Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saudi Arabian women sing, dance, skateboard in music video protesting driving ban, guardianship system

By Edwina Seselja
Saudi Arabian women have cruised through the streets on skateboards and scooters in a music video protesting the oppression of women in the Middle Eastern kingdom.
The video — titled Hwages, which loosely translates to "concerns" — opens with three women wearing niqabs waiting in the back of an SUV before a young boy gets behind the wheel.
The scene highlights the strict controls placed on women in Saudi Arabia, where they are banned from driving and are subject to a guardianship system, whereby they must seek the permission of a male family member to do everything from travel, work and study.
In the clip, the women can be seen playing basketball, singing, dancing — all activities women are not allowed to do in public spaces.
The video has been viewed more than 3.1 million times on YouTube.
The global reach of social media has been particularly crucial in enabling women to highlight oppressive social issues, Raihan Ismail, a lecturer at the Centre for Arab and Islamic studies at the Australian National University, said. "In a closed political system such as Saudi Arabia, social media plays an important role," she said.
"It creates awareness, it mobilises support.
"It demonstrates that people are not just sitting at home and accepting whatever the ruling family or the religious establishment impose on them." Dr Ismail said the lyrics of the song could be roughly translated to: "We wish God rid us of men, because they have given us mental illness".
"People often portray Saudi women as lacking in agency, as if they have no say and they're not doing anything about it," she said.
"But Saudi Arabia women have agency, they are fighting the system. "They're on Twitter, they're on Facebook challenging some of the decisions introduced by the government or religious beliefs."
Dr Ismail said the guardianship system remained in place due to the relationship government and the religious establishment.
"There's a partnership between the government and the religious establishment, so the government or the ruling family is dependent on the religious establishment to provide them legitimacy to rule," she said.
"In exchange, the religious establishment is in charge of social issues."
Dr Ismail said it was possible the creators of the video and the women in the clip could face repercussions, including arrests, receiving lashes, or even being jailed.
It is not the first time Saudi women have used music videos to gain attention. In 2013, a clip called No Woman No Drive was released protesting the driving ban.

From China - US democracy takes a hit if Trump throws out old legacy

By Wen Dao 

There are only a few days left before the end of his second term, but US President Barack Obama doesn't seem in the mood for a peaceful farewell. His successor Donald Trump is itching to overhaul his legacy. Not just vowing to chop off the in-process Trans-Pacific Partnership, the next tenant in the White House has his eye on the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Congressional Republicans on Wednesday set about dismantling the centerpiece of Obama's legacy, which has immediately caused a backlash from Obama and his cabinet.

Whether Obamacare should be repealed or Trump has a better "Trumpcare" is a technical problem. What shocks the world most is the fast downward trajectory US democracy has taken since the election. The election of a populist who has propagated hatred, racism and hostility against almost all well-established social norms, diplomatic protocols and political principles marks the jaw-dropping rise of populism in US society. The repercussions have revealed that the US election system is no longer generating a well-functioning and hopeful government, but political attacks, partisan denunciations, and a powerful current to overhaul whatever has been built by the opposition.

For centuries, the election system and democracy have been regarded as the crowning glory of the US. However, the ostensibly solid system is hanging by a thread amid the anxiety of the middle class, the lack of social mobility and the waves of populism.

The US political system used to work well, but it is no longer compatible to the new situation after the dramatic change. The two-party system, which was designed for checks and balances, has been reduced to leverage for partisan struggle. 

The lack of social mobility has greatly broadened the gap between the rich and the poor, and ripped the United States into a "Divided" States. The shrinking of bipartisan consensus is sending the US government into stagnation, where no major decisions can be made. 

The US is at a critical moment. The political stagnation will not only put the US in a backwater, but also disturb international order. Trump's recent flare-up of antagonism in the West Pacific against China has shown his hooliganism and recklessness in dealing with the most serious international affairs.

The US has placed too much confidence and hope in its political system, and turned a blind eye to its loopholes and weaknesses. It gives space for the unscrupulous rise of populism, and it will pay a heavy price. 

Trump's administration will start very soon, and let's hope in the following years, the iconic democracy won't be consumed by the devilish populism it has unleashed. Trump's rule by Twitter had better not turn into a farce as the world has no time to deal with such an America.

Op-Ed: Trump's claim that China-U.S. business ties are 'totally one-sided' is nonsense

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump started off the New Year with some more fearmongering in his latest round of threat inflation about China. He wrote on Twitter, “China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!” Trump’s words are alarming, but his claim is groundless.
The Boeing Company sees China as a $1 trillion market. Chinese President Xi Jinping toured the company’s commercial airplane factory in Everett, Washington, in September 2016. At the welcome ceremony, President Xi noted Boeing’s cooperation with China and praised the win-win results. The results are backed by solid data. According to a report by Bloomberg, the company has delivered 967 aircraft to China since 2000, worth about $60.2 billion at 2016 prices. The vice chairman of the company said deliveries to China by Boeing support approximately 150,000 American jobs every year.
Chinese companies create jobs and fight unemployment in America. Golden Dragon, a Chinese company based in Xinxiang, China, invested nearly $100 million to build a large copper-tube plant in Thomasville City, Alabama, employing about 150 people in one of the poorest regions in America. At the grand opening in May 2014, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley called Golden Dragon a “significant opportunity for the people of Wilcox County.” It was the first manufacturing project in the county in over half a century. If Trump wants to rebuild America, he will be happy to know that Chinese investors are making trade and investment between the two countries a two-way street.
According to a report by the Rhodium Group, the U.S. became the largest recipient of China’s outbound foreign direct investment in 2016, with $45.6 billion worth of acquisitions and investments, and direct investment by Chinese in the U.S. economy since 2000 exceeds $100 billion. China is the top market for Apple and GM, and Telsa and other companies are building their brands in China. Companies both big and small understand the importance of China’s huge market, including The Trump Organization. Trump Hotels plans to open 20-30 luxury hotels in China, according to a report by The Washington Post.
However, misunderstandings about the China-U.S. relationship persist, even within the President-elect’s small inner circle. Michael Flynn, who will advise Trump on important national security issues, believes China is allied with “radical Islamists.” In his book, The Field of Fight, Flynn makes the argument that China is a member of an “enemy alliance” in a global war against the West. His claim is not based on solid facts, and this type of thinking is dangerous if he advices the next President in this way.
Fortunately, most Americans do not share the incoming administration’s fondness for fake news and conspiracy theories about China. In June 2016, Flynn tweeted that he was “now following” China, and asked users to “please send me anything you get on China activities.” The humorous responses show the deep interconnectedness between China and the U.S. Below are some of them:

Vladimir Putin Seems to Be Preparing for 'Serious Changes in Global Politics'

In recent years, Russia has emerged as the key actor in global politics, according to prominent Argentine journalist and analyst Pedro Brieger.
"Russia proved that it has become the key player in the international arena. If you want to understand that just look at what is going in Syria," Brieger told Sputnik Mundo.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual year-end major press conference. Commenting on the event, the journalist noted that the press conference was organized right at a time when Russia is making new global achievements and when Moscow’s ties with the United States and Europe are expected to considerably change. "I think that the Russian government and personally President Vladimir Putin are now preparing for new serious changes in global politics. These changes stem from the fact than soon new US President Donald Trump will soon enter office," Brieger pointed out.
During the press conference, when asked about what he will discuss at his first meeting with Trump, Putin said: "Trump said during the election campaign that he believed it was right to normalize Russian-US relations and said that it couldn’t get worse because [they] were worse than ever. I agree with him. We will think together how to make [the bilateral relations] better."
"Despite the fact that ties between Moscow and Washington, as Trump said, cannot 'get worse,' the leaders of Russia and the US want to improve them. We just need to wait now to have a more clear view of the situation," Brieger said. According to the journalist, it is still unclear what kind of a US president Donald Trump will be. "Currently, we’re watching Trump as a candidate and as a president-elect. But we’ll later see him as an acting president. We don’t know what measures he’s going to take," he pointed out. At the press conference, Putin also said that Moscow is not the one fueling an arms race with Washington. The basis for this process was created when the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, forcing Russia to invest in upgrading its military potential.
"That was not our idea, we had to meet the challenge," the Russian president said. "I would like to stress that … we will never spend the amounts we cannot afford should we be involved in an arms race," the Russian president stressed.
As Brieger underscored, to a great extent, the Kremlin’s actions in their defense policy is a response to actions by Washington and NATO. "After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has been building a strategy similar to that the alliance had during the Cold War. The context now is different, of course. NATO portrays Russia as a threat over the Ukrainian crisis," the journalist said. According to Brieger, Putin’s reaction to the eastward expansion of NATO is a response that any other leader would deliver.
Read more:

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Video - INDIA - CCTV Captures Molestation of Girl on Bengaluru Street

Blame victims and the West – India's way of justifying sexual assaults?

An incident of "mass molestation" on New Year's Eve in Bangalore has put an ugly spotlight back on sexual assault against women in India. But some officials insist on blaming victims and western values.
Screenshot Youtube Indien Bangalore Sexuelle Belästigung an Silvester ( Telugu)
After multiple reports of widespread sexual assault and molestation during New Year's Eve celebrations in Bangalore, a metropolis of 8.4 million in southern India, local authorities are beginning to track down some of those responsible. However, despite an increased police presence in the city and CCTV surveillance, only one "official" complaint has so far been filed.
Statements made by officials since the incident also indicate that there is more concern about defending the integrity of their institutions than that of young women who have been assaulted. And the response from officials has tended to shift blame for sexual assault to "western values" rather than addressing the root of this insidious behavior from young Indian men.
In statements defending the state police, Karnataka Home Minister G. Parameshwara said on Tuesday, January 3, that young people who "copy westerners not only in mindset but even in their dressing" were also to blame for disturbance and harassment. He maintained that Bangalore is safe and that protecting women and children is a priority but added that on New Year's Eve and Christmas, "these kinds of things happen."
Parameshwara subsequently said these remarks were taken out of context. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, the Chairperson for India's National Commission for Women (NCW), has called for his resignation. In statements reported by PTI news agency, Kumaramangalam asked if Indian men would ever learn to respect women. 
"I want to ask this minister - are Indian men so pathetic and weak that when they see a woman in western clothes on a day of revelry, they get out of control?"
Parameswara was not the only Indian official blaming the incident on outside influences.
Abu Azmi, a leader with the Samajwadi Party headquartered in New Delhi, seemed to place responsibility with the families of victims by saying that "security starts at home." 
"Partying late night in half-attire, blindly following western culture, has never been our culture," he said. "As far as the Bangalore molestation is concerned, women and their guardians must also take precautions and remember that security starts at home.
Azmi also blamed "western" culture for sexual assault in India, adding that women must think about their own security and should be safeguarded from western influences.
"Women are the pride of our family and country. It is our duty to safeguard them," he said. "If we allow them to follow western culture blindly, then I am sorry to say that people will misbehave toward them in such ways."
A slow response from police
Directly after the incident, police reportedly dismissed claims of mass sexual assault, saying that no official reports had been filed. But after CCTV footage of women being assaulted emerged on social media, authorities began to take action. As many as six suspects have now been arrested, after being captured on CCTV attacking women and several of these videos were published on social media.
So far, one woman has officially filed a report with the police. And according to the Indian news service IANS, police have been slow in their response because cases have not been registered and limited evidence and witness testimony has been received.
Bangalore's police chief, Praveen Sood, told reporters on Wednesday that the police "did not waste any time" in investigating the assaults and that they had "credible evidence" to pursue suspects. He added that a so-called "first information report" had been registered and that an investigation was in progress.
Parameshwara told Indian media that in preparation for massive crowds, up to 1,500 police and security personnel were deployed in Bangalore on New Year's Eve and dozens of CCTV cameras were installed.
Sexual assault in the spotlight
On December 16, 2012, a brutal crime sent shock waves across India. According to police reports, a 23-year-old female physiotherapy student and her male companion were coaxed by six men into boarding an off-duty bus they thought would take them home after watching a movie at a shopping mall in New Delhi. The men savagely beat the man and repeatedly raped the woman, inflicting massive internal injuries with an iron rod. The victims were then dumped naked on the roadside. The woman died of her injuries two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
Symbolbild Gruppenvergewaltigung in Indien (picture-alliance/AP Photo/R. Maqbool)
On December 16, 2012, a brutal rape sent shock waves across India
Although government statistics show a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India, the brutality of the attack became the tipping point that brought the issue of violence against women into the limelight, not only in India, but globally.
The incident triggered outrage and a debate over women's safety across the South Asian nation, prompting the country's parliament to pass stricter laws on sexual violence, including a minimum 20-year prison sentence for rape and, in the event the victim dies, the death penalty. Moreover, fast-track courts were established to speed up trials in sexual assault cases which earlier took years to conclude. Some 10 months after the crime, such a court found four of the adult suspects guilty on all counts and sentenced the men to death by hanging.
Experts point out that the widespread media coverage of the case has also led to an increased awareness of the issue of violence against women in Indian society. "Women have been forthcoming in reporting crimes against them. They have been empowered by law and the response of civil society," India's additional solicitor general, Indira Jaising, told DW.
This view is shared by K. T. S. Tulsi, a senior lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court of India. According to the lawyer, the social stigma associated with rape is getting reduced. "Girls are becoming more assertive and they are open to complaining. They don't feel that the society is going to stigmatize them," Tulsi told DW.
Attitudinal change and empowering women
Indien Bangalore nach Silvester mit sexuellen Belästigungen (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Rahj)
Experts say that a lot still needs to be done to make women feel safe in the country
However, experts say that a lot still needs to be done to make women feel safe in the country, as there has been little progress made in addressing the attitudes that legitimize violence and discrimination against women. "Rape cultures are nourished by norms, attitudes, and practices that trivialize, tolerate, or even condone violence against women," Indian human rights activist Ranjana Kumari explains.
Kumari, who also heads the New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research (CSR), believes that the only way to prevent these crimes is to educate the masses, especially men, on the issues of violence, gender stereotyping, and the pervasive and negative impact of patriarchy.
"The subject of gender sensitization must be introduced from the grass-roots level in schools, colleges and the workplace. We need to educate men and women on women's rights under the law and work with communities to develop a gender sensitive society that is underpinned by respect and equality," the rights activist said.
This view is supported by Kaimini Jaiswal, a legal expert and lawyer at India's Supreme Court, who believes that in order to bring about real change, it is imperative to empower all women, most of whom are still financially and emotionally dependent on their male relatives. "What we see in the bigger cities and metros is not the true picture. Women can barely raise their head and voice in most households. This needs to be dealt with literacy, because most women don't even know their rights."
After the latest incident in Bangalore, Kumaramangalam from the NCW told the news channel India Today, "every time something like this happens in this country, everyone gets outraged but nothing seems to change. There is a combination of factors holding women back in this country."

په اقتصادي راهدارۍ کې دې پښتنو ته خپله برخه ورکړل شي

افتاب احمد شیرپاو ویلي چې پښتنو د پاکستان لپاره ډیرې قربانۍ ورکړې دي او باید د پښتنو پرمختیا ته پام وشي.

پېښور: د قامي وطن پارټۍ مشر افتاب احمد شیرپاو ویلي دي چې وفاقي حکومت دې په اقتصادي راهدارۍ کې پښتنو ته خپله برخه ورکړي.
افتاب احمد شیرپاو دا خبره د شنبې په ورځ د خیبر پښتونخوا د چارسدې په شوقدر کې یوې غونډې ته په وینا کې کړې ده.
افتاب احمد شیرپاو ویلي چې پښتنو د پاکستان لپاره ډیرې قربانۍ ورکړې دي او باید د پښتنو پرمختیا ته پام وشي.
نوموړي غوښتنه کړې چې قبایلي سیمې دې په خیبر پښتونخوا ورګډې کړل شي او په دې سیمه کې دې سرشمېرنې بهیر په سمه توګه سر ته وروسول شي.
د خیبر پښتونخوا او بلوچستان ملتپال ګوندونه وايي ، د پاکستان مرکزي حکومت د کاشغر ګوادر ترمنځ د اقتصادي لارې ټولې ګټې پنجاب ته وړې دي.
یو پلو مرکزي حکومت دا خبره ردوي او بل پلو د خیبر پښتونخوا او بلوچستان اعلا وزیرانو په دې وروستیو کې چین ته د سفر پر مهال وویل چې دوی پر اقتصادي راهدارۍ له روان کاره ډاډه دي.
دا د چین د سینک یانګ له مرکز کاشغره د بلوچستان تر ګوادره هغه پراخه اقتصادي لاره ده چې د چین په شاوخوا ۵۷ اربه ډالرو پانګه جوړېږي.

Pakistan: Christian shopkeeper charged with blasphemy

A Christian shopkeeper has been arrested in Lahore and charged with blasphemy.

According to the Pakistan Christian Post, Babu Shahbaz Masih was arrested after pages of the Qur'an were found scattered on the street outside his street by a rival shop keeper. One of the pages had his name written on it.

The Post reported that Masih, 41, is illiterate but holds regular prayer meetings at his house.

The prayer meetings are popular with Muslims and Christians alike and Masih is considered a faith healer, according to the newspaper.

Masih is married with one daughter and two sons.

His wife and daughter were also taken into custody after Masih's arrest.

Blasphemy is punishable by up to a lifetime in prison in Pakistan.

Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK told the Post that blasphemy laws are used to persecute Christians and other religious minorities.

"Blasphemy laws clearly violate international human rights treaties ratified by the Pakistani government, therefore, it is the duty of the international community to build pressure on the Pakistani government to fulfil their international obligations and bring their law in line with these treaties."

Pakistan ranks as the sixth worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to Christian persecution watchdog Open Doors.

Pakistan - Lahore: Foreseeable damage to four churches prompts protests from PPP

Anticipating damage to four churches falling in the route of the Metro train, Pakistan People’s Party held a protest in front of the Lahore Press Club on December 17. The protesters were chanting slogans against Punjab Government’s Orange Line Metro Train project. There are plans to use land of four churches, which has prompted protest from the PPP Minority Wing Punjab.
Christians in Lahore
This protest was led by PPP activist Chaudhary Manzoor Ahmed and Jahan Ara M Wattoo. The protesters demanded that the authorities should review their plan so that the churches are damaged. They were carrying placards against the government and termed the project controversial. At this occasion, Jahan Ara M Wattoo said that the project will not only taint Lahore’s historic identity. It was further claimed that many people would be forced to vacate their houses.
Jahan Ara further said that her party was always believed to be pro-minorities, she added that it is very unfortunate that government is not trying to protect the properties, honor and lives of the minorities. She urged the government to use the resources on health, education, sanitation and other needs of the public.
The protesters demanded that the Chief Minister of Punjab must take steps to preserve the cultural heritage of Lahore. They said that the government must not hurt the religious sentiments of Christian community, and should avoid distressing or pressurizing the Christian minority of Pakistan.”
Previously, LHC had directed to halt construction work around eleven buildings which include, Supreme Court Lahore Registry, the General Post Office, the Aiwan-i-Auqaf, Saint Andrews Church and Mauj Dariya shrine- which would be affected by the metro train project. Advocate Azhar Siddique presented an objection that there was an unequal allocation for the metro train project with regard to the provincial budget.
In a handout issued on May 4, 2016, the Directorate General Public Relations plainly declared “18 Marla of Church land and 18 Meters of Boundary wall of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church near Bohar Chowk will be utilized for stairways of Orange Line Train Project Station.”
In May, 2016 No church or mosque will be damaged for the Metro Train in Lahore, clarified Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab. While defending the Orange Line Metro Train Project, CM Shahbaz Sharif said that fabricated hurdles are being tossed in order to thwart the execution of projects of public interest.

Pakistan - ‘Violence-related fatalities in Balochistan, Punjab increased in 2016’

Balochistan and Punjab saw a marginal increase in violence in 2016, with Balochistan seeing an almost 10pc rise in fatalities caused by violence since 2015, and Punjab seeing the highest number of fatalities in the province in four years, the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) has found.
Fatalities in Balochistan rose from 719 in 2015 to 798 in 2016, while Punjab lost 424 people to violence last year. Both provinces were the targets of suicide attacks that increased the casualty count.
The findings are among others in the annual CRSS security report which was released on Tuesday.
The report also said that the overall situation in the country has improved, and Pakistan may see prominent success with regards to curbing violence this years, as things have improved not only here but in the region. 2016 saw an almost 45pc fall in violence-related fatalities, continuing the trend of reductions since 2014.
Defence analyst and head of the CRSS, Imtiaz Gul told Dawn the general situation has changed significantly.
“However, the challenge will remain for Pakistan to deal with the proxy war in the region. Pakistan has neutralised the affect of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which was creating problems in the name of Islam and Sharia,” he said.

untitledIn response to a question, Mr Gul said the new chief of army staff and heads of different quarters of the army would not lead to any big differences. “As long as Afghanistan deals with Pakistan through the India prism, the security establishment will remain sceptical,” he said.
The total number of casualties in 2016 fell from 6,572 – 4,647 dead and 1,927 injured- in 2015 to 4,324 – 2,610 dead and 1,714 injured.
Balochistan saw four suicide attacks that killed 97 people including 52 lawyers, while Punjab saw one suicide attack in Gulshan Iqbal Park in Lahore that killed 74 people, of whom 29 were children.
Karachi, Quetta, Lahore and Peshawar, all of which host provincial capitals, were among the districts most affected by violence in 2016.
But when compared to 2015’s figures, a significant drop in fatalities was notable in all the capital cities other than Quetta and Lahore. Karachi, still the most violent district in the country, saw a sharp decline in fatalities.
Tougher security forced militants and criminals to adopt new methods and strategies.
They relied on improvised explosive devices, landmines and suicide attacks that killed 474 people, as compared to 251 people killed in similar attacks in 2015.
CRSS also found that sectarian violence fell by 20pc, killing 241 people in 2016 as compared to 304 in 2015.
Sectarian violence fell in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but increased in Fata, Balochistan and Punjab. Over 70pc of the people who were killed by sectarian violence were the victims of suicide attacks.
Four districts in the country saw the highest number of fatalities from sectarian violence in 2016, with Lahore at the top of the list.
Sectarian violence was also reported from locations previously unaffected, such as Shah Norani in Khuzdar, Mirpur Mathelo, Hyderabad, Chakwal, Buner and Badin.
Sectarian violence was also selectively used on soft and unprecedented targets but victims were not targeted selectively.
The highest fatalities from sectarian violence were recorded at the Gulshan Iqbal Park in Lahore on Easter, in which Christians appeared to have been targeted although only 14 of the 74 killed were identified as Christian. Sufi pilgrims at the Shah Norani shrine were also victims of sectarian violence.
The report also criticises the government for not addressing the myriad problems in police departments in the country or reforming the criminal justice system to provide relief to citizens in a timely and efficient manner.
The National Counter Terrorism Authority is referred to as stillborn, flailing without funding and resources, and the report states that crucial elements of the National Action Plan need to be implemented in addition to kinetic operations, in order to secure a long term future for the country

Malnutrition threatening lives in Balochistan

By:  Sana Samad
Balochistan is suffering from the risk of malnutrition which is causing deaths among children and women belonging to socially marginalized groups in the province. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared emergency in Balochistan in view of the indicators of Global Acute Malnutrition. 
According to United Nation Children Fund  (UNICEF) that 16 percent of the children in Balochistan are acute malnourished, 52 percent up to five years age are stunted and 39.6 percent underweight. Apart from this, five million children and around 70 percent of the women in the province are suffering from malnutrition and half of them are being endemic and Vitamin A deficient as suggested by the National Nutrition data.
Balochistan is recorded the highest infant and mother mortality as compare to other provinces just due to malnutrition. The Nutrition Cell with the accompany of WHO and UNICEF has been working just in nine districts of Balochistan total of 32 districts which are totally suffering from malnutrition. But the other districts are left where malnutrition is also growing rapidly. It is only cover 43 percent population, leaving 57 percent helpless and at the mercy of diseases. 
It is estimated that the population of these districts are 170,000, but only 35,000 of the population is protected from malnutrition. Mostly the affected people are staying in remote areas as more than 90 percent people reside in remote parts of the districts. The main reason is that the people do not have health care facilities, so they are continuously being affected from malnutrition and dying day by day. Even the children at the age of three years are suffering. Their family’ member do not have any facility to provide them good nutrition to protect their children precious lives.
After Sindh, Balochistan is having the highest level of food insecurity in the country. It is estimated that nearly 63 percent of households in the province are food insecure with 18 percent of them classified as food “insecure with hungry and 11.5 percent as food “insecure with severe hunger “. And none of the district is qualified to be food secure. Although the health authorities has been working to resolve these problems, but the security situation, geography location of the province, scattered population complex the issue of malnutrition manifold.  
With the support WFP the provincial government has been supporting the malnourished children, pregnant women and lactating women to prevent stunting and micronutrient deficiencies in the nine districts. Still only 28 percent of the households are reached by LHWs in the province as compare to a national coverage of 83 percent. It is estimated that Balochistan will not improve overnight; it needs billion of multi-sectors issue of malnutrition. Yet the provincial government with the help of WHO and other organizations need to cover the other districts means 57 percent of the population should be covered. Malnutrition is killing the innocent children and women, and causing such deadly diseases that they suffer till their death. 

Pakistan - Extremism unchecked

IF ever an image was emblematic of Pakistan’s progress in the war against extremism — and indeed of the fissures in its society — it is that of the viciously defaced Karachi Press Club walls. Last October, a group of artists had painted them with portraits of women who have made significant contributions to the country in various fields, including Fatima Surraiya Bajiya, Zubeida Mustafa, Yasmeen Lari, Perween Rahman and Sabeen Mahmud. To celebrate them in this manner was to celebrate the progressive ideas they embodied, the last two even having paid with their lives for their efforts towards a more inclusive and egalitarian society. On Wednesday night, those ideas came up against another side of Pakistani society — bigoted, fanatical and misogynistic. In what was clearly a premeditated act, members of ultra right-wing groups demonstrating outside the press club, one of several such protests to counter commemorations of Salmaan Taseer’s death anniversary in the country, spray-painted the walls with profanities and calls to murder.
This is the ugly reality of the state’s much-vaunted ‘fight against extremism’, a fight that it vowed to take on with unwavering commitment after the APS Peshawar attack in December 2014. Two years on, with kinetic operations to dismantle the terrorist network in the northern areas virtually over, the other aspect of the fight — the long, laborious work to stamp out extremism from society — has barely begun. It is not that the state is incapable of asserting its writ: we have seen it do so comprehensively when Mr Taseer’s killer was tried and convicted. The problem is that it chooses to do so selectively instead of sending a consistent, resolute message.
How else can one explain the impunity with which certain right-wing elements continue to menace anyone who rejects their noxious worldview? Notwithstanding ad hoc measures such as the arrest in Lahore of over 100 people — who will undoubtedly soon be released without charge — for attempting to hold a rally to ‘celebrate’ the former Punjab governor’s assassination, where is the concerted drive against hate speech and incitement to violence that should be the cornerstone of the civilian aspect of NAP? Why does the government not robustly demonstrate that it values progressive voices rather than appeasing those who would build a shrine to an assassin?
Instead, the state goes through motions such as the Punjab apex committee meeting on Thursday where it resolved to choke terror funding and launch an indiscriminate crackdown against those providing financial support to terrorists. Yet the province has not seen action commensurate with the fact of it being the heartland of jihadist organisations. On the contrary, well-known centres of radical thought continue to operate unimpeded here while members of right-wing groups are being ‘mainstreamed’ into charitable work. Only when ‘zero-tolerance’ is more than just a meaningless buzzword will there be any hope of us turning the corner.

PPP ‘white paper’ points out 25 major scandals of PML-N

Elected members of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) have issued a white paper on "administrative failures" of the federal and Punjab governments during 2016, listing 25 major scandals of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).
The white paper was issued by PPP-backed legislator MPA Faiza Malik on Friday. The white paper said that the central government and the Punjab government had deprived the regulatory bodies of their autonomy to allow corruption. It said that the Quetta inquiry commission report had also revealed the failure of the incumbent government regarding implementation on the National Action Plan (NAP). "Deficit of the Pakistan International Airline, Pakistan Railways and the Pakistan Steel Mills spiked up to Rs 705 billion," the white paper said, adding that the government had failed to address reservations of opposition and nationalist parties on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), while the dismal national rating of 146 out of 188 in Human Development Index was another indication of poor performance of the government.
The white paper revealed that the PML-N government has borrowed more than Rs 25,000 million so far. It said that each Pakistani was under the debt of Rs 115,911 while the total national debt had jumped up to 26 trillion rupees.
Quoting the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA), the white paper stated that more than 500 industrial units were forced to shut down due to power crisis leaving two million people unemployed. "The State Bank has recorded 3.9% increase in the inflation rate last year while 10 percent increase in LPG prices is adversely affecting the lives of poor citizens."
The white paper also exposed performance of the Punjab government in education sector, saying Pakistan had been ranked 123rd in Standard of Education Index during the regime of current rulers. "Around 300,000 children are out of school in Lahore alone while the female illiteracy rate is 36.6% in urban areas and 69.4% in rural areas." Commenting on dismal governance statistics, MPA Faiza Malik said that the PML-N had badly failed to deliver on its electioneering promises. She added that the country needs a transparent accountability system for eradication of corruption.

Pakistan's regional languages face looming extinction

Around a hundred women have gathered in a community centre in Peshawar, the heart of Pakistan’s fabled northwest — but they are conversing in a dialect incomprehensible to the Pashtun ethnic group that dominates the region.
Instead they are exchanging anecdotes and ideas in their native Hindko (literally, “the language of India”) at a conference organised to promote the increasingly marginalised language.
Pakistan’s 200 million people speak 72 provincial and regional tongues, including official languages Urdu and English, according to a 2014 parliamentary paper on the subject that classed 10 as either “in trouble” or “near extinction”. According to scholars, Hindko’s decline as the foremost language of Peshawar city began in 1947 when Hindu and Sikh traders left the city after the partition of British India.
Known for its curious aphorisms such as “Kehni aan dhiye nu, nuen kan dhar” (“I’m talking to my daughter, my daughter-in-law should listen”) — which is meant to convey a harsh message but indirectly), it only has some two million speakers across Pakistan as opposed to Pashto’s 26 million.
It has also become a minority language in the city of its birth.
SECP launches new bilingual website
“Years and years of political unrest in Pakistan’s northwestern region and Afghanistan have adversely impacted our language and it has lost grounds to Pashto,” Salahudin, Chief Executive of the Gandhara Hindko Board which organised the event, explained.
Some three million mainly Pashto speakers fled war from neighbouring Afghanistan over the past 35 years, while others are more recent migrants from other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkwa province.
The most endangered of Pakistan’s dialects are now spoken by only a few hundred people, such as Domaaki, an Indo-Aryan langauges confined to a handful of villages in remote northern Gilgit-Baltistan. Even regional languages spoken by tens of millions like Sindhi and Punjabi are no longer as vigorous as they once were. “There is not a single newspaper or magazine published in Punjabi for the 60 million-plus Punjabi speakers,” wrote journalist Abbas Zaidi in an essay, despite it being the language of the nationally revered Sufi poet Bulleh Shah and the native-tongue of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
English has been seen as the language of the elite in Pakistan since the country was founded.
It is used at the highest official levels, despite the fact this excludes the majority of Pakistanis — many of whom, as a consequence of low literacy rates, do not speak English well or at all, according to leading linguist Tariq Rahman.
Urdu, the most common national tongue and spoken as a second language by the majority of Pakistanis, has been relegated to the middle- and lower-level halls of power, while the widely spoken regional languages — usually native to their speakers — are not even taught in schools.
Celebrating national language: Ninth International Urdu Conference to begin tomorrow
“The result is an underclass that remains out of any public policy making, its upward mobility increasingly limited, and harbouring a deep sense of inferiority,” wrote Urdu poet Harris Khalique in a research paper.
“A majority of Pakistanis is unable to recognise car registration plates, many road signs that are only in English, the signboards of shops and offices.”
Around a hundred women have gathered in a community centre in Peshawar, the heart of Pakistan’s fabled northwest — but they are conversing in a dialect incomprehensible to the Pashtun ethnic group that dominates the region. Some language activists have taken a stand, such as Rozi Khan Baraki, a champion of the Urmari language of South Waziristan tribal zone that claims some 50,000 speakers.
At its peak in the early 16th century, the language flourished across much of Afghanistan and what is now northwest Pakistan.
“But then people in [the area] began speaking Pashto and Persian because many of the speakers of those languages migrated to the fertile lands of this region.
“Migrations have also threatened our next generation, who being Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar, and Karachi have stopped communicating in their mother tongue.”
Baraki said to avoid extinction, community elders have asked their people to “force their children to speak Urmari at homes, especially those who have married women who speak other languages”.
“Our next generation is threatened, this language is going to die if we don’t preserve it today,” he said.
Rahman lauds such efforts but says the process of saving dying languages can only happen when it is taken up at a governmental level as was the case with Welsh, a regional language of Britain.
A loss of diversity can have lasting ill effects, he warns.
Those who shift from their mother tongue to assimilate “try to become clones of another group — the one which they want to imitate, and lose respect for their former group,” he said.
Children find it difficult to communicate to their elders, while folk stories and music can also fade from memory.
“There are names of herbs and local names for fruit and animals that are lost. In some cases when you lose the name of the herb the use is also forgotten,” he said.

Pakistan - Asif Ali Zardari - The Diplomat -

Soon after’s Asif Ali Zardari’s return from an 18-month self-imposed exile on December 23, he announced his’ and his son’s Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari participation in by-elections to become part of the parliament.
He continues to stay in the limelight and has disclosed plans to attend the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump later this month.
While PPPs antics have borne the brunt of political criticism, political analysts have to agree that Mr Zardari’s focus on maintaining strong bilateral ties with key geopolitical players both during his tenure and as a larger part of his portfolio as a political candidate, deserves recognition.
In fact, Mr Zardari’s foreign policy with regards to Russia has been the cornerstone of the improvement in Pak-Russo ties. While the public and media normally criticise high-level visits as they give loss to the national exchequer, Mr Zardari’s visit to Russia was much appreciated as it introduced a fundamental shift and a new opportunity in Pakistan foreign relations especially in view of the country’s burdened relationship with the United States.
Presidents Zardari and Medvedev met six times during the former’s term, raising the quality and quantity of the bilateral exchanges with Pakistan and encouraging Russia to pursue a multi-vectored policy in South Asia.
Similarly, while Asif Zardari’s attendance of Trump’s inauguration can be seen as a move to reinvigorate the political authority of PPP and foster public goodwill, it is also a chance for the returning candidate to lay grounds for a more promising US-Pak relationship. Miraculous as that would be, if managed, it would certainly be a feather in Mr Zardari’s cap.
The government has still not confirmed whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend Trump’s oath-taking but the premier is likely to visit the US soon for a bilateral meeting with the new president-elect. For now, while PML-N and PTI are locked in scandals, there is maybe a lesson to be learnt from how Mr Zardari is playing the political game in the lead-up to the 2018 elections.

Pakistan - The trap of status quo

By Afrasiab Khattak

Is this a country for Muslims or for Islam? This is the dilemma that Pakistan has faced from day one.
For the majority of Muslim League leaders, Pakistan was to be a country for Muslims where they could live their lives without any fear of domination. The idea of Pakistan as a country for Islam took root later when the feudal and bureaucratic elites ruling the country used the “ideological card” to resist democratic transformation. The dilemma was further compounded by the fact that for the founding fathers the aforementioned question of identity was a mere manifestation of the real issue, which was provincial autonomy. If the All India National Congress had accepted the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946 presented by the British Raj, that envisaged a confederation in post-colonial India, Muslim League would have given up the demand for partition that took place in August 1947. But the new country took no time in joining the western military pacts of SEATO and CENTO for containing and defeating communism.
It is pertinent to remember that Western ideologues and strategists of the capitalist world had no confusion. For them the vast Muslim population living in the wide arc of Asia and Africa, from Sinkiang (Xinjiang) to Marrakech, was a potential explosive weapon to be used against Soviet communism. The Central Asian belt was regarded as the “soft belly” of the Soviet Union, as there was potential for penetration of religious influence into it from the contiguous Muslim populations. What was missing in the whole Western anti-communist project was an ideological “detonator” that could make the explosion possible. So the West focused on Pakistan to persuade her to play that role. The Pakistani security establishment had jumped on the Western bandwagon from day one. Even Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s “New Pakistan”, that apparently distanced herself from the West in foreign policy, could not break out from the old ideological axis internally. It goes without saying that this process was taken to the extreme, almost to the point of no return, by General Zia’s martial law.
It is hardly a coincidence that the decisive battle of the Western powers against the erstwhile Soviet Union in Afghanistan fought through Pakistan, and “Islamisation” of the country, progressed simultaneously. The situation was aggravated to dangerous proportions with the advent of Wahabism, Salfism and Takfirism in Pakistan in the 1980s and 1990s. Pakistan as a state and society became radicalised. The focus of the country’s national security policy isn’t confined to her borders any more. Pakistan involvement in international “jihadism” has turned it into a dangerous country and this adventurism is not confined even to her immediate neighborhood. It has gone as far as Bosnia and to many other places in the world.
After the collapse of the communist bloc the Western powers didn’t require the services of Pakistan, and that brrought Pakistan’s so-called strategic alliance with the West to an end. This relationship has become hostile now as the “mujahideen” of yesterday have become terrorists of today. But religious extremism (and violence and terrorism emanating from it) is putting Pakistan’s own future in question. After living for long years in denial Pakistan has ultimately come around to concede the existence of the problem after the killing of about 60,000 of its citizens at the hands of terrorists. But if the experience of the last two years (after the charting out of the National Action Plan) is anything to go by, Pakistan is still not ready to take on the problem. The stubborn insistence of security circles on providing space to Taliban, LeT, JeM and other terrorists networks closely linked to international terror syndicates proves that the policy of keeping militants as strategic assets for state policy is still intact. In fact, the fresh hobnobbing of Pakistan with Russia indicates that the country is looking for new markets for its militant outfits.
Apart from mere lip service there is no evidence that the Pakistani state regards religious extremism and terrorism as existential threat to the country. Sectarianism is tearing the country apart but the unreformed religious seminaries are producing brainwashed sectarian militants on a very large scale since their syllabus and administration is based on absolute sectarianism. Recently, when the Supreme Court-appointed judicial commission for conducting inquiry into a heinous terrorist attack in Quetta came out with a report criticising ineffective state policy towards extremism and terrorism, the interior minister chose to publicly dismiss the report and launch a verbal attack on the judicial commission. As if that was not enough, Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the proscribed organisation LeT was seen landing in Quetta with pomp and show as if in defiance to the recommendations of the Supreme Court judicial commission. The public demonstration in favor of the murderer of Salmaan Taseer on the death anniversary of the former Punjab Governor has exposed the policy of appeasement of the government towards extremist militancy, particularly in the Punjab.
But the problem is not confined to just state security policy. By ignoring the need for investment in human development for long years the ruling elites are guilty of preparing conditions conducive to the rise of extremism and terrorism. The collapse of the public education system and health services have had dire social consequences. The serious decline of our education system in particular has led to severe distortions and deformations in human material being produced by Pakistani society. Religious seminaries have flourished as the growing number of children remain out of school. Growing population, widening social divide, the deepening environmental crises and failure of judicial system is helping in the growth of extremism and militancy. Ruling elites, both civil and military, are busy in squeezing the dying system. Political squabbles mostly revolve around power games and the slogan of change has become mere rhetoric. There is no reform agenda in sight. There is strong potential for the rise of an Arab Spring like chaotic situation in Pakistan. Interestingly some Turkish political analysts are mourning the “Pakistanisation” of Turkey but Pakistan seems to be adamant in following the beaten path. Is there a way out of this possibly fatal trap of status quo?

Pakistan's military courts: What did they achieve?

Shamil Shams
A Pakistani law allowing military courts to try civilians on terror charges has expired. It's unclear if the government will extend the law, after criticism of the courts' legality and of their failure to curb terrorism.
The controversial tribunals have hanged 12 people and ordered the execution of 149 more since they came into force after the deadly Taliban attack on a Peshawar school in December 2014 that killed more than 150 people, mostly children.
The country's powerful military intensified its crackdown on extremists following the Peshawar massacre, as the civilian government introduced a National Action Plan (NAP) that included the creation of the military courts, which were allowed to try civilians on terror charges.
The South Asian country's parliament and Supreme Court approved the law as an "exceptional" short-term measure, but it was heavily criticized by Pakistan's civil society as "extra-constitutional."
Rights activists also say the courts failed to achieve the target they had set for themselves - the eradication of terror. In addition, they say, no efforts have been made to reform the civilian judicial system to speed up terror trials.
"The lapse of the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians is a step in the right direction, but unsurprisingly, there is no sign of the promised reforms to strengthen the ordinary criminal justice system to effectively handle terrorism-related cases," said Sam Zarifi, Asia Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
"The Pakistani government must not re-enact legislation to continue secret military trials of civilians, nor resort to more short-term, short-sighted security measures that are contrary to human rights protection," Zarifi added.
Analyst Imtiaz Gul told the AFP news agency it was unlikely that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government would extend the courts that have been an "embarrassment" for the country.
Citing military sources, the ICJ said the military courts had convicted 274 people since January 2015, of which 161 were sentenced to death, adding that many details about the convictions had not been made public by the military.
A solution or a problem?
Despite the criticism, the military courts enjoyed considerable public support in Pakistan, as the civilian courts have failed to deal with terrorism-related cases.
In a number of instances, the civilian courts' judges were openly threatened by Islamic militant groups such as the Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Taiba. A number of lawyers have been killed for prosecuting the extremists, and many judges have fled the country after receiving death threats. In Pakistan, it is not easy to proceed against Islamists; in the past, liberal politicians were killed for speaking against controversial blasphemy laws and in favor of secular legislation. The perpetrators of these crimes have still not been brought to justice.
But rights activists say that did not justify the military's involvement in civilian judicial matters. The Pakistani military already has more say in domestic and foreign policy matters than the civilian government.
Pakistan Proteste gegen Taliban 5. Januar 2015 (picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
A consensus to establish anti-terrorism courts was reached after the horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar school in 2014
The powerful military of the South Asian nation has been receiving billions of dollars from Western nations for more than a decade to eradicate terrorism from Pakistani soil. This includes seven of the nine years of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf's iron-fisted rule from 1999 to 2008. Activists ask why the supporters of the military courts think they could solve the issue if the military could not rein in Islamists back then.
The chairperson of Pakistan's Human Rights Commission (HRCP), Zohra Yusuf, blamed political leaders for not taking advantage of the consensus against Islamist militancy and surrendering their powers to the army. "It is unfortunate that the nationwide resolve against the Taliban and other extremist groups did not translate into political action. It remained a military affair," Yusuf told DW after the Peshawar attack.
In a 2015 report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) criticized Pakistan's counterterrorism measures.
The National Action Plan introduced after the Taliban attack in Peshawar had given the army a dominance in security affairs that in a democratic setup should have belonged to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government, the report said.
"The militarization of counterterrorism policy puts at risk Pakistan's evolution toward greater civilian rule, which is itself a necessary but not sufficient condition to stabilize the democratic transition," the report released on July 22 underlines. "The NAP looks far more like a hastily-conceived wish list devised for public consumption during a moment of crisis than a coherent strategy," it added.
The ICG paper advises Prime Minister Sharif to take matters into his own hands and democratize the anti-terrorism strategy "in order to replace an overly militarized response with a revamped, intelligence-guided counterterrorism strategy, led by civilian law enforcement agencies, particularly the police."