Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi: 'I Say What I think'

By Stephen Schwartz and Irfan Al-Alawi

In 2012, Raif Badawi, a blogger in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) who is now 31, was arrested in his native land and charged with offenses ranging from parental disobedience to cyber-crime and apostasy from Islam. Badawi had written in Arab media and established a website, "Free Saudi Liberals." When he was jailed, the site was closed by the Saudi regime.

His detention then was not the first action by the KSA against Badawi. As noted by Human Rights Watch, he was held for one day in 2008 after launching the "Free Saudi Liberals" site, and, in 2009, was banned from travelling abroad, with a freeze of his financial assets.
After a trial in 2013, Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes. But the outcome of an appeal, in 2014, was worse: his punishment was increased to 10 years in jail and 1,000 strokes of a whip, with a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (about $267,000).
Apostasy from Islam is a capital crime in the KSA, and BBC News reported in 2013 that the apostasy allegation against Badawi had been rejected by a higher court. Evidence for the claim was ridiculously flimsy, including such assertions as that he pressed a "Like" button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians.
Raif Badawi is not a critic of Islam, although he favors a secular state.
All restrictions on freedom of religious belief are abominable, but they are particularly despicable when they are trumped up as a pretext to suppress independent debate - as happened to Badawi. On January 9, 2015, a first session of 50 blows was imposed on Badawi at a mosque in Jidda, the KSA's commercial capital and seaport.
The infliction of 1,000 lashes was to be extended over 20 weeks, with 50 applied weekly. Since the beginning round of his caning, continuation of Badawi's beating has been suspended repeatedly, originally on medical grounds. The deeper reason for the continued postponement is, nevertheless, unclear. International protests have been extensive and may have played a role. But Badawi was dragged to be lashed this year when the health of the late Saudi King Abdullah was failing and his successor, Saudi King Salman, had yet to assume power.
Elements in the Saudi-Wahhabi clerical apparatus may have acted recklessly to make an example of Badawi, but were then halted in carrying out their scheme. On June 7, 2015, the Saudi Supreme Court upheld the judgment against Badawi, but, again, no further whipping has taken place.
While it is difficult to predict the outcome of Badawi's case, some of his writings will soon be available to English-speaking readers. A slender volume titled 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think is scheduled for release in July in Canada, in August in the U.S., and in October in the U.K., with the support of Amnesty International.
The collection has already appeared in French as 1000 coups de fouet: parce que j'ai osé parler librement. The personality of Badawi and his message appear in its pages to be very different from what many Westerners might expect.
Some of the articles therein were posted on the pan-Arab news portal Al-Jazeera, which is considered aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood (two dated April and May 2012, with two more undated) and six were published in the Saudi newspaper Al-Bilad (The Country).
Raif Badawi is not, as expressed in his own words, a critic or enemy of Islam, although he favors a secular state. Indeed, it may be argued that he seeks to save Islam from the Saudi-Wahhabi clerics and other fanatics. In one text from 2011 that provoked the apparent rage of the Wahhabis, titled "Astronomy According to Sharia," Badawi criticized Wahhabi doctrinaires who condemn as incorrect and in violation of the Qur'an the Renaissance understanding of the solar system (which recognizes that the planets circle the sun). But this is an old debate that was settled presumably in 1985 when Prince Sultan, son of the now-ruling King Salman, traveled in a U.S. space shuttle and observed the relations of the heavenly bodies.
In another, unfortunately prescient article, titled "Dreams of a Caliphate," from 2012, Badawi linked Saudi Islamists who preached a revived caliphate - like that of the so-called "Islamic State" - with the habit of Muslim caliphs from the eighth to the tenth centuries C.E. in killing their opponents for alleged apostasy, as a cover for politicized Islam. This also is hardly a new criticism in Islamic historical thought.
In the same article, Badawi, surprisingly, rejected statements that another incarcerated blogger, Hamza Kashgari, a Uyghur originating in Central Asia, but whose family moved to the KSA, is a liberal. Kashgari was held from 2011 to 2013 for a series of tweets addressed to Prophet Muhammad. According to Badawi, Kashgari is closer to the Muslim Brotherhood and has never expressed liberal views.
Badawi is a non-conformist whose opinions cannot be classified. In a 2010 text on the anniversary of the atrocities of September 11, 2011, he denounced the project for construction of a mosque at the site of the World Trade Center in New York, which he described as "a flagrant provocation against the collective memory of Americans in particular and humanity in general."
On the topic of Israel and the Palestinians, in another article dating from 2010, he decried the Israeli occupation of Arab lands but also said he would fight against Hamas. He wrote, "I am not for the occupation of an Arab country by Israel, but, at the same time, I do not want to replace Israel with an Islamic nation installed on its ruins, and of which the only aim would be to promote a culture of death and ignorance." Sadly, however, Badawi's short book concludes with praise for the ill-fated "Arab Spring" revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Libya.
Violations of religious and intellectual liberty are hardly rare in the world, as seen by radical Islamist violence, from the global assault on Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses beginning in 1989 to the homicidal raid on the French satirical journal Charlie Hebdo in January of this year. Cultural vandalism by religious extremists has been displayed to the world in the KSA and in the territories controlled by the spurious "Islamic State" in the Middle East and "Ansar Dine" in North Africa.
Such acts against personal conscience are not limited to Muslim lands. An Indian court suit forced the withdrawal of a scholarly work on that country's history, The Hindus, by Wendy Doniger, from the Penguin India publisher's list in 2014. The military regime in Burma, a/k/a Myanmar, allows anti-Muslim agitation that has driven thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee the country by sea, in ramshackle boats. Russia, reviving its nationalist ideology, refuses to recognize the legal status of the Roman Catholic church.
But the KSA stands alone in banning public observances by any religion other than Islam and harassing metaphysical Sufis and Shia Muslims. Muslims around the world are currently observing the holy fasting month of Ramadan, during which it is customary for Islamic rulers to proclaim an amnesty for prisoners. This year's Ramadan ends on Eid Al-Fitr, 16-17th July by the Western calendar. Saudi King Salman would improve the image of the KSA if he orders the release of Raif Badawi as an act of Ramadan mercy.

Watch a Dispatch from the Scene of Saudi Arabia's Alleged War Crimes in Yemen


Every few miles on a drive north of Yemen's capital, a charred hulk or massive bomb crater blocks the highway – the result of airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against the Houthi rebels who have taken over much of the country. While most of the destroyed vehicles appear to be tankers and cargo trucks, some are clearly local traffic, like a charred flatbed surrounded by dozens of dead goats. As we speed along the nearly deserted highway, we can hear the occasional roar of jets in the sky. Most of the Houthi checkpoints we pass are abandoned. It makes for nerve-wracking driving.
Since March, Houthis have launched attacks on southern Saudi Arabia from the mountainous province of Saada. In May, the Saudis declared the entire province a military target. Leaflets were dropped, telling the area's civilian population of nearly 1 million to flee. An all-out aerial assault ensued. Two reports published last week, by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have accused Saudi Arabia of "attacks that appeared to violate international humanitarian law" and "possible disproportionate or indiscriminate attacks."
A month later, Saada City is utterly devastated, its main roads lined with shattered buildings. A local activist led us through its deserted old market, where a 30-foot crater sits outside the gate of a damaged 1,200-year-old mosque. The airstrikes targeted homes, shopping malls, cold-storage facilities, car dealerships, restaurants and gas stations. At one pump we were told 17 people were killed and 49 injured while waiting in line to fuel up – a column of blackened cars still stood in a row. According to a UN satellite analysis conducted on May 17, a total of 1,171 structures in Saada have been damaged or destroyed by airstrikes. 
The situation may be even worse in rural areas near the border. At a hospital in Saada City supported by Doctors Without Borders (also known by its French initials, MSF), a stream of cluster bomb victims arrived from the village of Radha."We're just farmers," said Saleh Khairan, who had brought in his wounded uncle.
In a separate incident, members of the MSF team told me they had recently received ten dead bodies from nearby Sabr, and that five of them had been children. When we traveled to the village, witnesses showed us the names and ages of 51 people they claim were killed in airstrikes on June 3rd — 36 of them were children. "We don't know why they targeted us," said Salem Ali, a resident of Sabr. He surveyed his destroyed village and a Saudi-coalition jet passed overhead.
Many of Saudi Arabia's weapons and aircraft were purchased from the U.S. We have encountered remnants of both conventional and cluster bombs likely made in the U.S.A., including BU-97 cluster bomb submunitions, which were transferred to Saudi Arabia by the U.S. in the Nineties. The U.S. has also provided both in-flight refueling and targeting intelligence to bombing missions. As a result, there is a widespread perception among the Yemenis that the American government is equally responsible for the air war.

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Teachers union endorses Hillary Clinton in Democratic race

By Lyndsey Layton

The American Federation of Teachers endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination on Saturday, the first national union to back a candidate for the 2016 primary.

The endorsement was not a surprise to close observers - the AFT had supported Clinton in 2008 instead of Barack Obama - but the early timing may be designed to give Clinton a boost against her surging rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

"In vision, in experience and in leadership, Hillary Clinton is the champion of working families need in the White House," AFT president and longtime Clinton ally Randi Weingarten said.

In a statement released by the union, Clinton said she was "honored" by the nod. "I know from my own family that teachers have the power to change lives, " she said. "We need to make sure every child has access for a quality public education and to the teachers with the tools to help them succeed."

Weingarten and Clinton have been friends since their days in New York, when Weingarten led the city's teachers union and Clinton ran successfully for the U.S. Senate. Weingarten sits on the board of the pro-Clinton PAC Priorities USA.

The 1.6 million-member AFT, along with its sister union, the 3 million-member National Education Association, have been under siege from both elements within the Democratic and Republican parties.

The unions have been fighting the expansion of public charter schools, which are largely not unionized, as well as teacher evaluations based on test scores and challenges to tenure and other workplace protections.

The unions have both been critical of many of the education policies of the Obama administration, saying they have led to a "blame the teacher" culture. They argue that evaluating teachers based on student test scores does not recognize the complexities of teaching students who often come from impoverished homes or struggle with disabilities and language barriers that affect their achievement.

[Even as Congress moves to strip his power, Education Secretary Arne Duncan holds his ground]

Clinton, Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley all met with both the AFT and NEA leadership last month in an effort to win their backing.

Clinton struck a particularly sympathetic tone in her meeting at the NEA, telling the union that people are "dead wrong to make teachers scapegoats for all of society's problems."
Clinton's relations with teachers unions didn't begin as smoothly, when she first entered public life. As first lady of Arkansas in 1982, Clinton pushed to broaden course offerings in public schools, smaller class sizes and institute competency testing for teachers - an idea that provoked a fierce pushback from the union.
But as a U.S. senator and first lady, Hillary Clinton promoted policies much more friendly to the teachers unions, including expanding preschool and after school programs. As a presidential candidate in 2008, she opposed merit pay for teachers, another stance in line with the unions.

President Obama's Weekly Address: Making Our Communities Stronger Through Fair Housing

Music - Hamari Sanson Mein Aaj Tak Woh

Ghar Baith Ke Sab Pee Lenge - Romantic Hindi Sharabi Ghazals Anup Jalota

Women and the Future of Afghanistan

When I first arrived in Afghanistan in February to work for NATO, I spoke with verve about the country’s immense potential and the social progress of the past 14 years. The number of children in school has skyrocketed—rising from less than one million in 2001 to more than eight million today—as has the number of people who have access to basic health care.
Afghan society has made great strides but has a long way to go, particularly on women’s rights. On March 19, a 27-year-old Afghan woman and Islamic scholar named Farkhunda Malikzada was falsely accused of burning a Quran outside a mosque in Kabul’s Old City. A mostly male mob beat her to death in a gruesome murder that lasted 30 minutes. They threw her from a roof, stoned her, struck her with wooden beams, ran her over with a car, and then set fire to her body on the banks of the Kabul River. In all, 49 people stood trial for her murder, some receiving long prison terms. In May, four were sentenced to death for the killing, but last week an appeals court overturned those sentences.
What does this kind of mob murder say to the rest of the world? Kabul is the seat of Afghanistan’s new unity government, a fragile power-sharing agreement between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. It is home to NATO headquarters, dozens of diplomatic missions, hundreds of charitable and nongovernmental organizations, as well as humanitarian institutions like the International Committee of the Red Cross. Given such an expansive, international presence, Kabul should have been the last place such a brazen murder would take place.
Yet despite its progress Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places on the planet to be a woman. Violence against women here is staggering. As Rashida Manjoo,U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, said last November while visiting Afghanistan: “A large number of women and girls live in a context of deep inequality, underdevelopment, high levels of illiteracy, and the lack of educational and employment opportunities.” Moreover, the “difficulties of obtaining a divorce, inheritance deprivation, fears about removal of children from their custody, and the inability to return to their homes and communities, all contribute to women choosing not to leave abusive situations.”
According to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, in 2013 women accounted for more than 90% of all suicide victims in Afghanistan. Most are young women suffering prolonged physical abuse and desperate to escape the violence.
There are good people here working to help Afghan girls and women. Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers girls and young women through community-based education, is an example. The foundation’s flagship project is the Zabuli Education Center, an all-girl K-12 school that provides a free education to more than 400 students. The founder of the school and the foundation is Afghan native Razia Jan, a U.S. citizen, businesswoman and humanitarian.
“One of the first things we do is to teach the girls how to write their father’s name,” Ms. Jan told Rotary magazine last year. “Then they take it home to show their parents. The fathers have come up to me, crying: ‘My daughter can write my name, and I can’t.’ That is a big moment. I have proved to the men . . . that this is the best thing that’s happened for their daughters—to become educated.”
Nearly four decades of conflict have consumed this country. From the Soviet invasion in the late 1970s, to Taliban rule, to insurgent factions running amok—some now claiming allegiance to Islamic State—war has exacted a heavy price on Afghan society, especially its women and children.
NATO’s primary goal now is building and mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces so they can protect themselves and Afghan citizens. At NATO headquarters, we push for the protection of women as well as for their participation in the Afghan government and military.
The great majority of women cannot act alone here. More often than not, they need the approval of brothers, fathers and husbands. That’s why it is so critical to communicate with Afghan men to help them understand how the whole society will benefit from more opportunities for their wives, sisters and daughters.

Pakistan - Amnesty for Baloch militants — will it work?

The recent announcement of an official pardon to be offered to armed Baloch militants is nothing new. The same formula was tried, without success, during the Nawab Raisani-led government. Such statements are essentially public relations ploys, designed to reassure citizens. Similar efforts in the past have been ineffective, with even more armed groups emerging in their aftermath.
At a recent meeting of the Apex Committee, it was announced that money would be paid to those currently waging war against the state from mountain hideouts on the condition that they surrender their arms. The announcement came on the heels of the increasingly frequent attacks, which have claimed more than 50 lives. In an earlier statement, Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch had said that, apart from the districts of Turbat, Panjgur and Awaran, the province was relatively peaceful. However, the sharp rise in incidents of violence in Quetta, Mastung and other parts of the province has compelled the political leadership to admit the ground reality and redouble its efforts to weaken militancy. The resurrection of the old strategy of giving incentives to militants is a part of these efforts. To date, however, the only big-name militant known to have laid down arms and surrendered is Kalati Marri, the commander of the banned United Baloch Army.
The recent surrenders and the question of who can claim credit for them, has become a hot-button issue in the run-up to the election of a new chief executive of Balochistan, a position likely to become vacant in the next couple of months under a pact agreed to by all major political parties. Two heavyweight figures, PML-N leader Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and Nawab Jangez Marri, have emerged as strong candidates but, given Balochistan’s unpredictable political climate, the eventual outcome remains uncertain. Kalati’s surrender was facilitated by Jangez Marri whereas Nawab Sanaullah Zehri is making every effort to bring the Khan of Kalat, Prince Agha Suleman Dawood, back from self-imposed exile in London.
Currently, there are three key Baloch leaders living in self-imposed exile — Baloch Republican Party chief Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, alleged BLA chief Nawabzada Harbyar Marri, and alleged head of the Lashkar-e-Balochistan Javed Mengal. Their influence is primarily felt in Khuzdar, Dera Bugti, Kohlu, Makran and Nasirabad divisions, but it also extends to Quetta and other parts of the province. So far, there has been no attempt to reach these leaders. Another key player — and the only militant leader currently in Balochistan — is Dr Allah Nazir, head of the banned Baloch Liberation Front, the organisation responsible for attacking security forces and construction sites in Makran division. So far, he has refused to talk to the government. The only leader at all likely to be persuaded to return is the Khan of Kalat. However, his potential usefulness to the National Party in putting an end to militancy is limited, given his lack of involvement in the armed struggle.
A senior military official has stated that the proposed pardon and rehabilitation policy should be announced with immediate effect and that a committee charged with making contact with leaders living in self-imposed exile in the West should be established. In the event that the proposed negotiations fail, the likelihood that security forces will get involved is high. However, the success of any military action cannot be guaranteed given that these actions in the past have had a negative impact on the political environment.
Why does the armed struggle continue to enjoy some support among certain sections of the population? The answer to this question is apparent to anyone visiting Balochistan. Vast areas of the province have very little in the way of infrastructure, healthcare or educational facilities. Those who contend that tribal chieftains are to blame for this backwardness should ask themselves why there is no development in areas under the control of the pro-government sardars, since they have always enjoyed the backing of the establishment. It is high time the federal government paid more than lip service to the needs of the province. The people of Balochistan complain, and rightly so, that they have a very limited stake in the election of their representatives. These ‘elected representatives’ do little more than serve their own interests. The government must stop repeating the mistakes of past decades. Balochistan, with its vast areas of harsh, mountainous terrain so suited to harbouring militants, has been in a state of almost relentless conflict for the past three centuries. Its people need more than temporary relief. They need a permanent cure to their woes.

Sardar Ali Takkar گر عشق نه بودئ ـ حضرت بوعلی قلندر

Sardar Ali Takkar - Ta Bibi Sherena Ye - Malala Yousaafzai

Pakistan: Lawyer threatened for defending blasphemy accused

A lawyer defending a ‘blasphemy accused’ says that he has been receiving threats with a warning to immediately withdraw from the case, according to sources.
Advocate Shahbaz Gurmani, who is representing Khalil Qadri in a blasphemy case, has sought a registration of the case against the suspects.
In an application to the Cantonment police SHO, Gurmani stated that the hearing was held in the court of Justice Shahbaz Ali Rizvi of the LHC Multan Bench, in connection with the FIR No 415/14 lodged under section 295-C on May 25, 2014 with the Shah Shams police station.
He said that a complainant had come to attend the hearing, but the court relisted the case. He further stated that some lawyers and a witness were standing there and he had heard one of them inquiring who the counsel was, and after that two of them had grabbed him and asked him to withdraw the case otherwise he would be killed.
He said he immediately asked a police constable who was performing his duty in courts to rescue him and the policeman helped him move away.
SHO Hyder Ali confirmed that the police had received the application but no case was registered till last reports came in.

Islamic State leader Hafiz Saeed killed in US drone strike

Afghan intelligence agency said on Saturday the chief of Islamic State for Orakzai and the self-styled Khorasan region (Pakistan, Afghanistan and some adjoining regions), Hafiz Saeed Khan, was killed in a US drone strike.
“Based on NDS (National Directorate of Security) intelligence, Hafiz Saeed, the leader of IS in so called Khorasan state was killed in an air strike in Achin, Nangarhar province,” the NDS said in a statement posed online.
As per the NDS statement, the intelligence agency passed on information to the foreign forces about a meeting of Islamic State leaders which was being attended by Hafiz Saeed Khan.  “Coalition forces bombed the meeting,” the NDS said.
There is no word from Islamic State on the NDS claim.
Sayeed is the second top IS leader who has been killed in drone strike in three days.
“Daish no 1 in Afghanistan, Hafiz Saeed, was killed in a drone strike in Nangarhar,” Afghan news agency Tolo News said, quoting Afghan spy agency, NDS.

Not enough to revitalise the PPP

By Syed Mansoor Hussain

In the 2013 general elections, the PPP was eliminated from Punjab and reduced to a party of Sindhi waderas. Frankly, the ‘subjects’ of these feudal lords are not the most satisfied bunch around
Much is being written about the reformation, resurgence or reorganisation of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). A young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is its new hope. A little less than 50 years ago, when I first decided to support the PPP, a dictator ruled the land, the political left was an international reality and there were only a few political parties around other than the many iterations of the Muslim League. On the left, the major political party besides the PPP was the National Awami Party (NAP), which was divided between the pro-Moscow group known as NAP-Wali Khan and the Maoist group known as NAP-Bhashani, neither of these two names much too popular in Punjab. So, for a liberal, slightly leftish young ‘Punjabi’ person, the PPP, led by a charismatic Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was the obvious choice. For those who do not remember, the original PPP stronghold was Punjab. And that suggests that there was a time when the ideological ‘left’ had a place in the hearts of many Punjabis.

My late father, a true believer in Islamic Socialism, wrote a detailed monograph on that concept. This was serialised in Nusrat, the PPP magazine in 1969-70. By the time I hit a semblance of political maturity, I was for all practical purposes a devoted PPP supporter but never quite a jiyala (loyalist). For those in today’s Pakistan who wonder what a ‘true’ jiyala might be, for them the best comparison is that of a rock band groupie. To avoid being drafted into the army I left Pakistan in October of 1971. For the next three decades I remained in the US except for occasional visits to Pakistan. One of these rare visits to Pakistan during the 1980s was during a meeting of Pakistani-US doctors (APPNA) being held in King Edward Medical College (KEMC) in Lahore. Even though my father’s eldest brother was being honoured as the oldest living graduate of KEMC during the ‘festivities’, I could not find it in me to attend that APPNA session because General Ziaul Haq was present as the chief guest.

Even though Zia is long gone, Zia’s spawn rule Pakistan today. That perhaps tells us how much Pakistan has changed from the time the PPP emerged as a major political party in West Pakistan. Detractors of Asif Ali Zardari, the former president of Pakistan and co-chairman of the PPP, have said often enough that the political party two dictators could not destroy was finally destroyed by Zulfikar Bhutto’s son-in-law. As a supporter of the PPP, I must agree. If Benazir Bhutto had survived, could she, if re-elected as Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan, have done a better job than she did in her previous administrations? Sadly, Zardari was the millstone around her neck in the past and would have been around even then to prevent her from doing a good job.

That brings me to the question I keep asking myself: did Zardari deliberately destroy the PPP or was it an unintentional side effect of his style of running the party? In spite of all the political brilliance attributed to Zardari, I do not think that he had the smarts or the ability to destroy the PPP. What I believe happened is what happens to ‘small’ people when they assume ‘big’ responsibilities. In the need to establish control over a suddenly leaderless PPP, Zardari did what anybody of his intellectual calibre would have done: he got rid of or else sidelined all those people in the party whose personal loyalty he could not depend on and who could have competed with him for pre-eminence within the party. And that meant that all those who were the real backbone of the party were pushed aside or out of the party, thus weakening the party to start with.

The PPP had already moved to the ideological centre and when Zardari took over it had, for all practical purposes, become a neo-liberal political party that had abandoned its populist roots. To top it off, for five years Zardari presided over a PPP government made up mostly of kleptocrats who found little time to do anything for the people and most if not all populist inclinations were abandoned. In the 2013 general elections, the PPP was eliminated from Punjab and reduced to a party of Sindhi waderas (feudal lords). Frankly, the ‘subjects’ of these feudal lords are not the most satisfied bunch around and if given a decent option in a truly fair election, they also might abandon the PPP. The big question then is whether the party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Bilawal can be revived in Punjab and whether it can survive a free election in Sindh. What the PPP needs to do is maintain its support for the real poor while at the same time reinvent itself as the party of the emerging middle class.

Poverty has not disappeared from Pakistan. What has however happened in parts of Punjab is that the abject poverty that existed during the 1960s has considerably dissipated. Fifty years ago, you actually saw people walking around in Lahore without shoes. I distinctly remember cleaning women and day labourers eating discarded mango rinds with bread or having plain roti (flatbread) with an onion and some chillies as a main meal. As I alluded to in an earlier article, today people with mobile phones, motorcycles or access to a television do not consider themselves poor. The point is that in Punjab there is a rising middle class that needs a political champion. If the PPP wishes to re-establish itself in Punjab, it will have to take on that role for itself. Frankly, Bilawal is not enough to revitalise the PPP. It might help a bit though if Asif Ali Zardari decided to buy a Greek island (if he does not own one already) and spend the next decade living on that island and enjoying the many fruits of his ‘labours’.

Pakistan - Aseefa Bhutto visits Dar-ul-Sukun; distributes gifts among inmates

“My visit to Dar-Ul-Sukun,” she wrote adding further the link to images.
Aseefa during the visit mixed up with the inmates and inquired about their well being.
She distributed gifts among the children over there, while the management also presented souvenir to her on the occasion.
The initiative led to appreciation by many followers, who hailed her for remembering the forgotten ones.