Friday, September 11, 2015

Video Report - Refugees: ‘Thanks for shelter, but we wouldn’t need it if West hadn’t intervened in Syria’

Video Report - U.S. House votes against Iran deal in two symbolic votes

Video Report - U.S. officials accused of altering intel on ISIS

Presidential Proclamation: - Sep - 11 - Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, 2015

On September 11, 2001, America experienced the worst terrorist attack in her history when nearly 3,000 men, women, and children were taken from us, leaving their families and our Nation with a void that can never be filled.  But those who brought hate to our shores and smoke to our skies did not expect our country to emerge stronger, and our beacons of hope and freedom to shine brighter as a result.  In the years since, we have stood strong as one people ‑‑ determined to further embolden our country's character with acts of endurance and strength; rebuilding and resilience; renewal and progress.  In remembrance of the innocent victims who lost their lives and in honor of the families they left behind, let us continue to answer these heinous acts by serving our communities, lifting the lives of our fellow citizens, and spreading the hope that others tried to dim that day.
The compassion that rose in the hearts and minds of the American people on September 11 still serves as the ultimate rebuke to the evil of those who attacked us.  First responders who risked and gave their lives to rescue others demonstrated the unwavering heroism that defines our great Nation.  Volunteers donated time, money, and blood to ensure wounds gave way to healing and recovery.  Young people, raised until then in a time of peace, stepped forward to serve and defend us, and meet the threats of our time.  And people from across our country and the world joined together in the days that followed to stand up and turn toward one another with open arms, making of a tragedy something the terrorists could never abide ‑‑ a tribute of hope over fear, and love over hate.
As we reflect on the lives we lost and pay tribute to the families who still live with extraordinary pain, let us resolve to continue embodying the American spirit that no act of terror can ever extinguish.  I call on all Americans to observe this National Day of Service and Remembrance with acts of selflessness and charity.  In doing so, we prove once again that the power of those who seek to harm and to destroy is never greater than our power to persevere and to build.  I encourage everyone to visit to learn of the many opportunities available to give back to others and to reaffirm the fundamental truth that we are our brothers' and our sisters' keepers, and that we can forge a brighter future together.
Today, we continue our unfaltering march forward, enduring in the perennial optimism that drives us and brightening the light that the darkness of evil can never overcome.  We remember and yearn for the presence of the beautiful lives lost, and we recommit to honoring their memories by shaping the days to come ‑‑ in as stark a contrast as possible to those who took them from us ‑‑ with courage, liberty, and love.
By a joint resolution approved December 18, 2001 (Public Law 107-89), the Congress has designated September 11 of each year as "Patriot Day," and by Public Law 111-13, approved April 21, 2009, the Congress has requested the observance of September 11 as an annually recognized "National Day of Service and Remembrance."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2015, as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.  I call upon all departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States to display the flag of the United States at half-staff on Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance in honor of the individuals who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.  I invite the Governors of the United States and its Territories and interested organizations and individuals to join in this observance.  I call upon the people of the United States to participate in community service in honor of those our Nation lost, to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services, and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time to honor the innocent victims who perished as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
tenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

                               BARACK OBAMA

The White House Observes a Moment of Silence on the 14th Anniversary of September 11th

Pakistan - US Consul General Zachary Harkenrider calls on Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto

US Consul General in Lahore Consulate, Zachary Harkenrider called on Pakistan Peoples Party’s Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at Bilawal House Lahore here yesterday.

According to a news release issued by party’s media office, Mr Zachary Harkenrider remained with Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for quite some time and discussed issues pertaining to their area of interests.

Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto approves internal accountability system

PPP’s Patron-in-Chief, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari yesterday approved a suggestion regarding setting up of an internal accountability system to probe allegations of corruption by party men. 
The proposal came from former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf during a meeting of south Punjab leaders on Wednesday. The ex-PM is himself facing a number of corruption charges currently being investigated by FIA and NAB. 
Raja suggested formation of a 4-member internal accountability commission to probe the charges against party leaders. Bilawal reportedly accepted the suggestion and desired that modalities for formation of such a body should be worked out. 
Pervaiz Ashraf later told reporters after the meeting that PPP leaders were being implicated in false cases of corruption and their media trial was going on unabated. He said that an internal accountability system was necessary to ascertain the facts behind the corruption allegations against party men. 
The meeting was attended by Bakhtawar Bhutto, Faryal Talpur, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Sherry Rehman, Makhdum Ahmed Mehmud, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Hina Rabbani Khar and others. 
Speaking on the occasion, Sherry Rehman said that all party men should fight together to take the party to new heights by organizing it in each town and village. 
She also stressed the need for holding of youth conventions and policy dialogue in each province. She said PPP never compromised on rights of people and fought against terrorism. But it was hard to fathom that PPP was facing allegations of terror financing, she lamented. 
Earlier, during course of the proceedings, Major Imtiaz, Benazir Bhutto’s security officer, broke to tears when he was given the mike to speak his mind. He was accompanying BB at the time of attack on her vehicle in Rawalpindi in 2007. Bilawal went to him and consoled him with a hug. 
Meanwhile, Bilawal has announced to address a workers’ convention at Bilawal House Lahore on coming Saturday. For security reasons, party leaders have been asked to prepare lists of workers who would be attending the gathering on that day. 
Also, Bilawal’s media advisor, Jamil Soomro Wednesday dismissed rumors that Bilawal was leaving Lahore for Dubai to meet his father Asif Ali Zardari.
“There is no truth in these reports”, he told The Nation, adding that Bilawal was scheduled to address a workers’ convention at Bilawal House, Lahore on Saturday.

How safe is Pakistan for journalists?

Two journalists were recently killed in Pakistan despite claims by the government that its military operations have secured most big cities. DW analyzes why Pakistan continues to be an unsafe place for reporters.
Aftab Alam, a senior journalist, was gunned down near his home in Karachi on Wednesday, September 9. Alam was employed at Geo TV, which has been facing the wrath of the military and its spy organization, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for its critical reporting of the army's involvement in politics.
Just hours earlier, Arshad Ali Jaffery, a 45-year-old Geo TV satellite engineer, was killed by three gunmen in the city. On that same day, Abdul Azam, a journalist working for state television, PTV, was wounded after being shot at in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
"The IFJ and PFUJ are outraged by the attacks … and call for prompt action to arrest those responsible" said a statement released by the journalists' unions on September 10.
"The incidents are yet another reminder that Pakistan is the most dangerous country for journalists," they added. Both organizations also re-affirmed their calls on the Pakistani government to take decisive steps against ongoing attacks on the media in the South Asian country.The killings come at a time when the Pakistani government is carrying out a paramilitary operation against "terrorists and criminals" in Karachi. Just recently, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared Karachi free from "targeted attacks."
Threatened by extremists and government alike
Religious extremists and security forces continue to intimidate journalists in Pakistan. Ghazi Salahuddin, a senior journalist at the Jang Group of Publication, told DW that Pakistani media professionals had to work under very difficult circumstances.
"Many journalists feel scared and threatened. It has become increasingly difficult for them to perform their tasks freely," he said, calling on journalists' unions to ensure the rights and lives of people working in the media are protected.
According to David Griffiths, Amnesty International's (AI) Deputy Asia Pacific Director, Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. In a report released last year, AI documented 34 cases of journalists being killed since the restoration of democratic rule in Pakistan in 2008 until April 2014.

"This is something authorities must address urgently. A critical first step must be for Pakistan to investigate its own military and intelligence agencies and ensure that those responsible for human rights violations against journalists are brought to justice. This will send a powerful signal to those who target journalists that they no longer have free reign," Griffiths told DW.

Freedom comes with a price
But it is also true that the Pakistani media now enjoys a greater amount of freedom to criticize governments, politicians, the country's powerful military and its ubiquitous intelligence agencies. A decade ago, all this was unimaginable. But this "freedom" has come at a price as the country has become more insecure for reporters over the past few years.

Nasir Tufail, a Karachi-based Geo TV journalist, told DW that the Pakistani media was "definitely freer than before," though "not absolutely free."
Tufail says the most perilous issue for Pakistani journalists is to report on issues regarding terrorism and Islamism, and that the reporters who are working on these issues have to be very cautious.
For instance, Tufail says that local and foreign media rely mostly on a few journalists for their coverage of events in the restive northwestern tribal areas of Pakistan. But most journalists cannot even enter these areas; therefore it is impossible to get reliable news about the Taliban and the "war on terror."
"Most journalists can't even think of going to most parts of Balochistan, where the military is operating against separatists. How can you expect independent reporting from there?" Tufail said.
Imtiaz Alam, Secretary General of the South Asian Free Media Association, also said that both state and non-state elements were against press freedom in Pakistan.
"So many journalists in Pakistan have been killed yet nobody has ever been convicted for these murders. The recommendations of the judicial commission investigating Saleem Shahzad's murder (allegedly killed by the ISI in 2011) have never been implemented," Alam told DW.

    Saudi Arabia to review relations with 'untrustworthy' Pakistan

    After Pakistan failed to join the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm, in which numerous airstrikes were conducted throughout Yemen against Houthi forces between March 26 and April 21 this year, has now decided to review its military and economic ties with Islamabad.
    According to high-level Arab sources based in Dubai, Saudi Arabia has decided to "cool off " its relations with Pakistan after it failed to join the Operation in which 10 Arab states including Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar and Bahrain took part.
    Pakistan was missing from the operation because it claimed that its Parliament passed a resolution that the country would remain "neutral" in the Yemen conflict.
    Later, in a damage control exercise, Pakistan's Prime Minister and Saudi Kinghad held a luncheon meeting at the Royal Palace in Riyadh. However this failed to placate the Saudis.
    Providing details of Saudi anger at Pakistan, sources said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who arrived with a powerful delegation, including Army Chief General and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, was received by Deputy Crown Prince. This in itself was a snub because normally Sharif would be received by the Crown Prince.
    Expressing his anger over Pakistan's inability to choose side in the Yemen conflict, Saudi King Salman during the meet made it clear that Saudi Arabia would not ask help from Pakistan in the future if they didn't join them.
    As per Dubai-based high-level Arabian insiders, even though Pakistani political parties have been receiving funding for their political activities since 1947, the nation ditched Saudi Arabia's reciprocal relationship.
    Recalling the helps provided to Pakistan, sources said that since the Cold War, the nation supplied pilots to repel advances by communist South Yemeni forces into Saudi Arabia, while Saudis funded the Afghan Mujahedeen in accordance with the US and Pakistan that repelled the Soviet invasion.
    When Pakistan was facing possibilities of international sanctions in 1998 for conducting nuclear tests, the Saudis offered 50,000 free barrels of oil to help cushion the blow, they added.
    The insiders further stated that Nawaz Sharif, who was deposed from office in 1999 and was facing murder charges, and his family were rescued through Saudi intervention and provision of comfortable exile until former Pakistan president permitted him to return to the country in 2007.
    They further pointed out that because Sharif's daughter was married to a grandson of King Fahd, he became a member of the Saudi royal family. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, which continues to be the largest source of petroleum for Pakistan, boosted the nation's weak reserves with a gift of 1.5 billion dollars after Islamabad's reversal of policy of neutrality in the Syrian War. This has funded the LeT and LeJ as well.
    Noting Pakistan's unfaithfulness towards its major ally and donor the US, Arabian sources further said that there was nothing new in the nation ditching them during a crisis.
    Branding Pakistan as the 'epicentre of terrorism', sources added that the genocide against minority ethnic communities is growing and military and civil government are at odds with each other with army exercising supremacy.
    In 2003, Musharraf helped revive the Afghan Taliban to fight the Americans in Afghanistan, which led to the rapid spawning of the Pakistani Taliban who instead chose to fight the Pakistan Army with the aim of turning the country into a theocratic state.
    In 2008, Pakistan under President failed on every level of governance and quickly became so threatened by the army that Zardari decided to hand over all security and foreign-policy making to Army Chief General Pervez Kayani.
    Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif are at loggerheads once again as has been the past practice between Prime Ministers and Army Chiefs.
    Concluding that Pakistan will remain a breeding ground for terrorist groups if its funding isn't stopped immediately, the insiders said that Saudi Arabia has decided to distance itself from Pakistan with terror breeding being another factor going into the Saudi decision.

    Pakistan’s film industry is back in business—and not just because of Bollywood

    By Shelly Walia

    Pakistan’s once-withering film industry is on the verge of a renaissance.

    Lollywood—an unofficial name of the industry, centered around Lahore—has released about 10 Urdu films this year, the highest ever in more than three decades. These films have explored genres ranging from romance and comedy to drama and tragedy, receiving both critical acclaim and commercial success.

    And today (Sept. 11), one of the most awaited films has arrived in theatres across Pakistan.

    Manto is based on the life and times of controversial author Saadat Hasan Manto. The feature film—which some are calling Pakistan’s first biopic—chronicles the last seven years of the author in the newly created Pakistan of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

    The character of Manto has been essayed by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, who is also the film’s director. Khoosat is better known in Pakistan (and India alike) as the director of one of the country’s most popular television series, Humsafar.

    Khoosat is also among the clutch of Pakistani television veterans who have infused Lollywood with new life—and driven a string of ambitious productions this year.

    “There wasn’t such a trend in the past of releasing x number of ‘international standard’ films, but with many prominent names from our television working on films now, there’s a bright future ahead,” a spokesperson at Geo TV, one of Pakistan’s biggest TV networks and the production company behind Manto, told Quartz.

    “There’s already a huge buzz in the media about Manto, so we are expecting it to do well at the box office,” the spokesperson optimistically added.

    The year so far

    It’s been an unusually plentiful year for Pakistani cinema-goers.

    For the first time in decades, three films released on Pakistan’s Independence Day—Dekh Magar Pyaar SayMoor and Shah. Earlier on Eid, two films—Bin Roye and Wrong No.—hit the theatres.

    Bin Roye was one of Pakistan’s most expensive films, and featured two television actors, Humayun Saeed and Mahira Khan (who will now be seen in Manto) in the lead roles. Wrong No. was also backed by Pakistani television veterans, including Javed Sheikh and Danish Taimoor.
    But Pakistani audiences were treated to more than just extravagant potboilers. In May, 3 Bahadur—the first Urdu 3D computer-animated film—hit the screens.

    “Can we make films that can stand in competition to Hollywood and Bollywood? Yes, that has started,” Nadeem Mandviwalla, owner of Mandviwalla Entertainment, one of Pakistan’s leading production houses, told Quartz.

    Yet, unlike Bollywood’s million-dollar budgets, Pakistani films are being crafted with much smaller sums. And despite a limited number of screens—a little more than 70—across the country, they more or less are managing to break even.

    “The cinema here is slowly beginning to stand on its own two feet again,” Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, director of 3 Bahadur, told Quartz. “And at a rapid rate, because the release of over 10 films is actually twice as many from the previous year.”

    A decade ago, in 2003, not a single Urdu film was made in Pakistan.

    Dormant for decades

    It was in the 1980s that Pakistan’s thriving cinema abruptly collapsed after a populist regime was replaced by General Zia-ul-Haq’s military dictatorship. Under his rule, the Pakistani mainstream film industry died a slow death. Even cinema halls started closing down, one after another.

    new censorship policy was put in place. The laws were more stringent towards the content in Urdu films, as opposed to Punjabi and Pashto films, which continued to flourish. In the few cinema houses that remained, these films—with mostly violent content—were shown for a predominantly working class audience.

    “By the early 2000s, an industry that once produced an average of 80 films annually was now struggling to even churn out more than two films a year,” journalist Nadeem F. Paracha wrote in the Dawn newspaper.
    In contrast, Bollywood flourished as it “managed to find a whole new audience: the Indian diaspora in the US, Europe and the Middle East,” Paracha wrote in another report.

    Finally, under General Pervez Musharraf in the 2000s, the import of Indian films—which hadn’t been allowed for more than three decades—changed the course for the Pakistani film industry.

    “Indian films revived the cinema-going culture in Pakistan,” Rafay Mahmood, film critic at the Express Tribune, told Quartz. Soon, the number of screens started rising steadily to showcase Indian imports—and young and independent Pakistani filmmakers were encouraged to try again.

    Made in Pakistan

    In 2007, Pakistan’s Khuda Kay Liye—produced and directed by Shoaib Mansoor—was successfully released across 27 screens. It was the biggest domestic film in Urdu in a long time, and it also became the first Pakistani film to be released in India in 40 years.

    Mansoor’s target audience was the new generation of cinema-goers who were more familiar with Bollywood than the Pakistani films of the past, the television veteran explained in a 2013 interview.

    “The whole nineties generation in Pakistan grew up without cinema. We only had childhood stories from our parents, as we accessed Bollywood and select Hollywood films on pirated CDs and DVDs,” Mahmood recalled.

    The success of a Pakistani film gave courage to producers, exhibitors and distributors, who saw a glimmer of profitability in the industry. Still, it took another four years for Mansoor’s second film, Bol, to release in 2011.

    By then, however, 11 new screens had come up, taking the total to 38 screens nationwide. Two years on, Bollywood film Race 2 became the first to cross the 10 crore Pakistani rupees mark—roughly the country’s equivalent of Bollywood’s Rs100 crore club. “With Race 2’s success, many became film trade analysts overnight,” observed Mahmood.
    Later in 2013, Waar—a film about a retired army officer returning to foil a terrorist plot—turned out to be a blockbuster, raking in more than 20 crore Pakistani rupees. The same year, Pakistan sent its first entry to the Oscarsin decades.

    This year alone, three films—Bin Roye, Karachi Se Lahore and Wrong No.—have entered the elite 10 crore Pakistani rupee club, Mandviwalla told Quartz.

    New cinema-goers

    The Pakistani audience and its loyalty towards local Urdu films were also key in the industry’s revival.

    “Our public pitched in. The verdict has actually come from them, because they came out and watched the films,” Mandviwalla said. “Bajrangi Bhaijaan and the new Mission Impossible were released on Eid. But there was still room for our local films.”

    Interestingly, instead of borrowing from quintessential Bollywood films with songs and dance, Pakistani filmmakers are inspired by Iranian filmmakers, according to filmmaker Jamshed Mahmood Raza. Raza’s film, Moor, based on the railway business in Baluchistan, is Pakistan’s entry for the Oscars this year.

    “Pakistani filmmakers are desperate storytellers. And they are consistently trying to look for a narrative close to home,” said Raza. “They are trying to discover the Pakistani dream—just like the American dream.”