By Ahmed Khan
Weeks prolong sit-in in Islamabad ends after surrender of government to right wing protesters. The PML-N’s government was incapacitated to use its mandate to disperse religious fanatics who had lock-down capital for three weeks, because they were supported by establishment and army turned defiant to civil government by saying that they cannot crush their people.
The right wing hardliner were demanding for resignation of ruling party’s minister for law Mr Zahid Hamid and restoration of Khatum e Nabuwat bill which was already did by parliament to nip the bud. It was announced by government official that during the oath swear is not mandatory and by undertaking responsibilities would be transferred. And it was not accepted to religious mindset in Pakistan and they stood against to annul newly approved regulation. They were demanding the person who made amendment regarding this is to be penalized because they think in this way the Khatam e Nabuwat law is effected which they never can tolerate.
The National Action Plan was designed and was approved three years ago to curb militarism including the glorification and hate speech of ideas that directly or indirectly promote the radical narratives in state of Pakistan. Here has been observed that favored factions are spared in discussed ordinance, even they are above the law and constitution.
Many politicians and intellectuals in media shows and debates harshly criticized the state controllers for double policies toward religious fanatics and political group in Balochistan and Sindh.
More than this, in social media such video clips were viral in that state forces are helping financially and in other means to radical protestors, directly. The judiciary also directed about disperse of protestors who effected worst the country’s capital. On the other hand, the judiciary’s recent political overreach also had been counterproductive to this muddle. While the Islamabad High Court had asked the government to ensure the removal of protestors from the capital, the courts itself had set a number of precedents that could prove disastrous for judiciary and other institutes, too.
Meanwhile, the court ordered the government to remove protestors and on same time it also ordered for set-free the chief of the Jamaat ul Dawa (JuD) Hafiz Saeed, who was placed under house arrest by the government a few months ago in response of international powers’ influence. This act of court demoralized the political government to combat hard with protestors who were favored by powerful institutes. Consequently, the PML-N government submitted before fanatics and gave in all demands. It released all arrested protestors who were violent, sacked its minister Zahid Hamid who had portfolio of law, and then weeks long protest was ended in Faizabad, Islamabad.
The recent developments on Islamabad’s roads delivered a message to thinkers in Pakistan that here religious fanatics have priority and patronization. Those elements can be used against any party to get pressurized and bend it as desired. The Punjab’s party PML-N has been dealt by those, so in future, like Peoples Party and other provinces representing groups effortlessly will be get submitted by these.
In prevailing situations, the parties and politicians like Musharraf and Imran Khan also turn their faces and spoke in favor of religious elements like LeT and JuD to shun any kind of wrath by establishment and may not be dislocate from favored place granted by institutes.
Clearly, the religious elements appear to have developed monopoly of a state within a state and it’s not the loss of just the ruling party which has been berated and criticized for being incapable but is concern for entire moderate citizens, thinkers and parties.
Sit-in’s like the one in Islamabad only opened a way to violent attitudes and further it will cause the subjugation of minorities in country and muzzle of liberal thinkers who are already dealt bleakly by security agencies and many of them have fled to abroad by serious threats. The left inclined critics and progressive minded often oppose the establishment for its policies. It’s ironic that the issue had been presented as threat to Islam when more than 98 percent population consider it the narrative of Islamabad’s dharna as not factual but controlled.
Now the court took Sue Muto notice of protestors violent attitude and highlighted the failure of police to disperse the mob. The court also lashed out the army official for favoring religious fanatics and involvement in politics. But it does not seem that an institute in Pakistan will make the establishment answerable.
Islamabad dharna turned country a theocratic, and religious elements have monopoly in state policies. the democracy and political parties are powerless or inferior to the radicals which are apparently the tool of establishment.
By Khalid Mahmood
Not long ago, the liberal and secular citizens of Pakistan were highly infuriated by the deep state actors’ involvement in forced disappearances of those who used their right to dissent.
The ruling elites of PML (N) were lambasted for turning the blind eye towards the abduction and torture of innocent people. This time, a grotesque drama was staged at Faizabad intersection of Islamabad Rawalpindi, by a highly mechanized and well supplied outfit Tehreek Labbayak Yarasullah.
Apparently, it was staged to blackmail sitting government to show them an early exit from power. Unfortunately, police authorities action against this ugly sit in had badly failed.
The protesters were using a non-issue already resolved in 1974 by declaring Qadiani sect out of Islam. After a botched attempt to remove these venom spewing clerics, their sympathizers started attacking politicians and individuals in various cities of Pakistan.
Ahsan Iqbal Federal Minister for Interior was in a quandary to handle this law and order situation. He was reluctant to take action because he had been tipped for widespread retaliation of mullas against his party, throughout the country.
It is highly deplorable that the present government’s order to use army for action was denied. Instead a dubious deal has been brokered by the de facto powerhouse end this almost a month long standoff in national capital.
The encroachment of political affairs, by the military elites in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon, but this abject surrender to an Islamist outfit and as well as to Reason is matchless and deeply terrifying for common folks in general, and exclusively secular/liberal individuals and organizations along with minorities.
A stern watch on use of radicalized religious outfits for gaining undemocratic control in political affairs by fellow humanist and human rights organizations is need of the hour for safety of minorities, non-religious and secular citizens of Pakistan.
Liberty of citizens is deeply endangered, by the abuse of religion for power. The current wave of mayhem, is not openly deplored and protested by mainstream political parties, who are aspirant to grind their axe in next power dispensation in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, this country is de facto divided between the power mongers and the doomed masses.
By JAMES GORDON MEEK, MEGAN CHRISTIE, BRIAN ROSS, SEAN LANGAN
The American mom held hostage by the Taliban for five years says she was beaten and raped as she tried to protect her children from their captors.
Caitlan Coleman Boyle, 31, from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania — who was abducted while traveling in Afghanistan with her husband, Joshua Boyle, 34, of Perth-Andover, Canada, and had three children in captivity — described the brutal treatment her family endured in captivity, in an exclusive broadcast interview with ABC News.
She said some of their guards “hated children” and targeted their eldest son for beatings, sometimes with a stick, claiming the young boy was “making problems” or being “too loud.” When Coleman Boyle tried to intervene, she was beaten as well. “I would get beaten or hit or thrown on the ground,” Coleman Boyle said.
According to her husband, Coleman Boyle sustained serious injuries while fighting to keep their captors from her children.
“She had a broken cheekbone,” Boyle said. ”She actually broke her own hand punching one of them. She broke her fingers, so she was very proud of that injury.”
She accused her captors of even more grievous crimes, saying the guards murdered their unborn daughter in a “forced abortion,” and she was later raped by two men in retribution for trying to report the crime to their superiors.
“They just kept saying that this will happen again if we don’t stop speaking about the forced abortion, that this happened because we were trying to tell people what they had done and that it would happen again,” Coleman Boyle said.
The two told ABC News they are speaking out so soon after their release because they want justice for their abusers, hoping Taliban leaders will be put on trial for war crimes or otherwise be held accountable in the tribal justice system.
“Our focus is on trying to hold accountable those who have committed grave human rights violations against us and against others,” Boyle said. “I lost a daughter. That was more of a crushing blow to me than the years. What they did was a crime against humanity by international law.”
The couple was abducted while traveling in eastern Afghanistan’s war-torn Ghazni province in 2012, taken prisoner by the Haqqani network, an extremist element of the Afghan Taliban, and quickly transported to Pakistan. Coleman Boyle, who was pregnant at the time of their capture, gave birth to three children while in captivity.
The family was frequently moved to different locations through Pakistan’s tribal belt. According to Boyle, who says he was shackled for the duration of his captivity, the family was usually held in a single room, often underground, sometimes on a concrete floor, sometimes on a dirt floor. The parents used discarded items as makeshift toys for their children.
“We would just teach them to use things like bottle caps or bits of cardboard, garbage essentially, but what we could find to play with,” Coleman Boyle said.
He said they taught their eldest son the alphabet, geography and constellations and tried their best to make the horrible tolerable. They used British history — the tale of the execution of Charles I in 1649 — to make up a game about beheadings, to ease their eldest son’s fear, should their captors do the same to his parents.
“He certainly knew that this type of thing could happen to his family, so he had great fun pretending to be Oliver Cromwell chasing Charles I around and trying to behead him,” she said. ”So we made it a game so that he wasn’t afraid, because there was, you know, there was nothing we could do if it came to that except try to make him less afraid.”
Danger, however, was never far from their minds. Coleman Boyle said they told their son “some” of what was happening to them but tried to keep “the worst bits” from him.
“But he had to know that these people were bad that he was interacting with, outside of his family,” she said. “That everyone else he saw, you couldn’t trust.”
The physical abuse of the family escalated, Boyle said, when the Haqqani network demanded he join the extremist group as a Western propagandist.
“They had come four different times, to offer employment in the group … and I made it very clear that I’d rather be the hostage than be on your side of the cage.” Boyle said. “I’d rather be inside than outside.”
His refusal had serious consequences.
“There were beatings. There was violence. Then they’d come to make the offer again. Still said no. More beatings, more violence. Maybe that’ll be the solution. Still no,” Boyle said. “And after the final time — that’s when they killed our daughter. And after that, there were no more intimations of recruitment.”
Coleman Boyle, who was taken hostage when she was more than six months pregnant with her first son, had to hide the pregnancies of her two other children born in captivity. Her husband helped her deliver them, she said, with no doctor present.
“They didn’t want us to have any more,” she said.
She believes the guards put something in her food in 2014 to force a miscarriage of their unborn daughter, who the couple named Martyr Boyle. The couple complained to their captors and tried to slip notes to Taliban visitors informing them of the crime, so, the two said, their guards raped her while their eldest son was in the room to compel her to stay silent.
“One day they came into the cell, and they took my husband out forcefully, dragging him out, and one of the guards threw me down on the ground, hitting me and shouting, ‘I will kill you,’” Coleman Boyle said. “That’s when the assault happened. It was with two men. And then there was a third at the door. And afterwards, the animals wouldn’t even give me back my clothes.”
The day after she was raped, Coleman Boyle said, Pakistani gunships strafed Haqqani positions in North Waziristan.
“There were two helicopters with Gatling guns firing constantly,” she said. “There was a lot of AK-47 fire, and there were even some larger explosions.”
Shrapnel struck the buildings where Coleman Boyle and Boyle were held separately.
“It was a big, big battle. And our guards were hiding out of sight. They were absolutely terrified,” she said. “But my husband and I were each laughing to ourselves … thinking, ‘I hope that these sons of bitches die today.’”
The family was freed in mid-October in what was described by the Pakistani army as an operation carried out by Pakistani troops, but details about that operation remain unclear.
Now living in Canada and trying to adjust to freedom, with the help of supporters such as Hostage US, Coleman Boyle and Boyle say the scars from years of abuse in captivity are only beginning to heal. They weren’t ready to answer lingering questions about his past and the circumstances leading to their capture and release.
Boyle was previously married to a fellow Canadian, Zaynab Khadr, who had family ties to al-Qaeda. Her father was a suspected al-Qaeda financer killed by Pakistani security forces, and her younger brother Omar Khadr was once the youngest detainee at the U.S. terrorist prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has since been released.
When the family arrived in Toronto a month ago, Boyle told reporters at a press conference that he and Coleman Boyle were captured while trying to help poor Afghans.
“I was in Afghanistan helping the most neglected minority group in the world, those ordinary villagers who lived deep inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, where no NGO, no aid worker and no government has ever successfully been able bring the necessary help,” he said.
Boyle refused to discuss with ABC News why he was in Afghanistan, however, saying he has already answered those questions from the news media.
Coleman Boyle confirmed that she and her husband “made the decision” to have more children, but she and Boyle declined to explain that decision further.
“I think it’s a sad statement on the state of affairs of the world when a family is asked to justify their decision to have children in any circumstance,” he said.
And the circumstances of the family’s release remain in dispute. The U.S. government had planned a commando raid to secure the family, but officials were surprised when the family suddenly appeared in the custody of the Pakistani military. Boyle maintained that the family was rescued in a firefight.
“The only thing being exchanged was bullets,” he said.
In the meantime, the two are focused on the future and on their family. Coleman Boyle says it was the children who kept her going while she was in captivity, so after years of trauma, she hopes it’s time for them to heal.
“I hope that they find enough happiness and joy to make up for it,” Coleman Boyle said.
Sean Langan is a British filmmaker and ABC News contributor who was held hostage by the Taliban’s Haqqani network in 2008 and has produced a new documentary, “The USA vs. Bergdahl,” about former Taliban prisoner U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
Bolan Voice Report
Reports in international media appeared through that CIA Director Mike Pompeo has warned Pakistan that if it does not eliminate the alleged safe havens inside its territory, the United States will do “everything we can” to destroy them.
As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrives in Islamabad in early December 2017, to persuade Pakistan to support the new US strategy for Afghanistan, the Trump administration is sending mixed signals to its estranged ally. The new strategy seeks Pakistan’s support to defeat the Taliban in the battlefield as Washington believes that only a defeat will force them to reconcile with the Afghan government.
Talking to journalists aboard his plane, Secretary Mattis said he did not plan to “prod” Pakistan into action because he expected Islamabad to adhere to its promises to combat terrorism.
He disagreed with a journalist who suggested that Mr Mattis might end up “butting heads” with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa when he meets them in Islamabad on his first visit as the Pentagon chief.
The VOA radio quoted Mr Mattis as telling the journalist that this was not his style. “That’s not the way I deal with issues. I believe that we can work hard on finding common ground and then we work together.”
But the CIA director sent a harsher message when asked at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi, California, how would the Trump administration persuade Pakistan to adhere to its new Afghan strategy.
Mr Pompeo said: “You begin by seeking their assistance.”
The CIA director noted that Secretary Mattis was travelling to Pakistan to “make clear the president’s intent” and “will deliver the message that we would love you to do that. And that the safe haven inside of Pakistan has worked to the detriment of our capacity to do what we needed to do in Afghanistan”.
He then explained how the Trump administration would deal with the situation if Pakistan turned down Washington’s request to destroy safe havens. “In the absence of the Pakistanis achieving that, we are going to do everything we can to make sure that that safe haven no longer exists,” he said.
Since 2004, the CIA has conducted drone strikes in Fata and recent media reports have suggested that the Trump administration may expand those strikes to cover other areas inside Pakistan.
Mr Pompeo’s predecessor, Leon Panetta, also shared with the forum his experience of dealing with Pakistan as the Obama administration’s CIA chief.
“Pakistan has always been a problem. It has been a safe haven for terrorists who cross the border and attack in Afghanistan and go back into Pakistan,” he said.
“We have made every effort possible, during the time I was there, to convince Pakistan to stop it. But Pakistan, as Mike knows, has this kind of two-wedge approach to dealing with terrorism,” he added.
“On one hand, yes, they do not like terrorism, or attacks from terrorism in their country. But at the same time, they don’t mind using terrorism as leverage to deal with Afghanistan and to deal with India.”
Mr Panetta claimed that Pakistan has had this policy since his days at the CIA and that’s why “Pakistan has always been a question mark”.
Referring to US efforts to persuade Pakistan to cooperate, he said: “I hope that Mike (Pompeo) and Jim Mattis are successful in making clear to the Pakistanis that got to be able to see a little broader and they have to go after terrorists within their own territory. Unless that happens, we are going to continue to have problems in Afghanistan.”
The moderator turned to Mr Pompeo and asked if Pakistan’s approach had changed. “Not yet,” said the CIA chief.
But Secretary Mattis, who warned in October that the United States was willing to work “one more time” with Pakistan before taking “whatever steps are necessary” to address its alleged support for militants, did not show the bitterness displayed by the two CIA chiefs.
Instead, he said he was focused on trying to find “more common ground… by listening to one another without being combative.”
Bill Gates has said that capitalism isn’t working, and that socialism is our only hope in order to save the planet.
During an interview with The Atlantic, the Microsoft founder said that the private sector is too selfish to produce clean and economical alternatives to fossil fuels, and announced his intentions to spend $2 billion of his own money on green energy.
The Independent reports:
The Microsoft founder called on fellow billionaires to help make the US fossil-free by 2050 with similar philanthropy.
“There’s no fortune to be made. Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems.
Without a substantial carbon tax, there’s no incentive for innovators or plant buyers to switch.
Since World War II, US-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area. The private sector is in general inept.
The climate problem has to be solved in the rich countries. China and the US and Europe have to solve CO2 emissions, and when they do, hopefully they’ll make it cheap enough for everyone else.”
In recent years, China has surged ahead of the US and Europe in green investment, despite remaining the world’s most polluting country in terms of fossil fuels.
Between 2000 and 2012, China’s solar energy output rose from 3 to 21,000 megawatts, rising 67 percent between 2013 and 2014. In 2014 the country’s CO2 emissions decreased 1 per cent.
Meanwhile, Germany’s greenhouse emissions are at the lowest point since 1990, and the UK has seen a decrease of 13.35 percent in emissions over the last five years, according to official quarterly statistics from the Department of Energy & Climate Change.
In a culture where clerics are powerful and sexual abuse is a taboo subject, it is seldom discussed or even acknowledged in public.
By Kathy Gannon|AP
Kausar Parveen struggles through tears as she remembers the blood-soaked pants of her 9-year-old son, raped by a religious cleric. Each time she begins to speak, she stops, swallows hard, wipes her tears and begins again.
The boy had studied for a year at a nearby Islamic school in the town of Kehrore Pakka. In the blistering heat of late April, in the grimy two-room Islamic madrassa, he awoke one night to find his teacher lying beside him.
“I didn’t move. I was afraid,” he says. The cleric lifted the boy’s long tunic-style shirt over his head, and then pulled down his baggy pants.
“I was crying. He was hurting me. He shoved my shirt in my mouth,” the boy says, using his scarf to show how the cleric tried to stifle his cries. He looks over at his mother. “Did he touch you?’ He nods. “Did he hurt you when he touched you?” “Yes,” he whispers.
“Did he rape you?” He buries his face in his scarf and nods yes.
Parveen reaches over and grabs her son, pulling him toward her, cradling his head in her lap.
‘Infested’ with sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is a pervasive and longstanding problem at madrassas in Pakistan, an AP investigation has found, from the sunbaked mud villages deep in its rural areas to the heart of its teeming cities. But in a culture where clerics are powerful and sexual abuse is a taboo subject, it is seldom discussed or even acknowledged in public.
It is even more seldom prosecuted. Police are often paid off not to pursue justice against clerics, victims’ families say. And cases rarely make it past the courts, because Pakistan’s legal system allows the victim’s family to “forgive” the offender and accept what is often referred to as “blood money.”
The AP found hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by clerics reported in the past decade, and officials suspect there are many more within a far-reaching system that teaches at least 2 million children in Pakistan. The investigation was based on police documents and dozens of interviews with victims, relatives, former and current ministers, aid groups and religious officials.
The fear of clerics and the militant religious organizations that sometimes support them came through clearly. One senior official in a ministry tasked with registering these cases says many madrassas are “infested” with sexual abuse. The official asks to remain anonymous for fear of retribution; he has been a target of suicide attacks because of his hard position against militant groups.
“There are thousands of incidences of sexual abuse in the madrassas,” he says. “This thing is very common, that this is happening.”
Pakistan’s clerics close ranks when the madrassa system is too closely scrutinized, he says. Among the weapons they use to frighten their critics is a controversial blasphemy law that carries a death penalty in the case of a conviction.
“This is not a small thing here in Pakistan I am scared of them and what they can do,” the official says. “I am not sure what it will take to expose the extent of it. It’s very dangerous to even try. That’s a very dangerous topic,” he says.
A tally of cases reported in newspapers over the past 10 years of sexual abuse by maulvis or clerics and other religious officials came to 359. That represents “barely the tip of the iceberg,” says Munizae Bano, executive director of Sahil, the organisation that scours the newspapers and works against sexual abuse of minors.
In 2004, a Pakistani official disclosed more than 500 complaints of sexual assaults against young boys in madrassas. He has since refused to talk, and there have been no significant arrests or prosecutions.
Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf dismisses the suggestion that sexual abuse is widespread, saying such talk is an attempt to malign the religion, seminaries and clerics. He says he was not aware of even the cases reported in the newspapers, but that it could occur occasionally ‘because there are criminals everywhere.” Mr. Yousaf says the reform and control of madrassas is the job of the interior ministry.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees madrassas, refused repeated written and telephone requests for an interview.
The case of Ms. Parveen’s son was one of at least three within a month in the towns of Kehrore Pakka and Rajanpur in Punjab province’s deep south, according to police reports. Another incident involved the drugging and gang rape of a 12-year-old boy asleep on his madrassa rooftop by former students. And the third was of a 10-year-old boy sodomized by the madrassa principal when he brought him his meal. The cleric threatened to kill the boy if he told.
The AP is not naming the children because they are victims of sexual abuse.
The fear of clerics was evident at the courthouse in Kehrore Pakka, where the former teacher of Ms. Parveen’s son waited his turn to go before a judge. A half dozen members of the radical Sunni militant organization Sipah-e-Sahabah were there to support the teacher.
They scowled and moved closer when an AP reporter sat next to the teacher, who was shackled to a half dozen other prisoners. The whispers grew louder and more insistent.
“It’s too dangerous here,” said one person, looking over at the militants nearby. “Leave. Leave the courthouse, they can do anything here.”
The teacher had already confessed, according to police, and the police report said he was found with the boy. Yet he swore his innocence in court. “I am married,” he said. “My wife is pretty, why would I do this to a kid?”
There are more than 22,000 registered madrassas or Islamic schools in Pakistan. The students they teach are often among the country’s poorest, who receive food and an education for free.
Many more madrassas small two- or three-room seminaries in villages throughout Pakistan are unregistered, opened by a graduate of another madrassa, often without any education other than a proficiency in the Quran. They operate without scrutiny, ignored by the authorities, say residents living nearby. Parveen’s son, for example, went to an unregistered madrassa.
Madrassas are funded by wealthy business people, religious political parties and even donors from other countries, such as Saudi Arabia. The teachings of the madrassas are guided by schools of Islamic thought, such as Shiite and Sunni.
“Basic responsibility, when something happens, is with the head of the madrassa,” says Mufti Mohammed Naeem, the head of the sprawling Jamia Binoria madrassa in the city of Karachi.
There are between 2,000 and 3,000 unregistered madrasses, Naeem says, which makes central oversight even harder. The government has launched a nationwide effort to register madrassas.
The “keepers” of madrassas are also notoriously reluctant to accept government oversight or embrace reforms, according to I.A. Rehman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, which makes sexual abuse harder to prevent.
“This is one of those things, you know, which everybody knows is going on and happening, but evidence is very scarce,” he says. He adds that the power of the people who run the madrassas has increased over the years.
As the religious right has grown stronger in Pakistan, clerics who were once dependent on village leaders for handouts, even food, have risen in stature. With this rise, reporting of sexual abuse in madrassas has trickled off, said human rights lawyer Saif-ul Mulk. Mr. Mulk has police protection because of death threats from militants outraged by his defense of a Christian woman sentenced to death for insulting Islam.
“Everyone is so afraid of the mullahs today,” he says.
Police help the powerful
The fear that surrounds sexual abuse by clerics means that justice is rare. The payoff from offending mullahs to police means that they often refuse to even register a case, says Azam Hussain, a union councilor in Kehrore Pakka. And the families involved are often poor and powerless.
“Poor people are afraid, so they don’t say anything,” Mr. Hussain says. “Police help the mullah. Police don’t help the poor…Poor people know this, so they don’t even go to the police.”
This is particularly true in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, where more than 60 percent of its 200 million people live. Even Pakistan’s own Punjab provincial anti-corruption department in a 2014 report listed the Punjab police as the province’s most corrupt department. Police say they investigate when a complaint is made, but they have no authority to take a case forward when the family accepts money, which often happens.
The family of a boy who says he was repeatedly assaulted sexually by a cleric in a Punjab madrassa talks about their tussle with police.
The boy isn’t sure of his age. Maybe 10 or 11, he says. His voice is barely a whisper, his head bent low as he talked. He is surrounded by two dozen villagers and relatives, all men, all angry.
“I was ashamed and I was scared,” he says. “He told me if I told anyone, my brother, my family, he would kill all my family and he would kill me.”
In August, when the boy was home, the thought of returning to his madrassa became too much. He pleaded with his older brother not to send him back. But his brother beat him and told him to go back.
The brother, who would only give his first name as Maqsood, looks anguished. “I didn’t know,” he says. Their elderly uncle, who looks near tears, covers his face and tries not to look in the boy’s direction.
The boy says another student at his seminary was assaulted by the same cleric. But police released the cleric after senior Punjab government officials intervened on his behalf, according to Mr. Maqsood.
Demonstrations by villagers forced the cleric’s re-arrest. Still, Mr. Maqsood says, when he went to the police, his honesty was questioned.
“The maulvi was sitting in the chair like he was the boss, and I was told to stay standing,” he says. “We are being pressured to compromise… We are poor people.”
Local police deny charges that they favored the cleric or intimidated the family. They say they have consulted a local Islamic scholar about the rape allegations, and that the madrassa has not come to their attention previously for any wrongdoing.
“We need witnesses, evidence,” says Sajjad Mohammed Khan, Vehari’s deputy superintendent of police for organized crime.
The top police officer in the district center of Multan, Deputy Inspector General Police Sultan Azam Temuri, also denies that pressure from clerics or powerful politicians prompts police to go easy in such cases. He says cases are investigated when allegations are made. Mr. Temuri says his department is trying to tackle child abuse in general with the introduction of gender and child protection services.
The madrassa where Mr. Maqsood’s brother went, with more than 250 students, has a reputation in the neighborhood for abuse. Two women with their heads covered hurry past, stopping briefly to warn a young Pakistani woman, “Don’t bring your children to that madrassa. It is very bad what they do to the children there.”
A sign for the madrassa is emblazoned with the flag of a Taliban-affiliated group. After persistent knocking, a blind maulvi, Mohammed Nadeem, led by a young student, agrees to speak. He denies that any abuse takes place inside the madrassa.
Victims and their families can choose to “forgive” an assailant because Pakistan’s legal system is a mix of British Common Law and Islamic Shariah law.
A similar legal provision was changed last year to prevent forgiveness of “honor” killings, where victims are murdered because they are thought to have brought shame on their families. Honor killings now carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison, but clerics in sexual abuse cases can still be forgiven.
Sahil, the organization, offers families legal aid to pursue such cases. Last year, Sahil found 56 cases of sexual assault involving religious clerics. None of the families accepted Sahil’s offer of legal assistance.
In cases that are pursued, convictions do occasionally happen.
In south Punjab, a cleric was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor girl in 2016 and sentenced to 12 years in jail and the equivalent of a $1,500 fine. The same cleric had in the past managed to get several families to settle over sexual abuse cases because of his close links to religious extremist groups, said local officials. This time, a local activist group known as Roshan Pakistan, or Bright Pakistan, persuaded the family of the young girl to resist.
Far more often, the family gives in, as in the case of a 9-year-old girl who was raped by the maulvi of the unregistered madrassa she attended, according to a police report.
Last July, a cleric “forcibly took her shalwar off and started molesting her,” according to the police report obtained by The AP. She
screamed. Two men heard her screams and stormed into the room, and found the cleric attacking her. Seeing them, the cleric fled, and the men took the bleeding girl home, the report said.
“We would hear that these kinds of things happen, children raped in the madrassas, but you never know until it happens to your family,” says Mr. Azam, her uncle.
Yet the family settled the case out of court. He refused to say how much money they got, but neighbors say it was around $800.
“The family took money to not speak about it,” says Rana Mohammed Jamal, an elderly neighbor. He says he believes abuses occurred predominantly in the small madrassas that spring up in poor neighborhoods, “where it is just the mullah and no one can say who he is, and he can do anything.”
Ms. Parveen, the mother of the 9-year-old boy who says he was raped by his teacher in Kehrore Pakka, vowed that she would never give in to intimidation. But relatives and neighbors say the family was hounded by religious militants to drop the charges and take money.
In the end, the mother “forgave” the cleric and accepted $300, according to police.
The cleric was set free.
Published in Washingtonpost
Swiss government banned exiled Baloch leader Mehran Marri and his family from entering Switzerland on the basis that his presence could pose security risk to the country.
British national Mehran Baluch was detained at the Zurich airport for at least 12 hours and then deported by the Swiss authorities, informing the prominent Baloch leader that the Swiss government decided to place lifetime ban on him on 9th of November.
Documents obtained by The News show that the Swiss government told Mehran Baluch that he was being banned from entry for allegedly violating “Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No. 562/2006 (Schengen Borders Code) and Articles 5 and 65 of 16 December 2005 on foreigners”.
A government spokesman told The News that this section relates to areas of risk to public order, internal security, public health, international relations of one or more of the Member States. He said that “international relations” were of concern in the case of Mehran Baluch.
On Thursday, a Swiss government source had told this scribe that action against Mehran Marri was being taken on Pakistani government’s request which had handed over a “dossier” to the Swiss authorities.
“Fedpol [Swiss Federal Police] can issue entry bans when it believes that a person is a threat to the country’s security,” a spokesperson for the foreign affairs ministry said.
The ministry spokesman said that Mehran Baluch has the right to appeal against the decision by the Swiss government. Mehran Baluch has said that he didn’t sign the papers where allegations were made by the Swiss authorities. Mehran Baluch was headed to Geneva for a conference when he was stopped at the airport. His four children and wife, younger sister of Brahumdagh Bugti, were also detained with him. Mehran Marri’s wife was supposed to stay at his brother’s house who lives in exile in Geneva with his family after fleeing Pakistan.
Papers show that Mehran Baluch has been given 30 days to file against ban on his entry with the Federal Administrative Court. He was deported on Thursday night and went to Stutgart, Germany. He announced that he will be taking the Swiss authorities to court.
The Swiss chargesheet, according to papers seen by this reporter, said Marri was “a Pakistani national of Great Britain” associated with militant groups. It claimed that that the UBA “collaborated with the terrorist movement Balochistan Republican Army (BRA) under Brahmadagh Bugti”. The chargesheet pointed out that Mehran Marri was married to Bugti’s sister and accused Marri of being in close contact with Bugti. “If Marri was able to enter Switzerland to work with Brahamdagh Bugti and coordinate terrorist operations, it could jeopardize the internal security of the country,” the chargesheet said.
Mehran Marri, a prominent figure in Baloch diaspora nationalist movement, has insisted that he has never been involved in any kind of militancy and that the allegations against him are politically motivated. Marri has been attending UNHRC as unofficial representative of Balochistan for nearly two decades and has been a regular feature at the UNHRC annual sessions.
His brother Gazain recently returned to Pakistan after ending self-imposed exile and recently obtained bail in a murder case. His eldest brother Changez Marri is part of the Balochistan government and office bearer of PMLN. His brother Mehran Marri lives in London but they are not on talking terms.
A Pakistani official, privy to developments taking place in Europe, said that Pakistan respected freedom of expression and criticism but had the right to pass its concern to countries if anything was going on against Pakistan. The official said that Pakistan has been regularly communicating with various western governments and passing its concerns and will continue to do that.
By Basheer Ahmed Ijbari
AIDS is spreading in Balochistan at an alarming rates as the number of those tested positive has crossed 750.
According to Dr Noor Mohammad of Provincial Aids program, the patients include 3 women as well. He said in one year from March 2016 to March 2017, over 355 cases of Aids have been reported in the Province.
He said in 2015 AIDS patients were 396 meaning that the disease is spreading at rapidly. He also disclosed that 26 AIDS patients are in Gdani jail alone.
According to a report, a private laboratory in Quetta tested 10 patients AIDS positive.
Updating the information Secretary Health Javed Anwar Shahwani told to media that virus of HIV is spreading rapidly in due to unawareness. He said now the deducted cases number of aids has above than 3000 which were transformed in many ways.
Experts say at this point of time, there is no cure for AIDS, but medications are effective in fighting HIV and its complications. Treatments are designed to reduce HIV in one’s body, keep his immune system as healthy as possible and decrease the complications the patient may develop.
By Rahima Sohail
A recently published report by The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) takes a look at the implications and obstacles of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) energy projects with the possibility of it exacerbating already fraught relations between Pakistan and India.
Energy is a big part of CPEC, with many high profile projects relating to it, including sixteen which are close to completion. PML-N came into power in 2013 with a mandate to fix a far-reaching energy crisis. In his speech to mark the occasion of CPEC’s launch in April 2015, ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared that the project “will benefit all provinces and areas in Pakistan, and transform our country into a regional hub and pivot for commerce and investment.”
Islamabad, thus, has a strong political interest in getting as many energy-related projects online as possible before the next national election in 2018 given their recent political struggles, states report’s author Michael Kugelman, who is the South Asia senior associate at The Wilson Center.
Of the over $50 billion in promised Chinese investment in CPEC, 60 percent is for coal-fired power generation. The project offers “many potential benefits for Pakistan, ranging from improved infrastructure to increased employment and, more broadly, greater access to the global economy”, says Kugelman. Pakistan is currently disastrously short of electricity supplies and while CPEC will help Pakistan generate more power, it will not solve the broader energy crisis that is rooted in more than supply shortages, states the report.
“CPEC will not do much to address the fundamental drivers of that crisis—debt, corruption, a lack of a clear and coordinated energy policy process, and other factors that have little to do with supply-side considerations”, claims Kugelman.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) not only has to look at the environmental implications for the region but also the host countries’ ability to meet their goals for reducing carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Moreover, the project for China is deeply dependent on “the precarious and uncertain security situation in Pakistan”. Stability in Pakistan’s security situation and economic performance is an increasingly critical interest for Beijing. Real questions also continue to persist about Pakistan’s ability to repay loans and whether the country is capable of financing its share of the new energy investments.
In a recent report by The Express Tribune, it was observed that the central government’s debt and liabilities increased to Rs21.4 trillion by June this year, which were about 68% of the total national output and is considered a dangerous level.
The report by Kugelman also takes a look at the noticeable split between public narratives and private sentiments on CPEC in Pakistan. While CPEC is envisioned as the project to integrate Pakistan into the global economy, officials and analysts acknowledge the risks of “placing all of Pakistan’s economic eggs in the CPEC basket”. With heavy investment from China, there is no longer a level playing field in Pakistan for other interested foreign investors.
It further discusses the impact CPEC will have on the already fraught relations between Pakistan and India. Beijing is New Delhi’s biggest strategic competitor in the region and the project “generates additional obstacles for Indian efforts to access markets and natural gas reserves in Central Asia”. India cannot currently reach these regions by land because Pakistan denies it transit rights on Pakistani soil.
India has repeatedly expressed severe reservations on CPEC. Not only is New Delhi critical of CPEC building projects in Gilgit-Baltistan which is part of disputed territory, but many policymakers view CPEC as China ‘encircling’ India in the South Asian region. There are not only infrastructure development and energy deals but also some naval and military-related projects.
“That CPEC is taking place on India’s doorstep and all across Pakistan is even more unsettling for New Delhi,” states Kugelman.
Monitoring CPEC is also a major focus of the US, which has thus far not been too vocal about the project, states the report. “CPEC is problematic because it represents major inroads made by a key strategic competitor in a region where the United States has been much less present than China.”
Five CPEC projects face the axe
However, if looked at through an economic lens, the intended outcomes of the project – energy security, better infrastructure, employment and stability – are desirable for the US because it aligns with its own interests in Pakistan.
The report also points out the benefit Iran gains from CPEC energy projects. The country has long wanted to complete a natural gas pipeline between Pakistan and Iran. Financial constraints have, however, stopped Pakistan from developing its portion.
While CPEC faces many obstacles, Pakistan has moved quickly to address them. It has moved quickly to address concerns about security and offered up a security force of nearly twenty thousand soldiers to protect CPEC workers, as well as a separate maritime force to protect Gwadar port. “The risks will remain high though, particularly in Balochistan.”
However, at the end of it Pakistan emerges as a winner. In time, the generation of more electricity and harvesting of indigenous resources could end the country’s dependence on imported oil and gas from the Middle East.
Published in Express Tribune
Bolan Voice Report
The first phase of Chabahar port was inaugurated in first week of December 2017, opening up a new strategic transit route among Iran, India and Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
The port, located in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province, was inaugurated by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the presence of representatives from India, Afghanistan and several other countries of the region.
The first phase of the Chabahar port project is known as the Shahid Beheshti port.
Iran is believed to have asked the Indian government to “manage” or operate the first phase of the port, until work for the second phase is finalized.
The port is likely to ramp up trade among India, Afghanistan and Iran in the wake of Pakistan denying transit access to New Delhi for trade with the two countries.
Ahead of the inauguration, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif held a meeting in Tehran to review the implementation of the Chabahar port project, among other issues.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Zarif had referred to the Shahid Beheshti Port and said it reinforces mutual and regional cooperation between India and Iran.
“It also shows the importance of the port in the development of the region and the routes that connect Central Asian states to other countries in the world through the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean,” he said, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Over a month ago, India had sent its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chabahar port in Iran. “The shipment of wheat is a landmark moment as it will pave the way for operationalization of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan,” the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had said in a statement.
Besides the bilateral pact to develop the Chabahar port, for which India will invest $500 million, a trilateral Agreement on Transport and Transit Corridor has also been signed by India, Afghanistan and Iran.
By Shehzad Baloch
China has announced for stopping funds of some projects particularly those related to the road network under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) till further decision regarding ‘new guidelines’ to be issued from Beijing, a senior government official told Dawn on Monday.
The decision could affect over Rs1 trillion road projects of the National Highway Authority (NHA). It was not clear how wide the impact of the delay will be, but initial reports confirm that at least three road projects are going to experience a delay.
The projects to be affected include the 210-km Dera Ismail Khan-Zhob Road, at an estimated cost of Rs81 billion. Of this, Rs66bn will be spent on construction of road and Rs15bn on land acquisition. Also the Rs19.76bn 110-km Khuzdar-Basima Road has also been affected.
The Rs8.5bn 136-km remaining portion of Karakarom Highway (KKH) from Raikot to Thakot is also impacted.
All three projects were originally part of the government’s own development programme, but in December 2016, the spokesman of the NHA announced that they are to be included under the CPEC umbrella to become eligible for concessionary finance from China.
The official told media that funds for the three road projects were approved in the 6th JCC meeting held last year, pending necessary procedural formalities. It was expected that the funding of the three projects would be finalized during the Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting held on Nov 20, but Pakistan was informed in the meeting that ‘new guidelines’ will be issued from Beijing under which new modus operandi for release of the funds will be described.
The decision of Chinese government was conveyed to Pakistan in the JWG meeting and the existing procedure for release of funds had been abolished. Under the previous procedure, the projects were to be approved by six different forums after which the funds were released.
“In fact the Chinese authorities informed us that the previous procedure of release of funds was meant for early harvest projects only and new guidelines will be issued for future projects of the CPEC,” the official said.
This suggests that the impact of the new procedures could be much wider than just the three roads mentioned by the official.
The official said the Pakistani side was left “stunned” when told of this development since it was the first time they were hearing it.
He, however, claimed that Chinese side was quite disturbed with increasing news reports being published in Pakistan regarding corruption in CPEC projects and that was the reason China has temporarily halted release of funds for the corridor.
On 30 November 2017, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority responded to a complaint made by the High Commissioner of Pakistan with regards to the #FreeBalochistan advertisements on London’s buses and taxis, stating that no action will be taken against the removal of the ads. Earlier in the month, the Government of Pakistan pressured the Transport for London to remove the #FreeBalochistan ads, claiming that they were irresponsible and offensive to the Pakistani diaspora. The #FreeBalochistan ads aimed to raise awareness of the human rights abuses that the Balochis face at the hands of the Pakistani establishment, including enforced disappearances, killings, kidnappings and torture.
The following article is from ANI
In what comes as a blow to Pakistan, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has refused to take up any action against the removal of #FreeBalochistan advertisements from London’s buses and taxis.
“I have informed the complainant that we will not pursue the matter because, based on the facts available to us, there doesn’t seem to be a breach of the UK Code of Non-Broadcasting Advertising (CAP Code),” a letter from the Complaint Executive of the organisation read.
The ASA Council acknowledged the subject of Baloch independence was a politically-sensitive one, but noted that “the advertiser had a right to express their views, as long as they were in line with the rules in the Advertising Code.”
The Council also clarified that its role was only limited to assessing what appeared within the ads themselves as opposed to what the ad intended to express.
“The Council considered that the tagline ‘#FreeBalochistan’ was an invitation to find out more about a particular political cause; and the ad itself did not make any specific claim that threatened the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Pakistan,” the letter further read.
The letter was a response to a complaint against the advertorial by the High Commissioner of Pakistan and one member of the general public.
The complainants objected to the ad, and specifically the slogan ‘#FreeBalochistan”, saying it was irresponsible and offensive to the Pakistani diaspora considering that Balochistan was an integral region of Pakistan.
Recently, the World Baloch Organisation, in a bid to spread awareness about the cause of Balochistan in the UK, launched its third phase of #FreeBalochistan advertising campaign. Under the campaign, London taxis with the words ‘Free Balochistan’ written on both sides were seen plying outside the Buckingham Palace, while 100 London buses carried adverts that said “Free Balochistan”, “Save The Baloch People” and “Stop Enforced Disappearances”.
The advertisement drew strong contempt from the Pakistan Government officials, who pressurised the British Government to remove the WBO’s adverts.
Indeed, within 24 hours, Transport for London ordered the removal of the taxi adverts; though the billboards remained because they were not on TfL property.
British High Commissioner to Pakistan Thomas Drew expressed his country’s inability to control the advertisements, and at the same time maintained that the UK acknowledged Balochistan as an integral part of Pakistan. (ANI)
Published in Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization
By Gordon Corera Security correspondent
Iran is establishing a permanent military base inside Syria, a Western intelligence source has told the BBC.
The Iranian military is said to have established a compound at a site used by the Syrian army outside El-Kiswah, 14 km (8 miles) south of Damascus.
The report comes amid growing tensions over Iranian influence in Syria and across the region.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu recently warned that Iran wanted to establish itself militarily in Syria.
“Israel will not let that happen,” he said.
Satellite images commissioned by the BBC seem to show construction activity at the site referenced by the intelligence source between January and October this year.
The images show a series of two dozen large low-rise buildings – likely for housing soldiers and vehicles.
In recent months, additional buildings have been added to the site. However, it is impossible to independently verify the purpose of the site and the presence of the Iranian military.
An official from another Western country told the BBC that ambitions for such a long-term presence in Syria would not be illogical for Iran.
Its adversaries have accused Iran of seeking to establish not just an arc of influence but a logistical land supply line from Iran through to the Shia Hezbollah movement in Lebanon.
With so-called Islamic State (IS) suffering major defeats on the battlefield and losing its last strongholds, attention is increasingly turning to what comes next and the new map of power and influence in Syria.
Iran has been a consistent backer of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Photographs published on social media in the past few days also showed a senior Iranian general in Deir al-Zour shortly after IS was driven out of the town.
The photos show Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) alongside members of a militia.
With a significant number of IRGC fighting – and in some cases dying – in Syria, there has already been a significant presence in the country but the question is now whether they are preparing to remain in the long term.
The images of the base do not reveal any signs of large or unconventional weaponry which means if it was a base it would most likely be to house soldiers and vehicles. One source said it was possible that senior Iranian military officials may have visited the compound in recent weeks.
Independent analysis of the images commissioned by the BBC says the facility is military in nature. The analysis also suggests there are a series of garages that can hold six to eight vehicles each.
The analysis suggests new buildings have been constructed and other buildings renovated in the past six months although the exact role of the new structures cannot be determined.
However, it is not clear whether the facility is currently occupied. Shia fighters from other countries – including Pakistan and Afghanistan – are also alleged to be operating in Syria under the control of the IRGC and it is possible the base could be used by them. Analysts estimate up to 500 troops could be based at the site.
The presence of Iranian forces in Syria has been reported for some time but the claim of a potentially more permanent Iranian base raises the possibility of military action by Israel which has repeatedly warned it will not tolerate such a development.
The base lies about 50 km (31 miles) from the Golan Heights – Syrian territory occupied and then annexed by Israel and where it now has a significant military presence.
“As Isis [IS] moves out, Iran moves in,” Mr Netanyahu tweeted.
“Iran wants to establish itself militarily in Syria, right next to Israel. Israel will not let that happen,” he added.
In an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on the same day he said Iran wanted to bring its air force and submarines as well as military divisions right next to Israel.
* Iran building missile factories in Syria and Lebanon – Netanyahu
Israel has raised further concerns of Iran seeking to use Syrian ports and bases for its submarines. When asked whether Israel would use military force to stop such developments, Mr Netanyahu told the BBC: “You know, the more we’re prepared to stop it, the less likely we’ll have to resort to much greater things. There is a principle I very much adhere to, which is to nip bad things in the bud.”
However, international pressure is likely to be the first avenue pursued by Israel. Other countries have also raised concerns over potential long-term Iranian presence in the region.
The issue of potential Iranian military bases is likely to have been raised by Israeli officials with Syria’s ally Russia.
In October, Russia’s defense minister was in Jerusalem and was told by Mr Netanyahu that Israel would not allow the Iranian military “to gain a foothold in Syria”, according to reports at the time.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran in the past week and Russian media suggested Syria – including Iran’s influence in the country – would be on the agenda.
In recent year, the Israeli air force has struck targets in Syria a number of times which it has linked to Hezbollah.
By Muzamil Baloch
A steep decline in US economic and military assistance to Pakistan, detailed in a Congressional report released on Tuesday, could also hurt Washington’s desire to prevent cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, statistics show.
The report by Congressional Research Service (CRS) shows that US economic and military assistance for Pakistan plummeted from more than $2.2 billion a year immediately after 9/11 to less than $350 million a year, sought for 2018.
The worst affected, however, is the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which reimburses Pakistan for monitoring the 2,200-kilometre-long Afghan border. Pakistan has deployed tens of thousands of troops along this border to check cross-border movement of Taliban militants.
Washington says that Pakistan has been successful in eliminating those who threaten the Pakistani state but has not shown much interest in combating the Afghan Taliban, who carry out cross-border attacks on US and Afghan forces. Pakistan rejects the US charge as incorrect, insisting that it’s targeting both Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.
Not satisfied by Pakistan’s response, the United States started attaching conditions to CSF reimbursements. The conditions required Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network if it wants full reimbursements.
In 2015, the US Congress authorised up to $1 billion in additional CSF to Pakistan, $300 million of which was subject to Haqqani network-related certification requirements that cannot be waived by the administration.
In 2016, Congress authorised another $900m, with $350m ineligible for waiver. In 2017, Congress authorised a further $900m, with $400m ineligible for waiver.
For 2018, Congress has authorised another $700m, with $350m ineligible for waiver. The administration did not issue certification — that Pakistan has taken the required steps to eliminate the threat posed by the Haqqanis — for 2015 or 2016. A decision on 2017 certification is pending.
According to the CRS report, between 2002 and 2011 the US provided a total of $22.14bn — including economic support funds, foreign military financing, CSF reimbursements and antiterrorism funding.
This included $8.8bn in reimbursements from the CSF and a total of $5.7bn in security-related aid.
By Lawrence Sellin
The Pentagon is spinning its wheels in Afghanistan, continuing a questionable counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy because, quite literally, it knows that it won’t work, but cannot think of anything else to do.
It will not succeed because the U.S. and NATO will never regain the military dominance the alliance had in the years immediately after the 2001 toppling of the Taliban government, without which negotiations can only occur from a position of weakness.
The U.S. and NATO do not control the operational tempo or the supply of our troops in land-locked Afghanistan. Pakistan and Iran fuel the insurgency, while the former maintains a strangle-hold on supply convoys. Both Russia and China want us out of the region, preferably precipitated by a humiliating defeat.
Raising troop levels and changing tactics on the ground will not improve the unfavorable strategic conditions.
In fact, U.S. policy in Afghanistan is about to be overtaken by events in Pakistan’s southwest province of Balochistan, rendering it obsolete.
And Balochistan is going to get very messy indeed.
In the late 1970s, Pakistan President President Zia-ul-Haq initiated an “Islamization” program, which involved the proliferation of Islamic schools “madrasas” and the promotion of Islamic law “Sharia,” designed to create national unity by suppressing ethnic separatism and religious diversity. That policy set in motion a gradual transformation of Balochistan from a traditionally secular and tolerant region into one virtually overflowing with Islamic fundamentalists.
Thanks to that policy and Pakistan’s use of Islamic terrorist groups as instruments of its foreign policy, the Taliban now have a solid foothold, not only in the Pashtun Belt of Balochistan bordering Afghanistan, but they are recruiting deep into central Balochistan. There are, for example, two madrasas in Nag, Washuk district (map coordinates 27.408153, 65.136318 and 27.414241, 65.126743), run by active members of the Taliban, who send young jihadis to fight U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan. Statistics provided by the Pakistani government estimate that there are more than 5,000 Afghans studying in madrasas in Balochistan, not to mention thousands of Pakistanis undeterred by their government from taking up jihad in Afghanistan. The Taliban will never run out of bodies.
It is important to note that the Taliban do not recognize the present Afghanistan-Pakistan border, defined by the Durand Line, and seek to incorporate Pashtun lands now in Pakistan into a greater Taliban-governed Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s Islamization policy created a fertile environment for the growth of Wahhabism in Balochistan, largely fueled by Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Arab states. Many of those terrorists are transnational, including the Islamic State (ISIS) and virulently anti-Shia groups, such as Jundallah and its offshoot the Salafist Jaish al-Adl, which conduct cross-border attacks on Iran. To counter presumed Saudi attempts to bracket Iran, Iranian intelligence has reportedly both infiltrated and recruited members of separatist groups in western Balochistan opposed to the Pakistani government, a significant development to say the least.
On a collision course with the proliferation of transnational terrorist groups in Balochistan is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative, aiming to connect Asia through land-based and maritime economic zones. CPEC is an infrastructure project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar and Karachi located on the Arabian Sea.
But CPEC is more than a commercial initiative. It is one element of China’s strategy to overtake the U.S. as the world’s foremost superpower. Huge tracks of land in Gwadar for up to 500,000 Chinese professionals have been allocated for port and naval facility development as well as expansion of the international airport to handle heavy cargo flights. The Chinese have visited and bought land in Sonmiani, which houses Pakistan’s spaceport and space research center as well as a planned liquid natural gas terminal.
Chinese military control of Balochistan’s Mekuran coast would allow Beijing to dominate vital sea lanes leading to the Persian Gulf and link to the Chinese base in Djibouti at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, both strategic choke points.
It is clear that China and Pakistan see a continued U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan as an obstacle to CPEC and their strategies for the region.
Concerned about the growing Islamic terrorist threat, there have been a number of meetings on the Pakistan-Iran border near Gwadar in the last few months among Chinese, Iranian and Pakistani officials to discuss security issues.
So, as the Pentagon tweaks its counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy in Afghanistan, just to the south, events in Balochistan are about to make that strategy irrelevant – an explosive mixture of Chinese hegemony, Pakistani and Iranian regional ambitions, transnational Islamic terrorism and a potentially new, Syria-like, Sunni-Shia battleground.
The Pentagon had better check its six o’clock and learn to manage instability.
Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of “Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution”. He receives email at email@example.com.
Book review by Sameer Mehrab
The march of history is long and mysterious in many ways. In the last 150,000 years, our species has evolved much from an ape-like tree-dwelling mammals of genus homo.
There are a number of theories about what make us human, or superior to other animals in terms of our impact on the ecological system, or why we today sit on top of the food chain.
Seventy thousand years ago, homo sapiens, us, were among many other weaker animals, helpless against the forces of nature and larger predators. Yet, with time, homo sapiens thrived at the cost other human species and animals. We not only survived but invented tools which helped us fight against the nature’s cruelties.
But Yuval Noah Harari has a complete new and stunning perspective on history. He believes that when homo sapiens became capable of cooperation in larger numbers through shared myths and ideas, they gained superiority over other animals and human species. The crucial reason we have done so well is our ability of myth making, inventing belief systems which were essential for social organization.
In early ages, humans lived in small groups. They were foragers (hunter gatherers). According to Harari, the group numbers never crossed the 100 or so because those prehistoric societies did not have the social tools to surpass that number. Like other animals, they only cooperated with people they knew like family members or friends. But some 70,000 years ago, homo sapiens developed new cognitive abilities, which Harari describes as the beginning of the Cognitive Revolution. These new abilities made homo sapiens capable of creating languages, ideas and stories. Those who believed in the same story could now cooperate without ever seeing each other.
Harari argues in his book that human superiority over other animals is only in collective terms. If you leave one human being and one chimpanzee in an island, the chimpanzee will survive better. But if you leave one thousand human beings and one thousand chimpanzees in the island, humans will survive better, because chimpanzees cannot cooperate in large numbers and humans can.
This cooperation led to the Agricultural Revolution and the eventual formation of cities, states and religions. But here too Harari has a new perspective. He calls the Agricultural Revolution the biggest fraud in human history, as it made human life more miserable though it helped them grow in large numbers and become more powerful ever.
Once homo sapiens domesticated a wild grass, wheat, they spent less time foraging and much more time looking after the crops. They lost their freedom. The foragers worked little and ate a more balanced diet. Domestication of crops made them dependent on a few crops and they worked longer hours tending to fields.
According to Harari, our greatest achievement is the creation of common myths. The belief in a common story, be it religious or political, leads us to greater social cooperation and pave the way for the first city states. A set of moral and social values or religious belief systems made way for a broader web of social cooperation.
The first human societies consisted of foragers who lived a freer and happier life and domestication of animals and crops was started accidently and in an unorganized manner. After the Agricultural Revolution, humans had to toil for longer hours in the field, breaking their back as human body had not been evolved for such kind of work. A bad crop and famine were ever present which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of humans.
In the foraging era, a band of foragers could easily migrate to another territory if faced with famine or lack of wild plant and game. But in an agricultural society, you just cannot abandon your fields and homes.
Harari says it was not the homo sapiens who domesticated the wheat but it was the other way around. It was the wheat which domesticated the homo sapiens. We left our much happier lives for the benefit of a wild grass and transformed it into the omnipotent wheat crop we know today. In this bargain we made sure we help the wheat thrive, protect it from weather and pests, and provided it with a conducive environment to survive.
For thousands of years, we toiled to transform a wild grass into today’s wheat. When we traveled we took the wheat with us and provided new regions for its plantation. So Harari says the story of agricultural civilization is the success story of a wild grass against an intelligent being.
Harari says money and empires had a crucial role in human unification, money being the only story in the world that everyone believes in. Osama bin Laden might had had differences with the United States, but he had nothing against the US dollar.
Harari argues that dollar or any money has no value in itself as it is just a piece of paper. But our general belief in the value of money makes it valuable.
Once you can convince a large population of homo sapiens to believe in a common story — be it religious or political – you can create empires and banks.
The formation of empires resulted in the emergence of huge bureaucracies to manage and keep records. He says the first scripts emerged as a necessity to keep property and taxation records. The Sumerians created a partial script they devised only to keep records of land and taxation. One could not write poetry or novel with it because it was like a mathematical script or musical connotations created to serve a particular purpose.
Later the scripts became more sophisticated, capable of recording every aspect of human life. This phenomena of written language and empire building was going on in different homo sapiens societies almost simultaneously — with little or no contact between these societies. From Mesopotamia to Egypt and from China to Central America, the homo sapiens were almost engaged in the same way of empire building and creation of scripts keep records. Yuval Noah Harari has no clear insight into why all these societies embarked simultaneously on a similar pattern of social and political process and for some reason all these societies were patriarchal.
As said earlier, the homo sapiens had no greater impact on the eco system than a jelly fish or firefly before 70,000 thousand years ago. But we were about to embark on a quest that would trigger a process of unprecedented change and impact the eco system and other species and in the result they became the masters of this planet taking the center stage. We are the only species which can have serious impact on our environment and drive other species to extinction.
The one factor which is key to the running and survival of our modern and sophisticated societies is money. Harari says money is one of the greatest inventions the homo sapiens came up with as the barter system was not capable to sustain the economic systems of empires. He points out towards an interesting fact that money is the only thing that even enemies love and cherish alike. The crusaders never refused Muslim gold and silver coins imprinted with Islamic religious symbols and similarly Osama bin laden was an enemy of the United States but he would not have anything against the US dollar bills.
According to Harari, money has become the dominant force in human unification. And like religion and political ideas, it doesn’t exist in reality. It is just another myth believed by humans. Money doesn’t have any objective value. Harari says if you give a dollar bill to a chimpanzee and ask him to give you a banana it is carrying it would never agree to such a deal. Or if you tell a chimpanzee to give up his banana now and he will later be rewarded in heaven with three bananas, it will never go for such a bargain. It is only us who are capable of believing in myths and that makes us different from a chimpanzee.
Harari thinks human rights is another myth which have no objective existence. He says human rights only exist in our minds like all other ideas. We homo sapiens don’t have inherent human rights, and human rights can change from time to time. We believe the white and black people have the same rights today. But we didn’t believe so in the past. In South Africa, there was a time when the black people were treated as lesser humans. They could not visit white beaches. It was not because white people had better skin protection against the sun. They may be naturally more venerable to sun exposure. But once human beings choose to believe in a certain idea it is very hard to convince them otherwise. You have to create another idea to replace an existing one.
The advent of agricultural revolution, city states and later empires made the way for first multinational states. There was a time when foraging societies lived in small villages like settlements where everyone knew everyone but these empires were multilingual and multiethnic and multicultural entities where people worshiped different gods and followed different religions.
Harari ponders over the fact that if we didn’t chose monotheistic religions in a certain time in history we would have been more tolerant as worshippers of polytheistic or duelist religions. He points out that after the emergence of these monotheistic religion as main the religions of a significant portion of human population the religious violence intensified in human history. No point in history human beings exerted as much violence in the name of religion as after the monopoly of monotheistic religions. He says during Roman paganism, the Romans never conquered people to convert them into their religion. Most of the time, the Roman subjects were free to practice their ancestral gods freely but monotheistic religions felt the strong need to convert their new subjects through violence. We have seen this phenomenon with Christians in South America and Africa, and Muslims in India and Persia. They regarded the coverts and their souls as valuable as their lands and women acquired during the war.
Harari think these factors led to the unification of homo sapiens throughout the world and this unification of human societies is still underway and especially after the age of Industrial Revolution a global civilization has emerged which will gradually result into a global empire.
He argues that if we study human history we can see this unification has a developing pattern in all human societies. More and more human societies now similarities with each other. We can already see a global culture emerging which indicates towards the unification of homo sapiens as one global community.
Harari fears that homo sapiens might get extinct in the near future due to their own doing. He thinks the science revolution which is responsible for the technological age today and the developments in the fields of biotechnology and genetics will enable us as a species to achieve immortality and creation of cyborgs. These much stronger and more intelligent beings will replace us, making the homo sapiens irrelevant.
It will be the first time in the evolutionary history of living things that non organic and material will merge with the living organic life form to create a man-machine unification. It will change homo sapiens beyond our imagination and also will open the door for unlimited new possibilities which were previously thought to be unconceivable.
The book is a fascinating read and I suggest that anyone with even a little interest in human history or in our species should read this enthralling 400 pages of roller coaster ride.
It is for the first time a historian has merged the evolutionary biology and history together to have a better perspective about ourselves.
Humans are strange creature with huge appetite for knowledge about everything. But we as a species know less about our own history and social evolution or future.
Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind opens new roads into understanding ourselves, our origins and a future we are sleepwalking towards.
By DANIEL LAZARE
The Persian Gulf may be on the brink of a new regional war.
Is a major war about to break out in the Persian Gulf for the fourth time in less than forty years?
For better than two weeks, the world has watched transfixed as Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s all-powerful crown prince, has struck out at a growing list of enemies. The action began on Saturday evening, Nov. 4, when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation — not in Beirut as one would expect, but in Riyadh to which he had been summoned just a day earlier. Speculating that Hariri had been forced to step down against his will, one journalist noted that he spoke “with the conviction of a kidnap victim.”
A short time later, Saudi defense forces reportedly intercepted a missile that Shi‘ite Houthi militias had fired from Yemen some eight hundred miles away. A few hours after that, mass roundups began as eleven princes — including billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal, the world’s forty-fifth wealthiest individual — found themselves under arrest along with four government ministers and numerous others, many of them forced to camp out on mattresses in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton under an armed guard.
Observers dubbed it the Night of the Long Knives after Hitler’s bloody purge of Ernst Röhm in 1934. Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan, a notorious anti-Shi‘ite hardliner, blasted the Lebanese government as “warmongers against Saudi Arabia due to the aggression of Hezbollah,” while, on Tuesday, MbS, as the crown prince is known, accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with the missile that they had used against Riyadh. Muhammad called it “an act of war.”
Amid such unprecedented sword rattling, the big question is whether MbS will follow up with an act of war of his own.
What he and his advisers (read: yes-men and sycophants) will decide is unknown. But three things seem clear. One is that the Saudis give all signs of gearing up for a showdown with their rival across the Persian Gulf. A second is that while the kingdom enjoys certain key advantages, the odds will turn increasingly against them if an actual shooting war erupts. The third is that if MbS loses, the royal family will likely lose too — bigly. Monarchy doesn’t go well with modern warfare, as a slew of royal families beginning with the Hohenzollerns, Habsburgs, Romanovs, and Ottomans discovered in World War I and after. The issue now is whether the House of Saud will join such half-forgotten dynasties in the great royal graveyard.
Oil and War
For years, observers have wondered what a Saudi collapse would mean for global politics. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the 2007 bestseller The Black Swan, calls Saudi Arabia the most “fragile” nation on earth, while the liberal foreign-policy website Lobelog.com speculated last year that if the kingdom were to undergo a Libyan-style meltdown, the Islamic State would be the chief beneficiary. With the Persian Gulf teetering on the edge of catastrophe, the world might now get a chance to find out.
How did things arrive at such a perilous state? For years, Saudi Arabia was a sleepy outpost. It was bankrupt in the 1930s and on the verge of starvation during World War II. Even after the discovery of oil, it remained a backwater. But the price explosion of the 1970s changed all that by sparking the greatest gold rush in history. Hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenue went to gold-plated Rolls Royces, private jets, and vast desert mansions where the air-conditioning runs night and day even when everyone is off on vacation. But it also went into high-tech military equipment. With America pouring an estimated $11 trillion into militarizing the Persian Gulf — not counting the 2003 invasion of Iraq — Saudi Arabia has joined in the build-up too, emerging in recent years as the single biggest arms importer in the world.
The effect of all those armaments has been to fuel Saudi paranoia and aggression. Since 2011, the kingdom has rained bombs on Yemen and financed and armed Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Sunni jihadis in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. It has sent troops to crush democratic protests in Shi‘ite-majority Bahrain and imposed a blockade on Qatar for the crime of insufficient hostility to Iran. Accusing Lebanon of being overly tolerant of Shi‘ism, it is now attempting to impose regime change there as well.
The kingdom finds itself surrounded by a ring of fire of its own making. But Saudi Arabia is not only destabilizing others — it’s destabilizing itself. Power in the kingdom essentially rests on a three-way social compact among the House of Saud, the general population, and the Wahhabiyya,which is to say the overgrown religious establishment. The first is allowed an absolute monopoly on political power as long as it shares a portion of its oil wealth with the broad masses in the form of jobs and social benefits. The people, in turn, are allowed to collect such benefits as long as they grovel, keep quiet, and do not disturb the status quo. As for the mullahs, their job is to drum up support for the House of Saud as long as the royal family returns the favor by safeguarding shari‘a at home and promulgating the kingdom’s austere, violent, and women-hating version of Islam abroad.
It’s all quite neat and simple — except that in the last two decades it’s largely come undone. Promoting Wahhabism meant promoting jihad, which led to Al Qaeda and 9/11 and an unprecedented breach with the Saudis’ great patron and protector, the United States. A suffocating religious atmosphere has fueled lawlessness and social decay while massive financial looting by thousands of princes has undermined the economy to the point where it’s even less diversified than it was forty years ago. With oil prices off 50 percent from their mid-2014 peak, the government has had to cut social spending so that King Salman can keep taking $100 million vacations in Morocco and MbS can plunk down €500 million whenever a super-luxury yacht catches his eye off the South of France.
Meanwhile, the war in Yemen has turned into a nightmare as Houthis raid deep into Saudi territory and fire missiles seemingly at will. Qatar thumbs its nose at the Saudi blockade, while Bashar al-Assad is on the verge of cleaning out the last of the Saudi-backed jihadis responsible for turning Syria into a charnel house (with the exception of an Al Qaeda stronghold in the northern province of Idlib).
In the face of such problems, MbS has responded ever more erratically. He’s tried to lure foreign investors with promises of massive building projects, only to scare them off by arresting members of the Saudi business class and attempting to shake them down for as much as $800 billion. He’s called for “a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions” while imprisoning dissidents and inveighing against Shi‘ism as if it were still the Middle Ages.
Most disturbing of all, he’s formed a close working relationship with the only leader even rasher and more aggressive than he is: Donald Trump. “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” Trump tweeted in response to the recent arrests. “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”
As journalist Patrick Cockburn said of Prince Muhammad: “Combine his failings with those of Trump, a man equally careless or ignorant about the consequence of his actions, and you have an explosive mixture threatening the most volatile region on earth.”
The Saudi Advantage — and the Saudi Risk
The risks of a blowout are therefore on the rise. One reason Saudi Arabia may be tempted to attack Iran is its belief that it holds the military cards. And indeed it does, if only for the moment. Thanks to its recent spending spree, it has assembled a formidable strike force consisting of more than two hundred advanced fighters and bombers, a mix of F-15s, Tornadoes, and next-generation Eurofighter Typhoons. The kingdom has purchased some twenty tankers for mid-air refueling and a large supply of high-precision cruise missiles.
It also has the advantage of some 120 miles of water lying between it and its enemy, not to mention Kuwait and Iraq. A major air or sea assault across the Persian Gulf appears beyond Iranian capabilities while opening up a land corridor with a couple of sovereign states in the way is presumably a non-starter. So while Iran’s manpower reserves are greater, it has no clear way of delivering them to the battlefield.
Saudi Arabia is therefore in a position to attack with relative impunity. It enjoys US backing, which could be highly important in terms of financial support and military supplies, and tacit support from Israel as well. So why doesn’t it launch the long-awaited first strike and get it over with?
The reason is that Iran is not without assets of its own. Its air force is out of date, consisting of pre-revolutionary F-14s and F-5s plus a mix of Russian and Chinese aircraft based on designs dating as far back as the 1950s. But it has beefed up its air defenses with mobile surface-to-air missiles including advanced Russian S-300s and has also installed long-range radar capable of spotting Saudi aircraft not long after they get off the ground.
Iran would have two other things in its favor. One is friends. The Islamic republic is less isolated than it was during the 1980–88 war with Iraq when both the United States and Soviets sided with Saddam Hussein. This time Russia is in its court to a degree, and it can count on strong support from Syria and Hezbollah. Iraq, meanwhile, is sympathetic.
The other thing Iran would have in its favor is staying power. Though a brutal authoritarian state with no more than an admixture of political democracy, it’s a far sight better than Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most autocratic nation in the world – one that enslaves women, bans political associations, imprisons liberals, executes Shi‘ites, and classifies atheism as terrorism along with anything “calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”
As a consequence, the relationship between the people and the state is completely different. Where King Salman and Muhammad are isolated not only from the masses but even from other members of the royal family (with whom they’re effectively at war), Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was re-elected in June with 57 percent of the vote, seven points more than he received four years earlier.
Political dynamics are always unpredictable. But given such a level of support, Iranians would be much more likely to rally around their leader when the going gets tough. The powerless and demoralized Saudi masses would be much more likely to crack.
A Widening Conflict?
Any war with Iran could thus turn into a Yemen-like nightmare on a far grander scale. But even that assumes a conflict would remain confined to just two countries, which is hardly realistic. If fighting were to break out out in Lebanon, Syria could be drawn in, and perhaps Iraq, too. Though Israel would presumably prefer to watch from the sidelines, it, too, could intervene if it looks like archenemy Hezbollah is prevailing. Iran would presumably be at pains not to involve the United States while the Saudis, eager as ever to have others do their fighting for them, would do their utmost to draw America in. If they’re successful, the conflagration could spread even farther.
While ISIS and Al Qaeda appear to be headed for defeat in Syria and Iraq, both could see a turn-around in their fortunes if Saudi Arabia becomes the next failed state-cum-imperialist battleground. As a string of historians from Ibn Khaldun to Friedrich Engels to Perry Anderson have pointed out, virtually all Muslim dynasties began as desert tribal federations fighting for a revivified Islam. That’s what the Saudi clan did in the mid-eighteenth century when it hooked up with a fundamentalist preacher named Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab and set out to conquer the desert interior. And it’s what Al Qaeda and ISIS are doing today.
That’s why, if the House of Saud were indeed to fall, the next person on the throne in Riyadh could well be Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. ISIS in charge of some 22 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves? That’s something to keep Washington’s laptop bombardiers awake at night.
By Muhammad Azfar Nisar
Pakistanis love myths. Whether it the myth of the Islamic Bomb or the myth of Pakistan as the savior of the entire Ummah, we love to feel good about ourselves.
These myths allow us to live in a fantasy world, to ignore the true horror of our times. One such myth is that of the silent majority. The myth goes something like this:
The violence and intolerance in Pakistan is the undertaking of an organized minority and that most Pakistanis are, in fact, tolerant.
Whether it is a terrorist attack or a case of honor killing, it is the go-to myth for Pakistanis.
All of us feel satisfied in the belief that the silent majority abhors such practices. Yet, nothing ever changes in Pakistan. This silent majority never makes its presence known.
Like all of you, I have also waited, all my life, for this silent majority to finally stand up and put a stop to all the nonsense that is going on in the country.
You can’t blame me for believing in this myth either. My family, friends, and teachers all believed in it as I was growing up.
When I told my wiser colleagues that, after all these years, my trust in this silent majority was wavering, I was advised to keep believing.
I was told that the problem was that the silent majority was, well, silent. The task of activists and well-wishers of Pakistan was, then, to help the silent majority became vocal about the need to resolve the many contradictions of our society.
So, I continued to believe. I witnessed a generation of young activists emerge, all of whom were given the same advice. They all tried to make the silent majority speak against the deeply unjust socio-economic system of our country.
Some activists were killed, some were forced to leave the country, and others disappeared. But as a group, they still persisted.
The silent majority, however, was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, the silent majority was in deep slumber.
In last weeks, the nation surrendered at Faizabad. I watched the revolution live on television but it wasn’t the kind of change I had been waiting for. This was not the coming of the silent majority that had been foretold.
I went back to my wiser colleagues and asked them to enlighten me as to what exactly happened at Faizabad. I was told that I was panicking for no reason and that this was only a minority that had laid siege onto the federal capital.
This week was a painful one for me, for I finally learned that I had been living a fantasy all my life. There was no silent majority in Pakistan that some mysterious event was finally going to jolt them out of their sleep.
I used to laugh at children for believing in unicorns and fairies. This week, it occurred to me that I was no different. I was living in cloud cuckoo land as well.
This week it dawned on me that it was this fabled silent majority all along that had transformed the society into what it is today. The majority of this country is intolerant, and this is why they have remained silent in face of mounting social and cultural crisis. Their silence was tacit approval of the ugliness around us.
I feel sorry for the activists and the intellectuals who have spent their lives believing they could succeed in waking the silent majority up. The silent majority was always awake and had been laughing at those trying to summon a mythical group.
This week, I understood that I am actually a minority in Pakistan. The critical task for us now is to embrace this status and work to convince the intolerant majority to let us live in peace in their country.
Published in Dawn
By HUSAIN HAQQANI
The Pakistani military continues to re-engineer politics by removing undesirable politicians and advancing the careers of civilians considered more pliable.
If insanity is doing the same thing again and again, and expecting a different result then Pakistan’s permanent establishment is definitely insane.
After four military coups, several constitutional changes, and military-sponsored reconfigurations of political parties, the Pakistani military is persisting with its efforts to re-engineer the country’s politics. The objective, as in the past, seems to be to change the country’s political landscape by removing undesirable politicians and advancing the careers of civilians considered more pliable by military generals and intelligence colonels.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), brought to the fore in the 1980s as the beneficiary of similar engineering under the late dictator General Zia-ul-Haq and his immediate successor, Generals Aslam Baig and Hamid Gul, is now being decapitated. The removal of its leader Nawaz Sharif from the office of the prime minister was the first major step in that direction.
Ironically, a similar effort to contain the PML-N was made by General Pervez Musharraf after his 1999 coup d’état. Back then, many of the party’s legislators were herded into a rival PML faction, which disintegrated soon after Musharraf lost power. Nawaz Sharif returned from exile to reclaim his party’s leadership, only to be subjected again to a similar cycle of judicially backed disqualification from office.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the country’s largest political party for decades, was the target for demolition when the PML-N was being built up. Zia hated the party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the man he toppled from power and executed after a show trial. The party won three elections (1988, 1993, and 2008) despite the establishment’s machinations against it but was never able to govern effectively.
It is now considerably weakened after having lost its leader, Benazir Bhutto, to a terrorist attack in 2007 and being battered by charges of corruption for almost three decades. Ironically, none of these corruption charges, though widely believed in Pakistan, have ever resulted in convictions after trial.
Now, the Sindh-based political party representing the ethnic Muhajirs, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), is in the establishment’s crosshairs. The establishment has always resented the party’s control over Pakistan’s major port city, Karachi. It has won every election in the city since 1987 and has periodically been targeted for repression.
Musharraf, himself an ethnic Muhajir attempted to mainstream the MQM by including it in his government. As dictator, he convinced other generals that the MQM would mellow after tasting power and would change its stance away from its demand for a multi-national state and its single-minded opposition to Pakistan’s Islamist ideology.
But when the party’s exiled leader, Altaf Hussain, called Pakistan “the epicenter of terrorism” last year, intelligence operatives set about trying to divide the MQM once again. Altaf Hussain has been in exile since 1992, when the military began operations in Karachi aimed at cleansing the city of his devotees.
Ethnic Muhajirs, immigrants to Pakistan from India and their children, have remained loyal to Altaf Hussain, whom they see as the father of a Muhajir nation. Until Hussain came on the scene, the Muhajirs had no one speaking of protecting their rights while every other ethnic group had its spokespersons.
Altaf Hussain annoyed the authorities particularly by warning them that Muhajirs would choose not to be loyal to the country if the “extra-judicial killings” of MQM activists continued. For decades, the military has accused the MQM of acting like the mafia and being involved in racketeering, abductions, torture and murder.
The party denies these charges and adds them to its long list of complaints about decades of discrimination and injustice at the hands of a Punjabi elite.
In an unprecedented step last year, the Lahore High Court ordered registration of a treason case against Hussain and banned his speeches and images in the Pakistani media.
The military’s political engineers assumed that once Altaf Hussain was out of sight, Karachi’s Muhajirs could be persuaded to abandon him. Hussain, known for his emotional speeches, was accused of saying ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ (Down with Pakistan) in one of his addresses and his explanation of the context of that remark in terms of reaction to oppression and injustice was not accepted.
In March 2016, some of the MQM figures most associated with the criminal activities attributed to the party announced the formation of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) led by former Karachi Mayor, Mustafa Kamal. Later, another former Karachi Mayor and a consummate politician, Dr. Farooq Sattar, broke away from Altaf Hussain to create MQM-Pakistan. The two parties have been in merger talks as neither has been able to mobilize popular support.
Kamal, the PSP leader, said publicly that the Pakistan Army, ISI and Military Intelligence (MI) wanted to close down the MQM for good because “they know Altaf Hussain works for [Indian Intelligence] RAW” and because “he is a traitor.” According to him, “MQM-P was formed in the room of former Director General Sindh Rangers Bilal Akbar” following Altaf Hussain’s speech criticizing Pakistan.
Thus, while the PSP had been spawned by the ISI then led by Lt. General Rizwan Akhtar, the MQM-P had been sponsored by the Rangers commander, Major General Bilal Akbar.
Subsequently, the current Director-General of Sindh Rangers, Major General Mohammed Saeed, admitted to his institution’s role in brokering the merger of the two parties created by two wings of the establishment, only to backtrack after widespread media criticism. After all, it is one thing for generals and colonels to unconstitutionally interfere in the political process, it is quite another to brag about it in public.
But the real question remains: why do Pakistan’s senior military and intelligence officers consider it their right to intervene in politics, publicly or privately, even though it violates their constitutional oath as military officers?
Under article 244 of Pakistan’s Constitution, all military officers must take an oath specified in the third schedule. That oath says that every military officer must “solemnly swear to bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embodies the will of the people.” The oath also says that “I will not engage myself in any political activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve Pakistan in the Pakistan Army (or Navy or Air Force) as required by and under the law.”
Adhering to the Constitution and fulfilling the oath to stay out of politics is difficult for an army trained to think of itself as Pakistan’s savior. The generals and colonels who meddle in politics convince themselves that they are only protecting Pakistan from ‘treasonous politicians’ by breaking their solemn oath.
The military officers alone are judges of treason, a charge that is frequently made but has never been brought or proved in court against any Pakistani public figure since independence.
That they won’t succeed in their political engineering just as their predecessors failed is beyond the grasp of simple, patriotic soldiers. Until Pakistan’s soldiers understand that the flaws of politics and politicians can only be remedied by better politics and politicians, they will continue to make and break political parties and alliances.
The new parties and alliances will go the way of similar engineered political entities of the past. The list is long and getting longer. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s politics are not getting any better.
Published in ThePrint. com
By Munir Pervaiz
A “million” is a fascinating number. One followed by six zeros invariably astounds many minds. As a metaphor it means a very large number, and that is why we say that “one has asked a million Dollars question”.
The fascination with the number million, becomes further intriguing when we hear that, a young Canadian poet Rupi Kaur has sold over two million copies of Milk and Honey, her first self-published collection. Whereas as all the books of Canadian poetry published in the last century never collectively reached that number.
And that the first print of her second poetry collection, Sun and Her Flowers, was about 150,000 as compared to average first prints of about 5 to ten thousand for major Canadian authors.
We may or may not remember that, an Indian author Vikram Seth was once paid over a million dollar each, worth of advances for his two novels. And that Victor Hugo was paid may be half a million dollars in current value for his Les Misérables that has left an everlasting imprint on human mind since its publication.
The number of sales of books also brings to mind that about 20 Million copies of Bible are sold each year just in United States.
All of this brings us to Noah Harari and his books Sapiens and Homo Deus. It is estimated that his first book Sapiens sold over a million copies, and has been occasionally on the best seller lists. His second book Homo Deus has not done so well for now.
All of the references to millions or hundreds of thousands mentioned above raise some questions, for example:
* Is Rupi Kaur a better poet than many major poets including the classics, based on the staggering sales of her books?
* Was Victor Hugo a lesser writer than Vikram Seth?
* Is Bible better than the books by Noah Harari, because it significantly oversold more than Sapiens and Homo Deus put together?
These questions arise for a student, when he or she tries to determine the literary, historical, or human truth hidden in a book. Can it be done by looking at the cover of a book or by the numbers of books sold, within which such fundamental values may be inherent.
To resolve such questions, the student has to rely on a critical reading or dialectical reading of the books to try to determine value for his or her own learning. And I have no qualms in acknowledging that each student may reach his or her own conclusion.
I would also like to mention here that during the US elections more than 80,000 advertisements by some Russian agents were targeted towards and seen by over 150 million Americans, through the use of social media to possibly influence many US voters. This was probably the biggest threat that the US democracy ever faced. I will pick it up further later.
Touching upon social media reminds us of Marshal McLuhan who is deemed to be the prophet of communications and modern media, whose aphorism “Medium is the Message” is essential in understanding the role and influence of media on the Sapiens or wise men.
To determine the value of Noah Harari’s two books under consideration, the critical method I have adopted is Dialectic.
In the most common understanding, Dialectic is the method that encompasses, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis of arguments on a subject. However more profoundly Dialectic tries to understand the inherent contradictions in a society, in history, in ideas, and thoughts.
Scientific principle also requires to take some random samples in order to deduce the traits of a larger mass.
I have therefore, picked up some random narrations, themes, or ideas from Noah Harari, either directly from his books or from his discussions on the same elsewhere. I also share comments on these.
He asserts that, scientific research can flourish only in alliance with some religion or ideology. Expanding on this he chooses the sub title, “Marriage of Science and Religion”.
After making this proclamation he does not provide any answers as to why the religions do not accept ‘evolution’, the very idea that his books are based upon. He neither advises us as to which major modern scientific achievements have been funded by which religion or by which religious institution or authority.
He concedes that religion is a system of human norms and values that is founded on belief in a superhuman order.
But still wants us to believe that, while Islam and Buddhism are religions, Communism, Humanism, and Social Humanism are also religions. According to him, Liberal humanism is a religion founded on monotheist beliefs.
He asserts that, ‘Communism’ too has its holy scripts and prophetic books, such as Marx’s Das Capital which foretold that history would soon end up with the inevitable victory of the proletariat. To him Communism had its holidays and festivals such as the First of May, and the anniversary of the October Revolution. And so on.
One must mention here that declaring Communism and Socialism as religion and Marx as a prophet has been the favorite pastime and refrain of not just the Islamists but also of other conservatives.
Such claims by someone who asserts his scholarship, can only be pedantic and populist at best. These are not based on any scientific analysis, and can be nothing but proclamations of a historian who has tried to don the mantle of a philosopher.
In the opening pages of Homo Deus, Harari informs us that,
”For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from infectious diseases; …. In the early twenty-first century, the average human is far more likely to die from bingeing at McDonald’s than from drought, Ebola or an al-Qaeda attack.”
In making this absurd claim, he either ignores or overlooks the data form WHO that in 2016 there were over 815 million people affected by hunger globally. According to UNICEF and other reports, between 21,000 to 25,000 people have been dying of hunger or malnutrition every day.
In a section in Sapiens, titled Peace in our Time, he claims:
“Most people don’t appreciate just how peaceful an era we live in… Many more people think about the wars raging today in Afghanistan and Iraq than about the peace in which most Brazilians and Indians live.” He shares some data from the years 2000 and 2002 advising us that about 310,000 and 172,000 people died due to the wars in those years.
He simply fails to provide the data closer to publication of his book and does not advise, as to how many people died in wars in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and neither advises of the deaths by violence in Rwanda, Darfur, and Burundi for example.
He then contradicts himself in the same chapter speculating that in the twentieth century tens of millions of people if not hundreds of millions of people were killed by the security forces of their own states.
And then further contradicts himself by stating that, “from a macro perspective state run courts and police have probably increased the level of security worldwide. He then speculates that “even in oppressive dictatorships, the average modern person is far less likely to die at the hand of another person than in pre-modern societies.” He never shares data that allows him such far flung speculation.
It must be noted that Harari contradicts himself in pages after pages, in his books. Throughout his books Harari uses selective data to support his arguments, and ignores the facts that may contradict him. This adds to a possible fallacy of his arguments.
It is very interesting to note that Harari is engrossed with religions, and regularly confuses these with ideologies. One may say that he tries to keep his reader in a perpetual state of confusion.
He makes a very controversial claim about Judaism, in which he was born in, suggesting that “Judaism had little to offer to other nations….”. He also wants us to reflect as to why Constantine chose Christianity over Judaism, suggesting that Judaism had a lesser impact than Christianity.
And later, may be, to appease the Jewish people who were very upset with his assertions, he tries to mollify them in a lecture through his habit of contradiction, “it goes without saying that the Jewish people is a unique people with an astonishing history (though this is true of most peoples).
It similarly goes without saying that the Jewish tradition is full of deep insights and noble values (though it is also full of some questionable ideas and of racist, misogynist and homophobic attitudes). It is further true that, relative to its size, the Jewish people has had a disproportional impact on the history of the last 2,000 years.”
He does not inform the reader that George Orwell coined the term Judeo-Christian values that were influencing US Democracy and Politics. The term continued to gain currency in the 1940s. It has remained popular in the conservative circles of various Western democracies including Canada.
Within the realm of religion, he proclaims, ‘Religion is a deal. Spirituality is a journey.’ “God exists. He told us to behave in certain ways. If you obey God, you’ll be admitted to heaven. If you disobey Him, you’ll burn in hell. The very clarity of this deal allows society to define common norms and values that regulate human behavior.”
And then says, “Spiritual journeys take people in mysterious ways towards unknown destinations. The quest usually begins with some big question, such as who am I? What is the meaning of life, etc..”
In doing so he fails to disclose that he practices Buddhism and does two hours a day of Vipassana meditation, (a meditation practice of Buddhist religion) and every year goes on a 30-day meditation retreat.
Let me share a gem from of his TED talks on his books:
“Only Homo sapiens can cooperate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers. One-on-one or ten-on-ten, chimpanzees may be better than us. But pit 1,000 Sapiens against 1,000 chimps, and the Sapiens will win easily, for the simple reason that 1,000 chimps can never cooperate effectively. Put 100,000 chimps in Wall Street or Yankee Stadium, and you’ll get chaos. Put 100,000 humans there, and you’ll get trade networks and sports contests.”
However, he does not speculate as to what will happen to 100,000 Homo sapiens if they are dropped far from their familiar environment into a colony of Whales in an ocean’
If a student believes that the value of a work of scholarship may be determined by academic peer reviews, he or she will find it difficult to find.
Most of the book reviews of Sapiens and Homo Deus appear to be publicist oriented.
However, these comments by Adam Gopnik, at the New Yorker may be educational:
“with Harari’s move from mostly prehistoric cultural history to modern cultural history, even the most complacent reader becomes uneasy encountering historical and empirical claims so coarse, bizarre, or tendentious….
…. Harari’s conclusions in his earlier book, “Sapiens,” are properly ambivalent, not to say ambiguous, and more fully aware of the traps of large-scale history. “It is sobering to realize how often our view of the past is distorted by events of the last few years,” he writes. “Since it was written in 2014,” he says, the book “takes a relatively buoyant approach to modern history.” The intellectual modesty and appropriate uncertainty of this sentence seem an essential prerequisite to getting the big things right. Some might even call it humanism.”
Before I close, let me apply Marshal McLuhan’s “Medium is the Message’ aphorism on some of the thoughts above. He meant that human beings believe the value of medium through which a content is conveyed more than the value of content itself. As an example assertions made over a Prime Time talk show are more believed by the audience then in a daily newspaper.
Similarly, the messages conveyed through social media like, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc., are believed as truths.
Rupi Kaur understood the power of her Instagram presence when she first launched her book to her less than 100,000 followers. She now has over 2 million followers who live by their belief in the truth of the message reaching them through this ‘cool’ medium.
Russians also understood this principle and targeted over 150 million US voters to spread false ads through Facebook. The news that, Russians were successful in trying to breach the principles of US democracy is now under major investigation.
Similarly, Noah Harari has a significant following at TED Talk, at Twitter, at his own website and at other Media. His publishers and modern marketing people have also learned the principle established by McLuhan.
There may be nothing wrong in exploiting these media. However, the risk that speculation may be accepted as principles, half-truths may be believed as truth, and some falsehoods many be perceived as reality, is too great in this world of social media where false news is becoming a norm. The impact of such on the students of future generation of such manufactured truths may be too grave.
Therefore, the only process to determine, literary, historic, philosophic, other values, is to critically read a book yourself with as much care and multiple readings as possible.
This article was presented at a seminar organized by Family of the Heart (FOTH). November 11, 2017. I acknowledge the support of Dr. Tahir Qazi for his help in preparation and research.
Published in NayaZaman
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a statement slammed the recent spate of enforced disappearances of some Baloch students and activists in Karachi.
The commission demanded that the ‘missing’ student activists and human rights defenders be accorded due process if they were suspected of any crime, or be immediately released.
In a statement, the commission said: “HRCP is gravely concerned at the fact that security personnel raided a house in Karachi a few days ago and arrested four leaders of Baloch Student Organization (BSO) “Azad” and Baloch National Movement (BNM). The “missing” students included Sanaullah aka Ezzat Baloch, Hassan aka Nodaan, Naseer Ahmed aka Chiraag and Rafeeq Baloch aka Kambar, it said.
The HRCP said that another student, Sagheer Ahmed, was picked up from Karachi University canteen, while earlier a Baloch rights activist, Akbar Ali Gabol, was also picked up from his house in Gulshan-i-Iqbal at midnight.
“HRCP unequivocally condemns arbitrary arrest and detention of any Pakistani citizen, but is particularly concerned when human rights defenders and students engaged in rights awareness work are targeted, apparently on account of their work.
“HRCP demands that if any of these students is suspected of (committing) any crime, the charges against that individual must be laid out and he must be produced in a court without delay and accorded due rights. However, if he has not done anything wrong, he must be immediately released,” the statement said.
HRCP also urged the authorities, especially the prime minister and the Sindh chief minister to put in place effective oversight of the security forces’ actions, “to make sure they do not violate citizens’ rights and also to provide effective redress to the citizens whose rights are infringed.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH ESTEBAN VOLKOV
An interview with Leon Trotsky’s grandson, who lived with the famous revolutionary the last year of his life.
Esteban Volkov was thirteen when assassins tried to murder him. Because his grandfather was Leon Trotsky. Now ninety-one, Volkov keeps Trotsky’s memory alive at a museum in Mexico City.
The building is one of countless villas in Coyoacán: a house with a garden behind a very high wall. Coyoacán used to be a rural town outside of Mexico City where artists sought tranquility. Today it’s a hip neighborhood in the middle of the megacity, a few steps from a subway station. The garden full of cacti could be idyllic — if it weren’t for the noise and smell of the highway.
When we arrive, Volkov is waiting for us in a gray suit and a red baseball cap from the Brazilian trade union federation CUT. His deep-set eyes look severe – but soon he starts laughing. Without any noticeable difficulty, he guides us through the house — the residence where Trotsky spent the final years of his life. We see the bullet holes, the walled-up windows, the heavy steel doors — a bit like a prison. All this is now a museum for his family, the majority of whom fell victim to political murders.
Trotsky was forced to leave the Soviet Union in 1929 and found refuge on the Turkish island of Prinkipo. After a few years, he was expelled from Turkey, then from France and Norway as well. In 1937, he received asylum in Mexico.
Trotsky’s daughter, Zinaida Volkova, suffered from severe depression and took her own life in 1933, leaving behind a small son, Vsevolod “Seva” Volkov. After briefly joining his uncle — who had to flee to Paris to escape the Nazis, and was subsequently killed by Stalinist agents — the young Seva moved in with his grandfather in Mexico.
He still recalls those months with the famous revolutionary, going on cacti excursions and narrowly dodging assassination attempts. Then, on August 20, 1940, Trotsky’s luck ran out. He was killed by a Stalinist agent.
Life went on after. Sedov became a Mexican citizen and adopted a Spanish version of his name: Esteban. He studied to be a chemist, and invented a method for the industrial production of the contraceptive pill.
But he didn’t forget his grandfather’s legacy. Since 1989, Sedov has served as the director of the Museo Casa León Trotsky.
WF: What are your first memories of Leon Trotsky?
EV: I was thirteen and a half when I first arrived in this house — from Paris, with Alfred and Marguerite Rosmer. The contrast was stark. Europe in winter is gray, gray, gray. I came from a sinister climate full of grief: after the death of my uncle, Lev Sedov, I was emotionally damaged. Sedov died in February 1938. His widow wanted to keep me in her care, and grandfather had to resort to lawyers. In August 1939, I finally came to Coyoacán.
My first impression was: color! Mexico is a country full of colors. At that time, this was a village completely isolated from Mexico City. You had to go through fields of beets and corn to reach the city. The dirt roads turned to rivers when it rained.
WF: Was it safer for you here?
EV: Somewhat. But the Stalinist secret service was active here as well. The first assassination attempt was on May 24, 1940. I hid under my bed. The assassins came into my bedroom from three different directions and emptied a pistol into the mattress. Seven or eight shots, one of which hit my big toe.
WF: They shot at a child?
EV: Of course. They murdered many Trotskyists and wanted to eliminate his entire family. Trotsky’s son, Sergei Sedov, who remained in Russia and was not interested in politics, was also shot.
In May 1940, a young bodyguard from the USA named Sheldon Harte had just arrived. He was a Stalinist agent and opened the door for the assassins. Later they killed him and buried his body in a park outside the city. In the Stalinist archives it was claimed that he had criticized his comrades — if he had known that they intended to murder the child as well, he would not have participated, he said.
So he was branded a traitor. That is how the Stalinist system worked: when something went wrong, you had to find someone to blame. And in this case, it was very easy to blame the American: they said Harte had warned Trotsky who then hid in the cellar.
The story was filmed this way several times. But that is absurd. As if grandfather would have left me alone.
WF: How did it really go down?
EV: Grandfather took pills to help him sleep. When the shooting started, he first thought it was fireworks from some Mexican religious celebration. [laughs] His partner Natalia jumped right up. She dragged him to his feet, pushed him into a dark corner, and saved his life.
WF: What happened after the attack?
EV: The Stalinists tried to present it as a farce that Trotsky had organized himself. They paid a policeman and two cooks who had worked here to give false testimony. All three said that the guards had been nervous that night and had been talking in grandfather’s office until very late. In the beginning, the police fell for this lie.
But more than twenty people were involved — gangsters and Stalinists. And somehow they caught one who was bragging about it in a bar. The famous painter Alfaro Siqueiros, a leader of the Communist Party, had led the plot. Siqueiros was briefly in prison, but then he emigrated to Chile.
WF: How did life change in the house after that?
EV: Before, we often had trips to the countryside with friends to collect cacti. Grandfather was a big cactus fan. There is a great variety in Mexico, and the challenge was to find new species. We spent hours traveling in the car on gravel roads.
After the first assassination attempt, these trips stopped. I went to school every day, but grandfather was basically a prisoner in his home.
Originally, an Italian family had rented out this house. The Trotskyist party in the USA collected money and bought it so that they could build fortifications, wall up windows, and construct bunkers on the roof. Trotsky himself knew that the next assassination would not be a simple repetition.
WF: Could you not have fled to a different place?
EV: It would have been the same. Trotsky’s secretaries were criticized for not taking the right precautions. But Trotsky knew that he had only received a short respite. Perhaps one could have extended his life by a few months. But Stalin was prepared to do anything to get rid of Trotsky. Three months later, the Catalan Ramón Mercader was successful.
WF: Were you in the house on August 20, 1940?
EV: I arrived shortly after the murder. I saw a man in the corner, detained by policemen. Mercader was put in prison for twenty years.
WF: How was your grandfather in everyday life?
EV: Affectionate, with a strong sense of humor. He was a person with great vitality and boundless energy. If we were to look for an actor to portray Trotsky, the only one who could play the role really well would be Kirk Douglas (laughs). Douglas has that drive that was typical of grandfather.
Trotsky spoke many languages. He spoke English with the American guards, German with the Czechoslovak secretary Jan Bazan, and French with the secretary Jean van Heijenoort. He spoke French to me as well.
WF: Not Russian?
EV: No, I did not know Russian anymore. At home, most of the secretaries were Americans. One of the conditions imposed by the government for Trotsky’s exile was that he not interfere in Mexican politics — so we couldn’t hire Mexican assistants.
WF: But there are numerous essays by Trotsky about Mexican politics.
EV: He wrote a bit about Mexico under a pseudonym, but he did not intervene in politics.
WF: What happened to the house after Trotsky’s death?
EV: We continued to live here. Natalia died in 1962 and was buried in the garden together with Trotsky. In 1965, soldiers occupied the house — the government’s revenge against students with Trotskyist convictions. [laughs] But after a few months they called us — they did not know what to do with the house, and so we moved in again.
We stayed another fifteen years, and then we opened the museum. In 1990 it was expanded to include an institute for the right to asylum. Some empty squash halls were refurbished to create an auditorium, an exhibition space, and a library.
I myself always stayed on the margins of politics. Grandfather had told the secretaries: if you talk to my grandson, nothing about politics.
WF: What is the significance of Trotsky today?
EV: He had an absolute faith that socialism would determine the future of mankind. He had no doubt. But the clock of history moves more slowly than one would like. A human life is very short compared to the historical cycles.
But it is unquestionable that humanity needs a different form of social organization if it is to survive. For capitalism always reaches new levels of destruction.
Publish in Jacobin Magazine
By Hizbullah Khan
War trauma and academic failures have a strong connection as most children who have experienced traumatic events face difficulties in learning.
Quetta has lived through a violent conflict over the past decade that has seen thousands killed. The psychological trauma of war has had a strong impact on children’s minds and severely affected their academic progress in schools, as twenty percent of schoolchildren suffer from psychological issues in Quetta.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, a leading national public health institute of the United States, “between 30 and 70 percent of people who have lived in war zones bear the scars of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
Dr Muhammad Abbas Khan, a consultant psychiatrist at Balochistan Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in Quetta estimated that 15 to 20 percent school children suffer from psychological issues due to violent and catastrophic events. This ratio is higher in children of victimized communities than other children, he said.
Children’s emotional issues change the way the brain works and extreme trauma shuts down areas of the brain where learning occurs, say mental health experts.
“The blasts and violence severely affect children’s ability to learn because under chronic stress they cannot learn, at this stage, the children need treatment which is important for learning,” Khan said. “Trauma disturbs the concentration of children.”
Majority of schoolchildren who have survived bombings, seen loved ones killed in front of them and experienced such incidents, have troubles in the classroom because it impacts the brain, memory and thinking process.
Bolan Medical Complex Hospital Quetta Neurosurgery Department head Dr Raz Muhammad said terror attacks have a severe effect on the ability of children to think clearly.
“Few people recover from treatment and majority of people cannot come back to normal; emotional and psychological deficiencies always stay with them,” Muhammad said. Those who manage to escape near-death experiences, may face psychological difficulties their whole lives, he added.
The current learning atmosphere in Quetta’s schools is not effective for the children as a huge number of affected children need trauma-sensitive classrooms for learning.
A trauma-informed learning environment can diminish the students’ trauma as it can create learning environment for affected students and also address their behavioral disorders.
“Trauma-sensitive classrooms are paramount for children’s resilience because child trauma is a serious educational problem and these children need trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT), a psychological treatment model designed to treat post-traumatic stress and behavioral problems in children,” said Khan.
A number of traumatized students in the city don’t have any psychological support at their schools.
Children need services of mental health experts in schools, but government and private schools have completely ignored this issue to facilitate affected students. Not only the provincial education department has not taken any steps for the affected children, private schools have also failed to provide psychological support to pupils and treat their psychological and behavioral issues.
“The government should hire professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists for schools so that they can understand the psychological issues that children suffer from and help them deal successfully with difficult situations, Amir Bano, an educational psychologist and chairperson of the Balochistan University Department of Higher Education said.
Since schools educate students in an uncreative atmosphere, it undermines the abilities of thinking and decreases power of creativity.
All students have the ability to think creatively and schools are trying to make students more creative but this inhumane environment in which students live is the vital obstacle.
Bano said creativity was difficult for students in a situation where they are not able to concentrate and lack of concentration decreases the power of creativity.
The issue is worsening in schools because a huge number of students come to school with psychological and emotional issues that create barriers to learning.
Schools don’t give mental health support to traumatized students which has almost destroyed the victims’ education, she said.
“We need to create an environment in schools in which children can build resilience and change curriculum that includes activities to provide mental support to children. Without educational reforms it is not feasible for mentally affected children to understand lectures and curriculum in classrooms,” she explained.
Due to a lack of training, most teachers in Quetta’s schools don’t have any idea about traumatized children who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are not able to understand the learning barriers.
Students are not receiving teachers’ support in classes and this negligence further limits children’s learning ability in academic life.
“I don’t know the learning issues of the children, but this is my experience that majority of students who lost parents and siblings usually don’t participate in classes and they are not able to learn as well,” Adil Khan, a teacher at Islamia Model School Quetta said.
The current learning system is not suitable for emotionally disturbed students since majority of teachers don’t have the abilities to manage the victims’ behavior in classrooms.
Aqeel Khan is an 11-year-old student whose father was killed in the civil hospital blast on August 8, 2016. Before the incident, He was an active student in creative activities in school as well as at home. But lost his interest in education and now is not able to focus on studies and feels no pleasure in learning because his mental state is not the same as it was before the incident.
Khan has three siblings and he is the eldest. He not only misses his father but also worries about his mother and siblings.
“How can I focus on studies when I see my mom crying every day,” Khan said. “When I start reading, suddenly my father’s memories come to mind, and then I become upset”.
If my dad were alive, these issues would not have happened to me, he said
Khan is good at arts; he went to his father’s grave on his first death anniversary. He said he draws an image of his father’s grave whenever he misses him.
Khan’s mother, who didn’t want to be named, said it was difficult for her to manage her son’s behavior because he had become bad-tempered after the death of his father. “My son always refuses to go to school or play with his friends and feels afraid going out after the incident,” she said.
Like Khan’s mother, most parents of emotionally disturbed students are not satisfied with the current education system, blaming that the system was destroying the children’s future and schools don’t take responsibility of children’s learning problems.
She said that “the schools are responsible for students’ educational issues because it is the second family of the students. But instead to reduce children’s issues, teachers say these are issues created outside of schools and accuse students of not working hard enough”.
The weaknesses of the current education system have had a negative impact on a brilliant student like Khan and have adversely impacted the careers of a large number of students who had been victims of violence.
Published in Daily Times
By Muzamil Baloch
The Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal told media persons that China has halted the release of funds for three projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) till the revision of its ‘financial mechanism’ by Beijing, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal confirmed on Monday.
According to an official press release issued by National Assembly Secretariat, the minister informed the 25th parliamentary committee meeting on CPEC that the Chinese side was reviewing the financial mechanism of these projects and work on them would restart after receiving approval from Beijing.
Mr Iqbal could not convince the committee members as to why the Chinese government had opted for a new financial mechanism and scrapped the previous one which was agreed upon by both countries.
It was reported that China had temporarily stopped funding some projects, particularly those related to the road network under CPEC, till a further decision on ‘new guidelines’ by Beijing.
When contacted, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Asad Umar, who is also a member of the parliamentary committee, said he had raised the issue of suspension of Chinese funds at the meeting, which was chaired by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed.
The members, he said, were informed that China was revising the infrastructure projects under its “financial review”.
Another member of the committee, Al-Haj Gul Khan Afridi, said they were told that China had not stopped financing the CPEC projects but raised some ‘technical objections’ to three NHA road projects. A team of Chinese experts would arrive in the country soon to inspect the three NHA projects, he added.
However, a senior NHA official rejected the government claim that work on the three road projects of the authority had been halted on technical grounds. “It is not true that China raised objections to the projects because these had already been approved at the 6th Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting held last year,” he said.
Ahsan Iqbal informed the committee that the Karachi Circular Railway project had been approved for CPEC, while similar projects for Quetta and Peshawar would be reviewed in accordance with the technical feasibility reports.
By Shehzad Baloch
With a noticeable decline in terrorist activities within its borders, Pakistan was placed at fifth position in the Global Terrorism Index 2017 released.
The report on the index, released by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace, said that in Pakistan the number of people killed in terrorist attacks fell to 956 last years, a reduction of 12 per cent as compared to the previous reporting year.
This was the lowest number of deaths recorded since 2006. Since 2007 the country has been ranked at least as the fourth worst country for terrorism and on six occasions was placed at the second position.
Terrorist activities declined also in Syria, Afghanistan and Nigeria which, along with Pakistan, were four of the five countries affected the most by terrorism, said the report.
The 10 countries most affected by terrorism in 2016 were Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, India, Turkey and Libya.
The decline in terrorist activities in Pakistan largely reflected the fact that during the period under review the Khorasan chapter of the militant Islamic State (IS) group and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) focused more on Afghanistan, according to the index.
The trend of reduced killings reflected the decline in activities of the TTP which has killed the most people in Pakistan.
Since 2000, the TTP has been responsible for at least 4,500 deaths, which account for over half of all deaths attributable to known militant groups.
The reduction in deaths in terrorist attacks is in part due to Operation Zarb-i-Azb that was launched by the Pakistan Army in mid-2014. The operation focussed on destroying militant safe havens in the North Waziristan Agency.
The military estimates that as a result of the operation over 3,500 TTP members were killed. It is also assumed that many more members fled to Afghanistan, which unfortunately bolstered the number of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
The TTP was responsible for 283 killings in 2016, which accounted for 30 per cent of the total deaths from terrorism that year. However, it should be noted that 30pc of all deaths are not claimed by any group.
Most of these deaths were caused by suicide attacks.
The largest bombing targeted Christians celebrating Easter Sunday at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore and killed 79 people. This was the deadliest attack in the country since the 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar which killed over 150 people, mostly students.
Other groups busy in terrorist activities included the Khorasan chapter of IS, which was responsible for 16pc of the deaths in Pakistan.
Lashkar-i-Jhangvi continued to operate and accounted for 11pc of the deaths last year. At least seven different Baloch nationalist groups undertook attacks in south-western parts of the country that resulted in 61 deaths in 60 separate attacks.
The report said that last year deaths resulting from terrorism decreased by 13pc to 25,673 in the world. Deaths have now fallen by 22pc from the peak in 2014.
There has also been an increase in the number of countries that improved their GTI scores: 79 countries improved their scores while in the case of 58 the scores decreased.
The decline in killings is encouraging, but 2016 was still the third deadliest year for terrorism since 2000 with a nearly eight-fold increase in the number of deaths over this time period.
Pakistan’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has drawn global attention to a number of serious human rights failures in the country, said the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) today.
On 16 November, the UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council adopted a draft UPR outcome report for Pakistan. Pakistan received a total of 289 recommendations – a substantial increase from its previous UPR in 2012, when Pakistan received 167 recommendations. As many as 111 State delegations took the floor to make statements, and 14 States submitted their questions in advance.
“That well over a hundred delegations participated in the review indicates the global community’s interest in Pakistan’s human rights situation,” said Frederick Rawski, ICJ’s Asia Director.
Key recommendations urge Pakistan to:
* Reinstate a moratorium on executions with the view to abolishing the death penalty;
* Repeal or amend “blasphemy laws” to bring them in line with international human rights law;
* Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and a number of other human rights treaties;
* Ensure effective protection of the rights of religious minorities, human rights defenders, journalists and other vulnerable groups;
* Strengthen the National Commission for Human Rights;
* Ensure prompt, impartial and effective investigations of human rights violations and bring perpetrators to justice;
* Set 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage; and
* Ensure effective implementation of laws on violence against women.
“The States’ recommendations echo the concerns of dozens of civil society organizations and even the National Commission of Human Rights – who all agree that the Government must take urgent measures to address the downward spiral of rights in the country”, Rawski said.
Pakistan will now examine the recommendations and respond to the Human Rights Council at latest by the Council’s next session in March 2018.
Pakistan’s review comes at a time of serious concern about the rights situation in the country.
The Government lifted the informal moratorium on the death penalty and carried out nearly 500 executions in less than three years – among the highest execution rates in the world; Parliament enacted laws allowing military courts to try civilians for certain terrorism-related offences in secret trials; and the authorities started a new wave of crackdowns on NGOs, journalists and human rights defenders, including subjecting them to enforced disappearance.
Persecution of religious minority communities also continues despite the Government’s claims that religious minorities “enjoy equal rights as equal citizens of Pakistan”. Last month, three Ahmadi men were sentenced to death for blasphemy for allegedly scratching anti-Ahmadi pamphlets that had the “Mohr-e-Nabbuwat” (seal of the Prophet Muhammad) printed on them. And earlier this week, the Islamabad High Court directed the Government to respond to a petition demanding a separate database for Ahmadis in the civil service to ensure they are not “posted in offices involving sensitive matters”.
“As a member of the Human Rights Council, Pakistan is expected to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, something it has clearly failed to do,” added Rawski.
“Pakistan should make use of this process by accepting the recommendations made during the review and adopting a concrete, action-based national human rights plan to ensure their effective implementation.”
Report Published by ICJ
We will deal terrorism without Pakistan’s assistance: US Past’s strong allies the Pak-US friendship ends now!
By Ahmed Khan
On 26th October, 2017, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Pakistan with a message of Trump Administration. The new setup in US has altered in its policies including about South Asia and Afghanistan.
Pakistan was frontline ally of America in cold war against Soviet-Union till 1990. After this, the socialist bloc got disintegrated and retreated from Afghanistan where it came in search of warm water, mainly the Gwadar Port.
After evacuation of Red Army, the Afghanistan fell in hands Pakistan and the US fostered elements, called the Mujahidin. The said Mujahidin were bridled by Pakistan, at that time, the Afghanistan was considered as fifth province of Pakistan.
Global interest relocated and Mujahidin also were renamed with terrorist. The Pakistan’s assets the Mujahidin got devalued or totally paltry before the sole superpower the America.
Now the Mujahidin became terrorist, so the same actor was needed to dismantle them which worked in creating for those. After 9/11 incident, the Pakistan once again was given value and it became frontline ally, this time in war on terror with halfhearted, because it knows if Mujahidin or Islamic militant totally vanishes away, so how it will pressurize the neighboring countries and within state how will deal the dissented elements.
In 2001, the United States with its allies invaded in Afghanistan. At that time, Pakistan provided logistic support and intelligence information to US and received handsome amount in Dollars.
The US got struck in Afghanistan for 17 years because of treacheries and this war is continuing without giving any consequence.
After fighting a prolong war sprawling on 17 years, the United States reach to result that it is prolonging more and more, terrorists are not being defeated, because they are provided sanctuaries in neighboring country. About this president Trump last month in a tough statement said, “the Pakistan have been giving assistance was not a blank check and it has provided safe haven to agent of chaos.”
Now the US Sectary for State Rex Tillerson visited with a rigid message to Pakistan. Mr Tillerson was received in Islamabad by a low grade official as opposite the past traditions and no match of this found in history of both countries relation. He called on the Pakistani officials; Chief of Army Staff General Asim Bajwa, Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi and his counterpart Foreign Minister Khuwaja Asif. On that occasion it was clear that both countries authorities could not reach to any mutual objective. The Pakistani Foreign Minister Khuwaja Asif following the Mr. Rex visit to his country said, the United States should accept its defeat in Afghanistan. Further he said that his country the Pakistan won’t be scapegoat of someone anymore.
The US secretary for State Mr. Rex Tillerson after his visit talking to media said that the message he delivered to Pakistan during the visit: “Here’s what we need for Pakistan to do. We are asking you to do this; we are not demanding anything. You are a sovereign country. You will decide what you want to do.”
Further Mr. Rex Tillerson said, “This is we think necessary. And if you don’t want to do that, don’t feel you can do it, we will adjust our tactics and our strategies to achieve the same objective a different way”.
In other words, the Tillerson said that the US will eliminate terrorists by itself without help of Pakistan. Certainly, the US will be helped by India and Afghan forces.
A Former CIA official said that America provided substantiate information about terrorists to Pakistan but it did not take action against them. Further the official said that if Pakistan doesn’t change its policies about terrorists in its region, so Trump Administration has no option than this to launch Drone strike in Pakistani territory.
Talking to VOA the CIA former official said, “For long-long time the America’s sensitive institutes and Afghan NDS have been providing the name and addresses of Taliban to Pakistani ISI intentionally they arrest them. And if Pakistan does not take measures, then America has only option to carryout Drone strikes in Pakistan.”
Further he said, “It would be great if Pakistan change its policies. In fact, it does not seem that Pakistan’s establishment will not use these terrorists as its proxy. As strategic depth, the Pakistani military allows the terrorists to infiltrate into Afghanistan where they attack and comeback into Pakistan and hide by Pak-military permission. Until this mindset will not change the situation in region will not improve. The Pakistani Prime Minister is not authorized to bring such changes.”
After the visit of Rex Tillerson it seems, by now the United States will devise a troika alliance comprising on US, India and Afghanistan in region. By this alliance, they will strive to eliminate only the defiant Islamists.
In future, the US may suspend military assistance to Pakistan including funding it in various fields. Possible some sanction to be imposed on Pakistan to get it agreed about demands. On the other hand, the dissented people in Pakistan may be some assisted to build a pressure group on Pakistani authorities.
The United States also will extend the range of Drone attacks from tribal areas to urban areas in Khyber Pakhtoonkhuwa and Balochistan. In this way, they will try to eliminate the militants’ prominent figures.
In the repercussion of US measures, the Taliban attacks in Afghanistan may escalate which already have shacked entire country. The suicide bombing brought great loss and it is also not stoppable by Afghan forces, even American forces that are equipped with sophisticated technology are helpless about mechanism of war.
On eastern border of Pakistan, especially in Kashmir India also might face dire attacks by militant groups. Pakistan will not totally annihilate its assets in shape of Mujahidin and will try to manipulate on its neighbors and superpower too.
The present strained relations of Pak-US foretell the end of decades old alliance. Pakistan will try to be closed to China for financial and military needs fulfilment. And pullout the India from Afghanistan by use of its assets the Mujahidin and get wearied it in Kashmir similarly. The United States and present Afghan government is inclined toward India for trade and other affairs instead of giving priority to Pakistan.
The stability in Afghanistan also is challenging the Pakistan, especially Afghan security developments are harming it. On border of Chaman and Torkham, the neighboring countries forces got skremished several times. In case of being the rule of Islamist in Afghanistan, the western border of Pakistan is secure and would not be challenged in anyway. The past Taliban regime did in favor of Pakistan, so that the Afghanistan was called its fifth province.
The contradiction of interests rifted between allies. Pakistan needs the good Taliban while the US and its regional allies the Afghanistan and India consider them security challenge. In this way, decades old alliance of Pak-US ends here.
As Pakistan has discovered, the process further radicalizes society, undermines state
By Khaled Ahmed
It is now certain — unless Pakistan’s powers-that-be intervene — that the process of “mainstreaming” or deracializing of Pakistan’s proxy warriors recommended by retired military officers figuring on TV talk shows has been shipwrecked. The Foreign Office under PML-N foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has decided that Hafiz Saeed’s Milli Muslim League (MML) should not have taken part in the NA-120 by-polls bagging 5,822 votes and beating at least one mainstream party, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party.
The Foreign Office has followed up on the letter of the Interior Ministry under PML-N Minister Ahsan Iqbal in answer to the query sent by the Election Commission of Pakistan on whether the MML should be allowed to take part in the by-election. The Interior Ministry said: “There is evidence to substantiate that the Lashkar-e-Tayba (LeT), the Jamaat ud Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) are affiliates and ideologically of the same hue, and [therefore] the registration of the MML is not supported”.
This was new in Pakistan. The line to take heretofore was that Lashkar-e-Tayba had miraculously metamorphosed into Jamaat ud Dawa that only did education and charity work. This was accepted by Pakistan’s judiciary and no one could hint otherwise without being reprimanded or threatened. Hafiz Saeed and his “charity” organizations including hundreds of schools and colleges are the prime example of “mainstreaming” of an outlawed organization by Pakistan. Its negative fallout was also endured, like the running of private courts under “Islamic law”. What has been highlighted by a lame-duck PML-N government is the negative consequence of what is called “mainstreaming”: Instead of de-radicalizing the declared terrorists the process further radicalizes society and undermines the power of the state.
It was said on TV talk shows that PM Sharif had heard of mainstreaming and had even received a proposal but sat on it till he was kicked out of office. His fear was genuine. But why did he balk at mainstreaming when he had allowed it in Punjab to the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba? It appears he had decided to take a stand because appeasement had not yielded good results: Mainstreaming simply allowed more space to the offender.
But his rump party, still ruling, wanted to retain the populist tinge of anti-Americanism as it bucked the jihadi state. Pakistan’s “consensual” foreign policy response to President Donald Trump’s critique of its terrorist “safe havens” is based on the presumption of a “fatal foreign policy blunder” — that of joining America’s war against terrorism. When General Zia joined the “deniable” war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, no one thought it was a blunder. When America went to the UN on the issue, it found India missing. That was enough for Pakistan: India was left out of the most powerful consensus against the existence of the Soviet Union.
The general-president in Islamabad got the free space to push forward Pakistan’s “nuclear program” that had become the central point of its India-centric nationalism. From Pakistan’s control of the anti-Soviet covert war in Afghanistan sprang the covert jihad of Kashmir. It was not a “blunder” to have joined “America’s war”; it was a boon.
No one but Pakistan is to blame. Least of all America, on whose money Pakistan got back the equilibrium it had lost by overturning democracy and killing an elected prime minister. The non-state actors have returned from Pakistan’s covert war to trouble a state that has lost its writ to their localized tyranny. It “mainstreamed” Sipah-e-Sahaba by renaming it Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat in South Punjab and let ex-ISI chief Hamid Gul “mainstream” the rest through the Defense of Pakistan Council now in the control of a “charity” warlord on the UN’s list of wanted terrorists.
Published in Indianexpress. com. The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek’ Pakistan