Wednesday, March 29, 2017
US President Donald Trump should cancel impending weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, since this could put civilians in even greater danger and implicate the US in war crimes, Amnesty International said in a letter sent to the president.
“The deals would arm members of a military coalition that has attacked thousands of civilians in Yemen and violated international humanitarian law,” the human rights group said in a press release published on Tuesday.
The organization noted that its experts found unexploded US bombs and “identifiable fragments of exploded US bombs” among the destroyed civilian buildings in Yemen.
If the US approves the deals while banning Yemenis from coming to the US, it would be like “throwing gasoline on a house fire and locking the door on [the] way out,” according to Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA executive director.
“The US should not continue to arm governments that violate international human rights and humanitarian law and simultaneously shut its doors to those fleeing the violence it escalates,” she said.
“Arming the Saudi Arabia and Bahrain governments risks complicity with war crimes, and doing so while simultaneously banning travel to the US from Yemen would be even more unconscionable. President Trump must not approve this arms deal,” she said.
On Wednesday, President Trump held a meeting with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudi delegation hailed the meeting as a “historical turning point” in US-Saudi relations, “which had passed through a period of divergence of views on many issues.”
Speaking to RT last week, Ahmed Benchemsi, communications and advocacy director at Human Rights Watch’s Middle East & North Africa division, said that the US, UK, and France should stop selling weapons to Riyadh.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is “increasingly unsustainable” and urgent action must be taken by both sides in the conflict, he said, adding that the situation is turning into a “deep humanitarian catastrophe.”
Saudi Arabia’s coalition, which also includes Bahrain, began the military operation against Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to bring the ousted government back to power.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the impoverished country, the UN reported in late February, while seven million people are close to starvation.
For all intents and purposes Yemen has been decimated by a military onslaught of gargantuan proportion - one of the poorest nations on the planet versus an alliance of several superpowers. Western capitals have bought themselves several dark chapters in the history books … how they will be remembered, and one may hope judged, will very much depend on how they proceed moving forward.
There are still crimes the world will not stomach without offering resistance. Resistance as it were, is what has animated Yemen for the past two years, and pushed a nation on the brink, to manifest a movement that saw the bending of the might of imperialism.
In this military embrace, Yemen’s rights to think itself sovereign and independent were forfeited so that Saudi Arabia’s hegemonic folly could be quenched. But no matter, Yemen’s story has yet to be written. It would not be the first time a minority came to overpower the multitude majority, Alexander the Great comes to mind.
Let us remember here that it was the kingdom that unilaterally chose to invade Yemen’s skies, and from the comfort of its war rooms rain death on unsuspecting civilians.
However loudly Riyadh will posit that Yemen’s war is righteous and fair, reason … and hopefully decency, dictate we frown before the slaughtering of a nation whose crime was to argue democratic reforms at the court of a tyrant.
Yemen was earmarked for utter annihilation for it dared speak political self-determination in the face of Saudi Arabia’s grand Wahhabist complex - that monster Western capitals insist on turning a blind eye to so that money could flow freely to its coffers.
I recall how back in September 2015, only five months into this conflict the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) rung the alarm and compared Yemen to Syria - in hindsight I would say that the parallel was uncanny. “In just five months, the country is crumbling into a ‘Syria-level crisis,” read a statement.
After all, like Syria, Yemen has been the victim of wholesale terrorism; only in the case of Yemen, terror was rationalized by the arm that bore it - Saudi Arabia. I will remind readers that slapping a flag and a national anthem on fascism - if we can label Wahhabism under such term, does not legitimize its ideology.
A country interrupted by war, famine, abject poverty and altogether despair, Yemen forever remains the one bleeding scar in the Middle East few media have dared shine a light onto for fear of challenging Saudi Arabia’s media blackout.
It is impossible today to look upon Yemen and pretend that abominable war crimes have not been perpetrated in all impunity. I would personally argue, like many others that impunity in this particular case should be understood as a euphemism for amoral cover-up.
Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich, an independent researcher and author from Irvine, California, put it quite brilliantly in her interview with Tasnim News agency this March when she noted: “What is undeniable is the fact that those who ‘promote human rights’ are the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes, including the genocide in Yemen. To deny their complicity is to deny humanity.”
But there may be light at the end if this tunnel. Hope lies in those truths that are now rising to the surface so that the world could be told Yemen’s war from the perspective of the people.
“The conflict has devastated Yemen's economy and spurred a humanitarian crisis, with civilians unable to afford shelter, food or medicine, and aid groups powerless to reach vulnerable communities,” writes CNN.
Hope lies in speaking Yemen’s pain out loud so that the reality of Wahhabism - this abomination born in the burning sand of the Nejd (homeland of the House of Saud) could finally be looked upon as the root-cause of terrorism in the world.
Hope lies, bear with me, in identifying those enemies of humanity who, in the name of control, built a terror that’s shadow stretches over the Greater Middle Eastern region today. Yes, I am pointing a very angry finger at Riyadh and its cohort of hate-induced sectarian exclusionist for whom political stability rhymes with genocide.
Hope lies finally in admitting to Yemen’s war reality and the litany of war crimes 26 million souls were made to endure. Dr Riaz Karim, founder of the Mona Relief Organization confirmed to me this March over 18,000 men, women, and children in northern Yemen, have been slain since March 2015.
“Whatever tally the United Nations has admitted to pales in comparison to reality. Reality is harsh in Yemen … much harsher than we can fathom if we consider that seven million people stand today at death’s door on account of famine,” he said.
Defence Minister Khwaja Asif tried to deal with a highly sensitive matter in a most casual manner when he disclosed in a media interview that the government has informed Saudi Arabia, in writing, that the recently retired Army chief General Raheel Sharif would soon assume the command of the Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT). It may be recalled that many eyebrows were raised when a while ago reports surfaced that the General had accepted the Saudi offer to head the alliance. The issue was taken up by the Senate where the Defence Minister said no such request had been received, and that he would inform Parliament of any development in this regard. Prime Minister's Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had also promised to make a statement about foreign policy implications of the appointment if and when it happened. Those assurances have now been cast aside, apparently, to avoid having to answer difficult questions. But the issue is not going to go away. The PTI has strongly opposed the decision, reminding the government that at the time the Gulf states had asked for troops for their Yemeni campaign, Parliament had refused to oblige saying Pakistan must not get involved in a Middle East conflict. The party is now preparing to raise the matter in Parliament. Right from the outset, Pakistan's participation in the alliance has been a subject of serious concern in this country. The government itself at first had shown surprise to find its name included in it, and hesitated to join in. It was in view of the special relationship with the kingdom, nonetheless, that it gave its nod. The underlying unease has been that it would compromise this country's longstanding policy of staying neutral in Middle Eastern affairs, and also undermine its domestic sectarian harmony. It was explained then that Pakistan's role would be only training and capacity-building of the IMAFT force. After the present decision, it is a whole new ballgame. There are some key questions: Will the IMAFT headed by a former chief of Pakistan Army be actually implementing the policy of Riyadh, the alliance leader? Will it - in any manner - add to Pakistan's own defence capacity and capability particularly in relation to its traditional rival India? Will he be able to help unite the Muslim world riven by sectarian divides in accordance with how Lieutenant General Nasir Janjua (retd), the country's national security adviser, sees former army chief's appointment? What is government's response to some analysts' argument that it, as a matter of expediency, has landed the Army in an awkward situation through acceptance of Saudi offer or request? These questions are about Pakistan's interests. And what constitutes Pakistan's 'national interest' must be clearly spelled out by our leadership without any further loss of time. The present issue is a test for the foreign policy establishment's diplomatic skills. Ways need to be found to manage the situation without causing damage to the relationship. Meanwhile, the government has to go to Parliament and explain why it has allowed the general to take such a decision.
It is now official. Retired Gen Raheel Sharif will soon be taking over the command of the so-called Islamic army that is still to take shape. The ambiguity surrounding the decision to lend the services of the country’s former army chief to Saudi Arabia has finally been cleared. The defence minister has confirmed what has been rumoured for the past several months.
But there is still no word from the retired general on his new job; nor is there any formal policy statement from the government on Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led coalition of 39 countries. Things are certainly not as simple as Khawaja Asif wants us to believe, that the government has allowed the former chief of army staff to accept the appointment on the Saudi request.
This decision needed much more serious thinking as it implicates Pakistan in a highly contentious situation. Let along it being debated in parliament, it is apparent that the government has not even taken the cabinet into confidence on this critical issue that has a direct bearing on our national security and foreign policy. The secrecy surrounding the move raises many questions about our policymaking process. The argument that the government could not refuse the Saudi request makes us appear more like a client state.
What has added to the confusion is the impression that it was simply a job offer to the former army chief, and that the government was only supposed to give him clearance and waive the restriction stipulating that military officers cannot accept a foreign assignment for two years after retirement. That makes it more imperative for both the government and Gen Raheel to clarify their positions. It is unprecedented for a former Pakistani army chief to seek a foreign assignment and that too immediately after retirement.
How can the government now resist the possible demand to contribute troops to the coalition force?
Whatever the truth may be, the government’s approval indicates a clear departure from our policy of not getting involved in the Middle East power game. It is that much more intriguing as Pakistan has yet to decide what role it will play in the coalition force. A Pakistani heading it will inevitably place us in the hotspot and drag the country into a conflict that we have thus far kept out of, thereby endangering our own national security interests.
From the outset, the very concept of a Saudi-led military bloc is divisive, given the deep involvement of the kingdom in the Middle Eastern civil war. Unilaterally announced by Riyadh last year, the so-called Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism is still a phantom force with no clear structure or well-defined objectives. Like many other countries, Pakistan was also taken by surprise by the Saudi announcement of the alliance, also described as a Sunni coalition. There were no prior consultations among the countries that were supposed to be part of it. Pakistan agreed to participate in the alliance, perhaps, in order not to further alienate the Saudis who were already upset at the government’s refusal to send troops to Yemen on their behalf.
Interestingly, the Saudi initiative came weeks after the Pakistani parliament unanimously rejected Riyadh’s request. Pakistan, however, made it clear that its participation in the alliance would be limited and it would not commit any troops. But one wonders how Pakistan can keep its promise with its retired army chief heading the force. How can the government now resist the demand that may come next, to contribute troops to the coalition force? All these questions must be clarified.
Some of the contradictory statements coming from the senior cabinet ministers reinforce the doubts that no serious thinking was done before taking the decision. While divulging the information during a TV interview, the defence minister was evasive on the question whether the decision would affect our policy of maintaining neutrality in the Middle East crisis. Understandably there has not been any reaction from GHQ on the issue.
Adding to the confusion were the remarks made by another federal minister, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, who advised Gen Raheel not to accept the controversial position that could harm his reputation. Similarly, some other senior members of the ruling party insist it was the former army chief’s own decision to take up the job. But there is no answer to why the government is compelled to grant him the permission if it was not in the country’s interest. The opposition parties are justified in asking the government not to issue him the NOC.
Perhaps the strongest defence came from National Security Advisor retired Lt Gen Nasser Janjua, who believes that Gen Raheel’s appointment provides a great opportunity for Pakistan to work for the “unity of Muslim Ummah”. He dismissed the argument that the decision would adversely affect Islamabad’s relations with Tehran.
Some other reports, quoting senior government officials, maintain that there has been high-level consultation with Iran on the issue and that Tehran has no objection to Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led alliance. However, the veracity of the reports about Tehran’s approval cannot be confirmed. Iran has been publicly critical of the Saudi initiative that it perceives as being directed against it.
Surely Iran’s concerns cannot be ignored given the ongoing proxy war in the Middle East. But that is not the only point to consider in the argument against Pakistan becoming an active participant in the Saudi-led coalition. It is simply not in the interest of the country to get involved in any outside conflict.
Another critical question is; why does a supposed counterterrorism alliance need to raise a multinational military force? If it is only a consultative body and intends to develop a unified counterterrorism strategy, then why the need to have a retired general to lead a ghost force? One expects the government to respond to these questions. Any decision based on external pressure jeopardising our national security must not be acceptable.
Speaking on the occasion, James Luke expressed grave concern about the systematic oppression of Christians in Pakistan. He recounted numerous instances over the last few years when Christians were targeted and killed by Sunni extremist forces and no action was taken by the Pakistani government to protect the Christian community. He also stated that the blasphemy law was being used as a tool to persecute the religious community.
Javed Bakhsh, while speaking at the event, emphasised that there was a need for the civilised world to take notice of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan. He highlighted how institutionally, the Christians were being deprived of job opportunities, economic benefits and were also facing social ostracism in Pakistan. He called on the Western world to put pressure on Pakistan to stop the genocide of Christians.
In his statement, Przemyslaw Czarnecki, Parliamentarian from Poland, charged the Pakistani government of repeatedly failing to take steps to protect the rights of Christians in the country. He stated that the list of cases of Christian persecution in the country was endless, and even lawyers and human rights activists who spoke on the issue of Christian rights were being targeted. He also held Pakistan's blasphemy law as an easy tool that was used to persecute Christians. He concluded by stating that there was a serious need for European countries to re-consider their bilateral cooperation with Pakistan and put pressure on the country to take effective measures to improve the condition of Christians.
Naveed Walter, who has been working with the civil society in Pakistan to improve the condition of Christians, touched upon the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was facing the death penalty under the blasphemy law. He stated that the human rights conditions of minorities in Pakistan was worsening, especially because they were not given political rights, like those enjoyed by Muslims. He stated that the only way the Pakistani government could be forced to grant minorities equal rights was through international pressure.
A documentary on the dismal condition of Christians in Pakistan administered Kashmir was also screened at the event.
- See more at: http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/detail.php?hnewsid=6365#sthash.tOUyjFQC.dpuf
Leave it to the police to think out-of-the-box when coming up with ways to harass minorities.
On Wednesday, police officials in Chenab Nagar, Chiniot District – where the headquarters of the Jamat-e-Ahmadia is located – allegedly harassed Ahmadi children who were volunteering in a traffic awareness campaign.
Members of the Itfalul Ahmadia – an Ahmadi children’s organisation – were conducting an awareness campaign of traffic rules while standing on a roadside.
Police officials saw them and swept into action, snatching up their pamphlets and taking one of the children into custody.
At this point, an adult member of the community intervened.
They claim ASI Muhammad Asif said he would lodge a case against them for violating labour laws by making the children work on the streets.
In reply, the youth told the officials that they were standing there voluntarily to conduct the campaign and were not forced to labour, Amir Mehmood from the Jamat-e-Ahmadia media cell told The Express Tribune.
Mehmood added that the police have released the boy, but he had been traumatised by the incident.
”The children were targeted only because they are Ahmadis,” he said.
The Express Tribune tried to contact ASI Asif to comment on the incident, but he could not be reached.
Moreover, Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarian Muhammad Ilyas Chinioti recently filed an application in the Punjab assembly to restrict the movement of the marginalised community.
Chinioti’s resolution could not be carried in the last session which took place on February 17.
It is expected that it will be taken up in the next session, however, the date for the sitting has yet to be announced.
”Ahmadis are spreading their religious beliefs via social media and after legal consultation, I will lodge a case against them,” Chinioti told The Express Tribune.
The resolution he has tabled claims that Ahmadis “are posing as Muslims, which is illegal and unconstitutional”.
It goes on to state that Ahmadis could not call their place of worship a mosque in addition to building minarets or a mehrab.
The resolution says that Ahmadis are proscribed from using the words of the shahada in any way or even using a minaret in a picture.
The PML-N parliamentarian vowed to move the state machinery against Ahmadis at every front to restrict their activities.
Saleemuddin, the spokesperson of Jamat-e-Ahmadia Pakistan, commenting on the situation said, on one hand, an operation is going on against militancy and hate and on the other hand, Ahmadis are being victimised at the hands of the state.
He added that Ahmadis are law abiding citizens and the security forces should come forward against this victimisation.
The spokesperson said that instead of protecting them, the police has resorted to harassing them.
The harassment of these children is a part of a wider campaign against the minority.
”Religious hardliners one or another to subject them to religious discrimination and to spread hatred against them,” the spokesperson added.
He said the ruling party should prohibit elected representatives from spearheading hate campaigns against Ahmadis.
Ahmed Ludhianvi, notorious ringleader of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba (ASWJ), the mother of all terrorism in Pakistan, has made an abortive attempt to hoodwink Pakistani nation through a 7-page letter in which he gave an impression of distance between Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and his group.
However, his letter has included claims that high officials of the State, Army and Punjab government had been getting his support and cooperation. He claimed that he brought Malik Ishaq to his proscribed terror outfit ASWJ at the behest of said high officials.
If his claim is accepted true, it means, State of Pakistan and Punjab government themselves are supporters of takfiri terrorism in Pakistan because they wanted Malik Ishaq to work as a takfiri outfit leader in public.
Ludhianvi claimed that his party abandoned the takfiri ideology in 2003 but as a matter of fact his last gathering in Islamabad despite section selection 144 for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Sheikh Rashid, proscribed ASWJ supporters raised takfiri slogans that had been recorded.
His party’s Ramzan Mengal group held a gathering in Quetta to celebrate the anniversary of Hazara Shia Muslims massacre where takfiri poems were read and awards were also given to the takfiris for their “meritorious services.”
Hence, it is fact that neither they parted ways with the takfiris of banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi nor they have repented their takfiri ideology that is the root cause of terrorism in Pakistan since 1980s.
Ludhianvi has not mentioned how many innocent Shia Muslims, doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, scholars, women and children were massacred by their takfiri terrorists since his Sipah-e-Sahaba came into being?