Sunday, April 2, 2017

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Can NATO and Russia avoid a war in Europe?

Vladimir Mikheev 

The Russia-NATO Council meeting on March 30 failed to convince anyone that things won’t get worse, but at least it showed that the West won’t shut down the channels of communications. Nevertheless, with NATO forces growing stronger on Russia’s western border, the rising tensions will only contribute to an uncertain future. Can the two countries find a way back from the edge of the abyss?

The Russia-NATO meeting took place amid an atmosphere of growing animosity and mutual suspicion. Some call it a `Cool War,’ but others worry that rising tensions might lead to a full-fledged confrontation on the continent.
Surprisingly, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the talks were “long” and “constructive.”

His appraisal reflects not so much the brief meeting’s content, because the exchange of information didn’t result in any breakthroughs, but rather the mere fact that NATO and Russia still are speaking to each other. 
This comes despite a strong warning from Moscow, articulated by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that there will be “no more business as usual” with the West. Therefore, we have good reason to utter a sigh of relief, right?

NATO prepares for war

Over the past several years, Moscow has been worried by the following: NATO enhances its military infrastructures, deploys sophisticated weaponry capable of launching nuclear warheads, and beefs up its forces along Russia’s western borders. 
Additional NATO troops are about to be sent to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, and Bulgaria, and a NATO naval force is stationed in the Black Sea, including warships from non-littoral states like Poland, Germany and Spain.
In January, the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team landed in the German port of Bremerhaven. Then, all 3,000 soldiers and 2,600 pieces of equipment, including 87 tanks, 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and 144 Bradley fighting vehicles, made a highly publicized trek across Europe to western Poland.
Also in January, M1A2 battle tanks had target practice in Swietozow in Poland, and in February, American soldiers conducted urban assault training at the Gaiziunai Training Area in Lithuania.
In March, the Allied Spirit VI exercise included about 2,770 participants from 12 NATO and partner nations, testing communications among alliance members while live-fire exercises with howitzers were held at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany.
A mere glance at the map of “Recent U.S. military events in Europe” on the U.S. Defense Department’s website shows that approximately three out of four military exercises have been held in Eastern Europe, and in the case of the Baltic states, in close proximity to Russia’s borders.
In total, NATO plans to hold 28 joint military exercises along Russia’s borders in 2017 that involve 60,000 service personnel.
One of the main goals, spelled out by Major General Duane Gamble of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, is to prepare the ABCT (armored brigade combat team) to be ready for exercises within 72 hours, which are in fact preparations for real combat.
Since the U.S. military doctrine defines Russia as the number one geopolitical adversary, and various clans of American politicians indulge in bellicose rhetoric against a country they regard as the ‘heir apparent’ to the Soviet ‘evil empire,’ Moscow has no other choice but to assess these developments as the most acute security threat since the end of Cold war.

Ukraine and mutual misunderstanding

The Russia-NATO Council revealed, as Stoltenberg put it, “clear disagreements” on what is happening in Ukraine and what to do there. NATO’s secretary general urged Moscow “to use its significant influence on the militants” in eastern Ukraine to ensure that the commitments stipulated in the Minsk agreements are not violated.
One could have forecasted with 100 percent certainty that the two sides would not agree on the root causes of Ukraine’s civil war, as well as how to stop the slow-motion disintegration of that once strong and prosperous country.
Unfortunately, there’s little chance that NATO will soften its rigid stance on the Ukrainian crisis. Why? Many strategists in Moscow, who might be described by Western observers as “conservatives,” strongly believe that NATO follows the philosophy and orders of the far-right Neocon faction in the Bush and Obama administrations, and was eager to indulge in provocative and irresponsible moves in Ukraine. 
There’s a nagging suspicion that significant numbers of U.S. military and intelligence personnel among the Ukrainian armed forces that launched the attack on the rebel republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the summer of 2014 weren’t there just to gather information. 
The ultimate goal of the Victoria Nulland-sponsored coup d’état in Kiev was to provoke Russia into using force to topple the ultra-nationalist, pro-Western government in Kiev.
This would provide NATO with the perfect raison d'être for years to come, and would make all the retired Cold War warriors rejoice and sing out loud, “Happy days are here again.” It would give pretext to crush dissent within the ranks of both NATO, and to unite in the face of the new-old adversary. 
Until Ukraine parts with illusions over what really happened in Kiev in February 2014 and comes clean as far as who led the country astray and betrayed the aspirations of the people, the West and NATO will most likely continue to view Russia’s closest relative and neighbour as an instrument of containment, or at least as a tool of annoyance.

Viral anti-Russian hysteria 

The security risks related to NATO’s build-up and advance to Russia’s borders, whether real or imagined, will compel the Kremlin to take pre-emptive measures, enhancing retaliatory potential capable of inflicting unacceptable damage on the Western military alliance.
Given NATO’s ultimate conventional superiority, Russia has to rely heavily on its nuclear deterrence. The use of nuclear weapons, probably at the early stage of a possible Western attack on Russia, is firmly rooted in its military doctrine. 
It doesn’t sooth any fears that this apocalyptic scenario will never materialize, does it? It’s reminiscent of MAD, the Mutually Assured Destruction concept of deterrence from the days of the Cold War. No good.
It’s worth quoting the well-meaning words of Richard Sokolsky, the non-resident Senior Fellow of Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: 
“The West and Russia may or may not be locked into a new Cold War in Europe, but their adversarial relationship could lead toward greater confrontation and possible conflict… Both sides need to borrow a page or two from the U.S.-Russian Cold War playbook to prevent their `cool war’ in Europe from becoming hot.”
Should NATO fail to follow the Carnegie expert’s advice, and if the current anti-Russian hysteria continues to spread like a virus, then the situation on the ground, according to Murphy’s Law, will invariably “evolve from bad to worse.” 
Consequently, the continent that is our common home will increasingly resemble not a unique civilization, but rather a theatre of potential war, which of course has been a recurring theme in European history for far too long. Isn’t it time to stop and reverse this trend?
With this in mind, it’s encouraging that NATO hasn’t shut Russia out entirely, and keeps the door ajar for dialogue. 

Why Are Beijing, Washington Keeping Quiet on Eve of Xi, Trump’s Summit?

With Trump’s harsh rhetoric on the campaign trail, including his threats to impose a 45-percent protectionist tax on Chinese imports, it was expected that problems with US-China diplomacy might emerge following his election. And so they have, even before the Trump-Xi summit next week.

US President Donald Trump is set to meet China's Xi Jinping, who will come to Trump's private Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida on April 6 and 7. Considering Trump's repeated slams on China during his presidential campaign — accusing China of "raping" the US economy and unfairly imposing import taxes on American goods — there is no surprise that the summit is the focus of media attention.
But just days before the summit begins, unsettled problems remain. Despite the fact that the whole world knows about the visit, it has still not been announced officially, neither by the White House, nor in Beijing. Traditionally, official visits of between heads of states are announced weeks, if not months ahead.
"It is quite extraordinary that no confirmation has been made about the summit even after Tillerson's trip to China, which was aimed at paving the way for the Xi-Trump meeting," said Pang Zhongying, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.
Observers note that this is a likely sign that the diplomatic bodies of the two countries are still trying to negotiate last-minute details, SCMP reported. And that likely means that there is a certain level of tension behind the scenes, kept away from the public eye. The two countries may be watching each other very closely, ready to cancel the summit should they feel threatened in some way.
The number of ways in which the meeting could go south is virtually uncountable. Between Trump's boisterousness and bravado and the Chinese strict adherence to ceremony and protocol, the White House protocol service is likely on pins and needles already.
For example, Beijing has already declared that Xi won't stay overnight at Mar-a-Lago. Instead, the Chinese leader will stay at Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, and will come to Mar-a-Lago for negotiations.
"China might want to avoid having its top leader staying at a place with strong elements of Trump's personal style," says Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Liu also noted that China may also be trying to avoid being caught up in US criticisms of Trump's spending on expenses.
In Washington, facing fierce criticism at home, Trump may be looking to use the summit to give himself more presidential weight.
"Often, presidents look to foreign affairs to make achievements they can't achieve domestically," said David Lampton, a professor of China studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.
Many have noted the outcome of the summit should not be taken as a prophecy of the future for US-China relations, however. According to a review by SCMP's Liu Zhen, US President Barack Obama had an outstandingly warm meeting with Xi, having spent a total of eight hours with him over two days. It was hailed by Chinese officials as an "unprecedented breakthrough."
Despite that, we all know how it all went down last year in the South China Sea.

Z A BHUTTO - ''Har Ghar se Bhutto Nikle Ga''

Music Video - Tahira syed - Yeh Aalam Shauq ka dekha na jaaye

Music Video - NAHEED AKHTAR - Aati Hai Pawan Jaati Hai Pawan -

Music Video - NAHEED AKHTAR - Teri Umeed Tera Intezaar Jab Se Hai -

Music Video - NAHEED AKHTAR - Tumse Ulfat Ke Takaze Na Nibhaye Jaate

Z A BHUTTO - Mai Bhutto Hon - Long Live Bhuttoism!

Pakistan plunged into another vicious cycle of sectarian violence

The latest attack on a Shia Mosque in Parachinar in Pakistan's North West Tribal region's Khurram agency was the sixth such attack on Shias in this town since 2012 highlighting their worsening plight and other minorities living in Pakistan.
According to Human Rights Activists here in Geneva, attacks against minorities do not appear to raise eyebrows in Sunni-majority Pakistan anymore, and are fast becoming a norm.
In the last two days, there have been two incidents, one targetting Shias and the other the Ahmadis.
The Banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) took responsibility for the attacks as Pakistan again plunged into a vicious cycle of sectarian violence. Just last month, more than 80 persons were killed in an attack on a Sufi Shrine in southern Pakistan.
The latest suicide attack on Friday at the entrance of a Shia mosque in Parachinar in the remote north western tribal region bordering Afghanistan killed at least 22 and wounded more than 50 people with the majority being Shia. The timing of the attack, which was when people were gathering for Friday prayers, was to ensure maximum casualties.
The Parachinar region has witnessed a series of terror attacks in the past, including in January 2017, December 2015, September 2013, and September and February 2012.
Like the Shias, the people of another Muslim sect who are subject to systematic persecution by the Pakistani State are the Ahmadis. The March 30 attack on and killing of Malik Saleem Latif, a prominent leader of the Ahmadi community, who was also related to the Pakistani Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam by militants from the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi, is a case in point.
According to a recent report released by the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, since the Blasphemy law came into effect in Pakistan in 1984, more than 250 Ahmadis have been killed because of their religious beliefs.
Apart from facing a threat to their life, a blatant example of the Pakistani State's support and encouragement to Ahmadi persecution is visible in the passport application form that every Pakistani citizen applying for a passport needs to fill in. The application requires all Muslim citizens of the country to sign a declaration affirming that they consider Ahmadis as infidels.
While Pakistani leaders and government officials lose no opportunity to claim that people of all religions enjoy equal rights in the country, the requirement of a declaration in a passport application form designating Ahmadis as infidels, is a clear case of the State endorsing discrimination among its citizens.
Attacks will continue to take place against the minorities in Pakistan, until and unless the government takes the hard decision to clamp down on the radical Islamic groups, most of whom have the backing of the Army and the country's intelligence agencies. (ANI)


Pro-Taliban Deobandi cleric Samiul Haq of JUI-S and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Deobandi chief Sirajul Haq will facilitate proscribed Deobandi takfiri outfit ASWJ in getting the ban on the outfit lifted.

The notorious ringleader of the proscribed ASWJ told reporters in Islamabad that Samiul Haq and Sirajul Haq would also facilitate talks of his banned group with the Shia notables.

It is relevant to add here that takfiri Deobandi ASWJ (Sipah-e-Sahaba) is mother of all terrorism in Pakistan with a focus on genocide against Shia Muslims who have unanimously turned down recognizing takfiris in any form.

Instead of admonishing the Deobandi takfiris to repent their takfirism and instead of advocating capital punishment to the takfiri terrorists, they are facilitating them.

Pakistani nation is not surprised because of the nexus with these self-claimed mainstream Deobandi clerics and leaders with the underground takfiris of banned Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, sister organisation of ASWJ.

Pro-Taliban Deobandi cleric Samiul Haq of JUI-S and Jamaat-e-Islami’s Deobandi chief Sirajul Haq will facilitate proscribed Deobandi takfiri outfit ASWJ in getting the ban on the outfit lifted. The notorious ringleader of the proscribed ASWJ told reporters in Islamabad that Samiul Haq and Sirajul Haq would also facilitate talks of his banned group with the Shia notables. It is relevant to add here that takfiri Deobandi ASWJ (Sipah-e-Sahaba) is mother of all terrorism in Pakistan with a focus on genocide against Shia Muslims who have unanimously turned down recognizing takfiris in any form. Instead of admonishing the Deobandi takfiris to repent their takfirism and instead of advocating capital punishment to the takfiri terrorists, they are facilitating them. Pakistani nation is not surprised because of the nexus with these self-claimed mainstream Deobandi clerics and leaders with the underground takfiris of banned Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, sister organisation of ASWJ.

#ShiaGenocide in #Pakistan - Sadness and rage in #Parachinar

By Mehdi Hussain

Amid heaps of freshly dug up mud, two small graves stood out in a row of 22 others.
Covered in white and adorned with yellow flowers, the graves belonged to four-year-old Zehra and her brother Ali, barely 13 months old. “They had gone to the hospital,” their grandfather Naib Hussain, barely able to speak, told The Express Tribune. “They went and never returned.”
Zehra and Ali weren’t the only ones Naib lost in Friday’s grisly suicide bombing at an imambargah in Parachinar. Their mother, Naib’s daughter-in-law, was also killed in the attack which claimed 24 lives and wounded more than 100 others. Naib’s son Kifayat, also a victim of the blast, is in critical condition at the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar.
“Kifayat had taken his wife to the hospital in Parachinar city,” Naib recounted. “She was very ill. They also took their two children with them.”
“They never came back,” he kept repeating.
Silent rage prevailed in Parachinar a day after the bombing, with mourners still protesting and demanding the removal of Kurram Agency’s political agent and assistant political agent. They also called for the arrest of the security officials who allegedly fired on mourners when they protested outside the political agent’s office after the blast.
As the martyred were laid to rest, the extent of the carnage in Parachinar became apparent. “More than 160 people were injured in the attack,” Agency Surgeon Sabir Hussain said. “Some 80 were discharged after initial treatment but 36 people were in critical condition and had to be airlifted to Peshawar. Another 40 are still admitted to the hospital [in Parachinar],” he added.
Although Kurram Agency has witnessed a relative calm, Friday’s bombing in Parachinar was the second major terrorist incident in the city in less than two months.
“We had just started planning the repatriation of those who had been displaced,” a Fata Secretariat official said. “The dispute of lands was close to being settled when this incident took place.”
As for Naib Hussain and his son Kifayat, a local elder urged the government to assist the family financially. “They are poor but very respectable people in their village,” Imran Hussain Turi said. He also urged the government to arrange the best medical treatment for Kifayat

Tired of Abuse, Pakistani Feminists Ride Bikes to Claim Public Space

By Saad Sayeed

Dozens of women in Pakistan took part in female-only bike races in major cities on Sunday, in an event organized to challenge male dominance of public spaces in the country.
"Our strategy is simply to be visible in public spaces," said Meher Bano of Girls at Dhabas, a feminist group which organized the races after a woman from Lahore was pushed off her bicycle by a group of men last year for not responding to catcalls.
The bike race was one of many events organized in the last few years by Girls at Dhabas - the name given to roadside restaurants in Pakistan - to promote female participation in public events, fight restrictions faced by women in public places and increase awareness.
"I drive on these roads all the time but this was maybe the first time I got to experience them while biking," said Humay Waseem, one of the riders on the 5-kilometre race around Pakistan's leafy capital Islamabad.
"I loved the feeling of freedom with the breeze in my hair."
Members of Girls at Dhabas say they are a new generation of Pakistani feminists determined to build on progress made by their predecessors.
"The women's movement is as old as Pakistan but it is not something that is really talked about or written about," said Bano.
Over 60 percent of Pakistan's nearly 200 million people are under the age of 30 but young women in the Muslim country continue to face barriers to employment and are often made to feel uncomfortable going to male-dominated public areas, said Bano.
"It's part of a much greater narrative that leads to harassment, it leads to violence," she said.
Last September, an upcoming Pakistani fashion brand, called Do Your Own Thing, removed an advertising campaign on social media featuring a female flash mob after the women appearing in it faced online harassment.
In July, Qandeel Baloch, a social media celebrity known for her risque online posts was killed by her brother for bringing dishonor to the family. She became a feminist icon after her murder shocked the nation.
Though there is a small but vocal liberal movement in Pakistan, most noticeable in sections of the media, women who push feminist ideals often face a barrage of abuse and are portrayed as being infected with Western or un-Islamic ideals. After the race in Islamabad on Sunday, the riders, mostly aged in their 20s, swapped stories about being gawped at or catcalled when they go out. They also talked of the need to fight growing conservatism on Pakistan's streets, saying there are fewer women out in public today than 20 years ago.
"We are letting that space go and society is getting more narrow-minded," said one of riders.

#PPP Video - kitne Maqbool Hain Hamarey Bhutto

Video - Z A Bhutto historical speech - Long Live Bhuttoism

Pakistan - 38th death anniversary of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on April 4

The 38th death anniversary of PPP Founder Chairperson and former Pakistan Prime Minister Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto will be celebrated on April 4.
‘Quran Khwani’ and ‘Fateha Khwani’ will be held in all divisional, district, tehsil and city offices for the eternal peace of the souls of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.
Seminars, public meetings, majalis, dialogue and mushairas will also be held to highlight the contributions of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Newspapers will publish special additions and private TV channels will broadcast special programmes to highlight his contributions.

Pakistan - Z A Bhutto’s services

The Opposition Leader in the National Assembly (NA), Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, said on Saturday that Zulfilkar Ali Bhutto gave the country 1973’s Constitution, nuclear technology, empowered the youth, established heavy industry, developed agriculture, framed labour laws and made poor peasants masters of their land through land reforms.
Talking to media persons at his residence here, he said that Bhutto fought for the rights of the downtrodden and opened jobs for the jobless educated youth in different departments. He was a great politician who made Pakistan prosperous with revolutionary steps, he added.
Khursheed Shah said that Bhutto's philosophy still ruled the hearts of people. Benazir Bhutto truly followed in the footsteps of her father, he added. He said ZA Bhutto had rendered great sacrifices for promoting democracy and gave political wisdom and right of votes to people, farmers, labourers and marginalised communities.
He said the people from across the country will reach Garhi Khuda Bux, Larkana, in big caravans to pay homage to the charismatic leader and founder chairman of PPP Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Shaheed on his 38th death anniversary.

Pakistan - Zardari, Bilawal to announce ‘something big’

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday arrived at Bhutto House to take part in the 38th death anniversary of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The anniversary is marked on April 4.
As many as 7,000 police officials will be deployed at Garhi Khuda Bukhsh. As many as 1,000 traffic police personnel, 3,000 Rangers and 1,500 male/female SSU commandos will also perform security duties. 40 walk-through gates have also been installed along with CCTV cameras.
PPP-Shaheed Bhutto will hold a gathering at 10am on the same day. The event will be addressed by PPP-SB Chairwoman Ghinwa Bhutto and other leaders. It will be for the first time that walk-through gates will be installed at Gate No 1 for security.
Meetings have been taking place since long to make arrangements.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has visited the venue twice to check the arrangements.
On Sunday, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro visited Garhi Khuda Bukhsh and announced that Bilawal and Asif Zardari will make important announcements on April 4. The district administration officers, including DC Kashif Ali, SSP Umar Tufail and others briefed him about the arrangements so far finalised for provision of drinking water, availability of fire brigades, cleanliness, establishment of medical camps by government hospitals, smooth flow of traffic and parking area for which he directed them that special attention must be paid to parking place so that no traffic jam is witnessed. Khuhro said strict security must be ensured in and around the mausoleum. He was told that CCTV cameras and walk-through gates have been installed and parking has also been established on 90 acres of land which has been divided into four zones.