Saturday, November 7, 2015

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A reminder to the West: An authoritarian and ‘Islamist’ Turkey can’t be stable

By Mustafa Demir

I was thinking of a coalition government between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People's Party (CHP) after the Nov. 1 election and it appeared to me that the West, very pragmatically, would support such a coalition.
The West might think such a coalition would better reflect conservatives and secularists inTurkey and serve for a more stable country, at least for a while. And it might think opposition from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) would set a further balance, at least for a while. The West even seemed to be ready to put pressure on the CHP to turn a blind eye to the internal corruption allegations against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his close circle. Erdoğan put forward the same condition to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Erdem Gül of the Cumhuriyet daily claimed that Erdoğan had sent a message during the coalition talks and asked indirectly for “immunity for himself and his family” with reference to the corruption allegations as a precondition for the formation of a coalition government. Gül claims this message was disclosed by Kılıçdaroğlu during part of a meeting that was closed to the press. However, now without the need for a partner, the AKP, which Erdoğan co-founded, will be able to form a majority government.
If the West wants to see Turkey as its long-term, reliable, predictable and stable ally, it should support democracy and human rights in Turkey in order to maintain a reliable and predictable alliance. Rising authoritarianism that is, at least at a rhetorical level, Islamistwould require a new elite of “Islamist authoritarianism” to put a distance between it and the West, which is seen as the “other." Thus, as evidence of this, for example, support for the EU membership process has been falling dramatically while authoritarianism and Islamist rhetoric are on the rise in Turkey.
What we have been observing in the last month is the compromise of the West towards the Turkish government and President Erdoğan, who has been driving Turkey towards an authoritarian regime that is committed to cracking down on all kinds of critical voices and groups. This seems to have turned into an obsession for Erdoğan, even if that requires the use of all sorts of violations of the rule of law. He wants to see absolute obedience from all segments of society. Another example is his role in the AKP's election campaign. As president of Turkey, Erdoğan needs to be neutral to all parties. As president, he is supposed to be impartial and not support any particular political party during election campaigns or at any other time. However, he wanted the AKP to win the majority of seats and form a majority government so he can extend his power.

Rewarding Erdoğan

And now the West seems to be rewarding President Erdoğan despite this act that contradicts the very essence of human rights and the rule of law, the foundation of the European Union project. He seems to be “rewarded” because he has proven to the West that he is strong enough to stay in power and consolidate power in his hands and secure popular support.
Actually, from a pragmatic perspective, that is understandable. Turkey is a key and indispensable ally for the West in terms of dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, the resultant human influx across EU borders and dealing with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Millions of Syrians are pouring across Turkey's borders with the aim of reaching European countries as their ultimate destination. Also, in the long term, the EU needs Turkey in reaching out alternative energy suppliers in the Middle East which provide an alternative to Russian energy. Not only does the West need Turkey, but Turkey needs the West as well. If Turkey wants to benefit from its geographical location politically and economically, it needs to speed up the process of political and economic integration with Europe. Not only material interest, actually, but the consolidation of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Turkey seem to be only possible only with the EU membership process .
However, it is necessary to realize that the West needs a democratic Turkey to be an ally and to stabilize the region, as was experienced, albeit for a short time, in the AKP government's second term. Turkey was the key ally and mediator, which could talk to any side of any conflict in the Middle East; it was even the main mediator between Syria and Israel.
Even if the result of the Nov. 1 election were no different, the West would want to see a relatively more stable Turkey. Thus, the West would have supported and applied pressure on a coalition between the CHP and the AKP, and is ready to turn a blind eye to any corruption allegations in which the president and members of previous governments are complicit. The West needs a stable Turkey to re-order the region, as Turkey is home to an influx and thus gateway of millions of refugees that are pushing at Western borders and an important route and source of alternative energy sources in the Middle East. However, as I noted above an authoritarian and “Islamist” Turkey would never be a stable and reliable ally for the West.


A number of senior scholars in al-Awamiya, a town in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia, called for the release of Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqer al-Nimr.

In a statement, they called on the Saudi King to pardon the senior cleric and other opponents sentenced to death, the Qatif website reported.
Sheikh Nazir al-Zaher, Sheikh Ali al-Zayed, Sheikh Farid al-Shuyukh, Sayyed Yusuf al-Abbas, and Sheikh Naji al-Ibadi were among those who signed the statement.
Ayatollah Nimr, who has been in detention since July 2012, has been sentenced to death by a Saudi court. Saudi Arabia’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court have approved the verdict handed to the senior Shia cleric.
According to some media outlets, the verdict has been referred to the interior ministry and then the king’s office for the final go-ahead.
Nimr’s lawyer, Sadeq al-Jubran, says Nimr could be executed as soon as the Saudi monarch approves his sentence.
On Thursday, people in several towns and cities in the Qatif region held rallies in protest to the death sentence for Sheikh Nimr and called for the release of the Shiite cleric and other political prisoners.

Militants Allegedly Linked to A321 Plane Crash Spoke in British Accents

Militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, whose communications with Islamic State (ISIL) group’s leadership indicated they could have been behind the crash of a Russian airliner in the area, spoke in British accents, the UK media reported.

The Telegraph newspaper said late Saturday it had picked up on reports suggesting that British-born jihadists could have been involved in the air tragedy in Sinai, a desert region where militant insurgency has been on the rise since last year.
The British outlet said it was too early to claim that perpetrators were British, but if confirmed this would move the issue of ISIL recruiting Britons high up the UK government’s anti-terrorist agenda.

UK and US officials said earlier this week there was a possibility that the crashed Russian airliner could have been brought down by a bomb. The Airbus A321 was flying from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg when it crashed, killing all 224 people on board.

UK media reports cited British investigators, who help with the Egypt-led inquiry into the cause of the plan crash, saying their suspicion was based on intercepted communications between ISIL-affiliated militants operating in the Sinai peninsula and their leaders.

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 No Way Back for Russian Women

For women's rights in Russia, the situation is not cut-and-dried. Conservative — one might even say backward — ideas about "a woman's place" certainly get a lot of airtime. But even in a society traditionally viewed as politically passive, a recent call to roll back abortion access was met with instant resistance.
Speaking personally, I've always found Russia to be a surprisingly mixed bag when it comes to women's rights. Working mothers, for example, are a normalized phenomenon in modern Russia, no matter how much conservatives beat their chests on the subject of women needing to get back into the kitchen (and preferably barricade themselves in there, and never be heard from again).
When I went back to work soon after having a baby hardly anyone questioned my decision to do so, or to pump milk at work — in fact, the one colleague who genuinely attempted to prevent me from pumping met with such outrage that I almost felt bad for him. Out in public, I've always found Russians to be much more understanding, even indulgent, of overtired women with small children — they'll generally give up their seats on the metro, help you get the stroller up a flight of stairs, offer to let you go to the front of the huge grocery store line and let you breastfeed in peace.
While a depressing number of my American acquaintances and even friends wound up accusing me of "trying to have it all" and "failing my child," Russians mostly have a shrug-and-get-on-with-it attitude to working motherhood. That obviously has a lot to do with the fact that children aren't viewed as a "quirky lifestyle choice" in Russia, but a natural part of life — and yet it also has to do with the fact that Russians, including the tiny middle class and the pampered elite, understand basic survival so much better than the American chattering classes do. Millions of Russian families would never make it if women were forced to stay at home. That's the economic reality.
The days of an agrarian economy, where male brute strength was so thoroughly valued, are getting further and further away in the rearview mirror. Russian families remain traditionally small, and even though the Church pushes the ideal of at least five children, few families can ­realistically afford this (and should the economy further worsen, that number will be fewer still).
Hypermasculinity is celebrated — but then again, so is hyperfemininity, which means that femininity in general isn't so much pathologized as it is exaggerated. Even attitudes to domestic violence — idiotic sayings such as "if he hits you, he loves you" notwithstanding — are slowly (too slowly for many of the victims) beginning to change, with domestic violence now an actual topic of discussion, as opposed to something to be shamefully covered up.
Of course, there is a big difference between the way women are treated in the countryside and in urban centers. But Russia overall is generally becoming more urbanized.
Even as conservatives hearken back to the stereotypical image of the Russian woman as a village girl in a scarf, helpless, male-dependent, and "pure," the average Russian today lives in a city and has a college diploma. This goes for both men and women.
Russia's "village romance" has long been over. Russian women today have made too much progress to go quiet into that good night simply because the government is now flirting with bearded conservatives as opposed to suit-clad modernizers. Time to face the music.

Investigators Complete Preliminary Analysis of Data From A321 Black Boxes

The Moscow-based Interstate Aviation Committee said that investigators have completed the preliminary analysis of data from the black boxes that were abroad the crashed Russian airliner Airbus 321.

Investigators have completed the preliminary analysis of data from the black boxes that were abroad the crashed Russian airliner Airbus 321 when it came down in Egypt last week, the Moscow-based  Inerstate Aviation Committee (MAK) said early Sunday.

"The investigative committee has concluded the preliminary analysis of copied and deciphered data from the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). There has already been a preliminary audition of the CVR recording," the airline regulator said on its website.The voice recorder was previously reported to have been damaged, with the Egyptian aviation authority warning its recording would be hard to analyze. "The flight data recorder stopped recording at the height of 9,400 meters. The flight was normal up until that point, there is no information that the plane’s systems or devices failed," the airline regulator said. MAK said that investigators were still gathering debris and analyzing fragments of the ill-fated plane at the Egyptian crash site. The debris is strewn over an area of more than 8 miles, it said. Alexander Neradko, who heads the Russian flight safety watchdog Rosaviatsia, said the next day after the plane crash there were signs that the Airbus A321 had broken up at a high altitude. Moscow has not officially confirmed this, saying it is too early to draw conclusions before the official investigation is over.
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Video Report - Sinai crash investigation: Facts vs speculations known so far

Source: Russian side has no proof of explosion onboard Russian plane that crashed in Egypt

"It is too early to say that the nature of these noises is identified, moreover, to say that they indicate an explosion," the source said.
The Russian side so far has no evidence confirming that the crash of the Russian plane in Egypt was caused by an explosion onboard, a source in the Russian mission at the special commission of the Egyptian aviation authorities probing into the crash said on Friday.
"Russian specialists will request the French investigators and the Egyptian commission to provide confirmation of the onboard explosion identification," the source said. "As of now, we can speak only about certain noises recorded by the cockpit voice recorder."
"It is too early to say that the nature of these noises is identified, moreover, to say that they indicate an explosion," the source said.
"We have no such data. We will ask the French and the Egyptians to provide concrete proof of their theories," he said.

Video - Russia commemorates legendary 1941 Red Square military parade

Russia commemorates the anniversary of the legendary 1941 Red Square parade with a solemn march in honour of the Soviet soldiers that marched to the battlefields of World War II, known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia, in Moscow.

Adele - Someone Like You

How Hillary Clinton is steamrolling through the early-voting state of South Carolina


Ask Democrats in South Carolina what they think of Bernie Sanders and the answer might just be: Who?
In this early-voting state that will test whether Sanders’ message can resonate beyond white liberals, the Vermonter is getting overrun. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s team is sewing up the black vote that dominates among South Carolina Democrats as Sanders struggles to find a strategy that will appeal to African Americans.
Clinton has demonstrated a know-how in communicating to black voters, whether it be bringing black celebrities or civil rights leaders to South Carolina on her behalf or organizing on the local level.
One day, talk show celeb Star Jones is parachuting into a Baptist church to stir up excitement for Clinton. On another, civil rights luminary Andrew Young is stumping at a civil rights roundtable. In nearby Atlanta, another Martin Luther King Jr. confidant, John Lewis, introduced Clinton at a rally.
And in the run-up to one of the most important political events in South Carolina — a forum Friday in which she and Sanders both participated — Clinton announced from Chicago that she had met with the mothers of children whose shooting deaths sparked theBlack Lives Matter movement.
Most every nationally prominent black leader who has endorsed a candidate has lined up with Clinton. Her campaign has been laying groundwork in South Carolina for months, holding 1,100 organizing meetings, eclipsing the efforts of her rival. Sanders may argue that is just the establishment doing the establishment thing, but the latest poll suggests it is working. Clinton is supported by 70% of the state’s Democrats, and her support jumps 10 additional points among African American Democrats.
Sanders insists he doesn’t need an overhaul or a secret strategy to sell an approach honed over decades in overwhelmingly white Vermont, but just to get the word out.
“The issues that impact the people of South Carolina, the South and all over America, are the same issues that impact the people of Vermont — and that is that the middle class of our country is disappearing,” Sanders said at Friday night’s candidate forum in Rock Hill, reverting to his standard stump.
The problem is the standard stump hasn’t resonated down here as it has in New Hampshire, and there is disagreement over whether it will.
“Bernie is suffering from the fact that being up in New England, he never had to learn the language,” said Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Secretary Clinton cut her teeth in Arkansas politics. A Democrat in Arkansas learns early how to interact with the African American community.”
Clyburn said he is hoping Sanders will learn quickly. The Vermonter, he said, has been an unrelenting crusader for policies favored by black Democrats. “But the kind of language required to translate it, he just doesn’t have,” Clyburn said.
The communication barrier for Sanders, a 74-year-old Brooklyn-raised Jewish socialist, was most pronounced when he was confronted over the summer by Black Lives Matter protesters, who demanded he repeat their mantra. Sanders lectured the protesters about his record on civil rights. The exchange did not go well.
“The issues that impact the people of South Carolina, the South and all over America, are the same issues that impact the people of Vermont — and that is that the middle class of our country is disappearing,” Sanders said at Friday night’s candidate forum in Rock Hill, reverting to his standard stump.
The problem is the standard stump hasn’t resonated down here as it has in New Hampshire, and there is disagreement over whether it will.
“Bernie is suffering from the fact that being up in New England, he never had to learn the language,” said Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Secretary Clinton cut her teeth in Arkansas politics. A Democrat in Arkansas learns early how to interact with the African American community.”
Clyburn said he is hoping Sanders will learn quickly. The Vermonter, he said, has been an unrelenting crusader for policies favored by black Democrats. “But the kind of language required to translate it, he just doesn’t have,” Clyburn said.
The communication barrier for Sanders, a 74-year-old Brooklyn-raised Jewish socialist, was most pronounced when he was confronted over the summer by Black Lives Matter protesters, who demanded he repeat their mantra. Sanders lectured the protesters about his record on civil rights. The exchange did not go well.
He’s since made moves to repair the damage, including meeting privately with activists, but the uncomfortable interactions of months ago were still being talked about in South Carolina this week.
At the same time, Clinton has had a notable change of fortune in a state that proved disastrous for her in 2008, when she had difficulty navigating the racial politics in a matchup against then-Sen. Barack Obama, the soon-to-be first black president. Clinton got trounced.
Sanders’ campaign operatives and volunteers say to give it a little time. They have watched their candidate defy the odds in remarkable ways elsewhere, and they expect the same to happen in South Carolina. They are, they say, only just now starting to spread the gospel of Bernie.
“Look at his platform,” said Mattie Thomas, 66, a Sanders volunteer here who was a fast-food worker at White Castle for three decades before retiring. “There is a lot of stuff for African Americans in there.”
Thomas is a die-hard C-SPAN watcher — the only other channel she turns on at all is ESPN, she said — who was drawn to Sanders years ago, when she saw him joining President Obama in championing healthcare reform. “He was all in for it,” she said. “And, you know, he’s got that wild hairdo; he’s got that look. He kept saying it over and over. He’s consistent.”
The Sanders campaign office in a beaten-down strip mall here in this deeply religious, hardscrabble central region of the state feels like a bunker. Thomas and three other volunteers, all of them African American, sat Thursday at a makeshift table in a bare room, poring over phone lists and racing to evangelize to whomever picks up the phone.
The group had just finished off a tub of chili and a plate of cornbread that Thomas brought in. They argued to callers that Sanders is offering more policies to help blacks: free public college, a $15 minimum wage, cheaper healthcare. Clinton is not necessarily popular among blacks, they argued; she is just a known name.
“Bernie is so real, so down to earth,” said Lilly Schleicher, a 55-year-old retired real-estate agent. “People need to know there is that alternative. We have what’s real. You don’t have to take what you think you have to take. You can have something real.”
Sanders’ field director in Florence is a convert himself. Ernest Boston said he stopped working for the Clinton campaign after watching Sanders deliver a speech. “Bernie has been fighting for us African Americans for decades, and people here just don’t know it yet,” Boston said.
The poll of state Democrats, conducted by Winthrop University, underscores the point. It showed just 8% of the state’s African Americans support Sanders.
“The tortoise is slow,” said Chaquita Fox, a 23-year-old student logging 20 hours a week making calls and knocking on doors for Sanders in Florence. She finishes the point like a schoolteacher talking to pupils. “But he always wins the race. Correct?”

Video - Hillary Clinton's Pick From GOP As VP | Democratic Forum | MSNBC

Study finds that children raised without religion show more empathy and kindness

A study conducted by the University of Chicago has found that children raised in non-religious households are kinder and more altruistic than those raised with religion. The study which was published in the journal Current Biology looked at 1170 children between the ages of 5 and 12 years in six countries (Canada, China, Jordan, Turkey, USA, and South Africa) and examined “the religiousness of their household, and parent-reported child empathy and sensitivity to justice.” The study found that “family religious identification decreases children’s altruistic behaviors” and “children from religious households are harsher in their punitive tendencies.” In other words, children raised in the absence of religion are more giving and generous, as the study states.

Across all countries, parents in religious households reported that their children expressed more empathy and sensitivity for justice in everyday life than non-religious parents. However, religiousness was inversely predictive of children’s altruism and positively correlated with their punitive tendencies. Together these results reveal the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children’s altruism, challenging the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior.
“Our findings contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others. In our study, kids from atheist and non-religious families were, in fact, more generous,” said Prof. Jean Decety who led the study.According to the study as well, the findings did not change much over time and children raised in very religious households didn’t follow the natural trend of being more giving with age.
Consistent with previous studies, in general the children were more likely to share as they got older. But children from households identifying as Christian and Muslim were significantly less likely than children from non-religious households to share their stickers. The negative relation between religiosity and altruism grew stronger with age; children with a longer experience of religion in the household were the least likely to share.
The study also showed that punishment in religious households was much more severe as religious parents “favored stronger punishments for anti-social behavior and judged such behavior more harshly than non-religious children. These results support previous studies of adults, which have found religiousness is linked with punitive attitudes toward interpersonal offenses.” “Together, these results reveal the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children’s altruism. They challenge the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior, and call into question whether religion is vital for moral development—suggesting the secularization of moral discourse does not reduce human kindness. In fact, it does just the opposite,” Decety said. The study comes as little surprise to those of us who raise kids outside of religion as I outlined in my own book Parenting Without God. Children raised without dictatorship type rules and threats of eternal punishment just seem to turn out nicer. This does not mean that religious children cannot be good people or even grow up to be good people, but it does imply strongly that religious parenting is not an ideal parenting method and as Decety points out, it gives evidence to the case for a stronger secularization of the U.S. and the world.
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President Obama's Weekly Address: If You Haven’t Gotten Covered, Now’s Your Chance

Pakistan - Ideology taught by madrassas promotes hatred

During an inauguration session of a conference titled, “People’s History of Pakistan” Reverend Alexander John Malik said that madarassas have promoted hatred in the society.
This conference which has been organised by the Trust for History, Art and Architecture Pakistan (THAAP) was attended by various notable people. While speaking during the conference, Reverend Alexander John Malik said that “History has always been written from a particular perspective.”
Rt. Reverend Alexander John Malik also quoted a human rights activist Rubina Saigol, he said that madrassas who are teaching an ideology are inculcating and promoting hate and violence to such places where they can’t even reach. “This promotes hatred towards minorities,” Malik said.
He appreciated the endeavours put in by the Trust for History, Art and Architecture Pakistan (THAAP). He said that the Trust for History, Art and Architecture Pakistan has produced a newer version of the history of the country. “They have provided a narrative that takes into account diversity in the country,” he aired while he relating to his own experience, said, “It is not easy to be a bishop in Pakistan.”
He narrated his meeting with Zia ul Haq, and said that after the nationalization of Christian institutions, “When I asked Ziaul Haq to return these schools to the church, he said it would be difficult. Instead, he said, the church should instead open more schools,” Malik said.
Rev. Alexander John Malik further said at that time the Christian community in Pakistan stood against the government’s decision to open these schools for all children. “They wanted the schools to be reserved for Christians,” he said.

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Pakistan: Ahmadi Muslims disenfranchised again

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has once again been deprived of their fundamental religious freedoms and universal civic rights. For the ongoing local body elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made an addition to their guidelines, instructing registration officers and other staff to enter Ahmadi votes separately in the Initial Electoral List. Through instruction number 12, the ECP has mandated that Ahmadi votes will be entered separately in the register under the notation ‘FOR AHMADIS’.
After learning of this instruction, the Ahmadiyya Community has, in a strong protest, announced its disassociation from the 2015 local body elections in Pakistan. The Community has protested and communicated their outrage to the government and the ECP in the form of letters and in formal meetings about the usurpation of their right to vote on the basis of religion. However, the government has not responded positively.
Ahmadis in Pakistan are thereby deprived of their fundamental democratic right to vote. It is strange that Muslim, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians are included in one electoral roll and only Ahmadis have to register in a separate list. Ahmadis can only vote if they accept being non-Muslim and disassociate themselves from their beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The government’s always seeks to appease Islamic fundamentalists and extremists by taking unconstitutional action against the Ahmadiyya Community to show that the government is very much Islamist.
The Ahmadiyya Community was declared non-Muslim in Pakistan in 1974. Furthermore, in 1984, an ordinance was promulgated to criminalize their attempt to pass of as Muslims or engage in Islamic worship or practices, or use Islamic terminology everyday life, to the extent that Ahmadis could not greet anyone using the Islamic salutation of Assalmoálikum, i.e. peace be upon you.
The ECP has specially added a column of religion in the voter registration form, though general elections are held on a joint electorate basis. Ahmadis have to sign a declaration showing their disconnection with the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in order to register themselves as voters. Moreover, only one general voters list was prepared for the joint electorate, but in 2002 and 2008 a separate list was prepared only for Ahmadis, the latter under notification dated 17 January 2007 (No. F1 (6) / 2001 - Cord).
According to this notification, names of all Pakistani citizens, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, or other religious minorities, are entered in one single list, while only Ahmadis are entered in a separate list. Religious hatred and discrimination is thus overt. It is an open attempt to single out and marginalise a particular religious group, the Ahmadis, from the national mainstream, and make them toothless politically.
This discrimination is against the sayings of the Father of the Nation, revered Quad-i-Azam, and contradicts the rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan. Moreover, it is against the spirit of the joint electorate and in clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
General Musharraf in 2002, instead of introducing a Joint Electoral System, required voters to sign a declaration concerning belief about the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophet-hood of Muhammad (PBUH) and those who refused to sign the certificate were to be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters as non-Muslims. This form includes a warning that violation will be punished with imprisonment.
These devious and unacceptable procedures have usurped the fundamental civic rights of Ahmadis and for decades now they cannot stand as candidates for any election, national, provincial, or even district. Ahmadis have no representation even in the town councils of their own town Rabwah, where they make up 95 per cent of the population.
The irony is that Article 20 of Pakistan's Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and Pakistan is also a signatory to the UN Charter of Human Rights, which makes it obligatory for the government to safeguard the fundamental rights of all without any discrimination based on religion, faith, or belief.
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has repeatedly drawn the attention of the world to such flagrant violations of civic rights in Pakistan. Once again, the AHRC urges the international community, NGOs, and civil society to push the Government of Pakistan to respect the fundamentals of democracy and restore the voting rights of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, removing all of the conditions that denigrate their faith and practice.

Pakistan - Illiterate literacy

In an astounding revelation by leading educationists and renowned literary experts at the All Pakistan Children’s Mushaira held in Karachi, it seems 90 percent of Pakistan’s schoolgoing children cannot read ‘adequately’. Moreover, 98 percent of schoolgoing children cannot write satisfactorily in Urdu or in English. This is an appalling number that suggests most children at the primary level of education cannot read or write and hence have not developed indispensable cognitive skills necessary to survive in an ever competitive world. The three R’s, ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’, are the first order of learning required for a strong foundation of a basic skills-oriented education. It has been a favoured practice of our social agents to encourage slogans of ‘progress and development’ under the rubric of ‘education’, but our basic thrust of addressing quantitative issues in the educational field has not produced an intellectually enhanced and literate society. Our focus is pegged on improving enrollment statistics rather than addressing the qualitative worth of literacy and the incessant gender disparity within education. To add fuel to the fire, 99 percent of teachers in our seemingly ‘luminous’ private schools cannot even boast of a fundamental understanding of ‘phonetics’ and ‘phonology’. The UN’s Millennium Development Goals 2015 (MDGs) concerning universal primary education have unfortunately not taken flight in Pakistan, despite a gradual increase in numbers since 1991.

At the heart of the matter lies our often fickle relationship with language itself. Misplaced notions of nationalism and patriotic sentiments have crowned Urdu and English as our exclusive lingua franca, leading to a steep yet sustained decline of our regional languages. UNESCO studies have suggested the mother tongue is the best point of entry for a child to develop vital cognitive skills essential for good schooling and a well-informed worldview. Enlightened policies that stress primary education in the mother tongue coupled with other languages has led to the achievement of a 99 percent literacy rate in post-independence Tanzania. To salvage our sinking ship, we should take a cue from this positive example and take a much needed initiative that critically reviews our curricula, equips our teachers with essential pedagogical training, and doesn’t just pay lip service to developing regional languages, i.e. our ‘mother tongues’, but also creates academic space for them in practice. Language holds within it the DNA of our cultural psyche; its loss obliterates our identity, stunts literacy, mangles customs and values, severs the connection to a traditional past and systematically muddles a defined course for the future. We should learn from this discouraging report and cease mass production of ‘parhay likhay jaahil’ (educated illiterates), students as well as teachers. It is time we recognised our multi-lingual reality that authentically defines our pluralistic national conscioussness. Its celebration and development can lead to a truly literate and by extension prosperous society. 

بلدیاتی انتخابات کے دوسرے اور تیسرے مراحل میں بھی ہم کامیاب ہونگے، بلاول بھٹو زرداری

پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری کا کہنا ہے کہ لیاری پیپلزپارٹی کا گڑھ اور قلعہ تھا اور رہے گا، پیپلزپارٹی بلدیاتی انتخابات میں ہر حلقے سے انتخاب لڑے گی۔ کراچی بلاول ہاؤس میں پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو کی زیر صدارت لیاری اور ضلع ملیر کا اجلاس منعقد ہوا، اجلاس میں صفہ بھٹو، فریال تالپور، وزیراعلیٰ سندھ قائم علی شاہ،سینیٹر شیری رحمان، سینئر صوبائی وزیر نثار احمد کھوڑو، اراکین پارلیمنٹ، پارٹی کے ضلعی عہدیداران اور معززین بھی موجود تھے، بلاول نے کہا کہ تاریخ گواہ ہے کہ جس نے پیپلزپارٹی کو پیٹھ میں چھرا گھونپنے کی کوشش کی اس کو رسوائی اورذلت ہی نصیب ہوئی جبکہ پیپلزپارٹی پہلے سے مزید مضبوط اور مستحکم ہوئی، اس موقع پر کراچی دویژن کے تین اضلاع سے تعلق رکھنے والے پارٹی رہنمائوں نے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری کو کراچی شہر میں جاری ترقیاتی کاموں اور آئندہ ہونے والے بلدیاتی انتخابات کے حوالے سے بریفنگ دی۔ بلاول کا مزید کہنا تھا کہ پیپلزپارٹی غریبوں، مزدوروں کی پارٹی ہے، آج سے نہیں بلکہ پارٹی کے وجود کے دن سےہی وڈیروں،جاگیرداروں کو پیپلزپارٹی کا وجود کھٹکتا ہے، تاریخ گواہ ہے کہ جس نے پیپلزپارٹی سے وفا نہیں کی وہ رسوا ہوا ہے

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar Prophet Daud's Kinnor's History by Rabbi David Louis/ SOZ by GHANI KHAN