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Somersault of autocratic regime in Saudi Arabia; state tilts to modernization

By Ahmed Khan

History tells how Britain created Saudi Arab and this controlled state ever performed by1040939006 imperialist as string-puppet. The British since sixteenth century was supporting the Muslim empire the Ottoman of Turkish against the Russia and French imperialists. The Ottoman empire had spanned to North Africa, southeast Europe and much of Middle East. When British captured India, then it turned its priorities and formed policies to convert Ottoman empire as buffer region against rivals. In Crimean War 1854-6, the British and French fought against Russia for defending Ottoman empire of Muslim Ummah.

The first World War caused demographic changes in region, particularly the decision of Ottoman empire being on side of Germany led its disintegration afterward. During the WW-I the Britain appealed Arab states for support to it conditionally helping them liberation from Ottoman empire, at that time they were part of this Turkish empire.

In various way, the Britain stimulated the Arabs, like saying that English government ever respected ‘people of Arabia’ who possess history of Islam. Even the enmity with Turks will not effect this regard. Subsequently, the character of Lawrence of Arabia was created for independence of Arabs. Its mean was the Turks were not granting national sovereignty to Arabs. The Britain promised to help in establishing Islamic caliphate in Arabs instead of Turks, and Sharif Hussein will be caliph of this. The Britain pledged to Hussein, a person has control of Hijaz and revered places of Muslims, that it will also guarantee the holy places in Medina and Mecca from external aggression.

In March 1915, the secretary of war the Lord Kitchener noted that ‘if the caliphate were transferred to Arabia, it would remain to great extent under our influence’. The coastline of peninsula could be easily controlled by the British navy. By championing an Arabian Kingdom under British auspices, Britain was exerting its dominance over the spiritual leadership of the Muslim World. In this way, the Britain never faced animosity of Muslim World but ever enjoyed support in any impenetrability or war times. In other condition Ottoman empire was under control of Turk that turned insolent to Britain in WW-I.

Sharif Hussein came out revolt against Ottoman empire in June 1916 with few thousands of Arab forces. The revolt by Hussein achieved minor victories, even it was subsided by British 11 million Pound. British military was adviser to Hussein, like colonel T.E Lawrence ‘of Arabia’ an aide to Faisal, Sharif Hussein’s son.

All things were devised and before one month the Arab revolt the Britain and France secretly made agreement of Sykes-Picot, through it they decided to influence on Middle East zones which they planned to carve out onward. This abandonment of the commitment to Ottoman territorial integrity overturning a mainstay of British foreign policy was frankly explained by British officials. Lawrence, supposedly the great ‘liberator’ of Arab World, he wrote a memo in January 1916 as:

‘beneficial to us because it marches with our immediate aims, the break-up of the Islamic ‘bloc’ and the defeat and disruption of the Ottoman Empire, and because the states [Sherif Hussein] would set up to succeed the Turks would be … harmless to ourselves … The Arabs are even less stable than the Turks. If properly handled they would remain in a state of political mosaic, a tissue of small jealous principalities incapable of cohesion’.

Afterward the Hussein’s orthodox Sunnism was replaced with Wahhabism, which professed a strict adherence to the tenet of Islam and this developed in eighteen’s century, Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahab born in 1703 gave this teaching of theologian. Ibn Saud’s military forces were the Ikhwani, or Brotherhood, a militia of Bedouin tribesmen but backed by Britain. The money was paid to Saud during WW-I while signing a treaty with him in 1915 and recognizing him as ruler of Nejd province, under protection of Britain.

In 1919, Ibn Saud was supported of British aircraft in Hijaz against Hussein. Till mid of 1920s Ibn Saud’s Ikwani army consisting the number of 150,000 advanced relentlessly and gained control of Arabia including Hijaz and holy places, defeating Hussein for supremacy in region.

Ibn Saud ruthlessly slaughtered his enemies and rouse havoc of terror in Arabia. The conquest of Arabia cost the lives of around 400,000 people, and million people fled to neighboring for sake of lives. Numerous people were mass killed mostly innocent children and women by Saud forces. Historian writes by the mid-1920s most of Arabia had been subdued, 40000 people were publically executed and some 350,000 had had limbs amputated. The territories were divided into district and control of them were given the relatives of Saud, a situation which largely prevails today.

The Ibn Saud’s regime was like present age of Taliban where women were not allowed to come out from bulwark, men were lashed publically for gambling, people were killed for smoking cigarette and drinking wine. Till 1922 the Britain increased subsidy for Saud 100,000 Pound yearly by its colonial secretary of time Mr Winston Churchill.

The new state of Saudi Arabia, its regional authority underpinned by a religious fundamentalism, gave Britain a foothold in the heart of the Islamic world, in Mecca and Medina. More broadly, Britain had succeeded in achieving its goal of divided Middle East and a ‘ring of client states’ out of the ashes of the Ottoman empire. The Gulf states ringing Saudi Arabia, in Aden, Bahrain and Oman, were all feudal regimes underpinned by British military protection. Meanwhile, Britain continued to exploit its other potential clients: Faisal, who, with the Allies had captured Damascus in 1918, was made king of Iraq 1921, and Abdullah, Sherif Hussein’s other son, was dubbed King of Transjordan, which had also been captured by British ‘protection’ in 1923. Finally, there was Palestine, which had also been captured by British forces towards the end of the war. Here, however, Britain was committed to creating what Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour outlined in 1917 as a ‘national home’ for the Jews. In April 1920, at a conference in the Italian resort of San Remo, the newly formed league of Nations formally handed Britain a mandate to govern Palestine.

The World War-II 1939-45 left behind world bi-polar; socialist bloc of United Soviet States of Russia – USSR and capitalist bloc fore-fronted by America that emerged as world power by joining coalition of Britain in the end of WW-II. Germany was disintegrated, now the America and Britain used Saudi Arabia as Muslim sentiments winner against socialists.

In this era, the Saudi Arab earned wealth by developing oil industry and revenue of Hajj. For performing Hajj millions Muslim pilgrims travel to Mecca and Medina each year and pay Saudi government in shape of taxes and also spend while staying there, this also adds in Saudi’ revenue substantially.

29473032_741851422674668_6092617244340387182_nThe Saudi Arabia is run by a hierarchic system under autocratic rulers. The America and British demand for democracy and human rights to world countries but Saudi is exempted about this. No democracy is allowed in Saudi and women are not given equal status to men but western powers don’t notice about this country. Minor criminals’ limbs are amputated and major offenders awarded death penalty.

The Saudi is safe haven for some type of offenders, where state’s Islamic laws don’t apply on them. For instance, Zain-ul-Abdin looted Tunisian people are loaded airplanes with gold landed in Saudi, so does not harm by state’s laws for offending and looting. Similarly, many Pakistani rulers who killed many people in their country and landed in Saudi, so instead penalization they were welcomed and were given protocol. It testifies that Saudi’s Islamic law are applicable on common or poor people but bigshot and especial personalities are exempted retributions.

The Saudi Arab is main client state of US and British arms, ammunition, war-planes and military equipment. The imperialist countries create artificial war to sell out their war industry productions to Saudi and other countries.

The Saudi Arab during Cold-War stimulated Muslim sentiment against Soviet and accumulated Jihadists in Pakistan. Though war was not religious but was waged on ground of political influence and for gain resources. This time, the Saudi was cashed the best by its creators the Britain and its ally the America.

The Saudi Arabia for growth of its supporters established religious schools, commonly that are called Madrasas, in Muslim states globally, particularly in Pakistan. These Madrasas have been funded by Saudi for producing extremist religious mindset of Wahhabi that they only believe in power and fight, but they lack knowledge about economics, medical sciences, modern technologies and likewise. Similarly, the mother country of this school of thought the Saudis don’t have any knowledge in mentioned fields of life, even it has abundance of wealth and opportunities but couldn’t establish qualitative universities and institutes. This state is lingering to developed world and totally dependent on west about modern inventions.

The Saudi being centric state of Muslim world ever secured imperialist’s interests but manipulated on fellow faith people by religion. During Iraq war it was frontline ally of western countries disregarding the faith and religious affiliations.

After the erupt of Syrian war, the ISIS a fanatic organization carried out attacks on western countries on their lands. Particularly the Britain several times was hit by IS and Islamism also is spreading briskly on its soil which posed a serious threat to it. France, America and other European countries many times hit by Muslim extremist mostly the Wahhabis of Arabs and Pakistanis.

The stroke on Britain and Europeans have drove them to mold the main land of Wahhabism and now they got Saudi rulers to modernization. The prince of Saudi Salman and defense minister of state visited Europe and America where he in media openly declared his country thrived Wahhabism for gain of political interests not for religious aims. Through this Jihadist were fostered and were used in Soviet war.

Fomented religious organizations, like Al-Qeada, ISIS, Taliban, Al-Shabab and others are turning defiant to imperialist. They are also hampering in ways of interest of imperialist in Afghanistan, Syria and other countries. These mentioned organizations have been used and presently they are trivial. So in first phase their financial roots will be cut off from Saudi and onward other counter action also may be taken against them.

The Saudi ruler Prince Salman also amended state’s laws. Women are allowed to drive, take part in games, don not wear Abaya and so on for those Saudis females were barred. Some areas in country are also allowed for tourist to practice western traditions, like wearing bikini and so on. They are shifting now country from orthodoxy to modernization on instruction of West. But Saudi Arabia’s state system will remain unchanged, it will be controlled by hierarchic and autocratic ruler family.

What will be the future of those who are running factories or Madrasas of Wahhabism, is required to be ascertained. Those organizations which were carved out base of sectarianism to secure the interests, here theirs fate also will be defined after U-turn of mother state the Saudi Arab to modernization and relinquish of strict Islamism. What will be outlook about religious business in Pakistan, whether it will be suspended! If the funding to established Madrasas for promotion of Wahhabism is stopped, consequently these will obliterate automatically or will shrink significantly. Militant organization on base of sectarianism will not be able to survive in case of suspension the funding from Saudi Arabia and other countries.

The operating states to Saudi Arab also cogitate about modernization of follower states where the conversion like Saudi is mandatory. Otherwise, imperialist agenda may not be applied aptly because it is obvious that these are not brought on ground humanism, only imperialist interests are impetus behind this somersault of autocratic regime in Saudi Arab.

West encouraged Saudis to spread Wahabist Islam in Cold War to stop Soviets

Western nations urged Saudi Arabia to invest in the endorsement of Wahhabism during the Cold War era to prevent the Soviet Union from gaining influence in the Muslim world, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a recent interview. He also admitted the kingdom “lost track” of it.

The Saudi-backed spread of Wahhabism — the strictest and violent branch of Islam — started because Western nations asked Saudi Arabia to help counter the Soviet Union, bin Salman said in an interview to Washington Post.

Riyadh invested in mosques and madrasas overseas to prevent the USSR from gaining influence in Muslim countries, he said on March 22 in an interview on March 22 that was reportedly initially kept off record.

However, today most support for Wahhabis comes not from Saudi Government per se, but from Saudi-based “foundations.”

Speaking with the Washington Post, the Crown Prince denied that he met with Jared Kushner, the White House adviser and US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, saying it would be “really insane” for him to trade classified information with Kushner or to try to use him to advance Saudi interests within the Trump administration.

He also commented on the war in Yemen, for which Riyadh receives a large amount of criticism, as the war has caused a major humanitarian catastrophe, including a famine and cholera epidemic.

According to bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has not passed up “any opportunity” to improve the humanitarian situation in the country.

The Saudi-led coalition seeks to return the ousted Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to the Yemeni presidency, but is faced with serious opposition from Houthi rebels.

While the interview initially was done off-record, the Saudi embassy agreed to publish certain portions, Washington Post notes.

sputniknews.com

Human Trafficking; the hidden shame of Pakistan

By Faisal Rahim, Turbat

Human Trafficking is horrendous crime by violating the basic human rights and putting 5ae94984ef4c4the life of victim in danger. Human Trafficking is itself a huge world of crime which brings many other evil crimes. It is very essential for nation to provide the basic facilities to its children in order abolish the socio-economic problems. But unfortunately children of Pakistan are derived from this basic facility.

However, it is estimated that more than a million female and male children are trafficked and forced into prostitution, bonded labor, camel jockeys on false promises for a better future.

Furthermore, children trafficked by the agents invariably face numerous problems. One factor which leads their personality development to destruction is child abuse which mostly occurs after trafficking. According to a report of Sahil (an NGO) almost 500 children were sexually assaulted in Pakistan in 1997. These are the cases which have been reported in various newspapers. According to Sahil province-wise the highest incidence of child abuse was found to be in Sindh in 1997 at 49 per. One can rarely find the registered cases. It seems like the people of Pakistan feel reluctant to talk about the subject due the sensitivity of the crime which flames the social evils in the country.

Moreover, another result of child trafficking is prostitution, which is less found in areas, like Balochistan and FATA, but one the other hand the ratio of prostitutions has touched the sky in areas, like Punjab and Sindh. One can find three categories of prostitution in Punjab and Sindh. Firstly, the ones who have been into this profession, secondly the ones who willingly join by the help of a Dalal or pimp in order to get extra money, and thirdly the ones who were trafficked or lured by the traffickers. The trafficked girls mostly remained in brothels for life time. A certain study indicates that in 2003, almost 20,000 women including were engaged in prostitution in Pakistan. A recent study specified that major cities like Faisalabad, Karachi, Multan and Lahore have large population of sex workers.

According to a report of DePaul University’s International Human Rights Law Institute, numerous Afghan women and children were sold in prostitution in Pakistan for around 600 to 700 rupees, which means less than $4 a pound depending on their weights and beauty.

Another result of trafficking is child forced beggar, which is increasing day by day. Children are the future of any nation, but one can find thousands of children begging in each sphere of life, whether be it educational institutes, mosques or on streets. It has become a profession.

Moreover, according to The Asian Human Rights Commissions (AHRC), there are around 1.2 million children on the streets of Pakistan’s major cities and urban centers. Although according to Child Protection and Welfare Bureau, 39,270 poor and neglected children have been facilitated by the Bureau in six years.

I still remember once I was roaming in the bazaar of Turbat when suddenly someone pulled my hand and asked for money. When I paid a look I found a ten-year-old kid begging in grubby condition and tattered clothes which wrenched my heart acutely. I gave him some cash and asked few questions. “What is your name and what is your father” I asked. “My name is Jamal and my father is a beggar” He replied in a nervous tone. I continued the conversation. “Who brought you and your family to Turbat” I asked. “A friend of my Peeu (Sindhi word which means father) told us about some jobs in Turbat” He replied.

One can find various such Jamal on the streets of Pakistan in hunger and needy who are deceived and trafficked by the agents. People involved in this criminal business mislead workless men by promising them employment opportunities in countries like Iran, Turkey and Europe by charging a good amount of cash. And Turbat has a very easy access to Iran illegally. Most of the victims are from Sindh who consider themselves “Sindhi Baloch”.

One another factor also can be the abandoned children. By some estimates more than 100 million children live abandoned by their family members. Almost invariably those children who can work are exploited or otherwise abused economically, physically and often sexually.

It is very essential for nation to provide the basic facilities to its children in order abolish the socio-economic problems. But unfortunately children of Pakistan are deprived of this basic facility. The authorities must look into this matter and protect children from the negative exploitations and provide more and more job opportunities to people so that the poor don’t get compelled to become easy victims to those so-called agents.

How Did Private Property Start?

BY MATT BRUENIG

Libertarians tend to get flummoxed when confronted with this simple question.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about libertarian thought is that it has no way of enccoherently justifying the initial acquisition of property. How does something that was once unowned become owned without nonconsensually destroying others’ liberty? It is impossible. This means that libertarian systems of thought literally cannot get off the ground. They are stuck at time zero of hypothetical history with no way forward.

You don’t have to take my word for this. Serious libertarians have more or less conceded this point. Here is Robert Nozick:

It will be implausible to view improving an object as giving full ownership to it, if the stock of unowned objects that might be improved is limited. For an object’s coming under one person’s ownership changes the situation of all others. Whereas previous they were at liberty (in Hohfeld’s sense) to use the object, they now no longer are.

Here is Matt Zwolinski:

If I put a fence around a piece of land that had previously been open to all to use, claim it as my own, and announce to all that I will use violence against any who walk upon it without my consent, it would certainly appear as though I am the one initiating force (or at least the threat of force) against others. I am restricting their liberty to move about as they were once free to do. I am doing so by threatening them with physical violence unless they comply with my demands. And I am doing so not in response to any provocation on their part but simply so that I might be better able to utilize the resource without their interference.

Again, what’s so funny about this insight is not just that it is a persuasive counterpoint to libertarianism, but rather that it seems to suggest that libertarian principles themselves forbid property ownership.

To be sure, libertarian philosophers have developed various ways to muddle through this issue. Locke famously constrains acquisition by the proviso that there is “enough and as good” property left for others. Nozick goes on to show Locke’s literal proviso is impossible to satisfy and offers a similar constraint that property acquisition not worsen “the position” of others where “the position” is defined in vaguely welfarist terms. Zwolinski goes one step further than Nozick even and says the harms of initial property acquisition must be offset with a basic income.

None of these moves resolve the basic issue that property acquisition violates the liberty of others. They just try to compensate for it in some way, sort of like an initial-acquisition version of eminent domain. That’s fine as far as things go I suppose, but it tends to suffer from the problem that most libertarians are quite opposed to the kinds of ongoing transfers implied by these compensation schemes.

Caplan Whiffs

In her debate at Liberty Con, Elizabeth Bruenig asked Bryan Caplan how unowned property becomes owned. He struggled with the question at the debate but his eventual answer, which is now more eloquently elaborated at his website, relies on half-baked intuition pumps (“folk morality” as he calls it elsewhere):

There are many clear-cut cases of righteous acquisition; once we understand them, we can use them to analyze fuzzier cases. What are some clear-cut cases? An individual living alone on an island grows some food, builds a house, carves a sculpture, or quarries some rock. If someone else shows up on the island, the new arrival seems morally obligated to respect that property. * This isn’t just “seems to me” or “seems to libertarians”; it’s “seems to almost everyone other than self-conscious socialist philosophers.” Other clear-cut cases: If two people mutually agree to pool their resources and effort, then split the rewards according to an explicit formula — whether 50/50, 90/10, or whatever. Or: I pay you ten pounds of food to build me a new hut.

There are two issues here, one narrowly related to the case he selects, and another more broadly related to the method he selects.

The problem with the case is that, by clearing out all other people from the island, it eliminates the liberty destruction that makes property acquisition so obviously problematic. What if instead of one individual washing up on an island, ten of them do? Then one of them asserts that certain resources and land areas are his and that those who do not respect that claim will be violently attacked? This is more analogous to a real-life case of property acquisition where there exists more than one human being. It also clearly presents the problem of property acquisition rather than trying to get around it by creating a hypothetical society of one.

The problem with the method is that the general folk morality of people, when taken as a whole, is not libertarian. Any assessment of how people generally feel about things in the economic realm would not generate the conclusion that they generally feel like laissez-faire capitalism is correct. We know this because no society ever selects those institutions and because libertarians write books all the time about how democracy is bad precisely because people as a whole are not sympathetic to the libertarian worldview.

An honest assessment of where folk morality is on economics would probably be something like: people have somewhat contradictory ideas about economic morality that roughly sum to the worldview that there should be property rights but also that those rights should give way to fairness and welfare goals to some degree. I am not saying I agree with that general view or even that you should build your normative views this way. But if you are going to say the proper normative method is folk morality, as Caplan does, then it seems like you should actually take a comprehensive account of what that folk morality is, not just opportunistically pick off one piece of it.

Published in Jacobin

Balochistan being neglected in CPEC: CM Bizenjo

By Muzamil Baloch

Balochis­tan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo said that their province was being neglected by the federal government in the China-Pakistan Econo­mic Corridor (CPEC) project.

“More than Rs5,000 billion is being spent on the CPEC, but Balochistan is not receiving even one per cent of it,” he said while speaking at the Meet the Press program at the National Press Club.

He said a major portion of the CPEC fell in Balochistan, but the people of the province were ignored in development activities being made under the project. “We have to see what benefit the people of Balochistan will get from the CPEC,” he added.

“I am collecting the record of the CPEC to ascertain what benefit will be given to our people in the grand project which is being executed in the name of Balochistan,” he maintained.

Mr Bizenjo said he was not against development activities under the CPEC and those being carried out in Punjab under the project, but he only demanded due rights of the people of Balochistan.

Talking about his election as chief minister in January this year, he said he received death threats several times on phone, but he stuck to his work and duties regarding service of the people.

“Often I received news of my own death,” he said. “I got death threats on phone but continued to work in the most difficult conditions.”

The chief minister said he responded to the death threats by telling the caller to let him work for Balochistan. “I don’t want to get involved in the politics of accusations,” he said.

In reply to a question about Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s remarks against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, he said the PM should not have passed such derogatory remarks while holding such a prestigious position. “The prime minister’s remarks have hurt the people of the whole Balochistan province,” he added.

“I don’t understand who will decide that if Nawaz Sharif and Hasil Bizenjo get votes, this is right, and if Sadiq Sanjrani becomes the Senate chairman by securing majority votes, this is wrong,” he said.

He stressed the need for eliminating what he called double standards and said: “A wrong tradition has surfaced because no one makes hue and cry when an ordinary man is convicted, but in the case of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, a question is raised that ‘why I was sent home’.”

The chief minister said his government wanted to bring to an end the atmosphere of fear and hatred and restore peace and ensure development in Balochistan.

He lauded the role of security forces for restoring peace in Balochistan and other parts of the country. Mr Bizenjo also praised the previous government of the Pakistan People’s Party for announcing the National Finance Commission award, passing the 18th Amendment and giving a development package to Balochistan.

Chabahar project not in competition with CPEC: Iran

Bolan Voice Report

Iran’s former foreign minister Kamal Kharazi talking to media has said the perception in Pakistan that Iran’s Chabahar port, including subsequent development of roads and railways networks for enhancing the country’s trade, is a ‘rival project’ of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is not correct.

He was speaking at a roundtable discussion with journalists, former and current diplomats and research students at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, a foreign policy think tank, here on Friday. A multitude of foreign policy issues related to Iran and Pakistan relations and their impact on the region came under discussion during the program.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Kharazi was of the opinion that though it was true that India had massively invested in the Chabahar project, it was an open platform for all regional countries to participate in. “The Chabahar project is aimed at connecting Iran with Central Asia, and the ultimate goal is to uplift the Iranian economy,” he said, adding that the project was under deliberations for a long time, hence, it was not correct to link its launch with that of the CPEC.

“While we are engaging with India on the economic front and India is investing in Chabahar, we have not given exclusive rights on the project to them,” he said, adding that Iran “was considerate of the situation of Muslims in India and in the region” while making economic partnerships. “We have urged India a number of times to resolve the Kashmir dispute in a peaceful and justly manner,” he said.

“We are even ready to mediate between Pakistan and India on the 70-year-old dispute, but we haven’t got a positive response from India on it ever,” he said. “But if we talk about economic partnerships, then Pakistan also has relations with the United States which has put a number of sanctions on us, but [Iran] doesn’t mind it,” he said.

He was of the opinion that bilateral trade between Iran and Pakistan suffered due to a number of reasons, including reluctance of Pakistani banks to do business with Iranian entities due to a fear of US sanctions. “It is one of the most important factors that has affected the trade relations between the two countries,” he said. The two governments are in talks with each other to enable small Pakistani banks that don’t deal with the US so that more trade could be carried out between the neighbouring states. “The Free Trade Agreement between the two countries is currently under negotiation, and once signed, it will open doors for more business,” he added.

Mr Kharazi, who served as Iran’s foreign minister from 1997 to 2005, said that another issue that had negatively impacted the bilateral trade was the “lack of political will from Pakistani side due to intense pressure from the United States and middle-eastern countries”.

“We have completed the Iranian side of the gas pipeline project, but the Pakistani government seems to be under international pressure [which is] stopping it from proceeding any further,” he said, adding that the perception created by some circles that the projects were stalled due to Iran offering gas at exorbitant rates was based on speculation.

Talking about the US presence in Afghanistan, he said that in his view, the US would not be leaving Afghanistan any sooner as it had ambitions to stay in the region because of its strategic goals. “Iran supports any kind of peace negotiation that is held between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and if such a deal is reached its conclusion, the US may not have any excuse for its continued presence in the country which it invaded 17 years back,” he said. “All neighbouring countries have a role to play [in bringing stability to Afghanistan]”, because, he said, all the [regional] countries were suffering from the conflict at the heart of the region.

In reply to a question about Iran’s alleged interference in regional conflicts, he said that one of the pillars of Iran’s foreign policy was to oppose the interventions of world powers in other countries, especially the Muslim ones. “We did support Iraq [after the US invasion] and we are supporting Syria as well, but governments of these countries invited [Iran] to help them defeat the militant Islamic State group. It would have been intervention had it been an uninvited exercise,” he said.

In response to another question, he said economic sanctions had hurt the Iranian economy for a long time, however, it was still doing better than the economies of other countries which were not under US sanctions. “Our people have tolerated the sanctions for a very long time and have suffered at the hands of it, but we are fighting the problems with our intelligence, wisdom, and resilience,” he said.

The Kurdish Dilemma

BY EDWARD HUNT

Will the most promising democratic experiment in the Middle East be allowed to 16646117126_bf399e7ed2_k.jpgsurvive? The answer increasingly depends on the geopolitical whims of the Trump administration.

Throughout the war against ISIS, US military officials have repeatedly praised Kurdish-led militias in Syria for their efforts on the battlefield.

“They have an indomitable will,” Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, the commander of Special Operations against the Islamic State, gushed last year. “They have been ferocious fighters and excellent leaders and pretty amazing tacticians.”

This past February, Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, told a congressional committee that the Kurdish-led fighters constitute “the most effective force on the ground in Syria against ISIS.”

Since the Islamic State began its reign of terror in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the Kurdish-led forces — consisting of two main groups, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) — have indeed played a central role in rolling back ISIS’s gains. But what’s surprising about the constant praise from US officials is that the Kurds are also fighting to lead a leftist social revolution in the northern region of Rojava — hardly the kind of project likely to meet the approval of US policymakers.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone in elite circles agrees that the US military should be allying with the Kurdish revolutionaries. When the partnership first began to take shape, the Wall Street Journal warned about “America’s Marxist Allies Against ISIS.”

Last year, former US diplomat Stuart Jones implored Congress to make sure that ongoing US involvement with the Kurdish-led forces “does not create a political monopoly for a political organization that is really hostile to … US values and ideology.”

In Washington, a big concern is that the Kurdish revolutionaries are carving out an anticapitalistic space that firmly rejects the basic premises of the US-led global order. Another major reservation is that the Kurdish revolutionaries have historic ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the US government has classified as a terrorist organization. While US military officials repeatedly deny any ongoing connection between the Kurdish-led forces and the PKK, it’s widely presumed in Washington that the YPG is a PKK affiliate.

With ISIS now facing total defeat in Iraq and Syria, the conflict over the US’s relationship has come to a head: should Washington continue to support the Kurdish-led forces, or should it leave them to confront the many hostile forces trying to destroy their revolution?

The US Approach

When the Obama administration first decided to partner with the Syrian Kurds, it was not doing so to bolster a leftist revolution — it was simply looking for allies to fight ISIS.

The Kurdish-led forces “stepped forward as partners in this fight,” State Department official David Satterfield explained earlier this year. “They were the only ones to do so. No other state, no other party, despite our offers and importuning, were willing to take up this battle.”

The only problem was that the Turkish government did not want the US to partner with the Kurds. Turkey, a NATO ally, views the YPG as an extension of the PKK and, as a partisan of Kurdish national liberation, an enemy of the Turkish state. Confronted with this challenge, US officials crafted a simple solution: they asked the Kurdish fighters to join forces with Arab fighters and create a new name for themselves.

“We literally played back to them that you’ve got to change your brand, you know, what do you want to call yourself besides the YPG,” US Special Operations Commander Raymond Thomas laterrecalled. “And with about a day’s notice they declared that they were the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

With the name change, the US began providing the Kurdish-led forces extensive military support, helping them achieve numerous victories against ISIS. The Kurdish-led forces defended the region of Kobanî against a lengthy siege, launched a major offensive to capture the city of Manbij, and led the ground attack on Raqqa, helping to oust ISIS from its capital city.

Still, US officials made it clear that their support came with significant caveats. No matter how many heroics the Kurdish-led forces displayed on the battlefield, US officials refused to support the social revolution that the Syrian Kurds were leading in Rojava.

When the Syrian Kurds took a major step in March 2016, announcing the formation of a new autonomous region inside Syria, US officials declared their opposition. “We don’t support self-rule, semi-autonomous zones inside Syria,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said. “We just don’t.”

A few months later, US officials took more concrete action. After seeing reports that US special forces were wearing patches with the YPG insignia — a sign of the growing solidarity between American and Kurdish military forces — officials ordered the special-operation forces to remove them.

Although US military officials continued to praise the Syrian Kurds, the basic bone of contention lingered: the US had no interest in promoting the experiment in radical self-rule and social justice that the Kurds were leading. Even Special Forces Commander Raymond Thomas, who praised the Syrian Kurds for bringing many positive social changes to Syria, spoke of the Kurdish-led militia forces as nothing more than “our proxies.” The Kurdish-led forces, Thomas said, are “a surrogate force of 50,000 people that are working for us and doing our bidding.”

New Strategic Considerations

With the war against ISIS coming to an end, US officials are looking for new ways to use their Kurdish allies, thinking they might have utility in shaping the outcome of the war in Syria.

The conflict in Syria has been raging since 2011, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Backed by Iran and Russia, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has waged a devastating war against numerous rebel groups, many of whom have been supported by the United States and other regional powers. Tens of thousands of civilians have been caught in the crossfire, and millions have been displaced

The defeat of ISIS has left the US-led coalition well-positioned to play a more direct role in the war. As then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pointed out earlier this year, “The United States and the coalition forces that are working with us to defeat ISIS today control 30 percent of the Syrian territory, and control a large amount of population, and control a large amount of Syria’s oil fields.”

By preserving the US-led coalition, many officials say they can make it much more difficult for the Russians and Iranians to continue operating in Syria. Essentially, they want to maintain their ties with the Kurdish-led forces to more directly intervene in the war.

“We’re going to stay for various reasons,” State Department official David Satterfield explained earlier this year, emphasizing the importance of creating new political structures for a new Syrian state while “countering Iran.”

Former US diplomat James Jeffrey identified similar objectives. “We told the Turks that the Kurds were temporary, tactical, and transactional to defeat ISIS,” Jeffrey said. Moving forward, he said, the US needs the Kurds in order to “contain Iran” and pressure the Russians. “The whole purpose of this is to split the Russians from the Syrians by saying we’re going to stay on to force a political solution in Syria.”

At the time, US officials revealed they were beginning to transform their Kurdish-led partners into a border force of 30,000 fighters in northern Syria. According to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, coalition forces have been training and equipping the Kurdish-led fighters to help them more effectively secure the region. “So they’re going to be armed,” Mattis announced. “I would say at a minimum, rifles and machine guns, that sort of thing.”

Right away, the Trump administration was met with significant resistance. The Turkish government denounced the move, saying it had no intention of allowing the Syrian Kurds to continue their revolution in Rojava. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoðan threatened to “annihilate” the Kurdish-led forces.

The Trump administration partially capitulated to the Turkish government, allowing Turkish forces to invade and conquer Afrîn, one of the three cantons of Rojava. From January to March, Turkish forces launched a siege that killed hundreds of civilians and forced 200,000 Kurds to flee the area.

Only when the Turkish government threatened to expand its operations into the remaining parts of Rojava — going so far as to call for an attack on US forces — did the Trump administration push back. Meeting with Turkish officials, Tillerson announced that American forces would remain positioned in Manbij, a city that Kurdish-led forces had previously helped liberate from the Islamic State.

As tensions mounted between the US and Turkish governments, the Trump administration then faced another major challenge. In February, pro-regime Syrian forces backed by Russian operatives launched an attack on Kurdish-led forces in eastern Syria. US officials, who were aware of potential Russian involvement, decided to respond with airstrikes, killing hundreds of people, including dozens of Russians.

The incident, which could have easily escalated, showed just how quickly the conflict could bring the United States and Russia into direct battle. And it laid bare the existential threats Syrian Kurds continue to grapple with as they pursue their social revolution. Not only are they being threatened with annihilation by the Turkish government, they also know that Assad has no intentions of letting the revolution succeed. Without the limited support of the US military, they might already be facing invasions on multiple fronts.

What Happens Next?

With the Turkish and pro-regime Syrian forces testing the commitment of the Trump administration to its partnership with the Syrian Kurds, officials in Washington are now engaged in a heated debate over what to do next. While they largely agree that the war against ISIS is winding down, they disagree over whether they should remain directly involved in the war in Syria.

In January, State Department official David Satterfield told a congressional committee that “the president has committed, as a matter of strategy, that we will not leave Syria. We are not going to declare victory and go.” Secretary of State Tillerson confirmed the decision, announcing that the United States would “maintain a military presence in Syria.”

At the same time, many officials began to insist that it was time to start preparing to pull out of Syria. In February, former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford warned a congressional committee against any kind of long-term US military commitment. “In the end, our Syrian Kurdish and Syrian Arab allies must strike a deal with Assad,” Ford argued. “Unless we are prepared for an indefinite military presence, that deal will largely be on Assad’s terms because he will wait us out.”

Ford was especially concerned about how the American-Kurdish alliance would impact US relations with Turkey and US policy toward Iran. He advised Congress to carefully consider US priorities in the region.

“If it is the priority of the United States to use the Syrian Kurdish forces as a hammer against the Islamic State, then it is going to be much harder to work with Turkey on the Iran problem,” he said. “On the other hand, if we decide that now the priority should be Iran, then we need to figure out how to come to some sort of an agreement with Turkey.”

Within the Trump administration, officials are thinking through the same issues. Some senior officials want the Syrian Kurds to make a deal with Assad so they can withdraw American forces from the region and attempt a rapprochement with Turkey. Others say that they should continue working with the Kurdish-led forces to maintain pressure on Assad while more directly challenging Iranian and Russian involvement.

So far, the hard-liners have the upper hand, convincing Trump that he needs to keep US forces in the area. But it is unclear how long they will be able to maintain their position.

Ultimately, the main question is whether the Trump administration will continue to back the forces that have played such a key role in beating back ISIS while at the same paving the way for a major advance in the struggle for Kurdish liberation. In the end, Trump’s decision may well determine whether the most promising democratic experiment in the Middle East will be allowed to survive.

Published in Jacobin Magazine

Sickness of the state

By Khaled Ahmed

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi is wanted by an Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad but is absconding and no one knows where he is.

The Supreme Court is also hearing a case against him relating to the November 2017 violent “dharna” that disrupted life in the twin cities Islamabad-Rawalpindi for 20 days.

Although it is no big deal that he has disappeared – so has the killer police officer Rao Anwar of Karachi after murdering innocent citizens – the Supreme Court was keen to know who Rizvi was causing so much suffering to the general public and whose party was already winning more votes than the Pakistan People’s Party in by-elections.

Shockingly, no one knew much about Rizvi, least of all the intelligent agencies that should have started keeping tabs on him after the Labbaik brought Lahore to a standstill at the time of the hanging of Qadri the blasphemy-killer.

Even the Inter-Services Intelligent (ISI) didn’t know much about him, thinking it routine that people often don’t appear after being called in by the court.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Imran Khan and almost all the leaders of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement have cases against them that they refuse to face, rebuffing court summons and defying arrest-warrants.

All this is perhaps “normal” because it relates to the nature of a sick state whose writ is thin in most of its territory.

Ex-president and ex-army chief Pervez Musharraf has also ducked out of his treason case and was able to leave the county without getting the restraint of ECL (Exit Control List) removed from his name.

Somebody just let him go. And then, just as he had to return after his passport ran out, someone in our embassy in Dubai renewed it.

The state is convulsed about the blasphemy committed in the change of a word from the oath text of the members of parliament – not strictly a blasphemy – but doesn’t care that its governance now closely resembles that of Somalia and Afghanistan. (Naya Zamana)

The end of coal: EU energy companies pledge no new plants from 2020

Companies from every EU nation except Poland and Greece sign up to initiative in bid to meet Paris pledges and limit effects of climate change

Europe’s energy utilities have rung a death knell for coal, with a historic pledge that nodownload (3) new coal-fired plants will be built in the EU after 2020.

The surprise announcement was made at a press conference in Brussels, 442 years after the continent’s first pit was sunk by Sir George Bruce of Carnock, in Scotland.

National energy companies from every EU nation – except Poland and Greece – have signed up to the initiative, which will overhaul the bloc’s energy-generating future.

A press release from Eurelectric, which represents 3,500 utilities with a combined value of over €200bn, reaffirmed a pledge to deliver on the Paris climate agreement, and vowed a moratorium on new investments in coal plants after 2020.

“26 of 28 member states have stated that they will not invest in new coal plants after 2020” said Kristian Ruby, Eurelectric’s secretary-general. “History will judge this message we are bringing here today. It is a clear message that speaks for itself, and should be seen in close relation to the Paris agreement and our commitment to provide 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2050.”

“Europe’s energy companies are putting their money where their mouths are,” he added.

Coal has been central to Europe’s development, powering the industrial revolution, trades union history, and even the EU’s precursor, the European coal and steel community.

But it also emits more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel, plus deadly toxins such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter, which are responsible for more than 20,000 deaths each year.

Wendel Trio, the director of Climate Action Network Europe, hailed the new move as “the beginning of the end for coal”.

“It is now clear that there is no future for coal in the EU,” he said. “The question is: what is the date for its phase out in the EU, and how hard will the coal industry fight to keep plants open, even if they are no longer economically viable?”

The coal industry though was skeptical about the utilities’ announcement. Brian Ricketts, the secretary-general of the Euracoal trade group said: “Steam engines were replaced by something better, cheaper and more productive – electric motors and diesel engines. When we see a new energy system – with lots of energy storage – that works at an affordable price, then coal, oil and gas will not be needed. In the meantime, we still rely on conventional sources.”

Renewable industry sources also welcomed the news, albeit with the caveat that it would allow continued new investments in the industry for another three years.

“The debate about coal is over,” one industry insider told the Guardian. “This is the only way that we can go forward with decarbonization. But it would be good to see a phase out of existing coal plants.”

The energy utilities’ initiative faced initial resistance in Germany which is relying on coal to bridge a move away from nuclear energy to renewables under the “energiewende” transition.

In the end though, only Poland which depends on coal for around 90% of its electricity and Greece, which still plans new coal plants, bucked what is becoming a global trend.

New coal plant constructions fell by almost two thirds across the world in 2016, with the EU and US leading the way in retiring in existing coal capacity.

The move is also in line with a pathway for meeting the 2C target laid out by climate scientists last month, as a way of limiting future stranded asset risks.

Europe will have to phase out all of its coal plants by 2030 or else “vastly overshoot” its Paris climate pledges, climate experts say.

António Mexia, the CEO of Portuguese energy giant EDP and president of the Eurelectric trade association, said: “The power sector is determined to lead the energy transition and back our commitment to the low-carbon economy with concrete action.”

“With power supply becoming increasingly clean, electric technologies are an obvious choice for replacing fossil fuel based systems, for instance in the transport sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“The challenge for policy makers in the next two years will be to target the political instruments, ensure that they are complementary and advance decarbonisation and electrification at the same time,” said Ruby.

Ruby called for a ratcheting up of the cap on CO2 emissions under the EU’s emissions trading system, to speed the transition to a low carbon economy.

Published in Guardian

US spent $70 and failed to foster Afghan force full adept: report

Bolan Voice Report

International media reported an official US of Congress in that it is warned that United States has not succeeded in fostering a “fully capable” Afghan military despite 16 years of hard work and after spending more than $70 billion on the project.

The latest report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruc­tion (SIGAR) also notes that Afghan ground forces now crave for air support and believe that an official Afghan Air Force is necessary for defeating Taliban insurgents.

The report points out that developing “a fully capable” Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) that is able to secure Afghanistan from internal and external threats and prevent the re-establishment of terrorist safe havens has also been a US national security objective.

“Despite US government expenditures of more than $70 billion in security sector assistance to design, train advise, assist, and equip the ANDSF since 2002, the Afghan security forces are not yet capable of securing their own nation,” the report adds.

It also includes a quote from the former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, warning that “America’s interagency toolkit [for building the security capacity of partner nations is a] hodgepodge of jerry-rigged arrangements constrained by a dated and complex patchwork of authorities, persistent shortfalls in resources, and unwieldy processes.”

Another senior US Department of Defense official Marin Strmecki warns, “It is not that the enemy is so strong, but that the Afghan government is so weak”.

The report states that the US and Afghan officials have differed over the nature and scope of a national military for Afghanistan from the very beginning. While the Afghans wanted a large military, capable of taking on Pakistan, US officials “believed that the greatest threat to Afghanistan’s stability was factional fighting, not Pakistan”.

Bangladesh’s Incomplete Revolution

BY ALEX DE JONG

The Left in Bangladesh has struggled for generations against Islamism and authoritarianism.

In 1968–69, Pakistan was rocked with protests. Tariq Ali described it as the “unfashionable” 1968:

[F]ar removed from the glamour of Europe and the United States, [i]t was also differentbang in character. The gap between the actions of the Pakistani students and workers and the actual conquest of power was much narrower than in France or Italy, let alone the United States or Britain… The scale of the movement was breathtaking: during five months of continuous struggles that began on November 7, 1968, and ended on March 26, 1969, some 10–15 million people had participated in the struggle across East and West Pakistan.

Repression had been deadly, especially in the East, where almost two thousand were killed.

After the partition of India in 1947, Pakistan was an anomaly. It consisted of two geographically separate wings: West Pakistan, which became the political and economic center even though a minority of the population lived there, and East Pakistan, created from the Muslim majority eastern regions of Bengal. Pakistan was to be built around this shared Muslim identity, but there were few other bonds linking the East and West.

The West Pakistani language Urdu, was declared the official language. East Pakistani citizens staged large protests, and the police killed several demonstrators. West discriminated against East in other ways, as well: what would become Bangladesh had fewer representatives in the civilian and military hierarchy than their western counterparts.

By 1968, pro-independence sentiments in the East had been simmering for two decades. It took hold of the student and worker unrest to make itself into a potent force.

East Pakistan faced what amounted to internal colonialism. Economic exploitation extracted millions annually, and the Pakistani government still heavily discriminated against Eastern citizens. Badruddin Umar, active during this time in the East Pakistani Maoist movement, wrote that “the slogan of Independent Bengal had begun to be raised in the streets of Dhaka, especially by the workers belonging to the leftist students’ organizations during the 1968–69 movement. At mass rallies, demonstrators chanted Joi Bangla (Long Live Bengal) and called for Krishok-Sramik Raj, “rule by peasants and workers.”

Fearing they would lose control because of pressure from mass movements, Pakistan’s generals demanded that dictator Ayub Khan step down. His successor, General Yahya Khan, declared martial law. But, in hopes of placating the protesters, he also announced the country’s first-ever general elections for December 1970. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Ayub Khan’s former minister of foreign affairs emerged victorious in the West. Bhutto came from an aristocratic and well-connected family and in 1967 had established the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The PPP combined populist, even socialist rhetoric with Pakistani nationalism and alliances with sections of wealthy landlords. But in the East, the Awami League (AL) capitalized on the mass movement, winning 167 of the 169 seats allotted to the East in the national government.

The AL held essentially conservative positions, oriented toward constitutional politics. It was the party of the urban petty-bourgeois and civil servants: lawyers, teachers, and merchants. But the AL also demanded respect from West Pakistan and regional autonomy, a platform that won it massive support.

Though the East had stronger left-wing traditions than the West, Communist parties failed to lead the mass movement or profit from the elections. One reason for this was that both the most dynamic parts of the Left and Pakistan itself had strong ties to Mao’s China. Most left-wing forces were in some way influenced by Maoism, and the government maintained friendly relations with China as a counterweight to their shared rival, India. Because of Ayub’s “objective anti-imperialist characteristics,” much of the Maoist left did not oppose his regime and avoided making demands that might weaken Pakistan’s position in relation to India, including self-determination for the East.

During a visit to China in 1963, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, a peasant leader and one of the most prominent figures in the pro-Beijing left, praised the Ayub regime, saying he was “pleased” that “Pakistan’s current government has already eliminated much of imperialism’s influence on politics and the economy. Particularly fortunate is that they have developed friendly relations with China.” Mao’s Foreign Affairs Minister Zhou Enlai asked Bhasani not to put too much pressure on Ayub Khan in the future.

Not everyone heeded the request in the years to come. Inspired by the Naxalites in India, segments of the East Pakistan Maoist left radicalized in the late sixties, but they abandoned work in mass movements for small-scale guerrilla attacks and boycotted the elections. Despite the radical turn, most of the Maoist forces still rejected self-determination.

The pro-Moscow left was much smaller, but it enjoyed disproportionate representation in the press and academia. In both halves of Pakistan, these leftists focused on restoring parliamentary democracy so single-mindedly that they became almost indistinguishable from liberal forces. In the East, Soviet sympathizers supported self-determination but were little more than an appendage of the AL.

The AL’s election victory entitled it to form the new government, but Bhutto — who had campaigned on the promises of a strong army, a strong central government, and used fiery nationalist rhetoric — refused to accept the results and boycotted the new parliament. Military commanders, a privileged clique that spent over half of the country’s yearly budget, also rejected self-determination for East Pakistan. Even the AL’s moderate platform threatened the ruling class’s hold over the region’s cheap resources and consumer market.

A new mass movement took shape, this time specifically around the issue of self-determination. AL leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman called for protests and strikes. Security forces killed several people, ramping up tension. At a huge rally, Rahman called on the government to lift martial law, investigate the murders, withdraw the army, and transfer power to elected representatives. Pro-independence sentiments were spreading and radicalizing, and even judges on the high court refused to work.

The Yahya regime entered negotiations with the AL, stalling so that it could move troops and weapons into East Pakistan. At midnight on March 25, 1971, the Pakistani army struck. Among its first targets were the dormitories at the University of Dhaka. Soldiers killed and raped hundreds of students and teachers, and Rahman was arrested the following day.

In classic colonial fashion, ethnic and religious bigotry motivated the Pakistani army and their supporters in Islamist militias, the Razakar. The fighters saw the Bengali people as weak and inferior. They especially targeted the Hindu minority: in Dhaka, soldiers burnt Hindu neighborhoods and killed people in the streets. One Pakistani officer promised that once the East was defeated, “each of his soldiers would have a Bengali mistress and that neither dogs nor Bengalis would be allowed in the exclusive Chittagong Club.”

As violence spread, resistance took shape. Both pro-Moscow and Maoist groups organized militias, and Bengali soldiers and police rebelled.

But while the Pakistani army committed atrocities on a genocidal scale, Beijing remained quiet. On April 12, 1971, the Pakistani press published a message from Zhou Enlai praising the government for its “useful work” in upholding the unity of the country and declaring that “what is happening in Pakistan at present is purely an internal affair of Pakistan.” China provided more than verbal support for the Yahya Khan regime — in May, it gave the regime an interest-free loan of $100 million.

Some Maoists inside Bangladesh and abroad denounced the independence movement as an anti-Chinese conspiracy of “Indian expansionists” aided by “Soviet social-imperialism.” Others, disgusted by this analysis, joined forces with the AL. Bhasani, for one, called on his followers to fight for an independent Bangladesh. But one of the largest pro-Beijing factions, the East Pakistan Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) (EPCP-ML) directed its guerrillas to fight not only the Pakistani army but also the AL-led Mukti Bahini (Freedom Fighters).

At the end of the war, the EPCP-ML was marginalized. Though Maoist factions had played an important role in the struggle against Pakistan, Beijing’s attitude severely harmed the movement.

For many of the same reasons as China, the United States wasn’t excited to see the birth of a new state at the expense of its old ally. In his book The Blood Telegram, Gary J. Bass describes why President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger supported the Yahya Khan regime. They believed that India and, through it, the Soviet Union would enjoy a strong influence on the new state. “Bengalis,” Kissinger opined, “are by nature left.” After Archer K. Blood, the US consul general in East Pakistan, sent a telegram disagreeing with this policy and decrying Pakistani war crimes, he was removed from his post.

The total number of people killed in the war is unclear — many scholars estimate the number to be around half a million, and the Bangladeshi government claims that 3 million died.

India saw the crisis as an opportunity to weaken its rival and gain influence along the Chinese border. New Delhi provided shelter and support for the AL leadership, but the Indira Gandhi government worried about how the struggle was developing. The independence movement was becoming increasingly dependent on support from workers and peasants. Leftist ideas were gaining support, and, under pressure from its popular base, the AL was taking more and more radical positions.

To forestall a further leftward shift and ensure its influence, India decided to intervene directly. On December 3, 1971, its army went into Bangladesh. With help of the local population and the Mukti Bahini, Pakistani forces were routed within two weeks.

The defeat also meant the end of Yahya Khan’s rule, and he handed power over to Bhutto a few days later. The following month, Mujibur Rahman was released from prison and became the first leader of an independent Bangladesh.

Independent Bangladesh:

Initially, the AL and Mujibur Rahman enjoyed massive support, but they faced pressure from their radicalized base. In keeping with a long tradition of tactical flexibility, as Badruddin Umar writes, “the Awami League took up the slogan [of socialism] and declared it as their own.” The new state was officially a “people’s republic,” and its constitution described its founding principles as “nationalism, socialism, democracy, and secularism.” The AL promised to nationalize all local banks and insurance companies, all jute, textile, and sugar mills, and major portions of foreign trade as a first step to socialism.

But the new government quickly became mired in corruption and nepotism, and its radical promises went unfulfilled. Despite American opposition to the independence struggle, large parts of the AL leadership held fundamentally pro-US positions. The nationalization program avoided touching American or British interests, and the government tried to refrain from antagonizing the United States. Prices multiplied while wages dropped. The nationalizations that took place just allowed the politically connected to loot the expropriated companies.

The material demands of the uprising were lost — the Awami League only delivered on its more symbolic promises. In the sarcastic words of Bangladeshi writer Ahmed Sofa:

Our leaders are constantly talking about doing this and that [for] the Bengali language. The gist of their speeches is: O, Bengali people, you have suffered a lot to get an independent nation. Bangladesh is a beautiful country, that is why we call it the mother. Bengali language is the mother goddess’s language. Those who speak against it, we call them collaborators and Pakistani spies. You have sacrificed a lot for this Bengali language. If independent Bangladesh cannot give you clothes to wear, cover up your privates with Bengali culture. And if you cannot get two meals of rice a day, chew on Bengali language with great relish!

As the AL lost support, it began to splinter. Parts of its student movement and a left-wing nationalist current organized the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD, National Socialist Party). Other left-wing parties gained strength. The Maoist Purbo Banglar Sarbahara Party (PBSP, East Bengal Proletarian Party), led by Shiraj Sikder, had fought the Pakistani army alongside the AL’s Mukthi Bahini. The PBSP’s influence waned during Mujibur Rahman’s heyday, but as the AL’s popularity declined, the PBSP grew. It continued to wage low-level guerrilla struggles and began organizing mass strikes.

Pressured, Rahman became increasingly autocratic, and AL militias attacked opposition activists. On January 2, 1975, police killed Sikder, and Rahman taunted his opponents by asking in parliament; “Where today is that Shiraj Sikder?” Later that month, he declared one-party rule — still supported by the pro-Soviet Communist Party.

But while Mujibur Rahman repressed the forces to his left, the right wing brought him down. On August 15, 1975, pro-US officers murdered him and most of his family, marking the beginning of several months of political instability. Eventually, Major General Ziaur Rahman emerged as the new strongman.

After a counter-coup in early November 1975, Ziaur Rahman was put under house arrest, but a soldiers’ revolt, which the JSD helped organize, freed him a few days later. Ziaur Rahman quickly turned on his allies, sentencing Abu Taher, a JSD leader and hero of the liberation war, to death in a secret trial. Other JSD activists received long prison sentences.

From Dictatorship to Democracy:

Ziaur Rahman turned to the West for political support and allied with Islamist forces at home. In 1977, he removed secularism from the constitution. He also rehabilitated the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), whose militia had sided with the Pakistani army and committed war crimes during the liberation struggle.

Eventually, Ziaur Rahman himself was murdered. His successor, General H. M. Ershad, presided over another authoritarian regime until 1990, continuing Ziaur’s policy of complying with IMF demands by liberalizing trade and privatizing enterprises. The influx of foreign aid and development projects created a new Bangladeshi middle class, closely linked to NGOs.

Like Ziaur, Ershad used right-wing religious forces against the Left. Both regimes supported Islamist student organizations in hopes of balancing out leftist influences on college and university campuses. A 1988 amendment declared Islam the state religion, and the government supported militia attacks on Hindu businesses in hopes of diverting popular dissatisfaction with the government into religious conflict.

During the eighties, left parties lost much of their strength. Former leftists, opposed to the AL, ended up supporting the Ziaur and Ershad regimes, seeing the enemy of their enemy as their friend. The Communist Party continued to follow the AL’s lead, but Maoist groups refused to work with those they considered “paid agents of Soviet social-imperialism.”

Fortunately, leftist ideas found fertile ground in various opposition groups and movements. Women’s organizations took the lead in challenging the religious drift of the Bangladeshi state. Both independent groups and organizations linked to different left parties formed, including the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, which started as an offshoot of the pro-Soviet CP.

Though right-wing forces depicted their activities as primarily “anti-religious,” these feminist organizations also criticized the state’s development policies and opposed discriminatory inheritance and divorce laws.

Students also resisted Ershad’s regime. The government met their demonstrations with violence, which only increased public support for the students. In November 1982, police and militia invaded Dhaka University, savagely beating students and faculty. During a protest the next February, government forces killed at least four people when shooting at student protesters.

Women and students weren’t the only ones who took to the streets during the Ershad regime. In 1984, the trade union federation Workers-Employees Unity Council called a two-day hartal. More involved than a strike, a hartal is a mass protest often involves shutting down not only workplaces and shops but also schools and roads. The protesters demanded that the government allow the organization of independent unions. Hundreds were arrested and several killed. Peasant and agricultural workers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, and cultural workers joined the movement.

In October 1990, the regime once again met protesting students with deadly force. In response, tens of thousands swore they would not give up until Ershad resigned. The following month, pro-government militias attacked Dhaka University, but, after hours of fighting, they were driven off campus. Militant demonstrations and hartals spread throughout the country. Faced with continuing protests, Ershad finally resigned in December 1990.

Since then, Bangladeshi politics has been a game of musical chairs. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Ziaur Rahman’s widow Khaleda Zia, and the AL, led by Mujibur Rahman’s daughter and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, hand power back and forth.

The party’s ideological differences extend back to the Liberation War. The BNP still has close links to the army officer corps and to right-wing Islamist forces, and the AL still claims the mantle of secular nationalism. As a result, it enjoys particularly strong support among non-Muslim minorities.

But the AL is not a consistent defender of secularism or democracy. It restored the principle of secularism but retained the wording on state religion. In fact, hoping to capture the BNP’s base, Sheikh Hasina has adopted increasingly reactionary positions, promising “stern action” against anyone “defaming Islam.”

The AL allies with Islamists when it sees an opportunity. In 2006, it promised to give certain Islamic scholars the right to issue fatwa and to punish blasphemous statements. It also said it would reject any laws that contradict the Quran or sunnah. It has even joined forces with Ershad’s Jatiya Party (JP), which calls for “bringing existing laws into line” with the Quran, punishing blasphemy, and providing compulsory religious education.

The restoration of democracy did not end political violence. According to the human-rights organization Ain o Salish Kendra, over a thousand people were killed in political clashes during the last five years.

The army also continues to play an important role in politics. It took direct political control of the country in 2007–9 and has significant economic power thanks to the dozens of companies it owns. Leftist academic Anu Muhammad said in a 2010 interview that “elected and nonelected, military and nonmilitary governments made no difference in the realm of government policy.”

Today’s Social Struggles:

Of Bangladesh’s over 160 million citizens, more than 40 percent lives on less than $1.25 per day. The IMF ranks Bangladesh as among the thirty poorest countries in the world, while the World Bank praises the country for its “competitive wages.”

A majority of the labor force works without contracts or any kind of social protection. The size of the informal sector makes it hard for trade unions to organize workers, but, more important, the three biggest trade union federations, which represent some two-thirds of industrial workers, are actually fronts for the three biggest parties: the AL, BNP, and JP. The parties use these unions to campaign or to attack their rivals. When the AL was in opposition from 2006 to 2009, its federation called more than 170 days of strikes.

Despite the low unionization rate and the politically connected federations, the Bangladeshi working class regularly organizes militant actions such as hartals. Most left-wing sentiment is now channeled into social struggles. For example, the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power, and Ports has fought against privatizing utilities, open-pit mining, and coal-fired power plants.

Several left parties, such as the Revolutionary Workers’ Party and Revolutionary Democratic Party, have managed to build unions in the textile industry. Organizing in this sector represents both a difficult and an urgent task.

Garment manufacturing has grown rapidly since the late 1970s. In 1984, Bangladesh had 177 factories; by 1992, that number had ballooned to over a thousand. Now, garments make up about three-quarters of Bangladesh’s exports, and the nation is second only to China in apparel exports for western brands. Most factories are owned by Bangladeshi entrepreneurs, but orders come primarily from large retail firms based in the United States and Europe. Factory owners routinely violate the already limited legislation around working conditions and wages. For example, most bosses pay less than the legal minimum wage of $68 monthly.

As Dutch activist and academic Peter Custers writes, the rise of the garment industry means that, “for the first time in Bangladesh’s history, [women] have been recruited in large numbers to toil as collective workers in factories.” But women’s work is still considered “unskilled,” and the “skilled” positions often go to men. Women face sexual violence on the shop floor, not to mention on their way to work. Factory owners are legally required to provide childcare facilities, but, in reality, they fire women who get pregnant.

The “capitalist exploitation of [women’s] labor,” Custers writes, “is interwoven with the patriarchal oppression that pervades the entire fabric of Bangladesh’s society.” Though the majority of garment workers are women, they have been historically underrepresented in labor leadership, which means the unions often ignore the needs of female workers. Fortunately, this seems to be changing, as women labor activists like Kalpona Akter and Mushrefa Mishu are becoming more prominent. Two-thirds of factory-level leaders are now women.

Other important struggles are unfolding in the countryside. Bangladesh’s rural sector continues to play an important economic role. Around two-thirds of the population lives in the countryside, and, out of a total labor force of about 75 million, 32 million work in agriculture. A large majority of this population is land poor, meaning they either own no land or have insufficient land to sustain themselves. Moreover, public facilities are lacking, and struggles for such resources can escalate into violence. In 2004–5, almost two dozen people were killed in the course of a peasant movement demanding electricity.

One of the largest peasant organizations, the Bangladesh Krishok Federation (BKF), was established in 1976, originally as the peasant wing of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist) (CPB-ML, the new name of the EPCP-ML). In the eighties activists started occupying land and distributing it to peasants. Typically, the lands they occupied were legally supposed to be left fallow, but local businessmen were using them to grow cash crops. The occupations at times provoked harsh clashes with goons who are paid to drive away the peasants, attacking activists with acid and sometimes murdering them. Despite this, the BKF distributed tens of thousands of acres to tens of thousands of the poorest people in Bangladesh. Successful occupations are only the first stage of the struggle, which then calls on the government to provide public facilities such as schools, storm shelters, and drinking water. BKF thrived as a social movement even as its associated party declined. The CPB-ML is now trying to re-organize, linking up with the Fourth International and reevaluating its previous ideology.

The BKF is now focusing on climate change, which would have damaging effects on Bangladesh. The changing weather hurts agricultural production, and increasing incidences of cyclones and flooding threaten people’s lives and subsistence. Two-thirds of the country is less than fifteen feet above sea level, so a three-foot ocean rise would submerge almost 20 percent of the nation and displace more than 30 million people. The BKF demands sustainable agricultural practices and food sovereignty in order to help peasant communities mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Another part of the Left still continues to support the AL; the only nominally left-wing parties with parliamentary representation are part of the government coalition. Much of the nongovernmental left, over ten parties, is part of the Democratic Left Alliance. Social movements have become the leading edge of struggles in the country while the leftist parties lost influence and strength.

Opposing Fundamentalism

The other significant vector of opposition has been against Islamic fundamentalism. As with many other political conflicts in Bangladesh, this too is linked to the legacy of the Liberation War.

In early February 2013, Abdul Kader Mullah, the assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party, received a life sentence for crimes against humanity. Specifically, he was sentenced for the massacres he committed during the Liberation War, which earned him the nickname “butcher.”

Emerging from court, Mullah smiled at the cameras and made the victory sign. The previous month, another JI politician, Abul Kalam Azad, had been sentenced to death for the atrocities he committed during the Liberation War. Azad, who is still in hiding, had been tried in absentia. Islamists had organized a campaign of violence and intimidation in the weeks leading up to Mullah’s trial and saw his life sentence as a victory.

When Mullah’s sentence was announced, over one hundred thousand people gathered in Shahbag Circle in Dhaka. None of the established parties called this demonstration. Rather, young activists organized it in opposition to Islamic fundamentalism and communalism. The protesters chanted that they were Bangladeshi first, and Muslim, Hindu, or Christian only second.

Politically, the demonstrators were diverse. Many supported AL, but other leftist groups endorsed the mobilization as well. One observer noted that the protest marked “the first time in decades [that] twelve of the fourteen student organizations were gathered for a single cause.” The activists drew up a charter demanding the death penalty for all war criminals and the banning of the JI, its associated social organizations, and media outlets. Mullah was sentenced to death on appeal and executed in December 2013.

The Shahbag mobilization provoked a violent response from Islamist groups. One protester was murdered shortly after the demonstration began. Violent clashes between Islamists and the police took place after another JI leader was sentenced to death that month.

Throughout the country, Islamists organized protests and strikes; they attacked journalists and other civilians, especially Hindus; they vandalized and destroyed Hindu places of worship and nationalist monuments. In May, the Islamist organizations mobilized tens of thousands in Dhaka, demanding the death penalty for atheists and anyone accused of “blasphemy.” They also called for further restrictions on women’s rights and a government declaration listing the Ahmediya minority as “non-Muslim.”

Even before the protests, international human-rights organizations were warning of violence. On May 5, Islamists set up barricades and demanded that the government step down. When the police dispersed them, they killed dozens. The exact number of people killed by police is unknown and investigations into the violence were blocked.

Political support for religious fundamentalism remains limited; JI won less than 5 percent in the 2008 elections when it allied with the BNP. But these groups have gained support in social organizations, as the size of their mobilizations shows. By framing the conflict as a battle between believers and blasphemers, Islamist leaders can draw more people into the streets than they can convince to support their political program.

A crucial base comes from schools and universities, both religious and public ones. The number of religious schools — at times the only way poor people in remote locations can access education — has grown since the 1980s, often thanks to foreign support. School leaders called on their pupils to attend the May protests and organized transportation; these students formed the bulk of the crowd.

The JI leaders describe their long-term strategy as a “silent revolution.” Through activity in schools and universities, they aim to change the nation’s elite and transform society from above. JI leader Maulana Delwar Hussain Sayeedi claims “most Bangladeshis are not genuine Muslims. They venerate gurus, pirs [Sufi spiritual guides], they kneel before tombs, they worship idols like Hindus… [O]ur work consists in Islamizing this society.”

The Islamist movement owes its current strength in part to the support it has long enjoyed from the government. Ziaur Rahman and Muhammad Ershad laid the groundwork. Rahman replaced secularism in the constitution with “absolute trust and faith in the almighty Allah”; he also made Islam part of the compulsory curriculum. Ershad continued this process, declaring Islam the state religion. When Khaleda Zia’s BNP governed from 2001–6, it allied with Islamist groups, including the JI. The BNP has used Islamist militias to silence its political opponents, including a 2004 attack on AL leaders that killed twenty-two.

But fundamentalists aren’t the only political actors resorting to violence and repression. The police response to the May protest offers evidence of what some have called the AL’s authoritarian drift. Sheikh Hasina also used the war-crime trials to weaken her rivals, and before the 2014 elections, the government canceled the JI’s electoral registration. The BNP boycotted the elections, calling them illegitimate. As a result, very few people voted, and the AL won 280 out of 300 seats.

The government has also cracked down on opposition media, filing cases against journalists critical of the government. Matiur Rahman, editor of the liberal daily Prothom Alo, was charged with defamation and “hurting religious sentiments” in February 2016. Arrests of editors and journalists signal a climate that’s increasingly difficult for the independent media.

Bangladesh has made considerable improvements in access to health care, and poverty has declined. Economic growth is considerable: around 6 percent. The AL is betting that enough people will be willing to trade democracy for such material advancement. Party leaders openly discuss the “example of Malaysia,” which supposedly proves that one-party rule is preferable for developing countries.

Bangladesh was created thanks to a war for national liberation that had a deep, radicalizing impact on the people. Its working class has a long and militant tradition of social struggles, as peasants, garment workers, and others fought for a better life. Today, left ideas still resonate with those poised to push back against religious and governmental authoritarianism and secure the unfulfilled promises of 1971.

Published in Jacobin Magazine

Incomplete diary

By Sohail Abdullah

It was a peaceful evening. The sun was about to conceal itself behind Chiltan, leaving picture10blaze of glorious colors on the sky. As I stepped out of home, a gust of an exquisite breeze embraced me. The spring had just started, trees had worn green dresses but the leaves of the passed autumn were still scattered on the pavements and road sides. Lost in my own thoughts, walking and enjoying the silence of the road, suddenly a dark brown object beside the road captivated my attention.

I went near and saw it was a diary. I was snatched by a strange force to open it but I could not because of the unsuitable place. I carried the diary along with me and kept on walking, on the way there was a bench on one side of the road enlightened by a yellow street light.

I set there, wiped out the dust from the surface of the diary, I found one of the corners colored with blood as I looked closely. I could not dare to open it first but then with creepy heart I opened it. For a quick glance I leafed through all the pages, there was just two pages those were written. Somehow I started reading it.

______________

“My name is Abbas; I am thirty-five years old. I have no one in this world except my beloved wife and my little daughter, around whom my entire desires, happiness and sacrifices revolve. I remember when my angel opened her eyes, our lonely and depressed world was filled with happiness and laughter. We named her Sara, instead of being homeless her sweet twitters and the true light in her eyes gave us a new hope to fight against our circumstances.

My eyes fill with tears when I think of my passed days. Since my birth I haven’t seen pleasant days in my life but problems, griefs and hard works. My parents had passed away in my childhood and I had no one remained in my relatives. I married an orphan girl whom I loved. Along with my studies I had to work in a shopping mall to feed my family. The moments that hurt me even today are, when Sara used to cry for toys but I couldn’t afford her innocent wishes and we provided her handmade ordinary toys. My wife used to sew clothes for others. In a nutshell we were surviving far from the concept of living, in a single room that was on rent. Dark shadows of despair had suppressed my heart and mind, but whenever I used to look into the eyes of my angel Sara, her innocence supported and did not let my shoulders to decline. After working the entire day, I started studying under street lights till dawn.

Today I have started writing diary as a happiest phase of my life has been started.

At morning when the sun rose, it was common for everybody but I feel that it has risen carrying bright streaks of hope just for me. Actually last night when I was missing my cute daughter, the message tune of my mobile rang. I picked it up and saw there was one of my friends, as soon as I pushed the open button…… my senses stopped working, I was so much shocked that I could not realize where I was, I felt like my heartbeats are gonna cease. The message was:

“Hey!! Get ready for the treat bro! You have passed”

I had appeared in the exams for central superior services.

I haven’t told my wife about the result yet, this will be a great surprise for her. Yeah!!! When I will enter into the room and will proudly say to her that the days of hardships have gone.

This time I am waiting at the bus stop and writing it. The bus is about to come…. it’s the time after a complete decade to go back to me that small room where my life is encaged…. they must be missing me…. I am missing them too…. I will be at home after two hours…. my family will not be in the shelter of my neighbors anymore…. soon Sara will be playing and kissing her father, she will be playing with precious toys… up to now I am about to close the diary…. the next page will be written at home tonight”

________________

As soon as I turned towards the next page, I felt that my heart is nearly to be sank… the next page was still blank… what happened next?… did he reach home?… why the next page is still blank?

Many such questions in the shape of arrows stuck into my mind. Then I closed the diary, again looked towards it’s bloody corner, it added fuel into the fire of my fear and suspense. I stood and turned back.

Striding towards home, I reached the spot from where I found the diary…. stood and stared at the ground for a while, then again on the blood on diary…. then up towards the glimmering outline of the Chiltan through light darkening sky. My heart was weeping for Sara and her mother…… where they might be now……? For the fate of Quetta city, I took out a deep sigh and continued my steps carrying the incomplete diary.

The write up is a Fiction but depicts prevailing circumstances Quetta and other towns.

Sohail Abdullah Writes  (facebook)

“Enforced Disappearances in Balochistan” Book launched in UNO Geneva, by Baloch Voice Association

On 13th March 2018, Baloch Voice Association launched its book about the enforced IMG-20180316-WA0041-660x330 (1)disappearances in Balochistan. A large number of Human Rights defenders, community representatives and Journalists were present at the Book launch occasion. And later on the human rights defenders, community representatives and journalists raised Enforced Disappearance issue in Balochistan here in United Nation Office Geneva, in a conference at the side lines of the 37Th UN Human Rights Council Session.

The event was started with the launch of the book on Enforced disappearances in Balochistan. The president of the Baloch Voice Association Mr. Munir Mengal gave a detailed account of the victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan. While presenting some scripts from the book. Mr. Mengal showed the data and comparative analysis of the past four years i.e. 2013 to 2016. That there is continues incline in the number of enforced disappearances.

“This data and graphical presentation shows that there is a continues increase in the victims of enforced disappearances and in the recovery of tortured mutilated dead bodies”. Mengal Presented.

“The decrease is only in the live return of the victims of enforced disappearances”. The BVA President Claimed.

Baseer Naveed, a well-known Human Rights defender and former In-charge of South Asian desk of Hong Kong based organization, Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said “not only enforced disappearance is frequently used as strategy to spared only terror within the society but it also effects communities and societies as a whole”.

Baseer Naveed added “all eye witnesses conformed that the Pakistani security agencies are involved in enforced disappearances and illegal abductions of innocent people, politicians, journalists and bloggers”.

He further added that “those who raised their voices against illegal harassment, kidnapping, enforced disappearance and missing person have been threatened by the security agencies”.

A well-known Kashmiri political leader and exile chairman of United Kashmir people National Party, Sardar Shukat Ali Kashmiri said “not only politicians, journalists, human Rights defenders, bloggers and others from each and every one in Pakistan is suffering from state policies”.

Sardar Shaukat included that “in Pakistani occupied Kashmir (POK) border area the intelligence agencies force people to carry weapon against India, if anyone dare to refuses he or she becomes the target of security establishment and more than 300 people in POK are disappeared and theirs whereabouts are not known, unfortunately none voices are being heard against such crimes in Pakistan”.

“The current situation of enforced disappearance and human rights in Pakistan is very alarming, the reason we are here to raised our voices about human rights abuses in Pakistan”.

Taha Siddiqui, a journalist from Pakistan, who had contributed reports and articles in New York times, Guardian, France 24 News who is recently is living in France, said that “I am lucky that I escaped from them and now safe, they tried to kidnapped me on 10th January this year 2018”.

“Journalists who write or try to give coverage to the events regarding human rights or enforced disappearances receive threats or got attacked by security agencies”.

“Hamid Mir is an example, he covered Mama Qadeer long march which he did for missing persons was attacked by security agencies in Pakistan”.

Taha Siddique further mentioned “enforced disappearance is not now limited in Balochistan but now it’s being done across all Pakistan. In Karachi Muhajars are being missing, Sindhi Nationalists are also being targeted and going miss as well as same condition in Punjab, FATA and other provinces”.

“Social Media Activists, bloggers, human rights defenders, journalists anybody who speak or tries to raise voice for human rights and enforced disappearance himself became target of forces in Pakistan”.

A French lady, a human Rights activist from France, Colette Boutard said “Baloch people are being victims of Pakistan security forces in Pakistan”. The culprits and abusers of the rights of the people inside Balochistan should be brought to court of justice. Pakistan shall be made accountable and Europe and West shall play a strong role very soon, otherwise the humanity will keep on suffering.

The statement of the Sarfraz Bugti Interior minister of Balochistan that “Genocide is the solution to suppress the voices of Baloch nationalist”.

“Children, women are being targeted in Balochistan which is very shocking, Pakistan with the help of China is looting the resources of Balochistan and as a reward killing the Baloch people.

At the end Madam Cludia Waedlich the German Lawyer and Human Rights activist presented her views in solidarity with the victims. This is very hard to get access to the region, and to the people to get document the details of the victims of enforced disappearances. The Pakistani state does not have any morals with respect to Human rights issues of the Baloch and should be made accountable by the international community and organizations for it’s wrong doings inside Balochistan.

Published in Bolan Times

Thousands of pollution deaths worldwide linked to western consumers – study

Study shows extent to which US and western European demand for clothes, toys and mobile phones contributes to air pollution in developing countries

Western consumers who buy cheap imported toys, clothes and mobile phones are download (2)indirectly contributing to tens of thousands of pollution-related deaths in the countries where the goods are produced, according to a landmark study.

Nearly 3.5 million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution, the research estimates, and about 22% of these deaths are associated with goods and services that were produced in one region for consumption in another.

The analysis provides the first detailed picture of the extent to which consumer demand in the US and western Europe contributes to pollution in developing countries, with profound health consequences.

“If the cost of imported products is lower because of less stringent air pollution controls in the regions where they are produced, then the consumer savings may come at the expense of lives lost elsewhere,” the authors conclude.

The study also reveals how emissions from industrial hotspots affect the health of people in neighbouring countries and, to a lesser extent, more distant regions, as pollutants circulate on global air currents. About 12% (411,100) of early deaths globally were related to air pollutants emitted in a different region of the world, the research found.

The study focused on the emission of fine particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5) from power stations, factories, aeroplanes and shipping in 13 regions, taking in data from 228 countries. Particulates are thought to account for more than 90% of the global mortality from outdoor air pollution, raising the number of deaths from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and asthma.

The tiny particles can trigger asthma attacks in the lungs and can cross from the air sacs in the lung into the bloodstream, where they can cause inflammation, alter the way blood clots, and make blood vessels more permeable. Particulates have also been shown to migrate into other tissues, such as the liver, kidneys and brain, although it is less clear what the health consequences are in these organs, and the effects also depend on the chemical makeup of the particulates.

“In general, air pollution links to general ill health,” said Matthew Loxham, a toxicologist at Southampton University who was not involved in the study. “It’s a range of different conditions.”

The scientists used a combination of air pollution data, emissions measurements and models of global air currents to tally up where pollution was emitted and where it ended up in 2007. An economic model, based on data from the Global Trade Analysis Project, was then used to attribute air pollution to the demand of consumers for finished goods, although the results were not broken down by product type.

Chinese emissions caused more than twice the number of deaths worldwide than the emissions of any other region, followed by emissions produced in India and the rest of the Asia region. The scientists calculated that PM 2.5 pollution produced in China is linked to more than 64,800 premature deaths in other regions, including more than 3,000 deaths in western Europe and the US.

However, this figure was significantly outweighed by the 108,600 premature deaths in China linked to consumption in western Europe and the US.

Steven Davis, a co-author based at the University of California, Irvine, said that the paper simply aimed to lay out the evidence for the benefit of policymakers. “It’s not really up to us to say what’s fair or not,” he said.

In a press briefing this week, his co-authors called for international action on the issue.

“For greenhouse gas emissions we have a global agreement. People can argue about whether its been effective or not – but at least we have a global framework,” said Dabo Guan, a professor in climate change economics at the University of East Anglia and the paper’s senior author. “People have thought air pollution was a local issue.”

Guan cites the example of mobile phones made in China, which might be sold for $200, around 70% of which goes to the company that designed the product and just $5-6 to the Chinese manufacturer.

“On average every six months we change our phone,” he said. “It has a health cost on the other side of the world.”

For countries like China, whose economies are dependent on exporting cheaply-made goods, improving environmental standards has to be balanced against potential negative economic impacts.

“Some other country would step up and say hey, we’re willing to let our people die to have that business,” said Davis.

Improving pollution control technologies in China, India and elsewhere in Asia would have a disproportionately large health benefit in those regions and worldwide, according to the analysis in the journal Nature.

Qiang Zhang, another author from Tsinghua University, Beijing, said that consumers in Europe and the US who buy cheap imported toys and clothes also bear a responsibility.

“We need to move our lifestyles away from cheap and wasteful,” he said.

Oliver Hayes, a pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth air pollution, said: “No-one should be denied the right to breathe clean air, whether they live in Beijing or Barking. But air pollution doesn’t recognize borders, and it’s clear that the devastating impacts of polluters can be felt many miles from their activities.

Published in The Guardian

Where the fighters are female

A short history of Kurdish women on the front lines

Female Kurdish fighters are celebrated for their battlefield prowess

QAMISHLI AND DARBASIYAH

WHEN Anna Campbell heard that Kurdish women were fighting the jihadists of Islamic 20180324_MAP002_0State in Syria, she left her job as a plumber in Britain and joined them. Ms Campbell (pictured), who was privately educated, said she wanted to defend the “revolution of women” in Kurdish-held parts of the country—even though the British government regards such volunteers as, in effect, terrorists. On March 15th a missile killed her as she fought with the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), the Kurds’ all-female militia, against the Turkish army.

Kurdish women first took up arms in the early 1990s, as members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long war for self-rule in Turkey. Inspired by Murray Bookchin, an obscure American philosopher, Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s leader, sought to empower his female comrades. “The 5,000-year-old history of civilisation is essentially the history of the enslavement of women,” wrote the now-imprisoned Mr Ocalan, whose ideas are also embraced by Syria’s Kurdish leaders.

The first volunteers struggled, amid mockery and abuse by the men in their ranks. Few were given weapons. But the YPJ is now celebrated for its battlefield prowess; some women even command men. In January a female fighter blew herself up to destroy a Turkish tank. The death of another sparked outrage when Syrian rebels fighting alongside Turkey mutilated her body.

Those who join the YPJ must swear off sex and romance. They are like fighting nuns, says a Dutch academic. That has won over conservative Kurdish men, many of whom oppose other forms of progress for women. Over their objections, the ruling Democratic Union Party has banned forced marriages and polygamy. Honour killings and domestic abuse are harshly punished. Party rules mandate that women make up at least 40% of every governing body and that each is headed by a man and a woman.

Kurdish children in Syria are taught that self-rule will come only after the oppression of women stops. Yet Kurdish women enjoy more freedom in Turkey, in part because they are better educated. For Syrian Kurdistan to live up to Ms Campbell’s hopes for the region, more progress must occur off the battlefield.

This article appeared in the Middle East and Africa section of the print edition under the headline”Where the fighters are female”

Published The Economist

By blaming 1979 for Saudi Arabia’s problems, the crown prince is peddling revisionist history

By Jamal Khashoggi

In an interview with the news program “60 Minutes,” Crown Prince Mohammed Bin download (1)Salman said of Saudi Arabia before 1979, “We were living a very normal life like the rest of the Gulf countries. Women were driving cars, there were movie theaters in Saudi Arabia, women worked everywhere. We were normal people developing like any other country in the world until the events of 1979.”

I was a teenager in the 1970s and grew up in Medina, Saudi Arabia. My memories of those years before the twin disasters of 1979 — the siege of the Grand Mosque of Mecca and the Iranian Revolution — are quite different from the narrative that the 32-year old crown prince (known as MBS for short) advances to Western audiences. Women weren’t driving cars. I didn’t see a woman drive until I visited my sister and brother-in-law in Tempe, Ariz., in 1976. The movie theaters we had were makeshift, like American drive-ins except much more informal. The movie was beamed on a big wall. You would pay 5 or 10 riyals (then approximately $1.50-$2) to the organizer, who would then give a warning when the religious police approached. To avoid being arrested, a friend of mine broke his leg jumping off a wall. In the 1970s, the only places on the Arabian Peninsula where women were working outside the home or school were Kuwait and Bahrain.

The first rule that affected Saudi women’s rights was not the result of a campaign by Wahhabi religious authorities or a fatwa. Many Saudis remember the sad story of a 19-year-old Saudi princess who tried to flee the country with her lover. They were both executed in 1977; the episode was the subject of a 1980 British documentary drama “Death of a Princess.” The reaction of the government to the princess’s elopement was swift: The segregation of women became more severe, and no woman could travel without the consent of a male relative.

In 1980, the minister of industry and electricity, Ghazi al-Gosaibi, sent a handwritten letter to King Khalid warning against restrictive measures on women’s images appearing in print and on TV media. He asked the king to revise these policies “so we would not be made an example of rigidity and stagnation in front of the whole world.” He was ignored.

MBS would like to advance a new narrative for my country’s recent history, one that absolves the government of any complicity in the adoption of strict Wahhabi doctrine. That simply isn’t the case. And while MBS is right to free Saudi Arabia from ultra-conservative religious forces, he is wrong to advance a new radicalism that, while seemingly more liberal and appealing to the West, is just as intolerant of dissent.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Saudi Arabia welcomed Egyptians who fled Egypt fearing that the president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, would imprison them for their beliefs. Many were part of the Muslim Brotherhood. They brought with them new approaches to Islamic thought and law that were welcomed by many of us, including our leaders.

King Faisal, who was assassinated in 1975, set up the first public schools for girls in the 1960s, a move staunchly opposed by the religious establishment. In his struggle to bring the country into the 21st century, he thought the Muslim Brotherhood could be a counterweight to the Wahhabi clerics.

King Faisal entrusted the highly respected Sheikh Manaa al-Qattan to modernize the Saudi judiciary. Reforms not otherwise possible began due to the scholarship of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including labor laws, teaching of English and chemistry, and the partial creation of a legal code. Now the Saudi media, at the encouragement of the government, vilifies al-Qattan, saying he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Why is that suddenly so objectionable?

In Saudi Arabia at the moment, people simply don’t dare to speak. The country has seen the blacklisting of those who dare raise their voices, the imprisonment of moderately critical intellectuals and religious figures, and the alleged anti-corruption crackdown on royals and other business leaders. Liberals whose work was once censored or banned by Wahhabi hard-liners have turned the tables: They now ban what they see as hardline, such as the censorship of various books at the Riyadh International Book Fair last month. One may applaud such an about-face. But shouldn’t we aspire to allow the marketplace of ideas to be open?

I agree with MBS that the nation should return to its pre-1979 climate, when the government restricted hardline Wahhabi traditions. Women today should have the same rights as men. And all citizens should have the right to speak their minds without fear of imprisonment. But replacing old tactics of intolerance with new ways of repression is not the answer.

Published in The Washington Post

Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist and author.   Follow @JKhashoggi

Don’t be warrior nation or China pawn: ex-envoy Haqqani to Pakistan

Mr. Haqqani, who was in India for the launch of his new book ‘Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State’, said the country needs to “re-think its overall direction”, including in the economic sector.

Pakistan should become a “trading nation rather than a warrior nation” while ensuring downloadit does not turn into China’s pawn, Islamabad’s former envoy to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, has said.

In an interview to PTI, Mr. Haqqani said Pakistan also needs to take a call on what is more important — supporting terror suspect Hafiz Saeed or gaining international credibility and respect.

Amid the consolidation of the already-robust Sino-Pak ties, Mr. Haqqani, who served as ambassador to the U.S. from 2008 to 2011, stressed Pakistan should not go from being dependent on the U.S. to relying on China and must refrain from becoming a “Chinese pawn”.

Pakistan needs to build a self-sustaining economy, he said, warning Islamabad of the pitfalls of aligning with a major power.

Mr. Haqqani, who was in India for the launch of his new book ‘Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State’, said the country needs to “re-think its overall direction”, including in the economic sector.

Pakistan should become a “trading nation rather than a warrior nation” and start thinking about geo-economics rather than geo strategy, said the 61-year-old former diplomat and author of ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military’ and ‘India v Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends?’, among other books.

“Trying to take advantage of its strategic location by allowing itself to be used by one major power or another has brought Pakistan to the present situation and if we continue to play the same game, the result is not going to be very different in the future, he said.

While Islamabad should seek good relations with Beijing, “there is no reason why Pakistan should become a Chinese pawn in the mistaken belief” that this would somehow make it a power in its own right, he said when asked if Pakistan’s dependence on China could prove counterproductive.

His remarks assume significance as in January, the U.S. had suspended more than $1.15 billion security assistance to Pakistan, accusing it of harboring terror groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Afghan guerilla group Haqqani Network.

After U.S. President Donald Trump had lashed out at Pakistan earlier this year for providing “safe havens” to terrorists, China had defended Islamabad, saying the world community should acknowledge its all-weather ally’s “outstanding contribution” to counter terrorism.

Asked if America’s tougher stance against terror would push Islamabad into a robust military alliance with Beijing, Mr. Haqqani said the more America and India came close, the more Pakistan would try to strengthen its ties with China.

“But, for Pakistan’s own sake, it would be useful to have relationships with multiple partners. Dependence on the US did not prove useful for Pakistan in the 50s and 60s; dependence on China will not necessarily be the key to Pakistan’s progress in the 21st century,” said Mr. Haqqani, who lives in the US, where he is Senior Fellow and Director for South and Central Asia at the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

Mr. Haqqani was removed as Pakistan’s envoy to the U.S for his alleged role in what is known as the Memogate controversy, which revolved around a memorandum seeking help from the Obama administration after the killing of Osama bin Laden to avert a military takeover of the civilian government in his country.

Asked if the suspension of American aid had brought about a change in Pakistan’s attitude, Mr. Haqqani said the establishment had not changed its world view and was still hoping that logistical and other considerations would make the Trump administration soften its stance.

On the possibility of power blocs being formed in the region, he said a “new Cold War” in which Pakistan aligns with China and India with the United States was not going to be positive for South Asia.

“I think that aligning with one major power against another is not the recipe for economic growth and success for a country like Pakistan,” said Haqqani, who also served as the Pakistani envoy to Sri Lanka from 1992 to 1993.

The former diplomat, who is often critical of the Pakistani military, rued that the power structure in the country had not changed fundamentally and national security and foreign policy remained in the hands of the Army.

Pakistan has made distinctions between terror groups that have acted against it and those that have acted outside the country, and that distinction had not worked to its advantage, he said.

Islamabad’s insistence on “mainstreaming terrorists” rather than marginalizing them was going to be counter-productive for the country, he held.

Mr. Haqqani also said the Kashmir issue could be put on the back burner to build normal Indo-Pak relations.

“It is also a reality that the problem of Kashmir has not been solved in 70 years. And if Pakistan insists on solving the Kashmir problem before moving forward on normal relations with India, then it may have to wait for another 70 years,” he said.

Published in The Hindu

The Fall of Afrîn

BY GÜNEY IªIKARA / ALP KAYSERILIOÐLU

Turkey has toppled the Kurdish-held city of Afrîn. But Erdoðan’s drive to crush the 23103edd635d6362c3bfec734f4bba23Kurdish liberation movement could backfire.

On January 20, the Turkish military launched its invasion of the Syrian-Kurdish canton of Afrîn in northwest Syria. On March 18, after intense battle in which the heavily armed Turkish army was supported by air attacks and forces associated with the Free Syrian Army, it seized control of the Afrîn city center.

It has long been Turkey’s policy to encircle Afrîn and separate it from the other two cantons of Rojava (Kobanê and Jazira), where the Kurds — long stateless and long oppressed — had carved out a space of political autonomy. Turkey’s 2016 “Operation Euphrates Shield” aimed at (and mostly succeeded in) clearing the area between Kobanê and Afrîn and blocking unification and logistic lines. “Operation Olive Branch,” the cynical name of the latest operation, seeks to further frustrate the Kurds’ hopes for independence.

Whether the offensive will mark a turning point is uncertain. But what’s clear is that the recent developments will have significant implications, both for Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoðan’s despotic aspirations and for Kurdish dreams of national liberation.

Ramping Up the Battle

The main reason Afrîn is in Erdoðan’s crosshairs is simple: Rojava has proven that the Kurdish liberation movement’s aims are perfectly viable and realistic — that it’s feasible to build a democratic federation which solves the issue of national oppression, founded upon principles of gender equality and socialism.

The establishment of political autonomy in Rojava in 2012 gave both a political-moral and a military boost to the Kurdish movement in Turkey. The pro-Kurdish, leftist party HDP surged, and after the Turkish state opted for a more overtly authoritarian form of repression, Kurdish forces declared autonomy in over a dozen cities in Turkey. The Turkish state responded by launching a long-planned military crusade in 2015–16 against the autonomous entities — which left cities in rubbles and took the lives of hundreds of civilians — in order to crush the military wing of the uprising. The focus then turned to Rojava itself.

Over the past several years, Turkey has witnessed mounting authoritarianism and even fascization. Spearheaded from the top by Erdoðan, this process aims not only to suppress any opposition, but to found a new national narrative that (re)unites the disillusioned parts of society and the organized right-wing behind the leadership of the president’s party, the AKP.

Crushing the Kurdish liberation movement and Rojava fit squarely into this project in two ways: first, the colonization and forced assimilation of Kurdish regions and peoples is one of the Turkish Republic’s founding principles and, as such, has become a cornerstone of Turkish nationalism. The one who leads the fight against the Kurds in the fiercest and most effective way is thus seen as the one who can best lead the nationalist right-wing camp. (This explains why the MHP, a nationalist-fascist party and traditionally an archenemy of the AKP, has become an important ally of Erdoðan’s party.) Second, once legitimation by power politics and brute dictatorship becomes dominant — as it has in Erdoðan’s Turkey — all that is in the way must be crushed. A fascist that cannot dominate state and society is just a wannabe-fascist and will swiftly be challenged by other fascists that see themselves as more qualified to lead.

This is the situation Erdoðan and the AKP find themselves in: they must successfully ramp up the battle against the Kurdish liberation movement, or the crisis tendencies within their fragile coalition will deepen and endanger the existing order.

The Offensive

In the early days of the Afrîn offensive, the invasion was generally expected to develop along the following lines: Russia and the US would allow Turkey to proceed into Afrîn up to a certain point — the US to appease its NATO ally, Russia to show the stick to the Kurds and tell them: either you bow in front of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, or we will let Turkey crush you. The Kurds, meanwhile, would put everything they had into the fight for maximum autonomy. Somewhere along the line, there would be an agreement, and Assad’s Syrian Arab Army units would march in.

Things have turned out rather differently. After a massive push, the Turkish army and allied forces moved rapidly towards the city center, closing in from multiple sides with the help of air raids. Civilian casualties rose by the hour. With the Turkish state talking about resettling non-Kurdish Syrian refugees in Afrîn, while driving out mostly Kurdish civilians by force, the specter of ethnic cleansing appeared on the horizon. Human rights organizations warned that disaster was approaching fast and called for international action.

None of this stopped the Turkish army and its allies. On March 18, they seized the city center, raising the Turkish flag (along with the Free Syrian Army flag) and toppling a statue of Kawa (Kaveh) the Blacksmith, a mythical Kurdish and Persian figure who led an uprising against the tyrant Zahhak. These acts, though symbolic, laid bare the underlying motivations of the Turkish invasion: expansionism and anti-Kurd enmity.

After holding on for almost sixty days, Kurdish forces chose to retreat from the city in order to avoid even greater civilian casualties. They’ve declared that the war has entered a new stage, where Kurdish forces will favor hit-and-run tactics over direct confrontation.

The first signs of this new tactic appeared on Monday: as Turkish army allies were looting civilian residences and shops in Afrîn, a bomb exploded, leaving many of the offenders dead. Kurdish leader Saleh Muslim has also given credence to this new approach, tweeting that withdrawing from one battle doesn’t mean losing the war.

Other Actors

Turkey couldn’t be doing what’s doing in Afrin without the approval, tacit or otherwise, of foreign actors. Russia and the US in particular stand out.

The Russians have publicly defended the Turkish campaign, blaming the US for their ties with Kurdish forces and thus “provoking” Turkey. Russia also controls the airspace over northern Syria — without its approval Turkish planes could not have flown over Afrîn and the campaign would have been impossible. Russia’s interest is in widening the fissure between Turkey and the US, thereby scoring a point against NATO.

The US, on the other hand, has not done much to defend its purported ally, emphasizing that its ties with the Kurds is limited to fighting ISIS. Part of this reticence undoubtedly has to do with Turkey’s NATO membership. Allowing Turkey to march into Afrîn is a relatively easy way to patch up recently strained relations with a fellow NATO country.

No matter their various motivations, one thing is clear about Russia and the US: neither has any desire in deepening the democratic and social aspects of the Rojava revolution. The US has admitted as much: in 2014, a US State Department stateswoman declared that Kobanê, which was then under heavy attack from ISIS, was not a priority for the US.

What Russia and the US want is for Rojava to develop according to their own interests — they have no strategic or ideological commitment to the Rojava revolution’s egalitarian principles. Their direct or indirect approval of the military campaign in Afrîn therefore cannot be called a betrayal, but rather plain imperialist politics. Both prefer the Kurds to be under their thumb — democratic aspirations be damned.

Turkey the Colonizer

The conquest of large areas of Afrîn, including the city center, has expanded Turkey’s sphere of influence in Syria. And Erdoðan isn’t content with what he’s gained: he’s repeatedly emphasized that the operation will proceed to the whole of northern Syria — that is, to the other cantons. Turkey may even open up a military front in Iraq to broaden the fight against the Kurds (though such a move seems unrealistic at this point).

Assisting Turkey in Operation Olive Branch is a Free Syrian Army force known as the TFSA, comprised of ex-al-Qaeda forces, Salafi jihadists, more moderate Islamists, and others (a far cry from the progressive elements that existed at the beginning of the Syrian Revolution). Erdoðan points to the TFSA — as well as Syrian refugees residing in Turkey — as proof that the operation is being undertaken with Syrians, for Syrians — not because Turkey “has [its] eyes on Syrian land.”

Such rhetoric barely conceals the brutality of the assault and the real motivations of Erdoðan. Too many pictures and videos have appeared documenting the viciousness of the offensive (often taken and shared by TFSA militias themselves). Indiscriminate targeting of civilians is the order of the day.

Turkey has already become more or less a colonial power in parts of north Syria: Ankara-appointed provincial and district governors, with the help of Turkey-controlled police and gendarmerie forces, control the reins of state power, and Turkey is already building universities and manufacturing areas under its own auspices. It will hardly be less colonial in Afrîn should its military operation succeed. In fact, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the MHP, took the — still not comprehensive — agreement between Assad and Kurdish forces as a pretext to declare that they “will have the right to keep the lands that we gave away one hundred years ago at least until stability, peace and tranquility returns.” A presidential spokesperson followed up with similarly unequivocal words: “We have no intention nor do we think of giving it [Afrîn] back to the [Assad] regime.”

This is a puzzling, myopic posture on Erdoðan’s part. How will appearing as an overt colonizer win hearts and minds outside the narrow cliques and groups that benefit from overt colonization? How does the Turkish state think it can win the support of Arabs and Kurds after again colonizing their lands and homes in overtly brutal ways?

There is a huge potential for blowback. The Kurds could enlarge the war theater by opening new fronts outside or within Turkey. Duran Kalkan, an executive committee member of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has stated that the guerrilla war in Afrîn will be accompanied by new and greater actions by the PKK.

On the other hand, militarized jihadi groups will certainly complicate things as the Syrian Army moves to the north in order to reestablish its control over the country. With the withdrawal of Kurdish forces, the Syrian Army and Turkey and its associated jihadis are set to clash. And then, where will the jihadis go if not to Turkey?

One final development that might affect the course of events in Afrîn is President Donald Trump’s firing of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and his replacement by former CIA director Mike Pompeo. Tillerson was a relative moderate in Trump’s cabinet; Pompeo is more hawkish, with a strong anti-Islamist streak.

No Stability in Sight

There is an additional reason for Turkey’s invasion of Afrîn. In the face of alarming economic and social indicators, Erdoðan needs to shore up public support ahead of the presidential election, which is scheduled for next year.

The government is taking precautions to avoid any surprise results. Ballots without the official stamp of the High Election Committee (YSK) used to be voided as invalid. Under the new voting law, these ballots will count, no questions asked. The YSK has also been granted the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts.

On a related front, the ties between Erdoðan’s AKP and the MHP have been turned into an official electoral formation named the People’s Alliance (Cumhur Ýttifaký), a previously prohibited tactic. The pact will save MHP from remaining below the 10 percent electoral threshold (an inevitability after many left the party to form the split-off IYI Parti). In general, People’s Alliance seeks to unite the entire right-wing camp under the AKP’s leadership.

Alongside electoral shenanigans, an unprecedented campaign of manipulation and ideological mobilization has been launched post-invasion. It is de facto illegal to question (let alone oppose) the military offensive. Hundreds of people have been detained and arrested because of critical social media posts, while government officials — including Erdoðan — have repeatedly labeled opponents as terrorists (or supporters thereof). The mainstream media celebrates “how the region is being cleansed of terrorists” and agitates for the operation’s success. Artists and celebrities who did not explicitly support the invasion have been exposed and targeted on television shows. Soccer teams and school classes take and share photos of themselves in military uniform to telegraph their approval. And people attending AKP meetings shout slogans along the lines of “take us to Afrîn too.”

Still, the AKP’s dominance is not secure. While the Afrîn offensive has garnered support from all major parties save for the HDP, not all right-wing parties have joined the People’s Alliance. The Saadet Partisi — a right-wing party which the AKP originally split from — and Akþener’s ÝYÝ Parti declined to become a member of the coalition. And while surveys show 70 to 80 percent support for the Afrîn invasion, they indicate public discontent on other important issues. According to one poll, only 39 percent support Turkey’s stance on Syria, 66 percent think the state of emergency Erdoðan imposed is damaging the economy, just 20 percent trust the judiciary, and only 17 percent have confidence in the media.

The general director of the somewhat left-leaning poll company KONDA claims that while around 60 percent of the Turkish electorate remains heavily polarized along party lines (i.e., pro- or anti-AKP), 40 percent remain rather indifferent toward party affiliation and care more about making ends meet in daily life. This slice of the electorate increasingly believes that none of the parties can solve the country’s problems.

Another poll company, MAK, reports that pro-AKP entrepreneurs and intelligentsia are showing signs of “resentment” even if they “remain silent.” They are apparently especially irritated that there is going to be a coalition despite the fact that the presidential system was introduced to do away with such pacts. They also remain skeptical of the “one-man regime.”

Despite Erdoðan’s best efforts to establish an all-powerful role, discontent still persists in at least half of the society. The military invasion of Afrîn has the potential to improve his positions. Or it could simply aggravate the instability.

What Next?

A couple days before Turkey initiated Operation Olive Branch, HDP parliamentarian Ayhan Bilgen made a prediction: “If there is an attack on Afrîn . . . then it will generate a civil war if successful, or a military coup if it fails.”

That has not yet come to pass, but the stakes remain high. Turkey has won the first round, weakening the morale and political-military position of the Kurds. But the story is far from over.

Kurdish forces will be more prepared and more determined to defend the remaining cantons of Kobanê and Jazira. The offensive could spark greater destabilization, especially if Turkey keeps pushing east. Regional and international sentiment could be inflamed. And for Turkey, there are the mid- and long-term costs of colonization that it will have to pay.

Erdoðan might seem to be riding high after last weekend’s victory. But the ongoing offensive has all the potential to set off more serious eruptions.

(Jacobin Megazine)

Brief History of the Relationship between Oman and Baluchistan

Atheer – Omani History

At the height of its strength during the Yaruba and Al Said Dynasties, the Omani Empire IMG_1814-616x330encompassed significant areas in both Asia and Africa. In Asia the empire extended as far as the region of Baluchistan, which is lodged between Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

Since ancient times Oman has had relations with Baluchistan, which is only natural given its close proximity to Makran, the coastal strip of Baluchistan that runs along the Persian Gulf. At around the end of the fourth millennium BC, Oman was part of a maritime trade range that included the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Makran, Mesopotamia and India. Archeological proof exists that points to such a relationship with Baluchistan. Remnants such as ceramic dishes engraved with Harappan writing were found in Ras Al Hadd and Ras Al Jinz in Oman back in 1981. The Harappan writing system belonged to an ancient civilization endemic to the Indus Valley.

It has been suggested by historians that people from Baluchistan emigrated to Oman during the early days of Islam around 1,400 years ago. European travelers who visited during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries noted the presence of communities of Baluch who are believed to have settled in Oman centuries before.

Despite the existence of relationships between the two communities over the course of early history, there was no political association between Oman and Baluchistan until the era of the Yaruba and Al Busaid Dynasties. The Yaruba Dynasty ruled Oman from 1624 to 1744 and the Al Busaid Dynasty has ruled from 1744 to the present.

The Yaruba established a naval force with which they defeated and expelled the Portuguese from Oman, India and East Africa. The city of Muscat subsequently became an active commercial centre as well as the main seaport of the Indian Ocean. This lead to Oman assuming control of a region stretching from the Arabian Gulf to the East African coast. As a result, under the Yaruba Dynasty Oman became a significant commercial influence over an area stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Ganges River in India, with Baluchistan as its centre of politics and business.

As a result of the political and commercial relationship that linked Oman and Baluchistan, a large number of Baluch joined the special forces branch of the Omani military. They were used to protect and defend Omani ports and cities, and were instrumental in fighting the Portuguese alongside the Omanis. The Baluch also played a significant role in laying down the foundation of Omani rule in eastern Africa during the era of Imam Saif bin Sultan Al Yarubi. The city of Mombasa was invaded by Omani army chief Aljamadar Shah Dad Baloch, who hailed from Baluchistan. Imam Saif went on to declare Aljamadar Shah Dad Baloch ruler of Mombasa, in honour of his efforts in the conquest.

The Baluch also participated in a number of civil wars that took place in Oman as a result of disputes among the sons of Imam Sultan bin Saif. Of the Baluch who weren’t killed during these conflicts, many remained and settled in Oman.

At the beginning of the rule of the Al Said Dynasty, Sayyid Ahmed bin Said (1744-1775) faced internal rebellions such as that of the conflict with Mohammed Bin Sulaiman Al Yarubi. Sayyid Ahmed requested that the princes of Baluchistan and Sindh send support to help him quash such rebellions. However, the Imam’s army was defeated in Saih Al Tayeb by the rebels.

In 1792 governor of Baluchistan, Mir Naseer Khan, awarded Sayyid Sultan bin Ahmed, the ruler of Oman, the port city of Gwadar on the Makran coast in 1792. Gwadar became part of Oman, and during the same year, Saif bin Ali was appointed by Sayyid Sultan bin Ahmed to govern Gwadar and Chahpar. Saif bin Ali constructed a castle and expanded Omani influence within Baluchistan. Under the Omani government, Gwadar became a force that competed with other ports in Makran such as those of Pasni and Gioni.

European travelers who visited Muscat during this period noted that the military presence of Baluch in Oman was very much prominent in the era of Sayyed Said bin Sultan. The population of Baluch in Muscat during this time was around 2,000.

Sayyid Said bin Sultan relied on veterans from Baluchistan to strengthen his power and eliminate some of the internal rebellions that he came up against. He thus appointed Dura Bin Juma Al Balushi and Ismail Al Balushi as Custodian of Muscat and Custodian of Samail Castle respectively.

After Sayyid Said bin Sultan passed away in 1858 and the Omani Empire started to dissolve, revolutions and rebellions began to affect the relationship between Oman and Baluchistan. As a result, Oman’s influence over the latter began to dwindle, particularly during the rule of Imam Azzan bin Qais (1868-1871). Sayyed Nasser bin Thuwaini Al Busaidi, an opponent of Imam Azzan who had strong relations with Makran, went to Gwadar and expelled Imam Azzan’s Wali, declaring himself ruler of Gwadar.

When Sayyid Turki bin Said dethroned Imam Azzan bin Qais from Muscat in 1871, he was able to assume Gwadar under his direct control. He took the responsibility of maintaining security and stability, collecting and disbursing funds, and employing soldiers from Gwadar and Makran alongside soldiers brought from the regions of Oman, Najd, Al-Ahsa and Hadramout in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as from East Africa, in order to help him fend off repeated attacks on Muscat by his opponents in the years 1874, 1877 and 1883.

When Sultan Taimur bin Faisal (1913- 1932) ruled Oman, he continued with such a policy as Sayyid Turki bin Said, as a means of combating the internal revolts that continually plagued the country. He hired soldiers from Baluchistan and formed the first military detachment of 300 soldiers from Makran, which came to be known as the Muscat Battalion.

During the rule of Sultan Said bin Taimur (1932-1970), Makran continued to provide soldiers loyal to the Sultan for the Omani Army, many of whom served as his bodyguards. Eventually the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, began to protest, claiming that Gwadar was a part of Pakistan and hence should be returned following Pakistan’s establishment in 1957. As a result, Britain suggested that the Pakistani government pay Oman four million pounds as a compensation fee for Gwadar to be handed back to Pakistan. An agreement was ultimately reached between the two countries in 1957, which saw Oman lose part of its property that it had governed since the eighteenth century.

Reference: Omani Studies Journal – Issue 16. Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Oman – 2010

Published in Atheer

THE ROAD OUT OF GWADAR

By Shah Meer Baloch

Twenty-three billion rupees. This is the cost of ‘Motorway 8’ (M-8), which (ought to) 5aaac19828466connect the port city of Gwadar in Balochistan with Ratodero, Sindh. Forget the cost; It’s the status of this “motorway” that is intriguing: complete yet incomplete, secure yet insecure.

There is great buzz about the M-8 project in Balochistan — locals who use the road on a daily basis say that it has greatly reduced the time needed to travel from Gwadar to Turbat, and indeed, reduced the time for produce and supplies to be transported between cities.

And yet, great things in Balochistan tend to arrive in small, sometimes troubling packages.

Also known as the Gwadar-Ratodero Motorway, the M-8 falls under the purview of the National Highway Authority (NHA). In theory, it is an 893-kilometre-long “motorway” that is supposed to facilitate the movement of people and goods to and from the port city of Gwadar.

The western end of this motorway is actually a junction known as the Karwat ‘zero point’, some 50 kilometres away from Gwadar. From Karwat, the road snakes through rugged terrain, first to Turbat, then to Hoshab and onwards to Khuzdar.

From Khuzdar, the highway takes a turn towards Sindh, to the town of Ratodero — the “eastern end” of the M-8. Ratodero has gained prominence in recent times for being the lynchpin of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The town is a junction where the CPEC’s western, central and eastern road routes all converge. And it is from here that trade between provinces will originate.

The M-8, therefore, is what ties the CPEC plan all together.

Late last year, the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), who were contracted by the NHA to build the motorway, completed construction of a 200-kilometre-long strip between Gwadar and Hoshab. And although the project is yet to be formally handed over to the NHA, the road is already in use.

We decided to travel down the motorway to discover if it lives up to its promise of being the main artery of CPEC. What we found, instead, were stories that pitted ancestral culture against modern development. There were tales of the troubles of living and surviving in conflict zones. And the permanent fear of being insecure while (somewhat) secure.

A rocky beginning

Twist in the tale: the M-8 wasn’t a CPEC-specific project to begin with.

The M-8 project is also known as the Gwadar-Ratodero Motorway. The project is divided into two sections; the first from Gwadar to Khuzdar, and the second from Khuzdar to Ratodero. Work on the 200-kilometre-long Gwadar to Hoshab segment began back in 2004 under the regime of General Pervez Musharraf. This track was supposed to have been completed in 2006. It has taken 13 long years for construction to conclude.

“The M-8’s first contractor was a Chinese company named Xinjiang Beixin Road & Bridge Group Co. Ltd,” explains Muhammad Musa, NHA’s project director in Kech District. “But they left the project when three Chinese engineers were killed in a car bomb blast in Gwadar during the first week of May, 2004.”

The Chinese firm had managed to complete 30 kilometres of the project, from Naleint to Talaar, during their short stint. The construction contract was then awarded to D. Baloch, but for some reason (possibly security-related), they, too, were unable to complete the work.

“The M-8 has gone through many contractors but nobody was able to work on it properly,” says Musa, “until the project was awarded to the FWO in June 2014.”

The FWO was responsible for completing all aspects of construction by October 31, 2017.

But the construction process was marred by violence ever since work started. In July 2015, for example, a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) disclosed that six military personnel and 10 civilian employees of FWO were martyred and 29 severely injured in 136 security-related incidents. Similarly, on May 19, 2017, at least three labourers were gunned down in the Hoshab Bazaar. Despite the violence, work carried on and the highway finally saw the light of day late last year.

“The FWO finished all but a few things by the deadline but they have yet to hand over charge to the NHA,” says Musa. “Work on the [majority of the] first 200 kilometres of the M-8 has now been completed except for work on Bridge Number 3.”

That this much has even happened is being taken as a godsend in the NHA.

“In Balochistan, there are many roads that can only be seen on paper but, in reality, they don’t exist,” says a well-placed source within the NHA as he alludes to the difficulty of building roads in conflict-ridden areas. “Had it been a local contractor, he would have taken the amount and closed the file, noting the security risk. I doubt if any other contractors could have completed this project, except the FWO.”

NHA’s resident engineer on the project in Kech District, Awais Mustafa, explains that according to the preliminary cost (PC-1) of the project, the cost of building one kilometre is 90 million rupees. This corresponds to a total road construction cost of 8.04 billion rupees. But so far, the NHA has spent far in excess.

“All told, this section of M-8 cost the NHA almost 23 billion rupees,” says Mustafa. “We [NHA] agreed to pay 13 billion rupees to the FWO alone, which included security costs incurred [on protecting those working on the project].”

The resident engineer adds that had the project been completed on time, in two years, it might not have cost more than eight billion rupees to build the 200-kilometre-long section. But since it went through many contractors, over many years, the costs have simply multiplied. Meanwhile, today the scope and needs of the project are far greater than what it started off with.

Perhaps this is why calling the M-8 a “motorway” is a misnomer. It was never conceived of or planned as the main artery of CPEC. Even today, the M-8 is actually a two-track highway. But as goes the famous Balochi saying “Koor e chamma pit e ars baaz’e,” a drop of water is a lot in the eyes of a blind man.

Karwat to Turbat

With our expectations dampened, we planned a journey along the M-8 from Pasni to Hoshab, and perhaps, beyond. But to do that, we first had to head to the Karwat zero point.

We arrived in Karwat cognisant of how there was hardly any help along the way in case we ran into trouble. We had ensured that the car’s tyres had been checked in Pasni. And as an added precautionary measure, we also took two spare tyres along because, despite a newly-built motorway, this short journey to Turbat between rugged mountains is highly unpredictable. From Karwat, we had planned on restocking our water supplies.

But as we entered this outpost, civilian and paramilitary forces both stood alert at Karwat zero point. Since this is a junction, there is traffic to man from three directions. One road out of Karwat leads to Gwadar City, the other towards Turbat, and a third towards Pasni and onwards to Karachi (also known as the coastal highway). Although I attempted to photograph the soldiers manning the zero point, I was told that taking pictures is strictly prohibited.

“Where are you people going?” asked a soldier suspicious of our intent.

“Back to Turbat,” I reply and we quickly moved on.

Not more than 20 kilometres out of Karwat, we were welcomed by a broken bridge in Nalient. We had to take a short detour because Bridge Number 3 had been blown up by Baloch insurgents in 2017 and was never repaired. Nalient lies in Kulanch Tehsil and is renowned for its delicious and juicy mangoes. Produce is sent to Turbat by this highway. Before the road was constructed, it would take at least four hours for the produce to get to markets in Turbat. Now it takes no more than an hour-and-a-half.

Our second stop along the M-8 was Dasht, a sub-tehsil of Kech District.

Dasht is known as one the most unstable areas in Kech District. To pave way for the motorway, military operations had to be carried out to push insurgents to the mountains. Despite the fact that Dasht is now surrounded by check posts, it still sees insurgent attacks from time to time.

In 2015, about 20 workers were killed while working on a local bridge close to the motorway, near Mirani Dam. The labourers were hired by a local contractor named Zareef Rind. This incident intensified the military operation in the district. Among the places the M-8 passes, there are still some very vulnerable towns under the insurgents’ control. For security forces, it is hard to be in complete command of these towns because of the rugged terrain of these territories.

The motorway runs around 15 kilometres on Khan Muhammad’s land in the union council of Shahrak, Turbat Tehsil. “I have not visited the FWO to ask them for compensation. If I do, I might be labelled an agent and killed by the insurgents. Neither the FWO nor the NHA has contacted me about compensation money.”

As construction started on the M-8, Baloch separatists started attacking convoys of the Frontier Corps. Most attacks in the early days took place near bazaars, towns or populated areas. And as the paramilitary force began conducting widespread raids to hunt down the militants, ordinary residents started moving to Turbat. The operations had their desired impact as insurgents have now fled to the mountainside because of the paramilitary action.

Locals in Dasht, however, are very keen on sharing the information that the Pakistani Navy has bought almost 4,000 acres from them, paying 25,000 rupees per acre. The land that has been acquired is adjacent to the M-8. But this is not the case with all land acquired by the government for building the highway.

Till now, our journey had largely been comfortable and the road also mostly well carpeted. We inched ahead towards Turbat, the hotbed of Baloch nationalist thought.

Turbat to Hoshab

Turbat is the headquarters of Kech District but is also the second most volatile region in Balochistan. As it turns out, we could not stop over and were forced to bypass the city proper (although we could still pass through Turbat Tehsil). The city has long been considered as the ‘city of ideas’. And after Nawab Akbar Bugti’s demise, in particular, it has become one of the hubs of Baloch nationalist thought.

This breeds the fear of whether it is even safe to travel on this segment of the M-8.

Indeed, this question of security has led to paramilitary forces having carried out many operations in and around Turbat over the years. They have succeeded in removing the violent element to some extent if not completely. But that does not mean that they have managed to maintain peace in the district.

The matter is compounded, however, by the absence of any security measures as practiced in other provinces despite the loss of lives in the making of the highway.

Take the matter of security fencing, for example, or even the formation of a dedicated force to man the motorway, to enforce traffic rules and to provide help to those in trouble. In comparison, the Lahore-Islamabad motorway has security fencing to guard against intruders and bandits. But since there is simply no fencing around the M-8, many NHA properties continue to be unguarded despite the dire need of security.

Makran Commissioner Bashir Bangulzai told Eos that standing operating procedures (SOPs) for the security of this motorway specifically have yet to be finalised. Currently, each civil and paramilitary force is playing its role in protecting the M-8.

“As far as I have heard, one or two army divisions will be deployed to protect this highway,” says Bangulzai.

But while such decisions are being made in the corridors of power, the method of security currently employed is for repeated checks of travellers’ documents. Two questions frequently asked at nearly every check-post on the highway: where are you coming from and where are you going? And, on most check-posts, commuters are also told to show identity documents to prove that they are locals. This tends to rub people the wrong way as many are left frustrated with the harassment that accompanies this security check.

With Turbat City out of contention as a stopover destination, we decided to stop in Miri.

Miri is renowned for two things: the ancient site of Miri-i-Qalat, which in turn, is also the fortress of Sassi and Punnu – from the love legend of Sassi of Sindh and Punnu of Kech-Makran.

“Miri-e-Qalat on the Kech River was visited by the great explorer Sir Aurel Stein in 1928, who reported findings of some surface proto-historic pottery,” explains Dr Imran Shabbir Baloch, an archaeologist and researcher from Turbat.

“Then in 1990, the site was selected for systematic excavation by a French archaeological mission under the supervision of Roland Besenval. Radiocarbon dating of the archaeological materials confirmed the hypothesis that the site was occupied from the 5th millennium BC to the late 3rd millennium BC.”

Since the French archaeological mission left in 2003 due to unrest in the area, the site lies in decay. The floods in 2007 wreaked havoc while there is great vegetation overgrowth on the site. Without a doubt, there is a part of Baloch heritage along the highway and, with a bit more care, it can be preserved and opened up as a tourist spot.

After saying goodbye to friends, we drove on towards Hoshab.

Ancestral culture versus modern development

Kech District is a place of great dichotomies. It has the most educated population in the province and yet is among the most violent of areas. While it is enveloped in security, fear still rules the roost. And although it has vast tracts of land, it also has great numbers of homeless people.

But there is a history to how these people lost their land.

Just short of Miri is a union council named Ginnah. It is one of the only towns in Kech District that lies along the M8. And when General Musharraf decided on constructing a highway back in 2006, Ginnah became a casualty of development.

“The government bought almost 300 acres in Ginnah,” narrates Dr Imran Shabeer Baloch, “paying 14,000 rupees per acre in 2006. The same amount was given for both fertile and barren land. The government also paid 25,000 rupees each for 5,216 fruit-bearing date and lemon trees.”

But a controversy erupted after landowners discovered that they had been fleeced out of their land.

“We found out through the minutes of official meetings that NHA-Islamabad had recommended to the Kech district administration to pay 500,000 rupees per acre. Those of us who owned the 300 acres bought by the government submitted a petition with the district executive officer (DEO) of revenue.”

The DEO rejected the plea, noting that the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 would apply here, and that the people affected in Dasht by the Mirani Dam were also compensated by the same law. Till now, the people of Ginnah have been unable to find relief.

But this was no one-off.

“My land has been allotted to the NHA just because it is not in a settled area,” says Nazeer Ahmed, a local. “But places such as Shapuk, Heeronk, Hoshab are not settled areas. How could I then present it as a settled area, when it is not?”

Locals such as Ahmed claim that they don’t get compensated for their land whenever there is mega-development work in their areas. What beats them in a legal struggle is that they only have “ancestral documents,” not settlement papers. Since many of these territories are not “settled areas” —registered with the government and with inhabited dwellings — residents don’t tend to have official documents. What they possess are ancestral documents as proof of ownership. Ancestral documents often predate the birth of Pakistan. Ahmed went to the Qazi court in Turbat to protest the NHA not compensating him for his land. But the court ruled against him because he only had ancestral papers to show ownership.

Another citizen from Shapuk with lands in Sammi, Shapuk (adjacent to the motorway) agrees with Ahmed.

“Our lands were snatched by force and we were paid nothing,” he claims. “I was told that the lands were not settled and therefore the government owns the lands. We have been living here for centuries, even before the inception of Pakistan.”

The notable goes on to state that most lands in this part of the country were acquired during the regime of General Pervez Musharraf. “Once he announced the construction of a road here, people began losing their ancestral lands.”

The trend hasn’t bucked. Instead it has gone ahead more aggressively.

In many towns in Gwadar and Kech Districts, locals have not received any monetary compensation. After the completion of the coastal highway, the majority in Pasni did not get paid for the land which lies on the route from Pasni zero point to Gwadar zero point. Similarly locals in Pasni, Rahelu, Belar and Kulanch were also told that they would be compensated since the Sawar Dam is being built on their lands. So far, they have received nothing.

What complicates matters is that ordinary people are often caught in the crossfire between the security forces and the insurgents. While security forces carry out raids to flush the militants from settled areas, insurgents have allegedly killed many Baloch civilians, accusing them of being agents of the intelligence agencies and the FC. This means that locals tend to stay mum in fear of being perceived as partisan to any conflict.

“It is dangerous to live with the insurgency,” says Khan Muhammad, who came to Turbat three years ago from Shapuk. “I have not even been compensated for my lands.”

The motorway runs around 15 kilometres on Khan Muhammad’s land in the union council of Shahrak, Turbat Tehsil. “I have not visited the FWO to ask them for compensation. If I do, I might be labelled an agent and killed by the insurgents. Neither the FWO nor the NHA has contacted me about compensation money.”

But this does not entail the bulldozing of people’s right to adequate compensation and resettlement.

“According to the land acquisition act, section 4 and 5, wherever and whenever the federal or provincial government need a piece of land they can acquire it and use it for collective public interest,” explains Advocate Qasim Ali Gajizai, President of the Kech Bar Association. “But it is necessary for the government to compensate the owners of the land through sections 18 and 25.”

Gajizai argues that in many cases of acquiring false settlement papers, the Balochistan High Court and lower courts have given their verdicts against the false papers holders. “Settlement, legally, should not be the main reason for not awarding landowners with compensation,” he says.

Meanwhile, ordinary people stay away from engaging in legal battle, as not only do such disputes become protracted but they are also very expensive to engage in. And Gajizai agrees with the strategy.

“When engaging in a legal battle with the government or state in any court and, more specifically, in land-related cases, it takes many years to come for the case to come to a conclusion,” he explains. “One needs sufficient money to pursue a legal battle. Many times projects tend to get completed but the court has yet to hand down a final verdict.”

The first trade convoy from China to Gwadar, through the M-8, arrived in November, 2016, and was welcomed by both Chinese and Pakistani officials. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had said in his speech at the occasion that development could never be sustainable “if it creates islands of property. It must reach the lives of those who have remained mired in a trap of poverty and backwardness.”

But the current situation is pushing many more towards poverty than lifting them out of it.

Hoshab onwards

The good news first: work on the Khuzdar-Ratodero portion of the motorway, 243 kilometres long, has been completed.

The bad news, in the words of NHA’s Awais Mustafa: “The 400-kilometre-long Hoshab-Khuzdar section might begin sometime after 2023.”

In principle, the M-8 ought to have been among the first motorways to have been completed under the CPEC project since it will be the main artery used for goods transport. It isn’t. And Mustafa doesn’t see much urgency in building the missing track as “the Gwadar Port itself is not [fully] functional yet and almost half of the Gwadar-Ratodero Motorway has not yet been completed.”

Meanwhile, an addition has also been made to the original plan. Former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik had requested former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to also connect Hoshab with Bela, which is only 160 kilometres away. Sharif accepted the proposal.

“This segment is to be funded by the provincial and federal governments,” says Musa. “But it is not yet known when construction of the Hoshab-Bela section will begin. This is an addition to the original plan but will not disturb the overall M-8.”

As beautifully carpeted as the first section of the M-8 is, it is essentially a two-track road. And compared to the Lahore-Islamabad Motorway, this road is a picture of consistent disrepair. In many places, the road carpeting has already eroded and potholes have emerged. There are no street lights as a town approaches, nor are there cat eyes to guide drivers at night. There is a dearth of appropriate signage. And, of course, there is no motorway police to guard the highway or to enforce order.

“The NHA will be responsible for its routine and annual maintenance once they get the project back from the FWO,” says Musa. “There will be a separate department for the maintenance of this road.”

According to Awais Mustafa, the NHA’s resident engineer of this project: “This road cannot bear heavy traffic. Substantial roads are needed for trade purposes [such as] CPEC. The plan is to have the type of road needed for CPEC and its heavy trade ready by 2030.”

While the M-8 only has two lanes at the moment, it needs four more lanes for it to be used for trade purposes and goods transportation. “If it is to be used for CPEC,” says the engineer, “then it also needs interchanges every 15 kilometres as well as emergency on/off ramps.”

One of the biggest issues with roads and bridges in Balochistan is that they are short-lived. A few of the existing bridges along the M-8 are already in dilapidated condition. Mustafa attributes the general state of affairs to improper planning and oversights on the load the highway can manage.

“The M-8, as well as bridges, cannot bear more than 17 tonnes of vehicle weight,” says the engineer. “But most vehicles in Balochistan carry smuggled goods, often in excess of 17 tonnes. There are no checkpoints to measure weight so this overloading breaks down the roads and bridges.” He adds that if these weight limits are enforced, roads are expected to last 10 years and bridges can survive for 50 years.

Mustafa claims that although the NHA requested the FWO to install weighing stations or toll plazas to weigh vehicles carrying goods, they did not do it. The NHA even prepared a 25-million-rupee proposal to fund the weighing station, but “the FWO said they were done with major works and could not assign an entire unit and security for just a few stations.”

FWO sources maintain, however, that no request was lodged with the FWO for building weighing stations.

Perhaps, what’s important going forward is to balance the demands of development with the lives of the Baloch. Balochistan isn’t the only province that has a parallel system of justice which is unrecognised by law. Instead of finding avenues to formally recognise land ownership and to resettle those affected, muffling the people’s voice is counter-productive and alienating. After all, CPEC is for all of us.

Published in Dawn.

The writer is a freelance journalist. tweets @ShahmeerAlbalos

Pakistan failing on human rights, tells fresh HRCP report

Bolan Voice Report

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent watchdog criticized Pakistan’s imageshuman rights record over the past year in a new report released, saying the state authorities have failed to bring improvement in human rights.

The damning report card issued by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says people continue to disappear in Pakistan, sometimes because they criticize the establishment and other times because they advocate better relations with India.

The report claims that the blasphemy law continues to be misused, especially against dissidents, with cases in which mere accusations that someone committed blasphemy lead to deadly mob violence.

While deaths directly linked to acts of terrorism declined in 2017, the report said attacks against the country’s minorities were on the rise.

This year’s 296-page report was dedicated to one of the commission’s founders, Asma Jahangir, whose death in February generated worldwide outpouring of grief and accolades for the 66-year-old activist who was fierce in her commitment to human rights.

“We have lost a human rights giant,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said following Jahangir’s death. “She was a tireless advocate for inalienable rights of all people and for equality — whether in her capacity as a Pakistani lawyer in the domestic justice system, as a global civil society activist, or as a Special Rapporteur… Asma will not be forgotten.”

This report also took aim at religious bigotry and the government’s refusal to push back against religious zealots, fearing a backlash.

“The people’s right to socio-economic activities is curtailed by intolerance and extremism and authorities are lenient for fear of political backlash,” said the report.

It added that religious conservative organizations continued to resist laws aimed at curbing violence against women, laws giving greater rights to women and removing legal restrictions on social exchanges between sexes, which remain segregated in many parts of the Pakistani society.

Still, there was legal progress in other areas, it noted, describing as a “landmark development” a new law in Punjab, which accepts marriage licenses within the Sikh community at the local level, giving the unions protection under the law.

But religious minorities in Pakistan continued to be a target of extremists, it said, citing attacks on Shias, Christians falsely accuse of blasphemy and also on Ahmedis.

“In a year when freedom of thought, conscience and religion continued to be stifled, incitement to hatred and bigotry increased, and tolerance receded even further,” said the report.

In Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province, gunmen attacked Christian worshippers as they left Sunday services, killing two. Five other worshippers were wounded, two seriously.

Last year was a troubling year for activists, journalists and bloggers.

Several were detained, including five bloggers who subsequently fled the country after their release. From exile, some of them said their captors were agents of an intelligence agency.

In December, Raza Mehmood Khan, an activist who worked with schoolchildren on both sides of the border to foster better relations was picked up by several men after leaving a meeting that criticized religious extremism.

Last year, a government-mandated commission on enforced disappearances received 868 new cases, more than in two previous years. The commission located 555 of the disappeared but the remaining 313 are still missing.

“Journalists and bloggers continue to sustain threats, attacks, abductions and blasphemy law serves to coerce people into silence,” the report mentioned.

On the question of Baloch-Pashtun unity

By Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

I do not want to be seen as someone throwing a monkey wrench into the works and undermining the move towards a prospective Baloch-Pashtun unity but there are certain things which all those advocating and proposing this unity should understand and keep in view. I for one would be the happiest if this much-wanted unity materializes and becomes a political reality in this depressingly barren political landscape. I have mentioned below some things which do require attention of all who desire the much-needed unity between Baloch and Pashtuns and all those who want return of missing persons.

Recently, there has been an upsurge in protests against the state-sponsored crime of enforced disappearances which is welcome as there is no closure for those whose dear ones go missing. However, the question is, is it helping the missing to return or putting a curb on the continuing enforced disappearances? Apparently, it is of no help at least for the Baloch who are being abducted with impunity even from the universities and not a soul has returned.

The movement named the Pashtun Long March, which began after the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi, held a meeting in Quetta a few days back and, as is natural, it was well attended by the Baloch and Hazaras because they also have long been victims of state and sectarian terror.

The solidarity between the victims could and should be a sign of hope and a source of strength for all of them. This unity, however, shouldn’t be for a single event which, though applauded for a while, is gradually forgotten and nothing useful comes out of it; there has to be a well-thought-out approach to the unity and a consistent and systematic support for each other, for without this the initial enthusiasm will fizzle out and no one will gain except the state which is responsible for the plight of Baloch, Pashtun and Hazaras.

Though this coming together is more on humanitarian issue of missing persons, which too is welcome but for it to be of any consequence it has to be a political unity whereby each supports the other on the political front as well for without politics this would remain a social cooperation only and may peter out with time. There has to be clarity about the cooperation and the basis has to be political and only a unity on political grounds would be of any help to the affected.

Humanitarian issues cannot and should not be divorced from the political issues because the humanitarian issues affecting the Baloch and Pashtuns are because of the politics involved. If this is neglected there can never be any meaningful unity and, consequently, any gain.

For a meaningful unity there has to be a support for the politics which is responsible for the emergence of the humanitarian problem for both. The Baloch will find it easy to support the Pashtun on the demand for return of the internally displaced persons, the end of collective punishments, the end of FCR, the end of check posts, the end of the highhandedness of the security forces and the end of state support for the Taliban which has led to the situation that the Waziristans, FATA, Swat and other areas face today.

The Pashtuns, on their part, will have to support the Baloch in their struggle for their rights over their resources, the coast and also their politics. They will have to support the Baloch on their politics too to make their support on humanitarian grounds of any consequence. Interestingly, the recent Pashtun movement is not being considered as anti-state and it is being called a struggle for constitutionalism and fundamental rights while on the contrary the Baloch struggle has always been termed as anti-state and foreign-funded. So will those leading the Pashtun Long March and other Pashtun leaders risk the good will of the state and come out in support of the Baloch. The question is will the Pashtuns be willing to support the Baloch in their politics as well?

A word of advice to Pashtun friends: the slogan “Da sang Azadi da” or what kind of freedom is this? needs to be translated into the basis for political action and program by the Pashtuns united for their rights, for without the politics the Pashtun Long March will never become the harbinger of the “Pastun Spring” that it is being termed as.

And then there is also talk of unity of different forums across Pakistan agitating for the return of missing persons to unify efforts and stand on one platform for the recovery of the missing. This is in itself not a bad idea but some things should not be lost sight of.

The missing persons issue in Balochistan is not a recent one and it dates back to 1973 and, moreover, the perpetrators in Balochistan aren’t a rouge police officer like Rao Anwar but the state itself which systematically implements its policy of enforced disappearances to deter Baloch from demanding their political and economic rights; thousands are missing and the numbers keeps rising.

Undoubtedly, the issue of missing persons demands a unified approach but in this melee the reason why Baloch go missing should not be swamped, forgotten and sidelined. The Baloch go missing for their political demands and their opposition to the army playing god there. It for this reason any Baloch involvement in a united front for missing persons will be on the condition that their political demands are acknowledged and supported. Without this Baloch would be losing out and that would be a great injustice to those who were abducted, tortured and dumped in their thousands in Balochistan, to those who languish in the dungeons even today and to the relatives of those victims of state terror.

The Baloch missing persons go missing because of their politics and if the political element goes missing from the envisaged united front for missing then it will be a self-defeating exercise and the state will continue its sordid activities and eventually make this unity a purposeless and a negative exercise. The Baloch have been agitating for their missing person for nearly a decade now and only a few rallied to their cause. Even the 106 days Voice of Baloch Missing Persons Long March in 2013-14 did not evoke a word of support except from some progressive persons and a part of civil society. The Baloch political demands have acted as a deterrent to people supporting them, Baloch demands for their sovereignty are considered politically and religiously blasphemous by many, however it should not be forgotten that if the Baloch give up the politics for the fear of opprobrium it will a great injustice to the Baloch people who want a life of peace and dignity and even a greater injustice to those who died and continue to suffer for their rights.

The anniversary for the 27th March 1948, the day Balochistan was illegally and unjustifiably annexed by force by Pakistan and is observed as a “Black Day” by the Baloch is nearly on hand and it will be interesting to see if the Pashtuns who are promoting and supporting unity among the Baloch and Pashtun after the Quetta event of the ‘Pashtun Long March’ will even like to touch the issue which forms the crux of the political demands of Baloch. The attitude, the reaction and the approach to this day and to the struggle, the sacrifices and demands of Baloch will prove if there can be real unity between the Baloch and the Pashtun.

Published in Balochistan Times

IMF’s Lagarde warns China on Belt and Road debt

Balance of payments risks seen for recipients of infrastructure finance

By Charles Clover

Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, warned Chinese policymakers onIMF Thursday to beware of financing unneeded and unsustainable projects in countries with heavy debt burdens.

Ms Lagarde told a conference in Beijing that while China’s Belt and Road Initiative could provide much-needed infrastructure, “ventures can also lead to a problematic increase in debt, potentially limiting other spending as debt service rises, and creating balance of payments challenges”.

Beijing’s multibillion-dollar initiative, seen as the underpinning of a new Silk Road linking China to the world, is providing welcome finance to countries from east and central Asia to Europe and Africa for roads and other projects, but it has also been criticized for burdening recipients of the funds with debt.

The IMF also unveiled its first efforts to support the BRI, and Ms Lagarde announced the opening of a China-IMF Capacity Development Center, which will help train Chinese development officials to work abroad. The first classes began in the city of Dalian last month.

The project is aimed at providing IMF support for the BRI, Beijing’s key foreign development initiative launched five years ago, which foresees hundreds of billions of dollars in development and infrastructure finance and is currently aimed at about 70 countries.

IMF encouragement has been treated with scepticism in some western countries, such as the US, which question whether the development effort masks a push by China to gain influence in Eurasia and Africa.

The issue of debt is also the crux of a debate within economic development circles over how to best handle the rise in Chinese investment in many countries with fragile economies.

According to a report last month by the Washington Center for Global Development, eight countries on the BRI routes may already have trouble servicing debt due to high levels of borrowing from China, including Pakistan, Djibouti, the Maldives and Laos. The study found 23 countries to be a “at risk of debt distress today” due to Belt and Road borrowing.

In a nod to these criticisms, Ms Lagarde said: “In countries where public debt is already high, careful management of financing terms is critical.”

Another challenge, she added, was “ensuring that Belt and Road only travels where it is needed” — an oblique reference to problems of insider dealing. “With any large-scale spending there is sometimes the temptation to take advantage of the selection and bidding process” she said.

Chinese officials have been keen to gain the imprimatur of the IMF and other established development agencies as seals of approval for the BRI.

“Ensuring debt sustainability [is] very important,” said Yi Gang, governor of the People’s Bank of China, in a speech welcoming Ms Lagarde to Beijing. However, he said it was just as important to consider “how to expand domestic infrastructure investment and how to improve public investment while taking full advantage of external resources”.

Developing countries have welcomed the Chinese approach — saying they often chafe at stringent IMF conditions on debt management that mean needed infrastructure must be delayed.

“The IMF conditions mean low growth,” said one African official attending the conference in Thursday, who asked that his name and country not be mentioned “When you talk about debt sustainability, that also means low growth. It’s about finding a right balance.”

China has agreed to contribute $50m over five years to an IMF effort to train officials in China and in several other countries, including many in Africa.

In addition to announcing the IMF-China training centre, Ms Lagarde lauded an effort to bring BRI decision making under the umbrella of a newly created International Development Cooperation Agency, which is to be in charge of China’s foreign aid.

Published in Financial Times.com

Pakistanis pose a threat to Gulf communities, says Dubai security chief

By Rabnawaz Baloch, Dubai

A top Emirati security official, known for making controversy-catching remarks on wide-Dhahi-Khalfan-Tamim-500ranging issues, took to Twitter to denounce Pakistanis, accusing them of being a “dangerous threat to Gulf societies”.

In his recent diatribe on April 1, Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan, who is the head of general security of Dubai, wrote in Arabic: “The Pakistanis pose a serious threat to the Gulf communities for the drugs they bring with them to our countries.”

The tweet, followed by a series of similar attacks targeting Pakistanis, came in the backdrop of a drug racket being busted in Dubai. The tweet was also carrying a photo apparently showing three Pakistani smugglers, along with the drugs allegedly recovered from them.

No government data is readily available to show that Pakistani citizens have been involved in certain crimes in UAE more than immigrants belonging to other countries.

Khalfan resorted to generalizing, however, asking his fellow citizens “not to employ Pakistanis”. The security official, who was the head of Dubai Police Force until 2013, termed it a “national duty to stop hiring Pakistanis”.

In continuation of his diatribe, the official went on to make sweeping comparisons between Pakistanis and their arch rival Indians.

“Why are the Indians disciplined while disruption, crime, and smuggling are prevalent in the Pakistani community?” he wrote, according to uaeviral.com.

Dragging people from Bangladesh into the verbal assault, Khalfan suggested that Pakistanis should be subjected to increased inspection, similar to what Bangladeshis had to face “because of the criminal tendencies”.

“We became strict with the Bengalis because of the criminal tendencies they have shown. Pakistanis must be placed under an increased level of inspection.”

Title February 2018

title February 2018 for blog

Pakistan’s gray-listing in FATF blows to Pak-US exacerbating relations

By Ahmed Khan

In 1980, the G-7 countries formed an intra-governmental body is called the Financialpic_1519466065 Action Task Force (FATF). This discussed forum objectives are control money laundering and financing to terrorist organizations. The FATF is therefore “Policy making body” which works to bring about legislative and regulatory reforms among member countries.

Since its creation FATF has led the efforts to approve and implement policies shaped to combat the use of financial system by criminals. In various periods it presented recommendations; in 1990, revised in 1996 and in 2003 to ensure the suspension of money laundering and develop relevant measures for curbing this threat. This union also sets out the framework for anti-money laundering exertions and it shows determination the policies application against money laundering, globally.

The FATF has not defined tight constitution yet. And this also has not established any set of code for its future. The Task Force reviews periodically its mission.

The FATF latest mandate was set in 2004-2012, through this it reviews a mid-term and this was approved and revised in April 2008 by Ministerial meeting of member countries.

During 1991 and 1992, the FATF expanded its membership from basic 16 to 28. In 2000 the FATF expanded to 31 members, and has since expanded to its current 36 members.

Originally, the Group of Seven (G-7); Industrial Countries comprising on Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States of America have developed the FATF. These mentioned countries have great influence on world politics, presently.

The America and Afghan government have allowed the India for free trade in Afghanistan; consequently, the India has occupied entire Afghan trade market and Pakistan is incompetence regarding this. Before Islamists were ruling on Afghanistan, so it was like fifth province of Pakistan and India could not penetrate in this country.

In war on terror which was focused on Talban, the Pak-US were ally, but when Pakistan felt slipping out the Afghan market from its hands, then changed its priorities. Pakistan fought against bad Talban but has not let patronization of good Talban which are its assets. Through good Talban or Jihadists Pakistan deters India in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Presently, the US’s demand is abolishment of these fomented assets, and Pakistan seems reluctant about this.

History tells, the US ever enjoyed support of Pak army but now defiance is not affordable to it. The US is not ready to get infighting with Talban directly because in case it faces heavy fatalities of soldiers, therefore, it has adopted the policy of ‘carrot and stick’ about Pakistan, intentionally avail Pak army in this long-lasting battle.

The US has stopped its Coalition Fund Assistance to Pakistan, removed non-NATO status and now put it on gray-list of Financial Action Task Force – FATF plenary in February 2018. After June 2018, may Pakistan be listed in black list of FATF and it will be ranked with North Korea and Iran. The gray-listing of Pakistan in FATF plenary is another blow to Pak-US exacerbating relations.

The analysts have forecasted that the gray-listing of Pakistan will squeeze its economy and in future it will face harder to meet mounting foreign financing needs, including potential borrowing from the International Monitory Fund. Further analysts forecasted that gray-listing could cause to a downgrade in Pakistan’s debt ratings, making it more difficult to tap into the international bond market.

The financial analyst also predicted that gray-listing in FATF will cause the Pakistan suffer a risk downgrade by multilateral lenders such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank, International Monitory Fund. As a result, the country stock exchange is expected to fall sizably and China take advantage of the economic situation by expanding investment footprint. Being in “gray-list” means that accessing funds from international markets, for instance, would become tougher for Pakistan. In such situations only option will be China and its interest rate on loans is highest in world. In other way, the China will loot the Pakistan’s minerals on very low rates because of struck in muddle.

Pakistan was removed from FATF in 2015 after three years but its inaction put it back in the grey list with fear of being put in the black list in June. Some global financial institutions would be wary of transacting with Pakistani banks and some might want to even avoid Pakistan altogether, viewing the legal risks associated with doing business there far outweigh economic benefits, if any.

The gray-listing in FATF would cause a decline in foreign transactions foreign currency inflows could lead to further widening of Pakistan’s already account deficit. Pakistani economy had to be bailed out by the IMF in 2013. The financial sector might take a hit as Standard Charter, the largest international bank in Pakistan with 116 branches, as well as Citi Bank and Deutsche Bank, which mostly deal with corporate clients might decide to pullout.

Amid intense pressure from global regulators to guard against money laundering and terrorist financing, banks have been retreating from high-risk countries in recent years. The level of due diligence by banks already high in countries as Pakistan, but after the listing, banks may have to reassess the vulnerability in Pakistan.

It is also noteworthy that friends countries like China and Saudi Arab also did not support Pakistan to exclude FATF’s gray-listing. Perhaps these countries will manipulate over the Pakistan when it is in dilemma. The said countries already are enjoying the resources of Pakistan and benefiting from its army on high level in very low return.

The US demands are increasing one to next from Pakistan. The gray-listing in FATF is deficit for Pakistan but destroying the Haqqani Network and other assets is also not bearable to it. In suppose, Pakistan breaks Haqqani Network, then next US demand will be extermination of Lashkar-e-Tayaba, and this series will be continued to next.

The Pakistani authorities, like Miftah Ismail the Prime Minister’s Financial Advisor told media that the gray-listing in FATF will not affect substantially to Pakistan. In fact, such impressions do not seem true, because country already is suffering from financial crises and its currency is more devaluing. Beside this, the trade volume with Afghanistan has shrunk to half and this market has occupied by India due to great subsidies.

Now Pakistan is to review its internal and external policies. This time reliant foreign policy on any country including China would not be applicable. The current leaned foreign policy on superpowers is core reason of country on national and international level malign and its prevalence in future will create serious threats for sovereignty of country.

China woos Pakistan militants to secure Belt and Road projects

Beijing in talks with tribal separatists in Baluchistan to protect $60bn investment

Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad and Kiran Stacey in New Delhi

China has been quietly holding talks with Pakistani tribal separatists for more than five1171552-cr-1472448747-637-640x480 years in an effort to protect the $60bn worth of infrastructure projects it is financing as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Three people with knowledge of the talks told the Financial Times that Beijing had been in direct contact with militants in the south-western state of Baluchistan, where many of the scheme’s most important projects are located.

For more than half a century, Beijing has maintained a policy of non-interference in the domestic politics of other countries. But that has been tested by its desire to protect the billions of dollars it is investing around the world under its Belt and Road Initiative to create a “new Silk Road” of trade routes in Europe, Asia and Africa.

In Pakistan, Beijing appears keen to fill the void left by Washington, which has drifted from its former ally after becoming frustrated at Islamabad’s failure to tackle extremism. Beijing’s willingness to get involved in Pakistani politics has fuelled concerns in New Delhi, which is worried about China’s growing political influence in neighbouring countries, including Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

“The Chinese have quietly made a lot of progress,” said one Pakistani official. “Even though separatists occasionally try to carry out the odd attack, they are not making a forceful push.”

As it seeks to boost the Chinese economy, China’s plans for a new Silk Road has pitched Beijing into some of the world’s most complex conflict zones.

Chinese peacekeepers are already in South Sudan, where Beijing has invested in oilfields and is planning to build a rail line. China has also contributed troops to a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali and even talked about launching attacks against Isis in Iraq, where it has been the largest foreign investor in the country’s oil sector Pakistan, which is set to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the infrastructure initiative, is one of the riskiest parts of the world in which to do business. Last year 10 local workers were killed by unidentified gunmen while working near Gwadar port, the linchpin of the economic corridor.

Some have warned that China’s investment could lead to Pakistan being treated like a client state by Beijing, despite promises that Chinese troops would not be stationed there.

“The Belt and Road Initiative is portrayed as an economic project to boost infrastructure and connectivity but, increasingly, it has significant local political and strategic dimensions,” said Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Pakistani officials, however, have welcomed the talks between Baluch rebels and Chinese envoys, even if they do not know the details of what has been discussed. “Ultimately, if there’s peace in Baluchistan, that will benefit both of us,” said one official in Islamabad.

Another said the recent decision by the US to suspend security assistance to Pakistan had convinced many in Islamabad that China was a more genuine partner. “[The Chinese] are here to stay and help Pakistan, unlike the Americans, who cannot be trusted,” the person said.

Pakistan is planning to buy Chinese military helicopters and components for surveillance drones as part of its plan to fortify its border with Afghanistan with a 2,600km-long fence.

Chinese officials did not comment on the talks, though the Chinese ambassador to Islamabad said in a recent interview with the BBC that militants in Baluchistan were no longer a threat to the economic corridor.

One provincial tribal leader said many young men had been persuaded to lay down their weapons by the promise of financial benefits. “Today, young men are not getting attracted to join the insurgents as they did some 10 years ago,” he said. “Many people see prosperity” as a result of the China-Pakistan corridor, he said.

Pulished in Financial Times

Saudi Arabia to open luxury beach resort where women can wear bikinis

By Raf Sanchez

Saudi Arabia’s new heir to the throne has announced plans for a beach resort whereScene from a public beach near the famous Corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia special laws will allow women to wear bikinis instead of covering up their skin.

As part of his drive to modernize the Saudi economy, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has unveiled plans for a luxury Red Sea resort on a stretch of coast line in the country’s northwest.

Knowing that foreign visitors are unlikely to come to beaches where women are forced to cover up in an abaya – a robe-like dress – the government said the resort will be “governed by laws on par with international standards”.

Saudi Arabia’s own laws on women are among the most repressive in the world, with women banned from driving and unable to travel without permission from a male relative.

Women are expected to cover their skin and hair when they are outside, although the laws are not uniformly enforced. Last month, a young woman was arrested for wearing a miniskirt in an abandoned village.

Alcohol is banned under Saudi law and it is not clear if it will be allowed on the resort.

Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund described the project as an “exquisite luxury resort destination established across 50 untouched natural islands”.

“The Red Sea project will be a luxury resort destination situated across the islands of a lagoon and steeped in nature and culture.

“It will set new standards for sustainable development and bring about the next generation of luxury travel to put Saudi Arabia on the international tourism map,” the fund said.

Construction is set to begin in 2019 and the first phase of the project will be completed by 2022, according to the announcement. It hopes to host a million visitors a year by 2035.

The Red Sea project is part of Prince Mohammed’s Vision 2030 – a plan to diversify the Saudi economy and wean it off its dependence on oil.

Some foreign investors have applauded the young prince, who is often referred to by his initials “MbS”, but others have said the plan is unlikely to succeed.

Saudi Arabia may seen an opening in the tourism market as neighbouring Egypt struggles to convince foreigners that its own Red Sea resorts are safe.

The Egyptian holiday area has been wracked by a number of attacks in recent years, including the bombing of a Russian airliner that took off from Sharm el-Sheikh. Visitor numbers have slumped as a result.

The Saudi statement stressed that the project “will be an extremely safe and secure environment that will ensure the protection of all visitors in accordance with the highest international best practice”.

Most foreigners will be able to fly straight into the tourism zone without a visa, another easing of Saudi law designed to make the resort more attractive.

Prince Mohammed was elevated to the role of crown prince in June after his cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, was stripped of the role.

Prince Mohammed is the son of the current king, Salman, and already has broad authority over the kingdom’s economy as well as its defence and foreign policies.

A spokesman for the public investment fund did not respond to a request for comment.

Courtesy to The Telegraph

US want military-to-military relationship with Pakistan: Gen Joseph

Bolan Voice Report

A top US general state appear in international media through that he has totally dismissed the impression that the United States and Pakistan were on a collision course, saying they valued the military-to-military relationship with Pakistan.

Gen Joseph Votel — who as head of the Central Command is responsible for all US military operations in the Pakistan-Afghan region — told a congressional panel on Tuesday that the US had preserved the valuable military-to-military relationship with Pakistan and attempted to increase transparency and communication with military leaders.

In doing so, the US continues to press its serious concerns about Pakistan’s alleged provision of sanctuary and support to militant and terrorist groups that target US personnel and interests, he added.

“Achieving long-term stability in Afghanistan and defeating the insurgency will be difficult without Pakistan’s support and assistance,” said Gen Votel while explaining why he believed maintaining this military-to-military relationship was important.

The US commander pointed out that the military had recently seen some “positive indicators” from Pakistan, which led to believe that Islamabad was becoming more responsive to US concerns about alleged militant safe havens in the country.

“Recently, we have started to see an increase in communication, information sharing, and actions on the ground in response to our specific requests — these are positive indicators,” Gen Votel told the House Armed Services Committee.

However, he said, Pakistan had not yet made a strategic shift, which could satisfy Washington. “Ongoing national counterterrorism efforts against anti-Pakistan militants throughout the country have not yet translated into the definitive actions we require Pakistan to take against Afghan Taliban or Haqqani leaders,” he added.

Gen Votel also told the committee that the “enduring tension between the nuclear powers of India and Pakistan remains unreconciled” and militants operating out of remote areas in Pakistan continue to threaten Afghanistan and India.

He said the Afghan problem was “compounded by increasing cross-border terrorist attacks and fires between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” which hinders both countries’ abilities to coordinate on border security.

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