Title December, 2017

title December edition 2017 for blog


Plague of Hepatitis-B kills outnumber villagers in Kharan

By Basheer Ahmed Ejbari

26943428_960888594074735_192907892_nThe province of Balochistan is largest as land-wise in Pakistan. It is 347190 square kilometers and covers 45 percent of Pakistan’s total land mass. It is also the least populated and is mostly underdeveloped. Balochistan is primarily known globally because it’s wealth of natural gas, vast gold reserves and other precious minerals. Unfortunately, the sparse population in Balochistan is lacking basic facilities of living. Such as clean drinking water and emergency health care.

District Kharan is situated 400 kilometers South-East of Quetta the provincial capital of 1550166-bloodtest-1509857686-113-640x480Balochistan. In Kharan district the blight of Hepatitis-B has affected the lives of thousands of people but authorities on provincial and national level are totally unaware of this. Though they every year allocate budget of Rs. 17 billion in health sector and make large claims for facilitating of this basic human need. The ground realities totally negate their claims and show a bleak picture of Kharan, especially in account of health.

Very first the history of Hepatitis-B is required to be broached here. The virus of Hepatitis-B was discovered in 1965 by Dr Baruch Blumberg who won the Nobel Prize for his discovery. Originally, the virus was called the “Australia Antigen” because it was named for an Australian aborigine’s blood sample that reacted with an antibody in the serum of an American hemophilia patient.

What is Hepatitis-B:

Hepatitis-B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis-B virus (HBs). HBs is one of five types of viral hepatitis. The others are hepatitis A, C, D, and E. Each is a different type of virus, and types B and C are most likely to become chronic.


Symptoms of acute Hepatitis-B may not be apparent for months. However, common symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • dark urine
  • joint and muscle pain
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • abdominal discomfort
  • weakness
  • yellowing of the whites of the eyes (sclera) and skin (jaundice)

Any symptoms of Hepatitis-B need urgent evaluation. Symptoms of acute Hepatitis-B are worse in people over the age of 60. Let your doctor know immediately if you have been exposed to Hepatitis-B. You may be able to prevent infection.

Diagnose of Hepatitis-B:

Medics usually diagnose Hepatitis-B with blood tests. Screening for Hepatitis-B may be recommended for individuals who:

  • have come in contact with someone with Hepatitis-B
  • have traveled to a country where Hepatitis-B is common
  • have been in jail
  • use IV drugs
  • receive kidney dialysis
  • are pregnant
  • are men who have sex with men
  • have HIV

Performing of a series of blood tests by doctors during the screen for Hepatitis-B requires.

People at risk for Hepatitis-B:

Certain groups are at particularly high risk of HBs infection. These include:

  • healthcare workers
  • men who have sex with other men
  • people who use IV drugs
  • people with multiple sex partners
  • people with chronic liver disease
  • people with kidney disease
  • people over the age of 60 with diabetes
  • those traveling to countries with a high incidence of HBS infection

A Hepatitis-B surface antigen test shows if you’re contagious. A positive result means you have Hepatitis-B and can spread the virus. A negative result means you don’t currently have Hepatitis-B. This test doesn’t distinguish between chronic and acute infection. This test is used together with other Hepatitis-B tests to determine the state of a Hepatitis-B infection.

Test of Liver function:

Liver function tests are important in individuals with Hepatitis-B or any liver disease. Liver function tests check your blood for the amount of enzymes made by your liver. High levels of liver enzymes indicate a damaged or inflamed liver. These results can also help determine which part of your liver may be functioning abnormally.

If these tests are positive, you might require testing for Hepatitis-B, C, or other liver infections. Hepatitis-B and C viruses are a major cause of liver damage throughout the world. You will likely also require an ultrasound of the liver or other imaging tests.

The area Errikalag-Kharan people have not been taught regarding health care initiatives and in such areas literacy rate is too low.  As a result, the health care providers cannot study and research about preemptive methods. Communication and transportation systems are totally inadequate. In such conditions, people totally are unaware about vaccinations regarding Hepatitis-B, so this disease has become a catastrophe here.

The Union Council Raskoh’s village Errikalag of Kharan is situated amongst the mountains where meadows grow which makes it like a resort.

The village of Errikalag has been hit the worst by disease of Hepatitis-B and it is suffering from this disease for approximately two decades. Subsequently, many locals of all ages and genders have died.

Some people of area Errikalag acute patient of Hepatitis-B and other victims are interviewed by Bolan Voice reporter as follow:

Abdul Ghofoor’s four family members are died from hepatitis B. He says, “I am a farmer by occupation, so I cannot afford the treatment my patients by qualified doctors and standard hospitals in settled areas. Five members of my family are suffering from this disease and I am also diagnosed by this virus, but hapless to get fine treatment and vaccination because of indigence”.

21433395_344220499371740_4822748536783241216_nEid Muhammad’s story is heart wrenching and inviting the attentions of government authorities including philanthropies to come forward for sake of humanity. He empathically said, “My two family members have been died by Hepatitis-B and he also is positive of this virus and on final stage of this test.” He showing helplessness said, “I am totally penniless and cannot buy a tablet for medication. I am waited to death, and family members affected by this disease are similar to me”.

Ghulam-ud-Din’s more than two family members are died including his son in young age by Hepatitis-B. And other family members are also affected; one of them is reaching the final stage of disease. Here it is saddening that for them there is no treatment or vaccination.

Dad Muhammad’s three sons are died and one son is aching from Hepatitis-B and that is also reached the final stage. His entire family was affected by hepatitis B virus and no one could survive. Alas! indigence never let him to treat his endeared family medically, even he is unable to save his life from the hepatitis B disease because he also is patient of this disease.

Hepatitis killed one son and two brothers of Nawaz Ahmed and his entire family is diagnosed positive for this virus. While shedding tears in hopelessness he says, “We don’t find any way to survive from this disease and our end is death by this.”

Gul Hassan says, his two brothers died from hepatitis B and his father was suffering critically. The deteriorating condition of his father cautions that he is about to die, because neither he can walk nor move, but is lying on bed paralyzed. Gul Hassan’s story is similar to other villagers, and he also have no money to take his father and other patients of his family to Karachi or Quetta where health facilities are improved.

Abdul Raziq a teenager on age 19 year died, aftermath his sister left this world. Their death was caused by the disease of hepatitis B. The relatives of Abdul Raziq informed that no one is alive of his siblings. They further told that Raziq with his father were taken to Agha Khan hospital in Karachi but late medication was futile, so died by this mortally disease.

Moula Bukhsh says, his one son died and three others are affected by the virus of hepatitis B. He further informed that they are financially not sound and treatment of Hepatitis is costly and unaffordable to them. He says, they were expecting some sort of help by government and generous people to counter the vicious disease of Hepatitis-B but yet no helping hand they have accessed.

Fazal’s father and one son died by Hepatitis. While dropping tears he informed, “My young son departed and reason behind his death is the hepatitis B virus. We are desperate that someone can survive from hepatitis B, because we witnessed countless fatalities in our area by this deadly disease. Now we have taken off our hands front of this.” People showed hopelessness and defeat to hepatitis B virus after seeing death of their town fellows and relatives.

Remat Ullah narrating the devastations of Hepatitis said, “My two sons and wife were both killed by the hepatitis B virus, when I got tested my elder son from Agha Khan Hospital’s laboratory, so he also found positive of hepatitis virus, even the said hospital official declared him on final stage of disease, and then he died in Quetta. We wanted to take him Kharan but he couldn’t survive to reach there. Following his death my younger son also died. We don’t know about disease, when and how attacks and what are the preemptive measures regarding Hepatitis-B.”

The appalling situations of village Errikalag-Kharan requires emergency measures by the provincial government and health department authorities to save the human lives. Where every family is victim by the disease of Hepatitis-B. In mentioned area, some families totally vanished away by the hepatitis virus and many lost its members.

While reporting the area people informed that no health and government authority contacted them or visited area. They also showed a massive cemetery and told that there mostly buried are died by the fierce disease of hepatitis.

Though a huge amount of PKR 17 billion is allocated on provincial level for health department, but Errikalag-Kharan deserving people are totally deprived of any health facility or financial assistance. This seem that these villagers are not citizen of this country and inhabitant of Balochistan province. Due to mismanagement and corruption all funds and resources go in hands of wicked peoples, while deserved are dying in terrible conditions.

In prevailing situations, the vaccination for Hepatitis is utmost needed in the area of Errikalag-Kharan for the sake of human lives. It is also mandatory to protect the upcoming generations form this disease by massive vaccination campaigns. The comprehensive vaccination repeatedly is to be practiced to halt spread of virus after an interval.

The international organizations pertaining to health also should take notice of the drastic situation of Errikalag-Kharan and they ought to dispatch teams for relieve of people. Further they should search out the reason behind spread hepatitis B virus in area. After thorough exploration a medical remedy is to be sought on humanitarian basis.

Prevention from Hepatitis-B for Kharan area people and others

The Hepatitis-B vaccine is the best way to prevent infection. Vaccination is highly recommended. It takes three vaccines to complete the series. The following groups should receive the Hepatitis-B vaccine:

  • all infants, at the time of birth
  • any children and adolescents who weren’t vaccinated at birth
  • adults being treated for a sexually transmitted infection
  • people living in institutional settings
  • people whose work brings them into contact with blood
  • HIV-positive individuals
  • men who have sex with men
  • people with multiple sexual partners
  • injection drug users
  • family members of those with Hepatitis-B
  • individuals with chronic diseases
  • people traveling to areas with high rates of Hepatitis-B

In other words, just about everyone should receive the Hepatitis-B vaccine. It’s a relatively inexpensive and very safe vaccine.

There are also other ways to reduce your risk of HBS infection. You should always ask sexual partners to get tested for Hepatitis-B. Use a condom or dental dam when having anal, vaginal, or oral sex. Avoid drug use. If you’re traveling internationally, check to see if your destination has a high incidence of Hepatitis-B and make sure you are fully vaccinated prior to travel.

The organization Doctors without Borders and likewise health workers are obligated to visit the area and observe the appalling situations, and give a helping hand to the helpless people of Kharan Errikalag who are suffering from plague of Hepatitis-B and they lost many unrecoverable human lives due to negligence of state authorities. The international organizations and local authorities help the area people in prevention measure, diagnose, lever test function and inform them about symptoms. In this way, the affected area people may be taken out from the plague of Hepatitis-B or its intensity got minimized to some extent.

The writer is can be reached. Email basheerahmeed30@ yahoo.com twitter @basheerejbari, blog basheerejbari. wordpress.com

Pak-US exacerbating ties

By Ahmed Khan

The United States of America’s President Donald Trump on eve of New Year 2018 twittedPakistan-US-ties-625x330 that Pakistani authorities gave nothing except “lies and deceits”.

President Trump twitted, “The United States rulers have foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 16 years, and they have given nothing us but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”

This is second time the US rulers bullied Pakistanis. In 2000 decade the secretary of state Mr. Richard Armitage threatened Pakistani Army Chief cum president Musharraf that they provide them logistic support and intelligence too in Afghanistan the War on Terror. Otherwise, they will be bombard from Karachi to Kabul indiscriminately and pushed them into stone age.

At that time, Talban regime was operating in Afghanistan and it was considered the fifth province of Pakistan. Because the Talban were production of Pakistan, so they were totally submissive to this. All policies and other affairs of neighboring country were settled in favored of Pakistan.

The sole superpower and ally of Pakistan the United States of America pressed hard it to become part again against those to whom it had bolstered and gained Dollars. By now, the Pakistan was got to destroy the Mujahidin. Beside the pressure, it was coaxed by heavy amount of aid of Dollars in shape of Coalition Support Fund and Pakistani authorities had tasted such funds and enjoyed in Soviet era, so refusal to these was some startling, too.

The United State of America had onslaught on Afghanistan in 2000 after incident of 9/11. At that time, the US had support of Pakistan in shape of logistic and intelligence. Consequently, the theocratic government of Talban was overthrown. Aftermath, the Arab Mujahidin means the Al-Qeada members were hunted in Afghanistan and in FATA the tribal areas administered federally by Pakistan. The prominent figures of Al-Qeada were caught and handed over to US and were collected handsome amount as imbursement.

The United States has been stationing its army with NATO forces in Afghanistan since 2000. Where the US provided lucrative opportunities of business to India in civil and military sectors. And this irritated much Pakistani authorities, so they also turned their priorities covertly about Afghanistan. In this way, mistrusts penetrated in two allies and this resulted the failure of policies implementation by US in Afghanistan.

The prolong war and presence of army in Afghanistan much nagged the US rulers and heavy incurrences also peeved policy makers that this war is going on as fruitless. Now they are accusing Pakistan for this failure.

Recently, the president Trump in a statement said, “Pakistan is providing safe heaven to chaos of agents on its soil.”

On another occasion the US president said, “Pakistan is obliged to assist the US in War on Terror because they make them every year payments.”

On the other side, according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report published in October 2007, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost taxpayers a total of $2.4 trillion by 2017 when counting the huge interest costs because combat is being financed with borrowed money.

A CNN report tells, President Trump vowed to beef up the American military presence in Afghanistan, a strategy that promises to extend the longest war in U.S. history and add billions to its financial cost. And one current estimate pegs the conflict’s total cost at $841 billion. That comes from Anthony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Cordesman, who served as a consultant to the Departments of State and Defense during the Afghan and Iraq wars, says that figure includes Trump’s budget request for next year.

For instance, Neta Crawford, a co-director of the Cost of Wars Project at Brown University, has estimated that total war spending in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001 is approaching $5 trillion. Of that, roughly $2 trillion is attributable to Afghanistan. That includes some future cost obligations.

Above given figures show that US has spent much in Afghanistan that costs about $2 trillion and this heavy amount stumbles it to withdraw from this land because seems unbearable for it. On this juncture, they only view to victory there, and sighted to Central Asian unexploited resources.

In prevailing situations, the Trump administration only tries to get engage Pakistan Army in War on Terror. And they also have offered Pakistan for more earning but this time did not use phrase of “do more” in their latest press briefing. Presently, they are using formula of ‘stick and carrot’ about Pakistan.

On the opposite, the Pakistani authorities replying to US statements spoke, they have done much in War on Terror. They say, their effort and sacrifices made possible defeat of Al-Qaeda in region. They also say, the recent statements by president Trump are belittling their sacrifices in this ongoing war.

Authorities claim, they provided transit route to NATO supply line to Afghanistan and other services, and the US even not disbursing their endeavors.

A Pakistani official counting country’s exertions said, after 16 years of fighting terror, the US owed Pakistan $23 billion. He added that, of this amount, Pakistan has been paid $14bn and an amount of $9bn is pending.

A report published by International organization of Physicians in 2015, shows At least 80,000 Pakistanis have been killed in the US-led War on Terror. Whilst Pakistani authorities tell more two divisions troop have been killed in War on Terror and civilian casualties are apart from the mentioned figures. A large number of civilian also have been killed in American Drone attacks mostly in FATA and some in KPK, rarely in Balochistan too.

The Pakistani authorities also claim for a great fiscal loss in War on Terror, but all these sacrifices are being underestimated by president Trump and its administration through new revealed South Asian policy.

The United States is demanding for destroy of Haqqani Newtork, which is involved in attacks on Afghan and foreigner forces in Afghanistan. And this instability is not letting smooth business in Afghanistan the investor countries mainly the India.

If Pakistan on demands of US destroys its assist ‘good Talban’ commonly the Haqqani Network, so it will be helpless in Afghanistan. And subsequent to this, the US will demand for dismantling of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, and eventually Jamait-ud-Dawa. The discussed militant organizations operate in Kashmir and within Pakistan, they combat the defiant elements to establishment. Mostly the fostered religious elements are used against nationalists particularly the Baloch and Sindhis.

The mentioned forces and voluntary groups of establishment work on political, religious and armed grounds. If these will be undermined, so the military on its behalf may not be able to get a favored Afghanistan. Beside this, the India also will be eased that presently is pressurized by militant organizations. While within Pakistan, the separatists also thrive more in absence of establishment’s volunteers in shape religious fanatics.

Another factor of strained relations between Pakistan and US is increasing influence of China in Pakistani trade and other affairs. Recently, the State Bank of Pakistan has omened about exchange of Yauan in Pakistani market. This act will cause expulsion of Dollar or it will devalue the US currency in Pakistani market. Other signed agreements between Pak-China are also not unbearable to US and its regional ally the India.

In firsthand, the Trump administration took retributive measure and the White House confirmed suspending $255 million of military aid to Pakistan which was being paid through Coalition Support Fund, a move seen as the first step to implementing Trump’s pledge to tighten economic restrictions on Pakistan.

About exacerbating relations of Pak-US, the Pakistani authorities showed strong reaction of statement by Trump administration and its tweet that Pakistan reciprocated only ‘lies and deceit’ to fool the American top brass against payments. The Pakistani authorities said in case of Drone strikes on its settled areas will defend the state’s sovereignty on their capacity. Though the Pakistan allowed the US for such strikes on Al-Qeda and Talban militants in past.

In the perspective of Pak-US relations it is being foreshowed that the US will condition its aid or Coalition Support Fund to Pakistan, it may remove the status of Non-NATO ally to Pakistan, resume the Drone strikes in FATA, KP and in Balochistan on Talban and likewise fundamentalists. And the US may raise its sympathies to separatists in Pakistan to Baloch and Sindhis. Eventually, the US also probably impose some sort of sanctions on Pakistan to get obedient.

On an occasion the American authorities in media stated that if Pakistan does not come forward in War on Terror, so it may lose its territories. This sort of statement indicates that US may elevate the issue of Durand Line which Pakistan considers permanent border with Afghanistan. The line of Durand was demarcated by British in its ruling era on this region and many areas presently fall in Pakistan were got on lease from Afghanistan for a century and mentioned agreement date has expired years ago.

In first step, the United States of America has suspended entirely aid to Pakistan. The US State Department said it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan until Islamabad takes action against the Afghan Talban and the Haqqani network, which Washington believes is destabilizing the region. Apart from this, the US also placed Pakistan on a special watch list for ‘severe violations of religious freedom’. Further the US will take what sort of actions against Pakistan are awaited and how Pakistan will deal with them are part of future.

Qudoos Bizenjo elected as new Cheif Minister of Balochistan

Bolan Voice Report

Nation Party was given the highest post in Balochistan the Chief Minister for two andqudoos half years. It enjoyed its turn and then it was handed over to PML-N’s Sana Ullah Zehri. This party leader Mr Zehri had been handling Balochistan government for more than two years but at the end of tenure his own party members and coalition parties’ politicians got discontented, resultantly they decided to bring non-confidence motion in house. On 9th of January 2018, the motion of non-confidence was to be presented against former CM Sana Ullah Zehri but he did see support of members and resigned from the post.

After the resignation of Sana Ullah Zehri the ruling parties’ members selected Mr Qudoos Bizenjo hailing from Awaran district and he is the least votes winner only 445 out of 57000 in election 2013 for the prime position in province Chief Minister.

Balochistan Assembly’s former deputy speaker Abdul Quddus Bizenjo was sworn in as the new chief minister of the province on 13th December 2018.

Bizenjo’s cabinet will comprise 14 members including Tahir Mehmood Khan, Sardar Sarfaraz Khan Domki, Nawab Changez Khan Marri, Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti, Mrs Rahat Jamali, Abdul Majeed Abro, Mir Asim Kurd Giloo, Mir Amir Rind, Ghulam Dastagir Badini, Mohammad Akbar Askani, Sheikh Jaffer Khan Mandokhel, Agha Raza, Manzoor Ahmad Kakar and Prince Ahmed Ali.

PML-Q’s Bizenjo had earlier in the day been voted in as the third chief minister of Balochistan in four years in a session of the provincial assembly. He was elected after former CM Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri stepped down from his post last week.

Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s (PkMAP) Agha Syed Liaqat Ali was the only contestant against Bizenjo after Abdul Rahim Khan Ziaratwal, also of PkMAP, stepped down in his favour.

Balochistan Assembly Speaker Rahila Durrani announced Bizenjo’s victory after the process of voting formally ended.

Talking to the media after his election, he dismissed speculations about the dissolution of Balochistan Assembly, terming them the rumors and nothing else.

He vowed to bring peace to the province and make efforts to alleviate reservations of disgruntled Baloch leaders. However, he warned that elements that tried to disturb the country’s peace will not be spared.

“Writ of the government would be ensured at all costs”, he said.

On 12th December 2018, Mr Bizenjo, an MPA from Awaran, had submitted five nomination papers each proposed and seconded by members of allied parties.

He was proposed by Jan Muhammad Jamali, Sardar Bhootani, Dr Ruquyia Saeed Hashmi, Zafarullah Zehri and Ghulam Dastagir Badini, and supported by Sarfaraz Bugti, Amanullah Notezai, Prince Ahmed Ali, Mir Aamir Khan Rind and Molvi Maazullah.

Sana Ullah Zehri, the former chief minister of Balochistan, had stepped down last week after opposition benches filed a motion of no-confidence against him. He turned in his resignation on January 9, the day when opposition parties planned to move a no-confidence vote against him in the provincial assembly.

He was reportedly asked to resign ahead of the session to spare his party — the PML-N — further embarrassment after Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi failed to win over the disgruntled elements in the Balochistan assembly.

PM Abbasi had reportedly advised Zehri to resign after dissenting leaders rejected his invitation to discuss outstanding issues, sources within the PML-N had told the media.

Saeed incited UK Muslims to militancy, says BBC report

By Sajid Iqbal

HAFIZ Muhammad Saeed, the head of the banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), toured Britain2B0D5BA100000578-3183318-image-a-1_1438561735737 during the 1990s, stirring up Muslim youths to become jihadis years before 9/11, a BBC investigation has found.

Hafiz Saeed, who has a $10 million bounty on his head for allegedly masterminding the Nov 2008 attacks in Mumbai, thrilled audiences in packed mosques in cities around this country by calling for a return to the days when Muslims waged jihad and infidels paid them protection money.

Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has always denied involvement in the Mumbai carnage.

The revelation came amidst concerns for the British government and intelligence agencies about the large number of Muslims going abroad to fight “holy wars”. For most people this controversial religious calling came to the fore after 9/11, 7/7 (the attacks in Britain in July 2005) and the Arab Spring — young, disenfranchised and radical recruits heading from Britain to Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Syria.

The investigation, which was the basis of a 40-minute BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Dawn of British Jihad, was broadcast. It revealed that the roots of violent religious struggle by British Muslims were laid in the mid-1990s, much earlier than previously thought.

The tour of Britain was chronicled in Mujalla Al Dawah, a monthly magazine published by his organization, Markaz Dawa Wal Irshad.

According to the articles uncovered during the BBC investigation, Hafiz Saeed arrived in Britain on Aug 9, 1995, and set about lecturing the youth about jihad.

There was silence in Birmingham as he urged his audience to “rise up for jihad” and vilified Hindus.

That address “in real terms laid the foundation of … jihad in the UK,” according to the articles.

In Huddersfield, Saeed said: “In order to defeat infidels, it is our duty to develop all forms of arms and ammunition, including nuclear bomb. That is God’s command. We (LeT) have declared jihad and killing as first condition of our belief.”

In Leicester on Aug 26, Saeed spoke at a conference attended by 4,000 people. His address “infused a new spirit in the youth. Hundreds of young men expressed intention to get jihad training”.

Summing up the British tour, the author wrote: “A large number of young people want to get jihad training. A group of around 50 college and varsity students has so far finalised its programme. The valleys of Britain are resounding with chants of jihad. The time is not far off when Muslims will wake up” and the era of the early Muslim invaders of Europe “will come back in the vales of Europe. There will be chants of Allahu Akbar over Alhamra if the spirit of jihad is back among Muslims of Europe.”

Manwar Ali, a computer science graduates from London who became a jihadist but has now renounced violence, told the BBC he had persuaded Hafiz Saeed to visit Britain to rally support for jihad and raise funds.

“Whenever Hafiz Saeed would come to Green Lane [Birmingham] or Rochdale, Skipton, Rotherham, Birmingham, Leicester thousands of people would turn up,” Mr Ali told BBC.

Each trip raised £150,000 or more. Women removed their gold bangles and earrings in response to his call. Hundreds of Britons went to battlefields in the Philippines, Kashmir and Bosnia, with some losing their lives.

Britain banned LeT in early 2001.

The militant group was banned by Pakistan in 2002, but shortly before that Hafiz Saeed resigned and formed JuD, which is currently on a watch list but officially not banned. Saeed was confined to his home in Pakistan for several months last year, but has been freed since.

According to Raffaello Pantucci’s book, We Love Death As You Love Life, LeT has retained a complex network in Britain.

Omar Khyem from Crawley, ringleader of a five-strong gang jailed in 2004 for plotting to use fertilizer bombs to blow up the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London, claimed to have established a camp in Kashmir with LeT.

Aabid Khan, from Bradford, who was jailed for 12 years for heading a cyber-grooming radicalization gang, claimed to have links to LeT.

The United Kingdom is not the only western country visited by Hafiz Saeed during the 1990s. He visited the US in 1994. The Jan 1995 issue of Mujalla Al Dawah published an interview with Hafiz Saeed about his visit to the US. “I was invited by an Islamic organization called New York Cultural Centre (Al Markaz Al Saqafati New York). It is an organization of our Salafist brothers and counts a number of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis among its members,” he said in the interview.

“I was invited on the letterhead of the cultural centre as a professor and there was no mention of any jihadist organization,” he added.

Published in Dawn

State Bank of Pakistan allows yuan-based trade with China

By Shehzad Baloch

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Monday made it clear that all arrangements for101422213-166794923.530x298 using Chinese yuan for bilateral trade as well as financing investment activity between Pakistan and China are already in place.

On Dec 19, 2017, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said that the government was considering a Chinese proposal to use renminbi (RMB or yuan) instead of the US dollar for payments in all bilateral trade between China and Pakistan.

The decision was taken after rejecting a Chinese proposal to allow yuan as legal tender in Gwadar, Balochistan.

“The SBP, in the capacity of the policy maker of financial and currency markets, has taken comprehensive policy related measures to ensure that imports, exports and financing transactions can be denominated in yuan,” said a statement issued by the SBP.

It further said both public and private sector enterprises (ie both Pakistanis and Chinese) are free to choose yuan for bilateral trade and investment activities.

The RMB is an approved currency for denominating foreign currency transactions in Pakistan. The SBP has already put in place the required regulatory framework which facilitates use of yuan in trade and investment transactions such as opening of letter of credits (LCs) and availing financing facilities in yuan.

In terms of regulations in Pakistan, yuan is on a par with other international currencies such as dollar, euro and Japanese yen, etc.

In FY17, Pakistan exported goods and services worth $1.62 billion while the imports from China were $10.57bn reflecting a great imbalance. The two countries have yet not finalised a free trade agreement (FTA). The FTA may benefit exports from Pakistan as the country critically needs to improve its exports due to huge trade deficits.

After signing a Currency Swap Agreement (CSA) with People’s Bank of China (PBoC) in 2012, the SBP had taken a series of steps to promote use of yuan in Pakistan for bilateral trade and investment with China.

The central bank has allowed banks to accept deposits and give trade loans in yuan.

For onward lending the proceeds of CSA, the SBP has put in place the loan mechanism for banks to get the yuan financing from the SBP for onward lending to importers and exporters having underlying trade transactions denominated in the Chinese currency.

In 2012, the SBP issued a circular that said the authorised dealers may open foreign currency accounts and extend trade loans under FE-25 Scheme in US dollar, pound sterling, euro, Japanese yen, Canadian dollar, UAE dirham, Saudi riyal, Chinese yuan, Swiss franc and Turkish lira.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC) Pakistan has been allowed to establish a local yuan settlement and clearing setup in Pakistan enabling it to open yuan accounts of the Chinese banks operating in Pakistan and to facilitate settlement of yuan-based transactions such as remittance to/from China.

“With the opening of Bank of China in Pakistan, the access to onshore Chinese markets will strengthen further. Apart from the above, several banks in Pakistan maintain onshore yuan nostro accounts,” said the SBP.

The SBP said considering the recent local and global economic developments, particularly with the growing size of trade and investment with China under CPEC, the Bank foresees that yuan denominated trade with China will increase significantly and will yield long term benefits for both the countries.

When asked, the SBP spokesman said the statement on yuan was issued due to many queries from media about the use of the currency for bilateral trade. He said it seemed there was confusion about the use of yuan for bilateral trade which was clarified with this detailed statement.

Frustrated U.S. Might Withhold $255 Million in Aid from Pakistan


When Pakistani forces freed a Canadian-American family this fall held captive by merlin_131620145_f87202f3-2ce5-401f-9d00-d3ea7ea66562-master768militants, they also captured one of the abductors. United States officials saw a potential windfall: He was a member of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network who could perhaps provide valuable information about at least one other American hostage.

The Americans demanded access to the man, but Pakistani officials rejected those requests, the latest disagreement in the increasingly dysfunctional relationship between the countries. Now, the Trump administration is strongly considering whether to withhold $255 million in aid that it had delayed sending to Islamabad, according to American officials, as a show of dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there.

The administration’s internal debate over whether to deny Pakistan the money is a test of whether President Trump will deliver on his threat to punish Islamabad for failing to cooperate on counterterrorism operations. Relations between the United States and Pakistan, long vital for both, have chilled steadily since the president declared over the summer that Pakistan “gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror.”

The United States, which has provided Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid since 2002, said in August that it was withholding the $255 million until Pakistan did more to crack down on internal terrorist groups. Senior administration officials met this month to decide what to do about the money, and American officials said a final decision could be made in the coming weeks.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions, did not detail what conditions Pakistan would have to meet to receive the aid. It was not clear how the United States found out about the militant’s arrest, but an American drone had been monitoring the kidnappers as they moved deeper into Pakistan.

Caitlan Coleman, an American, and her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, were freed along with their children in an October raid after five years in captivity. Pakistani troops confronted Haqqani militants as they ferried the family across the tribal lands of northwest Pakistan.

The Trump administration has foreshadowed a cutoff in recent days with harsher language. Last week, in announcing his national security strategy, Mr. Trump again singled out Pakistan for criticism. “We make massive payments every year to Pakistan,” he said. “They have to help.”

Vice President Mike Pence reinforced that message in a visit to Afghanistan just before Christmas, telling cheering American troops that “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.” The reaction of his audience was notable, analysts said, since the Pentagon has historically been one of Pakistan’s defenders in Washington because of its longstanding ties to the Pakistani military.

Pakistan, however, has few friends in Mr. Trump’s National Security Council. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, served in Afghanistan, where he saw firsthand how Pakistan meddled in its neighbor’s affairs. Lisa Curtis, the council’s senior director for South and Central Asia, brought critical views about Pakistan from her previous post at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

In a report she wrote in February with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, the two called for the administration to “avoid viewing and portraying Pakistan as an ally.” If Pakistan did not take steps to show its commitment to America’s counterterrorism goals, they wrote, Mr. Trump should strip it of its status as a major non-NATO ally.

Such a step would be more punitive than withholding the $255 million in State Department assistance known as Foreign Military Financing, Mr. Haqqani said in an interview, because it would deprive Pakistan of access to military equipment. He said Pakistani officials were bracing for some kind of aid cutoff.

Pakistan’s military, he said, still views its accommodation of the Haqqani network as in its security interest. To overcome that, the Trump administration would have to pursue other, more punishing measures, either by imposing targeted sanctions on the government or removing it from the list of non-NATO allies.

“Pakistan can withstand a cutoff in American aid,” Mr. Haqqani said. “It would have to be followed by something else to make Pakistan believe that Mr. Trump means business.”

In July, the Pentagon said it would withhold $50 million in military reimbursements for Pakistan because the country had not taken “sufficient action” against the Haqqani network.

A State Department official said Pakistan’s actions will ultimately determine the course of “security assistance in the future.” The official said conversations with Pakistan are continuing and declined to provide further comment.

The Pakistani government did not respond to a message seeking comment.

After Ms. Coleman, Mr. Boyle and their children were freed, the Pakistani military made no mention of the captured Haqqani operative. Instead, the military released a statement saying the operation’s “success underscores the importance of timely intelligence sharing and Pakistan’s continued commitment towards fighting this menace through cooperation between two forces against a common enemy.”

Mr. Trump said it was “a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan.”

American officials are eager to learn what the militant knows about Kevin King, an American university professor who was kidnapped along with Timothy Weeks, an Australian citizen, in August 2016. Mr. King is believed to be alive but ill and American officials are hopeful that he and Mr. Weeks might be released.

Another American, Paul Overby, vanished in 2014 in Afghanistan. Mr. Overby was trying to interview the leader of the Haqqani network when he disappeared.

Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the Pentagon’s Central Command, which oversees Pakistan and Afghanistan, declined to provide any details on the Haqqani operative who was seized other than to say he was “probably pretty important” and that any militants involved in hostage-taking were “significant.”

General Votel would not say whether the Trump administration is considering withholding aid from Pakistan to prod Islamabad to improve its counterterrorism cooperation.

“What we’re trying to do is to talk to Pakistan about this, and not try to communicate with them through public messaging,” General Votel said in an interview.

Gardiner Harris contributed reporting.

Published in NewYorkTimes

Chinese confirm military base in Gwadar

Beijing plans to build its second offshore naval base near strategically important Gwadar chinaport following the opening of its first facility in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa last year.

While talking to South China Morning Post, Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming said the base near the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea would be used to dock and maintain naval vessels, as well as provide other logistical support services.

“China needs to set up another base in Gwadar for its warships because Gwadar is now a civilian port,” Zhou said.

“It’s a common practice to have separate facilities for warships and merchant vessels because of their different operations. Merchant ships need a bigger port with a lot of space for warehouses and containers, but warships need a full range of maintenance and logistical support services.”

Another source close to the People’s Liberation Army confirmed with the news outlet that the navy would set up a base near Gwadar similar to the one already up and running in Djibouti.

“Gwadar port can’t provide specific services for warships … Public order there is in a mess. It is not a good place to carry out military logistical support,” the source said.

The confirmation follows a report this week on Washington-based website The Daily Caller in which retired US Army Reserve colonel Lawrence Sellin said meetings between high-ranking Chinese and Pakistani military officers indicated Beijing would build a military base on the Jiwani peninsula near Gwadar and close to the Iranian border.

Sellin said the plan would include a naval base and an expansion of the existing airport on the peninsula, both requiring the establishment of a security zone and the forced relocation of long-time residents.

Gwadar port is a key part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a centerpiece of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s broader “Belt and Road Initiative” to link China through trade and infrastructure to Africa and Europe and beyond. The corridor is a multibillion-dollar set of infrastructure projects linking China and Pakistan, and includes a series of road and transport links.

Sellin also said the Jiwani base could be “signs of Chinese militarization of Pakistan, in particular, and in the Indian Ocean”.

Chinese military observers said Gwadar had great geostrategic and military importance to China but China was not about to “militarize” Pakistan.

Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, said India was well aware of China’s plans in Pakistan.

“China finds it very useful to use Pakistan against India and ignore India’s concerns, particularly on terrorism issues. That has created a lot of stress in the relationship between Beijing and Delhi,” he said.

China began building what it describes as a 36-hectare logistics base in Djibouti in 2016, with its first naval troops arriving in July last year. The troops have staged regular live-fire drills since September, a move military analysts say is meant to show China’s ability to protect its overseas interests in Africa and the Indian Ocean region.

Published in thebalochistanpost

Hassan Zafar Arif a philosopher and political leader body found in Karachi

Bolan Voice Report

Reports tell the dead body of a Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London leader, Hassan1608504-jpg-1515918302-187-640x480 Zafar Arif, was found near Ilyas Goth in Karachi.

According to initial details, the body was found from a car near Ilyas Goth. The body has been shifted to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical College.

However, JPMC head of emergency Seemi Jamali said that body does not bear any marks of torture or bullet wounds. Further investigation is going on.

MQM-P chief expresses grief and concerns over the body of Dr Hasan Zafar Arif being found in Karachi

Mr Sattar said he received the shocking news of Dr Hasan Zafar Arif’s death when he landed in Multan. “I am grief-stricken by his martyrdom,” he said.

He termed the ‘murder’ a conspiracy to disrupt peace in Karachi. “We may have political differences [with Dr Arif] but we will not let any conspiracy against the city’s peace.”

“It is a horrifying situation, he has been martyred, murdered,” Sattar told media. “Despite our political differences, I and my party [MQM-P] stands with him.”

He demanded the provincial government and law enforcement agencies to find and punish the professor’s killers.

Interview with The Express Tribune

In an interview with The Express Tribune, Dr Arif had said that Marxists and communist parties across the world and throughout history have supported the ongoing democratic struggle to pave the way for a revolutionary change and saw MQM’s struggle as furthering democratic values.

The professor had said he used Marxism as a framework to evaluate his political steps. Every support he extends to the ‘bourgeois’ parties came only after he measured the probable consequences, and in each case the litmus test is the role of the party at that juncture in the advancement of the democratic cause.

The 75-year-old was professor of philosophy and has taught in a number of universities in Karachi. He has made significant contributions to progressive writings in country.

Baloch National Movement spokesperson paid high tributes to martyred professor Hassan Zafar for his great works. In its statement said, professor Hassan Zafar applied all his knowledge and philosophy on pragmatic ground. He voiced up against injustices by ruling elites on exploited people in Pakistan. He also criticized on policies of MQM for supporting state policies are harming down trodden masses.

Other politicians and thinkers also condemned the brutal killing of professor Hassan Zafar, they declared it the nexus of crackdown against progressive thinkers and left inclined politicians. In this series, many bloggers and activists were arrested and subsequently were released. Among them many left and went to abroad where they made statements against the establishment for their disappearance.

Pakistan can’t be compelled to compromise on nationwide pursuits: US historian

Pakistan can’t be bludgeoned into taking steps it believes bad to its safety, although itpakistan-cant-be-forced-to-compromise-on-national-interests-us-historian manner shedding the USA support, argues a brand new guide on Pakistan-US family members.

The guide — The Leverage Paradox: Pakistan and the US — via Robert Hathaway, a outstanding US student of South Asian affairs, strains the historical past of bilateral family members from the early 1950s to the Trump technology, concluding that each countries benefited from this courting.

“There’s little within the ancient document to toughen the competition that Pakistan may also be bludgeoned into taking steps it believes bad to its safety. On the contrary, repeated US makes an attempt to situation its support to Pakistani behaviour failed to urge the simpler behaviour Washington had was hoping for,” Mr Hathaway writes.

He demonstrates how efforts to coerce Pakistan simply strengthened Islamabad’s trust that its “putative buddy sought most effective to advance a US time table at odds with Pakistan’s safety”.

The guide argues that Pakistan has all the time considered the advantages that waft from American favour as “prizes value running to obtain, however no longer at any worth”.

Washington’s lack of ability to recognize this truth, “many times led US decision-makers to overestimate the leverage their energy gave them,” the writer warns.

Rejecting the argument that Pakistan has been a passive sufferer or goal of American projects, Mr Hathaway argues that Islamabad has been “a complete spouse in a diplomatic two-step” that has mirrored Pakistan’s in addition to American coverage objectives. “Usually, Pakistan performed its hand smartly to blunt the drive of American energy,” he provides.

The guide displays how in coping with the American citizens over the many years, Pakistan has held 3 massively precious belongings: it occupied strategic geography, possessed substantial power in its personal proper and used to be ready to capitalize at the wishes of the more potent to additional its personal ends.

Trump and Pakistan

Whilst reviewing US-Pakistan family members below the Trump management, the guide displays US President Donald Trump’s religion within the software of American technique that has impacted US-Pakistan ties.

The guide contains a number of quotes from Mr Trump’s statements on Pakistan — from 2012 to 2017 — and leads the readers to his Aug 21 speech by which he unveiled a brand new American technique for Afghanistan.

“We now have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of bucks on the identical time they’re housing the very terrorists that we’re preventing. However, that must trade, and that can trade in an instant,” Mr Trump declared in that speech.

The writer says that this speech used to be unsettling for Pakistanis who felt that the USA supposed to switch its method towards Pakistan.

The writer says that whilst the commentary used to be explicit to Afghanistan, Pakistanis feared that the president’s phrases may follow to their very own nation as smartly.

Mr Hathaway notes that quickly after the revealing of the brand new Afghan coverage, US Vice President Mike Pence wrote a work in USA as of late, pointing out that the USA has put Pakistan “on understand”.

The writer displays how Pakistanis discovered two different sides of the brand new Trump coverage particularly alarming. One used to be the absence of any severe dialogue of a negotiated finish to the battle in Afghanistan. “Rather than a token connection with a political agreement, Mr Trump used to be nearly silent on what gave the impression to Pakistanis the one method for Afghanistan to transport past perpetual turmoil,” he notes.

“Even worse from Pakistan’s standpoint, Mr Trump spoke of additional creating the US-India ‘strategic partnership’,” he provides, noting that one element of this used to be for India to suppose a bigger position in Afghanistan, particularly within the spaces of financial help and building.

Mr Hathaway issues out that “protecting Indian affect in Afghanistan to a naked minimal were one of the vital touchstones of Pakistani technique since signing up with the American citizens within the days after nine/11” and Mr Trump’s new coverage, it seemed, “may no longer have struck Pakistan’s necessary pursuits extra without delay”.

He notes how Islamabad misplaced no time in pushing again, reminding American citizens that they “will have to no longer make Pakistan a scapegoat for his or her failure in Afghanistan”.

Commenting at the barriers of the USA force on Pakistan, the guide makes use of a quote from a Pakistani commentator, Nadia Naviwala, who argues that “a couple of hundred million greenbacks isn’t a lot of a stick,” particularly compared with Pakistan-China courting, which is now value about $110 billion.

Mr Hathaway additionally advises the Trump management to not overestimate the worth of its favour or the enchantment of its carrots.

The writer argues nation making an attempt leverage will have to minimize its dependence upon the objective nation, mark its priorities and in addition stay itself abreast of inner traits within the goal nation.

He additionally advises the Trump management to: “Negotiate from a place of power, and don’t take army drive off the desk. Don’t be afraid to stroll clear of negotiations; the opposite birthday party most likely wishes a cut price greater than you do”.

Published in turningtrend

Lessons from Iran

By Huma Yusuf

The revolution will not be coming to Iran. Not yet, anyway. Recent protests across 80Huma-Yusuf Iranian cities and towns nabbed the world’s attention and inspired comparisons with 1979. The speed with which the Iranian authorities quelled the unrest indicates that a major uprising is not imminent. But the protests were significant, and Pakistan would do well to learn some lessons from its neighbor’s difficulties.

Several aspects of the Iranian protests speak directly to challenges within Pakis­tan. Indeed, the drivers of these protests can be taken as warning signs for Pakistan, and should challenge the complacency that defines the political elite’s and establishment’s approach to Pakistanis’ capacity to suffer poor governance.

Iran’s protests were sparked by economic grievances, specifically soaring unemployment and inflation rates, but also corruption, income inequality and economic mismanagement. Protesters were likely driven by the realization that the post-nuclear sanctions windfall promised by President Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian people is unlikely to come to pass, and, to the extent that it does, will not affect the fortunes of those hardest off.

In some areas, the protests were a critique of poor service delivery and governance failings. Kermanshah, the marginalized Kur­dish province which was rocked by an earthquake in November, was the site of early protests as people spoke out against the government’s shoddy response to the natural disaster.

Nationalism did not prove a sufficient antidote to the grievances. The protests took place despite the fact that Iran is under pressure from the US, which is threatening to undo the nuclear deal, and while Saudi Arabia’s efforts to create an anti-Iran regional bloc are gaining momentum. Conventional thinking suggests that polities unite when the world gangs up against them; this was not the case here.

Iran’s regional ambitions also did little to quell public fury. In fact, the protests can be understood as a vote against the state’s involvement in proxy conflicts throughout the Middle East, and a demand for the ruling elite to pay more attention to troubles brewing closer to home.

Interestingly, the protests were largely leaderless and uncoordinated and, in the development that made most headlines, directed against Iran’s real power brokers, including the Supreme Leader. Even in religious centers such as Qom and Mashhad, chants against the ayatollah were heard. What can be a better reminder to the true powers that be that they too will one day be held accountable?

After the protests had been contained, Rouhani said they signaled the frustrations of people who no longer wanted to be told how to live. Indeed, a second wave of outrage was directed against the government decision to block social media platforms, a symbol of broader trends of repression and censorship.

The drivers of Iran’s protests read like Pakistan’s mistakes. We too are doing too little to address the urgent challenges of youth unemployment, income inequality and inflation. Service delivery across the country remains appalling, and as the impact of water and energy scarcity and climate change is more acutely felt, governance failings will become harder to ignore.

Pakistan also assumes that nationalism — articulated in response to scaremongering about external threats to the country’s sovereignty — will unite the country, justify securitized policymaking, and prevent too much of a focus on domestic issues. The rumblings in Iran have highlighted the limits of this approach.

Iran’s experience also shows that the current tactic of hailing CPEC as the panacea for Pakistan’s problems could backfire. At some point, it will become apparent to most Pakis­tanis that CPEC will benefit a privileged elite.

The cracks are already beginning to show. Think of routine protests over energy shortages or the recent outrage against Zainab’s tragic fate and the state’s complete failure to protect innocent children. Public outrage against excessive crackdowns on legitimate public protests and the increasingly indiscriminate nature of abductions, is also becoming more emboldened.

Pakistan also has enough dubious characters about who are willing to exploit the brewing resentments. For years, militant groups and their offshoots have channeled socioeconomic grievances to attract recruits. It is not by mistake that Tehreek-i-Labbaik played a large role in protests organized to demand justice for Zainab. When public fury in Pakistan spills over, it will find many willing to lead the charge to serve their own ends.

In this context, our ruling elite seems ever more disconnected. They hurl accusations at each other about steamy personal lives and multi-million-pound properties.

This is not to say that a revolution in Pakistan is imminent. But we should not consider ourselves immune to mass unrest. Perhaps learning from Iran could lead to some much-needed introspection here.

The writer is a freelance journalist. huma.yusuf@gmail.com Twitter: @humayusuf

Published in Dawn

A prisoner of conscience

By Raheem ul Haq

A number of articles have already been written profiling Raza Mehmood Khan but I stillRaza-Khan3 take this opportunity as a close friend and colleague to share how and why he represents the conscience of a nation mired in ignorance, materialism and martial hegemony.

I first met Raza during the lawyer’s movement almost 10 years ago when he was a youth leader with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. During the PTI membership drive for which he took leave from his job at a pharmacy, he and his team of volunteers registered the highest number of members in Lahore, so high that he had to justify the veracity of his claim to the leadership. Soon after, he was approached by a PTI leader who counseled him on his insecure and low-income future with an offer of work. This, he politely declined as his work was ideological, and for the party rather than an individual, eventually leading to a parting of ways.

His next foray was with the Institute for Peace & Secular Studies (IPSS), initially a volunteer initiative where youth gathered around the issues of extremism and terrorism. Post Salmaan Taseer’s murder, this group protested every week at Liberty to break the silence against the shockingly terrifying response of the general public. Interestingly, Raza was also among those beaten up at the Taseer vigil in 2015 at the behest of Khadim Rizvi. The vigil attackers were jailed but Rizvi went scot free. It was thus understandable that he would react with accusations when the state gave in to Rizvi’s threats during the Faizabad dharna.

However, two other experiences had an enormous influence on Raza’s worldview. His visit to India for a youth peace festival, and subsequently his year-long work on the Pakistan India Relaxed Visa Campaign which gathered a 100,000 signature made him a believer that Pakistan’s destiny was linked to the sub-continent, and only a strategic shift to look eastward could resolve our identity crisis which lay at the root of Punjab’s extremism.

As the NGO project came to an end, Raza went back to the semi-skilled job market selling cloth for a while before getting an opportunity to do field surveys of informal workers including domestic workers, street vendors, daily wage workers, enterprise workers, and rickshaw drivers. Additionally, we worked together to counter extremist messaging by putting peace messages behind rickshaws, which later expanded into a failed initiative to form a rickshaw union based on the ground research in understanding issues of rickshaw drivers. Still, it helped raise awareness among rickshaw drivers and pushed existing unions towards an issue based approach.

The peace messaging took on a new shape post Peshawar massacre when for the first time we were allowed to set up a stall in Race Course Park, where we engaged children and elders to express themselves against terrorism, violence and hate. Out of this experience, evolved the Awami Art Collective as a number of artists, academics and activists came together to rethink their respective public engagement methodologies. Artists wanting to break out of the limiting gallery space while the activists were tired of the same old small protests.

The Collective initiated a new trend by generating public discourse through public art, and its two exhibitions, one on ideological violence in Bagh-e-Jinnah in collaboration with the City District Government Lahore and the other on banning of Basant in Taxali Gate showed the power of art for activism. Raza’s role was crucial because he led the community engagement effort, making the work a collaboration with the community. The relationships he built over the course of the exhibition were taken forward to try to bring together the decimated music community of Taxali which has at least 200 households of musicians and musical instrument makers.

With ebb and flow, this initiative is still ongoing as for him, a cultural renaissance is a necessity to take on the forces of hate and tyranny. His community work does not end here. It was none other than Raza who helped mobilize the RastaBadlo initiative against the Orange Metro. He shifted his existing commitments, and spent the next few days and nights putting up posters along with his rickshaw driver friends. He also collected data from businesses along the route to calculate the ongoing business loss, and brought together the Multan Road furniture market president with lowly hawkers on Nicolson Road for a press conference on the issue.

But, what lighted his eyes was Aghaz-e-Dosti (AeD), a volunteer-based peace initiative among Pakistani and Indian youth, which rethought people to people engagement, bypassing the strict visa regime by bringing together children through letter exchange, class room connect and a yearly peace calendar, which was launched in multiple cities in Pakistan and India. Raza had brought new energy since becoming the AeD convener in Pakistan, and was gradually increasing the number of schools participating on Pakistani side. He had also recently registered an organisation ‘Hum Sab Aik Hain’ to scale up these efforts. Inviting Indians to Pakistan required a legally registered body.

Lastly, friends had recently initiated a space named Low-key Lokai, meaning people and community in Punjabi. But, it was termed “low-key” primarily because we wanted to develop a progressive community in a medium to long term horizon. We had bypassed sustainability issues through a model of a shared space among multiple collectives, who could use it as an office as well as a public engagement space. Raza was the one-person management of Low-key Lokai responsible for administrative, scheduling to collecting monthly membership dues to run it. At times, he would be short of personal expenses because a chunk would have gone towards Low-key Lokai expenses while he waited for membership dues. In a short period of six months, about 15 events had already taken place here ranging from a variety of issues from gender, class inequality, grassroots political participation, urban forests to the discussion on Faizabad dharna, the day he was illegally abducted by the state against its own laws.

Why would the state do this? Why would it target a progressive idealist who not just represents peace and justice, but also acts it? His brother stated recently that Raza never meant any harm, did no harm but yes, he spoke his conscience, and he spoke the truth. Targeting such a peace educator and a progressive activist suggests that the Pakistani state is quite clear about nipping citizen initiatives in the bud which could potentially challenge the constructed ideology of Pakistan and its ideological guardians.

Published in TheNews.com

The New Communists


It’s 2017. Time to stop worrying about the questions of 1917.

Nothing catches the eye like gold set against red. And in the great war of the twentieth century, the color scheme was on both sides of the divide — the Soviet hammer and sickle, McDonald’s golden arches.

At its peak, some variation of the USSR’s flag flew over 20 percent of the Earth’s habitable landmass. But while McDonald’s has now spread to over 120 countries, today only three of the four ruling Communist parties left fly the hammer and sickle. Of the five nations that claim Marxism-Leninism, the hammer and sickle appears on the state flags of none. Once the symbol of the struggle for a better world, today the hammer and sickle is a sign of little more than single-party sclerosis.

Yet that very icon was forged in the kind of populist fires that have eluded it for decades. In 1918, the Bolsheviks were looking for a new flag for their young state. They knew that they had to communicate the weight of their achievement — the first workers’ state in history. Just as the French Revolution’s tricolor set the standard for the republics of the nineteenth century, Soviet iconography, they believed, should set the standard for the coming proletarian states. So Lenin and Anatoly Lunacharsky, the commissar of education, held a design contest to take in entries from all across the republic.

The winning entry borrowed the industrial imagery (the hammer) so celebrated in British, French, and German labor and social-democratic parties, but made a major concession (the sickle) to the three-quarters of Russians that were still peasant farmers. After all, the Bolsheviks were European social democrats, but their genius lay in their readiness to adapt doctrine to experience — to mold European Marxism to tsarist Russia.

In other words, in a country that didn’t neatly fit their understanding of the world, they made adjustments to their model.

Today, one hundred years later, the world has turned. Nowhere do the political tasks today look anything like those the Bolsheviks confronted in 1918. In the West at least, the agrarian question has been answered — by capitalism. The Bolsheviks inherited a Europe convulsed by murderous interimperial war; we live in the most peaceful period in recorded history.

The trade union movement that undergirded both the social-democratic and Western Communist parties has all but disappeared. Even the hammers have begun to look as antiquated as the sickles. Yet on the socialist left, we have hardly sundered our ties to the Soviet example. Leading academics convene conferences to debate “The Idea of Communism,” or publish books on “the resurgence of the communist idea,” or end their histories of October 1917 with a call to keep trying.

Lest we forget, most of us live in advanced capitalist societies ruled by sturdy, capacious states. In 1917, the tsarist regime had lost two million men to war; the rest returned to a country less developed than Angola, Bangladesh, or postwar Iraq today. No matter how many freshmen come to your September screening of October, today the probability of such a revolution is infinitesimally small. And yet, the sharpest way to pillory a lefty is still to call her a reformist.

How has it come to this? To observe that communism is obsolete is not to argue that it never traveled well. France and Italy both had thriving, powerful Communist Parties with working-class social bases up through the 1980s. Membership in the Italian party peaked at over two million in 1947; it received its highest share of the vote (34.4 percent) in 1976. To Europeans who lived through the nightmares of fascism, the hammer and sickle stood for organized and effective resistance. And soon after the war, after their capitalist classes were discredited for either explicit or tacit support of fascism, those hammers and sickles were hoisted by mass workers’ parties who spent the following decades winning sweeping reforms. In their struggles against employers, those trade unionists saw the same noble cause of antifascism.

Examples abound elsewhere, too. In South Africa, the hammer and sickle flew at the head of a decades-long fight against another reactionary, racist power. In Brazil, the Communist Party is the oldest active political party, and built its legitimacy in the struggle against a regime that took power after the US-backed 1964 coup d’etat. In parts of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) weakened a venal landed elite and won much-prized gains for workers and peasants.

But today, the Italian Communist Party is no more. One wing has become the Tony Blair-inspired Democratic Party; the other the Communist Refoundation Party, which can boast of no more than 17,000 members. In France, the Communist Party (now at 130,000 members) was a mere junior partner in the coalition behind Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who achieved the highest voting share for a radical left candidate in France since 1969, but did so under his own banner — La France Insoumise, a populist left formation that had little use for Soviet iconography. By that point, the French Communists themselves had already removed the hammer and sickle from membership cards.

In South Africa, the South African Communist Party is an appendage of the ruling African National Congress — a coalition which has done little to transform the realities that today make South Africa the planet’s most unequal nation. The Brazilian Communist Party is impotent — in the lower house of the National Congress, it has only 11 of 513 seats. In India, the CPI-M is today not much more than a regional patronage machine.

In effect, only two kinds of Communist Parties are left standing: Parties of Atrophy — who can boast large memberships but which have little to offer their supporters — and Parties of Marginality — who have entirely lost any substantial connection to workers, if they ever had one. In some ways, they mirror the two tendencies of the prewar US Communist Party. On the one hand, there was the extreme sectarianism of the Third Period (the late 1920s to early 1930s), in which the Comintern took aim against socialist parties. On the other, the worst accommodationism of the Popular Front and war years, in which the party supported no-strike pledges, uncritically hailed Roosevelt’s New Deal, and even briefly dissolved itself in 1944. CPUSA went so far as to denounce A. Philip Randolph for threatening the first March on Washington in 1941 in an attempt to desegregate war industries — quite a reversal for a party that had demanded “self-determination for the Black Belt” just a few years earlier. But these two extremes — ultra-left marginalism or defanged accommodation — only underline Communism’s deep malaise.

In fact, the problem goes far beyond parties that never broke with Moscow — it’s anyone who insists on looking at the world through October’s eyes. Counterfactuals have become the stuff of lifelong sectarian debates for the socialist left: “if only Germany had gone the right way, if only Lenin had lived, if only Stalin had been isolated, if only, if only . . .” In almost every instance of mass revolt they find the Bolshevik’s October — Germany in 1918–20, France in 1968, Egypt in 2011, and everything in between — revolutions made mere “revolutionary rehearsals” by conniving bureaucrats or naive cadre.

Instead of seeing the Russian Revolution as a tragic story of impossible choices in the worst possible conditions, we fantasize about a time in which states could be sundered and built from the ground up by revolutionary will. A time in which small groups of disciplined activists and intellectuals could remake the world: “Next time, we’ll be ready — we’ll make sure we make the right decisions!”

Whether or not twentieth-century communism was fated to fail, we now live in a new era. The question of socialism in the twentieth century was unavoidably the Russian Revolution. Today, it is a question which interests’ professional historians and the far left. The world’s working classes have moved on. And yet the far left today embraces the Soviet obsession like a vampire hunter wields garlic. The problem is that garlic repels far more than just monsters — it makes you stink.

At its worst, in this crowd, isolation is proof of revolutionary virtue, rather than political calamity. Particularly in a country like ours, the politics of “Yay revolution! Boo reform!” has led to a rhetorical arms race in which the most virtuous, maximalist positions are the most progressive. That these positions are untethered not only from a mass social base but also any plausible political strategy becomes just more proof of their purity: “Try and co-opt this, you Menshevik!” They are symptoms of a Left that looks inwards for validation — one with a battle plan and plenty of generals but no army.

Despite what liberals might say, it’s not an inability to atone for communism’s body count which haunts the socialist left today — it’s our inability to move on from these dreams of apocalyptic rupture; fantasies of new, unfathomable worlds that will somehow spring up unencumbered by the shells of the old one.

The lessons of social democracy’s rightward trajectory have been overlearned to the point of paralysis. As Ralph Miliband pointed out at the end of his life, Western European Communist Parties were also parties of reform. They differed from social-democratic parties “in terms of their sharper and more radical programmes of reform, and their willingness to resort to extra parliamentary agitation and action.” The uncomfortable truth for both liberals and die-hard revolutionaries is that whenever and wherever Western Communist parties were strongest, it was because they were the most effective reformers, not revolutionaries. They won when they bested the social democrats at their own stated aims. It was not starry-eyed dreaming but everyday material victories that led 1.5 million people to attend Italian Communist Party leader Enrico Berlinguer’s 1984 funeral. The flip side of this fact is that in the pre–World War II period, European Communism was feeble and ineffective — with the telling exception of the French Communist Party during the Popular Front and the Spanish one during the Civil War.

The unprecedented success of Bernie Sanders’s run and his enduring popularity should have been a wake-up call to much of Leftworld: the country is ready for working-class politics, and even for the s-word, as long as we talk about it in everyday, tangible terms.

And yet, much of the radical left learned the opposite lesson from 2016. We have been staking out increasingly wilder terrain, moving the goalposts well beyond what most of the last century’s socialists or communists thought possible. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with horizons — we need them. But the basic challenge of left-wing politics is to train our eyes on horizons that others can see. Social democracy failed not because it traded utopianism for reform but because it swore off horizons entirely, and began to look inwards, upon its own parties and parliaments. In rhetoric, the radical left is different; but in practice, the mistake is similar: victory is defined as whatever makes the already-initiated tick. Ultra-leftism and reformism are united by their scorn for mass action.

If we are to learn something from October, let it not be from a reading group on Kronstadt. As Lukács said, Lenin’s genius was to demand “the concrete analysis of the concrete situation.” Today, the relevant Lenin is not Lenin the indefatigable revolutionary, but Lenin the disconsolate strategist — the man who in 1920 chastised Communists “to convince the backward elements, to work among them, and not to fence themselves off from them with artificial and childishly ‘Left’ slogans.”

One has to ask what such a man would think of socialists’ century-long obsession over the revolution he helped make. Four years before storming the Winter Palace, Lenin was grieving over the sad state of affairs in Russia. And he chose a peculiar example to highlight his own country’s backwardness — the New York Public Library. In it, Lenin saw a tangible, achievable example of what a modern, democratic society could deliver — not a hazy promise of a better world on the other side of disaster.

[T]hey see to it that even children can make use of the rich collections; that readers can read publicly owned books at home; they regard as the pride and glory of a public library, not the number of rarities it contains, the number of sixteenth-century editions or tenth-century manuscripts, but the extent to which books are distributed among the people, the number of new readers enrolled, the speed with which the demand for any book is met, the number of books issued to be read at home, the number of children attracted to reading and to the use of the library. . . .

Such is the way things are done in New York. And in Russia?

Today, it’s time for us to stop worrying about old answers to old questions and start worrying about the ones working people are asking. For the Bolsheviks, that meant “Peace, Land, and Bread!” For us, the answers will be different. “Medicare for All!” is a good start. So is “Green Jobs for All!” Each of these strikes at the core of the socialist dream — a radically more equal distribution of work, wealth, and leisure. These are horizons everyone can see — and most desperately want to reach.

But whatever the answers are, finding them is the only hope we have of winning. A radical must plant one foot firmly in the world as it is and the other in the world as she knows it could one day be. With the rise of Sanders and Corbyn, it’s clear that even in the heart of global capital, tens of millions of people are dead set on changing the world.

Everyone can see it. Everyone can feel it. Everyone, that is, who’s not looking for October.

Published in Jacobin Magazine

We do not support Baloch separatism in Pakistan: Alice Wells

By Muzamil Baloch

The US diplomat onpenly said that Washington opposed any effort to foment separatism 5a5eb2c45f53ainside Pakistan. “We do not support Balochi (sic) separatism,”. She also stated that the US would not support the use of Afghan soil as a base for hostile acts against Pakistan.

The first diplomatic engagement between Pakistan and the United States after the mini-crisis created by President Donald Trump’s tweet ended with Washington renewing its demand for Islamabad to clear its territory of “externally focused terrorists”.

“Ambassador [Alice] Wells urged the government of Pakistan to address the continuing presence of the Haqqani network and other terrorist groups within its territory,” said a US embassy statement at the conclusion of a two-day visit by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.

Her visit followed the US military’s outreach to Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa to contain the damage caused by the Trump tweet which accused Pakistan of “lies and deceit”.

During her meetings in Islamabad, she conveyed to her Pakistani interlocutors that the US wanted to shift to a “new relationship with Pakistan” based on “mutual interest”.

Pakistanis too expressed their desire for a continuation of the relationship, but at the same time conveyed a message that the ties could progress towards normalization only if there were mutual trust and respect.

Ms Wells had suggested to Pakistani leaders that enhanced intelligence cooperation could provide the basis for improvement in ties, especially in counterterrorism cooperation, which is at the heart of the problems in their relations.

“There can be no good or bad terrorists,” said Ambassador Wells during a brief chat with a small group of journalists at the US embassy on following day.

At a pre-arranged meeting with the journalists on a cold morning, she tried to tone down the shrillness prevalent in US-Pakistan relations by speaking in a gentle tone about the long and shared history of the two states. She spoke of projects the US funds in Pakistan, how the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) was deeply in the US’ interest, of effective partnerships and “professional and constructive meetings” that she held a day earlier.

Her calm tone was a world apart from the Twitter diplomacy that has dominated headlines so far this year.

The US diplomat emphasized that Washington opposed any effort to foment separatism inside Pakistan. “We do not support Balochi (sic) separatism,” she added. Later she also stated that the US would not support the use of Afghan soil as a base for hostile acts against Pakistan.

While her tone may have been gentle and calm, there were enough hints about the reasons for the shrillness that has dominated the relationship for some time. She spoke of the “moment of concern” in bilateral relations, of frustration and “our unhappiness that we have not been able to forge an effective partnership in terrorism”.

All of it simply linked back to what appeared to be her firm message that the US was against countries distinguishing between good and bad terrorists.

“All terrorist forces must be fought against,” she said in response to a question — she made it clear that her message in the meetings she held in Islamabad was that “we are seeking to deny any terrorist ability to use terrorism, including groups like the Taliban or Haqqani network… we oppose the use of terrorist proxies by any country…”

The US embassy would only confirm Ambassador Wells’s meetings with the foreign secretary, Miftah Ismail, the adviser on finance, and National Security Adviser retired Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua. It was perhaps one of the rare visits during which a US official did not visit the General Headquarters for a meeting with the military leadership — at least there was no publicly known interaction during the trip.

While praising Islamabad’s “extraordinary” fight against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaatul Arhar, she said the US wanted similar efforts against groups trying to destabilize Afghanistan.

By carefully using her words, she explained that Washington’s aim was to find a negotiated political settlement to Afghanistan. And that this was where the US expected Pakistan to play its role.

Making it clear that the US had set no preconditions for talks, the expectation, she said, was that at the end of the process there should be no terrorism and there should be an end to the violence.

The objective, she explained, was to stop the Taliban from winning. This aim does not mean denying that the Afghan Taliban, like other parties, have legitimate political interests — she even said that the Taliban were part of the social and political fabric of society.

She added that the US wanted these interests to be brought to and settled on the negotiating table.

Towards the end of the session, in response to a question about the domestic political situation, the ambassador said that the US supported democratic institutions, as well as the judicial process running its full course.

‘Staggering’ trade in fake degrees revealed

By Helen Clifton, Matthew Chapman and Simon Cox

Thousands of UK nationals have bought fake degrees from a multi-million pound _99482980_nixon_university“diploma mill” in Pakistan, a BBC Radio 4’s File on Four programme investigation has found.

Buyers include NHS consultants, nurses and a large defence contractor.

One British buyer spent almost £500,000 on bogus documents.

The Department for Education said it was taking “decisive action to crack down on degree fraud” that “cheats genuine learners”.

Axact, which claims to be the “world’s largest IT company”, operates a network of hundreds of fake online universities run by agents from a Karachi call centre.

With names such as Brooklyn Park University and Nixon University, they feature stock images of smiling students and even fake news articles singing the institution’s praises.

According to documents seen by BBC Radio 4’s File on Four programme, more than 3,000 fake Axact qualifications were sold to UK-based buyers in 2013 and 2014, including master’s degrees, doctorates and PhDs.

A trawl through the list of Axact UK buyers, seen by the BBC, reveals various NHS clinical staff, including an ophthalmologist, nurses, a psychologist, and numerous consultants also bought fake degrees.

A consultant at a London teaching hospital bought a degree in internal medicine from the fake Belford University in 2007.

The doctor – who had previously been disciplined by the General Medical Council (GMC) for failing to report a criminal conviction – told the BBC he had not used the certificates because they “had not been authenticated”.

An anaesthetist who bought a degree in “hospital management” said he had not used the qualification in the UK.

And a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine, who bought a “master of science in health care technology”, claimed it was an “utter surprise” when the BBC told him it was fake.

There is no suggestion any of these clinicians do not hold appropriate original medical qualifications.

Large-scale problem

The General Medical Council (GMC) said it was up to employers to verify any qualifications additional to medical degrees.

But Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) chief executive Jayne Rowley said only 20% of UK employers ran proper checks on applicants’ qualifications.

And while purchasing a fake diploma was not illegal in the UK, using one to apply for employment constituted fraud by misrepresentation and could result in a 10-year prison sentence.

“[The GMC] are correct in that [doctors] are licensed to practice medicine if they have a legitimate medical degree. But [by buying a fake degree], they have still committed fraud and could still be prosecuted,” she said.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said all NHS trusts operated rigorous primary checks.

Verification was “achieved through a variety of channels” and fraudulent activity would be reported to police, he said.

In 2015, Axact sold more than 215,000 fake qualifications globally, through approximately 350 fictitious high schools and universities, making $51m (£37.5m) that year alone.

Former FBI agent Allen Ezell, who has been investigating Axact since the 1980s, said: “We live in a credential conscious society around the world.

“So as long as paper has a value, there’s going to be somebody that counterfeits it and prints it and sells it.

“Employers are not doing their due diligence in checking out the papers, so it makes it work. It’s the damnedest thing we’ve ever seen.”

‘Very serious issue’

Defence contractor FB Heliservices bought fake Axact degrees for seven employees, including two helicopter pilots, between 2013 and 2015.

One of these employees, speaking anonymously to the BBC, said soon after he had been given a contract to work on the Caribbean island of Curacao, the local government decided all those working in the territory had to have a degree.

“We looked into distance learning, and contact was made with this online university. It was just something that needed to be done to keep working in the country.

“Everyone knew they were not bona fide. But no-one had a problem with it.”

Parent-company Cobham held an internal investigation into the incident, but decided the purchase was a “historic issue” that “had no impact upon the safety of any of its operations or the training of any individuals in the UK or elsewhere”.

“Procedural and disciplinary actions have been taken to address all the issues raised,” it added.

But MP James Frith, a member of the Education Select Committee, said the decision was a “very serious issue”.

“I am amazed that a business would put itself and its very existence at risk by having fraudulent qualifications to, by the sounds of it, get into a new market.”

Following a New York Times expose in 2015, Axact’s chief executive was arrested and an investigation launched by the Pakistani authorities.

Senior manager Umair Hamid was sentenced to 21 months in a US prison in August 2017 for his part in Axact’s fraud.

Yet the Pakistani investigation has ground to a halt amid claims of government corruption.

Allan Ezell said Axact continued to launch new online universities all the time – and had now branched out into extortion and blackmail.

“It’s a whole new game,” he said. “Normally a diploma mill is finished with you by the time you get your degree. That’s just the beginning now.

“You get a telephone call that looks like it’s coming from your embassy or local law enforcement, threatening to arrest or deport you unless you get some additional documents to help support the phony diploma you already have. We’ve never seen that before.”

Cecil Horner, a British engineer based in Saudi Arabia, was still getting threatening calls from Axact agents after paying nearly £500,000 for fake documents.

Mr Horner’s son Malcolm said he believed his father, who died in 2015, had bought the qualifications because of the fear of losing his job.

“It makes me so angry,” he said.

“It’s unfathomable these websites still exist and they can’t be shut down.”

Action Fraud, the UK’s national cybercrime reporting centre, said it did not have the power to close fake Axact websites but instead had to provide evidence to domain registries and registrars, which could take months.

MP James Frith said he was “staggered” by the “aggressive tactics” used by Axact and would ask the Education Selection Committee to look into the issue.

The Department of Education said HEDD was taking a proactive approach.

“Degree fraud cheats both genuine learners and employers, so we’ve taken decisive action to crack down on those seeking to profit from it,” a spokesman said.

Axact did not respond to a request for an interview from the BBC.

Published in BBCNews

Tens of thousands of people have protested in Iran. Here’s why.

By Marwa Eltagouri

Anti-government protests in Iran, where demonstrations of political unrest are rare,899778684.jpg.0 have left at least 20 people dead — and do not appear to be subsiding.

In start of new year 2018, tens of thousands of protesters have formed the largest outpouring of government opposition since the volatile 2009 presidential elections. The scale and ferocity of the protests had clerical leaders in Tehran struggling to respond to what is likely the most serious internal crisis the country has faced this decade.

Iran has a powerful security force, but leaders have not yet called on the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia, who flattened the 2009 demonstrations by killing dozens of protesters.

Why are people protesting?

On Dec. 28, protests broke out in the northern city of Mashhad, spurred at first by concern over the country’s stunted economy and the high prices of basic goods like eggs, which saw a 40 percent jump in price. Over the next six days, the protests in more than two dozen towns would turn into an open rebellion against Iran’s Islamic leadership itself.

Protesters’ chants and attacks on government buildings upended a system that had little tolerance for dissent, with some demonstrators even shouting” Death to the dictator!” — referring to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and asking security forces to join them, The Post’s Erin Cunningham reported.

In Iran, where ruling clerics hold much of the power, some protesters are frustrated that social freedoms and political openness are being suppressed by the establishment. Working-class Iranians who want higher wages and a solution to unemployment are frustrated that the economy has been slow to grow despite the lifting of sanctions under an international nuclear deal.

Iranian authorities have blocked access to social media and messaging apps that would allow demonstrators to organize, according to the New York Times. The decision prompted President Trump to tweet that the country had “closed down the internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!”

The protests appeared to have been initially caused by President Hassan Rouhani’s leak of a proposed government budget last month that called for slashing cash subsidies to the poor and raising fuel prices to lower debt, The Post reported. But the plan also included fees for car registration and an unpopular departure tax.

Protesters are also demanding to know why Iran has spent billions of dollars on foreign policy in the Middle East at a time when people are struggling at home. Iran has sent cash, weapons and fighters to Syria, for example, and has financially supported Palestinians and the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah.

Unemployment for young people, half of Iran’s population, is at 40 percent, the New York Times reported.

Iran’s economy has grown since the nuclear deal thanks to resumed oil exports, although growth outside the oil sector has sagged. Global oil markets have already seen the effects of the unrest in Iran, an OPEC member. Oil futures pushed above $60 a barrel, close to a 30-month high, The Post reported.

How intense are the protests?

The revolts have left at least 20 people dead — including nine overnight Tuesday — after protesters clashed with security forces in locations around the country.

Videos online show protesters running from tear gas and water cannons and others confronting police. About 90 percent of those arrested in protests were under 25 years old, Reuters reported, citing official figures.

Six of the latest causalities took place during an attack on a police station in Qahdarijan, according to state television. The clashes were allegedly sparked by protesters who tried to steal guns from the station. State television also reported an 11-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed in the town of Khomeinishahr, and a member of the Revolutionary Guard was killed in the town of Najafabad.

A semiofficial news agency reported Tuesday that 450 people have been arrested in Tehran since Saturday. The ILNA news agency cited Ali Asghar Nasserbakht, a security deputy governor of Tehran, in its report.

“I demand all prosecutors across the country to get involved,” said Sadegh Larijani, according to the Associated Press. Their “approach should be strong,” he said.

Protesters could also potentially face the death penalty when their cases come to trial, according to the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, the AP reported.

Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency quoted Mousa Ghazanfarabadi as saying: “Obviously one of their charges can be Moharebeh,” or waging war against God, which is a death penalty offense in Iran.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of people marched in pro-government rallies called to counter the earlier demonstrations. The marches, broadcast by Iranian state media, had the hallmarks of previous state-organized gatherings, with crowds waving Iranians flags and holding placards with slogans backing Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, The Post’s Erin Cunningham reported.

Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, said the marches marked an end to the anti-government protests, which he referred to as “the sedition.”

Much is still uncertain about the size and endurance of the protesters. Some analysts anticipate the collapse of the regime, though it is unclear whether leadership or political aspirations exist within the anti-government movement. Others have drawn parallels to the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

How do the current protests compare to 2009?

The protests are the country’s largest since a 2009 demonstrations over disputed election results. At its height, the 2009 protest, known as the ”Green Movement,” saw as many as 3 million peaceful demonstrators challenge official claims that then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidential election in a landslide. After six months, the protesters were quashed by the country’s security forces.

Unlike the 2009 revolt, the current protests have sprung throughout country, including provincial, traditionally conservative areas that rarely participate in the political activism led by groups in Tehran and other cities. The 2009 protests were primarily fueled by the capital’s educated elite and urban middle class, while videos circulating online suggest younger, working-class people form the bulk of the current protest’s numbers.

Those younger people, some from towns and small cities in rural areas, are now expressing their frustrations with the political elite, who they say have appropriated the economy to their own benefit, according to the New York Times.

Since the new protests began, the pro-reform figures of the 2009 uprising, some of whom remain under house arrests, have been noticeably absent. Protesters have not called for their release.

The “protesters have either become more radicalized in their demands and/or simply don’t belong to the generation that experienced the events of 2009 as adults,” Mohammad Ali Shabani, editor of Iran coverage at the online news portal Al-Monitor, wrote Sunday.

How have Iranian leaders responded?

Khamenei posted comments Tuesday asserting the current protests were brought on by the country’s “enemies” — often used as shorthand for the United States, its allies and anti-government Iranian exiles.

“In recent days, enemies of Iran used different tools including cash, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create troubles for the Islamic Republic,” said the statement from Khamenei on his official website.

Rouhani, a relative moderate who was reelected to a second term in May, too spoke out, and tried to downplay the significance of the violence, according to CNN.

“Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them,” Rouhani said in a meeting with Iranian members of parliament Monday. “This is nothing.”

How has Trump responded?

The protests provide a glimpse into Trump’s policies toward Iran — whether he will adopt a tougher stance in dealing with the country than President Barack Obama, for example, and whether he will call for regime change.

Trump tweeted that Iranians are “finally getting wise,” and said the administration was keeping a close eye on the government’s violence. He has also suggested the possibility of reimposed sanctions.

His language was similar to that of Obama in 2009, when he responded to the challenged presidential election. Obama said he respected Iranian sovereignty, but that he was ”deeply troubled” by the government’s violence against peaceful protesters.

Trump has continued to tweet about the conflict since, though it’s unlikely his tweets will lead Iranians to further revolt.

“He has no friends in that country,” Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told The Post’s Carol Morello and Anne Gearan. “His first act as a president was to ban Iranians from traveling here. But if his statements are irrelevant to what’s going on in Iran, his actions are relevant. If he does not continue raising nuclear sanctions and pulls out of the JCPOA [nuclear agreement], that will have a more chilling effect on the willingness of anyone to invest in Iran and trade with Iran.”

A senior Trump administration official said Wednesday that U.S. officials were surprised by the outbreak of the protests and how they have spread.

“We’re looking at something new, something we haven’t seen in Iran since the Islamic Revolution,” the official said, adding that the novelty of the protests is making it difficult for U.S. officials to predict where they will lead.

Published in Washington Post

War in Yemen gives women more responsibility but not empowerment: Nadia Al-Sakkaf

Nadia Al-Sakkaf is a researcher specializing in gender and politics. She was the first Yemeni woman appointed as Information Minister. Before that she was The Yemen Times Chief Editor. She is currently a PhD candidate at Reading University in UK. The opinions in this article belong to the author.

It was an all-female gathering after a funeral for a family mourning their son, killed in 061531018e22bc0abb121fdf47a980a7a22cde42_800x600Yemen’s on-going civil war.

The interesting thing about this gathering was that there were relatives present who were fighting on opposing sides of the conflict.

Nevertheless, the women came together in grief. They were simply women talking about losing their sons to the war and about how life has become so hard for everyone in Yemen.

The conflict, which started in 2014, has claimed the lives of many Yemenis directly through combat or through disease and hunger. UN statistics said that up until September 2017, over 5,000 people had been killed in the war — 20% of which were children.

But the war has also had a much longer-term impact on Yemeni society: it has changed the country forever — especially for women.

It is Yemen’s women who during the conflict have maintained the social fabric of society and kept communities together. They are the nurturers, mediators, peacemakers, and keepers of tradition.

Because of the conflict, the entire socio-cultural balance of the society has been tipped over.

Across Yemen, women find themselves in charge of managing the poverty afflicting their communities — and they do so with very few resources and, in some cases, no qualifications.

They bake bread at home and sell it. Some have become maids and offer their cleaning services to others for little money.

Very few women have gone through what one would call empowerment, as they are not really acquiring more power.

Instead, they are being given more responsibilities. In some cases, this gives them more freedom of mobility as they are forced out of their homes in search of income. It is not that cultural values have changed; it’s that war has increased the burden on women.

It’s not just a fear for their lives or economic insecurity that has placed so many Yemeni women in this situation. It is also the lack of routine, such as children not knowing whether they can or should go to school, parents not knowing whether they have a source of income or how to put food on the table and sick people not having access to healthcare. The list of basic needs goes on.

The situation in Yemen was bad before the war. But with the conflict, it has reached unprecedented levels of desperation.

How does a Yemeni mother, wife, sister or caretaker appease her loved ones and take care of her responsibilities when she has nothing to work with? The social gender power balances in Yemen have always favored men over women, but the conflict has made matters worse as men take their position as decision makers at all levels across all fields.

Even during humanitarian aid delivery, it is usually men who take charge and decide where and how to distribute aid — if it is distributed at all.

But as the instability extends over the course of the conflict, women are gradually finding themselves in charge, as the men in their lives are either killed, out fighting, or become too depressed to be useful. The problem of being in charge without basic resources is a very consuming one.

The situation for Yemeni women differs depending on which side they happen to be on. For example, Yemeni women of the Shiite Zaidi north find themselves sucked into an ideological battle, giving away their men and young sons as feed to a political fire that will eventually consume them.

Houthi women find themselves in strange new roles, such as the newly created women militants who carry arms and kill opponents.

There are Houthi women whose task is to recruit new soldiers for the fight, convincing other mothers to send their flesh and blood knowing that they will probably never come back.

There is a faction whose role is to raid houses and loot money for the “cause.”

This is new for Yemeni women. Not because Yemeni women have never held a gun — on the contrary, many of the women who become militants were originally trained in their tribes pre-conflict. Yemeni tradition has it that women would guard Qat fields from the rooftops of their homes and shoot — or scare off — potential thieves. In some tribes where the men go abroad for work, women are taught how to use a firearm for their own protection. The new aspect in this is the violence and the political engagement at a public level.

But again, this is not empowerment. The women are recruited, told what to do and given approval by men to engage in such actions. They do not do it of their own accord.

And even those women who are not directly involved suffer greatly because of the discriminating attitude promoted by the Houthis against women.

But whichever side they are on, all Yemeni women grieve and try to make sense of their lives as they stand in the midst of chaos.

The women of the dominantly Sunni northern regions are equally involved in the conflict, sending off their men to the front lines knowing that they may never see them again. But they do so out of self-defense rather than ideology.

While life is relatively peaceful in most of Yemen’s southern cities, hardships still exist for women, due to an identity crisis that has grown out of what groups control which areas.

How much freedom southern women have sometimes depends literally on which street they live on and who controls it. If it is predominantly the liberal socialists, then they have more freedom of movement and dress than say in an area controlled by the Yemeni version of the Muslim Brotherhood, or even worse.

The story of a Yemeni woman living in the unstable Yemen of today has many dimensions and facets. But all the women of Yemen share their amazing resilience that pushes them forward. And when tragedy strikes, they all grieve their loved ones the same way.

Publish in CNN.com

Revolution, counterrevolution, and imperialism in Syria

Interview with Yassin al-Haj Saleh

Yassin al-Haj Saleh interviewed by Ashley Smith

Yassin al-Haj Saleh is one of the pivotal figures in the Syrian Revolution. He has a longyassin-al-haj-saleh history of activism in the country. Arrested by the Syrian regime in 1980 for the crime of political activism and membership of the Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau) while in medical school at the age of 20, he spent the next 16 years in jail, including a final year in the infamous prison Tadmor, which the poet Faraj Bayradqdar called “the kingdom of death and madness.”

Released from prison in 1996, Saleh finished his interrupted medical studies, after which he became a political journalist and independent activist unaffiliated to any political party. Upon the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution, he went into hiding so he could tell the story of the revolution in newspapers and on a website he cofounded on the first anniversary of the Syrian Revolution: al-Jumhuriya (https://www. aljumhuriya. net/en).

At the same time, Saleh, along with his wife and political collaborator Samira Khalil, played an active role in the revolution, working with a team of activists including the legendary Razan Zeitouneh. They found themselves caught between the hammer of Bashar al-Assad’s counter-revolution and the anvil of his reactionary Islamic fundamentalist opponents such as al Qaeda, Jaysh al-Islam and ISIS (also known by its acronym in Arabic, Daesh).

Tragically, Samira Khalil along with Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada, and Nazem Hamadi were abducted in 2013 and have not been heard from since. Saleh, who had moved from Eastern Ghouta to Raqqa, his native city, where he lived for two and a half months, again went into hiding, this time not from the regime, but from Daesh.

The group abducted two of his brothers. Nothing is known about Feras, his youngest brother who was abducted in July 2013. Two months before Samira, Razan, Wael, and Nazem were abducted, Saleh was forced to flee the country for Turkey.

The ISR’s Ashley Smith interviewed Yassin al-Haj Saleh in October to coincide with the publication of his first book in English, The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy (Haymarket Books).

Before  getting into the many social and political questions about the revolution and counter-revolution, I want to ask about your own political history in the struggle for liberation in Syria. You spent 16 years in prison for opposing the regime of Hafez al-Assad. What kept you going during that time?

I WAS young when I was arrested. I was hardly twenty and a student at the University of Aleppo where I was studying for a medical degree. At that time, I was a member of a Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau), which opposed the regime. There was another Communist Party that supported the regime back then and astonishingly still does today.

The “crime” that I along with many of my comrades was arrested for was to stand for democracy and political change in the country. Back in the 1970s, our implicit goal in the struggle for democracy was socialism. We were arrested amidst the struggle against the regime of Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad. I was sentenced to fifteen years in jail and just for good measure they added another year to it in Tadmor Prison, the most notorious jail in Syria and one of the worst in the world.

When I was released in 1996, I wanted to continue committing ‘the crime’ of fighting for a new Syria, for which I was already punished. Ever since, I have been involved in struggle for progressive change in Syria, a struggle that may get you thrown in jail where the regime will rob you of your youth.

Apart from one year and a half at the beginning and the last year in Tadmor, our conditions in jail were not the most horrible ones. My imprisonment in Tadmor was different. So for 13 and a half years, we had books and dictionaries. I learned English in prison and I read hundreds of book. In a way, I am a graduate of jail. I learned more there than at university.

At the same time those years were very hard, because there is no compensation for losing all your twenties and more than half of your thirties, the prime of life. But at the same time we found a ways to preserve our humanity. I was with my comrades; we were changing ourselves through learning and struggling against inhuman conditions.

In some ways it was an emancipatory experience because I fought there against my internal jails, especially those based on narrow ideological and political affiliations as well as the jail of the egoist self. So it was a struggle not only against brutal conditions and the regime; it was also a struggle against myself.

It was my own civil war so to speak. And the outcome was a revolution in my personal life. We lost political battle with the regime at that time and we tried to win the battle against ourselves, to really free ourselves and be better equipped for the bigger battle for justice and freedom in our country and beyond.

Because of that experience, and it was desperate and extremely hard, I think I became immune from despair. This is very important thing now when we are being crushed for the second time in my (not very long) life. Maybe this new defeat is even far worse than the previous one. But because of my experience in prison, I am in the struggle again without falling into despair, without complaining, without surrendering to hopelessness. I am only more angry than I would like to be.

What did you do after you were released from jail? What impact did the Arab revolutions have on you, especially when Syrians rose up? What did you do during the course of the revolution and counter-revolution?

AFTER I was released in 1996, I went back to medical school and got my degree, but I never practiced medicine. I became a writer and translator from English. I cooperated with my comrades as a writer, but mostly I was not a member of any political party. My field of activism was writing and participating in some public activities. Among these were protests against the regime in public spaces. I was beaten in the street at in March 2005) and arrested for hours in March 2004.

As a writer before the revolution I do not deny that I practiced some self-censorship, but I tried also to push back the regime’s suffocating limitations on freedom of expression. It was a continuous battle and writing was and is still a form of political action. And because of this battle I was summoned to the security headquarters several times, and once they took me with guns and confiscated my identity card for days to force me to go to them. I was denied a passport at the time, and I have not had one since.

When the revolution broke out, I went into hiding in order to write freely and tell what I believed to be the full truth of what was happening. I wanted to be an agent of this struggle for change in Syria and for the values that I and hundreds and thousands of people of my generation paid a high price—justice, freedom, equality, human dignity, and the sanctity of life.

While I was writing I was directly involved in the struggle. I wanted to be the witness and participant who could portray what was happening in Syria from within the country. That is why I went into hiding. I wanted to help myself and others understand this pivotal moment in our and in indeed the world’s history.

Assad’s regime has postured as defending Syria against Western imperialism and Islamic Fundamentalism. Of course much of this is propaganda. What was the nature of the Syrian regime under the Assad family dictatorship? How was it structured? How did it rule?

THE REGIME always played a double game. Inside the country, the regime blackmailed Syrians, claiming that we were all under threat from outsiders, the old colonial powers, Western imperialism, and the Israeli occupation. It nurtured a besieged castle mentality and paranoia in the population. This was always useful to incriminate dissidents as foreign agents and impose political and ideological uniformity on Syrians.

At the same time the regime blackmailed the Western powers with its assertion that it was a bulwark against fundamentalism and terrorism in Syria and the region. It was always prepared to slander its own population in presence of western diplomats, journalists, and scholars. The Assadists knew well that this discourse was marketable to imperialist powers that were engaged in their so-called War on Terror; this same discourse had justified the murder of tens of thousands killed in the early 1980s and now hundreds of thousands in their ongoing counterrevolution.

Beneath all this rhetoric, the Assad dynasty’s main aim is to stay in power forever and accumulate millions and billions of dollars that comes with ruling the country. Just recently, it was uncovered that Rami Makhlouf, Bashar’s cousin, is the richest Arab man with more than $27 billion. He’s even richer than the Saudi magnate Al-Waleed bin Talal.

Syria is owned by what I call a financial political security complex. Hafez al-Assad and now his son, Bashar al-Assad, have overseen a horrible and brutal security agency. They have spawned a new bourgeoisie by giving their clients and relatives privileged access to public resources.

The state itself was privatized in the 1980s at least. The Assads sold off the public resources to their family and friends. They turned this privatized state into a fearful guardian of the new bourgeoisie’s economic plunder of our country. This is the ruling class in Syria—an amalgam of a family dictatorship, their clients, the new bourgeoisie and the terrorist class of guards embodied in the most brutal, secretive, and sectarian organizations in Syria—the security agencies.

Often regime is represented as secular. Is this true? How did the regime rule through sectarianism?

THE REGIME’S so-called secularism is almost completely an ideological façade that covers its essential sectarianism. Divide and rule is not only a colonial method, it has become the regime’s method for over two generations.

By the way, the regime never used the word secularism in its discourse in the past. Bashar or Buthaina Shaban only used this word in interviews with western journalists. Like the War on Terror, this is only another cheap commodity to sell to Western powers and even those on the left looking for ways to avoid recognizing the fascist character of the Assad regime.

Inside Syria, the regime rules through a process of sectarianization to entice Syrians to fear and mistrust each other based on their sect. The regime attempts to present itself as the only force capable of keeping these divisions, which it in fact foments, in check. This is a deliberate policy. Sectarianism is not a primordial characteristic of Syria, or any other nation for that matter. It was foisted upon the country in order to divide the population and maintain the regime.

Of course, we have Muslims and Christians, Sunnis and Alawis, Druze, Ismailis etc, but these are confessional groups without fixed rigid borders between them. The process of sectarianization crystalizes these groups, builds high borders between them, and transforms them into sects. Sects are social constructs under certain political conditions, as Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel show in their new book, Sectarianzation, and as I have tried to analyze in my own writings.

The regime has cultivated itself as the protector minorities against the Sunni majority, knowing very well that this was a colonial discourse in Syria itself and in our region, and is still is among wider circles in the West. This has had real material impacts in creating a social base for the regime. The regime is built around granting social capital, actual rewards and benefits, for being part of this or that favored sect.

Believe it or not, when you are Christian with a name like George or Joseph or Tony, you are in a way protected in “Assad’s Syria.” And when you are from this region or that, you will not be stopped and interrogated at the regime check points, while others will be and may well be arrested and “disappeared.”

It will be easier for you to get a passport or to find a job when you are from this origin or that and it is far more difficult when you are not. So being from this or that group provides you with some social capital even when you are poor. There are networks of clientelism working for you, binding you to the Assad regime itself, and confining you to your community. This is one way of manufacturing sects.

That’s why Sunnis in Syria were particularly angry. In particular, those living in rural areas and on the outskirts of the cities didn’t have access to these clientelist networks. By contrast, favored minorities, especially the wealthier ones among them, could to some extent feel at home in a Syria ruled by the Assad family. Others, especially poorer Sunnis, feel estranged and not at home. So some identify easily and others are extremely alienated.

How did the regime’s adoption of neoliberalism trigger the Syrian Revolution?

FIRST WE have to step back and see the nature of Hafez al-Assad’s state and its political economy before neoliberalization. It is classic of example of what Marx called primitive accumulation. The Assads turned the entire country’s resources into national monopolies. They then used crony capitalist privatization to transform these into private monopolies owned by themselves, their relatives, and their friends. They amassed vast fortunes in the process.

These clients of the regime pushed towards neoliberalization of the economy. They wanted to seize everything from state ownership and abolish any and all institutional structures that benefitted the Syrian majority. As a result, we were ruled by one of the most brutal new bourgeoisies in our region.

The regime protected them and denied the Syrian masses any opportunity to protest, to unionize, to negotiate, or even just say no. Politically speaking, we were slaves who had no rights at all. It was a combination of fascist structures in defense of neoliberalism that enriched our rulers and impoverished the majority. All of this led directly to the revolution.

What social classes joined the revolution and what were their demands?

THE REVOLUTION demanded both democracy and equality. The first thing that people wanted was, in my opinion, to own politics: to have the right to organize, and speak publicly about political issues. The second thing people wanted grew out of the experience of impoverishment and curtailed hopes that neoliberalism had imposed on us. They wanted redistribution of wealth and opportunities for social advancement.

The people who joined the revolution were from what I call working society—those that lived from their work, not from rentier income that the ownership of the state yielded that the ruling class passed on to their relatives and cronies. So the social bloc of the Syrian Revolution is made of two groups. First the people Obama ridiculed from the middle class—students, intellectuals, doctors, engineers, and dentists. And second—and this is of decisive importance—the impoverished people in the countryside wrecked by neoliberalization combined with a horrific drought. Many left the countryside for the suburbs of the cities and country towns.

Both groups were aware that their income and their futures were being destroyed by the regime. That’s why reclaiming politics was important for them. That demand combined economic and political demands. It was similar to what happened in Eastern Europe under Soviet rule. We wanted the downfall of the regime so we could establish a new democratic and egalitarian society.

How did the absence of class organization like trade unions impact the rising? Isn’t it very different from other countries in the region like Egypt and especially Tunisia where unions played a significant role?

THE CONTRAST is marked. Both Egypt and Tunisia had unions that were more or less independent, despite living under dictatorial conditions. The Tunisian General Labor Union was very active and was relatively independent and played a great role in the revolution.

In both Egypt and Tunisia the regimes were dictatorial but still people were able to protest, to express opinions, and to challenge them in some way. So there was space for basic organization. This made it easier for the revolutions to overthrow the regime in each country. The Tunisian dictator was overthrown in less than a month and the Egyptian one in less than three weeks.

In Syria the regime is different than those in Tunisia or Egypt. They were dictatorships. The Syrian regime is a fascist one. Bashar al Assad is not a dictator. He’s a very rich racist thug, and his only aim is to stay in power forever and to pass on his post to his son, Hafez, after him. So his fathers and his regime never tolerated any trade unions.

Actually, “professional” trade unions for doctors, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists and so on were dismantled in 1981 because they protested against the then rampant suppression during what I call the first Assadist war from 1979 to 1982. Many active members of those unions were arrested for long years. I met some of them in Adra prison in 1992. Their unions were “reestablished” with the regime cronies as their appointed leadership.

We were living under conditions of politicide—the complete destruction of any and all independent political organization of any sort—conditions far harsher than even those of Palestinians under the Israeli occupation. Syria was a political desert before the revolution. We did not have parties, independent unions, and social organization on the eve of the revolt.

And, as I said earlier, the regime consciously stoked divisions and fear among the people, pitting Arabs and Kurds against each other, Muslims and Christians, Sunnis and Alawis, secular and religious people. So not only were we disorganized, but there was a fomented national crisis of trust among the people. So, as Marx said, we did not create a revolution in conditions of our own choosing.

How did the activists overcome these limitations and what kind of democratic structures did they set up in liberated areas?

DURING THE revolution activists created tansiqiyyat (coordinating groups) like the Local Coordinating Committees (LCC) to overcome the reality of our disorganization. My friend Omar Aziz, the Syrian activist, was the “father” of the idea of Local Councils. The regime arrested him in 2012, brutally tortured him, and left him to die in Adra prison.

But his ideas took off in the revolution. The LCCs and other tansiqiyyat played a role in organizing protests, independent media coverage, and issuing political positions and statements. I helped in some activities of the LCCs. Razan Zeitouneh was the main leader of this effort. We cooperated when we were in hiding in Damascus for two years after the eruption of the revolution. I was the main author of the first political statement LCCs issued in June 2011.

The regime saw the emergence of these democratic organizations that began to unite Syrians as the main threat to its rule. So it did all it could to crush the tansiqiyyat. It killed, arrested, tortured or pushed into exile their first leaders—the first generation of revolution—in the first year and a half. Those that came after them—the second generation of the revolution—were pushed to defend themselves militarily against the regime’s increasingly brutal repression.

These new military organizations began to supplant the tansiqiyyat and Councils. Other organizations emerged to address relief activities, trying to provide incomes and living materials for people. In two years and a half these very interesting and very novel political grassroots bodies were almost entirely dismantled.

The salafist military organization, Jaysh al-Islam abducted Razan Zeitouneh, along with her husband Wael Hamada, the poet and lawyer Nazem Hamadi, and my wife the former political prisoner, Samira al Khalil, in December 2013. This signified the destruction of these grass root democratic organizations. In this way these nihilist Islamists continued the Assads’ politicide.

The tansiqiyyat, especially the LCC, were the heart of the revolution and its most creative expression. It is very different from the formal opposition, which existed abroad as the revolution’s so-called representatives. They were never genuine representatives of the movement on the ground, but self-appointed intermediaries with the regional and imperial powers.

The tansiqiyyat tried to persist in extremely difficult conditions. Even as late as 2017, and under the regime and Russian bombardment, we witnessed free elections for local councils in Saraqib, to the south west of Aleppo, and in Saqba in Eastern Ghouta. Of course the Western media never covered these elections.

The regime responded to the revolution with all the tricks in their counter-revolutionary playbook from brutal repression and war to attempts to divide and rule. What did they do? How did they manipulate religious divisions, whipping up and weaponizing sectarianism in particular?

THE REGIME knew it was in a fight for its life. Its strong point was its realization of this and its determination to concede absolutely nothing. It knew that it was incapable of retaining power and admitting even minor reforms. It was that fragile, and therefore had to be absolutely brutal in its response.

They knew they had to fight to stop any change even it meant the annihilation of the country. That’s what their slogan was “Assad or We Burn the Country.” They said all of this publicly. Rami Makhlouf, Assad’s billionaire cousin that I previously mentioned, was interviewed by the late Anthony Shadid in The New York Times in 2011 and said that the regime would fight to the end. And actually they did. They refused to accept any political solution.

First, they launched a brutal war against the revolution. They did not carry it out in an equal way, but in a sectarian manner. Remember that people from almost every background participated in the revolution in its first year—Arabs, Kurds, Muslims, Christians, Alawis and Sunnis. To split this emergent unity, the regime meted out its brutality in an unequal way. It targeted Sunni Arabs in particular, and this section of the population suffered the bulk of bombings, murder, torture, and rape.

The regime hoped this would radicalize many Sunnis in a sectarian manner. They used the fact that this did happen as evidence of their claim that the entire revolution was a plot organized by sectarian Sunnis. To further create these facts on the ground, Assad released salafi jihadi prisoners from his jails.

One of these, Zahran Aloush, became the leader of Jaysh al Islam, the group that abducted my wife and comrades. It is very revealing that the man was only held in jail by the regime for two and a half years. Please, remember that people like Samira stayed 4 years in jail, and like me spent far more years in the jails of our “secular” regime.

The Islamic fundamentalists are the regime’s favorite enemy. They preferred them for two reasons: first to slander the entire revolution as narrow minded and sectarian; and, second, to bind all the religious minorities to the regime as their so-called protector.

How did the revolution combat the regime’s use of sectarianism?

IN THE first year of the Revolution, we did move toward overcoming the sectarian divisions. But the militarization of the Revolution and the discriminatory violence against the Sunnis led to deepening of sectarianization. The Sunnis became more Sunni and so did all the other religious groupings.

And this of course is the best world for the regime. It wants the Christians to be more Christian, Alawis to become more Alawi, and Sunnis to be more Sunni, Kurds to be more Kurds, and nobody to be more Syrian. It wants to be the only Syrian institution in the country balancing between these non-Syrian groups.

We couldn’t overcome this. When you have wars, massacres, you cannot preach about unity and we are all brothers and all Syrian citizens. This discourse is of course still alive, but people tire of it when there are barrel bombs over their heads, when there are chemical massacres, mass murder and torture. This discourse of Syrian nationalism was destroyed as Syrian society was destroyed.

We could not fight barrel bombs and sectarian massacres with the discourse of national unity and solidarity. We will have to recreate such a discourse, because it will be essential for political change and defending equality among Syrians, especially equality in owning politics and democratically deciding the nature of the state.

In what way the regime try and divide the revolution on ethnic lines, exploiting schisms between Arabs and Kurds? How did the regime treat the Kurds?

THE REGIME denied Kurds any rights and even their existence in Syria. They were denied the right to speak their own language, and they were not allowed to develop their own culture. Many of us in the revolution were in solidarity with the rights of the Kurds in Syria and worked hard to unite our forces.

The new element we did not account for was the Turkish based Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). Its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, had been in Damascus for a long time, and the party was an old ally of the regime before it sold them out and forced them out of the country. Ocalan insisted that there is no Syrian Kurdistan.

As a result, the PKK were not prominent political actors before the revolution. They were oriented more toward Turkey. After they left, their remaining Syrian affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), was a party among many other parties. But they were isolated from other Syrian opposition groups.

Amidst the revolution, the regime wanted at all cost to prevent the union of Arabs and Kurds against them. So in July 2012, they withdrew their army from the region of Afrin around Aleppo and from the Jazira in the northeastern party of the country. The vacuum left was filled by PKK/PYD.

The internationally based formal opposition to the regime did not understand this dynamic and did not know how to deal with it; and they made political mistakes, like not being clear in recognizing the Kurd’s right to self-determination.

Added to this difficulty was the problematic role of Turkey played in the revolution. It sided with it after six months. But Assad manipulated their entry into the conflict. The regime was happy for the PKK to see its enemy as the Turks and not itself. And Turkey’s nominal allegiance to the revolution led the PKK to distance itself more from it.

The PKK doesn’t consider itself part of the Syrian Revolution. Actually they talk about a Rojava Revolution. This discourse seems to me a mixture of exporting to Syria experiences related more to their struggle in Turkey, a nationalist expansion that is creating ethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs in Northern Syria. At the same time, this discourse is sellable to Western imperialism as well as naïve left wing circles.

How did al Qaeda and Daesh emerge in Syria and what role did they play?

THEY DEVELOPED in two different contexts, and played an utterly destructive and counter-revolutionary role in Syria. Daesh developed in Iraq as the merger of al Qaeda and the deposed military and security cadre of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Al Qaeda itself is a merger of Saudi Wahhabism and Egyptian Qutbism. Sayyid Qutb was an Egyptian Islamist militant executed by Nasser in the 1966.

Both developed during the American invasion of Iraq. Assad also allowed them to develop bases within Syrian for their operations against the American occupation. The history of their formation lies in three destroyed societies—Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The groups find a base among communities who were radicalized in societies in collapse and are looking for ways to fight their wretched conditions. This is their material root. It is not in religion—in Islam—per se, but in these social conditions.

People, however misdirected and reactionary, become extremists to fight these conditions. They don’t fight because they are Muslims. And brutal powers like American imperialism and its occupation of Iraq, the Shia sectarian regime in Iraq, the Syrian regime, or the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s provides them with reasons to fight.

But they are certainly not ant-imperialist. In fact, their imagery and language invoke Islamic empires of the past. They claim to be the inheritors of Islamic imperialism: they declare, “We conquered the world, from Spain to china!” This proves that their ideal is imperialist in essence. I call them the conquered imperialists (as opposed to conquering imperialists like the Americans, Russians and others), and their method of struggle is terror. The project is in essence a fascist one. Their very constitution is elitist, autocratic, and bigoted.

But we should be clear that al Qaeda or Daesh never had mass support in in Syria; and they do not try to really represent or even try to be liked by the population. Both of them played an absolutely destructive role in the Syrian Revolution. Daesh in particular fought against the genuine revolutionaries, and only secondarily against the regime. In fact, Daesh managed to work out at least for a time a modus vivendi with it.

The regime used both al Qaeda and Daesh to claim they were fighting a war on terrorism. In truth they did not target these reactionaries, but the genuine revolutionaries. Thus there is a grotesque symbiosis between what I call the fascists of the necktie like Assad and those of the beard like Daesh.

What has been the role of various regional such as Iran and Turkey and imperial powers such as Russia and the United States? What roles have they played in the revolution and counterrevolution? What has been the policy of the US in particular? Was it ever committed to regime change? Or was it committed to what they called in Yemen an “orderly transition”?

FIRST OF all, it is an insult to Syrians to think of our revolution as an aspect of America’s supposed plan for regime change. I cannot find the words to express my indignation against this. If one can ascribe any plan to the Obama administration it was regime preservation, not regime change. The Americans vetoed any meaningful arming of the Free Syrian Army at every crucial juncture.

It is a fiction that we wanted the Americans to intervene and they refused. The Americans have been intervening in Syria all the time. They pressured the surrounding powers to intervene. And they corrupted many revolutionary groups in the southern and northern parts of Syria.

But their aim was at best Assadism without Assad, the existing state minus the thuggish ruler. And they certainly abandoned that after the chemical massacre. They and the Russians struck a chemical deal with the regime, giving it a license to kill with all its other tools, including chlorine, and sarin gas indeed. And Trump is obviously willing to strike a deal with the Russian colonial power in Syria, with full knowledge that the Russians prefer Bashar as an obedient ruler of ruined Syria.

As for Russia, its regime is not that different from our regime. Russia first used Ukraine and then Syria to reassert its status as an international power. It is an imperial power that just inked a classic colonial deal for it to remain in Syria for 49 years. Russia’s role was pivotal in saving the regime. It launched very brutal attacks in Aleppo and many other regions in the country. Contrary to their claims, they did not fight Daesh, but instead waged war on those fighting the regime. They bombed hospitals, markets, and schools.

The Turkish record is mixed. Turkey is obsessed with the Kurds. They played a very bad role because of this obsession. They opened their border for jihadis in the hopes that they would attack the PKK. This was a very short sighted and counter revolutionary plan. They in turn exported to Syria their experiences with PKK.

At the same time, Turkey is hosting 3 million Syrian refugees and their conditions are far better than those in Jordan or Lebanon. I was there myself and Syrians have access to healthcare without paying a penny, and many of them are in schools. But it must be said that it is still very difficult to live as a refugee in Turkey (and in Europe). And now the Turks are weaker than they were before and they are cooperating with the Russians. This is already causing bitterness among many Syrians.

Iran is also another regional imperial power. It is trying to build its own regional empire in the Middle East stretching from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut. And they negotiate with the western powers and specifically the Americans. After Obama cut his nuclear deal with Iran, the Americans practically gave a free hand to Iran in Syria.

We must remember that Syria is in the Middle East—the most internationalized region in the world. You thus cannot separate any of the countries’ internal dynamics from the rest of the region and indeed from the whole structure of world imperialism. The outside powers are internal. The Americans are not an outside power for us in Syria or for Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, and of course Palestine. And at the same time Syrians are now scattered everywhere in the world. So all the world is in Syria and we are throughout the world. We are a world, and the world is a Syria.

It is not the right approach analyze the situation in Syria only while looking at the internal aspect even of the regime itself. The regime is one actor in a big alliance with the Russians, Iranians, Hezbollah, and many other Shia jihadi militias. And this alliance has a sectarian dynamic binding Shia and Allawi. And of course we have Sunni sectarianism on the other side that was fueled and fomented by Saudi Arabia in particular. Both are a part of a regional competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia for regional power.

We are in a horrible situation that is the outcome of three actors—the thuggish regime ruling the country, the Sunni and Shia Islamists, and the regional and imperialist powers. So we have many parallel wars in Syria. It is not just one war. Since 2013, we have many wars. The Americans have their own war. The Iranians, Russians, and the Turks have their own wars.

Much of the so-called anti-imperialist left failed to extend solidarity to the Syrian Revolution, and even went so far as to support Assad’s dictatorship and the intervention of regional powers like Iran and imperial ones like Russia. At the same time sections of the left have been principled defenders of the Syrian Revolution. How do you explain the failure of large sections of the left to live up to the principle of international solidarity?

THIS IS one of my biggest disappointments. I always thought that Western leftists were enlightened Marxists. They have passports, access to good books and magazines, many of them went to good universities, and they know the world far better than us. Or at least I thought so. I expected them to think globally because they are in New York, London, Paris, and Berlin.

So their betrayal of the revolution came as a shock to me. I thought we would be their natural allies. After all we were the ones fighting against a junta regime, defending democracy and equality, and fighting for our people and their future. We were the ones standing for socialism and social change.

But to my horror, so much of the international left aligned with the regime. I think in part they did so because they were caught in the old days. They remembered that the regime was more allied to the Soviet Union than to the US. So they then wrongly thought that this regime is against imperialism, and this regime is therefore their allies and we, the revolutionaries, are their enemies.

In reality, they know nothing at all about Syria and about the Syrian people. The Syrian regime is one of the main pillars of the Middle East. This is not a geographic region, it is a political system based on denying citizenship and political rights to the population, and denying states (apart from Israel) real sovereignty. States can only wage wars against their own subjects. By the way, this lack of sovereignty is one main reason behind the rise of our conquered imperialists. They are our substitute empire.

I think the leftists in the West are isolated from human suffering. They don’t know and they are not curious to know. They are satisfied with their knowledge which is based on remembering the past not analyzing what’s happening now.

In their own way they have an imperialist worldview that blinds them to reality. They annex our struggle to their grand struggle against imperialism. And they treat us, the actors from below, as mere puppets in an imaginary project of regime change. Even worse they adopt the regime’s and indeed American imperialism’s world view itself, dismissing the revolution as a product of Sunni jihadism, whereas the opposite is true: we have jihadism because the revolution has been crushed. All of this is a sign of a deep crisis on the international left.

In his book, Morbid Symptoms, Gilbert Achcar argues that the genuine left was perhaps too optimistic at the start of the Arab Spring and now is far too pessimistic. He instead argues that we are at the beginning of a protracted revolutionary crisis rooted in the political economy and state formation of the region. If that is the case, what are lessons so far in Syria and the region? What changes are necessary for the left to prepare for the future?

FIRST AN intellectual point. We cannot confine ourselves to analyzing the internal dynamics of Syria. We cannot isolate Syria from Palestine, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and other countries of the region. We must think internationally.

Second, and most importantly we should build networks of solidarity throughout the region and world. Syrians can and must play a key role in this process because we are now everywhere.

This is essential to prepare for the future. While I am reluctant to prophesize, I think that in a generation from now there will be even bigger revolutions and upheavals in the region. Why? Because the states deny their subjects basic rights and their economies prevent them from meeting their basic needs.

In the nineteenth century, Marx dubbed Russia the prison house of peoples. Today it is the Middle East; and its structures are fundamentally destabilized in a protracted crisis. So this lead to a third task: we must build organizations capable in the coming years to dismantle this prison and replace it with new democracies.

Maybe the future center for this struggle will be the Gulf and specifically Saudi Arabia. It is the basis of reaction in the Arab world. Change is very vital there. I hope a new generation of western leftists will play a role. I know they hate the Saudi monarchy. It would be good if they invest their hatred to aid the revolutionary project for change in the Middle East, not in defending the fascists of the necktie like Assad.

Finally, I think we, as a Left must focus more on building a new project, a new utopia. We don’t have any global project now, because of the failure of twentieth century communism. Many have criticized the idea of utopia. This is narrow minded and short sighted, in my opinion.

We need a conception of a goal, a society in the future that we can imagine and fight for. A world with more equality, more brotherhood and sisterhood, more freedom and more respect for the planet and its seas, waters, plants, and animals. We need a big change of our ways of thinking and I hope we are beginning to think in these ways. If we do not dedicate ourselves to a new global project, we will have only dystopias Assad’s Syria and Daesh.

Published in ISR-International Socialist Review

Kabul can’t support army without US money more than 6 months – Afghan president

By Lutfullah Sitankzai, Kabul

Without American assistance, Kabul can’t fight the many militant groups active in the o-ASHRAF-GHANI-facebook-740x357country after 16 years of US involvement. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says the national army won’t last longer than six months on its own.

American taxpayers, who contribute around 90 percent of Afghanistan’s defense budget, are bankrolling a war against terrorists in the county, which the government would not be able to continue without the US funding, Ghani told CBS News.

“We will not be able to support our army for six months without US support and US capabilities… Because we don’t have the money,” Ghani said.

Saying that at least ”21 international terrorist groups” are operating in his country, Ghani warned that ”terrorists can strike at any time.”

“Dozens of suicide bombers are being sent. There are factories producing suicide bombers. We are under siege,” Ghani told the ‘60 Minutes’ program.

In August, US President Donald Trump announced a new Afghanistan strategy and pledged continued American support for the Afghan military. Trump also said that the US contingent in Afghanistan would be expanded. There are about 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan at present, including the 3,000 sent in September, following Trump’s announcement.

This continues the 16-year incursion that has seen over 2,000 US servicemen lose their lives and over $700 billion spent on military assistance, lined with repeated promises of a soon-to-come victory from three successive US presidential administrations.

Last week US military officials told the Wall Street Journal that the Pentagon hopes to increase the American military presence in Afghanistan in time for spring, by deploying an estimated 1,000 new combat advisers to Afghanistan. The Pentagon is also reportedly sending additional unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as helicopters and ground vehicles. With the new arsenal, the US hopes it can finally defeat the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan.

“This is the end game. This is a policy that can deliver a win,” the commander of US Armed Forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told CBS.

“We’re killing them [Taliban] in large numbers. They can either lay down their weapons and rejoin society and be a part of the future of Afghanistan, have a better life for their children and themselves, or they can die,” Nicholson proclaimed.

While the Pentagon is focused on the Taliban fighters, who control approximately half the country, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants are expanding their presence in Afghanistan, Russia warned late last month. Afghanistan watchers say that with the ever-growing threat from the Islamists the US is unlikely to defeat them anytime soon.

“The majority of the country is far worse than it was before the US and NATO came in… NATO at their peak had 150,000 soldiers, about five years ago, and they could not turn the tide,” military analyst Kamal Alam, told RT. ”So militarily the US forces and NATO are far less now on the ground… The Taliban are taking more territories. There are more non-state actors like ISIS involved as well. So I think for the US it will be very difficult to turn the tide.”

“The Taliban has not only been able to strengthen itself but there are now 20 other international terrorist groups – that is 21 total, including the faction of ISIS,” Jennifer Breedon, an international criminal law attorney, told RT. “The problem is that the US lacks in its foreign policy understanding, its knowledge of foreign affairs, its knowledge of foreign states, its knowledge of terrorist regimes and why these regimes are able to flourish.”

Cultural discrimination at education institutions

By Farah Naz Baloch

One of the main issues that is affecting the social, political, economic, geographical andsocio-cultural-discrimination educational career of learners is cultural discrimination.

Cultural discrimination has been often identified as a barrier that affects the treatment and ultimately the success of learners in educational institutions. Culture discrimination results from social stereotyping and leads to poor communication and interpersonal relationships.

The culture is defined as the system of beliefs, values, customs, behavior and artefacts that the members of a society use to cope with their world and with one another. It is transmitted from generation to generation through learning, so the discrimination in such traditional values create conflicts among human beings and makes them mentally weak.

Cultural discrimination produces immense effects in psychological, political and social domains. The effects are compounded by the loss of self-worth, a sense of alienation from wider society, political disempowerment and economic inequalities.

Discrimination runs against the fundamental values of a modern society. Cultural discrimination leads toward a process of thought where only a limited source of ideas and thoughts emerge that confine the individual only to certain norms and values.

However, such a narrow process of thought brings the idea of ethnocentrism that is the tendency to evaluate the values, beliefs and behaviors of one’s own culture as being more positive and logical than those of other cultures. It is the belief that convinces one to consider his culture the best in every way. This can lead to negative judgments of the behavior of groups or societies and makes the people discriminate with others.

Whether you are a Baloch, Sindhi, Pashtun or Panjabi, or in a broader sense, whether Eastern or Western, every one of them has different life styles but each one is valid in their own sense. Nobody has the right to impose its own values on others as better. There is no valid concept of civilization or savagery in cultural sense.

According to the concept of culture relativism, all cultures are equally important and valuable. Cultural relativity helps understand other cultures and their practices without thinking that they are inferior or backward, because each culture is unique in itself.

No one is barbarous or uncivilized if they are following their cultural ceremonies and festivals; those festivals and ceremonies might include elements that are not acceptable by other cultures. They might be regarded as uncivilized by outsiders but they are valid to the people of that culture. Nobody has the right to call them uncivilized or barbarous. The good and bad do not exist in things but their meaning lies within the mind. As Shakespeare says, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.

It is the thoughts and imagination of human beings that develop meanings. The meaning does not lie in objects but within individuals who interpret and find meaning. Hence, the concept of civilization or savagery lies within a person’s mind. They see it with the glasses of their own norms and values. If something is prohibited in one culture that might be accepted in other cultures.

Nigerian writer and critic Chinua Achebe writes in his masterpiece novel Things Fall Apart: “How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that our customs are bad.”

It means that every culture is valid with its own norms and values and no one can judge other cultures according to their own values.

None of the culture is inferior to the other. This concept of culture inferiority has made the individual feel confined to certain values. In this way, emerging learners will not be able to get what they are supposed to in this world, because the learning process includes all those refining elements within the age that need to be understood by every individual.

Published in Balochistantimes

Munnu Bhai a Left thinker and columnist passes away

Bolan Voice Report

Eminent left thinker and progressive columnist, playwright and poet Muneer Ahmed57f7fcdee863b Qureshi, popularly known as Munnu Bhai, passed away in Lahore on 19th January 2018, family members told the media. He was on age of 84-year.

According to family sources, he was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Lahore. The nature of his illness, however, was not specified.

His funeral prayers will be offered in Lahore after Asr prayers.

Munnu Bhai was born in Wazirabad, a small city in Punjab, in 1933. He wrote numerous plays for Pakistan Television and was awarded the Pride of Performance Award in 2007 for his services to the nation.

Apart from his work as a playwright and poet, he also stressed the need for a free media. He said that terrorism, poverty and social degradation could be eliminated by means of truthful journalism. He strongly believed that with time, journalism in Pakistan would mature and perform a constructive role in society.

In 2014, he donated his entire literary collection to Government College University (GCU) as a token of appreciation for its contribution to the promotion of drama and literature.

Munnu Bhai was also associated with Sundas Foundation, a charitable organization that works with children suffering from thalassemia.

Carina Jahani: The Swedish linguist on a quest to save Balochi

Interviewed by Sajid Hussain

In November last year, a Swedish woman stood in front of a dominantly Swedish IMG_1169-2audience in Stockholm urging them to vote in favour of a presentation about a ‘dying language’ they had probably never heard of.

She is Carina Jahani, a professor of Iranian languages at the Uppsala University. She was taking part in a research competition.

“The Balochi language must be saved now. Otherwise, it might become extinct in 50 years,” she, dressed in traditional Baloch attire, appealed to the audience and three judges.

“We need resources to save Balochi. Next year I’m going to apply for funding from the organisers of the competition,” she told me during an interview conducted at her office in Uppsala University.

Born on June 11, 1959, in a small village of the province of Småland in southern Sweden, she has been working on Balochi for the last three decades. She has published a book on Balochi orthography and several research essays on the standardization and grammar of the language.

It all started in 1978 when she travelled to Iran with a Christian youth group to learn Persian. They soon realized it was not a good time to be in Iran as anti-Shah protests rocked the country. They fled to Pakistan.

“I wept because I wanted to be in Iran. I didn’t want to be in Pakistan,” she said.

Someone told her in Pakistan there was a language called Balochi, which is very close to Persian. She took note of it in the back of her mind.

Six years later, when she was struggling to choose a subject for her PhD research, it came back to her. She chose Balochi and the rest is history.

Sajid: How did you fall in love with Balochi? What’s the story?

Carina: It’s a long story. I hope I can cut it short. But I think I’ve to go back when I was a small child. I was always interested in other cultures. I was a follower of Jesus from the childhood. As were my mom and dad. And I was always dreaming about going to Africa.

I had no brothers and sisters, so my mom would play with me. We often played that we were in Africa.

Then as I grew older I got interested in other countries. At one time I was very interested in going to Puerto Rico.

Sajid: Puerto Rico?

Carina: Yes. There was a very strong Norwegian woman who had an orphanage in Puerto Rico. I think I was seven or eight when we met her for the first time. She talked about her work in Puerto Rico. She took in children whose parents, particularly their fathers, were in prison, and took care of them. I told myself that when I grew older I would go to Puerto Rico and work with her.

So that was a dream. A childish dream. Then I had other dreams too.

When I finished my college studies I got a chance to go to Iran in 1978. It was right at the time of the revolution. The revolution was just starting and it was a troubled time. But I was very determined and I had decided that I was going to Iran.

There was a Christian youth group which was working with some churches in Iran. So, yes, I went to Iran. But we couldn’t stay long because the revolution was getting stronger and the foreigners had to leave. We left and we went to Pakistan. I was very sad. I wept because I wanted to be in Iran. I didn’t want to be in Pakistan.

For some reason, there in Pakistan, someone told me: well, if you’re so interested in Persian there is a language in Pakistan which is very close to Persian. It’s the Balochi language.

I returned to Sweden and applied for a student visa for Iran. The revolution had taken place and nobody knew what was going to happen next in Iran but I managed to get a student visa and went back to Iran on my own in the autumn of 1979.

The university where I was studying was mostly closed. But during that one year when I was in Iran I managed to learn Persian, particularly speaking, quite well.

Then the war between Iran and Iraq started and I realized that it’s not a good time to stay. So I came back here.

In the meantime, I had met the brother of my husband as we went to the same church in Tehran. He had told me he had a brother in Sweden. When I came back to Sweden I met his brother. After a little while we realized we probably loved each other and we wanted to get married. After the marriage, I settled in Uppsala where he was. I had already decided that I was going to study Persian and Uppsala was the place to do that

I was looking for a subject for my PhD. I wanted something slightly more than just Persian because so many people were already working on Persian. I was looking forward to working on this language that is spoken in Caucasus, Georgia and in southern Russia. It’s an Iranian language called Ossetic. I thought I might be able to work on Ossetic for my PhD. But then I realized that most sources that I would need to read were in Russian and I didn’t know Russian. I either had to learn Russian first and return to my PhD studies later or I had to choose another subject for which more sources were available in English.

Since we had one child and we wanted more children without much gap I opted for the shorter route. I needed to go for a subject that I could deal with more directly. For some reason, it came to my mind that there is this language in Pakistan called Balochi that is quite close to Persian. From there on I started working on Balochi and I fell in love with it.

Sajid: Which year you chose Balochi?

Carina: I can say that I became interested in Balochi in 1984.

Sajid: So someone told you in 1978 that there is a language similar to Persian called Balochi and that thing came back to you in 1984. In between those years, you didn’t have any contact with Balochi?

Carina: No. I was busy learning Persian. Then we got married. I was busy doing my BA. My husband was studying. I hadn’t met any Baloch, I had no interaction with Balochi. That’s why I think this is from God.

Sajid: So when you started working on Balochi for your PhD or when you started learning the language, what was your first reaction to Balochi? You knew Swedish, you knew Persian, you knew English and other languages. As a person interested in languages, what was your first observation of Balochi?

Carina: Because I started with the Barker and Mengal’s course which I still have up here (in my library) and it is in the Nushki dialect I didn’t realize how many dialects there could be and how diverse Balochi was. I thought it would be easier than it turned out to be. When I was through those books I thought I knew Balochi quite well, but things proved different.

Sajid: When was the first time you heard someone speak Balochi?

Carina: That was when I went to Pakistan in October 1986.

Sajid: So you hadn’t met any Baloch during all those years?

Carina: No. I worked on Balochi with Professor Josef Elfenbein in England for about four or five months. We were staying in England. My husband was improving his English and I went to Cambridge once a week to study with Josef Elfenbein. But I hadn’t heard anybody speak Balochi until I went to Pakistan in 1986.

Sajid: As you had already been learning Balochi, how was the experience of listening someone speak the language?

Carina: It was sort of overwhelming. I realized that I could say some basic things (in Balochi) but I couldn’t speak much, and there was much to learn. I remember Abdullah Jan Jamaldini and his family took very good care of me. Mir Aqil Khan Mengal was very helpful too, as was Zeenat Sana and many other academics and intellectuals.

Sajid: How did you find Balochi different from or similar to Persian?

Carina: Of course, it’s very similar. The fact that I knew some Persian helped me a lot. In Persian you have these course books. In Balochi I had only this one course book by Barker and Mengal. That was basically it. The only thing I could do was to be among the people, and hear them speak the language. Yet, trust me, it has been only these past seven years that I’ve learnt good Balochi due to my intense involvement with the language. Till then, I knew a lot about Balochi. I knew the grammatical structure of some dialects. But I couldn’t say I really knew Balochi.

I am learning Balochi now. I can now speak without constantly making a lot of mistakes. I cannot speak about all subjects with ease. Perhaps I can’t talk about politics or literature with ease. But I can talk about the daily things.

Sajid: What’s the future of Balochi?

Carina: That’s a good question. That’s a very good question. The anthropologist Brian Spooner wrote in one of his essays that it’s yet too early to say whether the Balochi language is going to further split and disintegrate, or if it is going to unify and become a strong written language. My hope and desire for Balochi is that there will be a way ahead. That the language will find its shape as a written language. That there will be provisions for its use at schools and in the education system. That there will be more unity among the (Baloch) intellectuals. That there will be a way to promote a standard language which doesn’t necessarily need to be perfect but a standard that the people can agree upon.

Sajid: That’s your desire. But do you think it will survive if everything remains the same?

Carina: No. By no means. If things don’t change the (Balochi) language will not survive for another two or three generations, particularly in Iran where it’s already disintegrating and where young people don’t know good Balochi. But I don’t think it’s too late.

We need to have one million readers. The people should learn Balochi not since it’s compulsory in school, because it’s not; or since it gives them some economic benefit, because it doesn’t. They should learn Balochi because they want to keep their cultural heritage that is theirs alive; because they want to keep their identity that is theirs alive.

I mean, after all, there must be some sort of pride in being a Baloch and in the fact that a Baloch is as much a human being as anyone else. So why should I need to give up my identity and my language to be counted.

Sajid: How do you create one million readers? I mean you’re right that people should take pride in their language and culture but they usually don’t.

Carina: They don’t. The political environment is of course a serious hindrance. I mean Balochi soon needs to be established as a school language. If the language is taught at school, the children will get grades for mastering it. Then there will more incentive to learn to read and write it. Unless you have that support it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be very tough. But I don’t think it’s impossible. The Kurds have come a long way before they had any minority rights or any linguistic rights.

So basically I think all the Baloch who don’t want their language to die should join forces and work towards preserving it. If I teach five people to read and write Balochi and each one of them teaches five others, that’s the way we have to go. We cannot expect to teach a million in one day or one week or one year.

The Baloch political organizations need to start using Balochi as their language of communication. The cultural and political organizations in Iran are using Persian and I think those in Pakistan are using Urdu. This needs to change. If Balochistan becomes a separate country in the future, is Persian going to be the official language, or Urdu, or English? You have to start now.

The Kurds have done it without a state. Kurdish is not going to die. The Baloch can do it too.

Sajid: Is there any language in the world that has lacked state support but has managed to survive only because of the quality of its content?

Carina: I don’t know. This language death is rather a new issue. It comes with television, literacy and schooling in foreign languages. It’s a recent phenomenon, particularly brought about by television. Because television steals the language from the children. You have television in Persian and Urdu, and the children watch and like it. They are not the least bothered about learning Balochi. Similarly, they are taught Persian and Urdu at schools. They don’t need to learn Balochi. If they can get away with not learning something they will not learn it.

Latin used to be the dominant language in Europe. Swedish survived because the people at that time were not literate. Due to illiteracy, people couldn’t speak Latin. But Latin was still the written language.

Then when the Swedish king broke with the Catholic Church and the Protestant movement started, he ordered the Bible to be translated into Swedish and he ordered books to be written in Swedish. All the priests had to start reading the Bible in Swedish.

Sajid: I think Balochi has also managed to survive so far only because of widespread illiteracy. Most people don’t have much interaction with Urdu or Persian as they don’t go to school.

Carina: But from now on they will not be illiterate. And even if they are semi-literate in Persian and Urdu and they have TV at home, they will slowly leave Balochi and opt for those languages. So it’s now or never. If Balochi is not promoted and accepted to be taught now, it’s not going to survive.

Not just any written literature, good written literature is important. One reason for the strength of the Persian language is its poetry. But good writing without readers doesn’t help. We need good writing and we need to promote the language to get more readers.

At the same time, we also need to streamline the writing system so that not everyone uses his or her own individual village dialect. We need to agree upon at least some grammatical rules so that variation in the written language is kept at a low rate. Agreement on script is also important so that people don’t have to learn three or four script systems.

Sajid: When I first started writing in Balochi I thought the standardization of the language was very important for its survival. But now I don’t want to write in a standard language because it sounds artificial.

Carina: I see what you mean. The vocabulary can be as broad as possible, but you have to agree on some grammatical structure. Even though it may seem artificial, you’re not required to speak the written language. Everyone must speak their own dialect. Like I speak Swedish with a very strong southern accent but I don’t use my own southern dialect when I write. I think a standard language will not seem that artificial if you mentally accept the fact that this is how we write. You become used to it.

My native dialect is very different from the standard Swedish. If I speak in my village dialect here (in Uppsala), many people would not understand. If I spoke my own dialect my children would say: “Mama, don’t speak like that. That’s not Swedish.” Of course it’s Swedish but the written standard Swedish is mostly drawn from the dialects spoken a bit further to the north. The two people who translated the Bible into Swedish were from Örebro. That’s how this dialect heavily influenced the emerging standard written language.

Sajid: The same way Makran’s dialect has become dominant in writing.

Carina: It’s most likely going to be the most influential dialect. The dialect spoken from Sarbaz through the Kech valley, is what we are building our standard upon, but at the same time we are, of course, not excluding other dialects, particularly when it comes to the vocabulary.

Sajid: Don’t you think the standardization of Makran’s dialect will alienate the speakers of other dialects?

Carina: There is always a risk. I discussed this with Professor Hamid Baloch from the Balochistan university in Quetta. He says even writers from the eastern Balochistan like Kohlu and Dera Bugti are starting using a more western variant these days. Still, the standardization process must be carried out with great caution. It must take its time.

Sajid: Previously, we used to have many writers from the eastern Balochistan. But since the dominance of the western dialect, the number of writers from eastern Balochistan has dwindled significantly.

Carina: Yes, we had Aziz Bugti, Soorat Khan Marri, Allah Bux Buzdar, Mitha Khan Marri, Gulzar Marri.

Maybe eastern Balochi will need its own standard. The future will have to show. But at this moment, we are trying to make a standard that is at least suitable for the western and southern dialects. Maybe the easterners will catch on.

But, of course, we should try to incorporate more eastern vocabulary and interact with more speakers of the eastern Balochi. Yet, that’s the second step. First, we need to standardize the western and southern dialects. Then we should study very carefully how the eastern dialect can be incorporated, or if they need their own standard.

Sajid: You recently presented your research proposal on Balochi in Stockholm. Can you tell us more about it?

Carina: Well, this was a researchers’ competition. Candidates presented proposals on different subjects. My main purpose of taking part was to bring some attention to what we are doing, both among the Baloch and the research financers in Sweden. The focus of the project was how to develop Balochi into a standard language and how to involve many people throughout Balochistan both from the western and the eastern side and across the Gulf.

You have to pay the people who work for you. This year we had a very low budget from the university, which funded some work on the Balochi dictionary in previous years. But there was no surplus money for 2017. I haven’t been able to finance even one project. Not even a book publication. Next year is going to be worse. They have notified that there is no money whatsoever. That’s why we need to get some funding.

I applied for a research project in 2016. But it was not taken into account. It was not even evaluated. I was a bit discouraged that whatever I do they don’t even look at it. But next year I’m going to apply again.

Sajid: Can you go into some details about the current Balochi projects you’re working on?

Carina: In addition to my teaching responsibility at the university and position at the supervisor of two PhD students, I work on Balochi to the best of my capacity.

We’ve been working on a dictionary for years. It’s a Balochi to English and English to Balochi dictionary. We need to finalize its first edition very soon as there is no such dictionary.

That’s one project. The second project is a grammar book I’m writing in the suggested standard language. I wrote some fifteen pages on phonology before I got busy with my teaching schedule. But I have to resume the work.

We’re also publishing a number of Balochi books in the standard orthography so that the book is coherent from page one to the end. Sometimes one single author follows different writing styles in a single book. They change their mind along the way. They spell the same word differently on different pages. There are all sort of inconsistencies in the books. We want to sort this problem out by publishing books in our agreed-upon standard language. We also have a spell-check available.

We have a couple of books in the pipeline for children and young people. We have two collection of poems awaiting publication: one by Taj Baloch and one by Mehlab Naseer. We have acquired rights to work on Dr Naguman’s short stories.

I mean we need a lot of readable books in a unified writing style.

We also have a primer in the pipeline. Outside my activities at the University, I am also heading up a Bible translation project.

So we’ve a lot of projects but unfortunately most of them are unfinished.

Sajid: You’re regarded as a leading linguist working on Balochi. But there are some critics who say your main interest is missionary work and the language comes second. How does your religious beliefs influence your linguistic work?

Carina: Everything for me started when I was a young girl. I asked God to guide my life. That’s how I got connected with Balochi. Without my faith I would not be here. I would have done something very different. I would probably become a historian as I liked history a lot.

I haven’t put any conditions that you’ve to share my faith, or else, I will discontinue my work. That would have been against everything I believe. To continue loving, to continue serving has nothing to do whether the other person shares my belief or not. I’ll continue to the best of my capacity serving the Balochi language.

If the Baloch want to believe the way I believe, or if they believe according to Mohammad’s teachings, or if they want to embrace Buddhism, or if they want to embrace atheism, that is not my problem. My problem is to do what I’m supposed to do with regard to the Balochi language. If the Baloch people want Christ as their saviour and Lord I can only congratulate them. But if they don’t, I have no problem with it.

Published in Balochistantimes.com

Sajid Hussain is a journalist and writer. He is the Editor of Balochistan Times. He has previously worked for The News International, Daily Times and contributed for the Reuters news agency. He receives emails at sajidhbaloch @gmail.com and tweets @sajidbaluch.

Title November, 2017

title November edition 2017 for blog

Islamabad sit-in; religious fanatic monopolies on state affairs

By Ahmed Khan

Weeks prolong sit-in in Islamabad ends after surrender of government to right wingFaizabad-Islamabad-Dharna-Operation-Pics-And-Photos-5-November-2017.jpg 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.

A Willful Surrender to Reason

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.

American hostage mom describes brutal treatment by Taliban captors


The American mom held hostage by the Taliban for five years says she was beaten and caitlan-boyle-coleman-abc-jef-171119_v16x9_4x3_992raped 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.

US will destroy safe havens of terrorist in Pakistan: CIA

Bolan Voice Report

Reports in international media appeared through that CIA Director Mike Pompeo has 5a24b85552a9cwarned 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: We need socialism to save the planet

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 Bill-Gates-socialism-678x381is 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.

He said:

“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.

Sexual abuse is pervasive in Islamic schools in Pakistan

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 hermaxresdefault 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?”

Fear governs

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.

Blood money

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 banned Mehran Baluch over ‘risks’ to security

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 245377_6424615_updatesand 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.


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