Sunday, August 2, 2015
There should be no confusion or lack of clarity about what has happened in Islamabad earlier this week. The government’s move to destroy Afghan Basti, a katchi abadi in I-11, and evict its tenants by force, represents nothing less than a continuation of its long war against the poor. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless, moving from a position of abject poverty to absolute destitution, hundreds have been injured, and many have also been arrested for the ‘crime’ of resisting the brutality of a state machinery inured to the use of violence against the subordinate classes. While it would be tempting to say that this incident has revealed the government’s true colours, the truth is that the government has always displayed an eager willingness to trample all over the rights of the poor in its pursuit of the interests of the rich and powerful.
When the government first began its demolition of Afghan Basti, its approach bore all the hallmarks of similar exercises undertaken in the past. Armed with a court order that conferred the proceedings with a dubious legitimacy, allowing for the settlement to be razed to the ground without even mentioning the need to help the displaced and dispossessed, the government’s description of its activities as being a ‘clean-up operation’ was inadvertently revealing; it was clear that, to the government, this settlement represented a blight on the face of Islamabad and the CDA’s plans for the city, and that its residents were little more than human detritus that needed to be disposed of to make way for shinier and flashier buildings and people. Claims that the Afghan Basti was a hub of iniquity plagued by drugs and criminality were supplemented by an openly racist narrative that associated such activities with the Afghan refugees living in the settlement; the fact that this was factually incorrect (the majority of the Afghan Basti’s residents are Pakistani citizens, and levels of crime are no higher than comparable low-income areas in other parts of the country) is also irrelevant when considering how basic human decency, if nothing else, dictates that we should treat everyone with respect and empathy regardless of their national origins.
Once again, the old bogey of ‘development’ was also invoked to justify the unjustifiable, providing a veneer of acceptability and respectability to proceedings that were anything but. As always, no real attempt was made to outline exactly what this development would be or who would benefit from it but if past experience is anything to go by, the contours of the process should be abundantly clear. With their focus on mega-projects that serve as showy symbols or ‘progress’ as well as great opportunities for graft, successive governments in Pakistan (most notably those headed by the PML-N) have repeatedly demonstrated how their visions of ‘development’ have no room for the poor. Amidst all the massive roads, glitzy buildings, and billions of dollars of investment, little to no attention has been paid to addressing the basic needs of Pakistan’s poor, with spending of healthcare, education, and welfare remaining abysmally low. Instead, shadowy cabals of well-connected businessmen, landowners, and government officials continue to carve up the economy amongst themselves, ensuring that Pakistan remains a country that exists to protect and pursue the interests of the few at the expense of the many.
In the context of the I-11 evictions, it is clear that the government has failed to provide the populace with low income housing, even though the right to shelter is enshrined in the constitution. The thousands of families forcibly removed from their homes and deprived of their belongings in Afghan Basti have been offered no compensation or any form of resettlement, and will be left to fend for themselves. For the government, and for much of society, the ultimate fate of these people is of no interest or consequence; they are invisible, intruding on the public consciousness only when they attempt to resist the forces responsible for their impoverishment, or when they disturb the comfortable status quo that characterises elite spaces and privilege in this country (as evinced by the clearly classist entrance fee introduced by Islamabad’s Centaurus Mall in the weeks prior to Eid).
To their credit, the PTI and the JI raised the issue of the I-11 evictions in parliament but did little more than engage in the verbal castigation of a government to which they are inimically opposed. This is unsurprising given that these parties, like their other mainstream counterparts, are constrained by the same structural logic that sees them all beholden to the property-owning classes and in thrall to the logic of capitalist development. They are inherently limited in the extent to which they will oppose the economic status quo, and cannot be relied upon, or expected to, engage in anything even remotely resembling a robust defence of the interests of the working classes.
Instead, resistance to the evictions was spearheaded by the Awami Workers Party whose activists were at the frontlines of the struggle helping to mobilise the residents of the settlement in their attempts to resist the bulldozers of the CDA and the batons of the police. In the event, some of these activists, as well as many residents of the Afghan Basti, were arrested and are currently being booked under Pakistan’s draconian anti-terror laws. While these arrests, like the rest of the eviction ‘operation’, are a travesty that needs to be protested against vocally and repeatedly, this entire episode, has once again, demonstrated how those who oppose the economic status quo and challenge the interests of the elite are guaranteed to be met with the full force of the state.
PPP Punjab expresses it total solidarity with the traders’ community and supports its strike of 1st and of 5th of August to press for their demand of withdrawal of with-holding tax, said Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, President PPP Punjab, while talking to a delegation that called on him at the PPP Punjab Secretariat here today.The delegation was led by Suhail Milk, Vice President PPP, consisting Nadir Khan, zonal president and ticket holder,Waheed Qureshi,Arif Khan,qaiser Mustafa,Chaurdhry Sadiq,Imran Athawal and Muhammad Hussain.
Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo said that the government was contemplating the economic genocide of the small traders but the PPP would scuttle their malevolent designs because it always stood with the victims and against the tyrannical forces.
He added that PPP considered the small traders as its constituency and would not leave it at the mercy of the hostile circumstances created by the government of the day.
He regretted the generosity of this government as it gave hundreds of billions of rupees exemption in custom duties to the big industrialists but its parsimonious against small traders at the cost of their vital interests was unforgiving.
He advised the government to concentrate on broadening the tax net instead of levying new taxes on traders whose capacity to pay in this count was grossly limited.
He anticipated that if the government did not withdraw the tax it would embolden money laundering and flight of capital leading to shake the foundations of the country’s economy.
He also asked the government to plug the loopholes of corruption in the FBR that was causing hundreds of billions of rupees to the public exchequer. It is embarrassing and indeed cast aspersions on FBR’s performance because Tax-GDP ratio of 9% in Pakistan is the lowest among the countries of this region.
He urged the government instead of wasting time in setting up committees to look into the matter it should withdraw the withholding tax that was being deemed by traders’ community as a type of official extortion.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Egypt on the first leg of his Middle East tour. Kerry will also hold a meeting with his Russian and Saudi Arabian counterparts in Qatar and attend a Gulf summit.
Ties between Washington and Cairo have been tumultuous since the popular revolt against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The United States has been particularly critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi's repression of the supporters of his Islamist predecessor, Mohammed Morsi.
The relations between the two countries have begun to improve somewhat, with Washington lifting sanctions on military aid for Egypt in March.
John Kerry will hold strategic talks with Sameh Shoukri, Egypt's foreign minister, on Saturday before heading to Doha. The dialogue will be the first between the two countries since 2009, and comes days after the United States announced that it would begin the delivery of eight F-16 fighter jets to Cairo.
The top US diplomat is also expected to raise the issue of human rights violations with his Egyptian counterpart.
"We'll certainly be discussing the issue of the political environment, human rights issues while the Secretary is in Cairo. That is an important part of our regular dialogue," a US State Department official said.
Concerns about Iran
In Doha, Kerry will attend a meeting of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and try to allay fears among the US's Arab allies about Iran's nuclear deal with world powers, which was sealed on July 14 in Vienna.
Many Gulf states are weary about Iran's growing closeness with the United States.
The GCC foreign ministers and Kerry will also discuss the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. The US State Department confirmed that Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would meet on the GCC sidelines.
Kerry, whose Middle East visit does not include a stop in Israel, will leave for Southeast Asia from Doha.
President Barack Obama will be the keynote speaker at the National Clean Energy Summit later this month.
The annual summit, now in its eighth year, brings together clean energy advocates, leaders, students, public officials and decision makers in an effort to advance the clean energy economy.
Organizers of the summit the president for making progress in addressing the threat of climate change on a global level and has increased the use of wind and solar energy domestically to reduce carbon emissions in record numbers.
Some topics that will be discussed during the summit will be job creation through renewable energy initiatives, energy independence and empowering Americans to develop existing clean energy resources, the summit said.
“MGM Resorts International believes in the need for to make a conscious effort to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “President Obama has made significant strides in this space and has been a strong ally in the fight for clean energy.”
President of the of Nevada, Las Vegas, Len Jessup added, “President Obama has prioritized funding for important clean energy research and education activities that are making a positive impact in Nevada.”
Nevada Senator Harry Reid said, “It will be a good conference and President Obama will really be the touchstone of how good it will be.”
“National Clean Energy Summit 8.0: Powering Progress” is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Harry Reid, Center for American Progress, the Clean Energy Project, MGM Resorts International and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Among the summit’s past speakers are Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and many more. Speakers for this year’s summit include Senator Reid, secretary of energy Ernest Moniz, President of Electric Operations at Pacific and Electric Company Geisha Williams.
Read more: http://www.fox5vegas.com/story/29686830/president-obama-to-speak-at-las-vegas-summit#ixzz3hbBh9XAP
By MICHAEL ERIC DYSON
When President Obama took the podium at theannual convention of the N.A.A.C.P. in Philadelphialast month, he sounded like the leader I’ve been waiting to hear since his first inauguration in 2009. It was almost as if Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow,” and the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. had hacked his computer and collaborated on his speech.
Many of Mr. Obama’s admirers and critics have hungered for straight talk on race since he his election. But since taking office, the president had been skittish on the subject and had mostly let it lapse into disturbing silence.
As we prepare to mark the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., this country continues to grapple with what feels like an onslaught of black death.
But now we are doing it with a president — our first African-American president — who has found a confident voice on race.
What led to his racial renaissance? And, more important, how can this shift be more than words? Beyond his incisive rhetoric and funding for police body cameras, can he take action that will leave the black citizens of this country better off when their first black president leaves office?
I believe the same confidence that has led the president to not only change his tune, but sing in a far more comfortable register, will lead to the necessary action: greater federal pressure on police departments, for example, further Justice Department investigations of police units plagued by racial bias and comprehensive judicial reform that removes from local prosecutors the decision to charge a cop in the killing of an unarmed civilian.
In large part, the president’s shift is the surge of history, the play of contingent factors that reveal, even force, a president’s hand, rushing him to the bully pulpit in ways that only a few months ago may have been inconceivable. Police killings of unarmed black citizens and the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have pushed the president in the right direction, along with a steady undercurrent of principled black criticism. It is easy to understand the president’s initial hesitation to engage race. The last thing he wanted to do, initially, was offer the nation a self-portrait of presidential leadership that drew exclusively from color. The right wing had made furious efforts to demonize him as a man unworthy of assuming the mantle of national leadership. The assaults from political figures who portrayed him as a cipher, or a monkey or, later, the police officers who cracked jokes at his expense, proved the toxic atmosphere.
“I am subject to constant criticism all day long,” the president told me in an Oval Office interview back in 2010. “And some of it may be legitimate; much of it may be illegitimate. Some of it may be sincere; some of it may be entirely politically motivated. If I spent all my time thinking about it, I’d be paralyzed. And frankly the voters would justifiably say, ‘I need somebody who’s focused on giving me a job, not whether his feelings are hurt.’ ” Mr. Obama said then that a great deal of the resistance he faced from the Tea Party had more to do with anti-government emotions rather than strict racial animus, even as he understood how the two intertwined. “Are there probably elements within that movement that focus on my race? I think that’s probably the case. I don’t remember any other president who was challenged about where he was born despite having a birth certificate.”
The president often practiced the politics of racial sublimation: He took the energy of race and redistributed it over the political landscape in a host of racially neutral projects — Obamacare, primarily — which could have racial benefits without an overt message of aiming policy at minority communities. This was an uneasy alliance of amnesia and avoidance, and no matter the surface calm, racial tensions were percolating beneath. When they erupted in police killings and black resistance, Mr. Obama’s path to public proclamation was cleared.
Bracing racial rhetoric, in tandem with targeted public policy, can make a big difference in how race is lived. The president has already made a push for prison reform. In his N.A.A.C.P. address, he argued that instead of devoting $80 billion to incarceration, we could invest in pre-K and jobs for teenagers, both of which would return the investment far more grandly than a life diminished behind bars.
Mr. Obama has also sought to aggressively enforce legal bans on residential discrimination — making cities accountable for the use of federal housing funds to reduce racial disparities. He has finally become more willing to grant pardons to prisoners who were often unjustly saddled with life sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
And in light of the hostilities between minority groups and the police, the president summoned a group to recommend incremental changes, some of which he adopted, such as the call for body cameras. Each effort is commendable and in some ways overdue. But something bigger is called for.
We need a new Kerner Commission report that is updated for our day, paying special attention to how black people are viciously targeted by unethical police practices. It’s true that calling for a commission might not seem like the most systematic fix. But a serious investment in assessing the state of inequality and systemic racism in America — numbers behind the trends the president spoke about when he eloquently eulogized the slain Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney in Charleston, S.C., in June — will show us clearly what work is left. And it will be harder to ignore, less ephemeral than mourning or protests.
In our conversation several years ago, the president told me that he aimed to speak about values that everyone could rally around. “At its base what’s always been strongest about the civil rights movement has been when it said, ‘Yes, there is a unique problem here that arises out of race and slavery and segregation. But when you lock us up, you’re imprisoning yourself in some fashion,’ ” he said.
Last November, the nation saw the spectacle of a black president giving a news conference on one side of a television split screen while in Ferguson, tear gas and sirens swirled around a crowd protesting the failure of a grand jury to indict a police officer in the death of an unarmed black teenager. Mr. Obama was stern, his gaunt visage strained by the relentless thrum of events, events that possessed a remorseless logic of black suffering as their end.
The president appeared to be, as he had often stated, not the president of black America, but, instead, the president of the United States, which seemed to be disuniting as he spoke.
In the months since, he has found a way to be both the president of all America while speaking with special urgency on life for black Americans. When Mr. Obama is free to tell the truth about race and the condition of black America, he is free to be the best president he can be.
After nearly seven decades, India and Bangladesh have officially swapped more than 150 pockets of land. The move follows a historic agreement signed earlier this year.
One minute past the stroke of midnight on Saturday, India and Bangladesh ended a decades-long border dispute by swapping contested lands.
While an agreement to swap 162 islands of land - 111 in Bangladesh and 51 in India - was officially signed by Dhaka and New Delhi in June, the handover did not occur until Saturday.
The deal was originally agreed on in 1974 following Bangladesh's war for independence from Pakistan.
However, India's parliament did not approve the agreement until earlier this year.
The land swap affects around 50,000 stateless people, who have now received citizenship after nearly 70 years in limbo.
While most of the residents of the swapped lands celebrated their newfound citizenship, around 1,000 people living on the newly Bangladesh side have opted to keep their Indian citizenship.
India has said that they have until November to leave their homes and be resettled in the state of West Bengal.
India's External Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Friday that the day "marks the resolution of a complex issue that has lingered since independence" from British colonial rule in 1947, reported AP news agency.
By Bruce Pannier
The situation in Afghanistan's northern Faryab Province, which borders Turkmenistan, has become critical. Militants who started attacks in the province in early July have seized more than 100 villages in little over a week.
On July 15, the chief of the Faryab Provincial Council, Sayed Abdul Baki Hashami, told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, that local pro-government paramilitary groups are retreating in almost all areas of Faryab and that the provincial capital, Maymana, is in danger of falling to militants.
Hashami said these local pro-government forces, which he called the "People's Resistance Front," are the province's only defense against enemy forces in Faryab. Despite government promises to launch an operation in the province to repel the militants, he said, there are no signs on the ground of that happening.
"They [the government] continue to say every day that we have sent forces and will start a [military] operation," he said, adding that the only help local militia forces have received came from the Directorate of National Security and it was "only their support that has allowed the People's Resistance Forces to hold ground."
"We don't have a government in Faryab" at the moment, Hashami said. He added that district centers are still under the control of pro-government fighters but "outside district centers, most areas are under Taliban control."
Hashami mentioned that militia forces had been fighting militants in Faryab's Almar district for two weeks, and he credited lawmaker Fathullah Qaysary for coming to the area a few days earlier with supplies of ammunition. Hashami said Qaysary saved the militiamen in Almar from perishing, but he also said pro-government fighters were forced to withdraw, abandoning 32 villages to the Taliban.
Afghanistan's Tolo TV reported on July 14 that "the Taliban have taken control of 30 villages in Qaysar district, 40 villages in Almar district, and 35 villages in Shirin Tagab district over the past three days."
Hashami said that in Almar, the Taliban and their foreign militant allies burned the homes of anyone suspected of belonging to or helping pro-government fighters.
Hashami said people in the province are "in a desperate situation" and blamed a lack of government support. "I've been telling the government dozens of times that these areas are going to fall to the Taliban and the situation is deteriorating. I told the interior minister, the defense minister, and the presidential administration," Baki said.
Afghanistan's vice president, Abdul Rashid Dostum, has reportedly cut short medical treatment in Turkey to return to Afghanistan. In comments to Azatlyk on July 15, Dostum spokesman Sultan Fayzi confirmed that Dostum would soon travel from Kabul to Faryab.
Fayzi said Dostum was "planning on meeting with the president, and after this meeting he is planning to travel to Faryab to observe the situation on the ground."
Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek warlord from the days of the Afghan civil war, was based in northern Afghanistan with a stronghold in Mazar-i Sharif. Fayzi said Dostum's presence in the north would encourage those resisting the Taliban, but he added that the deputy defense minister and the commander of Afghanistan's air force were already in Faryab.
Fayzi also said reinforcements, including helicopter gunships, would be sent to Faryab, and he vowed that the Taliban would be driven out of the province.
Fayzi and Hashami referred to the militants in Faryab as "Taliban," but other officials and military and paramilitary commanders in north Afghanistan have made frequent reference to "foreign fighters" operating there.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) contacted RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, and claimed that the IMU was in command of operations in northern Afghanistan, including in Faryab Province.
It was impossible to independently verify that claim, but Afghan officials have previously suggested the same.
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/pray-for-asia-bibi-and-all-christians-living-in-muslim-countries-says-franklin-graham-2/#sthash.kfZnIrlf.gadKsrZI.dpuf