Sunday, May 5, 2013

Turkey controlling anti-government protests in Iraq

News Agencies
A top Iraqi official has accused Turkey of controlling anti-government protests that have rocked the country over the past few months. Iraq’s Acting Defense Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi made the remarks on Sunday, AFP reported. "There are foreign agendas controlling these sites," Dulaimi said of the protests, adding, "It is like Anbar, or Mosul or Samarra (the cities hit by protests) are part of the Ottoman Empire." He went on to say that "protest sites have become a safe haven for terrorists and killers and those who call for strife, sectarianism and hate." Iraq has recently seen a wave of deadly violence, including terrorist attacks targeting both Shia and Sunni Muslims. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), April 2013 was Iraq's deadliest month since June 2008, with a total of 712 people killed and 1,633 wounded in bomb attacks and other violence. Iraq has been the scene of demonstrations since December 2012, when the bodyguards of former finance minister, Rafie al-Issawi, were arrested on terrorism-related charges. The demonstrators accuse Maliki of discrimination against Sunni Muslims and demand his resignation. Maliki, however, has denied accusations, saying regional countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are fueling sectarian tensions in Iraq.

‘Containing Iran’: Israel ‘in talks’ to join alliance with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey

Israel is considering partnering with several moderate Arab states in a US-brokered defense alliance that would be aimed at containing Iran, which is accused of nuclear weapon ambitions, a British newspaper reported Sunday. The alliance would see Israel teaming up with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to forge a Middle East ‘moderate crescent’ to contain, rather than confront, Iran, the Sunday Times reported, citing an unnamed Israeli official. According to the report, such an alliance would give Israel access to radar stations in Saudi Arabia and the UAE in exchange for its own early warning radar information and anti-ballistic missile defense systems, the source said. In addition to US-made Patriot anti-missile systems, Israel has deployed the Iron Dome all-weather defense system, although this system guards against rockets fired from distances of 4 to 70km away. The report suggested that Jordan would be protected by Israel’s Arrow long-range anti-missile batteries. “The plan is to start with information-sharing about Iran’s ballistic missiles,” said an Israeli official. The proposal, known by participating diplomats as ‘4+1’, is being brokered by the United States. If successful, it would represent a marked shift in Middle East policy at the White House, which in the past has said it is not interested in containing Iran, but rather preventing it from achieving nuclear weapon capability. However, Turkey has dismissed the report. “These are manipulative reports which have nothing to do with the reality,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told Hürriyet Daily News. Tehran denies it is attempting to build a nuclear weapon, saying that its nuclear research is aimed at creating new energy resources for its civilian sector. The prospects for the plan’s success, however, remain questionable as Israel does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, while relations with Ankara have been rather strained for the last several years. Relations between Israel and Turkey sharply deteriorated following the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, which left eight Turkish nationals dead after their ship attempted to break an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip. In March 2013, Israel apologized for the raid on the Turkish vessel, which observers say represents a step toward the normalization of relations between the two countries. The Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan, not to mention Israel and the United States, are all wary of Shiite Tehran gaining any strategic advantage in the region, a factor that may compel the Arab states and Israel to put aside their differences and join some sort of alliance.

Women in Pakistan face opposition in fight for voting rights

For decades, not a single woman in this dusty Pakistani village surrounded by wheat fields and orange trees has voted. And they aren't likely to in next week's parliamentary election either. The village's men have spoken. "It's the will of my husband," said one woman, Fatma Shamshed. "This is the decision of all the families." Mateela is one of 564 out of the 64,000 polling districts across Pakistan where not a single woman voted in the country's 2008 election. The men from this village of roughly 9,000 people got together with other nearby communities to decide that their women would not vote on May 11 either. Next week's election will bring a major first for democracy in Pakistan — the first time a civilian government has fulfilled its term and handed over power to another. But women still face an uphill battle to make their voices heard in the political process, as voters, candidates and in parliament, where they hold 22 percent of the seats in the lower house. Women represent only about 43 percent of the roughly 86 million registered voters, according to election commission data. In more conservative areas like Khyber Paktunkhwa province and Baluchistan, the percentage drops even further. In places like Mateela, the fact that men decide women should not be allowed to vote is a decades-old tradition. Some men say women don't have the mental capacity. Other times they don't want wives and daughters to leave the house. Some simply don't see the point. At a recent gathering in the village, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Islamabad, activists tried to encourage the opposite. The Association for Gender Awareness & Human Empowerment, an independent group working to increase voter participation, met with residents, trying to encourage them to let women vote. Mateela's men sat with male activists in a courtyard near the village mosque. Secluded behind a gate, the women sat on a concrete floor and listened to a female activist talk about the benefits of voting. Yar Mohammed, one of the village elders, insisted it isn't a matter of discrimination. The problem, he said, is that the local polling station is mixed gender. The men worry that their wives and daughters will be harassed, so they want a separate women's station. In some places, but not all, polls are specified for men or women only. "We stop our women from going to polling stations because we think if they do, men would tease them by staring or touching them," he said. Mateela's women certainly want a political voice. They talk of their desire to see better roads, schools where their daughters can get an education and a reliable supply of gas for cooking and heating. They don't directly defy their fathers and husbands — but they do lobby them to change their minds. One resident, Mohammed Shamshed, said the women in his family "come up to us and say, 'We want to vote.'" "But we tell them that it is a collective decision," he said. Rubina Arshad said things are slowly starting to change as men and women become more educated. "This is the tradition and the culture, from many, many years ago. We could not cast the vote," she said. Another deterrent to women voting has been that many don't have the proper identification card, called a CNIC card. Historically, many men in conservative areas haven't seen the need to send their wives or daughters to get the ID card or haven't wanted to pay for it. But activists say that has begun to change in recent years — in large part because it makes more financial sense for men. Poor women who want to receive money through the Benazir Income Support Program, a government plan to give money to poor people, need a valid ID card. And many programs that give out aid to flood victims or people displaced in fighting in the tribal areas also require an ID card. "These two have tremendously enhanced the registration of women," said Muddassir Rizvi, CEO of the Islamabad-based Free and Fair Election Network. "If they see an advantage of a relationship with the state, then they agree to things." There are other encouraging signs as well, with more women competing in the elections. In Pakistan, 60 of the 342 seats in the lower house of parliament, known as the National Assembly, are reserved for women. They are handed out to parties in proportion to how they do in the overall race, so women don't have to campaign publicly for them. But women can also run for the general seats, in competition with men on the campaign trial. In 2008, 64 women ran for general seats and 18 made it to the parliament. This year, the number of women contesting general seats has jumped to 161, out of a total of 4,671 candidates, according to data provided by U.N. Women, which focuses on women's empowerment and gender issues. Elections for provincial assemblies saw a bigger rise, with 355 women running among nearly 11,000 candidates, up from 116 in 2008. The type of women running has also changed. Traditionally, many female candidates have been from wealthy, land-owning families and were seen more as a continuation of political dynasties than as women entering politics in their own right. Benazir Bhutto was famous for being Pakistan's first female prime minister, but she was also the daughter of a powerful political family. Experts say many of the women running this year are from the middle or even lower classes. A woman in the tribal area of Bajur is running for parliament, marking the first time a woman has ever run for election from the conservative tribal areas that border Afghanistan. In the southern city of Hyderabad, a Hindu woman is also running for election. Still, the number of female candidates is extremely low, and most run as independents without the support of a political party. The Pakistan People's Party, the party that Bhutto headed before her assassination in 2007, is fielding women candidates in only 7 percent of the races. A PPP spokeswoman, Sharmila Farouqi admits that is not enough. "There is a perception that women cannot contest elections against men due to many reasons," she said. "There is a need to encourage and support women." When they do get into the parliament, women tend to get down to business. According to FAFEN's data, female lawmakers last term asked more questions and submitted more bills and resolutions than men. The women also banded together to help pass five pieces of important legislation protecting women, including laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, according to Farkhanda Aurangzeb, from the Islamabad-based Aurat Foundation. In Mateela, the men say they are willing to let women vote if the election commission sets up a separate polling station. But the commission said that isn't possible because the voting lists had already been finalized. Abdul Hamid Abbasi, an activist from AGAHE, tried to convince the tribal elders that allowing women to vote will increase their power at the polls. "You can change your fate by electing a good candidate," he says. "It won't be possible without the active participation of women voters."

President Zardari takes notice of cheques delay

President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday called for a report from the concerned ministry while taking note of the complaints voiced by some victims of recent violence in Quetta that the compensation cheques have not been honoured. Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the President also advised the Finance Ministry to look into the complaints and ensure that the promised compensation is paid to the victims without any delay. Zardari also advised the concerned ministry to look into the system of paying compensation and streamline it further to facilitate the victims and their families. He also took note of the complaints about inadequate medical treatment to those injured in the violence and directed the officials concerned to ensure proper and adequate medical treatment to the injured, he said.

Jail Officials: We are being forced to make prisoners vote PML-N:

The Express Tribune
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Saturday took notice of a complaint by four Sialkot Jail officials stating that they were being coerced by their seniors to ensure that all voters in the prison voted for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Election Commission Director General Sher Afgan said they had received the complaint and that it had been sent to the Punjab Election Commissioner Mehboob Anwer for inquiry. Anwer said the complaint had been sent to the Home Department. He said the department had been directed to respond at the earliest and file an inquiry report. However, he said, they had not yet received a reply from them. Punjab Prisons IG Farooq Nazeer said he had constituted an inquiry committee under Prisons DIG Mubashar Ahmad Khan to probe the allegation. Khan’s report, he said, had been sent to the Home Department from where it would go to the ECP. Nazeer said the complaint appeared to be a mischief by some jail officials. “There are 1,110 votes in jails all over the Punjab. This gives an estimate of five to six votes per constituency. That would not make much difference to the results anywhere,” he said. A similar complaint was filed last week by some jail officials from Lahore’s Camp Jail against their superintendent, Ejaz Asghar. Prisons DIG Saliq Jalal had visited the jail and decided that the allegation was false.

Video:Song Critical of Pakistani Generals Is Blocked Online...Dhinak Dhinak by Beygairat Brigade

We want Quaid’s not Taliban’s Pakistan

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain Sunday reiterated that his party wants Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal’s Pakistan and not Taliban’s Pakistan. Altaf Hussain while addressing a public meeting via telephone as part of MQM’s electoral campaign here in the province of Punjab, said if religion does not espouse subjecting people to coercion then why mosques and Imam Bargahs are being attacked. The MQM Chief said despite all the propaganda, the graph of his party’s popularity could not be prevented from moving up. He demanded that the south Punjab be made an independent and autonomous province and urged the people not to look towards those who merely chant slogans and try to them show green pastures. “Only keep the politicians’ character in view,” he advised the people. Altaf Hussain claimed that MQM was practically struggling for the people’s rights and promised to resolve their issues after coming into power. He vowed to establish a community centre and a hospital in Jahanian besides providing educational facilities to its people. The farmers’ difficulties in connection with selling their wheat produce will be resolved, he added. Hussain announced to initiate an ambulance service in Jahanian within a couple of days.

PML-N being given relief by the courts: Aitzaz

Former president Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan said on Saturday that PML-N is being given relief from the courts. While talking to journalists outside Lahore High Court on Saturday, he said, “We appeared before the court in the case regarding the advertisement related to the conversation between Shahbaz Sharif and Justice (r) Abdul Qayyum and gave detailed and cogent arguments. We inquired as to why the case was being heard all of a sudden; which magic wand does Shahbaz Sharif possess that his case is being heard immediately and a stay order has also been issued. We had brought tapes of the conversation in the court but the counsels for Sharif brothers said that they are withdrawing the case.” He said that ever since these tapes had become public 12 years ago no objection has ever been raised then why is the PML-N raising issues today. He went on to say that the election commission had no power to stop the screening of this advertisement. “Nawaz League has fully retreated from the courts. Shahbaz Sharif’s eligibility can also be challenged in the Asghar Khan case,” he said. “In the NRO cases our prime minister was sacked immediately and the second one was summoned forthwith but no action is being taken against those involved in the Asghar Khan case despite the fact that the Supreme Court has ordered that the money involved should be recovered,” he said. “Courts are giving relief to PML-N,” he added. PPP leader Latif Khosa said that the petition filed in the Lahore High Court should not have been admitted as legal formalities had not been met therein. “There are separate laws for Sharif brothers and separate for the PPP,” Khosa alleged. - See more at:

Pakistan: '' 84 percent for Sharia law? ''

The US-based PEW Research Centre's Forum on Religion and Public Life has released the results of its recent world-wide opinion survey of Muslim populations. The part pertaining to Pakistan is startling, though reflective of two seemingly contradictory realities. It of course is included among majority of 39 countries surveyed, where Muslims say that "Islam is the one true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person." But what is hard to believe is the finding that "support for making Sharia the official law of the land tends to be higher in countries like Pakistan (84%) and Morocco (83%)." That surely is not how the situation looks like from inside Pakistan. The support for Sharia calls for a more careful interpretation. If 84 percent of the population supports Sharia law, religious parties should have been dominating electoral politics in this country. The reality though is quite the contrary. People tend to separate politics from religion. They vote for the mainstream parties, always confining religious parties to the periphery of national politics. So where did the 84 percent figure come from? Part of the explanation may lie in the framing of the question. When asked if they want Sharia laws, most Muslims are expected to answer in the affirmative. It may be recalled that while deciding to exploit the public's religious sentiments in order to prolong his stay in power, a much hated military dictator, General Ziaul Haq, had held a referendum asking just one question of the voters ie, if they liked Islam. The answer had to be yes. And it was stretched to mean they wanted him to remain president. As the survey report notes, Muslims around the globe have differing understanding of what Sharia means in practice. There are as many versions of Sharia law as are sects. Also Muslim societies are not homogenous; local cultures have their own influence. Which is why the survey found that Muslims differed widely on such questions as whether polygamy, divorce and family planning are morally acceptable and whether daughters should be able to receive the same inheritance as sons. Pakistan, unlike certain nearby Muslim countries, is home to several different sects. Therefore, the constitutional proviso that no law would be repugnant to the spirit of Islam serves just fine. Overall, like most other Muslims surveyed, Pakistanis see no inherent tension between being religiously devout and living in a modern society. They have fought long and hard for democracy in the hope of building a just society where all communities and sections of society can live as equal citizens with equal opportunities for individual advancement and collective progress.

Balochistan under siege

BY:Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
The government admits that 18,000 persons were displaced from Dera Bugti. Such a large exodus results from the terror that military operations and presence create The headline, “Election security: Balochistan braces for surgical operation” in a national daily left me amazed at the deviousness media uses in its reporting of distressing events and issues to make them look completely innocuous, or even praiseworthy. The crafty employment of words and phrases is truly beguiling and lethally effective in constructing or deconstructing opinions and views about issues. These clichés deceive people into believing that the ‘establishment’ or institutions’ favoured narrative is the absolute truth. This deception is done with such dexterity and panache that readers have no idea that they have been duped and deprived of the truth; moreover, they find themselves applauding and cheering something that is patently obnoxious, brutal and destructive. The ease and frequency with which this trickery succeeds demands that people be informed and educated about this farce, otherwise, we will find people following these sophisticated pied pipers without ever understanding the fatal consequences that follow from blindly believing spurious and misleading ideas, policies and actions to be the truth. The usage of the words ‘surgical operation’ would make people believe that this destructive and devastating operation of repressing people militarily is more akin to the activities in operation theatres. It conjures images of anesthetists ensuring painless cuts with sutures, bandages and compulsory post-operative care. It presents something as brutal and horrifying as a military operation in a sanitised manner, thus neutralising the abhorrence that something so horrible would otherwise evoke. Needless to say, military operations are systematic, premeditated brutal actions aimed at guaranteeing elimination of those perceived as a danger to the establishment’s philosophy. Those affected by this surgical operation do not view it as benign and compassionate as the media and institutions would like to project and peddle it. Military operations epitomise terror for people who have seen the ravages and depredations of operations and incursions by the military and paramilitary during 64 years. The government admits that 18,000 persons were displaced from Dera Bugti. Such a large exodus results from the terror that military operations and presence create. Fear forces people to flee the dangers they face from those who view them as the enemy. The surgical operation report had stated that Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani, while briefing a select-group of journalists said, “As many as 6,500 army soldiers, 17,000 FC men, 28,000 police and 15,000 Levies (tribal police) will be deployed in all 30 districts and 92 tehsils of Balochistan.” However, he did not mention how many local Tontons Macoutes that have terrorised the Baloch people for a decade now will be assisting the regular troops. He said that the ‘targeted operation’ was prompted by frequent complaints by the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, National Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan People’s Party and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. Untarnished loyalty this. In a May 1 report, Durrani said the operation is being launched against the Balochistan Liberation Army, the Balochistan Republican Army, the Balochistan Liberation Front, the United Baloch Army and the Lashkar-e-Balochistan. Incidentally, no mention was made of the sectarian outfits responsible for carnages against the Hazara community in particular and Shias in general. Apparently, these sacrosanct outfits are beyond the ambit of the surgical operation, which is singularly directed against the Baloch nationalist forces and people. While claiming that district administrations had already identified the militants and their hideouts, Durrani made no bones about the intent behind the deployment, and with smug arrogance threatened: “Not a single militant will be spared by May 11.” He said arrests would be made and bullets would also be fired during the targeted action. This operation’s declared aim is to search for and kill all those fighting for their rights and resources and to suppress their supporters. Apparently, the establishment’s real aim is to kill as many Baloch as possible during this operation. A slow-motion genocide has for long been practised in Balochistan; I wonder how many of the Professor Gregory Stanton’s described eight stages — classification, symbolisation, dehumanisation, organisation, polarisation, preparation, extermination and, eventually, denial of genocide — have seen implementation. The Sarmachars in 11 districts will be targeted initially. Towns will be under curfew to deny them urban sanctuary; a news blackout is inevitable but news will filter out through the social media. Military patrols in perceived enemy territory are necessarily and naturally edgy. They see enemies everywhere and are trigger-happy. The wary and endangered people usually try to flee and this makes them even more suspect. A huge cultural and communication gap exist. Moreover, gun-wielding soldiers get offended at the slightest show of resentment. The disrespect for women and sanctity of homes during search operations occurs regularly. Even Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s Maulana Ghafoor Haideri said Frontier Corps personnel disgraced his family members, including women and children, during a raid on his house, prompt defiance and resistance leading to clashes. Palpable tension is pervasive even without overt resistance but if a patrol is attacked, as many will be, then the entire population in the vicinity is targeted as the enemy. The principle of collective retribution is a common response of armies whenever soldiers get killed. The My Lai, Haditha, Toota massacres were all outcomes of such confrontations. The establishment having failed to break the determination of the Baloch people with its continuing ‘dirty war’, Naseebullah Baloch’s body found in Surjani Town was of the 13th Baloch activist dumped in Karachi in two months. The new tactics now include a resort to overt military operation against the Baloch masses. Brute force is the establishment’s preferred option and it refuses to learn. Having failed in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is now conducting a dirty war in Sindh. The bodies of Amir Khuhawar and Sajjad Markhand of Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz abducted on April 24 from Larkana were found a few days later. From May 1 to May 15 Balochistan will officially be under siege to ensure that the new old players favouring the ‘establishment’ get a chance to share the pie, which till now was the sole preserve of the Raisani-led PPP coalition. These 15 days like the 72 hours of Tikka Khan during the 1973 operation will extend interminably. This operation will inescapably fail as have all preceding it because the sea (masses) in which the fish (Sarmachars) survive remains as committed as ever to fight against the injustices. This ‘destined to fail operation’ will only help sow more anger and resentment in the hearts of the Baloch already fed up of being dictated to and devastated by military operations for the last 64 years.

Satirical Song, a YouTube Hit, Challenges Extremism in Pakistan

A satirical song that takes a tongue-in-cheek swipe at religious extremism, militancy and contradictions in Pakistani society has become an instant hit here, drawing widespread attention as a rare voice of the country’s embattled liberals. The song, “Aalu Anday,” which means “Potatoes and Eggs,” comes from a group of three young men who call themselves Beygairat Brigade, or A Brigade Without Honor, openly mocking the military, religious conservatives, nationalist politicians and conspiracy theorists. Their YouTube video has been viewed more than 350,000 times since it was uploaded in mid-October. The song is getting glowing reviews in the news media here and is widely talked about — and shared — on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. The name of the band is itself a satire of Pakistan’s nationalists and conservatives, who are often described in the local news media as the Ghairat Brigade, or Honor Brigade. Local musicians have produced work in the past vilifying the West, especially the United States, but rarely do they ridicule the military or religious extremists, and none have had Beygairat Brigade’s kind of success. Sung in Punjabi, the language of the most populous and prosperous province, the song delivers biting commentary on the current socio-political milieu of the country, in which religious radicalism and militancy have steadily risen over the years and tolerance for religious minorities is waning. Just this year, a governor who opposed Pakistan’s contentious blasphemy law was killed by one of his guards. The assassin was then celebrated by many in the country, including lawyers who greeted him with rose petals and garlands. The song rues the fact that killers and religious extremists are hailed as heroes in Pakistan, while someone like Abdus Salam, the nation’s only Nobel Prize-winning scientist, is often ignored because he belonged to the minority Ahmadi sect. “Qadri is treated like a royal,” wonders the goofy-looking lead vocalist in the song, referring to Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the elite police guard who killed the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, in January after he challenged the blasphemy law. Another line in the song, “where Ajmal Kasab is a hero,” makes a reference to the only surviving Pakistani gunman involved in the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Still another line, “cleric tried to escape in a veil,” alludes to the head cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque — which was the target of a siege in 2007 by the Pakistani government against Islamic militants — who tried unsuccessfully to break the security cordon by wearing a veil. The song even makes fun of the powerful army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, for extending his role for another three years. Potatoes and eggs “never tasted so good,” wrote Fahd Husain in a commentary on Tuesday in The Daily Times, a newspaper based in Lahore. “They will always be credited for being politically incorrect when most needed, and giving voice to all those Pakistanis who live in fear.” The popularity of the song on the Internet has made it a sensation across the border in India as well, surprising the band members, who have been incessantly asked whether they feel they have put their lives in danger by ridiculing the mighty. There are certainly enough provocations to rile nationalists and conservatives. At one point in the music video, the lead singer holds a placard that reads, in English: “This video is sponsored by Zionists.” The band members chose to upload the song on YouTube instead of handing it to television networks because they said the work was too offbeat and might be censored. Not surprisingly, some have criticized the song and its taunts as pedestrian and in bad taste. “We were not expecting such a huge response,” said Ali Aftab Saeed, 27, the lead vocalist, who lives in Lahore, a city that is often considered the country’s cultural capital. He said the assassination of Mr. Taseer was the inspiration for the song and its lyrics. Resistance poetry and literature are not new to Pakistan, and they raised spirits during the somber years of military dictatorships. During the protest rallies of the seminal lawyers movement in 2007, when they led the campaign to oust the president, Pervez Musharraf, the lawyers would sing and dance to a poem written by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, considered a giant of Urdu literature. Habib Jalib, another famous Pakistani poet, wrote several poems against Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, the military dictator in the 1980s. But “Jalib is irrelevant to the generation of urban, young, middle-class kids that Beygairat Brigade is addressing,” said Nadeem Farooq Paracha, a culture critic based in Karachi. “This band is offering an alternative narrative to the one this generation has grown up on, and provides a counternarrative to establishmentarian and conservative notions of politics, history and society advocated by televangelists, conspiracy theorists and, of course, the right-wing electronic media,” Mr. Paracha added. “And what better and more effective way to do this than by using satire and pop music.” The band members, on the other hand, have no pretensions of being revolutionaries, activists or intellectuals, though they do feel that the song represents those who do not believe in extremism and want to live peacefully. “At the end of the day,” said Mr. Saeed, the lead vocalist, “we are just musicians who raised some questions.”

Song Critical of Pakistani Generals Is Blocked Online, With No Official Explanation

A Pakistani band with a reputation for satirizing the country’s military may have finally gone too far. About two weeks ago, the band, Beygairat Brigade, released a song that criticizes generals even more directly than their previous offering, which became a viral video hit when it was released two years ago. But over the past 10 days, the videoof the song, “Dhinak Dhinak,” has been mysteriously blocked in Pakistan on Vimeo, a video-sharing Web site. The band released the song on Vimeo because YouTube has been banned in Pakistan since September, when a video insulting the Prophet Muhammad caused riots across the Muslim world. No official explanation has been given for the apparent ban on the video of the song, which critics have praised for its sharp humor. As band members sway and dance, they sing of “the generals” who carry out coups and proxy wars, their corruption (“When pockets are full, all the strings are theirs to pull”) and their ability to eliminate critics (“If it’s one of them you give a naughty look to, very soon you will disappear from view”). The lead singer, Ali Aftab Saeed, suspects that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority blocked the video after a nod from the military. “The song was not against the military,” Mr. Saeed insisted in an interview. “We have nothing against the military. We were discussing generals, including General Musharraf, who had imposed coups and were not held accountable.” He was speaking of the former Pakistani leader,Pervez Musharraf. Last month, Capital TV, a new news network, briefly was taken off the air after a guest on a talk show used abusive language toward the army chief, Gen.Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Khurram Mehran, spokesman for the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, denied that the government had blocked the video. “I am not aware of any directives to ban the video,” he said. Still, on Saturday, the video remained blocked on several Internet service providers in Pakistan. Some critics say the song is groundbreaking. “This is definitely something that was never done before,” said Nadeem Farooq Paracha, a culture critic and columnist. “They went a step further. It is a sarcastic take on the history of army’s role in politics and automatically stands out.” He said most of the satire in the country lampooned politicians but treated the military as a sacred cow. The military, once virtually immune to public criticism, has come under pressure from several sides in recent years. Some elements of the news media are increasingly critical, and the former military ruler, Mr. Musharraf, is facing several legal prosecutions that could result in jail time or even the death penalty, a predicament previously unimaginable. Recording and producing the song proved difficult, said Mr. Saeed, the singer. Several studio owners declined to record the song, deeming it too controversial. A studio owner who eventually agreed requested that his name not appear in the credits, Mr. Saeed said. Still, he said the apparent censorship of the song’s video caught him by surprise. The band’s earlier hit, “Aalu Anday,” had escaped that fate. He admits that the band was trying to “push a little, create more space,” but not to push too far. “I thought we had wittily discussed the issue,” he said. “We tried not to be offensive.”