Sunday, February 5, 2017

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Why Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been silent on Trump's 'Muslim ban'

By Giorgio Cafiero

US President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order targeting seven Muslim-majority African/Arab countries received a chorus of criticism from around the world and within the Beltway. A number of Washington’s traditional allies, in addition to Iran, the United Nations and the Arab League, condemned the new American president’s decision, as did scores of US lawmakers on both sides of the partisan divide.

Save Qatar, which expressed a subtle disapproval of Trump’s executive order, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, however, have been absent from this wave of condemnation. The 45th president’s phone conversation Jan. 29 with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud did not cover the “Muslim ban.” The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) foreign minister and a Dubai police official went as far as to defend the move as within the US right as a sovereign nation, while dismissing the interpretation that the executive order is Islamophobic. Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman have, thus far, been silent. The lack of condemnation from the GCC is indicative of the Arab Gulf states’ "wait-and-see" approach to the new US administration and their vested interests in staying on Trump’s good side at a time when their economic and security challenges require close cooperation with Washington.
The GCC royals have numerous agendas that they see as best protected by pursuing better ties with Trump than they enjoyed with Barack Obama. Public criticism over the American president’s executive order could set back such interests that include securing greater US support in countering Iran’s regional conduct, safeguarding their sheikhdoms from the Islamic State (IS) and attracting foreign investment for their economic diversification programs.
A major disappointment that the Saudi leaders and other Arab state officials encountered with the Obama administration was its perceived weakness on Iran. From the GCC’s perspective, the last administration failed to take adequate action to counter Tehran’s conduct across the region, most notably in Syria and Yemen, which most in the council see as a grave security threat to the Arabian Peninsula monarchies. There have been clear signs that the Trump administration is determined to take a harder stance against Iran’s posture in the Middle East.
On Feb. 1, as the United States and three of its Western allies were conducting three-day war games in the Gulf to “ensure the free flow of commerce” through the Strait of Hormuz, national security adviser Michael Flynn warned that Washington is “officially putting Iran on notice” while engaging in a “deliberative process” to “consider a whole range of options” vis-a-vis Tehran. Flynn’s words were a response to Iran’s testing of a ballistic missile and an attack waged by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels against a Saudi naval vessel. Two days later, Flynn’s words translated into action once the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 25 individuals and companies affiliated with Tehran’s ballistic missile program, and others supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. Unquestionably, such actions provide Riyadh with a rather optimistic outlook on the new administration’s approach to addressing the Islamic Republic and the alleged threat it poses to the GCC.
The Obama administration’s refusal to create a "no-fly zone" in Syria for fear of drawing the United States into a bloody Middle Eastern war frustrated the Saudis and Qataris, who unsuccessfully sought to pressure Obama into stepping up the US military’s involvement in Syria against the regime. Despite Trump’s calls for severing Washington’s support for Saudi/Qatari-backed Sunni rebels in Syria, the US president’s advocating for "safe zones" in Syria and Yemen received a full endorsement from the Saudi king during his phone call with the American president.
A source of unease in the kingdom and other Arab Gulf states is that Trump will not lead a "typical Republican administration." Rooted in a history of deeper cooperation with former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the GCC has long been more comfortable with Republican White Houses that catered to oil interests and conducted more militaristic foreign policies against common adversaries of the United States and the GCC. Trump’s rhetoric, however, about making the GCC pay more for its defense while calling for a US-Russia partnership in the Middle East unsettled Arab Gulf leaders who feared that the real estate mogul would view the oil-rich monarchies as merely "cash cows" rather than vital allies and fail to take their concerns about regional tensions seriously. Although it is too early to determine how the GCC will eventually fit into Trump’s grander Middle East foreign policy, these early moves signal that the 45th president is likely determined to work closely with the Arab Gulf states on the Iran file.
Although many were baffled as to why the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” (the official title of every Saudi king since 1986) did not raise the executive order during his recent phone call with Trump, strategic interests rather than religion and socially constructed identities form the basis of state-to-state relationships. Many in the GCC found Trump’s Islamophobia repulsive and disturbing, as underscored by many Saudi elites’ highly negative reaction to the property billionaire’s December 2015 call for a “Muslim ban,” yet officials in Riyadh are careful about which battles they wish to pick with the 45th president. The election of Trump, regardless of the many objections that some in the GCC may have previously articulated about his candidacy, will not change the fact that Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states remain dependent on the United States for their security. Rather than condemning his executive order, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are instead focused on advancing mutual interests with the new White House while avoiding any public spat between the GCC and Washington.
A number of outstanding issues, chiefly the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which Trump endorsed and permits US citizens to sue the Saudi government for its alleged role in the attacks on Sept. 9, 2001, are sensitive matters that the United States and the GCC must eventually address. The Arab Gulf states will be in a better position to do so if they warm their ties with the new administration. As the Saudis seek to move forward with Vision 2030, an ambitious transformation plan aimed at ending the kingdom’s economic dependence on oil, investment from the United States and other wealthy countries is crucial. By supporting the “Muslim ban,” either through an outright endorsement or calculated silence, the Saudis and other Arab Gulf states are investing in a better relationship with Washington as the JASTA question remains a major problem for US-GCC relations that Trump will eventually need to address.
Not lost in the equation is the defense industry’s vested interests in a continuation of Washington’s alliances with the six GCC members. Although many in the media quickly pointed to the absence in the “Muslim ban” of countries where Trump has business interests, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE — the countries of origin for all but two of the 9/11 hijackers and thousands of IS members — another factor is that the United States is not a major arms seller to most of the seven countries listed: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. With James Mattis heading the Pentagon and Rex Tillerson serving as America’s top diplomat, these two figures have close ties to the GCC and view the Arab Gulf states as pivotal American allies in the Middle East, particularly as the White House flexes its muscles in the Gulf to send Iran a bold message.
Nonetheless, the Saudis are not entirely at ease with Trump and his “Muslim ban.” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ statement that “perhaps other countries need to be added” to the list is unsettling for the Arab Gulf states, which many of Trump’s critics have argued deserved to be placed on any such list before countries whose citizens have never waged a single deadly act of jihadi terrorism on US soil. If the administration adds any members of the GCC, it is doubtful that most Arab Gulf officials will remain silent. 

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A United Nations expert panel has concluded most Saudi airstrikes in Yemen over the past two years have deliberately targeted civilians and public infrastructure, and a human rights expert has told Sputnik they are hopeful the report could help halt the flow of arms to Riyadh.
The annual report, conducted by UN experts who monitor the conflict in Yemen, investigated 10 airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen between March and October 2016, which killed at least 292 civilians, of which around 100 were women and children. In eight of the 10 investigations, the panel found no evidence the airstrikes had targeted legitimate military objectives.
Moreover, in all 10 cases, the panel considers it almost certain the coalition did not meet international humanitarian law requirements of proportionality and precautions in the attacks and the attacks reflect a broader policy of attrition against civilian infrastructure, Sputnik reported
The panel concluded the attacks may amount to war crimes, and warn Riyadh's biggest arms suppliers — namely France, the UK and US — they are potentially complicit in them.
Kristine Beckerle, Yemen and Kuwait researcher at Human Rights Watch says the report was yet another pile of evidence to add to the existing mountain of documentation attesting to Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
"HRW has documented over 60 unlawful coalition airstrikes since the war started. Amnesty has documented dozens more. Another UN panel of experts released a report last year investigating over 100 airstrikes that appeared to violate the laws of war. At this point, anyone saying there's not enough evidence that the Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly violated international law, but continues to do so with essential impunity, is sticking their head in the sand," Beckerle told Sputnik.

Video Report - Trump Admin. Covers Up Saudi War Crimes in Yemen, Exaggerates Iran's Role

RAW: Syrian military fights ISIS militants in Deir el-Zour

Video - Syrian President Assad informs Japan, the Truth about Syria (1-19-17 Rare interview)

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Video - Sanders: Dems must abandon 'failed status quo'

'Lack of respect': Democrats hit back at Trump's outrage over travel ban ruling

After Donald Trump slammed a federal judge for a ruling that placed a nationwide halt on his freeze on refugee admissions to the US and travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries, the Democratic leader in the Senate blasted the president for a “lack of respect for the constitution”.
James Robart, a US district judge in Seattle, temporarily blocked Trump’s executive order late on Friday. On Saturday, the state department and Department of Homeland Security said travel from the affected countries and refugee entry to the US would resume, pending an application for a stay on Robart’s ruling.
Regardless, Trump tweeted: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”
In a statement, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump had shown “a disdain for an independent judiciary that doesn’t always bend to his wishes and a continued lack of respect for the constitution”.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, said: “No matter how many times the president attacks this judge … it won’t change the fact that this ban is unconstitutional, immoral and dangerous.
“The nationwide hold on the president’s ban order is a victory for our values, our security and our constitution.”
Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democratic on the Senate judiciary committee, issued a stinging rebuke of what he said was the president’s “hostility toward the rule of law”, which he called “not just embarrassing [but] dangerous”.
“He seems intent on precipitating a constitutional crisis,” Leahy said, adding: “He fired the nation’s top law enforcement official [acting attorney general Sally Yates] for recognizing that his so-called ‘travel ban’ was indefensible. It is in fact an arbitrary and shameful attempt to discriminate against Muslims.
“Last year, he made baseless accusations and attacked a federal judge [Gonzalo Curiel, in a case regarding Trump University] because of his ethnic heritage. And now he is attempting to bully and disparage yet another federal judge … for having the audacity to do his job and apply the rule of the law.”
The first White House response to the Seattle ruling came on Friday night, with a promise to appeal and a defense of the order as “lawful and appropriate”.
“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.
The order has also prompted opposition and concern worldwide. Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill this week that close US allies, such as King Abdullah II of Jordan, had voiced their own concerns.
“Obviously, the King did mention recent policies would have an effect and are having an effect,” Corker said. “But this is a temporary policy, and I think they’re trying to determine how people are being vetted and maybe this is something [that] four or five months is in our rearview mirror.”
On Saturday, the offices of Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House speaker Paul Ryan declined to comment on the Seattle ruling.
Some Republicans have characterized the order as overly broad and questioned the administration’s decision not to consult congressional leaders or the newly appointed heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon.
Ryan, however, has been among the more vocal defenders of the travel ban, insisting its intent is rooted not in religion but in national security.
“This is not a Muslim ban,” Ryan said at a press conference on Thursday. “If it were, I would be against it. This loose rhetoric that suggests this is a religious test or Muslim ban is wrong.”
However, the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a top Trump surrogate who was considered for secretary of state, said the president had asked him how to implement a Muslim ban that would pass legal muster.
“I’ll tell you the whole history of it,” Giuliani told Fox News last week. “When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban’. He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’”
Spicer has insisted the order is not a Muslim ban. On Saturday, however, Trump tweeted: “Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!”

The Russian Honeypot


In the world of espionage, the “honeypot” is trap in which someone seduces an unsuspecting diplomat or embassy employee. Then the seducer – a “swallow” (woman) or a “raven” (man) – blackmails the dupe. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed a certain expertise in using honeypots to extract information from CIA operatives, FBI agents, and ambassadors.
Russia is in the news at the moment for a more high-tech spying operation – its alleged hacking of Democratic Party e-mail accounts. The Obama administration claims that it has proof of Russian fingerprints on this operation and thus its influence on the November presidential elections. The White House has imposed a set of additional sanctions against Russia and also expelled 35 Russian diplomatic personnel.
These charges are serious and should be investigated. But they are a distraction. The real operation Russia is conducting in the United States is an old-fashioned honeypot trap. But it’s not a conventional version of the scheme in which an attractive woman makes eyes at a lonely intelligence officer.
Rather, the “raven” in this case is Vladimir Putin. And the dupe is Donald Trump. By romancing the Republican candidate, the Russian president has gotten much more than mere information. He is acquiring the most influential ally imaginable. And he doesn’t even have to wait until the inauguration. When the Obama administration announced its retaliatory moves, Putin declined to escalate. Trump, rather than standing behind his president, praised Putin and promised to “move on.”
Let me be clear. I don’t think Russia directly tampered with the vote in November. Nor do I think that the revelations connected to the alleged Russian hacking made the difference in the election. Trump won for other reasons; Clinton lost for other reasons too. I’m not even sure that Putin wanted Trump elected. The Russian president probably just wanted to sow some confusion and discord in the U.S. political system.
Nor do I want to see a new Cold War develop between the United States and Russia. I’m not a fan of Vladimir Putin or current Russian policies in Ukraine or Syria. But Moscow and Washington can certainly identify common interests such as reducing nuclear weapons, preserving the landmark agreement with Iran, and negotiating some new agreement with North Korea.
But the honeypot that Russia has used to trap Trump will have much more serious ramifications than a few email accounts hacked or disinformation spread around the Internet.
First of all, Putin will get some immediate foreign policy benefits. The Trump administration is likely to lift all economic sanctions against Russia, which will provide a nice bump up for the Russian economy. The United States will accept the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea and roll back its complaints over Russian meddling in Ukraine. Trump has already expressed reservations about NATO, so his administration will not likely welcome new members around Russia’s perimeter. And the new administration will cooperate with Russia in attacking the Islamic State and pull away from backing rebels who want to oust Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
All of that is worth a great deal more than the name of a few spies or a cache of secret Pentagon documents.
But Vladimir Putin has even grander plans, and Donald Trump could play a role in those as well.
In a 2013 speech, Vladimir Putin chastised the Euro-Atlantic countries for “rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan.” He went on to excoriate “political correctness” and “unlawful migration.” He added, “One must respect every minority’s right to be different, but the rights of the majority must not be put into question.”
Here are all the themes of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign two years before Trump even launched it. More importantly, these themes can found in the campaigns of most far-right-wing political parties in Europe. It’s no surprise that Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front, Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary are all part of Putin’s widening circle of admirers.
Putin aspires to create a new global alliance founded on conservative values, religious principles, and autocratic leanings. The Russian leader is comfortable working with outright racists, xenophobes, and Islamophobes. He aims to unravel the European Union and has provided support to European movements that share that goal. He has nothing but contempt for civil society unless it slavishly follows his political line. He no longer appears to believe that global warming is a hoax, but he still presides over an economy dependent on fossil fuels that does some of the greatest damage to the environment.
Again, Donald Trump fits right into this picture. The honeypot scheme doesn’t involve sexual propositioning but ideological seduction.
The greatest threat over the next couple years is not that the Trump administration will simply step back and allow Russia free rein in the world. Russia, after all, has rather limited global influence beyond its ties with right-wing extremists and a few morally bankrupt autocracies. Rather, the real threat is that Donald Trump will help Putin create a noxious alliance that gives an international platform for all the most deplorable actors, from white supremacists to crusading Islamophobes.
The media makes a mistake by calling the relationship between Putin and Trump a “bromance.” That somehow implies mutual fondness. Putin doesn’t care about romance any more than the “ravens” and “swallows” of the Cold War era. The Russian president has laid a trap for Donald Trump. And it looks as though Trump will drag America into the honeypot with him.
John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus and the author of the new novel Splinterlands.

NYT EDITORIAL : Mr. Trump’s Random Insult Diplomacy

These ought to have been the honeymoon days of Trump-era diplomacy. With no major foreign policy crisis to troubleshoot and world leaders anxious to decipher what, exactly, America First would look like on the global stage, President Trump had an opportunity to reassure allies and start laying the foundation for joint approaches to international challenges.
Then the president began picking up the “beautiful” Oval Office phone. In the span of a couple of weeks, Mr. Trump has rattled the world by needlessly insulting allies and continuing to peddle the dumbfounding narrative that the United States has long been exploited by allies and foes alike.
His administration has not departed radically from some core positions it inherited from the Obama administration. Last week, for instance, it admonished Russia over its destabilizing role in eastern Ukraine and signaled unease about Israeli settlements. Yet Mr. Trump’s pugnacious approach to foreign relations and his first executive orders — the most misguided of which was the sweeping travel ban targeting people from seven predominantly Muslim nations — have already undermined America’s standing. The fallout has included large demonstrations in Europe, searing news coverage (the latest cover of the German newsweekly Der Spiegel features an illustration of Mr. Trump holding the severed head of the Statue of Liberty) and strong rebukes from United Nations officials.
It began, predictably, with Mexico. Mr. Trump made America’s southern neighbor and third-largest trading partner the prime punching bag of his campaign. While Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has met the deluge of insults and provocations with exemplary restraint, White House officials have done nothing to dial down the tension. Late last month they insisted they would find a way to bill Mexico for a border wall, perhaps by slapping taxes on imports. This message left Mr. Peña Nieto no option but to cancel a trip to Washington that had been arranged to begin undoing the damage. In a subsequent call between the two leaders, Mr. Trump reportedly threatened Mr. Peña Nieto with deploying troops across his border to take care of “bad hombres.” This was, his aides later claimed, just a joke.
Diplomats and foreign policy professionals were still reeling from that revelation when the first accounts of the call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia trickled in. Fuming about an agreement the Obama administration and Mr. Turnbull had reached to resettle refugees stranded in offshore prisons run by Australia, Mr. Trump went ballistic. The American president reportedly hung up on Mr. Turnbull after declaring that “this was the worst call by far” with a foreign leader that day. There was no apology or backtracking the next day to mend fences with an ally that has obediently followed the United States into its recent military quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan and remains an important intelligence-sharing partner.
Far from being embarrassed by the leaked accounts of his calls, Mr. Trump referred to them gloatingly on Thursday. “When you hear about the tough calls I’m having, don’t worry about it, just don’t worry about it,” Mr. Trump told attendants at the National Prayer Breakfast. “They’re tough. We have to be tough. … We’re taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. It’s not going to happen anymore.”
Other administration officials have been no less abrasive. Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations, made her debut in New York warning that the United States was “taking names” of allies who “don’t have our backs.”
If this bellicose approach becomes the norm, alliances and key relationships will quickly fray, and the appeal of anti-American politicians is certain to grow. When the time comes, as it assuredly will, for Mr. Trump to pick up the phone to make tough requests of traditional allies in moments of crisis, he shouldn’t be surprised if it is the person at the other end of the line who ends the call abruptly.

Pashto Music Video - Chi Mi Zakhmi Zrah - Reshma Khan

Pakistan’s empathy for Kashmir is just ‘crocodile tears’: Bangla minister

A senior Bangladeshi minister on Sunday said Pakistan should apologise for 1971 genocide it committed before talking about Kashmir.
Terming Pakistan’s “empathy” for Kashmir as “crocodile tears”, a senior Bangladeshi minister on Sunday said Pakistan should apologise for 1971 genocide it committed before talking about Kashmir. “The Pakistani rulers’ empathy for Kashmir is in fact nothing but crocodile tears while they repeatedly plead innocence instead of seeking apology for the 1971 brutality and genocide they committed,” Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said. He said Pakistan should apologise for 1971 genocide they committed before talking about Kashmir.
The minister also commented that the history of Pakistan had always been one of oppressing ethic groups besides Bengalis. Inu made the remarks while responding to a journalist on the reported observance of ‘Kashmir Solidarity Day’ at the Pakistan High Commission here, according to an official statement.
Inu, a member of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Cabinet, called the “celebration” in Dhaka “beyond diplomatic norms and a mischievous move” by Pakistan to drag Bangladesh into “what is basically a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan”. Inu’s left-leaning Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JASOD) is a partner in the ruling Awami League-led grand alliance. Pakistan has been observing ‘Kashmir Day’ every year on February 5 since 1990.

Pakistan: Family Says Christian Schoolgirl Drugged, Raped, Murdered — But Police Claim She Killed Herself

Her family says there was probable evidence to prove she was kidnapped. There were also signs that she was raped before she was murdered.

And yet the police in Pakistan insisted that Tania, 12-year Christian schoolgirl, committed suicide by jumping into a canal, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) reported.

The sudden death of their beloved daughter on Jan. 23 stunned Tania's parents, and now they're demanding justice.

The family said there was CCTV footage that showed Tania getting into a vehicle just outside her school, a possible indication that she was lured by a kidnap gang.

When the police found her body on the banks of the canal, the family noticed that her was full of froth, which is a recognised indication that a person has taken a date rape drug. Moreover, Tania's trousers were badly ripped, another possible indication that she was raped before she was killed and dumped in the canal.

The family is now calling for an independent autopsy of their daughter's body.

To justify its claim that Tania committed suicide, the police said in its report that the victim suffered "deep depression" in school.

But Tania's classmates and friends said this was an "unfounded allegation."

Nadeem Gill, the girl's father, said Tania "was young, happy and full of energy. There is absolutely no way she would take her own life!"

Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the BPCA, is urging Christians to sign a petition calling for justice for Tania.

"Tania's case fits the profile of many other similar rape incidents, sadly in her case it led to murder," Chowdhry said.

Christians continue to be subjected to indiscriminate attacks in Muslim-majority Pakistan with the persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA ranking the country at No. 4 on its latest World Watch List of nations where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.

In its report, Open Doors states that hundreds of Christian girls and women have been kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriages in Pakistan.

In December 2016, Amnesty International also deplored the plight of Christians in the country. It says religious minorities are often the target of false blasphemy accusations in Pakistan, which embolden vigilantes to threaten or even kill those accused of blasphemy.

Amnesty notes that authorities exert little effort to check the evidence of blasphemy allegations as they yield to public pressure. Trials are often "unfair," the human rights group says.

Cancer diseases in Balochistan

By: Naseer Bajoi 

Cancer is a disease that takes the life of thousands of people each year. There are several types of cancer. This fatal disease is one of the leading causes of death in the province. Unfortunately, Balochistan has given birth to poverty, terrorism and health crises. Cancer has become a major public health threat to the people of Balochistan, the number of deaths from cancer particularly lung and Blood cancer rise up in the province.
Apart from many other factors lack of health facilities and awareness about various aspects of the problem and the heavy radiations of Atomic excrement in District Chaghi are playing an energetic role in the uprising ratio of cancer in the province.
Across the country especially Balochistan lacks severely the facilities for treatment of cancer patients. This region is famous in all over the world especially with CARs by the name of the richest province while discussing the natural resources, Agriculture, tread zone and deep-sea ports. Woefully, the richest province has only one cancer treatment Hospital in the capital that is also deprived of latest equipments and technology.
 As per recent report showed on BBC website and published in various newspapers that Balochistan has the highest poverty ratio across the country. Poor people of the richest province with the high ratio of cancer cannot pay millions of rupees for their proper treatment. Various studies have shown that less than 20% of all cancer patients in the province are able to receive health care while diagnosis and treatment facilities are not available to over 80% patients. Higher authorities are not serious about this dangerous threat, the number of non-government organizations are active in the country working against POLIO and ADIS virus, but ignoring this fatal disease.
 Even Though, Pakistan has the highest ratio of cancer in Asia as well. While Balochistan with less population has the highest ratio of cancer in Pakistan, the number of people are suffering from cancer. Keeping in the view the increasing number of cancer, Provincial Government has to establish clinics in the OPDs of all Divisional Headquarter Hospitals which will provide the awareness regarding early detections of all types of cancer. Authorities should take remarkable measures to uproot cancer from Balochistan, so that the people take a sigh of comfort and this is the dream of every citizen of living inside Balochistan.

Pakistan - Militarism and poverty

By Lal Khan
The militaristic mindset of the generals and the bourgeois political elites across the world has hardly moved ever since the times of ancient Rome, nearly two thousand years ago. Vegetius, a functionary in the Roman imperial bureaucracy, had composed a treatise in Latin on military adventures. He wrote, “Those who want peace should prepare for war.” Today’s statesmen, intellectuals, and military’s top brass, particularly in this south Asian subcontinent, have adopted it almost as a policy doctrine.
The use of jingoistic military expressions is a policy to distract and crush internal dissent through foreign hostile posturing and whipping war hysteria to captivate consciousness of the oppressed masses for more plunder. Lenin aptly said, “Wars are terrible but they are terribly profitable.” In the South Asian context, respective ruling classes have perfected the art of war hysteria even when no battles are being actually fought on the frontiers.
On Wednesday, the BJP’s economic wizard, Arun Jaitley, announced a more than 10 percent increase in the country’s defence budget for the next fiscal year. India’s defence budget was increased to INR 2.74 trillion compared to previous fiscal year’s budget of INR 2.49 trillion. This is the second consecutive increase of over 10 percent in the defence budget and excludes funding for clandestine fundamentalist and xenophobic outfits spawning proxy wars.
This massive wealth is spent on the weapons of mass destruction while teeming millions are wretched in misery and poverty. The main beneficiaries are the military’s elite and the imperialist military industrial complex that retains some of the highest rate of profits in manufacturing production the world over. The kickbacks from arms deals have created multi-millionaires amongst the state’s bosses and the political plutocrats.
According to a study conducted by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, India topped the list of weapons importers and accounted for some 15 percent of worldwide arms imports from 2010 to 2014. Five of the 10 biggest arms importers in this period were in Asia, which included China (five percent), Pakistan (four percent), South Korea (three percent), and Singapore (three percent). Imports are only a small part of the picture of the global arms industry.
An article in one of India’s largest media houses, NDTV, said, “Arms manufacturers of the world rejoice. The government of India is your loyal friend. Not just this government, but the previous government too — the UPA as well as the NDA...Would the money given to defence not be better spent on the development of public healthcare, education, affordable housing, and infrastructure projects? What’s surprising is how little discussion there appears to be in the national media about these levels of defence spending. In fact, you’re far more likely to read editorials claiming that the Indian army needs to spend crores on “modernization” and newer technology than articles arguing for a reduction of the military budget. Modern hardware adds to the spectacle on Republic Day in front of guests such as Barack Obama, but perhaps it’s time to set aside these archaic displays of military might and ask whether it’s necessary to spend so lavishly on machines of death in the first place.”
The experiences of the last seven decades graphically illustrate that increased levels of military spending have not made India or Pakistan safer places to live. Jingoism and the rhetoric of external danger have multiplied but the prospects of a full-scale war in the present world and regional scenario are remote. The infiltrations of the non-state proxies, media wars and accusations of terrorist intrusions are purposely designed to accentuate tensions that create insecurity and hostility. The motive is to perpetuate the rule of the system that is choking social life and mercilessly inflicts economic onslaught on the working classes. The religious clergy has become the favourite weaponry of the elites to whip up this hostile climate and subdue the masses.
With the advent of the Modi sarkar (regime), Hindutva now rules the roost in the so-called democratic and secular India. It seems that the reincarnation of the bigoted Zia regime of the late seventies and eighties in Pakistan; pulverising the social and cultural fabric of the country and viciously attacking the workers, peasants, and the progressive forces of this land. But when the largest democracy produces such a regime through an electoral process it reflects the deep and intrinsic crisis plaguing the state and the moneyed democratic system.
Hitler’s meteoric rise to power through elections in 1933 was in similar conditions with the state, and the society had drenched in a deep economic crisis, masses in extreme suffering, starvation and deprivation, and Germany’s communist and socialist parties having failed to present a revolutionary way out to the world’s most advanced proletariat. Fortunately, for Pakistan, such a regime of Islamic fundamentalists has not yet come to power through an electoral process. But with its capitalism rotting, it is a serious possibility.
Whether moderate or extreme, all bourgeois regimes since the bloody partition have ruled through this strategy of a sustained hostility to undermine the class struggle. As Marx once wrote, “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The lessons are clear. The existing ruling classes will continue to harp on these reactionary policies of antagonisms amongst the peoples, with short periodic gestures of peace and friendship to give a greater impetus to hostilities necessary for the system that they represent. The ‘defence budgets will go on rising and the allocations for the oppressed will be continuously slashed.
The anarchy of capitalism has taken its toll on society’s health, education and other basic necessities. This has brutalised society wit elements of barbarism looming large. It represents the malaise and decay of a system that is obsolete and aggravates the socioeconomic crisis. Their own experts are gloomy of any bright prospects under capitalism. The reactionary politics, virulent diplomacy and the obscurantist smog choking society are the direct ramifications of this decay. If this is the only future that can be envisaged under this system then there are not many choices left for the new generation of the workers and the youth. Either this system has to be transformed through a revolutionary insurrection or the society’s culture and civilised existence will be doomed to extinction.

Pakistan - Nawaz inaugurating every project three times: Bilawal

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurates every project thrice.
"PM Nawaz Sharif inaugurates every project three times. PML-N is not taking any action against the extremists in Punjab", he expressed these views during a press conference in Washington.
"I will play [a] forceful role in parliament. Shifting power to the people is [a] must for the sake of economic growth. We had devolved powers at grass root level by conducting local body elections. Our party is continuously trying to resolve the problems of people within our limited resources, Karachi operation was not a joke," he added.
He criticised the government for its failure in implementing the National Action Plan (NAP).
"[The] Federal government has totally failed in the enforcement of NAP. Our party had played its role to develop a consensus on NAP," he remarked.
He added, "Our party had done more work for public interest than any other party in the country."
Talking about the Trump government, he said the new US government is passing through initial stages and Trump's anti-Muslim orders will not succeed. He also reiterated his party's commitment towards the Kashmir cause. He assured the Kashmiris that every kind of moral and diplomatic support for their legitimate right to self-determination would be continued.

Pakistan - Interior Minister’s twisted lens

Ch_Saad Rasool

The Interior Ministry, and in particular the (worthy?) Minister, has filed objections before the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, against observations made by Justice Faez Isa in his report concerning the August 2016 terrorist attacks on lawyers in Quetta.
Without mincing too many words, the reply submitted on behalf of Ch. Nisar and his Ministry term Justice Isa’s report as ‘unnecessary, uncalled for and violative of natural justice’.
In no uncertain terms, this places the Interior Minister at loggerheads with a judge of the honourable Supreme Court (who will be Chief Justice in a few years).
Before delving into the substance of the objections raised by the Interior Minister, it is important to briefly recap the observations made by Justice Isa in his Quetta Commission Report (the Report).
On the orders of the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, in Suo Motu Case No. 16 of 2016, Justice Isa’s Commission inquired into the terrorist attack that claimed the lives of more than 75 innocent souls (mostly lawyers) in Quetta.
The resulting report read as a damning indictment of the law enforcement apparatus, and in particular NACTA and the Interior Minister. To this, the Report made five important disclosures: 1) there was no comprehensive list of proscribed organisations, available to public, which provided details about the activities of the said organisations, or why these had been proscribed; 2) outfits that had repeatedly claimed responsibility for terrorist acts across Pakistan, including Jamat-ul-Ahrar and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ), had not been included in the list of proscribed organisations, under section 11B of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997; 3) even when certain factions within the bureaucracy (e. g. Chief Secretary of Balochistan) had recommended that the concerned organisations be included in the list of banned outfits, the incumbent Federal Government had resisted doing so, hiding behind needless red-tape of ‘consultation’ between different agencies and departments; 4) the Federal Minister for Interior, Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, had repeatedly and consistently resisted banning militant organisations of a specific sectarian bent; and 5) unforgivably, even after the occurrence of repeated terrorist attacks, the Federal Minister for Interior had met with Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, leader of several banned militant outfits (including SSP, Millat-e-Islamia and ASWJ), at the plush premises of Punjab House, Islamabad, and “heard his demands”.
The Report concluded with 26 finding and 18 recommendations.
And some of them relate directly to the Minister of Interior.
In particular, the Report observed that that the Interior Minister (as the official primarily responsible for internal security in Pakistan) had, inter alia, “displayed little sense of ministerial responsibility”, “called only one meeting of the Executive Committee of NACTA in over three and a half years”, “violated the decisions of the Executive Committee of NACTA”, “met the head of a proscribed organisation, widely reported in the media with his photograph, but still denied doing so”, “accepted the demands of the proscribed organisation regarding CNICs”, “inexplicably delayed in proscribing terrorist organisations”, and “not proscribed a well known terrorist organisation”.
Since publication of this Report, the Interior Minister has spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to refute the claims made therein.
To this end, the Interior Minister has tried to explained that the October 21, 2016 meeting, held at Punjab House in Islamabad, in which the Minister met with, inter alia, Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi (leader of three banned organisations — Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Millat-i-Islamia and Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ)), was actually a meeting with a delegation of Difa-e-Pakistan Council, which is not a proscribed organisation. Further, the Minister claims that the ATA does not prohibit pubic functionaries from meeting individuals who are on the Fourth Schedule, in case they are seeking lawful redressal of their grievances.
Sounds great! Would the worthy Minister also clarify whether he intends to make Punjab House premises available for all criminals and murders to express their grievances? Because PPC also does not prohibit the Minister from meeting child molesters, rapists, and dacoits, in order to redress their “lawful” grievances. And, in this case, will the Minister also meet with the families of victims who lost their lives in attacks carried out by organisations/supporters of Maulana Ludhianvi? Can a red carpet be rolled out for them too? Or are the Shias who lost their lives in Quetta (and kept coffins waiting on the road, in order to have their ‘lawful’ demands heard) just on the wrong side of the “1,300 year old war”, as far as the Minister is concerned?
Also, the worthy Minister, in his objections filed before the honourable Supreme Court, claims that he did not grant permission or NOC to the ASWJ rally held at Hockey Ground in G-6 Aabpara on October 28, 2016; instead, such matters fall within the domain of Islamabad Capital Territory administration, and the Interior Ministry does not exercise any control over the same.
This is even better news! In that case, can the worthy Minister please explain his personal involvement on the night that PTI supporters landed in ICT, in 2014? Why did the Minister not let ICT administration do their job, instead of personally surveying all arrangements? And in case the ICT administration is independent in its decision-making, taking no directions form the Interior Minister, can the worthy Minister also explain who changed the police and district administration in ICT during PTI’s rally? Can he point out why Mohamamd Ali Nekokara was not allowed to act independently, when he refused to obey orders issued by the Interior Minister? Why was he dismissed from service, and humiliated by the government? Or is independence of ICT administration only in force when the Federal Government wants to isolate itself from responsibility, while implicitly supporting the causes of banned outfits such as ASWJ?
In a press conference, some days back, the worthy Interior Minister asked if it was “illegal” to suggest that separate laws should be framed to deal with groups that have been proscribed on “sectarian basis”. Let us end the suspense for him: yes, Minister Sb.
it is! Such legislation, which discriminates between ‘good terrorist’ and ‘bad terrorist’, would violate Article 25 of the Constitution. Why should an organisation that kills innocent people in the name of religion (e. g. TTP) be any different from one that kills in the name of Sunni-ism or anti-Ahmedi-ism (ASWJ, SSP, LeJ, etc. )? What part of the Constitution (since the honourable Minister is fond of quoting the law) allows the Interior Ministry to differentiate between the value and virtue of different human lives? What section of the law deems the killing of Shias or other minorities as a different or lesser crime?
These are unprecedented times; and we are in the midst of fighting an existential battle against extremism in this land. The worthy Interior Minister should do us all a favour by either joining hands against the forces of evil, or getting out of the way so that someone else can do the job.

Pakistan - “Millions are unable to do family planning due to informational and service gaps”

— Zeba Sathar, demographer, Country Director Population Council Pakistan

The News on Sunday (TNS): What are the biggest challenges Pakistan faces when it comes to reducing our population and our birth rates?
Zeba Sathar (ZS): Our biggest challenge is this situation of ambivalence and the state of limbo that we find our nation in regard to the gaping unmet need for family planning services, the high maternal and child mortality rates and malnutrition levels. The most important group that must regain clarity and control the decisions and resources are the managers and policy makers and they must be churned into action.
Some simple efforts at expanding information sources and choices of service delivery in the private sector, especially through non-medical providers would shake things up positively. We have a lot of evidence that shows that small-scale projects can be run very successfully.
One instance of a successful large-scale project run by the Population Council with its partners was called FALAH and it produced real change in a short period of three years; the way we did this was by improving the quality of birth-spacing services.
Our focus needs to be on those men and women who are unsure about how to space between children and about the number of children they want. This can be largely influenced by improving access to birth-spacing services. If we do this, we would lower fertility rates and the population growth rate. We should not focus on just lowering population growth rates; we must focus on a human-centred population policy. The ability to meet people’s needs is the most lasting and sustainable strategy which will ultimately lead to the completion of the fertility transition.
TNS: What is your opinion on employing religion to convey the concept of family planning to the public, the way the latest Sindh government campaign has done?
ZS: I think it is important to have the endorsement of religious leaders as is being done in the current campaign. At the Population Summit 2015, religious leaders of different sects openly gave their approval and consensus on the importance of birth spacing between children in order to save mothers and children’s lives. This is a huge difference from the earlier campaigns which emphasised that two children or fewer children was better. The problem with those campaigns was that this idea is adversarial to most religious leaders.
“I think what we need is strong clarity in our messages and the endorsement of birth spacing as a fundamental right, and, of course, we need our audiences to be receptive.”
Having said that, much more clarity is required in the campaign. Currently, there is a conveyed sense of ambivalence about what Islam says regarding birth spacing and family planning. The current ideas in the campaign won’t solidify in the minds of a major portion of service providers, which includes pharmacists and distributors. One way to achieve this clarity is by holding intense and informative training and orientation sessions with service providers. The current campaign is only increasing the acceptability of the idea among general audiences, but they need more information. Such campaigns must also include interpersonal sources of providing information.
TNS: Do you think family planning campaigns should be more fact based? What are the ideal components of a family planning campaign that the government should be focusing on?
ZS: The health benefits of birth spacing, the benefits in terms of positive aspirations for children education and health. But above all, there is a substantial proportion of women and couples in Pakistan that have ‘bought into’ the positive aspects of family planning. According to our estimates, 7-9 million people want to do something about birth spacing and stopping the growth of their families but are unable to do so due to informational and service gaps. The benefits of family planning and the direct link it has between maternal and infant mortality and birth spacing and the numbers of lives that can be saved through birth spacing, needs to be highlighted.
The campaign has to address these gaps. In particular, the campaign has to address the providers, the policy makers, the stakeholders to improve access, to ensure commodities, to reduce the cost of services. The campaign needs to use the media to provide direct information about the benefits and also the side effects of contraception and how these can be dealt with. Millions of women and men use contraception but then they leave it because of the poor quality of information, and weak or no counselling from our current providers.
TNS: Iran and Bangladesh in the 1980s are two countries that considerably brought down their population rates. Should we be looking to other countries for inspiration or do we need to devise our own campaigns?
ZS: I think we need campaigns to correspond to our own situation and not adapt to other countries’ campaigns. Each country is quite different. A major part of the campaign has to address the lack of response from those who plan, provide and fund services that are falling behind in delivery. The federal government, especially, may not see this area as one of their priorities, since provincial governments have more direct responsibility for health and population services.
But it is very important that the issue of family planning becomes an issue of national interest, a national priority, and a national consensus is built to decide to prioritise this area for reasons of the rights of men and women and children to have a better life. I would go as far as saying that we have lost our way in the area of family planning and we are already suffering the impacts: look at the number of out of school children, maternal deaths, child deaths, malnutrition, and the environment to name just a few.
TNS: Since you have been working with the Population Council, many governments have come and gone. Have some parties been more responsive than others?
ZS: The PML-N in Punjab and the PPP in Sindh are both equally responsive. The real challenge is that all involved parties have to put in a lot of effort because we keep losing momentum due to other critical and burning political issues. The issue of family planning has to constantly compete against critical political problems. That is why continuous and sustained advocacy is needed to make sure that family planning remains on the government’s priority list, regardless of the political party in power.
TNS: Many say that Benazir’s government and their Lady Health Workers (LHWs) and Lady Health Visitors (LHVs) programme truly improved family planning, what is your opinion?
ZS: The LHW programme is really the best achievement for Pakistan’s health sector. It began under Benazir’s government but continued under subsequent governments. At this point, much of the programme is being challenged after their regularisation and devolution of powers but this cadre of workers are valued very highly. We must remember, however, that at the end it is the families they serve who are responsible for good outcomes in family planning and primary health. At least that was the case in the 1990s. Right now, I would say that the whole cadre of LHW has to be carefully reviewed to ensure that they would provide the same impact on these families, especially since their demands have changed since the 1990s.
TNS: What has been Pakistan’s most successful family planning campaign so far?
ZS: It is hard to say. Perhaps the one that is yet to come? A successful campaign must be based on sound evidence of what the people of Pakistan are yearning for. I think what we need is strong clarity in our messages and the endorsement of birth spacing as a fundamental right, and, of course, we need our audiences to be receptive.

Bilawal says Kashmir is a bone of contention between Pakistan and India

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has urged for a quick and just resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

During his address at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on Monday, Bilawal said South Asia should be a hub of energy and economic strength but instead, the disputed territory of Kashmir stands as a bone of contention between the two nuclear powers of the region – India and Pakistan.

Regarding water dispute between the two countries, Bilawal expressed hope that the Indian government would not use water as a weapon against Pakistan.  

He urged the participants to consider Pakistan a part of solution to the problem and not the problem itself.