Friday, November 18, 2016

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What President Obama Told His Daughters About Donald Trump


President Barack Obama had wise words for his teenage daughters following the election of Donald Trump and reports that racist incidents and crimes are on the rise.
In a new interview with The New Yorker, the president said he urged daughters Malia, 18, and Sasha, 15, to face bigotry head-on and “constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding.”
“People are complicated. Societies and cultures are really complicated,” the president recalled telling his daughters. “This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding.”
“And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop. … You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, okay where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward?”
The president has shared a similar messagewith the American public. After Trump’s unexpected victory, he told citizens to “stay encouraged. Don’t get cynical, don’t ever think you can’t make a difference.”
“The path that this country has taken has never been a straight line. We zig and zag and sometimes we move in ways that some people think is forward and others think is moving back, and that’s okay,” he said. “The point though is that we all go forward with a presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens, because that presumption of good faith is essential to a vibrant and functioning democracy.

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Isis in Afghanistan: 'Their peak is over, but they are not finished'

As Isis soldiers in Iraq face the brunt of Nato and Iraqi action, a small yet resilient stronghold remains in eastern Afghanistan.
 Fifteen months ago, militants arrived in the village of Manan Bagh, eyeing its strategic location in the mountains close to Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. They started picking out community leaders, elders and people they accused of conspiring against them.
Among them was Zahir Shah, who was marched into the mountains and whose fate his family only learned from a video uploaded to Facebook.
“They forced him to sit on explosives,” Ziarat Gul, Shah’s father-in-law, told the Guardian. “We haven’t been able to find even one part of his body.”
Islamic State fighters have been pummelled by US airstrikes and receive little local support, but they maintain a small – and seemingly resilient – stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.
The fighters are few but unusually brutal, in keeping with the group’s behaviour elsewhere. They may not be an existential threat to the Afghan state but they are to civilians.
Local authorities said using explosives was a common method of killing for Isis, who also impose strict rules at odds with local customs: forcing men to grow beards and women to wear burqas. They declare government-officiated weddings invalid, smash shrines and ban smoking, snuff and poppy cultivation.
These rules erode an already limited public support for Isis, argues the US Institute of Peace in a new report.
However, since it emerged publicly in 2014, Isis has continued to claim attacks outside Nangarhar – the only province where it has managed to gain ground – most notably when it targeted a crowd of protesters in Kabul in July, and a group of Shia mourners last month.
This week, Isis attacked a unit of elite Afghan bodyguards in central Kabul, which killed at least six, including civilians. Although on the ropes in Afghanistan, the group can still strike in the heart of the capital.
Since April, about 200 US airstrikes in Nangarhar alone have helped push Isis into retreat, killed its leader in Afghanistan – Hafiz Saeed Khan – and limited its reach to four districts.
“Without US or Nato forces, it would take our army and police 10 years to defeat Daesh,” said Moallem Mashoq, district governor of Achin, where Isis – also known as Daesh – has its Afghan headquarters.
But some civilians feel caught between three sides: the Taliban, who used to occupy their village; Isis, who took over; and Afghan and international forces.

Locals say Isis fighters kill and abuse indiscriminately. One afternoonthey picked up 14-year-old Esmatullah as he returned home from the wheat fields and held him prisoner for 47 days.Borhan Osman, a researcher with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said that although Isis had lost half its initial territory in Nangarhar, it seemed to have dug in firmly in its four districts. “They have proved to be irremovable from these areas,” he said.
Esmatullah said the militants beat him regularly, sometimes suspending him from the ceiling. When they eventually released him, the family fled. Esmatullah’s father had lost a brother to Isis months earlier.
“When they brought [Esmatullah’s uncle’s] dead body back, it was full of bullet holes,” the father, Jabarud, said. He did not want to risk his son, too.
The number of Isis fighters in Afghanistan is debated, as is the level of coordination it receives from Syria and Iraq, though the leadership there has endorsed its Afghan affiliates.
Osman put the number of Isis fighters in Afghanistan up to 2,000, but said estimating was difficult because the scale of casualties and recruitment was unclear.
If Abu Omar Khorasani – a top Isis commander in Afghanistan – is to be believed, the election of Donald Trump as US president would help Isis.
“His utter hate towards Muslims will make our job much easier because we can recruit thousands,” he told Reuters about Trump, who he called “a complete maniac”.
Compounding the frailty of Nangarhar, neighbouring Pakistan has begun expelling hundreds of thousands of Afghans. Some analysts fear the returnees could provide recruitment fodder for Isis which is said to pay about $400 (£322) monthly to low-level fighters.
“Their peak is over,” Osman said about Isis. “But they are not finished.”

Bangladesh considering dropping Islam as state religion

Gabriel Samuels

    "The force of secularism is within the people of Bangladesh. There is no such thing as a ‘minority’ in our country".
    Government officials in Bangladesh are considering dropping Islam as the country’s national religion after a senior politician claimed Bangladeshi people have embraced “a force of secularism”.
    Dr Abdur Razzak, a leading member of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League party, proposed the religion be withdrawn from the country’s constitution during a discussion at the National Press Club in the capital Dhaka.
    “Bangladesh is a country of communal harmony. Here we live with people from all religions and Islam should not be accommodated as the state religion in the Bangladeshi constitution,” Dr Razzak said in his report.
    “I have said it abroad and now I am saying it again that Islam will be dropped from Bangladesh’s constitution when the time comes.
    “The force of secularism is within the people of Bangladesh. There is no such thing as a ‘minority’ in our country.”
    Dr Razzak added he believed Islam had been maintained as the state religion for “strategic reasons”, but declined to elaborate on this during the discussion.
    Islam is the largest religion in Bangladesh, with a practicing Muslim population of approximately 150 million - making it the fourth largest Muslim population in the world after India, Pakistan and Indonesia.
    According to a national survey from 2003, religion was the primary way Bangladeshi citizens identified themselves, and atheism was found to be rare.
    During a recent speech, Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted the importance of “taking care” of those who follow minority religions.
    “As a Muslim majority country it is the moral responsibility of the Bangladeshi citizens to take care of minorities,” she told a conference.
    “Bangladesh is a country of communal harmony which should be maintained at any cost for development and brighten the country’s image.”
    The prime minister also condemned the recent actions of the militant group Isis, who have carried out various violent attacks against religious minority communities this year.
    “You have to remain careful so that no such incidents, which are taking place sporadically in different parts of the country, take place anywhere in the country,” she added

    Are you serious, Pakistan?

    In what can only be described as an absurd, uninformed, and demeaning move, the federal government of Pakistan has decided to demand its “outstanding amount” of Rs 15.25 billion from Bangladesh and India. A circular issued by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) demanded all the commercial banks and development financial institutions provide details of accounts of assets and others dues receivable from its two neighbours. As reported by the Pakistani daily The Express Tribune, India apparently owes Pakistan Rs. 6 billion, the value of assets occupied by India, while Bangladesh has to pay more than Rs. 9.21 billion, because of the transactions between government offices, loans, advances and papers of then East Pakistan and Pakistan.
    It’s been 45 years since we gained our independence from Pakistan; the documents that prove their planned genocide against the Bangali people, who were once a part of their own nation, is out in the open for the whole world to see. Instead of acknowledging their atrocities against an entire population, Pakistan has continued to be in a state of denial, always refuting the wide scale genocide and rape committed by the Pakistani Army while presenting their own version of history for their people and the world. In fact, after a long, long wait when the Bangladeshi people were finally given hope for justice for the crimes committed by collaborators of the then Pakistani regime through the International War Crimes Tribunal, the current Pakistan government “condemned” our judgement, expressing their “grief and outrage” every time a war criminal was sentenced to death.
    Thus, if anyone should be making demands for payments, by all means, it should be Bangladesh. We should be the ones insisting on war time reparations and compensation to the millions of people and their families that the Pakistan regime of 1971 tortured and killed. Even before trouble started, while we were still a willing part of Pakistan, East Pakistan was neglected by state authorities, constantly deprived economically and socially. While West Pakistan got all the attention, we were left pining for the most basic facilities, infrastructure and amenities, and we have to pay the price of this neglect to this day. Whenever, the Pakistan establishment has been asked about their role in the 1971 genocide, they have averted the question, instead claiming that Bangladesh and Pakistan are “brothers separated by the unfortunate interference of a third country”. However, the federal government of Pakistan’s latest demand has proven once again that let alone brothers, Pakistan does not even consider its relations with India and Bangladesh, the countries with which it share their borders, as anything that requires much attention or thought. 

    Pakistan submits to Turkey's 'authoritarian demands' on Gulen

    Shamil Shams

    Authorities have ordered teachers with alleged links to Turkish cleric Gulen to leave the country as Turkey's President Erdogan visits Pakistan. Experts say the move is aimed at appeasing Ankara.
    Turkish teachers and their families in Pakistan were given a three-day notice by authorities to leave the country, PakTurk International Schools and Colleges said in a statement on Tuesday.
    "PakTurk International Schools and Colleges are deeply concerned over the abrupt decision of the government requiring the Turkish teachers, management and their family leave the country within three days," the school said.
    It added that the staff were asked to leave because of "non-approval of their requests for extension of visa."
    The PakTurk Foundation said the schools would continue operating across Pakistan despite the expulsion of Turkish teachers.
    In July, Turkey asked Pakistan to crack down on institutions run by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara believes was behind the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Sadik Babur Girgin, Turkey's ambassador to Islamabad, had explicitly asked Pakistani officials to shut down such organizations in their country.
    There are 28 institutions in Pakistan administered by Gulen's PakTurk Foundation, which is also planning to open a university in the country. Operating there for decades, the Gulen movement's supporters also have business stakes in Pakistan.
    "We have called on all friendly countries to prevent activities of this (Gulen's) group," Girgin said at a media briefing on July 23 in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. He noted that Turkey was in close contact with Pakistani authorities, adding, "We have had good cooperation with Pakistan in every field."
    Pakistan's English-language Dawn newspaper, citing sources, said Ankara wants Islamabad to transfer the schools' management to an international non-governmental organization with links to Erdogan's administration. This claim has not been verified.
    Opposition to Erdogan's visit
    Erdogan is due to arrive in Pakistan later on Wednesday, November 16, and will address the Islamic country's parliament on Thursday.
    Before his departure from Ankara, Erdogan praised Pakistan's actions against Gulen-linked organizations.
    "Pakistan's decision to have people linked to FETO leave the country by November 20 is very pleasing," Erdogan said, referring to what his government calls the Gulenist Terror Organization (FETO).
    "Just like Turkey, Pakistan is carrying out a relentless fight against terror. Turkey supports Pakistan's battle until the end," the Turkish president added.
    Sattar Khan, DW's Islamabad correspondent, says the students of the PakTurk school network and the staff of the institutions administered by the organization have vowed to protest the government's move against them.
    "There are many Turkish people living in Pakistan. Are they all Gulen followers?" an official of the PakTurk school network told DW on condition of anonymity. "We have a staff of around 1,500 people in Pakistan, and more than 8,000 students are studying in our 22 campuses across the country."
    Cricketer-turned-parliamentarian Imran Khan also indicated that his opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party would oppose the closure of PakTurk schools. Sources claim that Khan has stakes in the PakTurk foundation. Earlier he said his party's lawmakers would boycott Erdogan's speech in parliament, but on Tuesday media reports suggested that Khan was ready to revise his decision on request from the Turkish ambassador in Pakistan.
    Some analysts also say that Khan is opposed to the Turkish government because of Erdogan's close ties with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. At a time when Sharif is under immense pressure due to his alleged links with offshore companies, Khan considers Erdogan's Islamabad visit as an endorsement of PM Sharif's government.
    Pakistan's proponents of secularism are angry about Ankara's demands to crack down on Gulen institutions. They are also opposed to PM Sharif's close ties with President Erdogan, whom they consider an "authoritarian ruler."
    The Islamic country's activists believe Erdogan is using the failed coup to impose his totalitarian rule in Turkey. They say Ankara is cracking down on dissidents, secular and Kurdish activists and journalists, and has introduced controversial terror laws - something, they say, is a bad example for Turkey's ally Pakistan.
    'Unlawful' demands
    Some say that Pakistanis can share a thing or two with the Turkish people about their disastrous experience with Islamism.
    The rise of Islamic extremism in Turkey as a result of the Syrian conflict and the way President Erdogan is using the war to silence dissent against his authoritarian rule and crush Kurdish separatists are some of the factors that are likely to shape Turkey's future. Pakistan underwent a similar transformation in the 1980s and is still struggling to come out of it.
    The Afghan war of the 1980s dramatically changed the political landscape of Pakistan. Like Ankara, Islamabad decided to become a party to the war at the behest of the West to achieve its own strategic goals - to expand its area of operation in Afghanistan to counter Indian influence.
    Also, like Erdogan, former Pakistani dictator Zia ul-Haq promoted a hard-line Islamic ideology in his country and cracked down on liberal political groups and activists. He expected the West to turn a blind eye to grave human rights violations in Pakistan, as he believed he was doing a favor to the US by fighting its proxy war in Afghanistan.
    Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, believes it is risky to compare Turkey with Pakistan under Zia ul-Haq, as there are many differences in their situations. But he noted that there are some striking convergences as well: "The main one is the overall volatile dynamic - a strongman-type government presiding over an environment of growing instability and terrorist threats. There is also a level of deepening Islamization in Turkey today that bears uncanny resemblances to what happened in Pakistan in the 80s," Kugelman said.
    Pakistani liberal activists say Islamabad should not encourage Erdogan by obliging his government's unlawful and authoritarian demands. Promotion of secular and democratic values is the only way forward, they say.

    Pak-Turk schools fiasco

    Gulmina Bilal

    Our government must stop following the policy of appeasement, especially when the future of 11,000 students, their teachers, and their families is at stake. The Pak-Turk school chain has been educating Pakistani students for the last 21 years.
    Just when everyone had thought that the Pak-Turk school fiasco is over for good, the Interior Ministry issued notices to Turkish staff of the school chain to leave Pakistan by 20th November. A very clear indicator for such a move is the ongoing state visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
    This is undoubtedly an abrupt move that will have its effects on all the stakeholders linked with the Pak-Turk schools. The students will suffer a lot from this, and so will their parents. Not to forget the inconvenience this will cause to 108 Turkish staffers and their families, which according to news reports are around 400 in number. Now they have to leave the country within 3 to 4 days, which might become impossible for them with all the pending work on their tables and all the other necessities that they have to attend to.
    Everyone knows that this particular move was triggered by the unsuccessful military coup in Turkey, which is linked with the US based cleric Fateh Ullah Gullen. It is Gullen whose organisation runs the Pak-Turk school-chain established in 1995. All of the Turkish Principals have already been removed and the board of directors dissolved. The staffers of 26 Pak-Turk schools and colleges had filed for the extension of their visas during June but they have been rejected. The management of the schools have moved the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against this decision.
    Unfortunately, the Pakistani government is once again following the policy of appeasement that it had been following in the past as well. This is not to say that Pakistan should not be friendly towards other countries, but it must not get involved in their internal issues. This particular issue is definitely Turkey’s internal issue that has nothing to do with our politics or more importantly our national interest. Although, it might be true that our appeasement policies with USA or China cost us dearly, but they had something for us as well. But this particular move by the Pakistani government seems like an out of the way favour for the Turkish president. It is true that Turkish companies are managing METRO bus services, waste management services and parking services in many cities across Punjab, but they are getting paid for that, so the government is not indebted to the Turkish government for it. If you ask me, it seems more like a personal favour that the prime minister is doing to the Turkish president, but at what cost?
    This personal favour to the Turkish president or the Turkish government can cost 11,000 students of the Pak-Turk school chain very dearly. It can affect their academic careers, and it will have psychological effects on students and their parents. Moreover, a sudden change of the school management will definitely have management related and administrative issues. So we can safely say that a big mess is in the offing.
    Not just this but there is a proposal from the Turkish government to handover the schools management to a pro-Turkish president NGO named ‘Maarif Foundation.’ According to reports, the Chief Advisor of the Turkish President Mr. Ilnur Cevik, crossed diplomatic limits and norms when he mentioned this in one of his articles that the Pakistani government has not closed the Pak-Turk schools and the Turkish President in his visit must pull someone’s ears to make it happen. The Pakistani bureaucracy also complains about unnecessary demands from the Turkish government.
    More importantly, the Maarif Foundation is a newly founded organisation that has no international experience, especially when compared with the 21 years experience of the present Pak-Turk schools management. Secondly, the foundation is allegedly based on a certain political ideology and espouses a brand of racism, which can be problematic for a country like ours, especially when we are already fighting a war against extremism and skewed ideologies. Our government must stop following the policy of appeasement, especially when the future of 11,000 students, their teachers, and their families is at stake. The Pak-Turk school chain has been educating Pakistani students for the last 21 years and I am sure that it is doing a great job. Our government must avoid indulging in private affairs of other countries, and same stands true for other countries that pressurise us to do so. We are a sovereign country and we must prove it to others that they are not allowed to dictate to us.


    Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed heartfelt grief and sorrow over the sad demise of former Senator and ANP leader Haji Mohammad Adeel, who passed away in Peshawar early this morning.
    PPP Chairman said that Haji Mohammad Adeel was a true democrat and a committed and ideological political worker who struggled for his whole life for democracy and people’s rights.
    Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed solidarity with the members of his bereaved family and prayed to Almighty Allah to grant peace to the departed soul and courage and fortitude to the grieved loved ones to bear this irreparable loss.

    Bilawal Bhutto warned govt of Go Nawaz Go movement

    Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has warned the government of turning the anti-interior minister campaign into a 'Go Nawaz Go' movement if his already announced demands are not met.

    He was talking to the media after visiting the home of the party's former secretary general Jehangir Bader near Thokar Niaz Baig, where he had gone to condole with the bereaved family on Thursday.
    The PPP chairman categorically stated that his party would not take a step back or U-turn on its stance over the Panama leaks issue, as they wanted a democratic accountability of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his alleged involvement in the Panama leaks scandal.

    He said his party's current slogan was "Go Nisar Go", which could be turned into "Go Nawaz Go" in case the PPP's four demands were not met by December 27, 2016.

    It is pertinent to mention here that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has announced four demands - his party's Panama bill should be passed by parliament, a parliamentary committee on national security be formed, a foreign minister be appointed immediately and the party's Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari's resolution on CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) be implemented. To a query about strengthening the party in Punjab, Bilawal said that the PPP office-bearers would be announced within 24 hours, and hoped that the party would win the next general election.

    Speaking about the deceased PPP leader, Bilawal said that Jehangir Bader was a very valuable personality - not just for the party but also for national politics - and the vacuum created by his demise would never be filled. He confirmed that he would work with Bader's son Ali Bader in the field of politics. He said that the new generation of the PPP would make a 'new Pakistan' with the help of experienced and diehard cadre of the party.

    Earlier, Bilawal Bhutto reached Lahore from Dubai on a special plane in a rush after getting the news of his sister Aseefa Bhutto Zardari's injury. Aseefa sprained her ankle after falling from the stairs inside the Bilawal House in Bahria Town the other day.


    Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday Zardari visited late Jahangir Badar’s residence to condole his death and express sympathy to the bereaved family. He was accompanied by the Team PPP head Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari and senior leader of the party Azra Fazal Pechihu.
    Paying tributes to late Jehangir Badr for his commitment to the party and democracy, Bilawal said he was a man with progressive thinking and an asset for the party. “I wanted to work with him (Badr) to benefit from his experience but I have lost the opportunity with his sudden demise”.
    He said Jehangir Badar remained committed to his party through thick and thin.
    He added that his party would remain forever indebt to the late leader for his service to both, the party and the nation. The void that late Badar’s demise has created would never be fulfilled.
    While talking to media at the residence of late Jehangir Badr, he claimed that his party will not backtrack from its four demands and announce a long march against the government on December 27 if it failed to meet the deadline for their implementation.
    “PPP’s current slogan is ‘Go Nisar Go’ which may turn into ‘Go Nawaz Go’ if the demands are not met till Dec 27,” he warned.
    The four demands include reconstitution of parliamentary committee on national security, passage of opposition’s bill on Panama leaks, implementation of APC resolution on CPEC and appointment of a full time foreign minister.
    Bilawal assured the media that there would be no U-turn on the four-point charter of demands.
    To a question, he said that PPP was still a force to reckon with and shall remain so in future also. “We will all work together and regain Punjab in the next elections,” he added.