Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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China’s veto on Syria sanctions sends consistent message

By Ai Jun 

China and Russia on Tuesday vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions against Syria over alleged chemical weapons attacks in the war-torn country. 

China's "no" vote has drawn quite a few reports about Western nations' disappointment. China's Ambassador to the UN, Liu Jieyi, noted that  Beijing resolutely opposes the use of chemical weapons by anyone and under any circumstances. However, given that international investigations are still ongoing, it is too early to act now without hard evidence. 

The civil war in Syria, which is now in its sixth year, has caused immeasurable loss and suffering in the country. As the conflict between  government forces and opposition groups deepened, extreme organizations have taken advantage of the security vacuum to  expand. Meanwhile, foreign forces' involvement has turned the nation into a grand chessboard, on which geopolitical games are played by major powers. 

Though the international community has appealed to resolve the crisis by political negotiations, still all sides hope to crush one another militarily. The past six years are living proof that more conflicts will only lead to more despair and death. Negotiation is the only way to end the tragedy. 

While the talks concern a political transition, a new constitution and elections in Syria, there is no likelihood of a quick breakthrough.  

Yet during the period, all external parties should focus on how to make the negotiation sustainable and safeguard all sides' confidence in resolving their divergences through the gathering, which did not come easily. 

The same goes for China's stance on North Korea. Beijing's support for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will not waver, nor will China endorse North Korean excuses to build its nuclear programs. When Pyongyang went too far in developing nuclear weapons, China did not hesitate to back UN sanctions. Nevertheless, since Beijing believes that blind faith in sanctions will only result in a vicious circle, it has thus insisted that any moves from the outside should not cause more disturbances on the peninsula. Maintaining peace and stability in the region and opposing nuclear programs and chemical attacks is not an either-or thing. But more wisdom is required than simply making too many interventions.

Voice of China: To build bridges or walls, that’s the problem

Isms, such as nationalism, protectionism, populism, and isolationism, are spreading like wildfire across the Western world, creating uncertainty about the future of free trade and international economic cooperation. U.S. President Donald Trump and far-right leaders across Europe have emerged as influential voices against globalization, blaming it for the world’s problems. Amidst growing doubts about the future of the globalized international order, China has emerged as a voice of reason.
West: Build walls, not bridges.
In response to the wave of populism that is sweeping through the West, more and more countries in the Western world are adopting an explosive strategy of isolation and protectionism. Last year, Britain decided to exit from the European Union, essentially undoing about four decades of treaties and agreements. The success of Brexit helped usher in the rise of Trump, and has brought far-right politicians across Europe to the forefront of world politics.
In the U.S., Trump has vowed to take America back like Britain took back control of their nation. “They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT,” he once tweeted. In his inaugural speech, Trump asserted: “We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.” “Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” he added. After Trump took office, he took steps to roll back globalization. Trump ordered the U.S. to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and agreement; called for the construction of a physical wall on the southern border; stepped up enforcement of immigration laws; and closed America’s doors to immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.
In Europe, a similar phenomenon is taking place right now in France. National Front leader Marine Le Pen, a front-runner in the French presidential elections, has vowed to take France back if she wins the election. The populist leader is urging her supporters to follow in the footsteps of Brexit and Trump, claiming that France is under the threat of two “totalitarianisms” – economic globalization and Islamic fundamentalism. If elected, Le Pen has promised to withdraw France from NATO’s Integrated Military Command; leave the European Union; contain immigration, especially immigration by Muslims; and expel thousands of foreigners. “The divide is not between the left and right anymore, but between patriots and globalists,” she said in a speech.
China: Build bridges, not walls.
Despite turmoil, China continues to signal its willingness to promote opening up and common development. For example, China is making a huge contribution to world peace and prosperity with its massive Belt and Road project. Since 2013, China has advanced the game-changing economic and diplomatic initiative as a way to connect the world. In 2016 alone, China invested $14.5 billion in countries along the Belt and Road. Not only is the initiative bridging the region, it offers new opportunity for major-country relations. The initiative is poised to forever reshape global trade and demonstrates China’s steadfast commitment to an open global economy.
The new political divide comes at a time when the world stands at a major crossroads as a global community: build bridges or build walls. China has chosen to build bridges with the global community, and hopes that all countries will come together to build a community of common destiny for mankind. In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the world to keep to the goal of building a community with a shared future. Xi also urged the international community to view their own interests in a broader context and to refrain from pursuing them at the expense of others. “Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air,” Xi said in his speech.
What the world needs now is more globalization, not less. Countries that stand by globalization, such as China, play a key role in maintaining the international economic order. Rather than blame economic globalization for the world’s problems, the international community should step up to the plate and make the global economy work for all people.

Video - #Syria: Palmyra citadel liberated from IS by army - exclusive

Syrian government forces now have control over a strategic vantage point that serves as a firing range to combat enemy forces in Palmyra, providing the capability to put terrorists in the city within the range of its weapons, the source told Sputnik. “The Syrian Army has established complete control of the firing range over the heights around the historic Palmyra citadel…after Daesh terrorists had abruptly left the area,” a witness said.

To help refugees, stop arming terrorists – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Representative Tulsi Gabbard called again for the US to stop aiding terrorists like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, while her guest at the presidential address to Congress, a Kurdish refugee activist, called for an end to the US policy of “regime change in Syria.”
While many Democrats invited immigrants as their guests for President Donald Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii, hosted Tima Kurdi, whose 3-year-old nephew drowned on the shores of Turkey in September 2015. Photos of Alan Kurdi’s body quickly became the symbol of Syrian refugees’ plight – and led the US to step up efforts to overthrow the Syrian government, actually magnifying their suffering.
On Wednesday, Tima Kurdi joined Gabbard at a press conference on Capitol Hill and called on Trump “to end the regime change in Syria.”
“The most important question is, how do we address the cause of these people fleeing their homes,” said Gabbard, pointing to the bill she submitted in this session of Congress. Her “Stop Arming Terrorists Act,” or HR 608, would ban the use of US taxpayers’ funds to aid terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda or Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
“For years, our government has been providing both direct and indirect support to these armed militant groups, who are working directly with or under the command of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, all in their effort and fight to overthrow the Syrian government,” Gabbard told RT.
Gabbard traveled to Syria in January on a fact-finding mission, meeting with President Bashar Assad. She also visited Aleppo, liberated in December from Islamist rebels led by Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham, a re-branded Al-Qaeda affiliate formerly known as Jabhat Al-Nusra.
The Pentagon’s $500 million effort to train and equip “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight against IS and Damascus met with disaster in 2015, as the majority of the fighters either surrendered or defected to Al-Nusra, with all of their US-funded weaponry. In the end, the program produced only “five or six” trainees, to the consternation of Congress.
With that fiasco in mind, Gabbard propose the first draft of her bill in December 2016. Her subsequent trip to Syria was met with outrage from the US foreign policy establishment and in the mainstream media, who denounced her as “Assad’s mouthpiece.”
Representative Tom Garrett (R-Virginia), a US Army veteran, spoke out in support of HR 608 and said that the goal of US policy in Syria should be peace.
“Tulsi understands that arming the so-called ‘rebels’ in Syria has only led to more bloodshed, more suffering, and created more refugees,” Tima Kurdi said in a statement on Tuesday. “A military solution in Syria is not the answer. I hope that President Trump will stop arming terrorists and commit to a political solution in Syria—it is the only way to restore peace.”

Report - No war crimes in Aleppo can be attributed to Russian Forces - UN report

President Assad May Be Invited to Arab League Summit – Israeli Media

Three heads of state are leading an effort to reintegrate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into the Arab League, five years after he was exiled from the group, according to Israeli military-intelligence news agency DEBKAfile.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sissi, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and Russian President Vladimir Putin are championing the movement, DEBKAfile reported, “whether together or separately.” The leaders “hope to see a historic handshake” and diplomatic reestablishment between Assad and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. 
On Saturday, the Egyptian parliament moved to implement a full reinstatement of Assad into the Arab League. The parliament also acted to invite Assad to the highly-anticipated Arab League annual summit, slated to take place on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea on March 29, the Times of Israel reports.
Earlier in February Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for Damascus to be included in the bloc, citing potential gains and progress toward negotiated peace and a settlement of the Syrian civil war. 
One source of tension that could stand in the way of Syria’s reinstatement is Iran’s backing of Assad, the Times of Israel reported, since Iran and Saudi Arabia are sworn rivals. The conflict in Yemen, for example, features Iranian-backed Houthis squaring off against a coalition led by the Saudis. 
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the Arab League’s 22 member states, have poured resources into groups such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a military force that has long sought to topple the Assad administration.
According to DEBKAfile, US President Barack Obama forecast that Moscow’s involvement in Syria would sink the Russian army into a quagmire. “The Russian leader proved him wrong, and [Putin’s] reputation in the Arab world would soar if he could persuade King Salman to accept Assad’s return to the Arab summit,” the news service reported. 
US President Donald Trump is not opposed to the arrangement, but his public stance will be determined by Trump’s regional policies, intelligence officials told the Israeli media outlet.
Sources said Russian military aircraft would escort Assad to and from Amman. Military officers and intelligence operatives from Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria have been traveling around the Middle East to make arrangements for the upcoming summit.

Syrian Minister Calls for Creation of Clergy Free of Terrorist Ideas

There is a necessity to create a new clergy in Syria, which will not be affected by terrorist ideas, to "rebuild" the country morally, Syrian Minister of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) Mohammad Abdul-Sattar Sayyed said Wednesday.

The minister added that Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered the ministry to re-educate people, who had been "zombified" by terrorists and to reach a "moral and spiritual" reconstruction of Syria.
"It is necessary to create a new group of people in Syria. They will be young imams, preachers, religious activists, who would be cleared from terrorist terms," Sayyed said.
According to the minister, terrorists used to teach children on the occupied territories within the framework of Wahhabi education programs.
Within the framework of the Syrian civil war, terrorist groups, such as Daesh terrorist group, which is outlawed in many countries, including the United States and Russia, have occupied vast territories of the crisis-torn state. The radicals have attempted to create their own institutions in the controlled areas, including in the sphere of education.

Yemeni City Residents Protest Against Saudi War Crimes – Reports

Residents of the Yemeni city of Al Hudaydah took to the streets to protest against war crimes committed during the Saudi-led military operation, local media reported on Monday.

 The Saudi-led coalition of mostly Persian Gulf countries started carrying out airstrikes against the Houthi movement backed by army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in March 2015, shortly after the civil war erupted in the country between the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi rebels.
According to the Saba news agency, the protesters in Al Hudaydah condemned the war crimes against the civilians in Yemen and called for mobilizing troops to face the coalition’s forces.
Among those that attended the rally were chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Committee Mohammed Ail al-Houthi and the secretary general of the local council, Ali al-Qawzi, the media added.
The coalition’s actions are being criticized by international human rights groups for hitting civilians, causing disproportional child casualties and damaging vital non-military infrastructure.

SAUDI CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: Police kill two people for wearing women’s clothes in Saudi Arabia

Two Pakistanis identified as cross-dressers have been tortured to death by police in Saudi Arabia, it has been reported.
The victims were among 35 men arrested in the capital city of Riyadh for dressing as women, an offence which has its own branch of law enforcement in Saudi Arabia.
According to The Express Tribune, a Pakistani publication, police raided a rest house for people dressing in women’s clothing after keeping the site under constant surveillance.
The two victims were named as Meeno, 26, and Amna, 35. The police allegedly forced them into sacks and thrashed them with sticks while in prison. Local reports have called them transgender, but we have not been able to verify their gender identity. Qamar Naseem, a Pakistani human rights activist, said that while 11 of those arrested who survived were released after paying a 150 Riyal (£32) fine, 22 of them were still in police custody.
“Torturing humans after throwing them into bags and beating them with sticks is inhumane,” he added.
”No-one is there to save them as the life of a transgender is not of any value to anyone, not even our own government.” Dressing as a woman is also dangerous in Pakistan, where three people were allegedly illegally arrested and tortured in July after failing to pay a fine to police.

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Pashtuns Allege Persecution As Pakistan Wages Antiterrorism Battle

With Pakistan's military locked in a nationwide antiterrorism drive after a spate of deadly attacks claimed by Islamist radicals, one ethnic community is accusing authorities of singling them out for persecution.
Minority Pashtuns, a group that populates both sides of Pakistan's volatile northwest border with Afghanistan, allege that they have been targeted in Punjab Province recently with arrests and police harassment.
The Pakistani military sweeps and other operations are a response to attacks claimed by militant groups Islamic State (IS) and the Pakistani Taliban that killed more than 120 people in early February.
Those killings shattered the relative calm that followed a military-led crackdown on terror groups, begun in 2014, in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, which has long been a hotbed of Islamist radicalism.
Pakistan launched fresh counterterror operations on February 22, including in Punjab, the country's most populous province.
Police in one Punjabi district reportedly distributed pamphlets calling on residents to report Afghan migrants and Pashtuns whom they suspect of being terrorists.
Pashtuns have responded with protests, and community leaders have demanded that the federal government intervene.
"In our neighborhood in Gujrat, at least 100 to 150 people have been arrested," resident Israrul Haq told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal in connection with roundups in his heavily Pashtun part of the city.
Haq, a Pashtun vendor, said officials have also forced Pashtuns to register with the police in Punjab.
Scores of people in Pakistan's northwest city of Peshawar staged a demonstration on February 27, accusing authorities of racially profiling Pashtuns, who compose some 15 percent of Pakistan's roughly 200 million people.
"They have started arresting poor Pashtuns all over Punjab," says Said Alam Mehsud, one of the protesters. "We want to know why authorities are only taking action against Pashtuns."
On the same day, the provincial assembly in Pashtun-dominated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed a resolution condemning the arrests and demanding authorities there stop what it described as discriminatory policies.
Enayatullah, a senior minister in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government who goes by one name, told the assembly that there were "clear instructions issued to police" to target Pashtuns.
Also on February 27, a delegation from the provincial government met with Punjab's chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Amir Muqam, the president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who attended the meeting, said he shared his deep concerns. He said the chief minister appointed a commission to look into the arrests of Pashtuns in Punjab, Pakistan's most prosperous province and home to much of the country's political elite.
Hidayatullah Khan, a senator from the tribal areas, said he held talks with the National Assembly speaker in Islamabad, adding that he provided a "complete list" of arrestees in Punjab.
Meanwhile, Haji Baghi Khan, the head of the Pashtun Welfare Organization in Punjab's capital, Lahore, said there was evidence of widespread arrests of Pashtuns. "This is 101 percent true," he said.
'Conspiracy To Defame Pashtuns'
Days after a February 13 attack in Lahore that left 14 people dead, reports emerged that police in Mandi Bahauddin, a district in central Punjab, were distributing ethnically charged pamphlets to local residents.
The pamphlet, titled "Important Message," was attributed to the spokesman for the police in Mandi Bahauddin and was widely shared on social media, where it has been condemned by many Pakistanis.
In it, police urge residents to "immediately inform police" if they saw "anyone who looks Afghan or Pathan," another word for Pashtun. The statement describes the two groups as "selling qahwa (green tea), dried fruits, children's toys, or household goods," a reference to the kind of menial jobs frequently carried out by many Afghan migrants and Pashtuns living in Punjab.
Nayab Haidar, the public-relations officer of the Punjab Police, told RFE/RL that the document was "fake" and there was "no policy" to specifically target Pashtuns and Afghans.
But the Mandi Bahauddin police and the inspector general of the Punjab police previously confirmed the authenticity of the document to local media.
Meanwhile, a Punjab provincial government spokesman condemned the actions of police in Mandi Bahauddin, telling Capital TV that those behind the directive will be punished.
The secular and predominately Pashtun Awami National Party issued a statement on February 22 condemning the pamphlet and describing it as a "conspiracy to defame Pashtuns."
The statement argued that predominantly Pashtun areas have borne the brunt of "terrorism" and militant attacks and "reckless" military operations have killed scores of civilians and uprooted hundreds of thousands of others.

Pakistan - Punjab’s 300 Deobandi seminaries involved in terrorisim in country

At least two hundred and ninety nine madrassas (seminaries) have been found involved in terrorism and sectarian activities in Punjab, documents revealed on Tuesday.
As per geo-tagging database, there are 13,798 madrassas across the province out of which 56 have been listed in ‘Category A’, 243 in ‘Category B’, and 13499 in ‘Category C’.
Category A shows number of present and former teachers and students actively involved in terrorism and sectarian activities. Category B highlights facilitators while Category C shows number of religious seminaries not involved in terrorism and sectarian activities.
The final report has been forwarded to the Ministry of Interior and other concerned departments, Dunya News reported Tuesday.
Pakistan Army last week launched a nationwide anti-terrorist operation (Raddul Fasaad) last week, days after a series of terrorist attacks killed dozens of people across the country.
Troops and police have been on high alert in Pakistan after last week’s wave of attacks, including one on Mall Road in Lahore and another on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh province, killed more than 100 people.
After the attacks, the law enforcement agencies launched a violent crackdown, with Pakistani forces saying they had killed dozens of “terrorists” and carried out strikes on militant hideouts along the border with Afghanistan.

Why more single Pakistani women are moving to the West


For Asnia Asim, who grew up on army bases across Pakistan, moving to Washington was a no-brainer.
It wasn’t the first time she would be away from home in Islamabad. Asim had lived in a girls’ hostel for four years while pursuing business school in Karachi. Her father, a retired army officer, and mother, an educator, were broad-minded and trusted her. But Asim had high academic and professional ambitions and wanted to travel. After she won a prestigious international essay competition run by the World Bank, an offer to work at the Bank’s headquarters in Washington became too good to pass.
The initial daze of moving to a new city and starting her first job took a while to settle. Once it did, living alone in an apartment turned out to be a vast change from life at a crowded Karachi hostel.
Often unable to find personal and professional independence back home, more single Pakistani women are choosing to make their home in the West — alone. Asim became depressed, and would often find herself daydreaming about her life at the hostel. In America, living alone was ‘true’ living alone, she said.
She also worried about the future. She was in her mid-20s, unmarried, and living alone, an uncommon combination for a Pakistani woman. Asim had been raised in a relatively liberal household, but some traditions were hard to let go.
In Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim, women have more freedom compared to orthodox societies like Saudi Arabia. 

However, norms borne out of a mix of religion and South Asia’s own patriarchal cultural heritage dictate most women’s lives. Marriage and family are considered integral to women’s identity, and life for single women choosing to live independently is fraught with challenges.
Beena Sarwar, a journalist and documentary filmmaker from Pakistan whose work focuses on gender and human rights, sees a slow acceptance of women venturing out on their own in Pakistan.
“I think there is a growing phenomenon of more women moving to other cities within and outside Pakistan,” says Sarwar.
But she also sees multiple types of pressures applied on women even after they win family approval to live on their own.
“There’s a lot of public or social pressure on these women’s families, even when they have reconciled to the idea themselves,” Sarwar says. “There are few social boundaries in our culture. Women’s life choices — be it marriage or having kids — are common conversation points.” Sarwar also says it’s important to note that the idea of living alone is alien to the traditional, joint living arrangements in Pakistan.
“Privacy and personal space are Western, modern concepts. Pakistani society is transi­tioning from a rural, patriarchal culture where there is no sense of personal space,” she says. 

The Migration Policy Institute reports that there are about 273,000 Pakistan-born immigrants in the US. While it is safe to assume that a majority of Pakistani women migrate with their families, in recent years, international scholarship programmes like Fulbright and others funded by Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission have given more Pakistani women the opportunity to travel abroad for education. The foundation that manages Pakistan’s Fulbright programme, however, did not respond to requests for gender disaggregated data on its scholars, though its eligibility criteria strongly encourage women to apply.
Too educated to find a match 

 Even the most broad-minded of parents of Pakistani women living alone, aren’t immune to societal pressure. “My parents constantly felt judged by their peers who wondered how they could let me get on with my life,” Asim says.
They would in turn express their frustrations to Asim, who soon left the World Bank to attend graduate school at Brandeis University, and then found work as a financial consultant in Boston. She didn’t return for seven years to keep her visa intact. Her parents thought it was because she had become too Americanised, she says.
For Shehla Wynne, whose parents fully supported her decision to move to America 10 years ago to study biochemistry, the pressures began after she changed her original plan of returning after her Masters. She was accepted into a doctorate programme at Georgetown University, and after earning a PhD, decided to attend law school. On each trip home, she met family members who would inquire how she would ever find a suitable match, now that she was “too educated.”
For most Pakistani women, moving to America to live alone can be a vast social adjustment.

 For Asim, a major challenge was religion. She expected an unquestioned acceptance of her religious bent but in her new surroundings, she found herself in a minority. While her parents never forced her to return, Wynne says she understood the pressures they put up with at home on her behalf.
“There was talk about when was I going to stop chasing my career and settle down. My parents were super-supportive but there was constant negotiation on what I could and couldn’t do,” she said. That negotiations began much before coming to America for Saima Firdous, a resident physician at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Firdous is from a land-owning family in Dhamial, a small village in Punjab. She went to medical school in Rawalpindi. But unlike most Pakistani women who travel to the US to study, Firdous came from a family where women’s education was rare. Neither her mother, nor her three sisters had gone to school.
“We had no tradition of educating girls,” she says. “From the beginning I had to constantly prove that I was a good girl and they could trust me.”
While going to college in Pakistan was a hard-won battle, Firdous was an outstanding student and her family became proud of her. But when she decided to study in the US, her parents couldn’t understand why she took that decision. “They just couldn’t see the need for me to go abroad,” she says.
To make matters worse, her fiancé, himself a US-qualified physician, refused to let her pursue a career after marriage. Firdous broke the engagement and won her family over on the condition that she would live with relatives in Minnesota. She later acquired a fellowship to Harvard and moved to Boston.
Adjusting to a new normal 

 For most Pakistani women, moving to America to live alone can be a vast social adjustment. For Asim, a major challenge was religion. She expected an unquestioned acceptance of her religious bent but in her new surroundings, she found herself in a minority. “I realised I was praying now not just because everyone was doing it. It was a strange test of loyalty.”
Asim eventually found her calling as a poet. She went back to graduate school once more to study poetry. Now living in Houston with her husband, a Lebanese immigrant whom she married two years ago, she has published poems that speak of her experiences as an immigrant. She uses her writing to “understand the cultural and personal conflict that sprouts from geographical displacement.”
“I don’t think it ever ends. You’re constantly negotiating a culture and the negotiation continues when you get married or have children,” she says. Amena Saiyid, 44, an environmental reporter at Bloomberg News arrived from Pakistan in 1992 to study chemistry at the College of William and Mary. While she, too, came from a highly-educated family, Saiyid still found living in America a big adjustment.
“Sharing a room with a stranger from a completely different culture, and who may have preconceived ideas about you was pretty tough,” says Saiyid.
Firdous also recalls her first-ever experience of living with a roommate as challenging. “I come from a religious family and didn’t know much about other religions, so I wanted to live with a Muslim woman.”
While she found a Muslim roommate, it didn’t quite work out.
“My Algerian roommate threw all of my stuff out one day because we couldn’t get along,” Firdous recalls. But both Saiyid and Firdous say that the best part about coming to America was meeting people from other cultures. Saiyid believes her experiences challenged her preconceived notions about nationalities which are often hated in Pakistan, like Israelis or Indians. For Wynne on the other hand, the most sig­n­i­ficant change from home was freedom of movement.
“I led a very sheltered life in Pakistan. I had a strict curfew. Being able to have male friends and work late were big changes for me,” she says.
During her initial years, Wynne would visit home every year. But each trip pushed her towards staying. That she didn’t want to return home upset her initially, but she appreciated her newfound self-reliance. It came in especially handy when her sister, also settled in the US went through a divorce and came over with her daughter to stay with Wynne for several months. She said her independence prepared her to help her family through the difficult time. She knew what needed to be done and had the community connections to help take care of her sister and niece.
“Those connections were my people, and this was life that I had built all on my own,” she says.
For Asim, who married in her 30s, the biggest change was the evolution of her conceptions about marriage and fears of remaining single that had been cultivated in Pakistan. It took her eight years of living alone to realise that marriage could be much more than just a “safety net.” While she believes that America has its own stereotypes for women, Asim finally escaped the constant questioning back home on why she hadn’t found a match yet during her years of being single.
“For me, living alone made me realise that no one would come and save you,” she says.“You save yourself or perhaps you save a man."

Pakistan - Fate of FATA

Despite international pressure on Pakistan’s government to streamline its tribal areas that have lately gained notoriety as epicentres for global terrorism, the long road to FATA reforms still remains as elusive. With the indigenous lawmakers at constant loggerheads over the efficacy of the proposed reforms, uncertainty still prevails the government’s discourse on how Fata should be governed. Four schools of thought support their own respective line of action as the only viable solution to the long-neglected grievances of people living in FATA territory, which range from separate province for the locals (backed by Jamiat-Ulema-e-Fazl); its merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (demanded by Jamaat-i-Islami); establishment of an independent FATA legislative council (suggested by Fata Grand Youth Alliance) and even the maintenance of its previous status quo. It is perhaps in the light of this increasing furor with which all factions continue to oppose each other that the government has chosen to yet again overlook the dedication with which FATA reforms committee produced the painstaking report on the political mainstreaming of the tribal belt. After dropping the report from the federal cabinet’s agenda earlier this month despite promising to implement the much-awaited recommendations, the government is now giving assurances they will be discussed before March 12.
While its words might have appeased local protestors highly concerned with the negative developments, the authorities definitely need to do much more to add to its credibility. This disappointing delay is indeed another testament to the scant attention paid to the people of FATA over the last seven decades. Despite their matchless sacrifices and unwavering loyalty to the Pakistan’s cause, these tribes people have always been portrayed as mere extras in the larger geopolitical theatre orchestrated from afar—either facilitators of terrorist outfits or unnoticed victims of US-led drone warfare. With so many of them forced out of their homes in the aftermath of Operation Zarb-e-Azb while the remaining braved both experiments conducted by non-state actors as well as marginalisation over alleged affinity with Afghanistan, it is high time that they are provided with all rights guaranteed to the country’s citizens. Their second-tier status, imposed as a draconian reminder of the colonial era, has largely facilitated the dismal pace of development in the region. While the world has definitely significantly evolved in the last few decades, this change has done nothing to alter the lives of some 4.5 million people. Widespread poverty, the absolute breakdown of infrastructure in war-ravaged agencies, illiteracy (even more rampant than the dismal overall average); FATA’s distress — economic and societal — is a beguilingly simple story.
The haunting circumstances would continue to adversely impact the livelihoods of people living in the tribal belt. If allowed to fester further, their deep sense of victimisation can be easily exploited by militant organisations to undermine the ongoing peace efforts. We have known what needs to be done for quite some time now. Ergo, the proposed roadmap should be considered as an imperative in policymaking for the public interest not another avenue for petty political scoring. All actors benefitting from the ongoing saga would be better off reconsidering the merits of their positions. Even if the present recommendations cannot be accepted in their present form, the fact that they have been commendably derived from consultations with a wide spectrum of stakeholders should convince them to at least partake in further discussions. Once approved, the reforms could be extensively expatiated to address their respective reservations. FATA has suffered from our neglect for far too long. The administrative shortcomings should not be allowed to haunt them anymore. It would be refreshing to see a Pakistan that acknowledges all its residents as full and equal citizens, enjoying all rights guaranteed by its constitution.



Pakistan People’s Party has condemned police action against Pakhtuns in Punjab and asked Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to apologise to the nation for it calls the unconstitutional step.
Addressing a news conference at Peshawar Press Club on Monday, PPP provincial president Eng Mohammad Humayun Khan said that action against Pakhtuns in Punjab was tantamount to a conspiracy against the federation.
He said that PPP had convened a multi-party conference on the issue of military courts wherein police action against Pakhtuns would also be discussed. He said that violence against Pakhtuns had caused unrest among people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and even in different countries. It seemed as if Pakhtuns were not citizens of the country, he added.
Flanked by PPP former provincial president Syed Zahir Ali Shah, Syed Ayub Shah, MPA Nighat Orakzai, Azam Afridi, Zulfiqar Afghani and Khwaja Yawar Naseer, Mr Khan recalled the sacrifices rendered by Pakhtuns for restoration of peace and said that federal government’s unilateral decisions were beyond imagination.