Thursday, December 22, 2016

Arabic Music - Haifa Wehbe, "Ragab" (better sound) رجب

Syrian Army declares Aleppo under full control, ‘return of security’ to city

The Syrian Army has regained control over all of Aleppo and has returnef “security and stability to the city,” the army's general command said. The Red Cross has confirmed that a complex operation to evacuate those who "wished" to leave has been completed.

The city has been liberated from "terrorism and terrorists" the statement said, as quoted by Syria's state SANA news agency.
Aleppo will now mark a turning point in the war against terrorism, the Syrian Army statement said. “It strikes a smashing blow to the forces that backed a terrorism plot against Syria,” the statement added.
"All civilians who wished to be evacuated have been, as well as [the] wounded and fighters," International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Krista Armstrong said, according to Reuters.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Thursday that the liberation of Aleppo from terrorism is a victory not just for Syria but for all those who are effectively contributing to the fight against terrorism, including Iran and Russia.
“It is also a setback for all the countries that are hostile towards the Syrian people and that have used terrorism as a means [by which] to realize their interests,” he said.
A SANA reporter wrote previously on Thursday that the last stage of evacuating terrorists and their families from eastern Aleppo was underway.
A video provided by RT’s Lizzie Phelan, reporting from Aleppo, shows the army celebrating the victory. Constant firing can be heard in the background.
The battle for Aleppo lasted for almost half a year after the Syrian Army first encircled the militants and rebels ensconced in the city, in late July. In September, government forces conducted a major offensive and re-captured a number of neighborhoods previously controlled by the armed groups. The second major offensive was conducted in late November and early December. Eventually, government forces managed to take control of more than 90 percent of Aleppo's territory.
During the operation to liberate Aleppo, more than 78,000 civilians managed to flee eastern districts into government-controlled areas with help from the Russian Center for Reconciliation. In total, bomb disposal specialists have detected and destroyed about 1,340 explosive objects in eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo. Russian crews have also helped to restore over 20 buildings – schools, hospitals, mosques, power substations, water pumping stations, and bakeries among them, according to the center.

In early December, the Syrian government and armed groups reached a deal, which was brokered by Russia and Turkey. The deal envisaged the evacuation of the remaining rebels and militants and their family members through a humanitarian corridor set up by government forces.
Twenty passenger busses and 10 ambulances have been provided to evacuate those who wished to leave, while around 100 cars were used by the militants themselves. On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a total of 20,000 people had been evacuated from Aleppo.

Trump’s Navarro nomination may raise risk of Sino-US conflict

US President-elect Donald Trump appointed China hawk Peter Navarro as head of the new National Trade Council Wednesday. Navarro's public image is largely shaped by his three books about China: The Coming China WarsDeath by China, and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World. An article in The New Yorker once said Navarro's views on trade and China were so radical that it's impossible to "find another economist who fully agrees with them." 

Trump's Navarro pick is regarded as a signal that he will take more aggressive actions to promote his American interests first agenda. It's likely that the US will adopt reckless trade protectionist policies in future, causing changes to the pattern of the benefits distribution between the US and other countries. 

Navarro advocated enhancing US protection of Taiwan. He also invited a Chinese dissident exiled in the US to write a preface for his book. Many Chinese people would regard him as an anti-China scholar. Will such a person leading the National Trade Council reinforce Trump's prejudice against China and trigger more frictions in bilateral trade and even the overall relationship? 

Trump has entrusted Navarro with an important post. This is by no means a positive signal. China needs to face up to the reality that the Trump team maintains a hard-line attitude toward China. It must discard any illusions and make full preparations for any offensive move by the Trump government. 

Trump chose Navarro not necessarily because of his anti-China stance. The president-elect's primary goal is to revive the US economy. He mistakenly attributes the US economic downturn and manufacturing job losses to globalization and he believes China's prosperity was stolen from the US. He will target all economies, including US allies.  

It appears that the Trump team is anxious to achieve quick success and get instant benefits. The president-elect doesn't want strategic confrontation, nor does he have a high interest in ideological struggle. He only cares about interests. These will affect how China and the US will deal with each other as well as the appearance of future frictions. 

China is powerful enough to withstand pressures from the Trump government. Beijing will get used to the tensions between the two countries. If Washington dares to provoke China over its core interests, Beijing won't fear setting up a showdown with the US, pressuring the latter to pay respect to China.

Despite ceaseless frictions, China must figure out what we are vying for with the US. Economic growth and social solidarity are the two determining factors for Sino-US competition. Trump flew the flag of reviving the US' manufacturing sector as soon as he won the election, reminding us that this is the basis for prosperity. China's achievements in the past should be attributed to the substantial development of the manufacturing sector, and the country cannot lose momentum in the future.  

It is more important to address China's internal problems, especially its economic maladies, than to worry about Navarro's appointment. As long as China can maintain a robust economy and the Chinese are confident, China doesn't fear any challenges from outside. Longstanding issues such as the Taiwan question and the South China Sea disputes will be finally resolved when China's national strength is powerful enough. 

Trump and his cabinet do not have more resources than his predecessors to drive his ambitions into actions. He will go back to the current world trade rules unless he wants to upend the hard-earned post-WWII order. 

The US can no longer push China around today. We believe that the US political system is self-correctable, and won't tolerate a foreign policy that might put the world order in chaos and the Americans' interests in danger. Reversing globalization will never prevail.

Video Report - Syrian president says Aleppo victory shared with Russia and Iran

Russia Today Report Pakistan The Next American Enemy

Video Report - Pakistan - Big upset in Attock | Ch. Nisar Ali Khan's nephew beaten by Ch. Shujaat Niece

Pakistan - Soul searching on December 16th

By Babar Ayaz

By putting the total blame on the Indian government, Pakistan establishment has absolved itself from the responsibility of treating East Pakistan as a colony.
In reality, Bangladesh achieved its independence on 16th December, when arms were laid by Pakistan Army before the Indian Army. Pakistan did not want to surrender to the Bangladeshi freedom fighters. But obviously, Bangladesh celebrates her Independence Day on 26th March when Awami League declared independence in 1971 after the negotiations failed and an army operation was launched to crush the people’s movement. In Pakistan, 16 December, is marked as the day of fall of Dhaka, or as the day of East Pakistan tragedy. Indeed, it was a tragedy that within 24 years of its birth, 56 percent of Pakistanis decided to secede from the new state carved out of India on the basis of two nation theory. It was a tragedy that the forecast of people like Maulana Azad was right in 1947 that Pakistan would not last long. It was a tragedy that Pakistani establishment tried to solve the political issue militarily. It was a tragedy that thousands of the people of East Bengal were killed in the name of national interest and keeping the country together. It was a tragedy that 90,000 West Pakistanis were taken as prisoners of war. So on and so forth.
However, the lingering tragedy is the official narrative that Bangladesh separation was the result of the Indian conspiracy. For sure Indian government saw it as an opportunity to break Pakistan by supporting the freedom movement of the Bangladesh people. By putting the total blame on the Indian government, Pakistan establishment has absolved itself from the responsibility of treating East Pakistan as a colony. It was a consequence of the wrongs done to the people of East Pakistan by the West Pakistan ruling classes and the military. Soon after Pakistan was established, the Muslim League leaders led by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan thought it appropriate to impose Urdu as the only national language in February 1948. Mohammed Ali Jinnah jumped into this debate on 21 March 1948, stating that it can be the language of the Province, by saying, “let me make it clear to you that the state language of Pakistan is going to be Urdu and no other language.” This was not acceptable to the Bengalis because they would have been placed in a disadvantageous position in competition with the Punjabi and Mohajir west Pakistanis, who had a better understanding and command of Urdu. The protests continued which took a violent turn on 21 February 1952 when the state government opened fire on the protesting students. According to different accounts, seven to nine students died, and several were injured. The attempt by the students to construct a memorial — Shaheed Minar — was also foiled. Though eventually, the government had to give in. This memorial was also a rallying point for Bengali nationalists even during the liberation war against Pakistan. After giving the East Bengalis a ‘Shaheed Minar’, it was finally agreed in the third draft of the Constitution in 1954 that Bengali and Urdu would be the official languages of the country. ‘At the same time, it provided for the use of English as the “official language of the country for twenty years.” (Mehrunnisa Ali 1966) But it was an expensive tradeoff for the Bengalis as they had to accept the perfidious idea of ‘One Unit’, thereby giving away their majority in the assembly. Not only that, once all of West Pakistan was declared one province, what was called East Bengal in the official documents until 1954, was renamed East Pakistan. Let us take a cursory look at a few disparities.
The total government expenditure in 20 years 1950-70 in Pakistan was US $30.95 billion, out of which West Pakistan extracted the lion’s share of US $21.49 billion meaning over 69 percent, while East Pakistan, despite having 55 per cent population, was doled out only US $9.45 billion, which was just 30.45 per cent of the total.
This distribution of resources was in sharp contrast to the income generated by East and West Pakistan. All through the 24 years, East Pakistan had enjoyed a foreign trade surplus. In a paper ‘Why Bangladesh’, a group of scholars in Vienna collected data from the government of Pakistan’s official papers showing how East Pakistan was exploited by West Pakistan. Taking stock of the foreign trade, they pointed out: ‘In foreign trade East Pakistan exports constituted 59 percent of the total but imports only 30 percent of the total imports. During the same period, West Pakistan earned 41 percent of the total foreign exchange and was allowed 70 percent of the foreign exchange earnings’.
While the surplus generated by East Pakistan was invested in the infrastructure and industry of West Pakistan, it was a secured market for the West Pakistani goods. Between 1964 and 1969 West Pakistan exported goods worth Rs5.29 billion to East Pakistan, while it imported goods of Rs3.17 billion.
Of the total foreign assistance, almost 80 percent was consumed by West Pakistan. On the whole, again according to the Vienna Group, 77 percent of the funds allocated for development went to West Pakistan in the first 20 years. Not only all the major investments in the jute and paper industry in East Pakistan were owned by the big business houses of West Pakistan, but East Pakistan was also their undisputed market of over 50 million people. It was because of the loss of this colony that Pakistan had to devalue its currency by 135 percent in 1972 and its textile and consumer industry had a great fall.
The East Bengal middle classes were also bitter because of their meagre share in government services. For example, by 1971, the share of 54 percent of East Pakistan’s Bengalis in the central civil services was 16 percent; 15 percent in foreign services; while in the army, out of total 17 generals, there was only one Bengali. And in PIA, the state-owned airline, only 280 employees were from East Pakistan as against 7,000 from West Pakistan.
I probed General (Retd) Tikka Khan when he was the Secretary General of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). To my observation that he shouldn’t be talking about democracy because his institution had killed over 250,000 Bengalis in East Pakistan, his simple answer was: ‘You people in the media always exaggerate such figures, only 35,000 Bengalis were killed during the military operations’. The generals, of course, are not trained to value human life whether it is three million as claimed by Bangladesh or 35,000 which is not a small figure either.
Pakistan and Bangladesh are going through a bad patch of relationship these days. A mistake of this government in this regard is that it officially criticised the trial and conviction of the Al-Badr and Al-Shams, leaders for war crimes in 1971, by the Bangladesh government. This is their internal matter and if the issue was that the way the trials were conducted shoddily, it was for the human rights groups to point out, which they did, and not for the Minister for Interior or our foreign office. We tend to forget that those who live in glasshouses shouldn’t cast stones on others.

Pakistan - Panama Inquiry Impasse

It took a herculean effort and a fair bit of parliamentary trickery from the government to get the Inquiry Commission Bill passed by the National Assembly, that too on its fourth attempt. Now the bill has to jump another hurdle, the Senate, and considering that the opposition has already tabled and passed its own version of the bill a few days ago, the government will have to fight against the odds – a battle it seems it might not win. This seems all the more likely since the theme surrounding these bills is confrontation, not engagement.
The two versions of the bill, both essentially dealing with the Panama Papers scandal, have been around since the issue broke first broke surface. After the refusal by the Chief Justice to form a “toothless” judicial commission to probe the matter, the parliament has tried to update the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act 1956 to fix this problem.
As you can expect, while the government’s version empowers future judicial commissions, the increment in powers is a nominal one – which, according to the opposition, is not enough to properly investigate the matter. Their own bill, entitled the Panama Papers Inquiry Bill, not only increases the power of the commission but names the Prime Minister as the prime target of the investigation, and the Terms Of Reference under which such an investigation should take place. The government contends – perhaps rightly so – that this is less an inquiry commission bill and more a targeted attack at the Prime Minister, and would be unhelpful in curbing future illegal practices as its scope is very limited.
One would expect that when the government and opposition are at such cross purposes they would sit down to compromise and come up with a unified version of the bill that both can agree upon. However, the Panama Papers scandal seems to bring out special antagonism in both sides, and so far the game plan has been to sabotage the other’s bill while racing to get your own over the line.
This is not only a great waste of parliamentary time, it also sets a bad precedent for future lawmaking – as can be witnessed by the the state of affairs in the Senate. A few days after the opposition passed their bill, the Senate will now spend time considering – and rejecting – the government’s bill, which we must remember has already spent months on the National Assembly floor.
It will take a joint sitting of both houses to solve this impasse. But don’t be fooled by the name, there will be nothing joint about the sitting – both sides are set to stick to their guns.

Pakistan - Expired vaccines? Child dies, eight others fall ill after vaccination

One child died and eight others fell ill on Wednesday when ‘expired or improperly stored’ vaccines were administered during an immunisation drive in Khyber Agency.
Nine children ran high fever and started vomiting after their inoculation. All of them were rushed to Hayatabad Medical Complex but one of them died on route.
Parents told medics at the hospital that the children were administered vaccines during routine campaign against nine diseases on Monday. Within 30 hours of the vaccination, the children fell ill and most of them were brought to the HMC. Officials at the HMC said blood samples of the children had been obtained and were being processed to ascertain what had caused their illness. “All the children were provided medical assistance at the facility and were discharged after doctors confirmed that their lives were out of danger,” said the HMC’s official Tauheed Zulfiqar.
Following news reports, the Fata secretariat’s emergency operation cell for polio eradication clarified that the children fell ill due to routine immunisation and not during the ongoing campaign against polio virus. “I wonder why everyone connected the unfortunate incident with polio vaccination. It has nothing to do with the campaign against polio virus,” a senior health official Fata told The Express Tribune.
Khyber Agency surgeon Dr Niaz Afridi insisted the children had not fallen ill because of expired vaccines.


“Highhandedness by the PML-N governments, both in Center and Punjab, has once again laid bare the ugly face of the Panama Sharif empire who are not ready to tolerate opposition. They want to hold entire country, including the toiling masses of Punjab as hostage,” said the PPP Chairman.

KARACHI, December 22: Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned illegal use of state machinery through a policy of hook and crook to hijack the final phase of local bodies elections in Punjab, especially in Rahim Yar Khan District where a proven majority of the PPP was turned into an engineered defeat.
“Highhandedness by the PML-N governments, both in Center and Punjab, has once again laid bare the ugly face of the Panama Sharif empire who are not ready to tolerate opposition. They want to hold entire country, including the toiling masses of Punjab as hostage,” said the PPP Chairman.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that entire process of local bodies elections have been transformed into a meaningless exercise to achieve their nefarious design to eat up the masses the way a python does to its prey. “But, in the presence of PPP and its supporters and Jiyalas, such designs won’t succeed come what may because when a Bhutto jumps into the field, every pythons and vulture characters are left with no option other than to go on the run,” he added.
Chairman Bilawal Bhutto congratulated the PPP candidates who won Chairmanships of Municipal Committee Lala Musa, Town Committee Renala Khurd and others who performed well despite the robberies of our mandate and assured them that Jiyalas of Punjab are going to demolish the empire of pythons and vulture led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his coterie.