Saturday, July 4, 2015

President Obama's Weekly Address - Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July

Video - July 4th 2015 - Star Spangled Banner Song

Katy Perry - Firework

The Top 5 Myths About the Fourth of July

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. A version of the article below was originally published at HNN.
#1 Independence Was Declared on the Fourth of July.
America’s independence was actually declared by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. The night of the second the Pennsylvania Evening Post published the statement:”This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.”
So what happened on the Glorious Fourth? The document justifying the act of Congress-you know it as Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence-was adopted on the fourth, as is indicated on the document itself, which is, one supposes, the cause for all the confusion. As one scholar has observed, what has happened is that the document announcing the event has overshadowed the event itself.
When did Americans first celebrate independence? Congress waited until July 8, when Philadelphia threw a big party, including a parade and the firing of guns. The army under George Washington, then camped near New York City, heard the new July 9 and celebrated then. Georgia got the word August 10. And when did the British in London finally get wind of the declaration? August 30.
John Adams, writing a letter home to his beloved wife Abigail the day after independence was declared (i.e. July 3), predicted that from then on”the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” A scholar coming across this document in the nineteenth century quietly” corrected” the document, Adams predicting the festival would take place not on the second but the fourth.
#2 The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4.
Hanging in the grand Rotunda of the Capitol of the United States is a vast canvas painting by John Trumbull depicting the signing of the Declaration. Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams wrote, years afterward, that the signing ceremony took place on July 4. When someone challenged Jefferson’s memory in the early 1800’s Jefferson insisted he was right. The truth? As David McCullough remarks in his new biography of Adams,”No such scene, with all the delegates present, ever occurred at Philadelphia.”
So when was it signed? Most delegates signed the document on August 2, when a clean copy was finally produced by Timothy Matlack, assistant to the secretary of Congress. Several did not sign until later. And their names were not released to the public until later still, January 1777. The event was so uninspiring that nobody apparently bothered to write home about it. Years later Jefferson claimed to remember the event clearly, regaling visitors with tales of the flies circling overhead. But as he was wrong about the date, so perhaps he was wrong even about the flies.
The truth about the signing was not finally established until 1884 when historian Mellon Chamberlain, researching the manuscript minutes of the journal of Congress, came upon the entry for August 2 noting a signing ceremony.
As for Benjamin Franklin’s statement, which has inspired patriots for generations,”We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall hang separately” … well, there’s no proof he ever made it.
#3 The Liberty Bell Rang in American Independence.
Well of course you know now that this event did not happen on the fourth. But did it happen at all? It’s a famous scene. A young boy with blond hair and blue eyes was supposed to have been posted in the street next to Independence Hall to give a signal to an old man in the bell tower when independence was declared. It never happened. The story was made up out of whole cloth in the middle of the nineteenth century by writer George Lippard in a book intended for children. The book was aptly titled, Legends of the American Revolution. There was no pretense that the story was genuine.
If the Liberty Bell rang at all in celebration of independence nobody took note at the time. The bell was not even named in honor of American independence. It received the moniker in the early nineteenth century when abolitionists used it as a symbol of the antislavery movement.
A visit to the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, encased in a multi-million dollar shrine leaves the impression that the bell indeed played a role in American independence. The guides are more forthcoming, though when we last visited they did not expressly repudiate the old tradition unless directly asked a question about it. Our guide sounded a bit defensive, telling our little group it didn’t really matter if the bell rang in American independence or not. Millions have come to visit, she noted, allowing the bell to symbolize liberty for many different causes. In other words, it is our presence at the bell that gives the shrine its meaning. It is important because we think it’s important. It’s the National Park Service’s version of existentialism.
As for the famous crack … it was a badly designed bell and it cracked. End of story.
#4 Betsy Ross Sewed the First Flag.
A few blocks away from the Liberty Bell is the Betsy Ross House. There is no proof Betsy lived here, as the Joint State Government Commission of Pennsylvania concluded in a study in 1949. Oh well. Every year the throngs still come to gawk. As you make your way to the second floor through a dark stairwell the feeling of verisimilitude is overwhelming. History is everywhere. And then you come upon the famous scene. Behind a wall of Plexiglas, as if to protect the sacred from contamination, a Betsy Ross manikin sits in a chair carefully sewing the first flag. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is where Betsy sewed that first famous symbol of our freedom, the bars and stripes, Old Glory itself.
Alas, the story is no more authentic than the house itself. It was made up in the nineteenth century by Betsy’s descendants.
The guide for our group never let on that the story was bogus, however. Indeed, she provided so many details that we became convinced she really believed it. She told us how General George Washington himself asked Betsy to stitch the first flag. He wanted six point stars; Betsy told him that five point stars were easier to cut and stitch. The general relented.
After the tour was over we approached the guide for an interview. She promptly removed her Betsy Ross hat, turned to us and admitted the story is all just a lot of phooey. Oh, but it is a good story, she insisted, and one worth telling.
Poor Betsy. In her day she was just a simple unheralded seamstress. Now the celebrators won’t leave her alone. A few years ago they even dug up her bones where they had lain in a colonial graveyard for 150 years, so she could be buried again beneath a huge sarcophagus located on the grounds of the house she was never fortunate enough to have lived in.
So who sewed the first flag? No one knows. But we do know who designed it. It was Frances Hopkinson. Records show that in May 1780 he sent a bill to the Board of Admiralty for designing the”flag of the United States.” A small group of descendants works hard to keep his name alive. Just down the street from Betsy’s house one of these descendants, the caretaker for the local cemetery where Benjamin Franklin is buried, entertains school children with stories about Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration, who is also credited with designing the seal of the United States. We asked him what he made of the fantasies spun at the Betsy Ross house. He confided he did not want to make any disparaging remarks as he was a paid employee of the city of Philadelphia, which now owns the house.
The city seems to be of the opinion that the truth doesn’t matter. Down the street from the cemetery is a small plaque posted on a brick building giving Hopkinson the credit he rightly deserves.
As long as the tourists come.
#5 John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Died on the Fourth of July.
Ok, this is true. On July 4, 1826, Adams and Jefferson both died, exactly fifty years after the adoption of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, which the country took as a sign of American divinity. But there is no proof that Adams, dying, uttered,”Jefferson survives,” which was said to be especially poignant, as Jefferson had died just hours before. Mark that up as just another hoary story we wished so hard were true we convinced ourselves it is.
Rick Shenkman is the editor of the History News Network and the author of the forthcoming book, Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics (Basic Books, 2015).

Video - Today in History for July 4th

Friday, July 3, 2015


Why Afghanistan's neighbours fear drugs influx

By Ahmed Rashid

Could increased fighting in northern Afghanistan lead to an influx of drugs transiting through Tajikistan and Central Asia to Russia and Europe? That is the worry of senior officials in the region.

Afghanistan-Pakistan Emerging Relations: An Opportunity Or A Threat

Since the launch of the summer offensive ‘Azam’ by insurgent groups, Afghanistan has gone through one of its most challenging periods of the last 14 years. Afghanistan national security forces have witnessed huge number of casualties. Insurgency in North of Afghanistan and the fallout of districts in Kunduz, Badakhshan and Nuristan echoes the unpreparedness of Afghan forces to fight without international forces air-support. Similarly Kabul was lucky not to witness the massacre of its member of parliament, as a group of suicide bomber were unable to reach their desires, otherwise, the intrusion would have cost the National Unity Government (NUG) a huge price.
Besides these insecurities and political uncertainties, the leadership of the NUG still believes that peace negotiations should be prioritiesed. They also have been adamant that the Memorendum of Understanging (MoU) between the intelligence organisations of Afghanistan and Pakistan has not yet been inked while copies of the signed MoU are circulating in the social media websites.
As the leadership of the NUG is tilting and flexing their foreign policy towards Pakistan in hope of peace and security that could be attained with their support. However, there are groups of ‘opposition’ to the approach taken by President Ghani and his team. Amongst them is the former President Hamed Karzai, who has remained politically active, despite stepping down last year.
The former President has recently held informal talks with the major stakeholders in India, China and Russia. Amongst these meeting two are of core importance a meeting he held with Prime Minister of India Narender Singh Modi and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has informed both of them about the challenges that Afghanistan is facing with the transitioning of power to Afghan forces, while also voicing his concerns about policies of the NUG. In his visit meeting with President Putin, he reiterated that “We have entered a new sort of relationship with Russia,” he further added, “And that relationship is now blossoming.”
The question with Afghans is that whether the growing insecurities, political uncertainties, and unemployment were the things that they were expecting from the NUG. It has almost been now 10 months, and the NUG has not delivered on any of the promises that the leadership of NUG promised to the people of Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan do understand that the core to all the above stated issues is insecurity, but how far more will the people of Afghanistan have to suffer. President Ashraf Ghani has offered Pakistan exceptional opportunity to work out peace for them. We don’t think this opportunity will come again, as failure to Ghani’s will dishearten other Afghan leaders to make such an offer to its western neighbors. We do understand that Pakistan wants Afghanistan that its territory and institutions should not be used against its national interest but Afghans would expect the same.
However we do understand that the movement of Taliban is not now only confined to support from Pakistan, as there are other regional and international miscreants that have provided them funding and logistics over the years to ensure that Afghanistan remains a mayhem to regional counties. We would therefore ask for a more comprehensive approach from neighboring countries including China, India, Russia and Saudi to think out of box, about durable peace in Afghanistan, otherwise the continuity of the insecurity would have direct and indirect impact on these counties.

Pakistan's Crippling disease : Fresh polio case detected in Balochistan

Health officials on Thursday confirmed that a four-year-old boy tested positive for polio virus in Pashtunabad, on the outskirts of Quetta, raising the total number of cases in the country to 26 this year.
Officials at the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) said that poliovirus was reported in samples obtained from 57-month-old Sharifullah.  They revealed that the boy’s parents had refused immunisation against the crippling disease citing religious reasons.
They added that Sharif Ullah’s father, Abdul Khaliq believed that polio drops cause impotency.
Commenting on the situation, Dr Syed Saifur Rehman, who heads the centre for polio eradication in the province, said that “Parents are responsible for destroying the lives of their children.” “They are putting the country at stake when they refuse to administer anti-polio drops,” he added.
Most polio cases in the country are primarily the result of non-administration of the vaccine either due to the family’s refusal or because polio volunteers are not able to reach families due to security impediments.

Pakistan - The death of journalism

If provocation does not work, what is the solution? More provocation until you become an anchor yourself!
Irrespective of one’s professional background, every important person (self-declared or otherwise) shares the same dream about the peak of his career in Pakistan: to appear on television as a ‘senior expert,’ the first reliable step towards hosting his/her own programme. Apart from the young and energetic, retirees with ‘severe’ heart disease are also jumping in (allegedly) to join the party and seize fame and fortune. Who can blame them for such an endeavour, an endeavor that pays well both in terms of financial compensation and political influence?

In fact, it is because of our insatiable desire for fame and fortune that Pakistan has become such a burgeoning market for these senior experts and, along with them, suicide bombers and world-renowned terrorists. One major difference, to be kept in mind though, between the two is that the latter (men of action) are concerned about their reward in the afterlife while the former (paper tigers) are only worried about their eminence in this mundane world. By mentioning this, I by no means am rooting for men of action over paper tigers since I believe that each one of them, in their own way, endangers our national integrity and regional peace. Let me put it another way: no country can afford to have so many of them together, except when it is determined to become Pakistan in the near future.

Coming back to the experts, I must make it clear to the readers that we do not know the cut off that sets apart a junior expert from a senior one. For many, it is just a figure of speech, an expression to show respect to any guest. In some instances, they even call each other seniors when they know it is the first month of the ‘senior’ on the job. Likewise, I am not sure what makes an expert an expert. Is it the number of their published books, their contributions to research articles, groundbreaking technological inventions, discovery of the new laws of mechanics or their landmark policy papers that changed the direction of the country? We are not sure. However, listening to them on television makes me think that none of these literary, legal or scientific contributions are required as a prerequisite to be an expert. On the contrary, these qualities may be frowned upon and discouraged. To be proclaimed as a specialist and then to be able to maintain that success one must bear only one attribute: to provoke others and/or be provoked by them into a feud that includes shouting, swearing, yelling and even kicking, slapping or throwing a punch.

By adopting this simple formula, if you have already appeared as a guest on some television shows and have showed off your talent, then let me assure you that you have fulfilled the first step of your dream, which is to conduct your own programme. However, with interested applicants ranging from retired generals to local physicians, and from stage comedians to serving bureaucrats, the market is full of well-connected, talented (most of the time self-proclaimed legendary) candidates, people who have done so much for the country that only fools can turn them down. In their presence, it is all but natural for one to feel intimidated and even depressed. What should one do then? I guess one should follow the same time-tested rule, normally reserved for democracy, which goes like this: “If democracy does not deliver, what is the solution? More democracy.” In the same way, if provocation does not work, what is the solution? More provocation until you become an anchor yourself!

And once you have secured your position as a host, vanquishing your competition, the world falls in line for you. I understand that in the beginning you have to focus on your own area of expertise and maintain your individual style but as a host, once you have drawn enough viewership, you must expand your skillfulness and cast your authority in biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and the economy along with international relations, public policy, politics and defence, all at the same time.

Every evening, wearing perfect makeup on your face, hiding all the blemishes on your skin (and character), as a true patriot you have to spend — which you already do — at least five minutes of your time on an introductory lecture providing the nation a guideline on how to succeed, computing its progress report and enumerating the reasons for its failure. If the people in power were sincere they would grab these pearls of wisdom that you have just spilled, stack them up together and compile all of them as a book of wisdom to be carried in their pockets all the time. But, alas, crooked politicians miss this ‘near divine’ wisdom.

Remembering, from divine wisdom, I must add that during your introductory speech no one should be allowed to question you, correct you or ask to provide appropriate references. Just like no one can challenge the authority of the cleric with a mike who can talk for hours without making any sense on the most difficult aspects of human evolution, atomic physics or astronomy. While it is the same type of job (as both of you have to entertain the audience for a long period of time and provide the nation an outline for its personal and collective success) the only difference between you and the cleric is the visible absence/presence of the beard, the robe, the camera, the discussion table and the pulpit. The question is: in the presence of so many clerics, do we need more?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Music Video - Stylez Major feat. Tony Sway (Dreams)

Video Report - A Big Change on White House Tours Jul 1, 2015

Video - President Obama Holds a Discussion on the Affordable Care Act - Jul 1, 2015

Video - President Obama Speaks on the Economy in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Video Report - President Obama on Re-establishing Diplomatic Relations with Cuba - Jul 1, 2015

# AsiaBibi - Support Builds for Ailing Pakistani Christian Mother Facing Death for Drinking from Muslim Water Cup

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman facing death for drinking water out of the same vessel used by her Muslim co-workers and speaking out for Jesus, is in such poor health her supporters fear she won't make it to her date with the executioner.
This courageous mother-of-five was sentenced in 2010 to be hanged for apostasy. She has always denied the accusations, but Pakistani authorities have ignored an international outcry and calls for her release.
The grim verdict was handed down after her co-workers charged she had insulted Prophet Mohammed.
Her nightmare began rather innocently on June 19, 2009, when this uneducated Christian mother, was picking berries with a group of Muslim women in the area of her home village, and they asked her to go to a nearby well to bring them some water. She happily did this and, on the way back, she was so thirsty, so she took a drink of the water, and when they discovered this, they accused her of being an "infidel" and an intense discussion ensued between them.
daughters of Asia Bibi use
Apparently, it quickly spiraled out of control, and the Muslim women became even more angered when, during a debate about their respective faiths, she responded by telling them that Jesus is alive, adding, "Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins.... Our Christ is alive."
That so incensed them that they began viciously beating her and this eventually led to a blasphemy accusation. In November 2010, Bibi was convicted under the blasphemy penal code, and sentenced to death by hanging. An appeal has been filed with the Supreme Court, but there's no word on how soon the case will be heard. is reporting that Bibi, now 50, is suffering from numerous health problems, including intestinal bleeding, according to Global Dispatch, which cited Bibi's family in reporting the woman is "so weak she could hardly walk."
"She is an exemplar of a gross miscarriage of injustice rooted in Pakistan's extremely unfair blasphemy laws and of how this law can victimize someone who should not be inside the criminal justice system whatsoever," said Phelim Kine, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division. added, "Supporters of Bibi are calling on the U.S. to use the approximately $900 million in annual foreign aid it provides Pakistan as leverage to obtain justice for Bibi and others suffering under the Muslim nation's Draconian blasphemy laws. The Center for Research and Security Studies, which identified 247 blasphemy cases prosecuted in Pakistan since 1987 and found many were used to persecute religious minorities and settle personal scores."
Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), based in the UK, said, "Six years have passed and the travesty of justice continues. For some time now, we have been told that there has been a moratorium on the death penalty because of pressure from Western donors, but even before this vanished at the end of last year, it has become clear that her treatment was in effect a slow death sentence by neglect and worse, all for allegedly committing a crime that should not exist-blasphemy."
"Asia Bibi is by no means the only Christian on death row for blasphemy," Chowdhry added. "There are a number of others, and there are also other Christians who are in there for crimes they did not commit, and are in effect there because they are Christians. One man who had been imprisoned for over two decades from the age of 15 and who was well known to be innocent of the crime he was convicted of was executed two weeks ago."
Pakistan-born Chowdhry said he hoped the British and US Governments would do all they could to force Mrs. Bibi's release.
"I call on the UK government to remonstrate with the Pakistani government in the strongest possible terms over this deadly game of bait and switch, and to free Asia Bibi and let her and her family escape to safety," he said.
Nazir Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, told it is difficult for the international media to pick up news on Bibi's plight because it generates so little coverage within the country.
"Pakistani media do not often write about her case and are too afraid because they are under pressure from the government to stay silent," Bhatti said. added that Pope Francis has called for clemency for Bibi, and last year, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul called for an end to U.S. aid to Pakistan, noting the persecution of young women and Christians in the nation, and citing Bibi in particular.

Last month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom pressed the Obama administration to designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern."
Those who have spoken up for Bibi from within Pakistan have done so at their own peril and two of them paid for their comments about her with their own lives. They were Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister of minority affairs, who were both assassinated after defending Bibi and speaking out against the blasphemy laws.
"The assassinations show how dangerous it is for politicians to challenge the blasphemy law. Militants will go to extreme measures for anyone who speaks for religious freedom or human rights," said Kine.
"We see what happens when someone tries to challenge the blasphemy laws," said Chowdhry. "It got two key politicians killed...In a country with such animosity against Christians, I don't believe a Supreme Court judge will be brave enough to exonerate her."
According to a recent Mission News Network article, there have been some recent internal attempts to overhaul the blasphemy laws due to international pressure. A March 2014 poll from the Pakistani English-language newspaper, The Nation, showed 68 percent of Pakistanis believe the blasphemy law should be repealed.
"It is not something that can happen overnight," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch. "The government needs to educate their people on what are universal human rights, what is respecting religious minorities and so on. Right now, I don't see that happening."
Chowdhry, however, believes that reform of blasphemy laws are unlikely in a country he says has been "hijacked" by extremists.
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) has now launched a petition for Asia Bibi to be released, and you can sign it by going to:

#Pakistan - ISIL-linked suspected terrorists arrested in Peshawar

Police on Thursday arrested three suspected militants said to be linked with the self-styled ISIL takfiri terrorist group.
Acting on an intelligence tip-off, security forces raided a shop in the Shamshadu Bazaar area and arrested the three suspects.
According to police sources, laptops containing IS literature along with other documents were recovered from their possession. Also seized were documents against the Pakistan Army. No weapons or ammunition was seized in the raid.
Amongst those arrested were two Afghan nationals, Asmatullah and Abdur Rehman. The third suspect, Mohammad Ibrahim, belongs to Mohmand Agency.
A case under Section 11 Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and Section 124 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) was registered against the suspected militants.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide - Three Shia Muslims shot martyred in Quetta

At least three Shia Muslims were shot martyred after takfiri terrorists of Ahle-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) aka Sipah-e-Sahaba and terrorists of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) attacked on a shop in Quetta’s Sirki Road on Wednesday, The Shia Post reports.
The martyrs were taken to the Civil Hospital Road Quetta, and identified as Nadir Hussain s/o Gulzar Hussain, Asad Ali s/o Zulfiqar Ali, Ali Waris s/o Liaquat Ali.
The martyrs were from Punjab province of Pakistan.
Two takfiri terrorists of ASWJ on a motorcycle opened fire on welder’s shop and killed three Shia Muslims and managed to escape.

Pakistan - Missing Form 15s: Aitzaz Ahsan says 2013 polls can be declared unfair

Pakistan Peoples Party’s counsel Aitzaz Ahsan said on Wednesday that the 2013 parliamentary elections could be declared unfair on the basis of missing Form 15s from polling bags.
Arguing before a three-judge inquiry commission – headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk – Ahsan, who is also a PPP senator, said the 1990 elections were declared unfair by the Supreme Court in the Asghar Khan case following allegations that money was doled out to candidates in 32 constituencies.
Ahsan submitted that the 2013 election records have been tampered with and its evidence has been presented before the inquiry commission. “Form 15 is a very sacred document. Punjab pattern of electoral rigging had been used in the last general elections.”
According to the ordinance through which the commission was set up, all the executive authorities, including IB, MI, ISI and NADRA, were bound to assist the inquiry commission in investigating the allegations, he said, adding that initially the burden of proof was on the political parties, but the inquiry commission had assumed this role through various orders.
Aitzaz contended that though the commission had to complete the task preferably within 45 days but there is no time bar. To this, the chief justice said the outer limit is 120 days, as the life of the ordinance is 120 days.
The PPP counsel made it clear that he was not asking the commission to declare the election in individual constituencies void.
Earlier, the chief justice asked the PTI counsel that throughout the proceedings he held the ruling PML-N responsible for alleged manipulation of the 2013 elections. “I would like to know what links the PML-N with rigging in the general election.”
PTI counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada said that for all National Assembly seats 44.85 million votes were polled, of which the PML-N secured 14.87 million, PTI 7.56 million, PPP 6.82 million and independent candidates secured 5.77 million votes and won 32 seats. After the elections most of the independents joined the PML-N.
He further said that in the 2008 elections the same party had polled 6.8 million votes, therefore the votes secured by the party showed a 100% increase. “Najam Sethi, ex-caretaker chief minister of Punjab, was the buffer between the PPP’s outgoing government and PML-N,” he alleged.
The chief justice had asked the counsels of all the parties to conclude their arguments by Friday.

Plight of Pakistanis in Saudi jails

  • Zeeba T Hashmi

The Pakistani embassy has sought information from Saudi authorities about the details of the sentences of detained Pakistanis but these requests have hardly been accepted.
The recent debacle of the ultra-nationalist Zaid Hamid ending up in a Saudi jail, sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes for speaking his mind against the government, has paradoxically backfired on all the jingoistic, undemocratic and bigoted rants by Zaid Hamid. Lashing him on the grounds of critiquing the Saudi government is tyrannical and the sentence would have carried more weight if he had been tried for hate mongering and inciting violence. He was not even tried for the alleged crime he committed. Since this has happened on the soil to which Saudi Arabia claims Pakistan is indebted, the Pakistani government needs to lodge its protest over the denial of its citizens’ right to a fair trial in the holy land of Saudi Arabia and not let it take Pakistani citizens for granted.

While Saudi Arabia mounted pressure on Pakistan to come to its aid in the war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Pakistan politely refused by upholding parliament’s decision not to ally with the Saudis. Pakistan had valid grounds to turn down the request but pro-Saudi groups have tried to change public opinion in favour of Saudi Arabia under the ‘protection of Harmain Sharifain (holy places)’ banner. Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat chief Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi ranted against parliament’s resolution and went so far as to say that his organisation would go to Saudi Arabia if the army did not, just like Fazlur Rehman Khalil went to Afghanistan. However, Pakistan withstood all that pressure, and rightly so. The reason for the refusal, however, should not only be based upon the economic and political viability of intervention but on a principled stand of dignity and justice. More needs to be done than just denying public opinion in favour of Saudi Arabia; the truth of how Pakistanis are treated in that land should be recognised by our government as well.

Until last year, there have been more than 4,000 Pakistanis languishing in the jails of Saudi Arabia, including women and children, who are kept there without any fair trials. If one were to include the actual figures, many Pakistanis have been framed under false charges at the behest of powerful Saudis, who exploit anti-labour laws and use these poor expatriates as shields to protect their organised crimes. Until 2012, before the visa change, there had been about 1,700 Pakistani prisoners, including women. Some of them have been kept there for more than a decade and are still awaiting their so-called trials. In this regard, the Pakistani embassy has sought information from Saudi authorities about the details of the sentences of detained Pakistanis but these requests have hardly been accepted. It is estimated that about 40 percent of the cases are related to drug trafficking and 25 percent to miscellaneous crimes like traffic incidents, bribery and brawls. Another 26 percent of the cases are related to fraud and theft and about seven percent are cases of rape or murder.

While answering the question of an MNA in the National Assembly, the former foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said that a majority of 468 prisoners were being held in Al-Malaz Jail, Riyadh and 380 prisoners were being held in Bariman Jail, Jeddah. All 30 female Pakistani prisoners, along with 260 men, are being held in Makkah jails. As many as 201 men are in Al-Hair Jail in Riyadh, 120 in Dammam Jail, 119 in General Jail, Medina and 88 prisoners in Al-Ahsa Jail. The remaining 165 Pakistani prisoners languish in 16 different prisons across Saudi Arabia. These details were shared on the floor of the upper house but no action was taken by the government in defence of its citizens. Last year, Chief Justice (CJ) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani took suo motu notice of about 3,000 prisoners in Saudi detention centres after a concerned citizen filed a complaint with the human rights cell of the Supreme Court (SC). In the complaint, the deplorable conditions of the detention centres were described along with how the foreign ministry has failed to take up the matter with the Saudi government. The Pakistani embassy in Riyadh has never taken interest in the affairs of detained Pakistanis and, due to their sheer neglect amidst the inhumane and deplorable conditions of these jails, many detainees have perished.

The Asian Human Rights Commission has received reports of dozens of Pakistanis who face the death penalty over alleged drug trafficking, a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. Mainly belonging to poor families, accused persons have been coerced into smuggling at the whims of powerful drug lords, who have a nexus with the Saudi authorities. The real culprits are never brought to justice, if there is such a thing as justice in Saudi Arabia. So far, up to 10 Pakistanis have been executed in Saudi Arabia since January of this year and many others are awaiting their fate. Pakistani authorities in Saudi Arabia remain silent over this issue, even though the families of the accused have approached them with the names of the culprits responsible for framing their loved ones in drug trafficking. The motive is clear in such cases: to hide the important names in drug rackets, including influential Saudis involved. Pakistan needs to stand up in support of its citizens. It is a national tragedy that a large number of Pakistani visitors and expats are maltreated and denied justice by the Saudi authorities. Instead of cowering to Saudi demands and feeling obliged to favour them, Pakistan needs to first demand the humane and dignified treatment of its citizens before extending any material or military support to Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan - 35 Punctures - Imran Niazi lied

For the better part of the last two years Najam Sethi was consistently demonised by the PTI. Imran Khan accused Sethi of colluding with the PML-N to rig the elections in their favour and the rest of the party ran with it, insulting, shaming and condemning Sethi for his dishonesty and betrayal of solemn duty. The colloquial term “35 punctures” became a byword of PML-N corruption and Sethi’s reputation took a tumble – albeit helped by his own erratic behaviour while in charge of the Pakistan Cricket Board and the manner of his appointment. The damage done, and Sethi’s position as a villain in PTI cannon assured; Imran Khan casually mentions that all the “35 punctures” remarks were just “political talk” in a televised interview.
What this means is that all those angry speeches and dire accusations were made only to generate political pressure. It means that the leader who promised to “never lie to the nation”, lied to its face consistently, and that too just to play politics. It makes us wonder how many other statements were based on the truth and home may were just ‘political statements’. Imran khan understands that the right words will excite the crowd and draw loud cheers, but he must understand that words have consequences.
This is not a case of Imran Khan clarifying a confused issue; everyone knew exactly what the “35 punctures” meant. It supposedly alluded to a specific recorded call in which Sethi assured Nawaz Sharif that 35 specific constituencies have been rigged – a call that was heard by the senior party members. But it turns out the origin of the story lies in an anecdote told to a friend who repeated it to another and so on, in short; based on unsubstantiated hearsay. In such circumstances an apology by Imran Khan to Najam Sethi is merited – after all he accused him of corruption and rigging without fact-checking – and some senior members of the party calling for it too. But in true PTI belligerent fashion, Jehangir Tareen has said that instead of 35 Najam Sethi made 71 punctures. What does that even mean? Does it mean he rigged 71 constituencies? Should this be taken as an accusation based on truth or as a “political statement”. Or is it just a roundabout way of saying that PTI stands by what it said – despite the fact that the leader admits otherwise. PTI needs to understand the consequences of baseless accusations, and the difference between true, false and political statement
When Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf emerged from the triumphant Lahore rally of 2011 its political credibility was spotless – free from taint of deceit or selfish motivations – and that drew people to it in droves. During the proceeding four year PTI has lost most of those qualities and is fast becoming the very evil it ostensibly sought to destroy. The final nail may have been hammered in by the Chairman, Imran Khan himself.

Bilawal Bhutto to visit every district, constituency to address grievances of party leaders

 A meeting of Pakistan Peoples Party, Punjab leaders was presided over by Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at Bilawal House today.
The meeting was attended by Former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, PPP Punjab President Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, former Governor and President PPP South Punjab Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, Senator Sherry Rehman, Firdous Ashiq Awan, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Tanveer Ashraf Kaira, Shaukat Basra and Jameel Soomro.
The meeting discussed overall political situation in the country and leaders from Punjab said that Nawaz government has not fulfilled the promises, which has disappointed the people. This is the time that people of Punjab are given hope, which is present in the shape of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, they pointed out.
The PPP leaders further said that people, especially from Punjab are looking towards the Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pinning great expectations.
Speaking on the occasion, the PPP Chairman said that these kind of consultative meetings should be held at every level so that the Party can be strengthened. He stressed that Party leaders should establish direct contact with people for full preparations for local government elections.
On the occasion, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condoled with Firdous Ashiq Awan on the demise of her brother.
On the other hand, Senior Minister of Azad Kashmir Chaudhry Yaseen also called on the Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and apprised him about the Party issues in AJK.