Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Music Video - Zendaya - Replay

U.S. - Gov. Jindal’s Implosion

By Charles M. Blow

What happened to Bobby Jindal?
He was the next wave of Republican. He was young and smart — a Rhodes scholar. He was the son of immigrants and the first Indian-American governor in this country’s history.
He had even bounced back from his disastrous rebuttal to President Obama’s first State of the Union address. (Personally, I thought that his claim of having participated in an exorcism performed on his friend in college would have been more of an issue than it was, but that was just me.)
Jindal had all the right rhetoric.
He told the syndicated columnist Cal Thomas: “As Republicans we don’t need to obsess about our opponents, we don’t need to define ourselves in opposition to our opponents. Let [Democrats] look backward; we need to look forward.”
In 2013, he demanded that the G.O.P. “stop being the stupid party.”
Jindal was the brainy Moses coming to deliver his people from the bondage of inanity. But that was then.
Now, Jindal has gone from being one of the most popular governors in the country to one of the least popular.
In the latest CNN/ORC poll of Republicans and independents who lean Republican, only 1 percent said that he was the candidate they would most likely support for the Republican nomination. Even “none/no one” got 6 percent.
And in a desperate attempt at relevancy — and press — he has lately been sliding further into Islamic hysteria.
In January, he doubled down on a controversial claim that parts of Europe were “no-go” zones because of Muslim extremists. A Fox News guest had said days earlier that there were cities “where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.” Prime Minister David Cameron had replied to that assertion: “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day. This guy is clearly a complete idiot.”
That hasn’t stopped Jindal. Last week on Fox News, he set about defending his statement that America “shouldn’t tolerate those who want to come and try to impose some variant, or some version, of Shariah law.” But he went so far as to say of prospective immigrants:
“In America we want people who want to be Americans. We want people who want to come here. We don’t say, ‘You have to adopt our creed, or any particular creed,’ but we do say, ‘If you come here, you need to believe in American exceptionalism.’ ”
What? Where is that written? I can’t find this “need to believe in American exceptionalism” anywhere in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Isn’t American exceptionalism itself a creed?
The smart-on-paper Jindal increasingly comes across as nuttier than a piece of praline.
On Friday, Robert Mann, a columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, called for Jindal’s resignation, citing all of the problems in the state that the governor isn’t focusing on as he tries to gin up a greater national profile:
“We have some of the nation’s highest poverty and worst health outcomes and you’ve done little to address them. Baton Rouge, your hometown, has the nation’s second-highest H.I.V. rate (New Orleans is fourth), but you’ve done nothing to address that crisis. What you have done is hollow out higher education and inject needless confusion and rancor into the state’s elementary and secondary education system. Meanwhile, the state’s health care system is a fractured, dysfunctional mess under your privatization schemes. Now, you’ve outsourced the state’s tax policy to Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.” Louisiana’s fiscal picture is dire. As Politico reported in February:
“Jindal is preparing a budget to close a $1.6 billion shortfall in Louisiana, a particularly daunting task after the $400 million in additional money he had to scare up to fill a budget gap for the current year. The president of Louisiana State University said earlier this month that the state’s flagship school is preparing for a 40 percent cut in its operating budget next year.”
In fact, The Times-Picayune reported in January that “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration said Louisiana’s colleges and universities should be prepared to sustain anywhere from $200 million to $300 million in cuts during the 2015-16 school year.”
(Jindal’s budget for higher education ended up cutting less — $141 million.)
In February, Jindal strained credulity, claiming, “The total higher education budget, including means of total finance — is actually a little bit, just slightly, higher than when I took office.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog quickly smacked that down, awarding Jindal three Pinocchios. Jindal has made a mess of Louisiana and wrecked his reputation in the process. His odds of becoming president of the United States have shrunk to nil.
Sometimes what looks good on paper is a disaster in practice.

Video - Historians urge Japanese PM Abe to acknowledge truth

A group of 187 internationally renowned history scholars has urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acknowledge and apologize for WWII atrocities. The joint statement came a week after Abe failed to offer a clear apology for the enslavement of so called comfort women and other wartime crimes, when he delivered an address to the U.S. Congress.

Pentagon chief calls for new multi-year defense spending deal


Calling Republican defense spending plans a "road to nowhere," Defense Secretary Ash Carter appealed on Wednesday for lawmakers to work with him toward a new bipartisan budget deal to provide stable funding for a U.S. military hurt by years of steep cuts.
Carter told a Senate appropriations panel that Republican efforts to try to meet President Barack Obama's defense funding request were well-intentioned but would not give the Pentagon the flexibility it needed and ultimately would lock in budget cuts Obama has threatened to veto.
The president proposed a $534 billion Pentagon base budget for the 2016 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 that exceeds federal spending caps by $35 billion and could trigger mandatory cuts. Obama also sought $51 billion in funding for conflicts overseas in an account not covered by the spending caps.
The Republican-controlled Congress, which opposes many of Obama's spending priorities, is considering a $499 billion Pentagon base budget that would not exceed spending caps. But it is studying $90 billion in war funding, $39 billion more than requested, to make up for cuts in the base budget.
"While this approach clearly recognizes that the budget total we’ve requested is needed, the avenue it takes is just as clearly a road to nowhere," Carter told the appropriations panel, noting that Obama has threatened to veto a budget that locks in current spending caps.
If that happens, Carter said, the Pentagon would be facing another autumn of budget uncertainty when it is unable to plan effectively and has to make the kind of "hasty and drastic" decisions it has had to make over the past few years.
Those decisions have forced the military to make quick, short-term cuts from accounts for readiness, training and modernization, leaving the force increasingly unbalanced.
Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the panel the cuts have put the United States in a position where "our global aspirations are exceeding our available resources."
Carter said if Congress continued to push ahead with the Republican plans rather than exploring other alternatives he feared "we'll all be left holding the bag."
Congress and the president have directed the Pentagon to cut about a trillion dollars in planned defense spending over a decade.
The reductions come as the U.S. military is trying to modernize aging weapons while coping with threats unforeseen just three years ago, including the rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

Video - Hillary's call for path to citizenship

India fares badly for mothers and children

Poor children in Indian cities are three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than their affluent peers, says a recent report, which ranks India among the worst in the world in terms of health inequity.
India is one of the ten countries worldwide with the greatest survival divide between wealthy and poor urban children, according to the report "The Urban Disadvantage" released by the NGO Save the Children on May 5. It also stated that the quality of life of mothers and children in the urban slums of India's capital New Delhi is one of the poorest in the world.
The ten countries showing the greatest survival divide between affluent and poor urban children are: Rwanda, Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam, Peru, India, Madagascar, Ghana, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Of the 189 countries surveyed for the report, India is ranked 140, behind countries like Rwanda, Iraq and Bangladesh.
The report - which, among other sources, uses data from UN agencies - ranks countries on five key factors: risk of maternal death, under-five mortality rate, educational status, economic achievement and political status.
"It is actually a tale of two cities. There is a wide difference of access between the urban rich and poor. The richest are the fittest and so it is the survival of the fittest in urban scenarios," Sudeep Gadok, director of programs of Save the Children, told DW.
Infant and maternal mortality rates in cities are on the rise and the situation would deteriorate further unless concerted efforts are made, said India's Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptulla. "Even today, over 760,000 children die in India every year and many of these deaths are due to preventable causes. We obviously need to do a lot more," Heptulla told DW.
Crumbling healthcare
It was found that 50,000 mothers die each year in India as a result of birth complications, as against 1,200 in the United States. But the poor bear the greatest burden everywhere irrespective of a nation's current state of economic development.
The other key finding of the report is that while great progress has been made in reducing urban under-five mortality around the world, health inequality is worsening. It emphasizes the issue of poor children and mothers in urban settings being deprived of lifesaving healthcare services.
The report found that public sector health systems are typically under-funded, and often fail to reach those most in need of basic health services. In many instances, the poor resort to seeking care from unqualified health practitioners, often paying for health services that are of poor quality, or in some cases, harmful.
"Overcrowding, poor sanitation and food insecurity make the poor mothers and children even more vulnerable to disease and ill health. And fear of attack, sexual assault or robbery limit their options when a health crisis strikes," said Devendra Tak, Save the Children's communications manager.
Investment needed
Given the rapid growth of urban populations and the increasing level of under-five mortality rates occurring among the urban poor, it was recommended that investments were needed for basic health services, water and sanitation, and improved nutrition for this under-served, and often neglected, population.
Globally every fifth child is born in India, and any improvement in infant mortality rate of even a single Indian state can positively impact the national situation.
A strong case has been made for investing in strengthened and expanded urban health systems designed to reach the poor, ensuring access to health workers able to provide quality care in slums and informal settlements, and removing financial barriers to accessing quality health services.
Employment generation, livelihood, housing and services should be the basis for urban renewal schemes, underlined Dunu Roy, an urban planner and director of the New Delhi-based Hazards Center. "Urbanization won't stop, it is only going to increase and that is why planners and city developers should focus on this issue on a war footing."

Left Alone on The Road Less Traveled: Pakistani Christian From Thailand

Today where many population control campaigns are working in Pakistan, radicals’ of Islam take matters in their own hands and attempt to put a stop to these campaigns, saying it will reduce the Muslim population. These acts of sheer illiteracy have killed many Christians who unfortunately worked for the betterment of Pakistan and to earn a living
Asia bibi also became a victim of the Islamists. This Asia Bibi is not behind bars but is caged in a sweet jail after managed to escape Pakistan and flee to Thailand. People refuse to hear what she has to say just because she is not part of the world wide media like the Asia Bibi convicted of blasphemy. This woman’s only sin is for the consequences in Thailand is not getting killed, raped or committing blasphemy. She lost her husband in the run of convincing UNHCR for an asylum grant. Now a widow, left with two teenage sons and an incomplete dream of a peaceful life with her husband.
In an interview she speaks of her ordeal saying, “Muslims do no consider us good because some of us are not educated. Those who are domestic workers are called names. An uneducated person selling fruits does not know what is written on the paper he is selling his fruit on. If someone reads it they blame them for blasphemy.
I lived in Karachi, with my two sons. My husband was working in Dubai and I ran a clinic in Karachi. Life was going on very well but as the situation of Karachi is bad, I asked my husband to come back home. In 2012, some people came to my clinic demanding its closure. They attacked me and blamed me for selling free birth control medicine. God saved me. They threatened to kill my sons. The Father of the parish that I go to helped me in getting to Thailand to save my life and take refuge.
We had thought life would be better in Thailand. My elder son is working illegally to support us; he can’t even complete his education. We had an interview with UNO in 2013 and were denied asylum in 2014. My husband became extremely worried and fell ill. I did not have source to get a proper treatment done. I went to churches, to Asylum access centers and hospitals but no body listened to me. At last my husband died in 2015 and my children are orphans now.
There is no protection and no medication for us. We can not even afford food. The question of returning back is out of league. Still I continue to pray and hope that our extreme plight ends soon.”
The misuse of blasphemy law has forced many out of Pakistan and the dreams of a happy and peaceful life still lingers on in many hearts.

Pakistan: Man gets 25 years in jail for blasphemy

A Pakistan court on Tuesday sentenced a man to 25 years in prison after holding him guilty of desecrating sacred scriptures.
The case was heard at a sessions court in Lahore, Dawn online reported.

The court heard statements from witnesses and lawyers' claims and found Zulfiqar guilty of desecrating sacred scriptures. The court charged Zulfiqar with blasphemy.The court also ordered the seizure of all of his movable and immovable assets.

A case was registered against him by Race Course police station in 2006.

Pakistan ? China-Punjab Economic Corridor

Adnan Aamir
Last time I checked Pakistan was a federation of four provinces. However, the current federal government of Pakistan apparently only considers Punjab to be Pakistan. When the incumbent federal government came into power it was called a Punjab-centric government from the outset. The 51 agreements signed between China and Pakistan, or more accurately Punjab, have proved beyond any doubt that the PML-N government is in power to serve Punjab only. Therefore it would be fitting for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to be renamed as China-Punjab Economic Corridor.
The President of China, Xi Jinping, was in Pakistan for a high profile visit earlier this week. The highlight of his visit was the signing of 51 Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) and inauguration of 8 projects between Pakistan and China under CPEC. The total value of all these projects is $28 billion which is a huge amount considering the fact that the budget outlay of Pakistan for fiscal year 2014-15 was US$ 43 billion. These projects can prove to be beneficial for the economy of Pakistan. However, the way these projects were distributed among all four provinces made the entire deal controversial.
Out of the $28 billion worth projects, Punjab gets $11 billion, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) $2.5 billion and Balochistan gets nothing. That’s right, not a single penny out of $28 billion would be spent in Balochistan which is the most backward province in Pakistan. Sindh would get $9 billion from these projects; however the major chunk of that amount would be for the Lahore-Karachi Motorway, a project meant for Lahore. There is no justifiable reason whatsoever which can be floated to defend this unjust division of projects among the four federating units of Pakistan.
During the agreement signing ceremony that took place in Prime Minister House on April 20, only the Punjab Chief Minister was present. The other three chief ministers were not invited. It’s not just about invitations, no person from Balochistan and KP was chosen for the workgroups that finalized the details of CPEC with Chinese officials. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz Sharif orchestrated the show only to benefit their support base in Punjab.
This deal that was supposed to bring prosperity to Pakistan has become controversial from the outset. The KP Chief Minister, Pervez Khattak has openly criticized the federal government for preferring Punjab over other provinces. The legislators of Balochistan Assembly dubbed the agreements between Pakistan and China as between Lahore and Beijing. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Vice president of PTI, who also belongs from Punjab, has criticized the federal government for its Punjab-centric approach in distribution of CPEC projects.
The route of CPEC rail and road link was the first thing that triggered the controversy. The original route of CPEC would pass from the center of the country. It would start from Gwadar-Ratodero-Dear Allah Yar-Dera Ghazi Khan-D.I Khan-Hassanabdal and all the way to Kashghar. PML-N government has created confusion over the original route. They have come up with a mindboggling concoction that the CPEC would not be one road but a network of roads. That’s wildly untrue because as per the original plan, there would be one main route, ranging from 2 to 6 lanes. During the agreement signing ceremony, the government of Pakistan agreed with China on the eastern route that would take the Gwadar-Ratodero-Sukkur-Lahore-Islamabad-Abbotabad route. Clearly this route is meant to benefit Lahore at the expense of two backward provinces of Pakistan, Balochistan and KP.
Coming to the inaugurated projects, Lahore already has a Metro Bus service, but the government of Pakistan is establishing an Orange Line Mass Rail transit system in the city. China would provide $1.6 billion for this project. A branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China would be established in Lahore. And where would the China Cultural Centre be established? No prizes for guessing. Would it not be fair if these projects were divided equally among all four provincial capitals? I guess it would not be acceptable to the Punjab centric agenda of PML-N.
Protests have already erupted against what is being termed as China-Punjab economic corridor. Right and left wing parties in both KP and Balochistan are on the same page on this issue, which is a rare occurrence. Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal has already given his verdict on the protestors and he is in the process of distributing certificates of treachery. He said, “Hidden hands, some politicians, and also India are trying to make the multi-billion dollar framework [CPEC] controversial.” According to the criteria set forth by Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, this article must also be the work of hidden hands to sabotage the interests of Pakistan. Fortunately, for PML-N government, a draconian cybercrime bill is in the pipeline that would be used to crush any dissent to anti-federation policies of their government on internet.
The irony of the matter is that China has initiated the CPEC plan to develop its backward western regions. On the other hand, Pakistan is depriving its backward provinces of the benefits of CPEC. What PML-N government has forgotten is that it’s not 1955 when One-Unit was enforced to crush the demands of smaller provinces. It’s the 21st century and the people of Balochistan and KP would protest against the policies of PML-N government that are focused towards the prosperity of Punjab only. The one thing that has become crystal clear is that Nawaz Sharif is indeed Prime Minister of Punjab and Shehbaz Sharif is Chief Minister of Lahore. The rest of the country can go to you-know-where.

Pakhtuns allege discrimination - Closing the gates of Lahore

Pakhtuns allege discrimination as the government cracks down on terrorism.
A crowd gathers inside a cool and dark alleyway and a conversation begins to brew in Pashto. Lahore’s Shah Alam Market is a spirited commercial centre and its shopkeepers, selling a panoply of materials and small-scale commodities, seldom have time to gather for idle chitchat. What has brought this group together is the distraught young man at its centre, gesticulating wildly, his national identity card clenched in his fist.
“This card doesn’t say that I am a citizen of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” rages Javed Mohmand. “It says that I am a citizen of Pakistan. So why is it that when I went to the bank today, they refused to let me open an account because I am Pathan?”
Mohmand moved to Lahore from Mohmand Agency seven years ago. His family ran a business in Peshawar but shifted to Lahore, hoping to avail a healthier economic climate. He has registered with the local thanas (police stations) three times — every time he switched residence. But this didn’t stop authorities from raiding his Gawalmandi apartment on three separate occasions. Once, a raiding officer insinuated that it was being used for soirees with young men, perpetuating a long-standing ethnic stereotype.
Spurred by the Army Public School massacre and the resulting National Action Plan, police in Lahore have conducted 991 search operations in the city between December 17, 2014 and February 18, 2015; more than 120,000 people have been questioned and 124 cases have been registered, 45 of them under the 1946 Foreigners Act.
But ethnic Pakhtuns and Afghans complain that they have borne the brunt of this newfound vigilance, and unfairly so.
In a recent news report published in Urdu daily Dunya, Lahore’s chief traffic officer Hafiz Cheema was cited as identifying 36 areas deemed high risk for terrorism. Shah Alam Market, Sheranwala Gate, Landa Bazaar and other Pakhtun-dominated areas were all on the list.
“We are targeted because we are Pathan — the state deems all Pathans to be terrorists. If by speaking Pashto one becomes a terrorist, then I, too, am a terrorist,” says Mohmand angrily.
Pakhtuns arrived in Lahore in various rounds of migration. Some, such as the forefathers of Zimal Khan, a reporter with Khyber TV, migrated before Partition; others moved to the city in wake of the Afghan War in the 1980s. After the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, most Pakhtun refugees opted for cities such as Quetta and Peshawar. Zimal Khan estimates that only between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of Lahore’s Pakhtun migrants arrived during this time. Most live in katchi abaadis near Bund Road and the city’s peripheral areas.
In Landa Bazaar, situated just outside the Lahore railway station, the traders are mostly Afghan, selling shoes, pampers and crockery, as well as anything electronic. Because they give these commodities on credit, they are popular among customers. But the recent crackdown has affected business: Waris Shah, a small business owner, says that he shut down his chappal manufacturing unit only a few weeks ago because of repeated harassment by the police — officials would periodically swoop in, pick up his workers and take them in for questioning.
As Shah relates his travails with the police, his brother Amanullah interjects angrily: “It’s one of those decisions that you come to regret. We had the choice to become Pakistani or remain Afghan and we chose the latter. What a mistake that was!” Their extended family resides in a refugee camp in Nowshera, but Amanullah himself was born in Shahdara, Lahore. “So how can you ask us to go back to Afghanistan now?”
When contacted, Superintendent Police Liaquat Malik tried to downplay the ethnic dimension of the issue. “Look, the Afghans have become a necessary part of our society. If you were to remove them all, some 75 per cent of Lahore’s businesses would disappear. But there are several Afghan bastis (settlements) in Lahore and 28 of them have been marked as sensitive by intelligence agencies. There was no mechanism for data collection for these Afghans, so we don’t really know how many people are living in these areas. It can become an easy sanctuary for terrorists.”
Human rights activists claim that the attitude towards the Afghans – and to some extent, all Pakhtun migrants in general – has deeper and more entrenched roots. “There is a word in the dictionary to describe our treatment of Afghan refugees, and that word is ‘xenophobia’,” says Najmuddin of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “The local population complains that these people take their jobs — if they weren’t around, there would be no unemployment.”
“There are local stakeholders who wish to exploit the situation,” he adds. Indeed, when Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced a crackdown on the Afghan basti in Islamabad’s I-11 sector, claiming that it had become a safe haven for terrorists, many alleged that not only was it based on ethnic bias, several local commercial groups also had an interest in its clearing.
It is worth pointing out that in the report on the National Action Plan submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in early February this year, 3,416 Afghans were said to have been deported to their ‘country of origin’. Among these, 2,844 were settled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 376 in the tribal areas, 195 in Balochistan and one in Islamabad.
According to official figures, therefore, no Afghan based in Punjab has been deported so far. But that hasn’t helped ease the sense of foreboding within the Afghan and the wider Pakhtun community based in Lahore. “There are increasing tensions between the Punjabi traders and Pathan workers,” says Ajmal Khan, head of the Pakhtun Qaumi Ittehad chapter in Shah Alam Market, one of the few representative bodies in Punjab that attempts to address the grievances of Pakhtuns in the province. The emphasis of the group is less on political mobilisation and more on tackling routine issues such as labour disputes and assisting with hospital and funeral bills and registration with local police stations.
“We are still afraid of going to the local thana,” he says, referring to the discriminatory attitude meted out by officials. “But we are increasingly trying to address concerns regarding the treatment of Pathan workers. Our goal is to work with the authorities and ensure that tensions don’t rise further.”
“Pathans in Punjab are like a flock of sheep,” says reporter Zimal Khan. “I get calls in the middle of the night from people asking for help because the authorities have picked up their boys. They spend a great deal of time paying fines and dealing with local officials — but now they are looking to leave. We did an interview the other day with a Pathan businessman who had shifted his business to Turkey. He said Turkey doesn’t treat us as badly as Pakistan does.”

Editorial - Pakistan - #PMLN - Khawaja Saad Rafique unseated

The ruling of an election tribunal regarding the need to hold a re-election in NA-125 and PP-155 has proved a setback to the Pakistan-Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and given a boost to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). PTI stalwarts are going wild celebrating the verdict that came after almost two years. The verdict is welcome since after all justice has been served. As per the ruling, PML-N’s candidates Khawaja Saad Rafique and Mian Naseer Ahmad have been unseated after irregularities were proved on both seats during the 2013 general elections. While responding to the verdict, Khawaja Saad Rafique has said that the decision is actually against the incompetence of returning officers and presiding officers. He has not ruled out challenging the verdict in the Supreme Court. The question arises on what grounds he will file an appeal for a reversal of the election tribunal’s decision. There is no doubt that flawed elections were held in NA-125 and the tribunal has made an appropriate decision regarding the holding of re-elections. It has been revealed that the elections results in NA-125 were compiled on the basis of unverified information. The judge specifically said that presiding officers and election staff in the constituency were inefficient, they did not work properly and discrepancies and irregularities emerged in polling stations due to their negligence. Major irregularities that were found include the opening of ballot boxes with a sharp object, tampering with the record and absence of thumb impressions as well as signatures of Returning Officers (ROs) on vote count proformas. In the given situation, the real culprits are the ROs and election staff, who must be held accountable for damaging the democratic process. The election tribunal has said that discrepancies and irregularities were found but no convincing evidence was available to prove any deliberate systematic rigging plan. The tribunal judge told the media that the allegations of rigging levelled by the challenger have not been established. Of the analysis of 15 polling stations ordered by the tribunal judge, irregularities were found in the record of seven stations. If rigging had been proved, Saad Rafique would have been disqualified from contesting elections.

So far, PTI Chairman Imran Khan has made generalised allegations and no evidence has been submitted that could substantiate his claims. Unfortunately, the basis of the PTI’s sit-ins and street protests was based on mere assumptions. He is continuing to make wild accusations while asking others to prove his claims of systematic rigging. Soon after the verdict, the PTI leadership started boasting of its claims about confirmation of rigging in NA-125 that actually have not been proved. The PTI leadership is overjoyed that the election in one of the four constituencies where it claimed massive rigging was done has been declared null and void. On its part, the PML-N has expressed its willingness to contest elections on this seat again. The party is hopeful of winning the elections again due to the PML-N’s victory in the recently concluded Cantonment Board elections in Lahore. The election tribunal verdict does not validate PTI’s allegations that the 2013 elections were manipulated or rigged pursuant to a systematic effort or design. Imran needs to understand this simple logic that the politics of agitation on such flimsy grounds is not in anyone’s interest. As the tribunal verdict has shown, if he has any grievance, he should approach the proper forum. But the use of gutter language and character assassination that has been the leitmotif of the ‘container’ sit-in should be avoided. Politics must be pursued in a civilised manner. He should come out of his world of assumptions. On the other hand it remains the responsibility of the election tribunals to decide all cases before them at the earliest so that all election-related controversies are finally laid to rest.

Zardari to visit Afghanistan today

Pakistan People Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, along with a delegation, will visit Afghanistan for one day on Thursday and will meet Afghan leadership. According to media reports, Zardari will meet Afghani President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah whereas the delegation will comprise on former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gallan, Shireen Mazari and Faisal Karim Kundi. Pak-Afghan relations, regional security situation and some other important issues will be discussed during meeting.

#Cricket - FICA warns against touring Pakistan

The Federation of International Cricketers' Association (FICA) has warned against international teams touring Pakistan, stating its security experts had said the "risk is unmanageable."
FICA's statement came a day before Alistair Campbell, the Zimbabwe Cricket managing director, and security experts arrived in Pakistan to assess the security situation ahead of Zimbabwe's limited-overs tour of the country later this month. They are due to play three ODIs and two T20 internationals in Lahore from May 19 to 31, a tour that was announced last week. In return, Pakistan will tour Zimbabwe in August.
"We are very concerned about the safety of players and any match officials who may be sent to Pakistan, should this tour go ahead," Tony Irish, the FICA executive chairman, said. "The risk assessment that we have received from FICA's security consultants is that an international tour to Pakistan remains an unacceptable risk and teams are advised against travelling there at present. Although we are sure that the Pakistan Cricket Board will do what they can regarding a security plan, our experts advise that the risk is unmanageable."
On March 3, 2009, gunmen had ambushed the vehicles transporting the Sri Lankan players and match officials to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for the third day of the Test. Several players suffered injuries, while security personnel and civilians were killed, and as a result the match was abandoned and the tour called off. Ever since, Pakistan have had to play their home matches at offshore venues, primarily the UAE, as the ICC and other Full Members considered the country too much of a security risk.

Pakistan: attacks on human rights activists continue to go unpunished

By Barbara Matera 

The murder of human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud is one of many unpunished attacks on freedom campaigners in Pakistan,-Barbara Matera.

Sabeen Mahmud, a prominent member of Pakistan's civil society and a champion for missing persons' rights in the restive Pakistani province of Balochistan, was killed on 24 April shortly after she organised a seminar titled 'Unsilencing Balochistan' at the second floor (T2F) forum she had founded in Karachi.
An earlier discussion due to take place at the Lahore university of management sciences (LUMS) enforced disappearances in Balochistan was cancelled at the request of Pakistani intelligence services (ISI).
This was likely due to the fact that one of the guest speakers scheduled to make an appearance at the seminar was Baloch nationalist leader and human rights activist Mama Abdul Qadir.
These pressure tactics were condemned by Pakistani civil society. Beena Sarwar, a filmmaker, journalist and artist who campaigns for human rights and peace, tweeted, "those trying to silence Mama Qadir dialogue in Balochistan are quick to slam India for doing that in Kashmir." 
Former Pakistani ambassador to the US and foreign affairs analyst Hussain Haqqani tweeted, "Pakistan must take lesson from its east Pakistan fiasco and listen to dissidents [rather] than to brand them separatists and kill them in Balochistan".
Nevertheless, when the LUMS talk on Balochistan was cancelled, Sabeen Mahmud took it upon herself to organise it in Karachi instead. A number of civil society members, students and human rights activists attended the event, including Mama Abdul Qadir. Just a few hours later, as she was on her way home, Sabeen Mahmud was killed by unidentified assailants.
This is yet another chilling reminder of earlier killings of eminent Pakistani investigative journalists such as Shehzad Saleem (30 May 2011) and serious attempts on the lives of prominent TV personalities and talk show hosts such as Raza Rumi (28 March 2014) and Hamid Mir (19 April 2014). 
These attacks were carried out in an attempt to silence the independent voices that have been openly demanding the respect of Pakistani citizens' fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender equality and most importantly, the right to protection from arbitrary killings and enforced disappearances allegedly orchestrated by military agencies.
In a recently published article, Hamid Mir vividly recounted how he was attacked one year ago, while raising some uncomfortable questions for ISI. Though at the time he had been provided state security, he was nevertheless attacked in broad daylight in Karachi. It was a miracle that he managed to escape, thanks to the sheer presence of mind of his driver and Baloch guard.
The Pakistani government has set up a committee of judges to carry out a speedy inquiry, but a year on, neither the committee nor the government have delivered any results and Mir works under constant threat, as the state cannot guarantee his life or safety.
Unfortunately, Sabeen Mahmud was not as lucky. The Karachi-born civil society activist, who would have turned 40 this June, was a talented media activist who set up T2F in 2007. Previously, she had supported suppressed and persecuted minorities in Pakistan, including Shias and Ahmadi.
In 2013, she helped form a human chain around a church in solidarity with Pakistan's Christian community following an attack on a church in Peshawar.
While the ISI condemned the attack and offered assistance in capturing the perpetrators, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan denied any responsibility. 
Pakistani civil society believes those behind the attacks and killings of human rights activists will once again be left unpunished, spreading fear among those who dare to speak out against terror.
The EU cannot stay silent in the face of such brutal violence. To those who act beyond the fear, we must give the assurance that their sacrifices will pay off and result in a free, democratic society in Pakistan - one that respects the rights of all its citizens equally.
Hopefully, activists' efforts will create a society that brings perpetrators of any acts of violence to justice and pave the way for development and security in the region.

Pakistan’s Loss: #SabeenMahmud - A Beacon of Free Thought

By Bina Shah

In Pakistan, Karachi is known as the City of Lights. Whenever I fly back here and see those lights, my heart jumps happily because I know I’m home. But at the end of April, as I returned from abroad over the ribboning streets, my heart throbbed with infinite loss. Days before, the brightest light in Karachi had been extinguished forever.
That light, to me, was Sabeen Mahmud, whom I met in the 1990s, after I returned from studies in the United States. I became the editor of a computer magazine, and was interviewing Sabeen at a multimedia company she had helped start. The Internet had come to Pakistan in 1996, and suddenly everyone I knew was talking about websites and Internet service providers and dial-up access to an information superhighway. That highway would soon connect Pakistan, then hesitantly emerging from a dictatorship’s information control, to the rest of the world. But few people recognized its potential, and many dismissed the Internet with suspicion or scorn. Not Sabeen, though; she was too intelligent.
In a little office festooned with posters of John Lennon and Albert Einstein, Sabeen waxed lyrical about CD-ROMs, graphic design and Apple Macs. As she rhapsodized about user-friendliness (a huge accomplishment back then), I knew I’d stumbled on a very unusual person. She was a tomboy dressed in jeans, a knee-length shirt known as a kurta, and kolhapuri sandals. Totally comfortable in her skin, she wasn’t concerned about the usual obsessions of young women in Pakistan: finding a good match and settling down, or the latest fashions and parties. Here was someone passionate about bigger concepts and imbued with purpose; she was an oasis of individuality in a city where social conventions limit the roles of young women to serving husband, children and family.
Fast-forward 10 years. Sabeen had left the tech company to start something new: a cultural community space where people could gather, talk, listen to music and poetry, discuss politics and drink coffee. She was inspired by the Pakistani teahouses of the 1950s and ’60s, when students and poets, revolutionaries and socialists would discuss life and politics over cigarettes and endless cups of tea. But she wanted a modern iteration, imbued with technology: There would be a Wi-Fi connection, an Apple laptop for public use, a music system fed by iTunes. Also an espresso machine, but no smoking.
The cafe was being constructed, on the second floor of a new office building, when I visited. The walls were bare, the kitchen unbuilt. The task seemed impossible, but Sabeen’s creative impulse nevertheless turned that blank space above a dusty street into a beautiful cafe with pine furniture and colorful murals and the ever-present posters — Lennon and Einstein and Steve Jobs alongside the revolutionary Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the Nobel laureate in physics Abdus Salam.
Within months, the cafe — The Second Floor, commonly called T2F — was up and running. People came, in trickles at first, mostly students drawn to an air-conditioned spot to study and hang out with girlfriends and boyfriends, away from the prying eyes of others. A comedian, Saad Haroon, hosted T2F’s first open-mike night on May 31, 2007; from then on, dozens of musicians came to perform, along with young people who had never dreamed they would stand on a stage and strum a guitar or sing a song. She invited any writers traveling through town to do readings; she organized talks on science and philosophy and poetry. Whenever I came, I felt able to breathe deeply in a city that can suffocate the spirit.
Word of T2F spread through Sabeen’s use of email and a website. Soon, people began asking to stage lectures or group meetings; Sabeen said yes to all who shared her vision of social change through open dialogue, cultural activities or public discourse and advocacy. In her emails and blog posts — for example, a tribute to the artist Asim Butt, who painted T2F’s murals and committed suicide in 2010 — she felt compelled to speak out and always end with the words “in complete solidarity” and “Peace/Sabeen.”
Karachi had been starving for a cultural space like this, where nobody was made to feel they didn’t belong. In 2008, I wrote a novel there; in 2011, I wrote another in a room I rented on T2F’s new premises. Meanwhile, Sabeen pursued her unique brand of activism: encouraging pluralism by urging multiple voices to express themselves not just in the cafe, but in action. They took to the streets, protesting against violence directed at minorities, or for deweaponizing Karachi. Online, she conducted clever viral campaigns against the fundamentalists who wanted to outlaw Valentine’s Day and the government that had banned YouTube. A photograph of her standing on the back of a police van and flashing a V-sign at a political protest became an iconic image.
And she won converts, schooling a new generation in protest and in solidarity with others: religious minorities, secularists and humanists, the L.G.B.T. community, anyone being persecuted for their otherness. By 2015, T2F was attracting 100 visitors each day, and had spawned other cafes like it. At the age of 40, Sabeen was among the most respected of Pakistan’s intellectuals, and a hero to many.
Her grace and dignity, her generous heart and fine mind won her thousands of friends, even as her counterculture stance earned her unseen enemies. Two weeks ago, two of those enemies took her life, gunning her down as she drove home with her mother from a talk by Baloch activists. T2F had hosted the event after the Lahore University of Management Sciences had heeded a warning by security agencies not to let the activists speak. Sabeen chose to ignore such intimidation; fear could not break her spirit. S
he died as she lived: in peaceful resistance, her ideals and principles intact, and in complete solidarity with the people she loved.