Sunday, May 7, 2017

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Video Report - French presidential election: RT special coverage

How Macron, the boy who preferred the company of adults, became president of France

As a boy, Emmanuel Macron was preternaturally smart, self-assured and seemed to prefer spending time with adults instead of kids his own age. These traits underscored his most significant relationships and helped propel him to the presidency.
His arms outstretched, fingers clenched, his boyish face basking in the spotlight, a young Macron lets out a dramatic sigh, prolonging every second of undiluted audience attention before launching into his lines.
The video clip of a 15-year-old Macron performing in a school play may have grainy visuals and scratchy sound. But the home movie is a harbinger of the phenomenon to come, like watching the making of a storm of sorts that would one day strike France with suddenspeed and intensity.
In many ways, that May 1993 production of Jean Tardieu’s “La comédie du langage” (The Language of Comedy) marked the public start of what was to become the Macron phenomenon.

For starters, the play was the product of a theatre workshop at La Providence Jesuit high school in the northern French city of Amiens, where Macron met his future wife.
It was pure theatre – in real life and onstage. Brigitte Trogneaux, Macron’s drama teacher, was 24 years older than him, married, and with children.
“He played a scarecrow, I remember that very, very well. And I found him incredible in this scene, what a presence,” recalled Trogneaux in the documentary, “Macron, a Meteor's Strategy.”
At 15, Macron fell in love with his 39-year-old drama teacher, whose three children included a daughter his own age.
It was the sort of romantic plot novelists would adopt only with trepidation. But life can be stranger than fiction and Macron at a very early age had a preternatural sense of his own destiny -- matched by a determination to get what he wanted.
Like Trogneaux, for instance. Before leaving Amiens at 17 to complete his studies in Paris, Macron informed his drama teacher that one day he would marry her.
In 2007 -- 14 years after they first met -- Macron married Trogneaux, who had since divorced her husband. It had taken dogged determination, overcoming first her resistance, then his family’s disapproval before reaching a stage where he could finally marry Trogneaux – after asking her children for their mother’s hand in marriage.
“It’s a powerful act because not everyone would have bothered to come and ask us for her hand in marriage,” Trogneaux’s daughter, Tiphaine Auziere, told CNN.

© Eric Feferberg, AFP
‘He was not a teenager’
Born in Amiens to a physician mother and a neurologist father, Macron was an extremely intelligent student. One of his most influential childhood figures was his maternal grandmother, Manette, who was also a teacher. Macron has told several journalists that it was Manette who introduced him to leftist ideals and instilled in him a lifelong passion for books.

As a teenager and young adult, Macron was always hanging around older people – having dinners with his teachers, avoiding the advances of girls his own age, according to his former classmates.
“He was not like the others. Most definitely, he was not like the others. He was always with the teachers, he was always discussing issues with the teachers. He had books, always a lot of books. He was not a teenager. He had a rapport with adults – teachers, school directors – he had an equal relationship with them,” explained Trogneaux in the France 3 documentary.
A mentor sees ‘the stuff of presidents’
That affinity for older people saw him establishing a close bond with Jacques Attali, a prominent French economic and social theorist who had served as advisor to former French President François Mitterrand.
Macron encountered Attali after graduating in 2004 from ENA (l'Ecole Nationale d’Administration), one of the country’s most prestigious grandes écoles and a breeding ground for future French presidents.

© HO, via Vanity Fair
That’s when he joined France’s General Inspectorate of Finance and was appointed deputy rapporteur of a bipartisan commission, chaired by Attali, to foster French economic growth.

© Screengrab, "Macron, la strategie du météore" (France 3)
Attali would play a critical role in opening a new chapter in Macron’s life, one that would earn him wealth, increase his grasp of the global financial system, but also earn him the opprobrium of the section of the French left that views bankers as villains.
Armed with a recommendation by Attali, Macron joined Rothschild & CIE Banque, an investment bank owned by Rothschild & Co. The young Macron rose rapidly up the bank’s ranks to become a managing partner -- and a millionaire in the process.

© Bertrand Langlois, AFP
By then, he had married Trogneaux in the northern French town of Touquet and had established what many would call a hyperactive life, juggling a high-stress job with sports such as tennis and cycling, as well as playing the piano. A prize-winning pianist with a Masters in philosophy – including an association with French philosopher Paul Ricoeur -- Macron so impressed Attali that the older Frenchman famously declared his protégé had “the stuff of presidents”.

© Les Échos du Touquet, July 2016
‘Mozart of the Elysée’
But life in the private sector, no matter how remunerative, could not hold the restless Macron’s interest for long and so, in May 2012, he was appointed deputy secretary-general at the Elysée presidential palace -- a senior role in President François Hollande’s staff. A complete unknown on the national scene, the young Macron was quickly dubbed the “Mozart of the Elysée” by the French press.

© Alain Jocard, AFP
Two years later, at the age of 37, he was appointed France’s youngest-ever economy minister, replacing Arnaud Montebourg.
In his new post as economy minister, Macron was responsible for pushing through a pro-business labour reform package that earned him the undying wrath of France’s hardline trade unions and their far-left supporters.

© Éric Piermont, AFP
But the ambitious young economy minister didn’t stay in that job for long. In August 2015, the maverick politician announced that he had left the ruling Socialist Party and was, from now on, an independent.

A year later, when he launched his En Marche! (Onward) political movement, his chutzpah was severely criticised by the establishment on the left. But Macron apparently had read the political tea leaves and seen what that left-wing establishment was unwilling to confront: that the age of established parties, especially the unpopular ruling Socialist Party, was over.

Video - France: President-Elect Emmanuel Macron addresses crowds at the Louvre Museum

Video - Emmanuel Macron wins French presidential election

Video Report - PML Q leader Ch Khalid Pervaiz announced to Join PPP

Pakistan: Another Christian sentenced to life in prison under blasphemy law

Another Christian man has been sentenced to life imprisonment under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, despite the absence of evidence to support the charge against him.

Zafar Bhatti was accused of insulting Islam in cell-phone text messages he sent in 2012. He denied the charges, and pointed out to the court that the cell phone in question was not his account. He had been held in prison since that time—in part for his own protection, because of threats against his life by Muslim zealots.

Pakistani courts frequently issue death sentences in blasphemy cases, but the court in Rawalpindi sentenced Bhatti to life in prison, perhaps because the evidence against him was so slim.

Pakistani Christians and human-rights advocates have repeatedly called for change in the country’s blasphemy law, which leaves enormous scope of abuse, allowing for false accusations. But legislators have hesitated to amend the law, and courts have been leery of finding defendants innocent, because of pressure tactics by Muslim militants.

Class divide — Pakistan's main problem

M Abrahim Shah

The elite’s capture of the state is the primary reason behind a segment of our population’s proclivity for intolerance
Arguments that hold a lack of tolerance or a poor education system responsible for the horrific incident of Mashal Khan’s killing are not just elitist but also they fail to let us analyse the real cause behind the incident. Intolerance may have led to the incident, but this intolerance is a product of a system which promotes the interests of the top one per cent only.
The idea that Pakistan’s lower socio-economic classes are somehow more prone to violence and intolerance is a very common one in our society. This belief begets the false image of a common Pakistani as an emotionally-charged and irrational being — easily beguiled by demagogues into committing the most gruesome acts of violence. Such a way of thinking contrasts the urban elite — seen as well-educated, moderate and rational — with the rest of the country — portrayed as illiterate, devoid of critical thinking skills, and prone to violence. Some people also reason that the ability of our well-to-do classes to think rationally is a product of their education. And if, somehow, the rest of the country is given access to this education, Pakistan will be cured of its intolerance.
Such thinking is a remnant of our colonial past — where the British ‘raj’ justified its rule by portraying the natives as ‘prone to anger’ and ‘unable to make rational judgements’. We inherited this harmful line of thinking, and it explains why several people — including civil and military bureaucrats like Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan — believed, and continue to do so, that Pakistan is not fit for democratic rule. This way of thinking is also reflective of the class divide that plagues Pakistani society.
The elite’s capture of the state is, in fact, the primary culprit behind a segment of our population’s proclivity for intolerance. There are lessons on repercussions of this class divide in the Mardan lynching incident. Like most other state-run institutions in Pakistan, Mardan University had been allowed to fall into a state of dereliction because our government failed to invest enough resources and energy in it.

This failure stems from the government’s inability to cater to the masses through inclusive public institutions. Thus, places like Mardan University have become more prone to hateful ideologies due to the state’s apathy. It is only inevitable that perpetrators of violent crimes will emerge from the population segment that attends such institutes.

Thus, a system that perpetuates class divide and marginalises large segments of our populace is the main problem, not the education system or the quality of education imparted at public institutions. The class divide is evident not only in our educational institutes, but also in our public spaces and workplaces. Over the past few years, big cities like Lahore and Karachi have witnessed a sharp rise in the number of privately-run cafes and restaurants. These places cater exclusively to the upper and upper-middle classes. Concomitantly, the condition of public parks and recreational areas in these cities has declined significantly. This illustrates how our state is failing to meet the needs of the people, as those with money continue to enjoy various comforts.
Class divide gives birth to the elitist view that Pakistan’s less privileged classes are backward, and that access to education can serve as the panacea to Pakistan’s losing battle with hate crimes. In fact, the capitalist structure of our economy, and social and political ramifications of this structure have led to this situation.
It is not simply education, but our privileged up-bringing which prevents us from suffering the day-to-day struggles of the common Pakistani and helps us to think ‘rationally’. We must also question how radicalisation took root in our society, and bring to task powers such as the United States and Saudi Arabia who funded radical organisations within our borders for their vested interests.
The first step, however, must be to indict a system which has resulted in such a stark class divide in our society. We must, then, let go of our views that those less-privileged than us are somehow more irrational and violent than us. It is imperative that we act now and change Pakistan for the better. We owe this to Mashal.

Bilawal Bhutto pays tributes to Shaheed Qamar Abbas

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has paid glowing tributes to Shaheed Syed Qamar Abbas, former Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister and Senior Vice President of PPP KP, who was martyred by armed men ten years ago today.
In a statement, the PPP Chairman said that Syed Qamar Abbas stood loyal to the Party and remained in forefront of every struggle for the restoration of democracy and against dictatorship.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that PPP was proud of the sacrifices of its martyred leaders and workers who laid down their lives for our future generation for the cause of downtrodden people and democracy.
He said that Party will never forget Shaheed Qamar Abbas and other workers and they will continue to be adorned in our hearts and minds forever.

Pakistan - PPP is the party of all classes: Bilawal

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that PPP is the party of all the classes.
Addressing more than 100 political leaders, office-bearers and workers who had defected to the PPP from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Muslim League – Functional (PML-F) during the last eight months in Karachi, he said that those joining the PPP from other parties would be given full opportunities to change the political landscape of the provincial capital.
Zubair Khan, the central president of PTI’s labour wing, Naeem Shaikh, the former town nazim of Korangi, Sheikh Mohammad Feroz, Farah Shaikh and Samina Salam were among those who have recently joined the party.
“Let us work together for the restoration of the City of Lights and the City of Peace besides [ensuring] provision of food, shelter and clothes to every citizen,” said Bilawal.
According to Bilawal, the vision of the founding party leadership was to strengthen a democratic Pakistan with its destiny lying in the hands of the public. “PPP has experienced great political movements, leading the people from the front for the rights of the people and our country,” he added.
He said that PPP candidates will win majority of the seats in Karachi in the 2018 general elections.

Pakistan’s Emerging Threat: Highly Educated Youth Gravitate to Radicalization

The on-campus mob slaying of a journalism student and the arrest of a female medical student for allegedly planning a suicide attack underscore concerns that some of Pakistan’s highly educated youth are gravitating toward violent extremism and radicalization.
Security experts say the unrelated incidents show that religious militancy isn’t limited to the disenfranchised and uneducated poor. They contend the government has to wake up to a problem that may be getting worse as the country’s conservative streak growing deeper.

On April 13, a crowd in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa almost casually carried wooden planks and guns to fatally beat and shoot Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old journalism student who had been accused — falsely, as investigation later showed — of spreading blasphemy on social media.

Then Naureen Laghari, a bright, 20-year-old medical student from a well-educated family in Sindh province, was arrested for allegedly planning an Easter suicide attack on Lahore’s Christian community. She had pledged allegiance to Islamic State and had traveled to Syria, where she took military training.

“Laghari is not the first example of radicalized youth to become a foot soldier for a terror outfit,” security and defense analyst Aisha Siddiqa told VOA. “She’s certainly not the last one. When there’s no place in the country where you can engage in an open debate on religion, then the only way forward is in the form of radicalization.”

Confused youth, an easy target

Youth dominates Pakistan’s population of 200 million people, so its most important demographic group is also the most impressionable. A recent report in the Dawn newspaper indicates that education doesn’t prevent militancy: Sindh’s Counter Terrorism Department said that out of 500 militants currently held in Sindh’s jails, 64 hold a master’s degree and 70 have a bachelor’s.

Analysts believe deprived and confused youth, particularly those who can’t find answers to their problems, are most vulnerable to fall into the hands of extremist groups, such as IS, which is highly tech-savvy and relies heavily on cyberspace to provide hardline narratives that glorify terrorism.

Other factors include political disillusionment, increasing militancy in the country, and poor security measures.

“I think they’re [youth] being attracted to extremism because there is so much religious ambiguity and no one to talk to,” Ayesha Ghaffar, a media sciences university student in Karachi told VOA. “I have a lot of questions but there's no one to answer them.”

Most of the current university students grew up in the ‘80s, when young men were openly recruited from universities for jihad as Pakistan and the U.S. joined to fight the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, then in Indian-controlled Kashmir in the ‘90s.

Experts believe the result was radicalization in youth on a national level, leaving them malleable as new causes emerged. That is bolstered by well-organized religious groups at most universities whose mission is to spread Islam among fellow students through prayer meetings, charities and other activities.

Deradicalization & counter-narrative

“Now is the time to make changes to the blunders we’ve made in the past, or we’ll pay the price forever,” Khadim Hussain, a security analyst, told VOA.

Education experts say it’s important to build a counter-narrative and cultivate an environment where youth can openly engage in conversations on issues considered taboo in Pakistan.

They believe outdated teaching methods, lack of development of new skills, and absence of sports and extracurricular activities lead to frustration allow youth to gravitate toward violent terrorism.

“The education system of Pakistan does not train a student in logical/scientific inference or critical thinking. So he’s unable to critically dissect the indoctrinating patterns,” Naureen Zehra, an education expert, told VOA.

Mughees ud Din Shaikh, dean of the Mass Communication department at the Superior University Lahore, added, “Social change takes decades. We need to change the curriculum and come up with a counter-narrative on an emergency basis. Everyone has to play a role towards deradicalization: teachers, religious scholars, mosques, state, security forces – everyone.”

Many see an urgent need to bring fast-spreading religious seminaries (madrasas) into the national education system. Once focused on the lower middle class, they have become prevalent in posh neighborhoods, too.

“As far as education is concerned, forget about universities and colleges, look at the religious schools in very elite neighborhoods in whole of Pakistan,” said Aisha Siddiqa.

Government’s challenges

Security experts say the government has been avoiding tough decisions.

“Organizations like IS are active on cyberspace and have sleeper cells, but the government doesn’t pay attention because they fear for their perception in the world,” Khadim Hussain said. “This fear has impacted the society and state badly.”

Abdul Qayyum, a lawmaker and prominent member of the ruling PML-N party, denied that, telling VOA that government is aware of the gravity of the matter and is taking measures to prevent radicalization.

“The government is keeping an eye on curriculum, schools, universities and religious seminaries, as well. Through continuous and vigilant monitoring, we were able to catch terrorists like Naureen Laghari before they could carry out any atrocity.”