Monday, February 27, 2017
Hurrying home from work, Noellie Benison paused to take in the grinning poster of the former U.S. president, flanking a busy meridian in northern Paris.
“Obama 2017,” she read out. Below: the French translation of his famous tagline, “Oui, on peut" — "Yes we can.”
“We’ve lost our confidence,” she added, dismissing the current crop of candidates. “They’re all the same.”
What started as a joke over beers by a quartet of Parisians in their 30s has made international news in less than a week. Today, Obama2017.fr - an online petition to put Barack Obama on the French ballot, has received 50,000 signatures, its organizers say.
“We were talking about how we always feel we’re voting against and never for something,” one of the organizers said in an interview, describing how the initiative was born. “And then we started thinking it would be so great to have Obama as president.”
Besides soliciting smiles, the tongue-and-cheek petition is resonating in a disaffected France, where many of the same faces crop up vote after vote.
An Obama 2017 campaign poster is shown in Paris, France. (Lisa Bryant)
An Obama 2017 campaign poster is shown in Paris, France. (Lisa Bryant)
With the exception of former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, a relative neophyte, this spring’s presidential election appears no different. Further souring the political offer, two of the front runners, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and conservative former prime minister Francois Fillon, face financing scandals.
“This election season is so anxiety ridden,” said historian Nicole Bacharan, an expert on U.S. politics. “All the contenders seem tainted or not right. Not enough experience or all the wrong experience. Certainly no one who can make people dream.”
That’s essentially the message of Obama2017. Its website calls for nothing short of a Sixth Republic that would usher in a new system of governance “to bring France out of its lethargy.”
With Obama jobless, “Why not hire him as president of France?” it asks.
Still the odds are daunting. To begin with, the group needs to collect one million signatures by March 15 to put Obama on the ballot. Then he needs to become a French citizen, although one enthusiastic lawyer tipped the Obama2017.fr team on how this could be fast-tracked.
Campaign financing is another headache. The Paris group pooled their centimes to pay for the Obama posters in the capital; a nationwide rollout was out of the question.
“It was an expensive joke,” the campaigner admitted with a grin.
Obama’s own views about taking office here are not known. His favorite cheeseburgers and fries are widely available in Paris. So are basketball courts. Efforts to contact his media team for comment, however, proved unsuccessful.
Still, Parisian voters interviewed gave his candidacy a thumbs-up.
“Obama was a very kind man,” said one retiree, who only gave his first name, Jacques. “I would vote for him. I wouldn’t vote for Marine le Pen.”
Europe greeted Obama’s election a decade ago with euphoria, a sentiment that waned as his two-term presidency focused more on domestic and Asian-Pacific issues than Europe. But a Pew Research Center poll last June found the majority of citizens in five European Union countries surveyed were confident he would do the right thing in world affairs. That included 86 percent of Germans, and 84 percent of French.
“I think there was hardly any country where Barack Obama as more popular than in France,” analyst Bacharan said. “Even though his popularity dwindled a little bit at the end, he still remains this heroic figure: elegant, charismatic, smart, young, connected.”
The Obama2017.fr team says it is apolitical, but disturbed by divisions splintering French society, based mostly on economic divides, the campaigner interviewed said, than ethnic or religious ones.
But there have been protests against alleged police abuse and discrimination against minorities. Rights groups are also worried about discrimination against the country’s Muslim community, particularly after the terror attacks in Paris and Nice.
“I think someone like Obama can unite us, can focus us on a project and a future,” the campaigner said.
Asked if France was ready for a black president, he added, “I think Obama would be perfect. He’s done the job in the U.S., exactly the way we would need someone to do it in France.”
“Sadly, I’m quite sure France is not ready for a black president,” analyst Bacharan said. “But the French would be ready for Barack Obama. Worldwide, he lost his color; he just became an American president.”
By Victoria Addison &
HUDSON — Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton made a stop in Hudson on Monday.
Clinton said she was traveling north with her family and they decided to stop for lunch at Grazin’ Diner, at 717 Warren St.
“We were with my daughter and her family and we wanted to stop here,” Clinton said. “The french fries were really dangerous, but they were delicious and we ate too many of them.”
Chelsea Clinton’s 37th birthday was Monday. Chelsea and her husband have been to Grazin’ before and she wanted to bring her parents in for her birthday to try a Grazin’ burger, Head Chef and Owner Andrew “Chip” Chiappinelli said.
“They ordered a big variety - The Bob; The Susie; a veggie burger; a couple regular burgers and a grilled cheese and hot dog for the toddler — a perfect mix of everything,” Chiapinelli said.
The Clintons’ visit came as a complete surprise, Chiapinelli said.
“It was ironic because I wasn’t supposed to be there past noon — I have to pick my kids up from school — but I was hanging around for a bit and saw Chelsea walking in, carrying an infant in the car seat,” Chiapinelli said.
Chelsea and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, have been to the restaurant two or three times the past and Grazin’ Angus Farms provided the meat for their wedding in Rhinebeck in 2010, Chiapinelli said.
Monday was the first time Hillary and Bill Clinton had been to Grazin’, Chiapinelli said.
“I was honored to cook for them today; they were my first presidential vote and my most recent vote,” Chiapinelli said.
Natalie Nicholson, of Hudson, is a waitress at Grazin’ and served the Clinton party Monday afternoon. Nicholson said she was surprised by the visit.
“I know she’s [Chelsea] come in before, but not while I was working,” Nicholson said. “They know the farm, but their parents hadn’t tried a burger so Chelsea wanted to bring them in.”
“They’re so genuine, so kind and sweet,” Nicholson said. “It was really surreal.”
Nicholson did not share details about the Clintons’ bill but said the tip was “generous.”
Ashlee Babcock, of Catskill, was also waitressing at Grazin’ on Monday when the Clintons arrived.
“Bill shook my hand and asked me what my name was; he said, ‘Pleasure to meet you’ - they were all very nice to us,” Babcock said.
Babcock said she was surprised by the visit and got the opportunity to take a picture with Hillary and Bill.
“It was all very cool,” Babcock said.
Devin Whittaker, of Hudson, said he was home at the time of the Clintons’ visit and saw someone post about it on Facebook.
“I texted a friend and we walked up to see Hillary, but she had left already,” Whittaker said. “I saw Bill, though — he took one picture with a woman standing near the door.”
Whittaker said he took a video of Bill Clinton leaving Grazin’ and waving to people outside the restaurant.
“His maroon sweater was very ‘Ivy League collegiate,’” Whittaker said.
Hillary Clinton also noted the small business scene in Hudson.
“I am so pleased to see a lot of activity,” she said. “I want to really commend the people who come here and have businesses started. They are taking over buildings and rehabbing them. It’s great to see that.”
Multiple people waited outside the restaurant to try to catch a glimpse of the former first lady while she was eating. Clinton took the time to talk to and take pictures with some of the people as she left.
The former senator first visited Hudson in 1999, she said.
“I was here in ’99 when I was a senator, but I haven’t been back in a long time,” she said. “I’m glad to be here.”
Hudson Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton said she wasn’t in town when the Clintons stopped in for lunch.
By Sharon Bernstein
California legislative leaders on Monday demanded detailed information from the Trump administration on immigration arrests and raids in the most populous U.S. state, amid growing concern that agents are targeting non-criminals for deportation.
Citing reports that agents for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, had gone to churches, schools and courthouses to find and arrest illegal immigrants, the legislature used the federal Freedom of Information Act to request all records of enforcement actions taken or planned since Republican Donald Trump was sworn in as president on Jan. 20.
"Despite saying he’d only target dangerous criminals, President Trump’s executive orders target practically every undocumented person in California," said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who signed the request along with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
California is home to nearly 3 million illegal immigrants among a total non-citizen population of 5.4 million, according to the legislature and the Public Policy Institute of California, making the state a crucible for Trump's new get-tough immigration policies.
Trump recently broadened the categories of people who could be targeted for immigration enforcement to anyone who had been charged with a crime, removing an Obama-era exception for people convicted of traffic misdemeanors.
He has also proposed faster deportation for illegal immigrants who cannot show they have been in the country for more than two years.
But Trump has also said agents are targeting dangerous criminals, not ordinary people, and that he will not take action against those protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which protects young people brought to the United States as children.
Earlier this month, immigration officers nationwide arrested more than 680 people in the country illegally in a broad enforcement action that alarmed many immigrant groups.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Feb. 13 that the operations, conducted in at least a dozen states, were routine.
But immigrant rights advocates said the operations were more sweeping than those conducted during the administration of former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Protests erupted in several states over the raids and other arrests. Among those arrested were an Arizona mother who was detained when she went in for a meeting with ICE, and a 23-year-old man detained near Seattle who held a work permit under DACA but who agents said had gang affiliations.
In their letter, de Leon and Rendon said that 74 percent of California's non-citizens live in households with citizens, meaning mass deportations could separate spouses from each other, or children from their parents.
"All of these parents and children are potentially at risk of separation at the hands of ICE," the lawmakers wrote.
US Immigration : Appeals court denies Justice Department request to put appeal of travel ban on hold
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the Justice Department's request to pause proceedings in an appeal of President Trump's travel ban.
The court in a filing Monday said its schedule for the government's appeal of a lower court's halt on the travel ban will proceed, with the first brief due to the appeals court on March 10. In early February, the Justice Department appealed a Seattle-based federal district judge's order blocking enforcement of Trump's executive action.which established a series of immigration and refugee restrictions aimed at preventing potential terrorists from entering the country.
Last week, government lawyers asked the appeals court to stop proceedings in the case because the president planned to issue a new executive order and rescind the original one.
A three-judge panel of the court previously denied a request from the government to reverse a nationwide stay on the travel ban. The same panel on Monday ruled that the appeal will proceed.
Trump has said he will sign a new executive order "tailored" to deal with court decisions that have largely gone against him. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said he expected the order to be issued mid-week.
Spicer has said Trump wants to fight for the current order while also issuing a new one, but the Justice Department has said in multiple court filings that the the current order will be undone after a new one is issued.
The states of Washington and Minnesota, which brought the case in Seattle now under review, have pushed for courts to move forward on a review of the constitutional issues.
By THOMAS E. RICKS
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are operating aggressively under President Trump, feeling, as The New York Times reported, “newly emboldened” and “newly empowered.” Officials’ use of detention powers is widening, with some people being held who have no criminal history at all. The government raids often are conducted around dawn, to catch people as they leave for work. The uniformed agents are wearing body armor and carrying semiautomatic weapons. The morning raids and the military appearance may not be new developments, but they are especially worrisome when ICE, a domestic law enforcement agency, is overseen by a former general.
And there definitely seems to be recklessness in the way ICE is operating. In recent days, its agents have taken a woman with a brain tumor out of a hospital, almost deported a distinguished French scholar flying into Houston to deliver a university lecture and scared the daylights out of an Australian children’s author who vowed after the experience never to visit the United States again.
This isn’t being done solely to foreigners. The son of the boxer Muhammad Ali, a citizen, was questioned upon arriving in Florida from Jamaica about his religion, which would seem to be a clear violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. And passengers on a domestic flight from San Francisco to New York were required to show their identity documents, a violation of the Fourth Amendment and an overreach of ICE’s mission of dealing with entry to the country.
For people who witnessed the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, such an aggressive stance is all too familiar. Over the weekend, Brandon Friedman, a former officer in the 101st Airborne Division, questioned on Twitter why Homeland Security officers were operating without constraints. He added, “In the military, it happens to aggressive units with poor leaders.” Erin Simpson, a political scientist who worked on strategic assessments for the United States military in the Afghan war, added in another tweet that the federal agents seem to enjoy “near impunity.”
Most chilling of all was the comment by Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, last Tuesday that President Trump wants to “take the shackles off” federal agents.
All this reminds me eerily of the words and actions by United States military officers who helped create the conditions that led to the abuses of Iraqi detainees at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where a detainee abuse scandal in 2004 undercut the American effort in Iraq. I’m not suggesting that immigrants are being tortured in the horrific way that prisoners at Abu Ghraib were, but I do see parallels in the aggressive stance of ICE agents and the message this carries abroad.
Even the language is similar. On Aug. 14, 2003, as the Iraqi insurgency was mushrooming, an Army officer in the Human Intelligence Effects Coordination Cell at American military headquarters in Iraq sent out a directive saying that “the gloves are coming off regarding these detainees.” In case that wording left any doubts, he added, “We want these individuals broken.”
In response to orders like that, some Army units became far more aggressive. Like the ICE operations, these Army missions often were conducted as night or dawn raids. Those hundreds of roundups wound up swamping the Abu Ghraib prison. Six weeks after the “gloves are coming off” memo, it held some 3,500 Iraqis. Four weeks later, that number had doubled.
When Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the commander of the demoralized Army unit running the prison, complained about the numbers of prisoners arriving, she was dismissively told to “cram some more tents into the compound.” Perversely, this undercut the intention of collecting more precise intelligence, because there weren’t enough interpreters and interrogators on hand to detect the bad actors among the thousands of people being held. A subsequent investigation by the Pentagon found that some prisoners were held for months before being questioned.
What puzzles me is that Secretary Kelly surely knows all this. In his first tour in Iraq, he was General Mattis’s deputy commander. General Mattis was eloquent in his public comments about Abu Ghraib. “When you lose the moral high ground, you lose it all,” he said.
Secretary Kelly would be wise to think back on his years as a Marine, and to keep his honor clean, as the “Marines’ Hymn” admonishes service members. If he doesn’t, the United States may through the actions of his department lose far more than it gains.
THE year witnessed a significant de-escalation in terrorist and sectarian attacks in south Punjab as militant violence mostly shifted elsewhere, mainly to the northern cities, in the province.
Apart from a deadly attack on a gathering at the election office of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) legislator Amjad Farooq Khosa in Taunsa near DG Khan in mid-October and a suicide raid in Multan, no other significant incident of violence took place in the southern Punjab that made headlines a year earlier as the hub of nationwide militant activity, especially in Urban Pakistan.
Having said that, the ‘footprints’ the militants left behind elsewhere in the province have more often than not led the investigators back to the southern districts to hunt for suspects and their abettors. “Even of the two California shooting suspects, Tafsheen Malik had links with south Punjab,” a former Punjab counter-terrorism official sighed.
It, therefore, surprised few when police claimed to have arrested 140 suspects from south Punjab just days after a suicide bomber assassinated provincial home minister Shuja Khanzada along with several others at his election office in Attock in mid-August.
“The arrested suspects were linked to various banned faith-based militant organisations active across the province and some of them carried a bounty on their head,” a Punjab police official had said at the time. A spokesman for Jamaatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was carried out to avenge the killing of Malik Ishaq, the emir of the deadly Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. He went on to say that the attack was carried out with the help of a banned group active in Punjab.
Malik Ishaq’s killing on the outskirts of Muzaffargarh, again a south Punjab district, in a ‘shootout’ with his supporters who were trying to free him revved up hopes that the provincial government had finally woken up to the challenge and was ready to destroy terrorist infrastructure. However, all hopes were lost when the government failed to initiate a comprehensive police operation.
Even though the National Action Plan (NAP) promises to take action against seminaries involved in militancy, the government has dithered on bringing them under control for fear of backlash from the religious parties as well as the militants. Police claims having carried out intelligence-based operations throughout the province, denying the presence of a strong network and infrastructure of banned militant groups in south Punjab.
“You do not conduct large-scale operations in any area just on the basis of speculation and public perception,” a police official said, adding: “It is not feasible to undertake such an operation in cities. We’re conducting search raids across the province and not just in one particular region.”
Though the official claimed to have arrested hundreds of suspects, killed many, and recovered arms and ammunition, but was not prepared to concede that the militants still have a large network in the region. Analysts believe that south Punjab, with thousands of seminaries and a history of having provided foot soldiers to militant and sectarian outfits for decades, now offers a promising opportunity for Islamic State (IS) to strengthen its network in the region.
“The main battle has to be fought in the tribal backyard, but the job will remain half-done unless the militant sanctuaries and support networks in the cities both in southern and northern Punjab are completely dismantled,” warned a Lahore-based security analyst.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Monday flayed Punjab government officials for the "apparent racial profiling" and "stereotyping" of Pashtuns in the province as authorities step up a crackdown against militancy after a recent surge in terror attacks across the country.
An HRCP press release said administrative officials in some Punjab districts had issued formal or informal orders "asking the population to keep an eye on suspicious individuals who look like Pashtuns or are from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and to report any suspicious activity by them."
The HRCP, expressing 'grave concern' over the matter, called for unequivocal condemnation of "stereotyping that makes suspects of an entire ethnic group" and emphasised the need for corrective measures to be introduced for officials at the training and execution stages in order to prevent recurrence of 'racial profiling'.
"Safeguards must be announced to protect individuals from harassment or being treated as suspects because of the their appearance or facial features," the statement added.
It can be inferred that Punjab authorities believe that terrorism and militancy have been perpetrated by 'outsiders', the HRCP statement claimed. "There are many problems with such an assertion, not least that it treats citizens with suspicion without evidence and flies in the face of the guarantee for equality of citizens and non-discrimination." Additionally, among the consequences of "such offensive profiling is that it treats parts of population above suspicion because of ethnic identity markers".
"No longer can we live in the state of denial," the HRCP said, adding that "only across-the-board targeting of suspects can yield results."
"If the dimensions of terrorism and militancy have taught us anything, it is that domiciles do not curb the spread of their tentacles."
The HRCP's statement comes as leaders of various political parties also strongly condemn what they call the racial profiling and harassment of Pashtuns by the Punjab police after recent terror attacks across the country, and particularly in Lahore.
Following a suicide attack on Lahore's Mall Road on Feb 13 which claimed the lives of at least six police officials, Punjab’s law enforcement agencies launched a province-wide crackdown on banned militant organisations.
Days after the attack, the Provincial Intelligence Centre of the Punjab Home Department issued a letter directing police high-ups to tighten security in different cities of the province.
"Combing operations [must] be conducted in all targeted areas, particularly where the Afghan/Pathan community is residing," the letter read as the Home Department instructed law enforcement agencies to ensure extreme vigilance.
Last week, police in the Rawalpindi division also began surveillance of people belonging to Fata and considered issuing them chip-based national identity cards equipped with security features.
A senior police official had told Dawn that strict surveillance of more than 5,400 people belonging to the tribal areas and living in the Rawalpindi division had begun. He said police were also considering containing them to a specific place so that they could be watched.
The Punjab Apex Committee, during a meeting in Lahore on Sunday, decided to expand the scope of the recently launched military operation Raddul Fasaad targeting terrorists, their facilitators and financiers. Ongoing counterterrorism operations by civil and military law enforcement agencies have resolved to root out terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.
Participants of the meeting were told that over 100 suspects had been taken into custody in just one day (Sunday) from different parts of the province.
'Intensify crackdown against illegal immigrants'
Sindh police chief A.D. Khawaja in a high-level huddle today also directed law enforcement officials to intensify a crackdown against illegal immigrants living in the province, ordering them to submit reports on a daily basis via WhatsApp, an instant messaging mobile application. The inspector general police also ordered deployment of law enforcement officials at airports, bus terminals and train stations, mosques, imambargahs, madressahs, shrines and tombs as well as schools, colleges and universities.
IGP Khawaja also called for tighter security across all government buildings and sensitive installations.
Sajid Mahmood Sajid
Marde-moman marde haq, Zialul Haq Ziaul Haq. This was a popular slogan in Pakistan during1980s and 1990s because General Ziaul Haq was the hero of afghan jihad against Soviet Union. But Pakistan of 2017 is still harvesting the crop of militancy and Jihadi culture and this crop was cultivated by Zia and doctrine of strategic depth has become a nightmare for Pakistan now.
In the contemporary times, Pakistan is fighting militancy and terrorist outlets. The historical roots of this problem can be traced in 1980s and 1990s when Pakistan helped America in the promotion of militancy in Afghanistan in order to combat Soviet Union. Doctrine of strategic depth was devised and adopted by military dictator Ziaul Haq during Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1980s. This doctrine classifies Afghanistan as pivotal strategically and geographically for the national security of Pakistan. Zia executed and practiced this doctrine in Afghanistan and he exploited the concept of Islamic jihad as theoretical and practical tool in order to combat Soviet Union and establish its influence in political affairs of Afghanistan. A number of jihadi training camps were established in Pakistan, Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and Afghanistan.
Opportunist and dollar-oriented religious intelligentsia of Pakistan especially the leaders of Jamat-i-Islami gave due moral and logistic support to Zia in carrying and the execution of Afghan Jihad campaign in Pakistan. Jihadi training camps trained thousands of Pakistanis and they were used as a human fuel in that anti-Soviet retaliation of 1980s. Most important thing is that this Afghan Jihad was fully funded by United States of America and worthy American dollars played a key role in promotion and practice of Jihadi culture. Zia was just a rubber pawn in this game of Afghan Jihad and USA hired the loyalty and services of Zia. This was how doctrine of strategic depth was born and incorporated into the foreign policy of Pakistan.
Pakistani doctrine of strategic depth and Afghan Jihad worked well and it was a success story for USA but not for Pakistan and communist Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan by USA. But after the Soviet occupation was over in 1991, backlash of this Jihadi culture started to target Pakistani society. In the last two decades, Jihadi outlets have been mushroomed and they now exist in dozens in Pakistan, FATA and Afghanistan. This Jihad adventure of Zia created sentiments of religious extremism and traditions of militancy in Pakistani society. Another very serious consequence of this entire story is that it tempered the Islamic jihad philosophy and now innocent Pakistani citizens even believe that killing innocent Pakistanis is also a Jihad and a very sacred act. Terrorist outlets operating from Afghanistan and FATA even use the native Pakistani human resource of jihadi terrorists and suicide bombers in order to execute suicide bombings in Pakistani cities. No doubt religious leaders and institution of mullah in Pakistan are patronizing this religious extremism and misunderstood and misinterpreted Jihad in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s military is practicing doctrine of strategic depth for three decades and now it seems it has been evolved as a doctrine of ultimate destruction or a spider web for Pakistan and Pakistani people. Jihadi training camps and Jihadi terrorist of 1980s and 1990s outlets are still operating in and from Pakistan and Afghanistan respectively. Thousands of Pakistanis have lost their lives in suicide bombings in last 15 years. List of suicide attacks and causalities in Pakistan is too big to describe in this column in extenso. Terrorists spared no any place in Pakistan and they targeted everywhere and anywhere including mosques, shrines, hospital, schools, colleges and universities. In the most recent terrorist suicide attack, 75 people were died and almost 250 injured at Sehwan Sharif shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh on 16th February, 2017 (Dawn, 17th February 2017).
I am asking a question from innocent Pakistani nation and very proud Pakistani military that do you think this doctrine of strategic depth is no more functioning and it is leading Pakistan now the trench of infinite destruction? Pakistan’s military always put the blame of terrorist attack on Afghan government, but the ground reality is that terrorist outlets operating from Afghanistan most of the time use the Pakistani Jihadi terrorists and terrorist outlets in Pakistan to target in Pakistani cities. So this is how Pakistan is destroying Pakistan now.
There is another feature of this doctrine. Pakistan military and other security agencies have developed the classification of good terrorists and bad terrorists historically and it is still practicing this double game or strategy in this manipulated game of terrorism. Pakistan military is doing operations against terrorists in FATA and Pakistan but accordingly its list of liking or disliking. In Afghanistan, Pakistan military always try to maintain strategic friendship with some terrorist outlets but problem is that old terrorist friends and partners of 1980s and 1990s are now enemies of Pakistan. Terrorists of Afghanistan and Pakistan are paid franchises now and anyone can hire their services and loyalty.
Afghan refugees are another gift of Pakistan’s strategic depth modus operandi. Pakistan is hosting almost 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees. Afghan refugees have been visiting Pakistan for three decades and they brought many conservative values in the Pakistani society. They are also involved in crime, smuggling and terrorist attacks in Pakistan and now a day refugees camps are safe heavens for terrorists of Afghanistan and FATA. All the Afghan refugees are not registered and they are a burden on struggling economy of Pakistan. “Pakistan officially hosts the third largest refugee population in the world after Jordan and Turkey, sheltering some 1.4 million registered Afghans and, according to estimates, up to a million more residing without documentation” (Express Tribune Pakistan, 5 Oct 2016).
Adviser to Pakistani PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz once said that “Afghan refugee camps within Pakistan turned into safe havens for terrorists after the country’s armed forces destroyed the militants’ infrastructure in tribal areas” (Dawn, 21 June 2016). Doctrine of strategic depth was invented to save Pakistan but the ground realities in 2017 reveal that now this doctrine is destroying Pakistan. Pakistan military should close Afghan order from Chaman to Tor Khum and it should treat all terrorists equally. A comprehensive operation is direly needed against all terrorist outlets working in all provinces of Pakistan including FATA. When there will be no terrorist, terrorist outlet and Jihadi training camp in Pakistan, then it will difficult for Afghan terrorists organizations to access and target Pakistani cities. Lastly, Pakistan government should say goodbye to all Afghan refugees indiscriminately. Lets make Pakistan great again. Pakistan zinda bad.
By Danish Hussain
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is all set to throw its weight behind Pakistan Peoples Party to hold an all parties conference on the issue of extending the tenure of military courts. PTI’s senior leadership on Sunday confirmed the party’s participation in the moot scheduled to be held on March 4. The PPP would formally invite PTI in a couple of days, not later than Tuesday, while Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid has already accepted the invitation.
“During deliberations through the platform of parliamentary committee on military courts, PTI’s standing over the issue remains almost similar to that of PPP,” a senior PTI leader said confirming party’s participation in the conference.
Talking to The Express Tribune, PPP’s general secretary Nayyar Hussain Bokhari said that he would be visiting Charsadda today (Monday) to formally invite head of Awami National Party Asfandyar Wali Khan. Bokhari has been tasked to lead a PPP delegation inviting various political parties to attend the moot.
He hinted at meeting the PTI leadership by Tuesday.
PTI spokesperson Fawad Hussain said the party would hold consultations and deliberate if they should attend the conference hosted by the PPP.
He said the consultation would be held in a couple of days as senior party leaders including Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jehangir Khan Tareen were currently out of Islamabad.
The PPP decided to hold a multi-party conference over the issue after the government and the opposition parties during successive meetings failed to find a common ground and narrow down their differences on the revival of military courts. Last meeting of the parliamentary committee on military courts was held on February 24 which too remained inconclusive.
The military courts had been established in the country through a constitutional amendment in the backdrop of gory incident of Army Public School in Peshawar in December 2014. Courts were established in January 2015 for a period of two years. They ceased to function in January 2017 upon expiry of two-year term.
Recently, the government – which wants to revive the military courts for another term spanning over three years – has proposed a constitutional amendment.
However, the opposition parties – who were initially in favour of the extension – later refused to adopt the draft constitutional amendment after government introduced some changes to it. The opposition parties want the extension in military courts for a period not exceeding a year-and-a-half rather than the three years proposed in the government’s draft.
Another point of serious contention among government and opposition parties is a proposed amendment to Article 175 (3) which according to some opposition parties could be used in future by the military to victimise political workers.
Opposition amenable to military courts’ revival
Talking to The Express Tribune, PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the party leadership would keenly observe the agenda of the multi-party conference and decide about its participation.
“The party is in favour of revival of these [military] courts to punish ‘jet black terrorists’,” Qureshi said.
He said senior party leadership would meet today (Monday) to hold discussion on the issue and Imran Khan would announce his final decision.
Amid the din of the excavating machines and the rumble of dumpers removing and hauling tonnes of earth, the voice of indigenous communities in Pakistan’s Sindh province has been drowned out.
Nabi Bux, a resident of Sehnri Dars in the province’s Thar desert, can attest as much. His village, roughly 400km from the port city of Karachi, has been acquired by the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) and, as a result, he and about 1,800 fellow residents are to be relocated 25km away.
“Engro is making brand new homes for us, but the spiritual attachment we have to our ancestral land is lost to them,” he says. “Nor can you put a price tag to it.”
The Sindh government is backing the project, under which the villagers were coerced into selling their land in the “greater national interest”. Official estimates suggest there are 175bn tonnes of lignite coal reserves beneath the 9,000 sq km stretch of land – enough to last “400 years”, according to planning and development minister Ahsan Iqbal – and the villagers were promised that the sale would bring personal as well as national prosperity .
“Our elders had predicted the day would come when we’d be asked to move out,” says Dars.
Serious power shortages have crippled industry – in summer, Pakistan faces a shortfall of more than 6,000 MW – and many see coal as the only resource that can save the country from total darkness. Last month, during the signing of an agreement with China for a power generation project, the electricity went off twice, plunging the conference hall into darkness for few minutes. The agreement papers were reviewed using mobile phone torches.
Many are alarmed by Pakistan’s insistence on turning to coal, however. Among them is Dr Abid Suleri, executive director of the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute, who likens the approach to “investing in an old gramophone”.
Suleri believes coal cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise is to remain below 2C. “Pakistan had signed and ratified climate declarations in Paris and Morocco – what of them?” he asks.
If Pakistan has to invest in coal, says Suleri, it must also invest in renewables. “We should not put ourselves in the absolute either/or situation, but adopt a more flexible one, dabbling in a good mix.”
Suleri feels that, were there a need for Pakistan to stop using coal overnight, the country should be able to cope without difficulty.
Yet for people living close to the dumping site in Sehnri Dars, it is living with coal rather than living without it that is the problem. “The entire village … our homes, utensils, clothes, trees, you name it … everything is covered with a thick sheet of dust due to the digging and the dumping of soil,” says Bux. “I shudder to think what will happen in June when strong gusts blow.” Advertisement The relocation will not start before 2018, say SECMC. The villagers of Sehnri Dars may have acquiesced, but people in the 12 villages around Gorano have not; they feel cheated. They have been holding a sit-in outside the press club in Islamkot, an adjoining town, for more than 100 days in protest at the construction of a reservoir in Gorano which began in May last year.
The reservoir will store about 30 to 35 cusecs [a unit of flow equal to one cubic foot per second] of effluent from the coal mine over the next three years.
“When we found out that the water will carry 5,000 ppm [parts per million] for the total dissolved solids (TDS) we got really worried,” says Lakshman Dharmu.
“In less than three years, our sweet water wells will become poisonous, rendering our land unfit either for cultivation or grazing because this water will seep and affect the groundwater,” says Dharmu. There are 30 such wells.
A spokesman from the mining company says it would take 14 years for any damage to occur to land within a 1km radius. The company will not use the reservoir for more than three years. The villagers also filed a complaint in the high court in June saying that the company acquired land invoking certain sections of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, which allows the mining authority to acquire land but only after seeking permission from the land owner.
“But we never granted them permission,” says Leela Ram Manjiani, a local resident who is a lawyer and is representing the villagers. He said they were not even told.
While the protest continues, the coal company is busy buying land from villagers who are willing to sell. The rest, says Mohsin Babbar of the SECMC, is government land for which they already have permission. “Of the total 532 acres, we have bought 250 acres of land from the locals; 700 acres is government land that we have permission to use. That just leaves 282 or so acres that remains disputed. We have offered them about 300 acres of pasture land not very far from where they are right now but they are not accepting this compensation,” says Babbar.
The villagers do not have papers to prove it’s their land. “And those who do still have it in the names of their forefathers. To get the land transferred to their name requires a lot of money which they don’t have,” says Manjiani.
“One the one side the locals are uneducated, belong to a religious minority and do not really have a voice and on the other side is a powerful entity,” says Suleri, who fears this will give the state an upper hand and the infractions of the mining company will be ignored by the state which is fully supporting the project and marginalise the indigenous people.
“We will not back off, we will go to the supreme court,” says Manjiani, adding: “We have full faith in the courts.”
He was addressing the inaugural session of the Jhirk Mullan Katyar bridge, which connects Tando Mohammad Khan to Thatta.
"Our first line of defence against extremism is sufism and its message of peace, and it will be beneficial for us if we were to add its message to our curriculum," Bilawal said in answer to a question about adding Lal Shahbaz Qalandar's ideology to the Sindh curriculum.
On his hopes regarding the result of the Panamagate case, Bilawal said, "History tells us that there has never been a court verdict against the Sharifs before, which tells us that we should not be too hopeful, but we are waiting for it nonetheless."
On a question about Asif Ali Zardari's announcement that both him and Bilawal would join Parliament soon, Bilawal said, "We are waiting for the Supreme Court's verdict [regarding Panamagate] and then our political strategy would also be announced."
The longest bridge built on the Indus
Built at a cost of Rs4.02 billion, Jhirk Mullan Katyar is the longest bridge to be built over the Indus river.
It is the second project completed under a public-private partnership, while the Hyderabad-Mirpur Khas road was the first.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, who was also present at the inauguration, said, "We have associated the bridge with Sir Aga Khan because the first jamaat khana was created in Jhirk city."
"The Sindh government is working to create a sustainable infrastructure in the province as well as provide proper employment and schools for the people of the province," the CM told the attendees of the inaugural session.