Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Is West's Anti-ISIL Campaign Still Really Aimed Against Bashar Assad?

The infamous Islamic State has sealed its fate by attacking Paris last week, US political analyst Phil Butler told Sputnik; however, given that the West has its own geopolitical plans in the Middle East, the destruction of ISIL still may not be the primary goal, he added.

The notorious Paris attack, carried out on the eve of the Vienna negotiations over Syria, has indirectly played into the hands of the Western anti-ISIL alliance, allowing Western leaders to re-assert their stance.
And still the question remains open whether the US and France will join Russia's efforts aimed at eradicating terrorism in the region or pursue their own geopolitical goals including the "Assad must go" idea.
"This is a very good question, one I have been deep in conversation over all day. Without the past illogical strategies of the West, I'd say France, the US and Russia could eradicate ISIL in a few weeks time. Given there is another "stronger" agenda going on, it may be that the destruction of ISIL will still not be the goal. If another player, Israel for instance, is playing some fundamentally crucial role in all this, albeit a quiet one, we may see France and the US sidestep Mr. Putin yet again. The smart move is to get rid of the threat, then go back to playing hegemony chess. One slip in a France gambit on Putin, and Obama and the Neocons will have an angry mob," American journalist and political analyst Phil Butler told Sputnik.
According to the US journalist, ISIL has sealed its fate by attacking Paris.

"Now, with innocent Russia, French, and other people's blood spilt, they are over," Butler pointed out.
Undoubtedly, the Paris attack will have resonance for different European political forces. And it seems that right-wing groups as well as Euroskeptics will jump at the opportunity to gain new political points. 

"Given the socio-economic pressures and tensions within most European nations now, I do not see how we will avoid some friction and ensuing conflicts. Even before these horrid attacks, the right has seen a real resurgence with regard to outsiders. Then too, moderates worldwide have shown uncommon apathy and even callousness in grasping even neo-Nazism in Ukraine and in other states. I guess it's fair to say we are sitting on a real powder keg right now," Butler told Sputnik.

While European leaders are weighing the pros and cons of potentially shutting European borders, Paris and Washington are beating the war drums in the wake of the hideous Paris massacre.

Joining the chorus of US hawks, Republican hopeful Jeb Bush has called for invoking NATO's Article 5 in order to deal a fatal blow to the Islamic State.

According to another political analyst, Bangkok-based expert Tony Cartalucci, it would be naïve to believe that the US or its NATO allies will change their stance over Syria.

First and foremost, Washington is going to get rid of Bashar al-Assad, by hook or by crook, the analyst stresses.

"It should seem extraordinary to the global public that even after the attacks in Paris, the West still insists on undermining the Syrian government toward its goal of 'regime change,' which includes continued material support to armed militants — all of which are extremists, and many of which have either coordinated with, or fought under the banner of al-Qaeda and even the self-proclaimed 'Islamic State'," Cartalucci wrote in his recent piece for New Eastern Outlook.

Although Western leaders are pledging to eliminate the terrorists and establish peace in Syria, in reality they have no intention of bringing stability to the country, according to the analyst. Furthermore, the Western political establishment's goal is to leave Syria Balkanized and destroyed like Libya.

"The West promises that it will end the chaos in Syria, just like they promised it would end in Libya. It will not end in either," Cartalucci warned.

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US, France Must Stop Turning Blind Eye to Saudi Radicalizing Programs

Experts claim that Saudi Arabia played a key role in preparing the ground for the terror attacks in Paris by financing enormous radicalization programs targeting Muslims in France and other European countries.

Saudi Arabia played a key role in preparing the ground for the terror attacks in Paris by financing enormous radicalization programs targeting Muslims in France and other European countries, experts told Sputnik.

However, the French government has not dared to confront Saudi Arabia because it needs Saudi oil and the revenue from huge weapons sales to Riyadh, the analysts explained in interviews on Wednesday.

"Much of the extremism in France is funded by French allies in the Gulf," Institute for Gulf Affairs Director Ali al-Ahmed told Sputnik. "Saudi-French trade and arms contracts have led successive governments in Paris to overlook this Saudi role."

Other Gulf monarchies also purchase French weapons in lucrative deals for Paris, giving French authorities the incentive to tacitly tolerate continued funding for outlets that encourage Islamists, he added.

Al-Ahmed also pointed out that at the G-20 summit in Turkey following the Paris attacks, the Saudi king skipped the moment of tribute to the Paris attack victims.

"He intentionally skipped it," al-Ahmed asserted.

The United States, he added, suffers from the same reluctance to expose the Saudi role in fanning the flames of Islamic extremism.

"Almost no major political figure in the United States has spoken out about this," Ahmed pointed out.
During the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday, al-Ahmed continued, frontrunner Hillary Clinton called on Turkey and the Gulf nations to take a stand against jihadi radicalism, but did not mention her own involvement.

"[Clinton] is compromised by money she has accepted from despotic Saudi and Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies," Ahmed stated.

France and the United States needed to reassess their long-running lucrative relationships with Saudi Arabia following the Paris attacks, US author and terrorism financing expert Dan Lazare told Sputnik.

"The most important thing is to re-evaluate… relations with Saudi Arabia, the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide, according to no less an authority than Hillary Clinton, as well as with the Arab Gulf states," he advised.

Lazare recalled that in December 2009, Clinton, then serving as US secretary of state, noted in a confidential diplomatic memo that "donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide."

In October 2014, US Vice President Joe Biden told Harvard University students that "'the Saudis [and] the Emirates… poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against [Syrian

President Bashar] Assad," Lazare remarked.
The funding led to massive direct US aid flowing to the Islamist groups such as the Nusra Front and al-Qaeda, Lazare pointed out.

"Unless France confronts Saudi Arabia, the problem will continue," he warned.

Lazare predicted France would continue to refuse to confront Saudi leaders because Riyadh remained too important as an oil source and as a market for military goods.

Read more:

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Afghans losing confidence in new government, survey says

More Afghans than at any time since 2004 feel their country is moving in the wrong direction, a new survey found. Insecurity, graft, a struggling economy and Kabul's ability to tackle key issues top the list of concerns.
The nationwide survey, published by The Asia Foundation on Tuesday, November 17, shows that Afghan optimism about the overall direction of the country declined to the lowest point in a decade - after steadily rising through 2014 - with more than half of all interviewed Afghans (57.5 percent) saying the country is moving in the wrong direction - up from 40.4 percent last year.
Conducted between June 11-28, and titled Afghanistan in 2015: A Survey of the Afghan People, the public opinion poll cites deteriorating security, unemployment, and corruption as the main reasons for the increase in pessimism. For instance, the number of Afghans who say they are afraid for their personal safety is at its highest recorded level (67.4 percent) since the survey began eleven years ago.
Foreign support 'needed'
The poll also reveals the growing perception among Afghans that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) need foreign support to operate. Almost 83 percent of Afghans say the Afghan National Army needs international assistance, while 80 percent say they feel the same way about Afghan National Police and 70.4 percent say this about the Afghan Local Police - all up from 2014.
There are indications that Afghan troops weren't alone in their efforts to recapture the strategically northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban less than two months ago, raising questions as to the degree of foreign support required to make the counter-offensive a success.
The brief fall of Afghanistan's fifth-largest city - which took place a few months after the survey was conducted - was a major setback for the ANSF and the administration of President Ashraf Ghani, as it demonstrated the Taliban's capability to expand their area of operation beyond the east and south of the country. The move also raised questions as to whether government troops can prevent another provincial capital from falling into the hands of the increasingly bold and resilient Islamist movement without foreign military support.
The Asia Foundation found that "Islamic State" (IS), which has claimed a series of deadly attacks in the country, has also had an impact on Afghans' perceptions of their safety, with nearly three out of four respondents saying they have heard of IS and 40.3 percent of all Afghans say the group poses a threat.

Loss in confidence
Optimism seems to have declined immediately following Afghanistan's contentious presidential runoff election. The political crisis over fraud claims dashed the hopes of many for a smooth democratic transition in the conflict-ridden country.
Since September of last year, the country has been ruled by a Ghani-led National Unity Government (NUG), which has faced a myriad of challenges from the outset, including a deteriorating economy in the face of declining international aid and foreign military spending, as well as the full assumption of security responsibilities by Afghan forces amid a resurgent Taliban insurgency.
"Afghanistan experienced the impact of the three simultaneous security, political, and economic transitions in 2015," said Abdullah Ahmadzai, The Asia Foundation's Country Representative in Afghanistan. "Against this intensely challenging backdrop, the 2015 survey reflects Afghans' understandable concerns, and a frustration that more progress isn't being made. The results show increased skepticism in the government's ability to effectively address these challenges."
As a result, the poll found that Afghans are less confident in their public institutions. For instance, the proportion of those who say the government is doing a good job has fallen to 58 percent, down from 75.3 percent in 2014 when election campaign promises of improvements in governance and services contributed to a sense of hope.
And the proportion of Afghans who say they are satisfied with the democratic process in the country has hit an all-time low, dropping from 73 percent last year to 57 percent.
These numbers are similar to those found in a survey conducted by DW's Dari and Pashto services. According to the poll, 80 percent of participants said they were not satisfied with Kabul's performance, while only a mere 7.5 percent said the opposite. The DW poll also reflected the current mood among the nation's populace, with most people remaining pessimistic about their prospects in the impoverished nation.
Corruption and local services

The Asia Foundation also found that the number of Afghans who say they can impact local government decisions has decreased, from 56 percent in 2014 to 44.5 percent. And despite government efforts to curb corruption, 90 percent of Afghans say corruption is a major problem in their daily lives, the highest percentage reported since 2004.
Although the country has seen progress in the delivery of basic government services, satisfaction with most services has recently dipped, as more than half Afghans cite electricity, roads, drinking water, education, healthcare, and water for irrigation as the most common problems they face not only on a local, but also on a national level.
Women's rights
In terms of the women's role in the country, 2015 saw some wins for women in Afghan politics: the cabinet now includes four female ministers and the government appointed two new female provincial governors. "Afghan women are also increasingly aware of their rights and know which institutions to contact in a domestic conflict," said The Asia Foundation.
Infografik Equal Education Afghanistan ENG
In addition, the survey found that nearly all Afghans (93.6 percent) support women's equal access to education in Islamic madrasas, and a high proportion support equal opportunities at the primary school, high school, and the university levels.
However, the case of Farkhunda, a 27-year-old woman lynched by a mob for allegedly setting a copy of the Koran on fire, and the recent insurgent attacks against educated and politically active women in Kunduz illustrate the serious challenges Afghan women face. As in previous years, Afghans list education and illiteracy (20.4 percent) and unemployment/lack of job opportunities (11.3 percent) as the two largest problems facing women.
Youth unemployment
Given that nearly half of Afghans are under the age of 18 - one of the largest youth populations in the world - The Asia Foundation also asked them about their views on the country. Afghans say unemployment (71.4 percent) and illiteracy (26.5 percent) are the two biggest problems facing their youth.
Afghanistan's economy has floundered in the past two years as international investors and aid organizations have drastically scaled back operations following the withdrawal of most international troops.
In fact, in a recently released report, researchers from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the International Council of Swedish Industry (NIR), expressed concerns that the country's private sector will not be able to make up for the loss of international assistance anytime soon - a development that could bolster the insurgency and further dampen democratic prospects.
The lack of employment and prospects is also believed to be driving millions of young Afghans to embark on perilous journeys in search of a better life in places like Europe.
Media as a bright spot
A source of optimism, however, is the country's expanding media sector and increasing availability of sources of information from around the world, which continues to shape public opinion.
Two-thirds of Afghans say media institutions remain the most trusted ones alongside religious leaders (64.3 percent), and ahead of government institutions and NGOs. In 2015, 62.1 percent of Afghan households own a television, a number that has almost doubled in the last eight years.
A majority (82.3 percent) report owning at least one mobile phone in their household, compared to 41.5 percent in 2007; and 21 percent report having someone in their household who has access to the internet, according to the poll.

“داعش تر افغانستان زیات د پاکستان او ایران لپاره لوی خطر دی”

 د اسلامي دولت وسله والې ډلې داعش د تېرې جمعې په شپه په پېرس کې لږ تر لږه ۱۲۹ کسان ووژل او تر دوه سوه یې زیات ټپیان کړل.

فرانس ، روس او امریکا د داعش له دې بریدونو وروسته په شام او عراق کې د دې ډلې پر ضد په خپلو عملیاتو کې توندي راوستې ده.

دا په داسې حال کې ده چې داعش په سیمه او په ځانګړې توګه د افغانستان په ختیځ کې له شاوخوا یونیم کاله راهسې نه یوازې فعاله ده بلکې یو شمېر کسان یې هم وژلي دي.

په افغانستان کې د دې ډلې په اړه بېل بېل نظرونه دي. په دې نظرلرونکو کې داسې خلک هم شته چې بهرني هېوادونه او په ځانګړې توګه لویدیځ د دې ډلې تر شا ولاړ بولي.

د امنیتي چارو کارپوه واحد طاقت وايي ، نړیوال په افغانستان کې د داعش خپرېدو د مخنیوي لپاره ګامونه نه اخلي.

ده وویل، “افغانستان هوايي ځواک او اړین هوايي پوځي وسایل نه لري چې له کبله یې افغان ځواکونه د ترهګرو ډلو پر وړاندې کمزوري دي هغه ځکه چې ترهګر قوي ملاتړي لري “.

واحد طاقت وویل ، لکه څنګه چې نړۍ د افغانستان له ګاونډي هیوادونو پاکستان او ایران سره څنګه پوځي مرستې کوي هغسې یې له افغانستانه سره نه دې کړي.

په کابل کې د سیاسي او څېړنیزو چارو شنونکی حکمت اعظمي وايي ، داعش یوازې د افغانستان لپاره نه بلکې د ټولې سیمې او په ځانګړې توګه د پاکستان او ایران لپاره ډېر خطر دی.

نوموړی وايي ، په کار ده چې د دې ډلې په وړاندې د سیمې هیوادونه له یو بل سره د روښتونې همکارۍ پر اساس یو ګډه تګلاره جوړه کړي.

حکمت اعظمي زیاته کړه ، “داعش د خپلو هدفونو او فعالتونو لپاره دلته سرحد نه دی ټاکلی ، نو دا یوازې د افغانستان د حکومت کار نه دی بلکې د سیمې ټول هیوادونه چې له دې خطر سره مخامخ دي ، باید لاس سره یو کړي”.

که څه هم داعش ډله له پاکستان سره د افغانستان په ځینو ختیځو ولایتونو کې فعاله ده خو پاکستاني چارواکي په خپله خاوره کې د دې ډلې له شتونه انکار کوي.

په اسلام اباد کې د امنیتي چارو کارپوه او د پاکستاني پوځ پخواني برېګېډییېر سعاد محمد خان وايي ، د پاکستان دا خبره سمه نه ده چې داعش په پاکستان کې شتون نه لري.

ده وویل ، که څه هم داعش په منظمه توګه دلته نه دی رامنځ ته شوی خو په دې کې شک نشته چې د سیمې لپاره د داعش دوه ټاکل شوي لوړپوړي کسان لکه سعید خان اورکزی او شاهدالله شاهد خو د پاکستان وو.

برېګېډیر سعاد محمد خان وویل ، “د دې ډلې پر ضد داسې ګډه تګلاره او عملیات په کار دي چې د ملکونو یا ډلو تر ګټو بالاتر وي”.

الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام (داعش) هغه سني وسله واله ډله ده چې په عراق او شام کې یې یو شمېر سیمې نیولې دي او هلته یې د دوی په وینا ، ًاسلامي خلافت ً جوړ کړی دی. یادې ډلې د ځینو مهمو لویدیځوالو او عراقي قبایلو په ګډون په زرګونه کسان وژلي دي.

داعش د روانې میاشتې پر ۱۳مه نېټه په لومړي ځل په اروپا کې د فرانس په پلازمېنه پېرس کې یو شمېر بریدونه وکړل چې لږ تر لږه ۱۲۹ کسان پکې ووژل شو او شاوخوا دوه سوه نور ټپيان شو.

Why Christians are fleeing Pakistan?

By Nasir Saeed

Though Christians in Pakistan have never been safe or given the equal citizenship status promised to their forefathers by the Quaid e Azam, and despite of all the disparity, suffering and deprivation, they hoped that one day they would be considered an equal and that their situation would improve. 

But now they seem completely despondent and see no end to their miseries. They have lost all hope and have started fleeing to different countries in search of peace and security. They are going somewhere where they will be treated with dignity and respect and can practice their religion with freedom. Somewhere where they can lead their lives without fear of persecution because of their Christian faith. 

In fact Christians realised years ago that Pakistan holds no future for them, as soon after the death of the Quaid e Azam the social and political situation started turning against them, the Objective Resolution was adopted in 1949, and subsequently the constitution in which they were permanently barred from becoming president and prime minister of the country was passed. 

Christians took part in the movement of Pakistan and supported Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his struggle. He promised equal status in the new country and he made it clear in his first presidential speech that: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. 

"You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”. 

He set an example by appointing several people from minorities on very high posts like Joginder Nath Mandel (Hindu) as law minister and Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan (Ahmadiyya Muslim) as foreign minister, while Mr S P Singha was already a speaker who had played a main role in making present Punjab part of Pakistan. 

Without Christian parliamentarians’ support, Pakistan's geography would have been different, but the irony is that Christians are suffering most in this province. Although hatred against them continues to grow throughout the country, statistically they are suffering most in this province. 

A large number of false blasphemy cases are being registered against them in Pakistan, kidnapping and forced conversion of Christian girls is common, the majority of their churches have been ransacked, desecrated and burnt in Punjab, most of their settlements have been set on fire in this province and more Christians than anywhere else have been killed extra judicially and even burnt alive in this province. 

Youhanabad, where 17 Christians were killed and 80 were injured in a twin suicide bomb attack in March is a constituency of Mian Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab, and the Prime Minister's brother. But he has never visited his constituents to find out about their wellbeing, or to support them during their difficult times. 

I cannot find an example of such recklessness, discrimination and hateful behaviour of any MP towards his own constituents anywhere else in the world, or even elsewhere in Pakistan.

The world's political and religious leaders have expressed their concerns and several reports have been prepared by international organisations witnessing Christians' persecution, but it is all falling on deaf ears and I am disappointed as there are no signs of change. 

Politicians seem oblivious and the lack of will, while the voices from other quarters like academics, artists, writers are also very low compared to what Indian film makers, actors, writers, politicians and academics have done in India against the new wave of discrimination against minorities, and particularly against Muslims. 

The Pakistan Supreme Court has expressed its concern over minorities' security and ordered a special task force and the establishment National Council for Minorities Rights earlier this year, but as far as I am aware, no progress has been made on either matter. 

During the recent hearing of Malik Mumtaz Qadri’s case, the killer of the then governor of the Punjab Salmaan Taseer, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of the misapplication and misuse of the blasphemy law - which is considered a root cause of the Christians’ persecution. 

The government and politicians seem unwilling to take any action to bring about changes to the blasphemy law. On the contrary, Islamic groups are asking for Qadri's release and the execution of all those in prison under blasphemy charges, without due process of justice. 

Such behaviour from the government and politicians has disappointed and pushed Christians to the edge. They see no future for themselves and for future generations in Pakistan. Consequently, they have come to the conclusion to flee Pakistan to save their and their children's lives.

Though this is a painful fact, since they are being forced to flee the country they have no other choice and I think it is somehow a wise decision for Christians in the present scenario, as extremism and religious intolerance continues to rise against them and they are under constant attack.

I have to admit that this is not a solution. But as the government and Muslim politicians are turning a blind eye to their persecution. The responsibility to address these issues rests on the shoulders of Christian political and religious leadership to address these issues.

But unfortunately it seems that some of the leadership has compromised and become subservient to the government, while others have lost all hope and interest and have already fled to seek asylum in other countries. 

Intellectuals, NGOs’ workers, journalists and influential individuals have also fled Pakistan, those who are left behind are busy in packing their suitcases because nobody feels safe in Pakistan. There are witnesses that Christians are not safe and have no future in Pakistan. 

The Netherlands has recently designated Pakistani Christians the status of a 'high risk group", while struggles for a similar status are ongoing in different countries. 

The USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) and UNO have also raised their concerns about the treatment of minorities. Recently the All Party Parliamentarian Group for international Freedom of Religion or Belief, in the House of Lords, organised Evidence Hearing Sessions regarding the 'Plight of Religious Minorities in Pakistan and as Refugees'. 

Lord David Alton has recently come back from visiting Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand, where thousands of them are living in bad conditions but are not willing to return to Pakistan because of the fear of persecution. 

A few days earlier a team of European MEPs including Mr. Petr Van Dalen, Mr. Arne Gericke and Mr. Marek Jurek, visited Pakistan to get first-hand information about the ongoing persecution of Christians and other religious minorities because of the misapplication and misuse of the blasphemy law. 

They met with Aasia Bibi’s family, the Prime Minister’s advisor on foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz and some other important dignitaries. They also met Christian activists and leaders like Joseph Francis and Bishop Samuel Azariah. I am sure they will use this information to endeavour to bring pressure on the Pakistani government to stop the mistreatment of Christians and other religious minorities. 

But keeping in mind the view of Pakistan's leadership, I have very little hope the situation against Christians and other religious minorities will ever improve. Minorities believe, since they are never accepted equal citizens of the Pakistan and Pakistan was achieved in the name of Islam and as a homeland of Muslims, these are organised, deliberate and sustained attempts of cleansing the country, to make it as pure as its name. - See more at:

Pakistan Military Expands Its Power, and Is Thanked for Doing So


The most popular man in public office in Pakistan does not give speeches on television, rarely appears in public and rejects news interviews.
He is Gen. Raheel Sharif, the Pakistani Army chief, who has presided over the country’s armed forces at a time when they are riding high after curbing domestic terrorism and rampant political crime.
Aided by a new-media publicity campaign, the military command’s popularity has helped it quietly but firmly grasp control of the governmental functions it cares about most: security and foreign affairs, along with de facto regulatory power over the news media, according to interviews with Pakistani officials and analysts. In a country with a long history of military coups, the current command has gotten what it wants, edging aside the civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is not related to General Sharif, without the messiness or the international criticism a complete takeover would bring. And it is being thanked for doing it. “I wouldn’t describe it as a soft coup, but I would definitely say the civilian leadership has yielded space to the military — for their own survival and because there were major failures on their part,” said Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general and military analyst.
General Sharif, known as General Raheel here, took over the military command late in 2013. He was appointed to the post a few months after the new civilian government was inaugurated, and the country was in trouble. There were suicide bombings, political party killings, rampant crime and violence in its big cities, and assassinations of political leaders. Some politicians were calling for negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban as military efforts to set the militants back appeared to have stalled.
Then the Pakistani Taliban carried out a cruel attack on a school for army families in Peshawar last December, killing 145 people — including 132 schoolchildren methodically gunned down in their classrooms. Supported by a huge public backlash against terrorism, the army ramped up its crackdown on some of the militant groups sheltering in the country’s northwestern tribal areas, especially in North Waziristan. Capital punishment was restored, and the military was handed new power, starting its own counterterrorism court system alongside the badly backlogged and compromised civilian justice system. This year, the Pakistani Taliban have managed to carry out only a single major suicide bombing. The army’s success against the Taliban emboldened it to take on violent political parties and criminal gangs in the country’s biggest city, Karachi, through a paramilitary group known as the Sindh Rangers. Despite complaints of human rights abuses in Karachi, and millions of internally displaced people from the tribal areas, most Pakistanis were simply relieved to see the violence hugely reduced.
Through it all, General Sharif’s public appearances have been less ostentatious than those of some of his predecessors. But at the same time, his face has become ubiquitous on social media, after giving a free hand to the officer commanding the Inter-Services Public Relations office, the military’s media arm, to modernize that service.
The ISPR had long been headed by lower-ranking officers, and it remained decidedly lodged in the analog era. But by this year, the leader of the office, Asim Saleem Bajwa, had been promoted to lieutenant general — a three-star rank normally reserved for corps commanders — and his agency had become an impressively slick machine. General Bajwa’s Twitter account has more than 1.5 million followers, and the agency’s Facebook account has more than 2.8 million likes. A film division is pumping out offerings for television, as it had long done, but it has added short videos tailored to YouTube-style platforms.
The social media accounts show in daily detail the commander’s movements — visiting the front lines in Waziristan or reviewing troops. Video links showed army units in combat, sometimes the same day it occurred, and troops helping earthquake victims. Professionally produced martyr-style videos show, for instance, a mother mourning a son killed in the field, who returns from the dead to present her with his beret.
The ISPR declined to comment for this article unless a draft of it was submitted to the office for advance review, according to a spokesman for the agency.
The Pakistani news media is clearly reflecting the shift in influence. When Prime Minister Sharif visited Washington on Oct. 22, for instance, the visit did not get nearly the attention of General Sharif’s current five-day visit to Washington.
In recent weeks, General Sharif has seemed less circumspect about the new pecking order. The military press office noted, for instance, that at a meeting of army corps commanders last Tuesday, the general was “concerned” that the civilian government was not doing enough to follow up the military’s success at clearing out the frontier areas with effective governance. The clearly implied scolding sent shock waves through the political establishment, but few dared to criticize the military — something even opposition parties rarely do now. The Pakistani news media, in particular, has largely stopped open questioning of the military’s increased power. Pakistani journalists say the military no longer has to bring intimidation to bear, as it long had, because most of the criticism has gone quiet. At the military’s insistence, a government watchdog body has ordered broadcast media to stop airing anything that could be viewed as support for terrorist groups — a notably broad definition.
Even some of the military’s critics in the news media now say the relative peace has been a trade-off nearly everyone supports.
“My honest opinion is that most of the pressure now is from within ourselves,” said Rana Jawad, the news director at GEO, a leading private television network. “One of the reasons why there’s no effort to counter the claims of ISPR is that the situation on the ground has improved drastically. It’s a big thing for me: I used to report on 50 dead, 40 dead, 30 dead almost every day, and there’s nothing of this sort now.”
Mr. Jawad is no apologist for the military, however. He was on a cellphone call in 2014 with the channel’s news anchor in Karachi, Hamid Mir, when an attacker shot Mr. Mir six times. “It was terrible; I could hear his screams and helplessness and the shots,” Mr. Jawad said. GEO journalists blamed the military’s powerful intelligence arm, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, and the channel even broadcast a picture of the agency’s leader at the time, Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam, which some saw as an implication that he had been behind the attack. That led to legal action against the channel that continues, and some local cable operators have refused to carry GEO. “We suffered a lot from the military,” Mr. Jawad said. “We were beaten, hounded, brought to our knees by the powerful military, so we know.” Nonetheless, he added: “I see a marked improvement in the security environment in Pakistan, fewer and fewer Pakistanis dying unnecessarily, and I cannot reject this.” The military’s triumphant crackdown on militants has had little effect on the war next door in Afghanistan, however, and the command still appears to be playing a double game when it comes to using some militants as proxies.
In particular, military analysts said, the pressure does not extend to the Afghan Taliban, many of whose leaders live openly in the Pakistani city of Quetta. And the military has avoided tangling with the Haqqani network, a close Afghan Taliban ally whose members have carried out some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan but are mostly based in remote districts of Pakistan near the border. The double standard led to the blocking of one American military aid payment of $300 million to the Pakistani military this year, under a congressionally mandated requirement to certify progress in fighting the Haqqanis. An additional $1 billion in military aid under a separate program this year was not affected by that requirement, however. Amid the Pakistani command’s clearly ascendant streak, Mr. Masood, the military analyst and former lieutenant general, worries that the military may go too far, preventing the country’s still-immature democratic institutions from developing.
“Success speaks for itself. They did clear Waziristan, and General Sharif does get credit for that,” he said. “But success can change. If they overplay the military card and continue to build an inflated image, it could boomerang. They need to allow civilians their space. But I’m afraid the lust for power is such that they don’t always understand that.”

Bilawal Bhutto, Bakhtawar Bhutto and Aseefa Bhutto condoled with Shehla Raza

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari visited the residence of Deputy Speaker Sindh Assembly Shehla Raza and Condoled with her and other family members over the sad demise of her mother. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari offered prayers to Almighty Allah to rest departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage and fortitude to her family members to bear this loss with equanimity.