Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mark Ronson - Uptown Funk ft. Bruno Mars

Video Report - Civilians suffer from fights inYemen

Video Report - Calls grow for humanitarian access as Yemen casualties rise

Video - Clashes in Athens

Fight Over Ukraine Darkens Future of Russia-U.S. Nuclear Arms Control

Five years after the United States and Russia signed the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty, the spirit in which it was signed is dead.
Relations between the two countries have crumbled as the crisis in Ukraine prompts mutual accusations and thinly veiled threats of nuclear war.
The New START treaty itself is safe. Officials on both sides have repeatedly stated their commitment to implementing its provisions, while verification procedures are being honored. But the rhetoric of the Ukraine crisis has amplified long-standing apprehensions in Moscow and Washington and halted progress on arms control for the time being.
"While the U.S. continues to strengthen its national security methods, which reduce the level of Russia's national security, to speak of future nuclear disarmament is hardly possible," Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's senior arms control and non-proliferation official, said in February.

Nuclear Rhetoric 

But Ulyanov's concerns go both ways. In the United States, officials and policy experts are becoming increasingly riled by the nuclear rhetoric coming out of Moscow. Their fears are bolstered by a program to modernize all of Russia's nuclear forces by 2020.
Dr. Mark Schneider, an arms control negotiator who worked on New START, said engaging the Russians on further nuclear cuts is completely out of the question.
"The focus must be on deterrence, or we run the risk of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's first use of nuclear weapons with potential catastrophic consequences," he said.
"I can't read Putin's mind, but I can read what he says and that scares me."
Amid the rhetoric, both sides increased the number of deployed warheads last year after Russia annexed Crimea. Russia has 1643 warheads deployed, one more than the United States, according to the most recent New START report released in October.
The treaty stipulates both sides reduce to 1550 each by 2018.

Arms Control Amid Crisis 

New START is the product of U.S. President Barack Obama's policy to reset relations with Russia after coming to office in 2008.
When Obama met then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Prague in April 2010 to sign the treaty, the leaders heralded it as an important step toward further reducing nuclear arsenals. But that was the last time the two sides sat down to work on nuclear arms control.
Visiting Berlin in 2013, Obama suggested reducing warhead deployments by another 30 percent under New START, but Putin promptly rejected the offer.
"I think at some point, and this may not be for two to three years, the Russians will probably be interested in a dialogue," said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and the head of the Brookings Institution's arms control and nuclear non-proliferation program.
According to Pifer, the historical record shows that Moscow has always been interested in some kind of cap on U.S. and Russian strategic warheads. Arms races are expensive, and Pifer said that Russia may come back to the table as New START's 2021 expiration date approaches.

The View from Moscow 

According to Dr. Eugene Miasnikov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies, "Russia always considered the New START treaty a valuable instrument" since it does limit U.S. nuclear arms.
Russia isn't interested in further cuts. Last month, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, who was part of the Russian New START negotiation team, said Russia "is satisfied with the current situation" with regard to strategic arms limitations.
Still, Moscow has problems with the treaty, namely that it doesn't limit U.S. missile defense or prompt global strike weapons — a U.S. program to develop a new class of hypersonic non-nuclear missiles capable of destroying any target on the globe in under an hour.
"The sides are unable yet to resolve the related issues of ballistic missile defense and conventional strategic arms," Miasnikov said. Sanctions also hurt strategic dialogue, he added.
Russian officials have said that future developments with U.S. missile defense technology or the Prompt Global Strike program might serve as grounds to pull out of the treaty.
The Foreign Ministry's Ulyanov said Tuesday "the reckless deployment by the U.S. of a one-sided missile defense system damages the interests of Russian national security, and at some point may lead us to reconsider our attitude toward the treaty," Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The View From Washington 

In Washington, the Obama Administration remains committed to New START, analysts said. But since the treaty's signing, there has been a large camp opposed to its implementation.
"When measured against the most basic metrics for nuclear arms limitation treaties — for example, significant reductions or limits on nuclear weapons and effective verification measures — New START should be judged a failure," said Schneider.
During treaty negotiations, the Russians pushed for a higher cap on nuclear weapons, with fewer verification procedures, and they were given those concessions. The United States cannot cede more, Schneider said, arguing that holes in verification procedures leave room for a large Russian nuclear buildup — a dire threat to U.S. national security.
Pifer takes a more sanguine view: "The New START treaty is more important now than it was 18 months ago," as it promotes transparency and regular dialogue on nuclear issues while East and West revert to Cold War form over the crisis in Ukraine.
However, these virtues may become harder to defend. Republican congressmen at various times have tried unsuccessfully to stop New START's implementation. Last year the Republican party won a majority in the U.S. Senate.
"I am not sure this will become a serious threat to the treaty, but my guess is that the administration is going to have to devote more time and attention to defending New START against efforts in Congress to undermine it," Pifer said.

Video - Yemen: Saudi airstrike hits school

Police officer killed in security raids on Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province

Protests against the Yemen war planned in the Eastern Province were cancelled amid fear of a security forces crackdown.
One police officer was killed and three others injured on Sunday in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, as government forces clashed with locals, according to a Ministry of Interior statement.
"An exchange of fire led to the injury of Corporal Majid bin Turki al-Qahtani, and his death after being taken to hospital [...] and wounded three security men, a citizen, and a (foreign) resident," with moderate wounds, read the SPA statement.
The official news agency said four militants were arrested in the security operation aimed at dealing with "terrorist elements" in Awamiyah village - known for its anti-government protests - and that a number of weapons were seized from militants.
Activists, however, said at least 30 people were injured and accused authorities of carrying out security raids to quell calls for protests against military intervention in Yemen.
Residents of the oil rich but poverty stricken province told MEE that at least 22 people were arrested, including three relatives of Zuhair al-Said - a man shot dead by security forces in 2012 when they broke up a protest calling for democractic reforms and an end to discrimination against Saudi Arabia's Shiite community.
At least 15 homes were raided, residents said, after around 40 armoured security vehicles stormed Awamiyah at 330pm (1230 GMT) on Sunday.
“From 4pm until 9pm the gunfire didn’t stop,” a local activist and Awamiyah resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told MEE. “Security forces shot randomly at people’s homes, and closed all but one of the roads leading in and out of the village.”
“It is like a war here – we are under siege.”
Gunfire seemingly from security forces could be heard in footage of the clashes sent to MEE, which also included images of cars and homes on fire across the village of some 25,500 people.
Some armed locals fired at security forces, leading to running battles throughout the afternoon, residents said. While gunfire had stopped by 9pm (1800 GMT) residents reported that armoured vehicles were still in the village and check points had been set up on several roads.
The Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia is home to the country’s Shiite minority – who make up 10 to 15 percent of the kingdom’s 29 million population. Locals say the government discriminate against them in employment and education among other areas, leading to sporadic Arab Spring inspired protests since 2011 that have been brutally put down by security forces leading to tens of people being killed.
Authorities have repeatedly denied accusations of discrimination and said they are fighting an illegal – and armed – uprising against the government.
The latest round of clashes in Awamiyah on Sunday came after calls in the province for protests against Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen, where Riyadh is battling to push back Shiite Houthi rebels who have expanded their powerbase to the capital Sanaa and beyond, forcing the sitting president into exile.
Local residents told MEE that on Friday the community were planning to hold an anti-war protest but cancelled after receiving information that the security forces would break it up.
“The protest was cancelled because we were told to be careful and that if we rallied they [the security forces] would kill everyone,” the local said.
Human rights activists warned that no dissent would be tolerated in Saudi Arabia against the military intervention in Yemen.
“The war in Yemen will be used by Saudi authorities to justify a hardened crackdown at home,” said Yahya Assiri, head of the UK-based Al Qst human rights organisation.
“It is very difficult for people in Saudi Arabia to criticise the war, human rights violations, or defend victims of the crackdown. Those who do risk being arrested and later exposed to maltreatment in prison.”
Awamiyah residents said the province has been quiet recently and accused the security forces of attempting to stoke conflict in the area.
“Nobody in Qatif has protested against the government for a long time,” a local, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
“But the government has come here to try and make a problem – to force people to react.”
A local youth group has called for protests on Monday in response to the security raids.

Saudi air strikes kill students in Yemen


Fresh Saudi airstrikes on Yemen’s southwestern Ibb Province have claimed the lives of at least six school students, in the latest military aggression of the Arab country against Yemeni civilians.
According to reports, Saudi-led warplanes pounded the province on Tuesday under the pretext of bombing the Yemeni army’s Al Hamza Brigade.
This is while the Saudi attacks on Yemen's infrastructure and the civilian casualties have enraged anti-Saudi sentiments among the Yemenis.
“I’m an ordinary citizen. I’m not a soldier or affiliated to any group. So when the war planes targeted a public gas station, sending waves of fire and killing and injuring a lot of people, this is an international conspiracy against the whole country,” an old man who had sustained injuries in Saudi air strikes told.
Another Yemeni citizen said that “if Saudi Arabia persists in continuing its aggression against Shia men, we vow we will put an end to the tyrant monarchy of Saudi family who lack democracy and are yet claiming to be defending it in Yemen.”
Ahmed al-Kibsi, a political observer, also told, that “the Saudi-led air strikes have failed to stop the advancements of the army and public committees who have driven out al-Qaeda militants from most of the southern cities.”
Saudi Arabia’s military aggression against Yemen started on March 26, without a UN mandate, in a bid to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The airstrikes have killed hundreds of people and injured thousands more.
Ansarullah fighters have taken over state matters, citing the inability of Hadi’s former government to properly run the affairs of the country and contain terror and corruption.
In February, Hadi fled the capital, Sana’a, to the southern city of Aden, where he sought to set up a rival base. Hadi had stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Houthi revolutionaries. The then parliament, however, rejected his resignation, which he later withdrew in Aden.
Popular committees backed by Ansarullah fighters are continuing their advances despite the Saudi attacks while also stepping up their fight against al-Qaeda terrorists and secured many areas from the militants.

Video Report - Pakistan has Complicated Nuclear Relationship with Saudi Arabia, Iran

US adds Al Furqan Foundation(based in Pakistan & Afghanistan) to list of terrorist entities


The US Treasury Department added the Al Furqan Foundation Welfare Trust to the list of terrorist entities today. Al Furqan, which is based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, funds al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Taliban, and has been directly linked to a notorious jihadist who is a leader in both al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Treasury added Al Furqan to the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. A State Department press release on the designation noted that the move was made along with the Saudi government, which listed the group “under its Law of Terrorism Crimes and Financing and the Royal Decree A/44.”
Al Furqan was described as “the successor entity to the Afghan Support Committee (ASC) and Revival of Islamic Heritage Society branches in Pakistan and Afghanistan (RIHS-Pakistan),” two groups that were listed by the US and UN as terrorist entities in 2002. ASC and RIHS “are a single organization that changed its name to Al Furqan Foundation Welfare Trust in order to continue its terrorist financing activities,” State noted.
“Since its establishment in the mid-2000s, Al-Furqan has provided funding and other support to terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba,” State conunued in its press release. “Al-Furqan also has provided funding and other support to terrorist facilitator Sheikh Aminullah, who was designated by the United States and the UN in 2009, and other extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Support for Sheikh Aminullah, a dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban leader
State described Al Furqan as “a charitable organization that is a major conduit of financial and material support for terrorist groups and their activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in some cases under the guise of humanitarian work.”
Since November 2013, Al Furqan has been providing funds to Sheikh Aminullah, an “al Qaeda facilitator” who runs the “terrorist training center Ganj Madrassa.”
“Al Furqan was used to manage financial transactions between individuals in the Gulf and Pakistan in support of the Afghan insurgent movement led by Sheikh Aminullah. Afghan insurgent money managers gained access to funds through Al Furqan with a special note written by Shiekh Aminullah,” State reported.
Aminullah, who is also known as Fazeel-a-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen al Peshwar, is a known terrorist with ties to both al Qaeda and the Taliban. In 2009, he was added to both US and UN’s lists of terrorists. The UNSC designation noted that Aminullah runs the Ganj Madrassa, or religious school, which he has used to recruit and provide support for al Qaeda. Aminullah also furnished suicide vests to al Qaeda and Taliban suicide bombers, and paid the families of the terror groups’ so-called martyrs.
In 2013, the US listed the Ganj Madrassa as a terrorist entity, and provided additional detail on Aminullah’s activities. Treasury said that the Ganj Madrassa “serves as a terrorist training center where students, under the guise of religious studies, have been radicalized to conduct terrorist and insurgent activities.” The madrassa’s students include “bomb manufacturers and suicide bombers.” Aminullah, the Treasury designation noted, “frequently travels to the Gulf to obtain charity donations on the madrassa’s behalf.” And he uses these donations to fund Taliban operations inside Afghanistan, as well as to support al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba. [See LWJ report, Treasury designates al Qaeda leader, madrassa.]
Aminullah also serves as a senior leader in the Taliban. In 2011, he was appointed to lead the Taliban’s Peshawar Regional Military Shura, which is responsible for operations in eastern and northern Afghanistan. It is unclear if he still commands the Peshawar Regional Military Shura, which is one of four major regional commands operated by the Afghan Taliban. [See LWJ report, Taliban appoint al Qaeda-linked commander to lead Peshawar shura.]
Aminullah is wanted by the FBI. “He may be residing in the Ganj District (or Ganji District), Peshawar, Pakistan,” where his madrassa is located, according to the FBI’s wanted statement. Pakistan has made no effort to arrest him, despite the fact that he operates openly in Pakistan and is able to travel to the Gulf.
Support for Lashkar-e-Taiba
In addition to aiding the Taliban and al Qaeda, Al Furqan continues to support Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based jihadist group that is closely allied to al Qaeda and the Taliban and is supported by Pakistan’s military, intelligence services, and government. Lashkar-e-Taiba is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in India and Afghanistan, including the 2008 suicide assault in Mumbai.
“As of mid-2014, Al Furqan’s management provided tens of thousands of US dollars to Lashkar-e-Taiba leadership,” according to State. “Some of this money was obtained as a result of Al Furqan’s revenue streams from individuals in the Gulf.” Lashkar-e-Taiba funneled “aid shipments” from Al Furqan to “unspecified projects in Kashmir.”
The so-called charity also supported Lashkar-e-Taiba operations in Afghanistan. Al Furqan provided funds to two “two Pakistan-based madrassa directors who fought for Lashkar-e-Taiba, sent madrasa students to fight for Lashkar-e-Taiba in Afghanistan, and used Al Furqan’s funding to stage cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.”

Will US Congress Help, Hurt Iran Nuclear Deal?

Michael Bowman

A growing number of U.S. lawmakers of both political parties say Congress should have an up-or-down vote if a final accord is reached on Iran’s nuclear program. Even as the Obama administration braces for months of intensive international negotiations with Iran, it is also fighting to ensure that congressional actions do not torpedo the diplomatic effort.
A nuclear deal with Iran is too important for Congress to be silent, according to Republican Senator Bob Corker.
“I know there are a lot of details that will be worked out over the next several months. That is why, on behalf of the American people, Congress needs to be playing a role,” he said.

Corker wants to freeze any Iran sanctions relief for 60 days, giving lawmakers time to approve or reject a final accord.
He notes that Congress passed those sanctions to begin with.
“Everyone would say that the congressionally-mandated sanctions are what helped in a strong way get Iran to the [negotiating] table,” he said.

The White House has threatened a veto.
“We do not believe that Congress should be in a position where they are going to vote on legislation prior to June that could interfere with the talks," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, "and we would not envision a scenario where we would go along with any sort of congressional action that would undermine the president’s authority.”

But some Democrats are joining Republicans in calling for a vote on the deal. Charles Schumer, expected to be the Senate’s next Democratic leader, is among them.
If enough Democrats side with Schumer, Congress could override a presidential veto and block sanctions relief demanded by Tehran.
“The Republican-controlled Senate and House have no appetite to lift sanctions against Iran,” said Ken Sofer, national security analyst at the Center for American Progress.
He also sais said President Obama can suspend sanctions on his own, but eliminating them would require an act of Congress.
He says lawmakers have a role to play in an Iran deal, but not the one being debated.
“The role isn’t at the negotiating table trying to work out the exact details of the agreement, it is in the enforcement of the agreement. That is where Congress can play a very valuable role. Not by voting up-or-down on an agreement, but by making sure that Iran is sticking by its commitments,” said analyst Ken Sofer.
Senator Corker dismisses suggestions that robust congressional involvement will kill a deal. Sofer says Obama has work to do.
“These are the most complex negotiations we have ever seen, not only between Iran and the P5-plus-1, it’s negotiations within the P5-plus-1, and then negotiations within the United States, as well as negotiations within Iran," he said. "And trying to satisfy all those constituents and get to an agreement that works for everyone and removes one of the most critical threats to U.S. national security — that’s a very difficult task.”
Action is expected soon. Corker’s bill could be approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next week.

U.S - The President and Vice President Speak at the Easter Prayer Breakfast

President Obama Speaks on the Impacts of Climate Change on Public Health

Video - President Obama's nterview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep - A House Under Contract, Awaiting “Appraisal,” “Inspector”

The Life and Times of Michelle Obama Examined in New Biography


"Michelle Obama: A Life" sets out to be the definitive historical biography of the First Lady. The 432-page hardcover tome was a true labor of love for Peter Slevin, a first time author who worked as a journalist for the Miami Herald and The Washington Post during a career spanning thirty years.
"Michelle Obama is a real player in the national conversation right now," said Slevin. "I wanted to understand what she is doing in The White House and why, where those ideas came from, really where that passion came from."
"The more I worked on the book, the more clear it became that what she's doing now connects very closely with her upbringing, with the lessons of her childhood and her experiences along the way," Slevin, who worked on the biography for four-plus years, added.
"I learn in the book that she is motivated to make a difference. I describe it in the book as 'to unstack the deck in a society defined by great inequality.'"


Slevin, currently a professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, pored over hundreds of thousands of Mrs. Obama's own words (via his exhaustive research of interviews, speeches and other published materials) and talked to numerous family members, friends and professional colleagues.
The author interviewed Mrs. Obama twice while on the campaign trail in 2007 however The White House didn't make any new interviews with the First Lady possible for the book.
Through richly detailed prose, the narrative and tone of the book takes form as if Michelle Obama wrote it herself. "Her voice carries through the book," Slevin, 58, noted. "The book starts in her voice where she talks to some kids in Anacostia and it ends with [her] remarks at Maya Angelou's memorial service. So even though I wasn't able to interview Mrs. Obama, her voice carries throughout."
The seasoned writer, who spent parts of his career reporting from over 50 different locations, notably London and Berlin, revealed that he was surprised by his discovery of some of the outward disrespect people have shown FLOTUS.


"One of the things I did not appreciate was the vitriol that she faces as a black woman in this role," Slevin revealed. "You can see it in emails and photo-shopped pictures and comment sections on websites. This is a job she didn't ask for; this is a job for which she is not paid. She is doing a remarkable service and yet there are some people out there who can barely contain their anger and their vitriol."
"I think part of the vitriol is about what a polarized country we are now," he further elaborated when probed about why Mrs. Obama could be seen as a polarizing figure. "It's not just about Michelle Obama but I also think that part of it is that a lot of people in this country don't know, as Gwen Ifill has pointed out, how to or what to think about an outspoken, accomplished African American woman. And I think that it is unquestionable that some of it is about race and I say race but of course I mean racism."
There are tons of little-known nuggets revealed in the book, offering readers a closer look at the Mrs. Obama they never knew..
  • One year while working as a research assistant for law professor Randall Kennedy, she and her friends would sit in front of a big television set in the Harvard's Black Law Students Association's office on Thursday nights and watch 'The Cosby Show' and 'L.A. Law.'
  • Michelle LaVaughn Robinson (her full maiden name) once dated Patti LaBelle's adopted son, Stanley Stocker Edwards.
  • The law firm Michelle Obama decided to start her career, Sidley & Austin, had one black attorney whose clients included Muhammad Ali and Don King. At the firm, her assignments as a young associate ranged from AT&T, Coors and the purple dinosaur Barney.
  • A photo of dance legend Judith Jamison performing Alvin Ailey's iconic 'Cry' hung in the first Chicago apartment Barack and Michelle Obama owned

First Lady Michelle Obama claps during the entertainment portion of the State Dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, left, and his wife, Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, held in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House, Nov. 24, 2009.

As a parent, Slevin noted that Michelle Obama was always clear that she saw her first job to be raising two great daughters who will lead meaningful lives and who will be protected as much as possible from the difficulties of having two parents in the public eye.
"When she said that she would be Mom-In-Chief, part of that was to give herself a little time to figure out what role she would play as First Lady," he furthered. "But a big part of it was she really meant it. She wanted to make sure that Malia and Sasha were in a good place."
There are many examples in the book of her parenting choices. "She wanted each of the girls to play two sports but they could only choose one of the sports and she [Mrs. Obama] would choose the second, because she wanted the girls to know what it was to be good at something they had not chosen," noted Slevin.
Out of all the subjects he could've chosen to make his mark in literary form, Slevin felt that the First Lady was the perfect choice. "I never wanted to write a book until I felt that I had something to say and until I had a story that excited me and Michelle Obama's life is that story," he explained.
"I thought she deserved a book where she is at the center of that narrative, where she is not just "Wife Of The More Famous Barack Obama."

Music Video - Khwabon Kay Ghar - M.M.Ali

Pakistan - Senator Farhatullah Babar calls for non interventionist assistance to Saudi Arabia and balancing act with Iran


Taking part in the debate Senator Farhatullah Babar called for supporting Saudi Arabia in non interventionist way and instead seek to position itself as honest mediator in peace making in the strife torn Yemen.
Without boots on Yemen soil Pakistan should assist Saudis in logistics, intelligence sharing, security of key installations, training in mountain and difficult terrain warfare and medical assistance.
This is a tight rope walk he said and suggested that this limited assistance to the kingdom should be accompanied with a balancing act through stepped up dialogue with Iran on border security and bilateral talks on Afghanistan.
It is not in our national interests to be used by any Middle Eastern country for posturing against Iran, he said.
He said that Pakistan was the biggest contributor to UN peace keeping and called for UN peacekeeping in Yemen. This will enable us to have our troops in Yemen but only for peace keeping and under UN barrets.
An immediate ceasefire and humanitarian assistance must also receive priority as delay will not only result in a human catastrophe but also defeat the very purpose of the ongoing operation in Yemen.
He said that the crisis in Yemen was basically political that called for a political solution and not a military response.
Last week Iran offered that it could talk with Saudi Arabia for resolving the Yemen crisis. This provides an opening for Pakistan to act as honest mediator. He said strengthening relations with the Muslim world was also a constitutional requirement and this is possible only if Pakistan is seen as a mediator and not as a party in the war.
The government would be well advised to look into the past history of interventionism for drawing appropriate lessons.
He recalled that intervention in Jordon in 1967 to drive out Palestinians earned some dollars but alienated the PLO which then never supported Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir.
The intervention in Afghanistan in the eighties in the name of Islam earned some dollars but also brought huge devastation in the form of drugs and Kalashnikov culture, refugees and rise of militancy. By adopting ‘iman, taqwa, jehad fi sabelillah’ as the fighting motto for our forces then we paved way for the privatization of jehad in the country and its devastating consequences.
After 9/11 he said on a telephone call Pakistan allowed its air bases to be used for strikes against Afghanistan. As a result we may have got some 20 billion dollars but also lost over 56,000 citizens including solders and suffered huge material losses in militancy.
Faced with the choice of playing the role of an interventionist on the side of any country or as honest peace maker Pakistan should opt for the latter he said.
He also welcomed PTI lawmakers for rejoining the parliament as “triumph of parliament and democracy” and criticized Khwaja Asif for his brashness against PTI and called for expunging the defense minister’s unparliamentary remarks.

Pakistan - Jobs Are Being Sold In Balochistan

Justice Jawad S. Khawja, Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan has said during a case hearing that presently the recruitment process in Balochistan is controversial and jobs are being sold.
Justice Khawja made these remarks while hearing the illegal recruitment case in Balochistan filed by National Accountability Bureau (NAB), on Monday.
Justice Khawja further said that nepotism and favoritism is rampant in Balochistan and there is lack of transparency in jobs recruitment process.
“Talented and deserving candidates are ignored while incompetent candidates are being recruited after receiving bribes from them,” lamented Justice Khawja.

Pakistan & Saudi Aggression - Can we at least be spared the fabrications?

Ayaz Amir

The hypocrisy and the charade on parade would stick in throats more capacious than ours. The defence of the Holy Mosques is every Muslim’s sacred duty, we are breathlessly informed. But who is threatening the Holy Mosques? Certainly not the Houthis of Yemen who are being attacked by Saudi warplanes. It is they who are the victims of aggression, not our Saudi friends. But for obvious reasons, we can’t bring ourselves to say this.

Item number two in the list of frothy declamations: any threat to Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity will elicit a forceful Pakistani response. But where is the threat to this integrity? Who is planning to attack Saudi Arabia?

Of course Pakistan – the world’s original Islamic Republic, plus in its more charged moments, the Fortress of Islam – faces a dilemma. Its heart and its emotions are in one place, its mind – when it chooses to work – in another. Pakistan knows the risks involved in committing troops to Saudi Arabia’s uncertain adventure. So it is not saying an open yes. But for fear of upsetting the Saudis, for whom this is a matter of life and death, it cannot bring itself to say no.

Yemen may turn into a nightmare for the Saudis in the days to come but it is already a minor nightmare for Pakistan, especially its military, which is being called upon to choose between the devil and the sea. 

There is a third fabrication, that this is somehow a Sunni-Shia war. It is not. The Houthis are Zaydi Shias, whatever that means. But their allies, troops loyal to the former strongman, Ali Abdullah Saleh, are Sunnis. Where does this leave the sectarian divide? 

As George Galloway, the thorn in many a sensitive skin, points out in a diatribe which you can access on YouTube, the people of Gaza are all Sunnis. But when the Israelis were slaughtering them last year, the great House of Saud lifted not a finger to stop the Israeli aggression. So much for the defence of Sunni Islam.

The issue in Yemen is altogether different. It is about influence and control, about Saudi Arabia being able to control the affairs of its impoverished and conflict-racked neighbour. The Houthis are trying to right ancient wrongs. They do not fit into the Saudi scheme of things because their uprising and bid for power set a bad example for Saudi Arabia’s own restive Shia population which is concentrated, unluckily, in Saudi Arabia’s oil-producing regions.

The Saudis were concerned about the Shia uprising in Bahrain for the same reason. It was setting a bad example. So they sent their troops into Bahrain to quell the unrest.

As we all know, retired Pakistani defence personnel are a vital component of Bahrain’s security forces. Shorn of rhetoric and doublespeak, the Saudis want Pakistan to play a similar role in Yemen. What they are seeking, and demanding, are not sentries to stand guard at the gates of the Holy Mosques, but an expeditionary force to help turn the tide against the Houthis and their allies.

The funny thing is that despite being the fourth highest defence spenders on the planet – after the United States, China and Russia – Saudi Arabia is still unable to defend itself or, as we are seeing in Yemen, sustain a war of aggression on its own. Hence the looking to Pakistan to fill this need.

Going by the contours of their chequebook diplomacy, however, the Saudis should really have made the first request for troops to Field Marshal El-Sisi of Egypt. They’ve given him much bigger largesse than anything given to Pakistan – 5 billion dollars President Mohamed Morsi was deposed, and a 12 billion dollars package, along with other Gulf contributors, pledged recently. But the field marshal has announced sending four warships, that’s all, which, come to think of it, is smart thinking.

Pakistan, receiving an advance of 1.5 billion dollars – a gift gratefully received by a cash-strapped government – is being asked for much more: the manpower, the boots on the ground, the special forces, for victory on the battlefield. No other country fits this bill. No other country has the same history of rushing in where angels fear to tread. 

Pakistan, in effect, is being asked to do in Yemen what Iran is doing in Iraq. General Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite A-Quds force, is in Iraq leading the Iraqi war effort against the Islamic State. He helped stop the Islamic State’s advance on Baghdad. He was in command of the battle for the recapture of Tikrit. He is involved in the fighting in Syria in defence of the Assad regime. 

When Pakistani officials talk of the defence of the Holy Mosques and threats to the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia whom are they trying to fool? Saudi Arabia wants a Pakistani Gen Qasem Soleimani in Yemen – or a Brigadier Ziaul Haq (yes, the same who later rose to become our Commander of the Faithful) to do in Yemen what he did in Jordan against the Palestinians during the Black September uprising in 1970.

But Iran has deep interests in Iraq. What interests do we have in Yemen? No one calls the Iranians involved in the defence of Baghdad or the recapture of Tikrit mercenaries. We’ll be called that and will be seen as that if our civil and military leadership take the fateful step of sending troops to Yemen.

Whether the Saudis gain anything from their attack on Yemen or find themselves in a quagmire time will tell. But let us not take them for fools. They don’t want lollipops from Pakistan. They don’t want hollow statements about laying down our lives for the defence of the Holy Mosques, rhetoric which comes so easily to us in Pakistan. They want something tangible – troops on the ground, troops to do their bidding, to fight for them and, if need be, die for them. 

For us it’s not just a question of having enough problems of our own and of our army and air force being over-stretched. The fundamental question is a bit different. Why should we become foot-soldiers in a war which is of no concern to us? True, as a close friend of Saudi Arabia we have an obligation to help it, short of getting directly involved. But even thinking of sending troops is folly.

Trouble is that the Saudis, having got themselves in this mess, are not likely to be impressed by our logic. For them the stakes are high. If they fail in achieving what they have set out to do, their prestige is seriously damaged. And there may be – who knows? – internal repercussions.

The Hapsburgs of Austria triggered the series of events which began the First World War. By the time it ended their empire was lost and they had become part of history. The Saudi monarchy rests on unstable if not shifting sands. They should have confined themselves to diplomacy and to the formidable power of their deep pockets. If they are already looking to allies for military succour it shows that they had not fully thought through the details of their adventure.

Yes, we have sold ourselves cheaply in the past. Yes, we have served the interests of outside powers and hurt ourselves in the process. But hopefully we have learned something from those travails. Even the army is questioning doctrines and dogmas and strategic theories earlier considered as self-evident and as the gospel truth.

Yemen, however, is a test case and will show whether we have fully imbibed the lessons from our own disastrous adventures. Helping Saudi Arabia within our limits is one thing. But humouring the House of Saud, dancing to its tune and serving its strategic interests at the cost of our own…you don’t have to be a Clausewitz or a Metternich to see that it makes no sense at all.

Pakistan - #YemenCrisis - A Closed Discussion

It is odd that in a joint parliament session convened to discuss the open-ended question of Pakistan’s involvement in the Yemen conflict, the Defence Minister, Khwaja Asif, opened the proceedings with a written statement. A predetermined statement in itself would not have been an issue had it not read like a press release; vague, full of rhetoric and stocked with appeasing political phrases. How can the government expect to have a debate on going to war at the request of another country if it fails to tell the parliament the number of soldiers required, where they will be deployed, where will they be drawn from, and what is going to be their job? The only thing that set his address apart from previous press releases was the information that the Kingdom wanted “combat planes, warships and soldiers”. Predictably, the rest of the session was spent criticising the government’s unclear stance, before it descended into political mayhem – another thing the Defence Minister is partly responsible for.
The session has been adjourned till Tuesday, and much of the debate is still to come. Yet so far the only contributor to the debate has been the opposition. Apart from pointing out the government’s unclear statement, the opposition questioned their stance on the Yemen crisis itself; how does the government justify the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels? So far the government has skated over the issue, only focusing on the intervention’s effect on Pakistan, not its legitimacy. This question is an important one to consider, if the government intervenes in Yemen without the United Nations Security Council’s authorization or a principled stance, what separates it from countries like the United States, Israel or Russia; all of whom the government has heavily criticized for regional aggression in the past. If the government truly wishes to seek the parliament’s – and by extension, the people’s – permission before embarking on this quest, it must provide solid facts, principles and details in the next session.
However, the government’s sincerity in the exercise does seem wanting. Arabian news channels and officials continue to firmly maintain that Pakistan is part of the coalition. Pakistani sources continue to assert that preparations for deployment are already underway. The most telling factor is the Defence Minister’s behaviour during the whole session. Despite being charged with the responsibility to present the government’s case and to seek a quick consensus, he unleashed a fiery tirade at the PTI Chairman, which turned the parliament into a political circus, diverting further from the issue at hand fragmenting any possible consensus.

Amnesty slams Afghanistan's 'failure' to protect women rights defenders

Women human rights defenders in Afghanistan are facing mounting threats of violence and sexual assault, a new AI report found. Despite the gains made over the past decade, laws meant to support them exist on paper only.
"Anti-government groups are targeting prominent and outspoken women's rights advocates [in order to] spread fear among other women's rights activists [and] stop their activities." These are the words of Rohgul Khairkhwah, a woman elected as senator for Nimroz province in southern Afghanistan, and a recipient of the Ministry of Women's Affairs' "Bravest Woman in Afghanistan" award.
Her statements are part of an Amnesty International (AI) report released on Tuesday, April 7 in Kabul, which aims to take a look at the reality of women as rights defenders in the conflict-ridden country.
More violence
Based on interviews with more than 50 rights defenders and their families, the 71-page document titled, "Their lives on the line: Women rights defenders under attack in Afghanistan," illustrates the range of violence women human rights activists are confronted with on a daily basis - from threats, harassment and intimidation to physical attacks on their family members and property, and unlawful killings - despite the gains made over the past 13 years.
According to the document, the year 2013 saw a string of assaults carried out against high-profile women, with many of the perpetrators openly stating that the motivation of their attacks was that their female victims were working, or in public roles.
Graffiti Afghanistan
The Taliban and other armed opposition groups are responsible for the majority of human rights abuses
"These women are perceived as challenging existing power structures and defying cultural, religious and social norms concerning the role of women in society and, as such, are deliberately targeted, regardless of whether they are doctors, journalists, educators, female police officers or elected representatives," said the rights group.
The perpetrators
This mindset puts them at risk of sexual and other forms of gender-based violence and can further restrict their movements, as a female doctor quoted in the report pointed out. "The reason I have stopped going to work is that you can see the consequences if you don't listen to their warnings. I hope that by not working I will be safe. If the Taliban say they will do something they are serious about it. There is a security gap everywhere so I don't think it will be difficult for the Taliban to do something harmful."
But while the Taliban and other armed opposition groups are responsible for the majority of human rights abuses, the report found that they are not the only ones. "Many women rights defenders are facing attacks and intimidations from different sides including government officials, local warlords, from the Taliban and other armed insurgent groups and sometimes by their own family members," AI's Afghanistan Researcher Horia said in a DW interview.
In this context, the AI paper also accuses the Afghan authorities of being indifferent to the worsening situation and of "failing to create and enable" an environment for female human rights defenders to carry out their activities and to bring those responsible for abuses to justice.
A 'patchy' rights record
The report comes at a critical time in Afghanistan's history. With the end of the ISAF mission, the Afghan army and police are now fully in charge of security in a country plagued by conflict and a resurgent insurgency. But the NATO drawdown has also been followed by a reduction of economic and political support from the international community.
The rights group is now concerned that with international interest fading and foreign aid waning, the Afghan government will de-prioritize human rights amid growing economic hardship and instability, and that human rights, especially those of women and girls, will be traded off in the interests of security.
"The political and financial support of the international community should not be linked to the military presence in Afghanistan. We are calling on the international community to take women rights issue seriously and keep pressuring the Afghan government to protect women right defenders," said Mosadiq.
But what about the gains made over the past decade? The report argues that the government's record is "patchy" in terms of meeting its legal obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and that, as a result, Afghanistan remains near the bottom of the UN Development Program Gender Inequality Index.
At the same time, AI says that conservative forces and ideas have slowly been increasing their positions and leverage within Afghan institutions, enabling them to intensify their attacks on women's rights. This is reflected in the 2013 election law, which rolled back the quota for women's representation in provincial councils from 25 percent to 20 percent, and removed it altogether for district councils.
It can also be seen in the response to the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Law, which was decreed into law through an Executive Order by the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2009, while parliament was in recess. When a female MP tabled it before parliament so that it would be passed there - and prevent Karzai's successor from just rescinding the decree - the move backfired as there was not enough support from MPs.

In a heated debate in parliament, the law was called "un-Islamic" and questions were raised about the minimum age of marriage for girls,the prohibition against forced marriage and the existence of shelters for abused women and girls, which were called "immoral."
Not taken seriously
Moreover, police, prosecutors and courts allegedly refuse to take threats against women human rights defenders seriously, with few investigations into complaints of attacks, and even fewer prosecutions or convictions.
"This failure to respond effectively to the threats, harassment and attacks that women human rights defenders face is a result of weak state structures, particularly within the judiciary and law enforcement and security agencies. It is reinforced by an enduring culture of impunity, a judicial system based on the ability to wield power rather than on a concept of justice, and a multiplicity of overlapping and often-competing legal systems," said the report.
In this context, a woman provincial council representative was quoted by AI as saying: "I am supposed to have two bodyguards but I haven't seen them for a year. [Each time I have had them] after a few days the police come and take them away so you never know what's going on. This doesn't happen to my male colleagues."
Parlament Afghanistan 2013
The Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) Law was called 'un-Islamic' during a heated debate in parliament in 2013
Mosadiq said double standards by the authorities towards men and women have led AI to the conclusion that both current and former Afghan governments "have failed to protect women and do not show a strong commitment to do so in the future."
In light of this development, the rights group stressed that laws and policies alone cannot achieve transformative social change. "The Afghan government must also demonstrate the political will and financial commitment to ensure that obligations on paper to protect the rights of women and girls translate into genuine protections on the ground."
Any action by the authorities should be undertaken with the meaningful participation of women human rights defenders and civil society, the rights group added.