Sunday, January 22, 2017

Video - Opera - Luciano Pavarotti - Carusso (the most powerful )


Music Video - TURKISH SONG - (Ebru Gündeş)

Music Video - Cyrine Abdul Noor Law Bass Fe Eanaia - سرين عبد النور - لو بص فى عينى

Video - Arabic Music By Aamir Kangda - Арабская красивая музыка и танцы


Philip Alston, an Australian legal expert who reports to the UN Human Rights Council, said after a 12-day visit to Saudi Arabia that the government in Riyadh was urgently required to cast aside rules and regulations that have hampered social life in the kingdom.
"So, I feel very strongly that the kingdom should move to enable women to drive cars," Alston said on Thursday.
The expert also called on Riyadh to make efforts to change the country’s guardianship system, which effectively hinders women's ability to work and travel. Alston said some features of the system, requiring that women obtain the consent of a male member of their family to study, travel and other activities, “need to be reformed.”
"My concern is that the government is in fact deferring to a relatively small portion of conservative voices," Alston told a news conference, adding, “The role of the government is to work out how it can change the policy and how it can change attitudes.”
The UN expert also lamented that people in some parts of Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, are living in extreme poverty without the kingdom having any concrete plan to help them.
Alston said most of the people living in the southern Jizan region were in “extraordinarily poor conditions,” adding that the situation in the country’s east, where a Shia minority group lives, was quite the same.
“There needs to be a plan to more systematically address their situation,” said the UN expert, regretting the fact that Riyadh had failed to admit that poverty existed in the country and officials were still in the habit of hiding information on the issue.

Saudi-led coalition air strikes 'hit Yemen school'


A school just outside the Yemeni capital of Sana’a has been hit by a Saudi-led coalition air strike, the rebel news agency has said.
Saba, the news service run by the dominant Houthi movement since it seized control of Sana’a in 2015 said that four missiles had hit the Guards School building north of the capital.
The strike took place on Sunday, which is a working day in most of the Muslim world. No casualties have yet been reported.
At least two civilians have died in the last 24 hours thanks to more than 45 strikes across the country, Saba said, citing Houthi officials. Agence France-Presse reported that 70 people had been killed in fresh fighting, according to medics.
The raids and deaths have not yet been fully verified by monitors.
More than 10,000 people have died since the conflict in Yemen descended into full-scale civil war almost two years ago, the UN says. The fighting has also exacerbated hunger and disease in the Middle East’s poorest country. A Saudi-led coalition has intervened on behalf of Yemen’s exiled government since March 2015 against the Iran-allied Houthi movement in what Riyadh says is aimed at curbing creeping Iranian influence in the region.
The campaign has been widely criticised for hitting civilian infrastructure, including the bombing of a Sana’a funeral that killed 140 people in October last year.
Several Western governments – including the UK – have also been rebuked for selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which rights groups say are destined for use in the conflict.
All previous attempts to broke a peace deal between the Yemeni government and rebels have so far failed.
Elsewhere in the country, two suspected members of al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch were killed in what local officials said was a US drone strike over the weekend.
If confirmed, the strike is the first such attack to have taken place since US President Donald Trump took office on Friday.
The Trump administration has not yet laid out a clear policy on drone strikes.

Making billions from Saudi Arabia's war crimes

Ignoring its own export rules, the government has prioritised arms company profits over Yemeni human rights, writes ANDREW SMITH

IN two weeks’ time, the High Court in London will consider a case that could set a vital precedent and be instrumental in changing British arms export policy.
On February 7-9, following an application by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), judges will be examining the legality of arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.
For almost two years now, Saudi forces have inflicted a brutal and devastating bombing campaign on the people of Yemen. Schools, hospitals and homes have been destroyed in a bombardment that has killed 10,000 people and inflicted a humanitarian catastrophe on one of the poorest countries in the region.
The appalling consequences have been condemned by the United Nations, the European Parliament and major aid agencies on the ground, with the Red Cross warning that the country has been left on the edge of famine.
A harrowing report from Unicef has found that one child is dying every 10 minutes because of malnutrition, diarrhoea and respiratory-tract infections in Yemen, with 400,000 at risk of starvation.
Right at the outset of the bombing, the then foreign secretary Philip Hammond pledged to “support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat.” Unfortunately the British government has stayed true to his word. One major way in which it has done this is through the sale of arms.
Despite the destruction, and despite its appalling human rights record at home, Saudi Arabia is by far the largest buyer of British arms.
The arms sales haven’t slowed down; in fact Britain has licensed over £3.3 billion worth of arms since the bombing began. These include Typhoon fighter jets, which have been used in the bombardment and missiles and bombs that reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have linked to attacks on civilian targets.
Last month, Saudi forces even admitted to using British-made cluster bombs, one of the cruellest and most deadly weapons that can be used in warfare. When bombs are dropped they open up in mid-air to release hundreds of sub-munitions. Their impact is indiscriminate. Anybody within striking area is very likely to be killed or seriously injured.
The bombs were exported in 1988, but the lifespan of weapons is very often longer than that of the political situation they are bought in. How will the billions of pounds’ worth of weapons being sold now be used and who will they be used against? If Saudi forces are using them, then they clearly aren’t doing all they can to minimise civilian casualties. It tells you everything you need to know about the character of the bombardment.
If cluster bombs are not considered beyond the pale by the Saudi military, then what is the likelihood that its personnel are doing everything in their power to avoid civilian casualties? It’s not just the bombs that are deadly, it is the mindset which allows their use in the first place.
British arms export law is very clear. It says that licences for military equipment should not be granted if there is a “clear risk” that it “might” be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law. By any reasonable interpretation, these criteria should definitely prohibit all arms sales to Saudi Arabia that could be used in Yemen.
Of course the relationship is nothing new and the problem is institutional rather than party-political. For decades now successive British governments of all political colours have armed and uncritically supported the Saudi regime.
In 2006 we saw Tony Blair intervening to stop a corruption investigation into arms deals between Saudi Arabia and BAE Systems. This was quickly followed by another multibillion-pound fighter jet sale. In 2013 and 2014 we saw David Cameron and even Prince Charles making visits to the Kingdom where they posed for fawning photographs and pushed arms sales.
One outcome of this cosy partnership has been a high level of integration between British and Saudi military programmes. There are around 240 Ministry of Defence civil servants and military personnel working to support the contracts through the Ministry of Defence Saudi Armed Forces Programme and the Saudi Arabia National Guard Communications Project.
The political consensus seems to be shifting though, with the Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat front benches — and many Tory backbenchers — all calling for arms sales to be suspended while an independent investigation into their legality takes place. This is definitely a welcome change, and has gone a long way in shifting the terms of the debate.
But, even if it is taken up, it can not be enough unless it is complemented by an end to future arms sales and a meaningful change in foreign policy.
Regardless of the outcome in court next month, we have already exposed how weak and broken British arms export controls are. A brutal dictatorship has created a humanitarian catastrophe, killed thousands of civilians and flouted international law and yet Britain has continued arming and supporting it.
Instead of following its own rules on arms sales, the government has prioritised arms company profits over human rights.
If that’s not enough to stop arms sales then what more would it take?

  • Andrew Smith is a spokesman for Campaign Against Arms Trade. You can follow CAAT at @CAATuk.


By Raymond Ibrahim
Would you like to know how the United States can virtually eliminate global Islamic terrorism and world hunger with one stroke?
Seize the oil wells of Saudi Arabia.
If this sounds preposterous and unethical – “the U.S. doesn’t go on the offensive, and it certainly doesn’t ‘steal’ other peoples’ natural resources, especially its allies!” – consider some facts:
First, anyone who sees the Islamic State (ISIS) as a cancer on earth that needs to be eradicated – and most Americans, including President Donald Trump, do – must also see Saudi Arabia in similar terms. For the desert kingdom enforces the same kind of Islam ISIS does – with all the religious intolerance, beheadings, crucifixions, mutilations and misogyny we associate with the terrorists.
Worse, Saudi Arabia spends a whopping $100 billion annually – trillions over the decades – to support and disseminate the most vile form of Islam (Wahhabism/Salafism) around the world. Virtually all radical literature, radical mosques, radical websites and radical satellite programs – all of which create radical Muslims – are funded by the Saudis. In other words, if you trace the “radicalization” of Muslims – including formerly good neighbors and colleagues that suddenly got pious, grew a beard or donned a veil, and then went on a shooting spree, or “martyred” themselves in a suicide attack – Saudi money will almost always be at the end of the line.
It gets worse still: The Islamic kingdom is not only the chief exporter of radical ideologies; it is also the chief financier and material supporter of the worst terrorist groups. ISIS and al-Qaida would not exist without Saudi and other Gulf largesse.
So how is Saudi Arabia able to fuel this multifaceted and global jihad? Entirely from the oil reserves beneath the Arabian Peninsula.
Now, in a fair world, surely the Saudis should keep the natural resources of Arabia – even if it was the West that discovered and created the technology to utilize oil. But when they openly use that wealth to spread hate, turmoil, terrorism and the slaughter of innocents around the world, surely the international community is justified in responding – in this case, by seizing the weapon from out their hands, that is, the oil wells. Some may argue that, whatever the merits of this argument, there’s no way U.S. leadership could sell such a war to the American people. Actually, they could – very easily; and all they would have to do is tell the American people the truth for a change.
Remember, the establishment has already behaved more “spectacularly,” including by going on the offensive against several Arab rulers – in Iraq, Libya and now Syria. In every case, the real motives for war were/are hidden from the public, probably because they didn’t and don’t serve American interests (hence why ISIS is now entrenched in “liberated” Iraq, “liberated” Libya and still being “liberated” Syria). All U.S. leadership and media had to do was portray Saddam, Gadhafi and Assad as “monsters” persecuting their own people. That was enough for most Americans to acquiesce to the waging of these wars if not heartily support them.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, the establishment wouldn’t have to deceive the public: The Saudi regime is a monster. As in ISIS-held territories, women in Saudi Arabia are little better than chattel; blasphemers, apostates and homosexuals are persecuted and sometimes executed; all non-Sunnis – from Hindus to Shia – are subhuman infidels to be treated accordingly; house churches are closed, Bibles and crucifixes confiscated and destroyed, and Christians caught worshiping in private thrown in jail and tortured. Saudi Arabia is arguably even more backward than ISIS: Women can still drive in Mosul and Raqqa, whereas they are forbidden in Saudi Arabia; and the Saudi government has its own special department devoted to tracking down and executing witches and warlocks.
Nor is Saudi savagery confined to the Peninsula. The regime once issued a fatwa, or Islamic-sanctioned decree, still available online for all to see, calling on the world’s Muslims to hate all non-Muslims (meaning more than 99 percent of Americans; such is how “our good friend and ally” really feels about us).
In short, from a libertarian or humanitarian point of view – and that’s the point of view that was used to justify war in Iraq, Libya and Syria to the public – the tyranny of Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad pale in comparison to that of Saudi leadership.
In this context, what is to stop, say, the U.N. Security Council – America, France, Britain, Russia and China, all nations that have suffered from Saudi-funded radicalization and terrorism – from sending a military coalition to seize and internationalize the oil wells of Arabia? How would that be any different than seizing the assets of a terrorist organization, which the Saudi regime amounts to?
The oil can be shared equally, fair international prices can be established, and, to assuage any Western guilt, revenues – including the 100 billion spent annually sponsoring Islamic radicalism and terror – can go to the poor and needy of the world, including if not especially the Muslim world. Peninsular Arabs can still be maintained by a rich stipend; they can keep Mecca and Medina and, if they still choose, practice Shariah on one another without being a threat to the civilized world at large. A win-win for all concerned – the developed world, the underdeveloped world and even Peninsular Arabs content with practicing Islam among themselves. Even the world’s Muslims, whom we are told are overwhelmingly moderate, should welcome the liberation of their holy places.
The only ones who lose are those committed to using oil wealth to spread radical Islamic ideologies and terrorism around the world.
If this proposal still sounds too “unrealistic,” remember: We already have precedents of the U.S. behaving more spectacularly. In 2003 the Bush administration accused Saddam Hussein of being behind 9/11, of developing weapons of mass destruction and of committing unprecedented human rights abuses. Because these accusations were false or exaggerated – even the human rights violations were often carried out against ISIS-types – most Security Council nations rejected war on Iraq. Even so, the U.S. invaded and conquered Iraq; and the average American was fine with it all.
So what’s to stop the U.S. from either going it alone again or in cooperation with all or some Security Council members – perhaps a joint Trump/Putin endeavor – and severing the bloodline of global terrorism? It’s not realpolitik, “balance of power” theories, or ethical standards that prevent the U.S. from defanging the head of the jihadi snake. If the U.S. could go against international opinion and invade Iraq on a number of false/dubious pretexts, why can’t it do the same in Saudi Arabia – a nation that is guilty of supporting and disseminating radicalism and terrorism to ever corner of the globe? Incidentally, unlike Saddam, Saudi leadership – to say nothing of 15 of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 – was actually behind the strikes of September 11, in case Americans are still interested in payback.
So why hasn’t this proposal been implemented? Because the Saudis know better than anyone else exactly how vulnerable their terrorist activities make them and long ago bought off top and influential Western politicians, institutions, universities and media – in a word, the establishment. Put differently, Saudi wealth is not just spent on the offensive jihad – the spread of radical ideas and groups around the world – but the defensive jihad as well. This consists of “donating” billions to key Western elements, who in turn whitewash Saudi Arabia before the American public – you know, our “indispensable ally in the war on terror.”
The establishment has another, more subtle job: to condition Americans into believing that the very idea of seizing Saudi oil is as unrealistic and absurd as … well, as Donald Trump becoming president was once.
But times are changing, and old paradigms are breaking; things once mockingly dismissed by the establishment as “impossible” and “ridiculous” are coming to pass. More to the point, there’s a new American government in town, headed by one whose immense wealth immunes him to Saudi bribes – one who promises to drain the swamp. Surely one of the foulest things that will be found stuck around the drain hole and in need of rooting out is the unholy alliance between Saudi Arabia and the establishment.
Raymond Ibrahim, a scholar of Islamic history and doctrine, is the author of “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians” and “The Al Qaeda Reader.” He is currently writing a military history documenting the centuries-long clash between Islam and the West.

Creating Frankenstein: Saudi Arabia’s Ultra-Conservative Footprint in Africa

James M. Dorsey

There is much debate about what spurs political violence. The explanations are multi-fold. There is one aspect that I’d like to discuss tonight as it relates to Africa and that is the role of Saudi Arabia. Let me be clear: With the exception of a handful of countries, none of which are in Africa, Saudi Arabia, that is to say the government, the religious establishment and members of the ruling family and business community, does not fund violence.
It has however over the last half century launched the single largest public diplomacy campaign in history, pumping up to $100 billion dollars into ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam. That campaign has succeeded in making ultra-conservatism a force in Muslim religious communities across the globe. It involves the promotion of an intolerant, supremacist, anti-pluralistic interpretation of Islam that even where it rejects involvement in politics creates an environment that in given circumstances serves as a breeding ground, but more often fosters a mindset in which militancy and violence against the other is not beyond the pale.
What that campaign has done, certainly in Muslim majority countries in Africa, is to ensure that representatives of Saudi-backed ultra-conservatism have influence in society as well as the highest circles of government. This is important because contrary to widespread beliefs, the Saudi campaign is not primarily about religion, it’s about geopolitics, it’s about a struggle with Iran for hegemony in the Muslim world. As a result, it’s about anti-Shiism and a ultra-conservative narrative that counters that of Shiism and what remains of Iran’s post-1979 revolutionary zeal.
The campaign also meant that at times resolving the question whether the kingdom maintains links to violent groups takes one into murky territory. Again, I want to be clear, certainly with the rise of the Islamic State (IS) and its affiliates in Africa and elsewhere, and even before with the emergence of Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia has made countering jihadism a cornerstone of its policy. That is however easier said than done.
What is evident in Africa is that the kingdom or at least prominent members of its clergy appear to have maintained wittingly or unwittingly some degree of contact with jihadist groups, including IS affiliates. What I want to do in the time I have is anecdotally illustrate the impact of Saudi-backed ultra-conservatism on three African states – Nigeria, Niger and Mali – and how this at times relates to political violence in the region.
Let’s start with Nigeria. One of the earliest instances in which Saudi Arabia flexed its expanding soft power in West Africa was in 1999 when Zamfara, a region where Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram has been active, became the first Nigerian state to adopt Sharia. A Saudi official stood next to Governor Ahmed Sani when he made the announcement. Freedom of religion scholar Paul Marshall recalls seeing some years later hundreds of Saudi-funded motorbikes in the courtyard of the governor’s residence. They had been purchased to enforce gender segregation in public transport. Sheikh Abdul-Aziz, the religious and cultural attaché at the Saudi embassy in Abuja declared in 2004 that the kingdom had been monitoring the application of Islamic law in Nigeria “with delight.”
Like elsewhere in the Muslim world, local politicians in Zamfara were forging an opportunistic alliance with Saudi Arabia. If geopolitics was the Saudi driver, domestic politics was what motivated at least some of their local partners. Nonetheless, the lines between militant but peaceful politics and violence were often blurry. Political violence analyst Jacob Zenn asserts that Boko Haram even has some kind of representation in the kingdom. A Boko Haram founder who was killed in 2009, Muhammad Yusuf, was granted refuge by the kingdom in 2004 to evade a Nigerian military crackdown. In Mecca, he forged links with like-minded Salafi clerics that proved to be more decisive than his debates with Nigerian clerics who were critical of his interpretation of Islam.
Once back in Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s Borno state, Yusuf built with their assistance a state within a state centred around the Ibn Taymiyyah mosque and a compound in the city centre on land bought with the help of his father-in-law. Yusuf’s group had its own institutions, including a Shura or advisory council, a religious police force that enforced Islamic law, and a rudimentary welfare, microfinance and job creation system.
It operated under a deal struck in talks in Mecca brokered by a prominent Salafi cleric between a dissident Boko Haram factional leader identified as Aby Muhammed and a close aide to former Nigerian President Jonathan Goodwill. Under the agreement Yusuf pledged not to preach violence and to distance himself from separatist groups, an understanding he later violated. Boko Haram has further suggested that before joining IS, it had met with Al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, a Boko Haram operative responsible for attacking a church in Nigeria reportedly spent months in Saudi Arabia prior to the attack.
Yusuf’s religious teacher, Sheikh Ja’afar Adam, a graduate of the Islamic University of Medina, presided over a popular mosque in the Nigerian city of Kano that helped him build a mass audience. Adam’s popularity allowed him to promote colleagues, many of whom were also graduates of the same university in Medina, who became influential preachers and government officials. Adam was liberally funded by Al-Muntada al-Islami Trust, a London-based charity with ties to Saudi Arabia that has repeatedly been accused by Nigerian intelligence a British peer, Lord Alton of Liverpool, of having links to Boko Haram and serving as a platform for militant Islamic scholars. Al Muntada, which operates a mosque and a primary school in London, has denied the allegations while a UK Charity Commission investigation failed to substantiate the allegations. Kenyan and Somali intelligence nonetheless suspected Al-Muntada of also funding Al Qaeda’s Somali affiliate, Al Shabab.
Among scholars hosted by Al Muntada are Mohammad Al Arifi, a Saudi preacher who argues that “the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honour for the believer.” He also reasons that the Muslim world would not have suffered humiliation had it followed “the Quranic verses that deal with fighting the infidels and conquering their countries say that they should convert to Islam, pay the jizya poll tax, or be killed.”
Abd al-Aziz Fawzan al-Fawzan, a Saudi academic, is another Al Muntada favourite. Al-Fawzan advises the faithful that “if (a) person is an infidel, even if this person is my mother or father, God forbid, or my son or daughter; I must hate him, his heresy, and his defiance of Allah and His prophet. I must hate his abominable deeds.” Organizationally, the charity also maintained close ties to major Saudi funding organizations, including the Muslim World League (MWL), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), and Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Saudi governmental non-nongovernmental organization that was shut down in the wake of 9/11 because of its jihadist ties.
Adam publicly condemned Yusuf after he took over Boko Haram. In response Yusuf in 2007 order the assassination of Adam, a protégé of the Saudi-funded Izala Society (formally known as the Society for the Removal of Innovation and Re-establishment of the Sunnah), which sprang up in northern Nigeria in the late 1970s to campaign against Sufi practices and has since gained ground in several West African states. Much like Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism’s relationship to jihadism, Izala after spawning Boko Haram became one of its main targets. The group has since the killing of Adam gunned down several other prominent Saudi-backed clerics.
Nigerian journalists and activists see a direct link between the influx of Saudi funds into Yusuf’s stomping ground in northern Nigeria and greater intolerance that rolled back the influence of Sufis that had dominated the region for centuries and sought to marginalize Shiites. “They built their own mosques with Saudi funds so that they will not follow ‘Kafirs’ in prayers& they erected their own madrasa schools where they indoctrinate people on the deviant teachings of Wahhabism. With Saudi petro-dollars, these Wahhabis quickly spread across towns & villages of Northern Nigeria…This resulted in countless senseless inter-religious conflicts that resulted in the death of thousands of innocent Nigerians on both sides.” said Shiite activist Hairun Elbinawi.
Adam started his career as a young preacher in Izala, a Salafist movement founded in the late 1970s by prominent judge and charismatic orator Abubakr Gumi who was the prime facilitator of Saudi influence and the rise of Salafism in northern Nigeria. A close associate, Gumi represented northern Nigeria at gatherings of the Muslim World League starting in the 1960s, was a member of the consultative council of the Islamic University of Medina in the 1970s and was awarded for his efforts with the King Faisal Prize in 1987. All along, Gumi and Izala benefitted from generous Saudi financial support for its anti-Sufi and anti-Shiite campaigns.
Adam and Gumi’s close ties to the kingdom did not mean that they uncritically adopted Saudi views. Their ultra-conservative views did not prevent them from at times adopting positions that took local circumstances in northern Nigeria into account at the expense of ultra-conservative rigidity. Adam’s questioning of the legitimacy of democracy, for example, did not stop him becoming for a period of time a government official in the state of Kano. In another example, Gumi at one point urged Muslim women to vote because “politics is more important than prayer,” a position that at the time would have been anathema to Saudi-backed ultra-conservative scholars. Similarly, Adam suggested that Salafists and Kano’s two major Sufi orders, viewed by Saudi puritans as heretics, should have equal shares of an annual, public Ramadan service.
Peregrino Brimah, a trained medical doctor who teaches biology, anatomy and physiology at colleges in New York never gave much thought while growing up in Nigeria to the fact that clerics increasingly were developing links to Saudi Arabia. “You could see the money, the big ones were leading the good life, they ran scholarship programs. In fact, I was offered a scholarship to study at King Fahd University in Riyadh. I never thought about it until December 2015 when up to a 1,000 Shiites were killed by the military in northern Nigeria,” Brimah said. “Since I started looking at it, I’ve realized how successful, how extraordinarily successful the Wahhabis have been.”
Brimah decided to stand up for Shiite rights after the incident in which the military arrested prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky following a clash with members of Shiites in Kaduna state. The Nigerian military confirmed that it had attacked sites in the ancient university town Zaria after hundreds of Shia demonstrators had blocked a convoy of Nigeria’s army chief General Tukur Buratai in an alleged effort to kill him. Military police said Shiites had crawled through tall grass towards Buratai’s vehicle “with the intent to attack the vehicle with [a] petrol bomb” while others “suddenly resorted to firing gunshots from the direction of the mosque.” Scores were killed in the incident. A phone call to Nigerian President Mohammed Buhari in which King Salman expressed his support for the government’s fight against terrorist groups was widely seen as Saudi endorsement of the military’s crackdown on the country’s Shiite minority. The state-owned Saudi Press Agency quoted Salman as saying that Islam condemned such “criminal acts” and that the kingdom in a reference to Iran opposed foreign interference in Nigeria.
Brimah’s defense of the Shiites has cost him dearly and further illustrated the degree to which Saudi-funded Wahhabism and Salafism had altered the nature of Nigerian society. “I lost everything I had built on social media the minute I stood up for the Shiites. I had thousands of fans. Suddenly, I was losing 2-300 followers a day. My brother hasn’t spoken to me since. The last thing he said to me is: ‘how can you adopt Shiite ideology?’ I raised the issue in a Sunni chat forum. It became quickly clear that these attitudes were not accidental. They are the product of Saudi-sponsored teachings of serious hatred. People don’t understand what they are being taught. They rejoice when thousand Shiites are killed. Even worse is the fact that they hate people like me who stand up for the Shiites even more than they hate the Shiite themselves.”
In response to Brimah’s writing about the clash, Buratai, the Nigerian army chief, invited him to for a chat. Brimah politely declined. After again, accusing the military of having massacred Shiites, Buratai’s spokesman, Col. SK Usman, adopting the Saudi line of Shiites being Iranian stooges, accused Brimah of being on the Islamic republic’s payroll. “Several of us hold you in high esteem based on perceived honesty, intellectual prowess and ability to speak your mind. That was before, but the recent incident of attempted assassination of the Chief of Army Staff by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and subsequent events and actions by some groups and individuals such as you made one to have a rethink. I was quite aware of your concerted effort to smear the good name and reputation of the Chief of Army Staff to the extent of calling for his resignation.
He went out of his way to write to you and even invited you for constructive engagement. But because you have dubious intents, you cleverly refused…God indeed is very merciful for exposing you. Let me make it abundantly clear to you that your acts are not directed to the person of the Chief of Army Staff, they have far reaching implication on our national security. Please think about it and mend your ways and refund whatever funds you coveted for the campaign of calumny,” Usman wrote in the mail. Brimah’s inbox has since then been inundated with anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian writings in what he believes is a military-inspired campaign.
Brimah was not the only one to voice opposition to Saudi-backed ultra-conservatism. Murtada Muhammad Gusau, Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’at Mosque and Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’ s Mosque in Nigeria’s Okene Kogi State took exception to the kingdom’s global effort to criminalize blasphemy, legitimize in the process curbs on free speech, and reinforce growing Muslim intolerance towards any unfettered discussion of the faith. In a lengthy article in a Nigerian newspaper, Gusau debunked the Saudi-inspired crackdown on alleged blasphemists citing multiple verses from the Qur’an that advocate patience and tolerance and reject the killing of those that curse or berate the Prophet Mohammed.
Brimah and Gusau were among the relatively few willing to invoke the wrath of spreading ultra-conservative, sectarian forms of Islam across a swath of Africa at an often dizzying pace. In the process, African politicians and ultraconservatives in cooperation with Saudi Arabia have let a genie of intolerance, discrimination, supremacy and bigotry out of the bottle. In the Sahel state of Niger, Issoufou Yahaya recalls his student days in the 1980s when there wasn’t a single mosque on his campus. “Today, we have more mosques here than we have lecture rooms. So much has changed in such a short time,” he said.
One cannot avoid noticing Saudi Arabia’s role in this development. The flags of Niger and Saudi Arabia feature on a monument close to the office tower from which Yahaya administers the history of department of Université Abdou Moumouni in the Niger capital of Niamey. Sheikh Boureima Abdou Daouda, an Internet-savvy graduate of the Islamic University of Medina and the Niamey university’s medical faculty as well as an author and translator of numerous books, attracts tens of thousands of worshippers to the Grand Mosque where he insists that “We must adopt Islam, we cannot adapt it.” Daouda serves as an advisor to Niger president Mahamadou Issoufou and chairs the League of Islamic Scholars and Preachers of the Countries of the Sahel. “Before, people here turned to religion when they reached middle age, and particularly after they retired. But now, it is above all the young ones. What we see is a flourishing of Islam.” Daouda said.
What Daouda did not mention was that with Africa, the battleground where Iran put up its toughest cultural and religious resistance to Saudi-backed ultra-conservatism, was witnessing the world’s highest rates of conversion to Shi’a Islam since many Sunni tribes in southern Iraq adopted Shiism in the 19th century. Shiites were until recently virtually non-existent in Africa with the exception of migrants from Lebanon and the Indian subcontinent. A Pew Research survey suggests that that has changed dramatically. The number of Shiites has jumped from 0 in 1980 to 12 percent of Nigeria’s 90-million strong Shia community in 2012. Shiites account today for 21 percent of Chad’s Muslims, 20 percent in Tanzania and eight percent in Gaza, according to the survey.
Ironically, Mali a nation where Shiism has not made inroads and where only two percent of the populations identifies itself as Ahmadis, an Islamic sect widely viewed by conservative Muslims as heretics, is the only country outside of Pakistan that Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat (AMTKN), a militant anti-Ahmadi, Pakistan-based group with a history of Saudi backing, identifies by name as a place where it operates overseas. The fact that AMTKN, which says that it operates in 12 countries, identified Mali is indicative of the sway of often Saud-educated imams and religious leaders that reaches from the presidential palace in the capital Bamako into the country’s poorest villages. The government at times relies on Salafis rather than its own officials to mediate with jihadists in the north or enlist badly needed European support in the struggle against them. Moreover, cash-rich Salafi leaders and organizations provide social services in parts of Mali where the government is absent. In 2009, the Saudi-backed High Islamic Council of Mali (HICM) proved powerful enough to prevent the president from signing into law a parliamentary bill that would have enhanced women’s rights. Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita reportedly phones HICM chief Mahmoud Dicko twice a week. Malians no longer simply identify each other as Muslims and instead employ terms such as Wahhabi, Sufi and Shia that carry with them either derogatory meanings or assertions of foreign associations.
Dicko condemned the November 2015 jihadist attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako in which 20 people were killed but argued that world powers cannot enjoy peace by fighting God through promotion of homosexuality. Dicko said the perpetrators were not Muslims but mostly rappers with drug-related charge sheets. “They rebel and take arms against their society. This is a message from God that the masters of the world, the major powers, which are trying to promote homosexuality, must understand. These powers are trying to force the world to move towards homosexuality. These world powers have attacked the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) into his grave…These masters of this world, who think that the world belongs to them, must understand that we will not attack God and escape safely. They cannot provoke God and get his clemency, his mercy. They cannot have peace and peace with such provocations towards the Creator of the world down here. They will not have peace. God will not leave them alone.”
Like elsewhere, ultra-conservatism as a cornerstone of Saudi soft power has proven in Mali to be a double-edged sword for the kingdom and its beneficiaries. Iyad Ag Ghaly nicknamed The Strategist, a Malian Tuareg militant who led tribal protests in the 1990s and emerged in 2012 at the head of Ansar Eddine, one of the jihadist groups that overran the north of Mali, found ultra-conservative religion while serving as a Malian diplomat in Jeddah. A Sufi and a singer who occasionally worked with Tinariwen, the Grammy Award winning band formed by veterans of Tuareg armed resistance in the 1980s and 1990s, co-organized an internationally acclaimed annual music festival outside of Timbuktu that attracted the likes of Robert Plant, Bono and Jimmy Buffett, and hedonistically enjoyed parties, booze and tobacco, Ag Ghaly grew a beard while in Saudi Arabia. His meetings with Saudi-based jihadists persuaded the Malian government to cut short his stint in the kingdom and call him home. Pakistani missionaries of Tablighi Ja’amat, an ultra-conservative global movement that has at times enjoyed Saudi backing despite theological differences with Wahhabism and Salafism, helped convince Ag Ghaly to abandon his music and hedonistic lifestyle. He opted for an austere interpretation of Islam and ultimately jihadism.
This pattern is not uniquely African even if Africa is the continent where Iranian responses to Saudi promotion of Sunni ultra-conservatism have primarily been cultural and religious in nature rather than through the use of militant and armed proxies as in the Middle East. It is nonetheless a battle that fundamentally alters the fabric of those African societies in which it is fought; a battle that potentially threatens the carefully constructed post-colonial cohesion of those societies. The potential threat is significantly enhanced by poor governance and the rise of jihadist groups like Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and Al Shabab in Somalia, whose ideological roots can be traced back to ultra-conservatism but whose political philosophy views Saudi Arabia as an equally legitimate target because its rulers have deviated from the true path. At the bottom line, both Africans and Saudis are struggling to come to grips with a phenomenon they opportunistically harnessed to further their political interests; one that they no longer control and that has become as much a liability as it was an asset.
Thank you.
This article is adapted from a lecture originally delivered at the Terrorism in Africa seminar, Singapore.

Video - France: initial results from first round socialist presidential primary give Benoit Hamon (35%)…

Video - France Left Primary: "People voted essentially against François Hollande"

Video - Chinese and Zimbabweans celebrate the Year of Rooster

Video Report - 1.5 million children severely malnourished as humanitarian crisis grips Yemen

Video - SNL Hosts Aziz Ansari Monologue Targeted Trump, Racists

Afghan Music - Madina Saidzoda - Garzam Worpasy

ISIS actively recruiting in Kunar province of Afghanistan

The loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group have started recruitment in the eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan, it has been reported.
Provincial high peace council officials and some local tribal elders have informed regarding the recruitment process of the ISIS group in this province.
The head of the high peace council for Kunar, Mohammad Ismail Munib, told RFE/RL that the loyalist of the terror group have started advertisements and are spreading propaganda among the residents of Kunar.
He said the issue has sparked concerns among the local residents and ISIS loyalists move among the people to attract them to their ranks.
Shahwali Salarzai, head of Kunar’s labor association, has said the group could attract the jobless youths whose numbers are considerably high.
This comes as the Ministry of Interior (MoI) officials said Saturday that the terror group still pose serious threats to Afghanistan despite their hardly suppressed in counter-terrorism operations.
MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqi told reporters in Kabul that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) continue to maintain pressure on the loyalists of the terror group in East of Afghanistan.
Sediqi further added that ISIS loyalists have managed to harm the residents of Nangarhar province and more operations have been conducted to prevent ISIS loyalists expand foothold in Nangarhar districts and other provinces.


Shia Muslims observing day of protest against Parachinar bomb blast
Shia Muslims of Pakistan are observing a day protest against loss of lives of innocent Shiites in Parachinar bomb explosion, today (Sunday) on a call of Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, secretary general of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen.
Shia Muslims observing day of protest against Parachinar bomb blast
Shia Muslims of Pakistan are observing a day protest against loss of lives of innocent Shiites in Parachinar bomb explosion, today (Sunday) on a call of Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, secretary general of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen.
Rallies and demonstrations are being staged outside press clubs and at other points in almost all small and big cities of Pakistan to condemn the terrorists of banned Deobandi terrorist outfits who claim responsibility for the genocide against Shia Muslims and other terrorist attacks.
Allama Nasir Abbas Jafari said in a statement that takfiri terrorists were emboldened due to biased policies of the State officials against Shia Muslims of Parachinar who were not taken into confidence on security related issue.
He said that banned terrorists outfits are being facilitate by the government party in many parts of the country hence the terrorists were encouraged to perpetrate terrorist attacks at will.   

Rallies and demonstrations are being staged outside press clubs and at other points in almost all small and big cities of Pakistan to condemn the terrorists of banned Deobandi terrorist outfits who claim responsibility for the genocide against Shia Muslims and other terrorist attacks. 
Allama Nasir Abbas Jafari said in a statement that takfiri terrorists were emboldened due to biased policies of the State officials against Shia Muslims of Parachinar who were not taken into confidence on security related issue. 
He said that banned terrorists outfits are being facilitate by the government party in many parts of the country hence the terrorists were encouraged to perpetrate terrorist attacks at will.   

Shia Muslims observing day of protest against Parachinar bomb blast
Shia Muslims of Pakistan are observing a day protest against loss of lives of innocent Shiites in Parachinar bomb explosion, today (Sunday) on a call of Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, secretary general of Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen.
Rallies and demonstrations are being staged outside press clubs and at other points in almost all small and big cities of Pakistan to condemn the terrorists of banned Deobandi terrorist outfits who claim responsibility for the genocide against Shia Muslims and other terrorist attacks.
Allama Nasir Abbas Jafari said in a statement that takfiri terrorists were emboldened due to biased policies of the State officials against Shia Muslims of Parachinar who were not taken into confidence on security related issue.
He said that banned terrorists outfits are being facilitate by the government party in many parts of the country hence the terrorists were encouraged to perpetrate terrorist attacks at will.

Pakistan - Parachinar blast

In the first major terrorist attack of 2017, at least 20 people lost their lives at the Eidgah Market in Shia-majority Parachinar. Early reports have not confirmed whether an IED or a suicide bomber were responsible. Images of grieving families have once again reminded us of the serious threat that terrorist outfits continue to pose to the country. Being the first major terrorist attack in the tenure of new Army Chief General Bajwa, this is a reminder to our security forces that the challenges of terrorism is by no means over. The target of that attack was Pakistan’s Shia community, emphasising the fact that religious and sectarian minorities in the country remain vulnerable to the grossest forms of terrorism. The proscribed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the group, along with TTP splinter Shehryar Mehsud group, had carried out the attack. There is little solace that solidarity statements from the prime minister and president can offer to communities that have been targets of terrorism for far too long.
Divisions remain deep within Pakistan’s own social matrix over domestic and international affairs which continue to provide a readymade breeding ground for terrorist organisations of all ilks. The fact that the same market was targeted in a similar attack in December 2015 points to a serious security failure. Coming days after the new head of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Asif Chotu, was killed in an encounter, the element of retribution cannot be discounted. If indeed the TTP’s statement is to be heeded, recent attempts to disassociate sectarian groups from terrorist groups must be seriously questioned. Government officials continue to give confused signals about different militant groups as tragedy after tragedy continues to plague the country. General Bajwa recently reached out to Afghanistan to propose stopping the blame game for terrorism. That is a positive signal. Tackling terrorism in Pakistan will require a coordinated approach. The failure to implement key parts of the National Action Plan has been pointed out repeatedly. While one may accept that there is no easy solution to terrorism, there is certainly more that can be done to protect the country’s most vulnerable communities.

Pakistan - ''Balochistan, Gwadar not benefiting from CPEC''

Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) central leader Shahzain Bugti stated that Balochistan and Gwadar have not taken any benefit from CPEC yet.
In an interview on Sunday he said that “you visit Balochistan and you would observe the deep-rooted hatred against the centre’. He said it was clear that the inhabitants of Pakistan’ s largest, but poorest province were not at all satisfied with the federal government’s policies.
While answering to a question Shahzain Bugti said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led government’s policies pertaining to Balochistan have changed after coming into power. He said that the Sui-gas was not available in most parts of the province and the people of Balochistan were forced to cock on open fire.
The grandson of late chieftain Nawab Akbar Bugti, said, “we are against giving Pakistani nationality to Afghanis.” To a question he answered that Kalashnikov culture and drugs were introduced in Pakistan by Afghanis. Shahzain said that not any displeased top Baloch leader has surrender before the government adding that Jamhoori Watan Party will not ally with any political party of the country.

#Pakistan - Hate speech and NAP

By Gul Bukhari
The National Action Plan (NAP) that came into being after the horrific tragedy of over 130 children of Peshawer Army Public School on in December 2014 is now two years old, and consists of twenty points. Point 5 is ‘Strict action against the literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance.’ Point 9 is ‘Taking effective steps against religious persecution.’ Point 11 is ‘Ban on glorification of terrorists and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media.’ Point 13 is ‘Communication network of terrorists will be dismantled completely.’
Point 14 is ‘Measures against abuse of Internet and social media for terrorism.’ And point 18 is ‘Dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists.’
Almost all 20 points of NAP are focused on eradicating terrorism which arises from religion in one way or another. Whether it has sectarian root causes or whether imposition of religious beliefs and practices by force, or by any other means like brainwashing of children in madrassas with the reward of hoors etc. All five points that I’ve mentioned above are related with communication networks and hate speech, and communication of hate speech integral to religious terrorism. However, hate speech is not defined in NAP. And whilst all manner of hate speech the authors of NAP points might have envisioned but not spelt out also remains in evidence to this day, like ‘kafir, kafir, Shia kafir’ by sectarian hate preachers, there is another kind of hate speech terrorism going on which no one in positions of responsibility is taking notice of.
Clearly, allegations of blasphemy with incitement to kill alleged blasphemers is religiously inspired terrorism. It inspires killing of innocents, and creates fear in the general public of being accused of being blasphemers. This fear can be, and is, used to silence all manner of dissent. The NAP committee on ‘hate speech’ alone comprises the most impressively empowered persons and departments of the state: Minister of Religious Affairs, Planning Minister, DG ISI, DG MI, MD PTV, Home Secretaries of all four provinces, Federal Secretary Religious Affairs, Federal Secretary Auqaf, Punjab Secretary Auqaf, Federal Interior Secretary, and National Coordinator of the National Counter Terrorism Authority. Not one of these officers or the departments of the Executive they represent, have taken any notice of the terror via blasphemy allegations that is being orchestrated in the most organized fashion in the wake of the protests against abductions of social media activists and bloggers. The campaign is flagrant, defiant and obvious. It is no longer aimed at the abductees. It now extends to prominent faces protesting the abductions and demanding recovery of the missing. The campaign has transitioned from being solely conducted on social media to mainstream electronic media.
Mr. Amir Liaqat on BOL and Mr. Orya Maqbool Jan on Neo have incited violence against the bologgers as well as against those calling for their production and rule of law. The NACTA committee is not even doing its basic job. Leave alone a crackdown on anonymous social media accounts or Facebook pages, which I am certain the state machinery is capable of getting to, NACTA committee members and departments have not even the real names and faces like Orya and Liaqat. May I remind them that the Supreme Court ruled Mumtaz Qadri, who acted on allegations of blasphemy, a terrorist. Are NACTA members awaiting for the Supreme Court to rule that the allegations are the root of this terror? Or do they have the required common sense to know so already as I do, but not the courage? Here I am, and many other ordinary screaming hoarse to call their attention to this terrorism. It’s not even our job to do so per se, but we do it because we want a sane, safe, secure country for ourselves. But these committee members are paid to tackle hate speech. It’s their job. Yet, they are on the run, neither speaking nor acting against even the most obvious, in-their-face terrorism on mainstream media.
What am I to understand from all this? These committee members are, or ought to be, more powerful than these elements trying to terrorise the population and silence dissent against state atrocities. Are these ‘anchors’ in mainstream media more powerful than the entire National Action Plan and its committee members together with federal and provincial governments?
If the anchors appear to be more powerful against the entire government machinery in this security state, it raises very serious questions. Take the example of Amir Liaqat having conducted a thoroughly inciteful programme against the abductees and the protestors on BOL channel right after the condemnation of such acts by a personage no less than the Federal Interior Minister. The minister condemned this blasphemy allegation circus, citing life risks to the abductees and their families.
But Mr. Liaqat seems to be clearly more powerful than the Interior Minister. If the Interior Minister had the will or capacity he would naturally have gone after Mr. Liaqat for his terror programs. The same goes for the entire NACTA committee. But it hasn’t happened. What is going on?

Pakistan - #Panamaleaks - Missing, Distracted, Indifferent

The endless debate over Panama leaks has had a disruptive affect on legislative activity in the National Assembly as well, costing millions in taxpayer’s money.
It is just a sign of lawmaker’s inefficiency and lack of focus that an issue that ultimately falls on the judiciary to decide and address, has been causing delays in places that can neither condemn nor decide the fate of those accused.
Almost 60 per cent of the legislative business remained unaddressed in the lower house of the parliament during the period of the last three months, according to figures made available to The Nation by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen). Hours’ long discussions on various aspects of the controversy surrounding Panama leaks remained the main agenda in the NA from its 36th to 39th session.
Around 144 agenda items did not see the light of day in the National Assembly proceedings. Not only that, two joint session of parliament were also held and all agenda items were taken up to discuss this single issue. Some of the MNAs and federal ministers were also seen defending the government’s stance outside the Supreme Court (SC) after the hearing of the same case, while some of the ministers missed up to 19 days of proceedings due to the furore caused by Panamagate.
This confirms the fears of the people that MNAs are elected not to serve their constituent, but their own interests, which the party machine also ensures.
The National Assembly is not the place to defend the scandals of the government unless it can be taken up as a matter for legislation. The utter lack of quorum is additionally disappointing, and has been a constant feature since 2013, with not just PML-N representatives regularly missing, but many from PTI also either boycotting the assembly, or being generally missing.

#Pakistan - No freedom to imagine

The other day, as I sat organising my older work, I couldn’t help but notice the change in my writing — from being carefree and bold to cautious, and then at times, even silent. This had nothing to do with my writing style but a barometer of the quality of freedom and space I breathe in.
My fear is the air is likely to get more polluted and congested for the free thinker to survive. The winds of fear and oppression are likely to grow stronger with time. We have indeed entered a new age.
My lament will sound strange, especially to those who have lived through the Zia years when state oppression was at its height. Seeking freedom of expression was a real struggle since the military government resorted to repression. In 1977, it banned the PPP’s Urdu newspaper Musawaat. Journalists were picked up and thrashed. After 1982, there were strict censorship rules according to which news and publications had to be approved before they were printed.
But as a non-fiction writer, I represent a generation between two eras in Pakistan — the 1980s and the post 2007 — periods similar in terms of repression and gagging of voice. In many ways, the post-2007 period is far more oppressive due to the nature and diversity of cruelty.
The end of the Zia era following his mysterious death had brought a lot of changes in the country. Notwithstanding the weak and irresponsible political regime that was highly unstable, there were big changes in life, such as greater ability to speak, write, and even enjoy life. I remember the exuberance amongst the youth in the first public concert held during Benazir Bhutto’s first government. Enjoyment is a virtue which had turned into a vice under Zia’s rule.
It was these two decades that spoilt people like me. From commenting on political governments to military dictators and their successors there was room for the voice to be heard. Even when Musharraf and his partner-in-the-Kargil-crime Lt. General (retd) Javed Hassan had banned any discussion of the operation in the National Defence University, we wrote about it in public space, bringing to attention how the ordinary soldier had been let down to sacrifice in a war that was planned with no guarantees of success.
One of the main differences between the 1980s and the post-2007 era is that the latter has proved more lethal. During the 1980s people could at least identify the culprit as being the state; now it could be anyone in the crowd.
We wrote books about sacred cows in the country. It was different from the 1980 when even storytellers and poets had turned to abstraction to conceal the real meaning of their words and expression.
So, I was not prepared for the mind control and narrative management that descended on the society after 2007. Though people talk about greater freedom of expression, in reality it has proved to be a dark hole that people are sucked in. The expansion of media and its proliferation at many levels did not amplify my sound and cries but muffled my voice.
Referring to my own writings, I could see the obvious change that began to take place around 2012; there were greater restrictions every day. It became frequent that newspapers dropped pieces as an unsaid policy of self-censorship or reminded you not to take names of certain militant groups or certain organisations. In some cases, such censorship even expanded to certain powerful entrepreneurs.
Although the degree of censorship varied from one newspaper to the others, some were more intense than others; after 2010 even the English press that was considered relatively safer than its Urdu counterpart began to change its hue.
The situation was tougher for the electronic media that came under greater scrutiny due to its greater outreach. The threat to media, which in many ways symbolises the story of the nature of freedom of expression in the country, was from multiple sources.
A 2015 research report for an American think tank conducted by a team of Pakistani journalists and researchers that eventually did not see the light of the day, identified military and militants as two major sources of fear for the media. The structural flaws of the media and the vulnerability of individuals could be exploited by both.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, approximately 63 Pakistani journalists were killed in the period from 2007-2016. If you add the figure of 7 media workers, the figure would rise to 70.
Religious extremism has had its biggest toll in the form of fear in the society that is increasingly crippled to raise its voice against any form of injustice. It is tragic that in a Muslim society and state, conformity to the power of group and non-state actor is ensured through manipulation of religion — all in the name of safeguarding it.
These 70 dead bodies which include that of journalist Saleem Shahzad, who was abducted from the heart of Islamabad and then killed, are symbols of the shrinking space in Pakistan. These are as symbolic as the recent disappearances of nine social activists.
The fact that there is a state within a state or some entity, whether it is state or non-state, which is picking up people and then building a campaign against them sends shiver down the spine. These killings and disappearances turn into a watershed between speech and silence, as did the killing of social activist Sabeen Mehmud.
My mind echoes with the shock and awe visible on social media after her death. It does not matter that her assassin was found and convicted later. It did not bring safety to the minds of people — to hold open forums and discuss issues. Today, religion, Balochistan, CPEC, Afghanistan and men in uniform are issues that are beyond the pale of discussion.
The name of the game is having sufficient demonstrable power and resources to influence sources of narrative generation. This includes social media, which one thought offered space for alternative voices. Between the state and the non-state there are over 30,000 social media accounts that will initiate trends, carry out massive propaganda against people and bring down anyone’s reputation like a house of cards. All you need is slap someone on social media with a blasphemy charge and their life is over.
Any freedom that the society had to fight back seems to be throttled due to the ill-conceived cyber security law that will bring greater fear and anxiety. These methods are dangerous as they target free speech. Wonder if the politicians ever bothered to look into how crippling this law will become in targeting people and creating an environment which will prove dangerous for the growth of democracy.
One of the main differences between the 1980s and the post-2007 era is that the latter has proved more lethal. During the 1980s people could at least identify the culprit as being the state; now it could be anyone in the crowd. People will aim without asking questions or giving a fair chance for explanation. This may certainly bring a level of bureaucratic discipline, which some believe is necessary.

However, this will result in flight of talent and emergence of dangerous levels of mediocrity as imagination and excellence requires freedom and tolerance. The growth of capable human resource requires critical thinking in education which will never happen under the reign of fear.