Istanbul, they use two routes to enter into Europe, one via sea to Greece and the other passing through Bulgaria. Javed Ali, a resident of Sargodha in Punjab province, has paid $8000 to the travel agents with the assurance that they will cross him to Europe. "They took us to Quetta (capital of Pakistan's Baluchistan province). We stayed there for one week," said Ali, 43, and a father of three kids. "One night the smugglers loaded us in containers and on the next move we were in Iran." The journey from Iran to Turkey and Cyprus was the hardest one, Ali recalled. "It was a good opportunity to join the international immigrants (a reference to the refugees from Syria and Iraq," said Ali. His journey is not yet over but he thinks that after few years this hardship will bring a lot of success. "I know it is dangerous but one has to take risks in life. I hope that I will make my future in Europe better than in my own country," Ali said.

During last decade, militant and sectarian outfits had targeted all religious minorities across Pakistan but Shia Hazara community of Baluchistan was worst hit by the onslaught of terrorism and sectarianism. They often use a different route that goes through Quetta-Karachi-Dubai and Indonesia. The disastrous voyage starts when people take dinghy ride entering illegally to Australia. In December 2011, 55 persons belonging to Quetta's Hazara community who had gone missing along with some 150 others as their boat had capsized. Terrified passengers on the boat that was heading for Australia were left to drown as it broke apart in stormy seas about 90km off the coast of Java (Indonesia), revealed accounts of surviving asylum seekers. Most of those gone missing were aged between 19 and 22 years.

Every year Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency arrests eight to 10,000 people illegally traveling to Europe via this route Pakistan-Iran border. "Apart from Afghan nationals, they belong to different areas in tribal regions, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the northwest and parts of Baluchistan. They cross into Iran through unfrequented routes without having valid travelling documents," said a Pakistani border official posted at Taftan border over phone. "But still many people cross the border and escape," he added.

Drone attacks and terrorism in Pakistan

AT THE beginning of the month, on September 6th, Pakistan’s military executed its first ever drone strike, firing on a 'terrorist compound' on domestic soil. Army officials announcedthat the attack in North Waziristan—located in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), a region synonymous with terrorist strongholds—killed three suspected "high-profile" militants. The strike was launched using Pakistan's first home-made drone, a result of America's refusal to share its drone technology with Pakistan. The ‘Burraq’ drone—named after a heavenly creature that transported the Prophet Muhammad—was first tested in March this year and shares striking similarities with its ally China’s CH-3 drone. 
The attack may mark a notable turn of events in the region: while Pakistan’s complicity in the American covert strikes is no secret, this incident could indicate the start of a more active part in Pakistan's battle against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. But whether indigenous drones will boost the country’s counter-terrorism capabilities remains to be seen. 
One reason why it so difficult to judge the drones' success is a lack of data. Since all but one of the strikes in Pakistan were executed under the aegis of the CIA, information is classified. The US government does not publish data on drone sorties, strikes and casualties caused. However, various organisations, such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Long War Journal and the New America Foundation, have taken to tracking the strikes themselves by analysing media reports—with varying results. It is a tall order: definitions are shaky (what, for example, makes a militant?), and sources may be biased. The remoteness of the tribal areas does not make for easy counting either, with reports of strikes often incomplete or contradictory.
Without comprehensive data to draw on, some experts speculate that the heavy bombardment of North Waziristan has merely caused terrorists to relocate. Others—most notably former US President Jimmy Carter—have said that drone attacks, in fact, only create more terrorists.