Thursday, December 31, 2015

Beyoncé, Shakira - Beautiful Liar

Music Video - Shakira - She Wolf

Music Video - Shakira - Can't Remember to Forget You ft. Rihanna

Music Video - Katy Perry - Dark Horse

Moscow: Ankara will fail to distract the world public’s attention from its destructive polices in Syria

Turkish authorities’ latest claims the Russian air group in Syria has allegedly been attacking civilian targets and population in Syria have nothing to do with the reality, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Tass News Agency quoted the Ministry as saying “Ankara’s wish to unleash an anti-Russian campaign is regarded as an obvious reaction that followed shortly after our country exposed Turkey’s complicity in illegal activities in the north of Syria”, adding that these activities included connivance with oil smuggling from ISIS-controlled fields and various assistance to extremist and terrorist groups.
The Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that “this populist move will fail to distract the world public’s attention from Turkey’s destructive polices in Syria”.


On the morning of September 12, the female principal of a Lahore-based Islamic center left home along with her four children telling her husband that she was going to Kasur for Dars-e-Quran but never returned.
A week later, Khalid felt relieved on receiving a call from his wife. Bushra was in Quetta. However, the conversation that followed was not music to Khalid’s ears; she was on her way to Syria through Iran for joining Daesh along with the kids. The eldest among them is 15-year-old and the youngest is nine years old.
Incidentally, two other ladies went missing the same day along with their children from Lahore. One of them was the sister of an anchor who reported her disappearance to Police after failing to search them through personal connections.
Apparently, the government is in a state of denial about Daesh’s presence but the efforts are in progress on ground with some major breakthroughs have been achieved which are being kept unannounced though.
A civilian intelligence agency has reported that around 20 men, women and children connected with Bushra’s network left for Islamic State raising alarms about Lahore as a launching pad of Daesh. The clandestine activities have also been noted in Karachi, however, this migration to Islamic State has only been reported from Lahore.
The cases spotted indicate that Syria via Iran is the route frequented by these “migrants” and religious inclinations suggest that Jama’at-ud-Dawa is losing its affiliates to Daesh. Recent arrests in Sialkot also testify this observation.
Bushra, now in Islamic State, is not only cajoling her husband to join, she is also preaching to the like-minded women through video-links. Khalid who remained affiliated with Jama’at-ud-Dawah shared with interrogators the messages received from her wife urging him to join them for jihad.
Bushra did M Phil from Punjab University and was honorary principal at Noor-ul-Hudaa Islamic Center situated in Town Ship, Lahore. How did she get in touch with Daesh leadership remained to be explored?
Nevertheless, the information the spy agency has pieced together indicate that Bushra alias Haleema had been in correspondence with Abu Bakar Baghdadi for the “clarity of concepts”.While her exchanges with husband are through WhatsApp, Skype is a channel of her contact with the like-minded women for persuading them to join jihad.
A widow known by her alias Arshi is an interesting case. Before moving to Islamic State, she sent her son on a fact-finding mission who visited Syria along with a friend. Both of them were unemployed.
They reported positively upon return that resulted in a decision to move there as a family that included Arshi, two sons, a niece and a daughter-in-law. Arshi’s family moved in May along with another family comprising husband, wife and a daughter. Shahid, the husband is also believed to be linked with Bushra’s family. Same is the case of Sajid who is in export and import business and has been frequenting to Turkey.
Aasia, another teacher at the Islamic center, wanted to leave for Syria but changed her plan at the eleventh hour upon the insistence of her brother with whom she has been staying along with kids after divorce, according to a report of a civilian agency that chronicled the events and network connection to determine the pattern and flow of migration.
How many Pakistanis have moved to Syria to join Deash remains anybody’s guess? Investigation into the recent arrests of Daesh-linked individuals from Sialkot has also established their travel plans and the preparation of passport was the only cause of delay and meanwhile they were arrested.
Our crime correspondent from Lahore adds: Police are still clueless to the whereabouts of the children and women of three families who were allegedly kidnapped some six months before in the jurisdictions of Township, Hunjerwal and Wahdat Colony police stations. All three families belong to a religious outfit.
Bushra Cheema alias Haleema Apa and her four children were kidnapped in June and a case has been registered in Township police station. In Hunjerwal police station cases of kidnapping of Fatima and Farhana were registered while in Wahdat Colony police station one Imran got registered a case of kidnapping of a woman and her five children. When contacted, CCPO Muhammad Amin has said the three kidnappings happened in July and there is no information about their joining a terror outfit.

Sweden’s feminist foreign minister has dared to tell the truth about Saudi Arabia. What happens now concerns us all

The Spectator‘s most read article of 2015 was Nick Cohen’s piece about Margot Wallström – the Swedish foreign minister who stood up against Saudi Arabi’s subjugation of women. He wrote it in March; it was still in our top ten most read yesterday. Every so often, new groups of people (mainly Facebook communities) keep discovering and sharing it. This is now the most-read article in the history of The Spectator. If the cries of ‘Je suis Charlie’ were sincere, the western world would be convulsed with worry and anger about the Wallström affair. It has all the ingredients for a clash-of-civilisations confrontation. A few weeks ago Margot Wallström, the Swedish foreign minister, denounced the subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia. As the theocratic kingdom prevents women from travelling, conducting official business or marrying without the permission of male guardians, and as girls can be forced into child marriages where they are effectively raped by old men, she was telling no more than the truth. Wallström went on to condemn the Saudi courts for ordering that Raif Badawi receive ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website that championed secularism and free speech. These were ‘mediaeval methods’, she said, and a ‘cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression’. And once again, who can argue with that?
The backlash followed the pattern set by Rushdie, the Danish cartoons and Hebdo. Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador and stopped issuing visas to Swedish businessmen. The United Arab Emirates joined it. The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which represents 56 Muslim-majority states, accused Sweden of failing to respect the world’s ‘rich and varied ethical standards’ — standards so rich and varied, apparently, they include the flogging of bloggers and encouragement of paedophiles. Meanwhile, the Gulf Co-operation Council condemned her ‘unaccept-able interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, and I wouldn’t bet against anti-Swedish riots following soon.
Yet there is no ‘Wallström affair’. Outside Sweden, the western media has barely covered the story, and Sweden’s EU allies have shown no inclination whatsoever to support her. A small Scandinavian nation faces sanctions, accusations of Islamophobia and maybe worse to come, and everyone stays silent. As so often, the scandal is that there isn’t a scandal.
It is a sign of how upside-down modern politics has become that one assumes that a politician who defends freedom of speech and women’s rights in the Arab world must be some kind of muscular liberal, or neocon, or perhaps a supporter of one of Scandinavia’s new populist right-wing parties whose commitment to human rights is merely a cover for anti-Muslim hatred. But Margot Wallström is that modern rarity: a left-wing politician who goes where her principles take her.
She is foreign minister in Sweden’s weak coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, and took office promising a feminist foreign policy. She recognised Palestine in October last year — and, no, the Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and Gulf Co-operation Council did not condemn her ‘unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Israel’. I confess that her gesture struck me as counterproductive at the time. But after Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out a Palestinian state as he used every dirty trick he could think of to secure his re-election, she can claim with justice that history has vindicated her.
She moved on to the Saudi version of sharia law. Her criticism was not just rhetorical. She said that it was unethical for Sweden to continue with its military co-operation agreement with Saudi Arabia. In other words, she threatened Swedish arms companies’ ability to make money. Saudi Arabia’s denial of business visas to Swedes threatened to hurt other companies’ profits too. You might think of Swedes as upright social democrats, who have never let worries of appearing tedious stand in the way of their righteousness. But that has never been wholly true, and is certainly not true when there is money at stake. Sweden is the world’s 12th largest arms exporter — quite an achievement for a country of just nine million people. Its exports to Saudi Arabia total $1.3 billion. Business leaders and civil servants are also aware that other Muslim-majority countries may follow Saudi Arabia’s lead. During the ‘cartoon crisis’ — a phrase I still can’t write without snorting with incredulity — Danish companies faced global attacks and the French supermarket chain Carrefour took Danish goods off the shelves to appease Muslim customers. A co-ordinated campaign by Muslim nations against Sweden is not a fanciful notion. There is talk that Sweden may lose its chance to gain a seat on the UN Security Council in 2017 because of Wallström.
To put it as mildly as I can, the Swedish establishment has gone wild. Thirty chief executives signed a letter saying that breaking the arms trade agreement ‘would jeopardise Sweden’s reputation as a trade and co-operation partner’. No less a figure than His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf himself hauled Wallström in at the weekend to tell her that he wanted a compromise. Saudi Arabia has successfully turned criticism of its brutal version of Islam into an attack on all Muslims, regardless of whether they are Wahhabis or not, and Wallström and her colleagues are clearly unnerved by accusations of Islamophobia. The signs are that she will fold under the pressure, particularly when the rest of liberal Europe shows no interest in supporting her.
Sins of omission are as telling as sins of commission. The Wallström non-affair tells us three things. It is easier to instruct small countries such as Sweden and Israel on what they can and cannot do than America, China or a Saudi Arabia that can call on global Muslim support when criticised. Second, a Europe that is getting older and poorer is starting to find that moral stands in foreign policy are luxuries it can no longer afford. Saudi Arabia has been confident throughout that Sweden needs its money more than it needs Swedish imports.
Finally, and most revealingly in my opinion, the non-affair shows us that the rights of women always come last. To be sure, there are Twitter storms about sexist men and media feeding frenzies whenever a public figure uses ‘inappropriate language’. But when a politician tries to campaign for the rights of women suffering under a brutally misogynistic clerical culture she isn’t cheered on but met with an embarrassed and hugely revealing silence.

Saudi Arabia wages a phony war on terror

CONTAINING the scourge of Islamist terror will be impossible without containing the ideology that drives it: Wahhabism, a messianic, jihad- extolling form of Sunni fundamentalism whose international expansion has been bankrolled by oil-rich sheikhdoms, especially Saudi Arabia.
That is why the newly announced Saudi-led anti-terror coalition, the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, should be viewed with profound skepticism.
Wahhabism promotes, among other things, the subjugation of women and the death of “infidels”. It is — to quote US President Barack Obama’s description of what motivated a married couple of Pakistani origin to carry out the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, California — a “perverted interpretation of Islam”, and the ideological mother of jihadist terrorism. Its offspring include Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and the Islamic State, all of which blend hostility toward non-Sunnis and anti-modern romanticism into nihilistic rage.
Saudi Arabia has been bankrolling Islamist terrorism since the oil-price boom of the 1970s dramatically boosted the country’s wealth. According to a 2013 European Parliament report, some of the €9bn invested by Saudi Arabia for “its Wahhabi agenda” in South and Southeast Asia was “diverted” to terrorist groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Western leaders have recognised the Saudi role for many years. In a 2009 diplomatic cable, then-US secretary of state Hillary Clinton identified Saudi Arabia as “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”. Thanks largely to the West’s interest in Saudi oil, however, the kingdom has faced no international sanctions.
Now, with the growth of terrorist movements like the Islamic State, priorities are changing. As German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in a recent interview: “We must make it clear to the Saudis that the time of looking the other way is over.”
This shift has spurred the kingdom to announce a crackdown on individuals and groups that fund terror. However, according to a recent US state department report, some Saudi-based charities and individual donors continue to fund Sunni militants.
From this perspective, Saudi Arabia’s surprise announcement of a 34-country anti-terror alliance, with a joint operations centre based in Riyadh, is a logical step, aimed at blunting growing Western criticism, while boosting Sunni influence in the Middle East.
But, of course, the alliance is a sham — as a closer look at its membership makes clear.
Tellingly, the alliance includes all of the world’s main sponsors of extremist and terrorist groups, from Qatar to Pakistan. It is as if a drug cartel claimed to be spearheading a counter-narcotics campaign.
Listed as members of the alliance are also all of the jihadist citadels other than Afghanistan, including war-torn Libya and Yemen, both of which are not currently governed by a single authority.
Moreover, despite being touted as an Islamic alliance, with members coming from all over the Islamic world, the group includes predominantly Christian Uganda and Gabon, but not Oman (a fellow Gulf sheikdom), Algeria (Africa’s largest country), and Indonesia (the world’s most populous Muslim country).
The failure to include Indonesia, which has almost twice as many Muslims as the entire Middle East, is striking not only because of its size: Whereas most countries in the alliance are ruled by despots or autocrats, Indonesia is a robust democracy.
Autocratic rule in Islamic countries tends to strengthen jihadist forces. But when democracy takes root, as in tolerant and secular Indonesia, the clash between moderates and extremists can be better managed.
Saudi Arabia’s dysfunctional approach is reflected in the fact that some alliance members — including Pakistan, Malaysia, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority — immediately declared that they had never actually joined. The kingdom seemed to think that it could make that decision on behalf of the major recipients of its aid.
Add to that the unsurprising exclusion of Shia-governed Iran and Iraq, along with Alawite-ruled Syria, and it is clear that Saudi Arabia has merely crafted another predominantly Sunni grouping to advance its sectarian and strategic objectives.
This aligns with the more hardline policy approach that has taken root since King Salman ascended the throne in January 2015.
At home, Salman’s reign so far has meant a marked increase in the number of sentences of death by decapitation, often carried out in public — a method emulated by the Islamic State. Abroad, it has meant a clear preference for violent solutions in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
A smaller Saudi-led Arab coalition has been bombing Yemen since March, with the goal of pushing back the Shia Houthi rebels who captured Sana’a, the capital, after driving the Saudi-backed government from power.
Saudi warplanes have bombed homes, markets, hospitals, and refugee camps in Yemen, leading critics to accuse the kingdom of deliberately terrorising civilians to turn public opinion against the Houthis.
Saudi Arabia’s solutions have often contravened the objectives of its American allies.
For example, the Saudi kingdom and its Arab partners have quietly slipped out of the US-led air war in Syria, leaving the campaign largely in American hands.
But beyond Saudi Arabia’s strategic manipulations lies the fundamental problem with which we started: The kingdom’s official ideology forms the heart of the terrorist creed.
A devoted foe of Islamist terrorism does not promote violent jihadism.
Nor does it arrest and charge with “terrorism” domestic critics of its medieval interpretation of Islam. Saudi Arabia does both.
This speaks to the main shortcoming of today’s militarized approach to fighting terrorism.
Unless the expansion of dangerous ideologies like Wahhabism is stopped, the global war on terror, now almost a generation old, will never be won. No matter how many bombs the US and its allies drop, the Saudi-financed madrassas will continue to indoctrinate tomorrow’s jihadists.
Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, and fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, is the author of nine books, including Asian Juggernaut; Water: Asia’s New Battleground; and Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis.

Middle East still rocking from first world war pacts made 100 years ago

By Ian Black
In an idle moment between cocktail parties in the Arab capital where they served, a British and French diplomat were chatting recently about their respective countries’ legacies in the Middle East: why not commemorate them with a new rock band? And they could call it Sykes-Picot and the Balfour Declaration.
It was just a joke. These first world war agreements cooked up in London and Paris in the dying days of the Ottoman empire paved the way for new Arab nation states, the creation of Israel and the continuing plight of the Palestinians. And if their memory has faded in the west as their centenaries approach, they are still widely blamed for the problems of the region at an unusually violent and troubled time.
“This is history that the Arab peoples will never forget because they see it as directly relevant to problems they face today,” argues Oxford University’s Eugene Rogan, author of several influential works on modern Middle Eastern history.
In 2014, when Islamic State fighters broke through the desert border between Iraq and Syria – flying black flags on their captured US-made Humvees – and announced the creation of a transnational caliphate, they triumphantly pronounced the death of Sykes-Picot. That gave a half-forgotten and much-misrepresented colonial-era deal a starring role in their propaganda war – and a new lease of life on Twitter.
Half truths go a long way: the secret agreement between Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot in May 1916 divided the Ottoman lands into British and French spheres – and came to light only when it was published by the Bolsheviks.
It also famously contradicted earlier promises made by the British to Sharif Hussein of Mecca before he launched what TE Lawrence called the “revolt in the desert” against the Turks. It did not draw the borders of Arab states – that came later – but it has become a kind of convenient shorthand for western double-dealing and perfidy.
And it was undermined too by the Balfour Declaration in November 1917 – mourned for decades by Palestinians remembering how “his Majesty’s government viewed with favour the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people” when Zionism was a novel response to European antisemitism and Jews a small minority in the Holy Land.
Looking ahead, officials in the UK Foreign Office are brainstorming anxiously about how to mark these agreements. It is far harder than remembering the first world war’s military anniversaries – Flanders, Gallipoli, the Somme – because while British and allied sacrifices and heroism can be celebrated and honoured, these were political acts that have left a toxic residue of resentment and conflict.
Pro-Palestinian campaigners have demanded Britain apologise for Balfour’s pledge – but that seems unlikely given that it was made in very different circumstances from today and cannot be undone. It and the other wartime agreements are likely to feature in statements and public diplomacy designed to generate a “more nuanced understanding” of the UK’s controversial historical role.
The focus on Sykes-Picot – famously based on drawing a line “from the ‘e’ in Acre [now in northern Israel] to the last ‘k’ in Kirkuk [in Iraq]” – is because of the argument that states have lost their legitimacy or cohesion in the bloody years of the Arab spring. Kurds in Iraq, autonomous since 1991, emphasise this, though they are the exception. Syria seems to be facing de facto partition but that is because of five years of vicious civil war, not because it is seen as an “artificial” colonial creation.
In fact, many historians insist – flatly contradicting Isis propaganda – that the post-first world war Arab nation states have proved remarkably resilient. And it is wrong to portray the jihadis, as the Iraq expert Reidar Visser has put it, “as the implementers of some kind of deep-rooted popular urge for pan-Arab and pan-Islamic unity that supposedly pulls the Syrian and Iraqi people towards each other”.
Still, perception is reality. In Rogan’s words: “The wartime partition agreements left a legacy of imperialism, of Arab mistrust in great power politics, and of a belief in conspiracies (for what are secret partition agreements if not conspiracies?) that the Arab peoples have held responsible for their misfortunes ever since.”
Palestine remains an open wound.The period since the Balfour Declaration ... has witnessed what amounts to a hundred years of war against the Palestinian people,” wrote the American-Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi. Yet no official British response to its anniversary is likely to go beyond affirmation of the need for two independent states for the two peoples who now inhabit the Holy Land, however contentious the past.
Recent events have proved as troublesome as past ones. Summer 2016 will see the long-overdue Chilcot report into Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq – a prime factor behind the current mayhem in the region. As Toby Dodge of the LSE has expressed it: the advances of Isis were “not caused by a century-old legacy of Anglo-French colonialism” but by “the contemporary flaws within the political system” set up after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
And 2016 will see yet another awkward anniversary – the 60th of the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt, in collusion with Israel, in the Suez crisis of 1956 – a classic episode of western duplicity and high handedness that is still remembered as the “tripartite aggression” in Cairo and other Arab capitals.
“As we approach these anniversaries, we need to acknowledge that history, and our place in it,” insists Tom Fletcher, a highly regarded former British ambassador to Lebanon. “But we also need to ensure that the role of the west isn’t used as an alibi for every problem of the region. If we were as cunning as some still think, we would still have an empire. In fact, we need to see more security, justice and opportunity across the Middle East – that’s a conspiracy we should be part of.”

Music Video - Egyptian Belly Dance by Egyptian Shakira 4 / شاكيرا (المصرية) رقص، شرقي

Video - New Year: fireworks in Bangkok

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Video - Happy New Year 2016! RT Special Coverage

Moscow insists Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar ash-Sham must be on list of terrorist groups in Syria

The Russian side so far believes it is unnecessary to make public its proposals for the list of terrorist groups active in Syria that should be excluded from the political settlement process, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov told TASS in an interview. "The work on the list of terrorist groups in Syria that would be acceptable for all has not been finished yet," he said. "I will not report the exact list of our proposals on the candidates to be put on the terrorist list - it is still part of the process of coordination of positions that should unite all members of the international Syria Support Group, so the haste and even publicity is apparently unnecessary here."

Nevertheless, the official made an exception for two groups - Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham. "The specified groups, in our view, should be included in the final variant of the list, as they cannot make a contribution to attaining the political tasks for all Syria," he said. "Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham are criminal terrorist organisations that should be liquidated, and their criminal activity - stopped. There is, believe me, convincing evidence to this that is also known to our foreign partners." Jaysh al-Islam is behind a long series of terrorist acts, Syromolotov said. Thus, in July 2012, this group claimed responsibility for the bombing of the headquarters of the National Security Bureau in Damascus, which killed several members of the Syrian leadership, including former Defense minister of Syria Dawoud Abdallah Rajiha. In 2013, after seizing the town of Adra (north of Damascus), the same gang massacred members of religious minorities (Alawite and Ismaili), and in May 2015 launched a mortar attack on the Russian embassy in Damascus. This attack was recognised as a terrorist act by the UN Security Council.

 In addition, the group is responsible for the indiscriminate shelling of neighbourhoods of the Syrian capital, resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of civilians. It is the Jaysh al-Islam militants who carried in cages around the Syrian cities seized by them prisoners of war together with their wives and children, who used the civilian population as human shield for them, and organized mass public executions, videos of which they later made public with pride. "It is also important to bear in mind that many militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra group, recognized as terrorist by the UN Security Council, which is a branch of the notorious Al Qaeda, enlisted to the ranks of Jaysh al-Islam," said the Russian deputy foreign minister. "The US side, actually not regarding Jaysh al-Islam as moderate opposition, sometimes proposes to discuss admitting this organization to the negotiations on the political settlement in Syria," Syromolotov said. "We don’t agree with this position and tell the Americans about this."


Video - Putin’s New Year Address 2016: Grateful to all those defending Russia

Music Video - Abba - Happy New Year

Hillary Clinton Starts 2016 With An Endorsement From Actress Katie Holmes

By Charlotte Court 

It’s the start of a New Year and for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton 2016 will be a big one as she cranks up her campaign to be America’s first female President. At least the American Democratic frontrunner has got the backing of one particularly high profile face from Hollywood: Katie Holmes.
Katie HolmesThe actress has shown her support for Hillary Clinton's presidential bid
The actress and ex-wife of Tom Cruise met Hillary and Hillary’s daughter Chelsea with her own youngster, six-year-old Suri.
Katie posted a picture of Suri interacting with Chelsea and the two girls’ mothers looked on with the caption #wearewithhhillary.
Hillary, the former US Secretary of State, looked on proudly as her daughter Chelsea - who is a mother herself - played with young Suri as she holds a stuffed, white animal.
Katie took the picture just before her 37th birthday that she also celebrated by appearing on the cover of Ocean Drive magazine.
In an interview with the publication, the former Dawson’s Creek actress said: "I don’t regret anything I’ve done.
"I’ve learned from everything and everything sort of leads you to the next place. I just keep going."
It could be speculated that Holmes is referring to her controversial six-year marriage to Scientologist Tom Cruise who, it has been reported, hasn’t seen his little girl for over two years.

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Pashto Music - Gul Panra & Hashmat Sahar - Biay Kabul Zu Na


Mahjabeen Qazalbash - speeni spoogmai wa ya Ashna ba charta we na

Sardar Ali Takar--Pashto ghazal--Rahman baba--Charta da yar shoonde charta gham da dil o jan

Music Video - Dhola Sanu Pyar De - Afshan Zebi

Music Video - Lokan Do Do Yaar Banaye - Afshan Zebi


New Year May Bring Renewed War to Afghanistan


The U.S. general overseeing the war in Afghanistan is leaving open the possibility of yet another escalation in American involvement there, confirming a deterioration in security amid the drawdown under President Barack Obama and casting a bleak outlook on ending the nearly 15-year-old war.
"My intent would be to keep as much as I could for as long as I could," Army Gen. John Campbell toldUSA Today. The general will visit the District of Columbia in the near future to make his recommendations but refused to offer specifics, saying, "some of them will not go over well with people," and "some of them will get approved."
Obama announced earlier in October he would shift away from his scheduled plan to reduce U.S. troops from 10,000 down to fewer than 5,000 by the end of this year, withdrawing all except for a small embassy presence by the end of 2016. Instead, 5,500 U.S. troops plus a few thousand NATO soldiers will remain in the country beyond the end of Obama's second term.
In his interview, Campbell cited Obama's flexibility and said the president has provided him with whatever he has asked for. The general added, however, that his responsibilities include telling his leadership if his mission requires more resources.
"If that means more people, it's more people," he said.
Hawkish members of Congress, including the chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees, have long criticized Obama for basing his withdrawal decisions on calendar dates and numbers they consider arbitrary political goals.
"We have made significant and steady progress in Afghanistan. But as U.S. military officials and diplomats have warned for years – I repeat, for years – these gains are still reversible, and a robust and adaptive U.S. troop presence based on conditions on the ground is essential to ensuring that these gains endure," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with Campbell in October. "Failure to adopt such a conditions-based plan, these experts have warned, would invite the same tragedy that has unfolded in Iraq since 2011. If we have learned anything from that nightmare, it is that wars do not end just because politicians say so."
Campbell's comments come at a time of growing violence in the perennially warring Afghanistan. The Taliban has resurged into its previous strongholds as the U.S.-led coalition has drawn down its total numbers and restricted its activities to supporting Afghan forces and providing air and other technical support. Local police are refusing to return to the streets of Helmand Province, considered the heartland of the Taliban, local officials tell The Associated Press, citing fears over renewed violence in the major poppy-growing region.
The shift in the U.S. role means Afghan troops have inherited the brunt of the fighting, reflected in the casualty numbers. As many as 7,000 have been killed this year, and 12,000 have been wounded.
Local politicians have criticized the U.S. decision to continue its calendar withdrawal.
"I think the world has not taken a good decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan," Afghan member of parliament Farhad Azimi said, according to local news service Outlook Afghanistan. "This decision needs to be revised."
Perhaps the most concerning trend internationally has been the uptick in Islamic State group violence in Afghanistan. U.S. officials do not believe the extremist network has been able to extend its ability to command and control forces beyond its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria and smuggling routes into Libya, but its brand of hardline Islam has inspired extremist groups worldwide to pledge allegiance to what has become the most high profile brand in terrorism.
Serious concerns have spread through Afghanistan after forces aligned with the Islamic State group reportedly captured and beheaded four members of a private pro-government militia in the warring eastern district of Achin. The militia responded by beheading four Islamic State group prisoners, reportedly placing their heads on a pile of stones along the main roads. The incident has caused local politicians -- desperate to keep the myriad fighting forces throughout the country aligned under the rule of law -- to fear the fragile security state is slipping beyond their control.
"This behavior is unlawful and against humanity. We are not ISIS to do these things," Ahmed Ali, head of the provincial council in Nangahar province, which includes Achin, told The Washington Post, using an alternative name for the Islamic State group.
"If militias are going to fight, they should be organized by the government and fight under its flag," he said. "If they go out on their own, things like this can happen."

The Guardian view on Afghanistan: a bad year for Ashraf Ghani

That the situation in Afghanistan is grim is not exactly news. It has always been dire and remains so. But 2015 has been a very bad year indeed. The Taliban now control more of the country, about 30%, than at any time since 2001 when they were pushed from power by western and Afghan forces after the Twin Towers attacks. Government forces have lost 19,000 dead and injured in the past 12 months. In October, President Barack Obama announced, clearly with a heavy heart, that American soldiers will stay until 2017.
And not only stay but, it has become increasingly obvious, stay to fight, not just to train and monitor. The man whose promise had been that he would see all American troops out of both Afghanistan and Iraq by the end of his time in office has been forced to break that promise.
The news that some al-Qaida training camps have been established in several parts of the country, as well as the emergence of Islamic State offshoots, underlines the irony. American and other western armies were sent to Afghanistan to make sure it could never again be a haven for those plotting terrorist attacks against the United States and Europe. But now they are back.
Yet to simply conclude that it is all just a dismal full circle is probably wrong. Afghanistan is an obstinately fragmented country, divided by ethnicity and religion, and one that has always displayed a pronounced split between its more modern, urbanised side and its rural provinces. Monarchs, Marxists, Islamists and western-style democrats and technocrats have all failed to weld it into anything like a single coherent state. President Ashraf Ghani, its latest leader, has so far achieved few of the things that his impressive qualifications and ideas for development seemed to promise. His “side” is riven by rivalries, quarrels and competitive corruption. His relationship with his partner in power, Abdullah Abdullah, is uneasy, he has still to appoint a full-time minister of defence, and he has recently come under attack from a new opposition council which seems to be mainly a front for the ex-ministers, warlords and businessmen associated with his predecessor, Hamid Karzai. This week he acceded to their demands to hold parliamentary and district elections, which he had earlier postponed, next year. The power struggles on the government side have undermined all its policies, including defence, according to critics.
The other side, however, also has its troubles and disputes. The new Taliban commander, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was recently criticised by religious leaders associated with the movement in Pakistan for his aggressive pursuit of rivals within the movement. The Taliban’s internal splits have given an opening to both Isis and al-Qaida. They may well also be driving the Taliban effort in Helmand, since control of the opium-rich province would hand a major political advantage to whichever leader achieved it.
There is perhaps some reason to think that weakness on both sides could be a positive factor. At some point in these chaotic developments peace may look like a real option to elements on the Taliban side, which is why the efforts to revive the peace talks now under way, involving Pakistan, China, and the US, as well as Afghanistan itself, must be welcomed. It has to be said that the prospects are not hopeful, but nor are they entirely hopeless.

Pakistan - Another year full of oppression for Christians in Punjab

Year 2015 was full of oppression for the Christians in Punjab.

According to details, Christian community in Punjab province had to face an increased wave of religion-based oppression. The number of blasphemy cases against Christian community. Moreover, cases of gender-based violence against Christians increased dramatically.

While speaking with the media, the Christian community has not forgotten the twin blasts at two different churches in Lahore’s Youhanabad area. As a result of these blasts about 15 people lost their lives while more than 70 others were injured. As a result of these blasts, furious Christians of Youhanabad took to the streets of Lahore and staged massive protest while blocked Ferozepur Road for traffic following the attacks.

Also Read: Brunei bans Christmas celebrations

Shortly after the incidents, a mob comprising of local Christians started raiding public and government properties including the Metro Bus station. During this protest, the mob lynched two men who were accused of being co-conspirators of the suicide bombers.

As a result of this uproar, police arrested dozens of Christian residents of Youhanaabad over the lynching case. Some of them, according to the local church leaders were innocent. Moreover, dozens of Christians fled from the neighbourhood, while about 47 Christians are still under police custody over lynching case.

“My family is not celebrating Christmas this year,” says daughter of one of the Christians arrested in lynching case. Police is yet to make progress in investigation of the suicide attacks, however, in contrast rapid action was taken against Christians who protested over the attack. “My father is 60 years old and suffers from chronic pain in the back,” she says.

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Pakistani Christians seeking asylum in Thailand face increased oppression

Pakistani Christians seeking asylum in Thailand face continuous oppression.
According to details, Pakistani Christian asylum seekers in Thailand landed in trouble when they were caught up in a crackdown by the Thai authorities. Thai authorities allege that these Pakistani Christians asylum seekers are linked to terror group Islamic State’s operatives in Thailand.
In this regard, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) has urged all Christians and others to raise funds in order to support the families and dependants of those Pakistani Christians who have been arrested during the course of past few years. What is more, these Pakistani Christian detainees are required to pay fines otherwise they would be sent to Bangkok’s notorious Central criminal jail. These Pakistani Christian asylum seekers who have been facing UNHCR’s negligence would be then be tried under overstaying their visas charges.
It has been reported that Thai police, took Pakistani Christian women and children away in “crowded mobile cages” to an even more crowded Immigrant Detention Center and criminal jail in Bangkok.
Earlier this month, these Christian asylum seekers were arrested probably in connection with a massive crackdown on foreign people who have overstayed their visas in Thailand.
BPCA chairman revealed that Pakistani Christians were targeted in a sequence which lasted till Christmas; he said that those Pakistani Christian asylum seekers who had been arrested include 85% of women or minors. He said that on 17th December 14 were arrested, 6 women and 5 children, on Sunday 20th 17 were arrested, 9 of them children and 7 women, and on 22nd of 7 arrested, 3 were middle-aged women, a teenage boy, one man, and one elderly couple.”
“Then, the arrests climaxed on Christmas Eve with a series of operations, seven in the morning, including five women, and a further 18 in the afternoon, 8 of them women and 8 of them children ranging from 3 months to 10 years old.”

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Despite continuous denial of Pakistan’s federal government Daesh’s activities in Pakistan have been going on at a large scale and after the arrest of 8 Daesh’s terrorists from Sialkot, a women wing of the terrorists organization has been revealed in Lahore. Wahhabi institutions and Wahhabi madaris have been hiring Wahhabis for Daesh. According to Express News, Superintendent of FBR has recorded his statement to intelligence agencies according to which his wife Farhana was in contact with Daesh and has also persuaded several people for joining the terror group. Sources told that when intelligence agencies raided at Wahdat colony of Lahore to arrest Farhana, she had left for Syria along with 10 other people. On the other hand, Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khaleel Ullah is of the opinion that Daesh has not yet gained foothold in Pakistan but some people have been individually using Daesh’s name.
8 people were arrested from Sialkot few days ago allegedly for having links with Daesh and provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah officially verified that terrorists had established a cell. Few days prior to this, CTD’s head Raja Umar Khattab had also revealed Daesh’s active women wing in the city and said that some educated women of well-off  families have been working on Daesh’s agenda and raids had been conducted for their arrest.

'US must press Pakistan to crack down on LeT'

A US expert has suggested that Washington can bring about a thaw in India-Pakistan relations without any direct intervention by pressing Pakistan to crack down on Lashkar e-Taiba, responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

"A relaxation of tensions-and even a resolution to decades-long disputes-would be welcomed by Washington," wrote Richard Fontaine, president of the Centre for a New American Security in Washington in the Wall Street Journal.

"Yet the Obama administration should resist any urge to intervene directly in the talks," he wrote noting, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif "will seek general international support, but they do not require an American mediator."

"Washington can be helpful in two ways," Fontaine wrote suggesting that it press Islamabad for a crack down on LeT that "continues to plot anti-India violence" and urge Pakistan to allow trans-shipment of Indian goods from Afghanistan across its territory.

"Another Mumbai-style attack courts catastrophe; at a minimum it would spoil any efforts at a broader peace," he wrote.

"Already, Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed has criticized Prime Minister Sharif and warned that he should not sacrifice Kashmir for better ties with Modi."

On the trans-shipment proposal, Fontaine noted that "currently, trucks laden with goods from Afghanistan deliver their wares to India and must return empty."

"By blocking India's route into Afghanistan, Pakistan has encouraged India to develop the Chabahar port in Iran in order to access Central Asian markets."

"Permitting trans-shipment would increase economic connectivity between India and Pakistan, and could even one day result in construction of the oft-discussed Trans-Afghanistan natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India," he wrote.

"In the meantime, the right American response is one of quiet support. The path ahead is difficult, and if past is prologue, it may end in deadlock," wrote Fontaine.

"Yet by taking this bold step, the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers may have delivered much-needed good news to their countries and the world."