Saturday, June 20, 2015

Music Video - Michael Jackson - Beat It

Video - Charleston shootings: Obama condemns 'blight' of racism in US

Video - Several dead as car bomb explodes outside mosque in Yemeni capital

Leaks from Saudi ministry appear to show extent of influence over regional media

Documents, the first of 500,000 to be released by WikiLeaks, appear to show Foreign Ministry planning to buy media influence.

A new cache of documents reportedly leaked from Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry appears to reveal the extent of the Gulf giant’s funding of regional media outlets. The documents also disclose information about Saudi Arabia's external affairs and could prove embarrassing to the kingdom and its allies. 
WikiLeaks, the transparency advocacy website responsible for publishing leaked documents from various world powers, said on Friday that the 61,000-plus documents published on Friday were the first of around half a million to be released over the coming weeks.
One document apparently sent from the Interior Ministry to the Ministry of Culture and Media in 2010 approves payments to media outlets across the region.
Newspapers and sites in Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE, Lebanon and Mauritania reportedly received sums of up to $32,000 each per year. 
In a press release, WikiLeaks accused Saudi Arabia of buying “reverse shares” in Arabic-language media outlets across the region in an attempt to “neutralise” negative press.
In one document, marked “Top Secret,” it is noted that “support directed towards any foreign media outlet must serve the policies of the kingdom and its interests”.
According to the same document, the head of the right-leaning Lebanese outlet MTV, which describes itself as “a leading independent media station in Lebanon and the Arab World,” requested the sum of $20mn from the Saudi ministry.
After consideration, the document advises that only $5mn be made available for the channel.
A separate pair of documents from November 2011 appears to show a row breaking out after an Egyptian satellite channel broadcast an interview with Saad al-Faqih, a Saudi dissident now living in London who heads an organisation calling for the overthrow of the Gulf monarchy.
After ONTV, a satellite channel owned by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, hosted Faqih, the Saudi ambassador in Cairo apparently telephoned Sawiris to warn that such events “must not be repeated”.
A follow-up document appears to show that the Foreign Ministry requested that the ambassador find out who “gave the green light” to the interview with Faqih.
“This is in order to deal [appropriately] with the aforementioned channel in the future, either by co-opting it or by considering it opposed to the policies of the Kingdom.”
According to the same document, Sawiris sought to make amends, offering to broadcast an interview with the Saudi ambassador to Egypt.
The cache also claims to reveal a raft of other leaks, such as the extent of Saudi surveillance of foreign political groups such as Mohamed Ghonim, the leader of an Egyptian Shiite political party.
In the documents, Saudi officials accuse Qatar of paying $250mn to Hamid al-Ahmar, a Yemeni multimillionaire businessman, to foment rebellion among the Yemeni army and prevent the election in 2012 of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
In response to the reported leaks, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement calling on citizens to refrain from accessing the documents in the name of national security.
WikiLeaks has as yet given no indication as to when exactly the rest of the documents will be released, but says it has up to 500,000 documents overall to reveal.

- See more at:

What if Washington Allowed Assad to Stop Syrian War?

The examples of Iraq in 2003, Libya in 2011 and the tragedy in Syria have illustrated clearly that acting in favor of those seeking to topple "repressive regimes" may result in massive destruction and heavy casualties, US scholar Peter Harris notes.
Peter Harris, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colorado State University, poses the question whether US involvement in the Syrian war lessened casualties or brought reduction in fighting, stressing that Washington's geopolitical considerations trump "any consideration of how long the civil war might run on for."
"Of course, this is not to suggest that responsibility for ending the conflict rests with the United States. It does not. Rather, the point is to clarify whether US actions in Syria have been a help or a hindrance in terms of what most right-minded people might wish for Syria-that is, for the tide of human misery to be stemmed and for the country to be edged towards peace, stability, and ultimately a meaningful process of reconciliation and reconstruction," Peter Harris emphasized.
While US President Obama's critics are blasting the White House foreign policy course for the lack of clear and comprehensive strategy in the Middle East, the question remains open what should have been done instead?
Reviewing a number of alternatives, the scholar suggested that the "unspoken" and "unimaginable" one would have been to allow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to win "a relatively quick and decisive war" against Syrian rebels in 2011. The Syrian president would have swiftly restored order in the country and even prevented the emergence of Islamic State.
Arguing with those who insist that the Obama administration should have better armed the so-called "moderate" Syrian rebels in the very beginning of the civil war, the scholar noted that there was no guarantee that the US lethal aid would have facilitated the ousting of al-Assad and replaced him with a "better government."
"Of course, the reality is that the United States was not motivated by a desire to bring hostilities to a swift conclusion during the initial phases of the Arab Spring. The United States backed Assad's opponents not because of their excellent chance of victory or even because of their liberal democratic credentials, but because they represented an alternative to a hostile regime with ties to Iran and Hezbollah," Mr. Harris emphasized.
The scholar underscored that Washington's geopolitical considerations in this case have outweighed other issues.
The US' previous military operations in Iraq and Libya have clearly demonstrated that the ousting "of even the most brutal dictators" can be hardly regarded as a universal modus operandi "for promoting human well-being."
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and "there are usually very real costs that flow from intervening in the affairs of others," the scholar pointed out.

No matter how "sickening" it may seem, it is difficult to imagine that the current horrific state of affairs could have been better than Assad's victory over rebels.
It is useful to call attention to what the goals of foreign policy should be, the scholar emphasized. Should the US pursue "a carefully calculated national interest," or "spread American ideals by opposing tyrants and supporting reformers," or "reduce the aggregate level of suffering borne by people the world over"?
Whatever the answer would be, the United States should rationalize what goals it is pursuing in the Middle East.

Britain should treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah state

Earlier this month, the Saudi Supreme Court upheld the draconian sentence handed down for his 'crime' of setting up a liberal website: ten years jail and 1,000 lashes.
 Meanwhile, Badawi’s lawyer and brother-in-law, Waleed Abu Al-Khair - himself a human rights activist and founder of the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia - had his 15 year jail sentence confirmed in February.

This is happening in a country that successive British governments have allied with, diplomatically and militarily, despite its tyrannical nature and its sharp divergence from our stated democratic, liberal and human rights values. Our foreign policy on Saudi Arabia doesn’t match what we say we stand for.
Indeed, as well as Raif’s and Waleed’s persecution, Amnesty international has documented ten different forms of gross human rights abuse perpetrated by the regime in Riyadh.
Despite UK government silence, human rights campaigners have kept the Badawi case in the public eye. English PEN has been holding weekly vigils outside the Saudi Embassy in London, and the Amnesty International petition calling for his release has over 1 million signatures. People worldwide are sharing the #FreeRaif appeal on social media, calling for his immediate, unconditional release.
Badawi is one of the human rights heroes of our age. He has been awarded several prizes, including PEN Canada’s One Humanity Award, and has been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. Numerous Nobel laureates have voiced their support for Raif, as have well-known public figures such as Patti Smith, Jimmy Wales, Salman Rushdie and Noam Chomsky.
A cyclist passes as activists demonstrate outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Berlin (Getty Images)
The UK and global campaigns in support of Badawi have clearly had irritated and unnerved the Saudi Arabian regime. Last week, its London Embassy issued a rambling press release, decrying the international protests as ‘outrageous, ridiculous interference.’
Clearly, the Saudi authorities don’t like the way democratic societies work. The petition signatures, ThunderClap, letters, vigils and cartoons for Raif Badawi are the collective expression of ordinary people, of all religions and none, standing in solidarity with a fellow human being who is being victimised because he has the ‘wrong’ opinions.
What the Saudi Government calls ‘interference’ the rest of us call free speech and the defence of human rights. Perhaps if they actually read Raif Badawi's blog, instead of censoring it, they would better understand what is happening and why.
There are also British ministers who might benefit from reading Raif’s writing. On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, David Cameron paid lip-service to the idea of human rights while making plans to extend mass surveillance, repeal the Human Rights Act and extend the UK’s decades-long special relationship with the Saudi dictatorship.
Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Justice's commercial arm is currently finalising an agreement to provide consultancy to the Saudi Arabian prison service. It hopes to secure a £5.9 million fee for advising a judicial system that unrepentantly carries out detention without trial, torture, floggings and public beheadings.
Saudi Arabia is currently the UK’s largest arms export market. It is nonsense to claim, as ministers do, that this military cooperation is about nothing more than the Saudis’ right to self-defence. The reason we do not arm Iran or North Korea is that arms sales are inescapably an expression of political support and commitment to regime survival.
Furthermore, the UK has £12 billion invested in Saudi Arabia and continues to invite Saudi investment in the UK - particularly in the properly market - which currently totals over £62.5 billion.
When our Government promotes such deep commercial engagement with Saudi Arabia it lends the regime credibility. Worse, it sends a terrible message to reformists inside the country: when they risk everything to speak out for democracy, Whitehall does nothing to help them and everything to entrench the position of their oppressors.
Raif Badawi
It is time David Cameron’s government ceased its support for a Saudi state that violates the human rights of its own citizens - and which poisons Islam by exporting extreme Islamist ideology around the world, including to the UK.
Today, on this third anniversary of Badawi's arrest, we will be taking ourcampaign to Downing Street, with a delegation including representatives from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, English PEN, Index on Censorship, International Front for Secularism and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Our letter to the Prime Minister urges him to publicly call for the release of Raif and other political prisoners, and to condemn all human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. We also want David Cameron to make trade with Riyadh conditional on the regime’s respect for human rights and ethical norms of governance – particularly in relation to the sale of weapons that could be used to oppress Saudi citizens. These demands will be reiterated at a public meeting this evening in the Houses of Parliament with MPs, peers and campaigners.
Until it conforms to international human rights standards, Saudi Arabia should be treated as a pariah state. Arms sales must end, the British ambassador should be recalled, and key regime figures sanctioned internationally.

Video - 'No Cuts': Massive anti-austerity rally in London

It is not that hard to take a rational look at China

In the first half of this yearmany voices were raised in disapproval against ChinaFromPhilippinesgroundless criticism of China's construction activities on the Nansha Islandsthrough its president – who even likened China to Nazi Germany - to the United Statesfrequent accusations that China is responsible for web attacksaccording to an People'sDaily Overseas Edition commentary on June 13.
In the commentaryHua Yishengan expert on international issuessuggests these voicesreflect a failure on the part of some countries to treat China's rise rationally.
China's rapid development has far surpassed the expectations of some countriesmakingthem feel uncomfortable and concernedSince China took over from Japan to become theworld's second largest economyJapan has been increasingly vigilant towards Chinainrecent yearsthe United States has promoted its Asia-Pacific "rebalancingto maintain itsdominance in the regionsays Hua.
Erroneous perceptions of China have affected cooperation with ChinaThis yeartheMexican government decided to indefinitely shelve a high-speed rail project from MexicoCity to Queretaro and the Sri Lankan government suspended the Colombo Port CityprojectA number of China's other overseas projects have also been affected.
Howeverit is not so difficult to take a rational view of Chinasays Hua.
FirstChina's current situation and developmentChina will continue to be a developingcountry for a long timeIt will adhere to peaceful development and is committed tomaintaining a stable international and neighboring environment.
Secondto take a rational look at China's role in international affairsChina wants topromote the construction of new international relationsas opposed to a zero-sum game.As one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security CouncilChina hasplayed an active role in regional and global issues such as the DPRK nuclear issuetheIranian nuclear issuethe fight against terrorismand climate change.
Thirdto take a rational look at the innovative public goods provided by ChinaThe "OneBeltOne Roadinitiative aims to integrate China with the countries along the routewhilethe Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank focuses on much-needed investment ininfrastructure construction and prods global economic governance in a morecomprehensive and effective direction.

​World no closer to Cold War-style nuclear standoff, Putin tells global media chiefs

Russia’s deployment of 40 additional nuclear ballistic missiles in response to the US military buildup in Europe doesn’t mean the world is at greater risk of a nuclear war, President Vladimir Putin told the heads of global news agencies.
The Russian head of state held a late-night meeting with top executives from 12 foreign news agencies on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Most of the event was held behind closed doors and not recorded.
The extra deployment is necessary to protect Russia and is a response to a growing threat from the West, Putin explained as EFE, a Spanish news agency, later quoted him as saying. Pentagon is reportedly considering placing additional American heavy weapons, including artillery, in Europe. Washington says it is needed to protect its NATO allies from an aggressive Russia.
“Russia is not an aggressor and does not favor increasing the level of tension… but is obliged to respond to Western actions targeting Moscow,” EFE cited Putin as saying, without using direct quotes. The meeting was apparently held under so-called Chatham House rules, where participants’ comments cannot be reported directly without their express permission.
“The increase in belligerent rhetoric between Russia and the US does not mean the world is at greater risk of nuclear confrontation,” the agency added, summarizing the Russian leader’s response.
Putin also commented on the seizures of Russian state property in European countries, intended to enforce a Hague court ruling to pay billions of dollars in damages to shareholders of the now-defunct oil giant Yukos. The Russian president said Russia cannot fail to react to the asset seizures, but would not elaborate, saying it was up to lawyers to come up with a solution.
He added that the arbitration court’s decision to order Russia to pay $50 billion in compensation is based on the European Energy Charter, which Russia has not ratified. It makes the decision unlawful, because the court was acting beyond its jurisdiction, Putin said, according to EFE.
Commenting on the recent G7 summit in Bavaria and the statement by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Russia was not welcome in the group, Putin implied that Harper would act as instructed by Washington on this issue.
"I don't want to offend anyone, but if the United States says Russia should be returned to the G8, [Canada's] prime minister will change his opinion," Putin told The Canadian Press.
Putin reiterated his calls for Western powers to pressure the government of Ukraine to stick to its obligations under February’s Minsk peace agreement, a ceasefire deal between Kiev and rebels in the east of the country, which appears to have completely broken down in the past few weeks. The Russian president also said that the government of Petro Poroshenko must stop the economic blockade of the rebels in the east, implement constitutional reform and call local elections in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, AP reports.
Putin denied allegations by Kiev and its foreign backers that Moscow is sending troops and weapons to eastern Ukraine. He said that once Kiev stops trying to solve the crisis by force, and the Ukrainian government returns to seeking a political resolution to the crisis, the rebels would no longer need to take up weapons to defend themselves.
In response to other questions, Putin defended Russia’s right to host the FIFA 2018 World Cup, insisting that the country had won the right to host the event fairly. He said that people claiming that the selection was marred by corruption in FIFA should present the evidence of their allegations.

Ghazal - Sabko Maloom Hai Main Sharabi Nahin By Pankaj Udhas

Pakistan - Nawaz Lohar won’t escape people’s wrath on prolonged blackouts in Ramadan

“It looks as if the PMLN government summarized the whole of the country was situated within the premise of the Raiwind estate, which was being maintained through prodigal spending”
Karachi. 20.6.2015: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Parliamentary Leader in the Senate of Pakistan Senator Saeed Ghani while severely lambasting the federal government of the PMLN for failing to end or at least reduce the duration of unannounced and prolonged blackouts all over the country said the federal government of the PMLN had utterly failed to protect the people from nerve-writhing, flesh-consuming blackouts amid the mercury at its height in the holy month of Ramadan, the month of blessings and forgiveness.
The PMLN had made tall claims during general elections-13 for wiping out the menace of blackouts from the country in just six months but despite the fact that the agony of blackouts was allowed to prevail, the electricity consumers were also punished with irrational and illogical increase in electricity tariff while the power distribution companies wreaked havoc on the helpless consumers with inflated electricity bills, deplored the PPP Senator.
In a statement issued from the PPP Media Cell Sindh, he said the spells of blackouts across the country had been no less than 12 hours while the overall scenario in rural Sindh was for 22 hours and the blackout duration in urban parts especially in Karachi was 12-16 hours. The acute power crisis had led to sheer stages of despondency and frustration and the people were getting deprived of bread and butter resources.
The PMLN federal government was taking along its own defined agenda of priorities while ignoring the just demands and necessities of the people, which would inflict irreparable repercussions in form of public wrath, if remained unaddressed, warned Senator Saeed Ghani.
He while taking serious note of the people’s grievances that should be addressed through drastic measures at the federal government level, said it looked as if the PMLN government had summarized the whole of the country was situated within the premise of the Raiwind estate, which was being maintained through prodigal spending.
He asked the Prime Minister to explain why he failed to put the IPPs on work after he prioritized the settlement of the outstanding dues as the settlement was the key to resolve the energy crisis. The PMLN government had so hastily prioritized the settlements as if it was the outstanding debt, which if not settled on time, the IMF would declare the country as a defaulter country.

Pakistan - Interview: Co-chairman was misunderstood –Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo

Question: What are your views on the controversial recent speech of former President Asif Zardari?
MAW: It needs to be seen that PPP is the largest political party, which has struggled since its inception for establishing democracy in its true essence, for the rule of law and to strengthen the institutions. Like every patriotic party PPP is also with the army, which is fighting the war against terror.
As far as the speech was concerned, PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari was misunderstood. It is extremely unfair to declare Zardari’s speech as anti-army when he only told ‘some institutions’ to perform their duties according to their mandate.
PPP and its leadership believes in politics of reconciliation and not confrontation. How could you term the speech of the person who is the founder of ‘reconciliation policy’ to be confrontational?
We are the only party with a clear stance against militants and militancy as our chairman Bilawal also gave the policy statement that no talks could be held with the terrorists because they are neither Muslims nor Pakistanis. PPP is standing with the army in the war against terrorism and we will continue supporting them.
Today, the people of Pakistan are facing problems like poverty, terrorism, corruption, unemployment, access to, and poor quality of education and health services and, urbanisation
Q: Why is the PML-N government reluctant to hold local government elections?
MAW: The PML-N government delayed the local government elections because they do not want to decentralise power to the grassroot level and they want the billions of development funds to be at their disposal. It is the only reason in the delay of local government’s elections which I can see.
Q: Why are local government elections important?
MAW: Today, the people of Pakistan are facing problems like poverty, terrorism, corruption, unemployment, access to, and poor quality of education and health services and, urbanisation. These are common national issues and cannot be tackled without local as well as provincial and national response and action. Essentially, action locally reflects where people are based, where such issues are manifest and where the needs of people are felt and must be addressed.
We believe that strong and effective democratic local government is the best way of ensuring true democracy and good governance. Lack of devolution of political, administrative and financial powers to local governments limits the decision making process of the local government and their ability to deal with the petty and chronic issues as well as providing effective services.
The PML-N’s government needs to recognise the importance of empowering local governments and take steps to make them more independent and accountable to the citizens.
Q: Is PPP ready for local government elections?
MAW: We are ready for the upcoming local government elections in Punjab where the masses are supporting us in huge numbers. I am sure PPP will emerge victorious in many districts.
Q: Will PPP stick to its policy of reconciliation?
MAW: Yes, PPP will stick to its policy of reconciliation and the credit goes to former President Asif Zardari for coming up with the reconciliation policy in 2008 after losing Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, which ensured the smooth transition to democracy. Despite criticism from even within the party the co-chairman stuck to reconciliation, which proved to be of paramount importance as it was the need of the hour. Indeed it saved democracy and institutions of Pakistan.
We have been attacked several times by foreign forces. The country has already been divided by differences in language, appearance, and living styles. Since Pakistan has gone through turbulent phases time and again, several parts of the country remained deprived of basic facilities. Political instability has been a core reason for not having unity and harmony in the country. Keeping in mind several grave problems the previous government of PPP came up with an absolute idea to cement the diffused mindset in the country. If there would be unity amongst the country no foreign force will weaken the spirits, sovereignty shall be protected and the country will move on the road to success.
Pakistan’s political scenario has evolved asymmetrically over the past few decades. Due to improper governance systems people have been distracted. Considering such scattered opinion, PPP came up with a solution to bind them all; movements which were not only envisaged to bring peace and progress amongst the masses but were also envisioned to provide opportunity to several political parties to provide their services for the greater good of the country.
The policy of reconciliation was thought out to up lift mutual understanding for the progress of Pakistan. PPP continues to embody true democratic values in the county.
To date, it has let people and masses raise their voice and implement welfare policies to improve their lives. It was due to the reconciliation policy that PML-N could form a government in Punjab. And MQM could be part of governmental body in Sindh. Similarly, efforts were made by the PPP to lessen the claims of Balochistan of being deprived of government’s regard towards its core problems. Ever since independence the province of Baluchistan has been the victim of negligence which in turn has provoked its people to develop feelings of estrangement grief. Meanwhile foreign invaders started to play their cards to create agitation among the people. But PPP, with its “Baluchistan package” after coming to power in 2008, brought fresh hope to the province. The name given to the package wasAghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan (AHB) package; which was aimed at addressing the sense of alienation, grief and deprivation and to provide privilege to the people of Baluchistan with political, cultural and economic rights.
The Federal Budget 2015-16 was hopeless because it was anti-poor, anti-labour, anti-farmer and anti-government servants, because it did not include any worthwhile measures to provide relief to the poor segments of the society
Co-chairman Asif Zardari considers the policy of reconciliation in the “greater interest of the nation”, it should never be taken as the weakness of the party.
Q: How do you see the federal budget 2015-16? Was it pro-poor?
MAW: The Federal Budget 2015-16 was hopeless because it was anti-poor, anti-labour, anti-farmer and anti-government servants, because it did not include any worthwhile measures to provide relief to the poor segments of the society.
The interest free loans introduced by the government to the farmers for the installation of solar tube wells is impracticable because it is impossible for the poor farmers to contribute 0.1 million to avail the credit facility from the banks.
In PPP’s tenure it was decided that the government will provide 50 percent subsidy and the rest of the amount will be contributed by the government through its Agricultural Development Bank for the installation of solar tube wells. They did not allocate sufficient amounts for the Bhasha and Dasu Dams, which should have been the top priority of the government as it would have helped in producing cheaper electricity for industry and domestic consumers and providing water to irrigate millions of acres of barren land.
Our government allocated Rs40 billion for Bhasha Dam and PML-N’s government only allocated Rs12 billion, which clearly reflects the level of commitment towards hydel projects of multiple purposes which are of immense importance.
Q: What will be the impact of Bilawal’s tour to Punjab?
MAW: The PPP workers and leaders are very excited to welcome the chairman and anxiously waiting for his arrival, which will be a breath of fresh air for the politics of Punjab. The chairman’s trip will help in mobilising the jiyalas. And it will have a huge impact on politics in the days to come.

Pakistan - Our goal is to balance civil-military relations in Pakistan: Sherry Rehman

Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) vice president Sherry Rehman and central information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira, talking to the media after an Iftar dinner at the Zardari House on Friday, said that the Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari remarks a few days ago were aimed at “former military personnel, not incumbent army chief General Raheel Sharif.”
“We have the highest respect for General Raheel,” said Sherry Rehman.
Kaira said the entire party stood by Zardari’s comments made at a party event a couple of days ago in Islamabad. Kaira went on to say that Zardari’s remarks should be understood in a “specific context since they pointed towards a defining line in Pakistan’s civil-military relations.”
Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the PPP desires harmony between all political forces and state institutions. He added that all parties were supporting the ongoing security operation in Karachi.
Kaira said that Zardari’s speech reflected the thoughts of all party members, and that nobody had asked the co-chairman to retract his statement.
He said that Zardari’s policy of reconciliation would continue and that this was also the party’s policy.
Sherry Rehman said the PPP was concerned with an imbalance in civil-military relations, adding that all party-bearers are of the opinion that state institutions should not overstep their mandate.
When asked whether Zardari had consulted party members before making the military-related remarks, both Rehman and Kaira said Zardari did not need to consult anyone to make comments at a local party event.
“[Pakistan] People’s Party is not defending corruption, let me make that very clear. We have always stood for rooting out terrorism and furthering democracy. Our goal is to balance civil-military relations in Pakistan,” said Sherry Rehman.
Both leaders said the PPP had fully supported the Karachi operation and also agreed to grant special powers to Rangers in Sindh, where the PPP has been ruling for more than seven years.
“Reconciliation is his defining character and all allied political parties urged him to continue his role as the ‘re-conciliator’,” Mr Kaira said.
Asked if Mr Zardari had been urged to take back his statements against the military establishment, he said that no such suggestion was floated during the meeting. “Nobody asked us to take back Mr Zardari’s statement,” he added.
Senator Sherry Rehman, however, clarified that Mr Zardari was not criticising the army and incumbent COAS Gen Raheel Sharif, but was referring to retired generals who imposed the worst kind of dictatorship in the country.
“We are not apologetic because we have talked about those retired generals who ran the worst dictatorships in the country and want to be on the political forefront even today,” she said.
Talking to media after the meeting, PPP leaders Qamar Zaman Kaira and Sherry Rehman told the media that the guests of the dinner admired the successes achieved by the Pakistan army. Kaira said that the PPP never made the situation worse and reconciliation has been the cornerstone of Asif Zardari’s politics.
Co-Chairman PPP Asif Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had a one-on-one meeting as well. Both the leaders discussed the political situation arising out of the recent speech by Asif Ali Zardari.

Pakistan - Zardari, Bilawal pay tributes to BB and martyrs

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari has called upon the people to reiterate resolve that they will not let the militants dictate their political agenda through force. Pakistan will have to be a moderate and pluralistic country where the ultimate choice is made by ballot and not bullet, he said.
In a message on the occasion of 62nd birth anniversary of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto on Saturday, the former president and spouse of the former prime minister extended heartfelt felicitations to the workers of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. He especially felicitated the women and the marginalised sections of the society for whom BB had devoted her life.
Zardari said this anniversary of our great leader is being commemorated at a time when the nation has achieved major successes against militancy thanks due to the unity of political forces and state agencies, an achievement that had eluded for long.
The party recalls with pride that BB led from the front the fight against militancy even laying down her life in this epic struggle, he said.
“Let us also remember on this day all those who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of democracy, rights of the people and defending our motherland against internal and external threats. We salute all those in the defence forces, the police, the civil law enforcing agencies and the people who have sacrificed their lives or suffered otherwise in the fight against militancy. The nation cannot forget them and will not allow their sacrifices go in vain,” he said.
Moreover, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Saturday paid tribute to former prime minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto on her 62nd birthday and pledged to pick the thread of her struggle for democratic and an egalitarian Pakistan which she left at Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi on the evening of December 27, 2007.
“Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto lives on in every home in the form of nation’s daughters, sisters and mothers and each of them will carry her legacy forward,” Bilawal said in a message released by Bilawal House Media Cell on Saturday on the eve of her 62nd birthday being celebrated on Sunday.
The PPP Chairman said his mother fought against dictatorial regimes with bravery. She lived and died for her people and country. She laid down her life for a cause to emancipate the people from exploitation and give them equal rights, he added.
“Her father Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave the nation nuclear power and she founded missile system to make defence of Pakistan invincible, though both accepted martyrdom as a price in dictatorial regimes,” he added.

Video - Hillary Clinton at the 2015 U.S. Conference of Mayors

Video - President Obama speaks at the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors

Obama thinks Confederate flag 'belongs in a museum'

By Jordan Fabian 

President Obama believes the Confederate flag “belongs in a museum,” the White House said Friday amid calls for it to be taken down, following a mass shooting in South Carolina. 
“The president has said before he believes the Confederate flag belongs in a museum, and that is still his position,” spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One. 
A mass shooting at a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., has renewed the debate over whether the Confederate battle flag should continue to fly in the state.
The suspected shooter, Dylann Storm Roof, reportedly drove a car with Confederate flag license plates. 
And while the U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered to half-staff following the shooting, the Confederate flag that flies near the state capitol flew at full height, a move that drew criticism. 
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s office said Thursday she could not lower the flag without approval from the state legislature. The GOP governor has dismissed calls to remove it in the past.  
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), the Palmetto State’s former governor, said talking about removing the flag is like “opening Pandora’s Box.” 
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), a 2016 presidential candidate, called the Confederate banner “part of who we are” as South Carolinians. 
NAACP President Cornell Brooks said Friday the flag must come down. He criticized those who say it’s simply a symbol of the state’s history, calling it an “emblem of hate.” 
“When we see that symbol lifted up as an emblem of hate, as a tool of hate, as an inspiration for hate, as an inspiration for violence, that symbol has to come down,” he said Friday in Charleston.
Obama first called for the Confederate flag to be retired to a museum in 2007 during his campaign for president, months before the South Carolina primary.

Video - President Obama's Weekly Address: Creating New Pathways of Opportunity for Americans Like You


Saudi Arabian police arrested a high profile Sunni scholar and Pakistani defense Analyst, Zaid Zaman Hamid in Makka, media reported.
According to sources, it has been disclosed that the Zaid Zaman Hamid was arrested three weeks ago in Makka and later shifted to unknown place.
His visit and speeches were reported to Saudi police resulting in his arrest.
His speeches contained matters pertaining to Saudi arabs atrocities in Yemen, Saudi day to day practices of defamatory Islam, Saudi financial backing of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the region, Saudi clans usurp of the holy land of Hijaz, etc
Zaids revealed truth was a bit too vehement for the authorities who took his custody by force and moving him to an unkown place.

Pakistan - Deepening poverty

There are more beggars on the streets of Pakistan today, the street-muggers are no more forgiving and extremism is on the rampage - as if "rude inelegance of poverty reigns here alone". Notwithstanding the many claims of giving pro-poor annual budgets and of making tangible moves towards alleviating poverty, the ground realities refuse to budge. Among us we have more poor today than before, says a World Development Indicators (WDI) 2015 report. In Pakistan, more than 50 percent of population lives below the poverty line, it says, and of them 12.7 percent trapped in extreme poverty. For too long have we deceived ourselves by placing ourselves under one dollar a day poverty line, which significantly, and fallaciously, brought down the poverty line. According to official figures, poverty in Pakistan declined from 34.4 percent in 2000-01 to 22.3 percent in 2005-06 - a fictitious figure disputed by a senior planner who left in a huff - but this decline did not reflect in public health, education and related social sectors. The internationally recognised poverty line is two dollars a day (Rs 205 per day), which more than half of the people of Pakistan do not make. Obviously, grinding poverty has its after-effects: 31.6 percent of children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition and are underweight, mortality rate in under five is 86 per 1000 and mortality is 170 per 100,000 births. Education for all remains a pipedream - and a constitutional violence - as 29 percent for ages 15-24 are not in schools. The report says the unemployment ratio is 5 percent, while under-employment is enormous. During the 2009-13 'democratic era' the GDP growth in Pakistan was 3.1 percent, as compared to 5.1 percent during 2000-09.

As to how this narrative of deepening poverty in Pakistan will play out in the lives of its 185 million people the World Development Indicators 2015 report, as expected, offers no comment. But to us it is of critical relevance, as our country's development indicators fall significantly below those of countries with comparable levels of per capita income, and its after-effects tend to accentuate social tensions and rise in lawlessness. Nowhere are we meeting the MDGs goals. Wealth distribution in Pakistan is grossly uneven with top 10 percent of people earning 27.6 percent and bottom 10 percent earning only 4.1 percent on income. The growing income polarisation tends to create anarchy; erodes people's allegiance to state and lends space for extremism to flourish. As against pauper economic and industrial inheritance - at the time of independence Pakistan inherited only one university, one textile mill and one jute mill - but by mid-sixties Pakistan was on the verge of becoming an Asian tiger. Then there was a long spell of failed planning and high score of missed targets. The situation has not changed in any significant manner, though to some extent the blame can be shifted on the Afghan war and its fallout for Pakistan. But of all the negative factors most telling in impact are energy shortages resulting in acute paralysis of country's industrial sector and therefore extensive unemployment, irredeemable law and order situation and bureaucratic corruption. Of course, Benazir Income Support Programme, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund and subsidies for agricultural outputs have helped lift people out of poverty, but only marginally. Poor planning by the concerned departments and self-aggrandising political 'visions' remain the problem. Will the plan to bring all existing social protection programmes under one umbrella for a unified and transparent targeting system and effective monitoring climb down from the drawing board? We will wait and watch. But what be instantly done to blunt the sharp edge of blade of inflation is application of some kind of price control mechanism on the advent of Ramazan. Likewise, the government must waste no more time in ensuring free education for all up to matriculation and a much wider network of free healthcare points across the country. 

Pakistan - Unscheduled load shedding provokes protests

Scores of residents of Lohar Colony staged a protest demonstration on Friday against Multan Electric Power Company over unscheduled power outages.
Protests against unscheduled load shedding were also reported from Sahiwal, Pakpattan, Bhakkar, Layyah, Bahawalnagar and Dera Ghazi Khan.
The protesters, mostly youth of the colony, beat drums and chanted slogans against the Ministry of Water and Power. They tore down posters and filled walls of the colony with graffiti against the government.
“We have been facing unscheduled load shedding for three days,” said Muhammad Irfan, a resident of Lohar Colony. “Residents of the colony have run out of water. Our refrigerators are not running, food goes bad and there is no water,” he said. “We don’t know how we will prepare iftar because power has still not been restored,” said Muhammad Hussein, another protester.
He said power had gone out soon after sehar and had not returned for eight hours.
“It is the first day of fasting and there seems to be no relief from the scorching weather,” he said. He said several complaints had been lodged with the MEPCO but no action had been taken to resolve the issue.
Akram Khan, another protester, said the government had made tall promises during election campaigns for ending load shedding and providing relief to the people.  “Is this the relief they were promising us?” he said. Mustafa Mehmood, a show owner, said many businesses in the area had been affected because of load shedding. “We cannot store ice creams and drinks in cool places,” he said.  The protesters blocked Multan-Vehari road for several hours. They burnt tyres chanted slogans against unscheduled load shedding.
A MEPCO spokesman said they were maintaining a six-hour load shedding schedule in urban areas and eight hours in rural areas. He said there was no unscheduled load shedding taking place. He said a meeting of senior MEPCO officials had veen called to review security of MEPCO installations. He said they would also deliberate on a new load shedding schedule.
The Met Department officials told The Express Tribune that that maximum temperature recorded in Multan was 48 degrees Celcius.
They said the heat wave would continue for three more days.