Friday, January 8, 2016

45 Million Americans Live in Poverty, but You Wouldn’t Know It From Watching 2016 Coverage

By Adam Johnson 

One of the most pressing issues facing America is ignored by our corporate media.
Of the five Republican debates and of the three Democratic debates, not one moderator has asked a question involving the words “poverty” or “poor.” While the subject has been touched upon by some of the Democratic candidates, namely Bernie Sanders and briefly Jim Webb, the topic has been entirely unmentioned by the moderators during the three Democratic debates. In the GOP debates, the candidates only bring up the topic as a way to swipe President Obama, which is fair enough but is not a discussion of poverty much less a good-faith attempt to mitigate it. By comparison, the Democratic debate moderators brought up “ISIS” or “Terrorism” 21 times total in all three debates.
A recent study in The Intercept found poverty's non-status on television isn’t just limited to the debates. Cable news was over 20 times more likely to mention ISIS or terrorism than poverty during the heart of primary season in late 2014.
Bernie Sanders has brought up poverty in the debates about half a dozen times, calling childhood poverty “a national disgrace." Hillary Clinton has not brought up the issue in the debates, though she frequently tweets about it. This is partly not the candidates' fault: if they’re not asked the question they can’t really discuss the topic. To the extent discussions of poverty are jammed into a response it’s part of a much broader answer about the economic problems America is facing.
According to the 2014 census, 14.5% of Americans, or over 45 million people, live in poverty, up from 11.3% in 2000; a rate not seen since the early '90s.
Despite some economic progress since the recession of 2008-'09, the poverty rate remains stubbornly immovable. To exacerbate the problem, an increasingly cruel GOP Congress has slashed billions from the government food stamp program and ended unemployment benefits. Poverty is particularly bad for single mothers. One-third of families led by single mothers lived below the poverty line in 2013—or 15.6 million Americans.
One recent study linked poverty to diminished IQ in children. It impacts childhood education, crime and even future economic gains. A 2011 study attributed 133,000 deaths a year to poverty-related illnesses.
Islamic terrorism, by contrast, has less of a chance of killing someone than bee stings or furniture. Only 45 Americans have been killed since 9/11 as a result of al-Qaeda or ISIL-inspired attacks.
It’s not as if the candidates don’t mention poverty on their websites and in speeches. Both Clinton and Sanders bring up the topic. Sanders' website leads with the issue at the time of publication, albeit with the superfluous “who works 40 hours a week” qualifier:
So why has not a single debate moderator mentioned poverty? Those working for votes like Sanders, and to a lesser extent Clinton, have proposals for it, but not one of the hundreds of debate questions has been on the issue of poverty.
Aside from the fact that the class interests of those who run our media and work in it are overwhelmingly wealthy, if not overtly anti-poor, the topic has no doubt been bumped even lower on the priority list due to recent ISIS fears. As The Intercept notes, in the wake of the Paris attacks, terrorism and ISIS are 2,344% more likely to get mentioned on CNN than poverty.
Bringing up the issue of poverty to the debates' sizable audience isn't superficial: a 2012 study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that cable news mentions of key topics like inequality were inextricably linked to their coverage of Occupy Wall Street. The national conversation follows political dialogue and priority is given to those issues highlighted by our political class. 
It took over a year of sustained protest and direction action by Black Lives Matter to get major candidates to discuss racism and criminal justice reform. Without a similar effort to draw attention to poverty, it's unlikely poverty will ever register a blip on the corporate media's radar, much less be of primary concern. While candidates like Sanders do their best to bring the topic up, without a clear question to all the candidates, there's very little poor Americans can take away from the exchange beyond platitudes. 
When it comes to the economy, candidates often talk in abstractions like "job creators," "growth" and the nebulous "middle class," but poverty is a clear and quantifiable metric for a civilized society. Poverty is objective, measurable and its rates among Americans, specifically American children, is a manifest clear-as-day national scourge. One would think if debate moderators have time to ask about fantasy football and who a candidate's favorite "enemy" is, they could squeeze in just one question specifically addressing the needs of those living below the poverty line and how the candidates plan on ameliorating the suffering of 45 million people. 

Video - How to Solve America’s Retirement Crisis

Bernie Sanders And Hillary Clinton Face Off On Who Should Pay For Paid Family Leave

By Alice Ollstein

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both announced plans this week to give all U.S. workers the right to 12 weeks of paid family leave — time employees could take off to care for a newborn baby, an elderly parent, or a sick spouse. Both of the leading Democratic candidates for president lament that the U.S. is the only developed nation in the world to offer no paid family leave, but they split on how such a program should be funded.
On Friday, Sanders proposed funding three months of paid leave through a small payroll tax on workers, which the campaign estimates would charge a typical worker $1.61 a week. He and a group of 18 Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to do this, dubbed the FAMILY Act.
Clinton, however, is not on board with this scheme. Slamming Sanders for endorsing an additional tax on workers, she has vowed to fund her paid family leave plan though “a combination of tax reforms impacting the most fortunate.” Exactly what kind of tax and on whom is not specified. Employees must also have served a company for a certain number of hours to qualify for her plan, though that threshold is similarly not defined. She also did not specify whether small business employees — at companies with 50 or fewer workers — would qualify.

These proposals for about three months of paid family leave would be a massive jump over the zero days now available to U.S. workers, who are entitled under current law to 12 weeks of leave without pay. Yet both Sanders and Clinton’s plans would still leave the U.S. behind most of the world, giving workers less time off than they would get in Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Vietnam.

Some individual states and corporations have implemented their own paid family leave programs, but they cover only about 12 percent of workers. The consequences for those not covered are stark. A quarter of women either quit their jobs or are let go when a new child arrives, and of those who get only partial pay or nothing at all, a third borrow money and/or dip into savings while 15 percent go on public assistance.
On Friday, Sanders’ criticized Clinton for refusing to back his Senate bill, saying his payroll tax plan is similar to existing social programs.
“Medicare is strong because we’re all involved in it. Social Security is strong because we’re all involved in it,” he said. “This isn’t a tax that could be repealed in a few years.”
The Clinton campaign shot back, “Hillary strongly believes that middle class families deserve a raise, not a tax increase. American families need paid leave, and to get there, Hillary will ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.”

Video - President Barack Obama - CNN's Guns in America Town Hall

President Obama Vetoes Bill to Repeal Health Law and End Planned Parenthood Funding


President Obama vetoed legislation Friday that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act and stripped all federal funds fromPlanned Parenthood, writing in his veto message that the measure would “reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.”
Mr. Obama’s veto — only the eighth of his presidency — was expected, and his decision to issue a simple message without holding a public ceremony indicated that he did not wish to draw attention to the showdown. Republicans do not have the votes in either the House or the Senate to override the veto.
But it shows that nearly six years after its enactment, the health law remains one of the most divisive political issues of the Obama presidency. For many Americans, the health law is seen as costly, cumbersome and a government infringement on freedoms, even as it has spread health coverage to millions and ensured popular benefits like ending lifetime coverage limits and the denial of insurance for pre-existing medical conditions. This week’s House vote was the 62nd to fully or partially repeal the health law but only the first that sent legislation to the president’s desk.
The White House has long expected the fierce politicking around the law would wane as millions of people got coverage and other issues took center stage. But while some Republican governors have decided to take advantage of the law’s provisions to expand Medicaid coverage in their states, Republican legislators in Congress remain persuaded that the law is collapsing and are determined to help it fail. Republicans also showed they could use arcane budgetary rules to circumvent a Democratic filibuster and pass repeal legislation for the signature of a Republican president.
“We have now shown that there is a clear path to repealing Obamacare without 60 votes in the Senate,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said after the veto. “So, next year, if we’re sending this bill to a Republican president, it will get signed into law. Obamacare will be gone.”In recent months, insurers have increased premiums and deductibles for many policies sold on the law’s online marketplace, and a dozen nonprofit insurance co-ops created by the law have closed their doors after struggling financially.In his veto message, Mr. Obama noted that under the Affordable Care Act, about 17.6 million Americans had gained health care coverage under various provisions of the law.
Mr. Obama also objected to provisions in the repeal legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, a women’s health organization that also provides abortions. While noting that federal law already prohibits funding for nearly all abortions, Mr. Obama said that eliminating funding for an organization that is a major provider of health care in the nation would “disproportionately impact low-income individuals.” Finally, Mr. Obama noted that Republicans in Congress have sought to repeal the health care law more than 50 times.
“Rather than fighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs,” Mr. Obama wrote.
He then concluded: “Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of milions of Americans, it has earned my veto.”

Pashto Music - دغنی بابا - سردار علی تکر

افغان کرکټ لوبډلې په ۲۰اوریزه سیالیو کې زیمبابوې مات کړ

د افغانستان کرکټ ملي لوبډلې په نننی شل اوریزه لوبه کې د زیمبابوې کرکټ ملي لوبډلې ته د شپږو منډو په توپیر ماته ورکړه.
افغان کرکټ لوبډلې زیمبابوې ته په نننی ۲۰اووریزه سیالیو کې د ۱۸۸منډو هدف وټاکه.
لومړی افغانستان پچه وګټله او د بیټنګ پریکړه یې وکړه. په دې لوبه کې عثمان غني تر نورو زیاتې منډې وکړې چې په پایله کې په ۴۲منډو یې خپله ویکټه له لاسه ورکړه او بیا ګلبدین نایب په دوهم مقام کې یادولې شو چې ۳۷منډې یې کړي دي.
وروسته بیا زیمبابوې ټاکل شوی هدف پوره نه شو کړای او لوبه د افغانستان په بریا پای ته ورسیده.

The Taliban's Rare Winter Offensive In Afghanistan

By Frud Bezhan

The Taliban is waging an unusually aggressive campaign of violence in Afghanistan this winter, unleashing deadly bombings in the capital, threatening to overrun a strategic southern province, and attacking a foreign consulate.

Afghanistan's mountainous terrain and heavy snowfall have traditionally prompted a winter lull in fighting, with the militants using the colder months to rest and regroup ahead of an annual spring offensive.

There are several reasons why there has been no letup this winter, marking a seeming shift in the Taliban's decade-long insurgency.

Bargaining Chip

The Taliban is trying to strengthen its negotiating hand amid a renewed international push to revive peace talks with the militant group, say analysts.

On January 11, Afghanistan and Pakistan are set to hold a first round of talks also involving the United States and China to try to agree a comprehensive road map for peace. Pakistan, which is said to wield considerable influence over the Taliban, hosted a breakthrough first round of talks in July.

"The surge in winter violence in Afghanistan appears to be timed with the pressure on Pakistan to induce the Taliban to join peace talks," Mohammad Taqi, a U.S.-based Pakistan political analyst, said.

"Pakistan seems to be betting on its Taliban proxy gaining a toehold such as in Helmand Province" -- where the Taliban is engaged in fierce fighting with Afghan and U.S. special forces after threatening to overturn several districts -- "and then to present that as a fait accompli to the Afghan government and the U.S."

Taqi added that whether or not the Taliban gains new territory, the violence will be used as leverage in talks.

The Washington Post last month quoted Western and Afghan officialsas saying that "the Taliban now holds more [Afghan] territory than in any year since 2001," when the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime that controlled much of the country.
Information gathered by the United Nations through October suggested UN security officials also rated the Taliban threat level as "high" or "extreme"in more Afghan administrative districts than at any time since 2001.

It is unclear whether the Taliban, which has previously maintained it will not hold talks with Kabul, will be represented in the Islamabad talks. Afghan officials have said they expect the militants to join the peace process at a later time.

"The Taliban keep themselves open to different scenarios," said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank in Kabul. "One, taking over the country again by military means. Second, if that's not possible, to get a part in government through talks. In both scenarios, making military gains helps."

Power Play

Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur is trying to tighten his grip on power, and analysts say the high-profile attacks could boost his standing within the fractured group.

Mansur was declared the new Taliban leader in July after the Afghan government confirmed that Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had died in Pakistan in 2013. But a leadership tussle ensued and some Taliban commanders have refused to recognize Mansur. A breakaway Taliban faction has openly challenged the new leadership. 

Mansur was seriously injured in a firefight at a meeting of Taliban militant commanders in neighboring Pakistan in December, exposing the divisions.

"Mullah Mansur wants to show that he is the leader and that he can do what Mullah Omar did," said Abdul Waheed Wafa, the director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University.

As of November, about 7,000 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed this year, with 12,000 injured, a 26 percent increase over the total number of dead and wounded in all of 2014.

Crowded Battlefield

A number of new actors have entered the scene in Afghanistan recently, contributing to the surging violence as rival militant groups vie for territory and influence.

The breakaway Taliban faction, the High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, announced its arrival in November. Led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul, a former Taliban governor, the group has clashed with rival Taliban fighters for months.

Gunmen loyal to the Islamic State (IS) group are also increasing their footprint in Afghanistan, where they are attempting to establish a regional base. IS militants have been engaged in an escalating tit-for-tat war with government militias in eastern Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban's special forces have reportedly been deployed to hunt down the extremists.

"One of the factors for a very violent last six months has been the emergence of another Taliban group and also Daesh," said Wafa, using an Arabic phrase for IS. "There are a lot of reports from eastern Afghanistan of a bloody fight between the Taliban and Daesh."

Pakistan-India Peace

There are also suspicions that elements within the Pakistani military establishment that have supported the Taliban are using the militants to attack Indian interests in Afghanistan and derail overtures from the Pakistani government toward New Delhi.

Pakistan and India recently agreed to relaunch peace talks, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a surprise visit to Pakistan to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in December, the first by an Indian head of government in more than a decade, hours after visiting Kabul.

But analysts warned that two attacks on Indian interests recently -- a siege on the Indian consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif that ended on January 4 and a deadly assault on an air base in India -- could undermine peace efforts.

"The attack on the air base in Pathankot was timed to scuttle the Modi-Nawaz peace move," said Taqi. "It was calibrated to target a military facility and not unleash havoc like the 2008 Mumbai attacks," he said, referring to the coordinated bombings and shootings by a Pakistani-based militant group that killed more than 160 people and brought the archrivals to the brink of war.

"This recent attack throws a spanner in the talks and yet will not trigger a military response from India," Taqi added.

The latest attacks in India and Afghanistan have been linked to Pakistani militant outfits. The four gunmen who attacked the Indian consulate in Mazar-e Sharif are believed to be members of the banned Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group, which is based in Pakistan.

Before being killed, the gunmen wrote an Urdu-language message in their own blood stating that their goal was to avenge the killing of Afzal Guru, a member of the group who was hanged in 2013 for his role in the 2000 attack on the parliament building in New Delhi.  

World Bank warns Pakistan of substantial fiscal risks

On Thursday, the World Bank warned that sovereign guarantees against the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project and an expected increase in spending ahead of elections place Pakistan at substantial fiscal risk (ET). A new World Bank report states: “Sovereign guarantees associated with CPEC could pose substantial fiscal risks over the medium term.” Similar concerns were also expressed by State Bank of Pakistan Governor Ashraf Wathra and former Pakistani Finance Minister Hafiz Pasha.

The woes of children in Balochistan

Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Only 16 percent of children are fully immunised in the province, while the other 84 percent are at risk of contracting any minor or fatal disease
In recent months, it was reported by the Office of the National Commissioner for Children in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF) that before the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 2010, the federal government had a number of initiatives related to protecting children’s rights and affairs, which were then under way. Unfortunately, these initiatives were not adopted by the provinces after the devolution of the amendment. As a result, the woes of children in the provinces, particularly in the largest province of the country, Balochistan, are increasing. “Astonishingly, in Balochistan’s only Chaghai district, the death ratio of children is 34 percent,” reported Ali Raza Rind, who is a journalist based in Chaghai. Very pathetically, it is the situation of children in a single district of Balochistan, let alone other districts, where there is no independent and investigative journalism.
Undoubtedly, innocent children in Balochistan are plagued by numerous woes that range from education and health to labour, sexual assault and kidnapping etc. There are many children, who can be seen working regularly on the streets of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, as garbage collectors, carpenters, or working in automobile shops. One of the children, who collects garbage, a child as young as 11, said he was sexually abused when went to homes for the collection of garbage. Unfortunately, it seems that children in Balochistan do not have rights, as they, in all of Balochistan’s sectors, have been living in a pitiable condition. Let us discuss three key factors that have put the children of Balochistan in distress.
Firstly, let us look at education. It was reported by Alif Ailaan, a non-profit organisation working on education in the province, that 66 percent of Balochistan’s children do not go to school. Ironically, there are some districts in Balochistan where they do not have schools. Therefore, children are being deprived of their fundamental right of education. They, instead of going to school, go to work in different places, particularly in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. Advisor to the Chief Minister (CM) Balochistan on Education Sardar Raza Mohammad Barech himself also confessed at the Quetta Press Club that there are 7,000 schools across the province with just a single room and a single teacher.
In the rural areas of Balochistan, the children of poor parents reportedly attain positions in matriculation exams. But they, due to poverty, cannot complete their education. As for Quetta, there were some children there whom this scribe met and interviewed who said they could not afford to go to school, as they hardly earn a livelihood for themselves and their family members despite having an extraordinary interest in education. On the other hand, the provincial government of Balochistan, which is led by Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, has been erroneously claiming that they are doing their level best to provide education to every child in the province, which is pragmatically not so. Merely, in the name of education, funds have reportedly been embezzled. That is why children are deprived of their fundamental rights.
Secondly, when it comes to the health sector, the province is showing a bleak picture on all levels. According to the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), only 16 percent of children are fully immunised in the province, while the other 84 percent are at risk of contracting any minor or fatal disease. In the rural areas of Balochistan, it becomes uglier, where they are increasingly sufferers of malnutrition and other fatal diseases, which snatch their lives. “When the children suffer from minor diseases, it also becomes the cause of their death, as they cannot bring them to cities for treatment,” says a Quetta based doctor, further adding, “Due to the target killing of polio workers in the province, polio cases still get reported.” That is why Balochistan is lagging behind other provinces in terms of social indicators. Moreover, government officials say that though doctors are posted in various parts of the province, they do not go to perform their duties. Instead, they are running their private clinics in Quetta. Therefore, in the rural parts of Balochistan, government hospitals bear a deserted look.
Thirdly, we know that Balochistan’s people still live in a tribal society where children are forced to marry early. The practice of child marriages has been affecting them (children) tremendously, and this not only affects their education but also their mental state. Due to lack of awareness and poverty, parents get their children, whether girls or boys, married before the age of 18. Moreover, they also cannot afford to send their children to school. As a result they get them married off early. Though anti-child marriage laws have been adopted in Sindh and Punjab, these are laws are still in pending in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is why children are getting married early in these two provinces. “When I was in school in the eighth class, I got married to a girl unwillingly despite telling my parents that I wanted to compete my education, but they did not listen to me. Therefore, I had to marry early. Nor is my better-half educated now,” said Mohammad Aslam.
Due to the devolution of the 18th Amendment, all powers have been transferred to the provinces. Despite this, the provincial government of Balochistan has not done any remarkable work in order to protect children’s rights in the province, as well as to provide free and compulsory education to them. Therefore, due to the negligence of the government, children’s woes are being compounded everyday instead of dwindling. This time, like in the past, the provincial government of Balochistan ought not to be a complainant about the federal government, as it is being given their share, which the CM of Balochistan has himself acknowledged on many occasions. So, in this context, the government of Balochistan had better come forth to resolve the woes of Balochistan’s children.

Can ISIS Gain a Foothold in Balochistan?

On August 28, 2014, Abdul-Rauf Rigi, alleged to be leading a Sunni sectarian organization called Jaish-al-Nasr, was assassinated in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. The motive for his killing could not be ascertained, but Jaish-al-Nasr had been accused by Iranian officials of carrying out attacks on Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Soon after Rigi’s assassination in Quetta, Iranian Press TV was claiming that he had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).
A reliable source told The Diplomat that the Jaish-al-Adl is a splinter group of Jundullah, which was spearheaded by Rigi’s brother Abdul-Malik. While on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan in 2010, Abdul-Malik Rigi was arrested by Iranian authorities and subsequently hanged. The source added that soon after his execution in Iran, Jundullah, which Abdul-Malik Rigi had founded in 2003, split into three groups: the Jaish-al-Adl, the Jaish-al-Nasr, and the Lashker-e-Khorasan.
Iranian authorities have accused Jundullah of carrying out a series of attacks, including a suicide bombing on October 18, 2009, which killed six commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Of the three splinter groups, Jaish-al-Adl is believed to be the stronger, and has been blamed for a number of high profile attacks in the wake of the execution of Abdul-Malik Rigi.
For example, on April 8, 2015, the state-run Iranian news agency of Iran reported that eight Iranian border guards had been killed in clashes with militants near the border with Pakistan. On the same day, Jaish-ul-Adl claimed responsibility for the assault through a Facebook account believed to be linked to the organization. According to media reports, Jaish-al-Adl has accepted responsibility for other attacks on Iranian territory. One of deadliest took place in October 2013, when 14 Iranian guards were killed near the Sarawarn area, which is situated on the border. Jaish-al-Adl said that the attack was in retaliation for an alleged Iranian “massacre” in Syria, and was also in response to atrocities Iran is alleged to have committed against Sunni communities, including Baloch youths.
“The fight here, near the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, is with Jaish-al-Adl, or Army of Justice, a radical group that claims to fight for greater rights Shiite Iran’s ethnic Baluchs and Sunni minority,” noted Scott Peterson in 2014 at The Christian Science Monitor. “While there is no known direct connections between the regional agenda of the Islamic State (IS) and Jaish-al-Adl, a recent surge of cross-border attacks along this remote frontier indicates that the Pakistan-based militants are taking inspiration from IS successes in Syria and Iraq.”
“Rigi changed colors after interactions with the banned Pakistani group Sepah-e-Sahaba (SS) in Lyari Town, Karachi. His anti-Iranian stance as a Baloch shifted to one of being anti-Shia. Not too long afterwards, he joined with SS’s breakaway faction, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shia al Qaeda linked militant outfit,” wrote the late journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. “Through this connection, Rigi went to the Afghan province of Zabul but the Taliban refused him entry into their ranks because of their suspicion that he had forged links with U.S. intelligence.”
ISIS Links
Some local analysts believe that the Jundullah splinter groups may have drifted toward ISIS. They cite three reasons: The groups do not have a nucleus; their agenda is sectarian; and they are fighting a Shia state.
Iranian authorities have implicitly held Pakistan responsible for providing shelter to Jundullah militants, a charge Pakistan has vehemently denied. One government official refuted the allegations, pointing out that last year Pakistan also extradited Abdul-Hamid Rigi, younger brother of Abdul-Malik, to Iran. He added that another leader of the group, Abdul-Salam Rigi, was arrested by security forces on the outskirts of Quetta.
According to Rashed Rahman, editor of the Daily Times, “Iran has lots of complaints because of Jundullah, which has been operating on the border. The suspicion is that it is a joint U.S.-Pakistan supported movement.” Rahman added that the Baloch in Iran are Sunni, while the state is Shia. “So there has been a conflict there, and sometimes it has taken a sectarian as well nationalist-cum-sectarian form.”
When asked about the relations between Iran and Pakistan, Rahman told The Diplomat, “Jundullah has been killing the Revolutionary Guards on the border, and Iran is asking Pakistan to stop this. Pakistan has made promises but has not been able to keep them. So the Iranians are coming in to catch these people. So, in this context, they have tenuous relations with each other. And this is causing conflict.”
Threatening Messages
A local resident of Awaran district of Balochistan, who requested anonymity, told The Diplomat that in August 2014 threatening messages began to be inscribed on local walls. He added that the messages were signed by the Lashker-e-Khorasan, which had told local Zikris and Hindus that they needed to convert to Sunni Islam or die. Following the threatening messages, on August 28, six Zikris were shot dead by unknown armed assailants in their place of worship, called Zikrkhana.  Another source meanwhile said noted the Lashker-e-Khorasan is an offshoot of ISIS, and walls in Turbat were also painted in favor of the ISIS in Turbat.
A wall on Inscomb Road of Quetta, very near the chief minister’s house, was painted with the ISIS slogan. Quetta police chief Razaq Cheema told The Diplomat that the graffiti was the work of impressionable youth. He insisted that the slogan was not painted by ISIS. When asked about the presence of the Islamic State in Quetta, Cheema denied that the group had a presence, but said that if one was found, the police were strong enough to take action. Cheema also pointed out that militancy in Balochistan is homegrown, and there is no chance of ISIS coming to Balochistan via Afghanistan.
The police officer went on to explain that law enforcement agencies had successfully reduced sectarian violence in Quetta by eliminating the top leadership of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) in the city, with Osman Saifullah Kurd, Mubashir Ahmed Kurd and Mehmood Rind all killed.
“Ever since the National Action Plan (NAP) was implemented in Balochistan, a large number of militants, from various religious outfits, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), and the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), have given up their affiliations,” says Kiyya Qadir, an independent  journalist based in Islamabad. “After that, they lost their shelters. In this context, they are seemingly in search of a strong nucleus, or a strong militant organization, one that not only gives them ammunition but also power.”
Qadir added that the ISIS presence in Balochistan was a reality, one made possible by the presence of sympathizers in the form of religious fanatics. And some Baloch militant organizations, he said, like the Baloch Musalla Difa Tanzeem (BMDT) and the Balochistan Mutahida Mahaz (BMM), have transmogrified into the Lashkar-e-Khorasan, which has been linked with ISIS.
“Lashkar-e-Khorasan’s presence in Balochistan is not new. They have been threatening a particular sect, the Zikris, for the last two years or more. Meanwhile, members of the TTP have given their allegiance to ISIS publicly through the media, and their influence in Balochistan cannot be denied.”
Abdul Malik Baloch, Balochistan’s chief minister, told reporters that he could not rule out the presence of ISIS militants in Balochistan.
Shahzada Zulfiqar, a veteran journalist based in Quetta, said, “Daesh (ISIS) is a mindset, and people of this mindset are present in Balochistan. In Quetta, pro-ISIS slogans have appeared on the walls, which are barely 15 or 20 yards from the ‘red zone’ (home to many local government officials). In front of the Iranian Consulate, where police and security guards are ever present, walls also show the marks of Daesh. The walls were whitewashed by the police the next day.”
Zulfiqar explained, “If Daesh materializes in Balochistan, it is my opinion, it may be the SSP, the Ahl-e-Sunnat Wai Jamat (ASWJ), the hardliners of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Nazriati (JUI-N) and Jamiat UIema-e-Islam-Fazal (JUI-F), or the TTP, who are pro-jihadis.” However, the state has now zero-tolerance for such elements, he said, pointing to three factors. First, Malik Ishaq, co-founder of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), was killed in a police encounter along with his associates. Second, the killing of Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada, a retired military colonel, in a suicide attack believed to be in retaliation for the death of Ishaq, was widely condemned by the government. And third, following the Zarb-e-Azb operation, elements of the TTP have reportedly moved to northern parts of Balochistan, where they have been arrested in raids ever since the announcement of the National Action Plan (NAP).
In recent months, Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Durrani is reported to have issued directives to the district administration and police officials in each district to take appropriate and timely measures if they notice any suspicious activity relating to ISIS. However, Durrani was also quoted by local media as saying that he does not agree that ISIS or similar activists exist in large numbers, asking, “Why would they want to announce their presence through wall-chalkings on the main roads of the city?” Yet a report from the Home and Tribal Affairs Department of Balochistan asserted that, “It has been reliably learned that Daesh has proposed to some elements of the LeJ and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wai Jamat (ASWJ) that they join hands in Pakistan. Daesh has also formed a ten-member Strategic Planning Wing.”
According to a Quetta-based intellectual, “If ISIS materialized in Balochistan, minority sects, like the Hazaras and Zikris, will be the victims, just like the Yazidis.”
Swearing Allegiance
High-ranking commanders of the TTP and Jundullah (meaning the offshoot of the TTP, and not the group founded by Abdul-Malik Rigi) have already sworn allegiance to ISIS. In the wake of the major military offensive, Zarb-i-Azb, in North Waziristan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, there have been reports of hundreds of TTP fighters laying low in the northern parts of Balochistan. Paramilitary forces, with the help of law enforcement agencies, have started to crack down on the TTP in this area, as well as in other parts of the country, particularly following the deadly Taliban assault on Peshawar’s Army Public School on December 16, 2014, which killed 150 people, including more than 130 schoolchildren. According to media reports, security forces have arrested suspected Taliban militants and key commanders in different raids in northern Balochistan. Moreover, security forces claim to have killed the al-Qaeda chief of Balochistan and South Punjab, Omar Abdul Latif (alias Luqman), in Balochistan’s Chaghi district, situated on the border with Afghanistan border. As part of the National Action Plan, Sarfraz Bugti, the provincial home minister of Balochistan, noted recently that 4,069 suspects have been arrested in Balochistan.
A senator from Islamabad who did not wish to be named told The Diplomat that Balochistan, particularly central Balochistan, has been enveloped in a wave of religious extremism. During the Afghan war, he said, money was pumped into the region, shaking up a society that was not at that point known for its religious extremism. The war brought sectarianism and Wahhabism. Through religious groups operating in the province, he warned, ISIS will develop a foothold in Balochistan.
Some analysts say that ISIS could make inroads into Balochistan via Afghanistan, where the group is also already present. Shahzada Zulfiqar disagrees. He argues that ISIS does not have a strong base in Afghanistan – perhaps a few hundred fighters in the form of hardline Taliban who have now joined ISIS. These men are already fighting on two fronts – against the Taliban and the Afghan government – and as such are not placed to make inroads into Balochistan.
A spokesman for the militant group Jundullah has claimed in recent months that a delegation from ISIS visited the organization’s leaders in Balochistan. The spokesman, Fahad Marwat was also reported to have said the purpose of the visit by ISIS was to see how it could work to unite various Pakistani militant groups. Government officials flatly refute these claims. Nonetheless, Balochistan increasingly appears to be a new front in the fight against terrorism.

Hindu families in Sindh face Islamist Pakistan brunt

Several million Hindus living in Sindh are increasingly finding it difficult and dangerous to live in Pakistan, forcing many of them either to find shelter in India or in other provinces. The condition of Hindus in other provinces is no less different. In all, there are about 7 million Hindus in the Islamic Pakistan, more than 90 per cent of them in Sindh and Punjab. The rest are distributed in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and the Northern Areas.

The Hindu families, who opted to stay in Pakistan because of their deep attachment to the land they were born and where their ancestors had lived and flourished, had been facing gross discrimination in all spheres of life since long. But they have chosen to remain patriotic and loyal to their land and country. This loyalty is now becoming difficult to sustain because of the continuous onslaught of state and non-state actors on their lives. Many Hindu families have either fled the country or are planning to do so if given an opportunity in India. 

What is changing the attitude of the Hindu families, mostly poor but some rich and well-to-do in business and other sectors, is the rising incidences of forced conversions and abductions of their girls. Several independent reports prepared by various NGOs and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in the recent past have painted a rising graph of forced marriages and conversions of Hindu girls in Sindh. 

The community’s cries of protest have gone unheeded. The governments, both at the centre and in the province have not bothered to address this serious issue despite being raised by the community, the media and the NGOs in the last few years. 

What has disturbed the community even more is the attitude of the local police which refuse to file a complaint against the Muslim accused in case of forced abductions and conversions. A study conducted by an NGO, Sindh Rural Partners Organization (SRPO), info district Mirpurkhas recently, showed that there was no proper mechanism to address the issue at the local level and the family members of the victims had no access to government departments providing legal support. The study indicated that ``cases were neither registered with the police nor the media which indicated towards the worsening level of vulnerability of the Hindus residing in Mirpurkhas.`` Similar situation exists in other districts of Sindh. 

Another report, prepared by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), gives comprehensive details about the crimes against Hindu girls in Pakistan as a whole. Titled`` Forced Marriages: Situation in Pakistan``, the report contains examples of Hindu girls getting abducted by their Muslim neighbours and forcefully converted to Islam without their consent. The report pointed out that abductions and forced conversions have become more common in the cities. Citing several instances, the report showed how girls are forced to convert and are kept confined in Islamic centres or mosques before they are compelled to marry their abductors. The crime has the tacit approval of the local authorities because in almost all the cases, even when cases are filed, the perpetrators of the crime are allowed to go scot free. Rarely has any abductor been charge-sheeted, tried or punished by a court of law. 

One of the most damning report was published by a well known English daily in Pakistan, Daily Times, which revealed that around 7,000 to 10,000 Hindus (around 1,600 families) had left the country in the last two years. Of them, 450 families were from Sindh. The newspaper had swung into action after a series of incidents involving Hindu girls in Sindh. 

The news report indicated that the situation in Sindh was among the worst in Pakistan and interior Sindh the most severely affected by abductions and forced conversions of Hindu girls. Many Hindu families told the newspaper that there were increased cases of rapes, forced conversions and abduction of Hindu girls ever since the so-called ``war on terror`` had begun. Not only were the Hindu families bearing the brunt of these inhuman activities perpetrated by Muslims but also reeled from apathy and callousness on the part of the authorities. With no respite from any quarters in sight, the families told the newspaper, that many of them were planning to leave for India. 

The families pointed out to the newspaper that Islamic extremist groups were running a campaign in interior Sindh to ``choose and pick`` Hindu girls for forced conversions. This was being done through loudspeakers at street corners making life perilous for Hindu families living here. “Due to such hate campaigns which are backed by feudal-cum-parliamentarians, more than 450 Hindu families have already left the country using both legal and illegal ways of border crossing into India. They have migrated after selling their properties and other assets at low prices,” the newspaper quoted the families.

The plight of Hindu minorities in Pakistan calls for immediate action by the United Nations and other responsible bodies and nations. Pakistan must be forced to protect the life and property of minorities, especially women and children. The plight of Hindu girls in Sindh is a matter which is as serious a matter, if not more, than the mass abductions of girls by Boko Haram. While there has been a world-wide uproar at the African episode, there is not even a whimper of protest at the systematic campaign against minority women, mostly Hindus, in Pakistan. 

- See more at:

Deobandi militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad involved in terrorist attack on Indian Airforce Base

By Naseem Chaudhary 

In a developing story, Deobandi terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad are involved in a terrorist attack on an Indian airforce base. This act of terrorism by the takfiri Deobandi terrorists of Jaish highlight the dangers of a terrorist nexus of connected groups like Jaish, ASWJ-LeJ, Jundullah and Taliban. All of them share a common ideology and are recruited from the Saudi-funded Deobandi madrassa networks in Pakistan.
This attack by Jaish is a clear attempt to derail the ongoing peace process between Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif and Indian PM Modi
Indian security forces set up a security road barrier outside the airforce base in Pathankot - 430 km from Delhi. Image and caption courtesy of AP
Indian security forces set up a security road barrier outside the airforce base in Pathankot – 430 km from Delhi. Image and caption courtesy of AP
Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing lobby in Pakistan that is working hard to obscure and obfuscate the role of this nexus in acts of both domestic and international terrorism –  in this case, the terrorist act of Jaish could lead to dangerous consequences in the region.
This lobby actually promotes anti-Ahmadi, anti-Shia hate clerics like Tahir Ashrafi and Mufti Naeem who is the political face of Deobandi terrorist groups and the liaison between Gulf donors and ISIS-affiliated terrorists groups in Pakistan.
This lobby includes Pro Establishment (Fake) liberals who deliberately obscure the role of the takfiri terror network. At times, this (Fake) liberal mafia actually promote and white washes hate mongering clerics like Tahir Ashrafi. At other times, this lobby leaves out the role of the far more larger network of Deobandi terrorist groups like Jaish, ASWJ-LeJ, Jundullah and Taliban and instead starts attacking the Shia and Sunni victims of takfiri terrorism.
It is because of such obfuscations that Jaish still remains in a position to continue its terrorism.
This also raises the important questions of continued links between the Pakistani establishment and connected Deobandi terrorist groups like Jaish and ASWJ-LeJ. Elements within the PML N establishment like Law Minister Rana Sanaullah continues to be a link between the PML N government and Deobandi terrorist groups like ASWJ-LeJ.
The media needs to ask the question:
It is now crucial that Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif has to take action against Rana Sanaullah and Chaudhary Nisar who continue to maintain links with banned terrorist organisations like ASWJ-LeJ. Since its formation in 2000, Jaish-e-Mohammad is closely linked with ASWJ-LeJ. 
This also raises the question of Pakistan’s establishment’s soft corner for terrorists. 
Was it not the Supreme Court of controversial and corrupt former Chief Justice that also freed scores of Deobandi and Salafi terrorists including the leader of LeT/JuD. 

H S Dhillon, Additional Director General of Police, Punjab, told AFP the operation at the base was still ongoing at 04.15 GMT.
“We are searching the area. Two of the attackers were killed in the initial exchange of gunfire but we can’t confirm if more have been killed,” he said, in response to reports that four gunmen had been killed.
“Five to six security personnel were injured and they have been evacuated to hospital.”
Pathankot in India’s Punjab province is close to the border with Pakistan.—Google maps
Local television stations showed images of helicopters surveying the area, while elite National Security Guard commandos have been flown in to flush out the attackers.
A top security official, who asked not to be named, alleged that the gunmen were believed to be from the Jaish-i-Mohammad group, describing them as suicide attackers who breached security at the base in the northern state of Punjab while wearing army uniforms

Protest against Pakistan’s role in Saudi-led military coalition

Hundreds of people joined a protest in Islamabad on Friday against Pakistan’s decision to join Saudi Arabia’s 34-country coalition against extremism, as Riyadh’s foreign minister ended a two-day visit to the country.
The protesters also condemned the execution of Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia and the illegal detention of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzakay in Nigeria.
The protesters presented a memorandum to a Foreign Office spokesperson demanding Pakistan drop out of the alliance, which was announced in December and is seen as the latest sign of a more assertive foreign policy by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan announced on Thursday they would join the Saudi-led military alliance to fight “terrorism” in the Islamic world, following a meeting between Riyadh’s foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Saudi Arabia announced the coalition last month, naming Pakistan as a member, but Islamabad had initially reacted cautiously saying it needed further details before deciding the extent of its participation..


Banned organizations of the country took out a rally against Pakistan’s friendly neighboring country Iran in Islamabad on Friday. The administration of the city permitted the ‘Down with Iran’ rally by remaining silent which was an open violation of the NAP. This was not the first time when the NAP was violated by the government itself. Nawaz government had given the permission to banned organizations for rallies and processions and thus made the NAP conflicting.
Sources told that anti-Iran activities are likely to increase after the Saudi Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan. Saudi Foreign Minister had met PM Nawaz Sharif and COAS General Raheel Sharif in his short visit of 18 hours.
Sources also told that Mr. Jubeir had also met some leaders of outlawed organizations and Salafi and Wahhabi molvis and assigned them with the task of running anti-Iran and anti-Shia campaign.
On the other hand, Saudi Foreign Minister had also ordered Saudi embassy to organize anti-Iran and anti-Shia rallies in Pakistan through outlawed organizations having the same ideology in order to incite sectarianism in the country so that the reaction that has been going on in Pakistan against Sheikh Nimr’s execution could be given a different angle.
It was in this regard that banned organizations carried out a rally against one of Pakistan’s friendly neighbors Iran in Islamabad in which nasty stuff was spoken against Ayatollah Khomeini and Shia Muslims and police of the federal capital remained silent spectator.
Banned organizations had also called a meeting for defending Harmain in Islamabad on Thursday after which they have aimed to run a campaign against Shia Muslims and the Islamic revolution and to save the monarchy of House of Saud.