Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Pashto Music - RAZA RAZA

US Bill Could Cut Lifeline Funding For Pakistan’s Military – OpEd


Six years after the world’s public enemy No 1 Osama bin Laden was killed in a Navy Seals raid on the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, there is enough evidence in the eyes of world that Pakistan continues to pursue the same policy of hunting with the hounds and running with the hares. The world, especially Washington, believes that the military in Islamabad is still aiding and abetting the terrorists and that makes Pakistan “a state sponsor of terrorism.”
Quietly, but surely, a bill introduced by House Sub-committee chairman Ted Poe is moving towards voting which would require presidential waiver to release the Coalition Support Fund, the major lifeline for the military in Pakistan. The bill also asks the question why has Pakistan so far not been declared a state sponsoring terrorism.
Standing on the sidelines and waiting for the outcome of this legislation, the Pakistani establishment is wondering aloud that why no matter what they say and how forcefully they put is the world in general and the US and India in particularly refuse to believe Pakistan. All those black-suit and tie visits to DoD and State Department by the Pakistani generals with civilian diplomats in tow, come to nothing when they painfully present Pakistan as a country at the forefront of war against terrorism.
It leaves the generals baffled and bewildered. They have seen General Musharraf masterfully doing it for seven long years ,but the old trick now is becoming boring. The world watches. The Haqqani network continues to be a problem. The Taliban who are overwhelmingly Pashtuns keep the pot of insurgency boiling while their Pakistani friends look the other way. On top of that the most recent media reports, though unconfirmed, speak about Al Qaeda’s No 2 Ayman Al Zawahiri’s alleged presence on Pakistani soil and that too in its largest city of Karachi. Pakistan is not an information black-hole like Syria or Afghanistan where one is never sure till the last minute about the presence of a HVT.
The former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, after all, was killed by a DoD drone strike in Balochistan far from the lawless lands of tribal areas. He was returning from Iran and was carrying Pakistani passport. The US is looking for a faster but certain way out of Afghanistan under the Trump administration.
Washington has clearly signaled that the only bilateral interest it has left for Pakistan is to seek Islamabad’s cooperation in pinpointing the HVTs.
The imminent departure of the US and ISAF forces, barring special operation units, would leave Pakistan desperate and isolated. The military is accustomed to its annual budget running into billions of dollars. Though China has made its intentions clear that it would come to the help of military by pumping in more than 55 billion dollars in the name of a road which already exists.
Moreover, China’s record of early engagement and earlier withdrawal also shows that China may not invest what it said it would. Its record in Sri Lanka and south America tells the story of abandoned projects and hollowed promises. Pakistan has already announced that its strategic port of Gwadar right at the mouth of oil lines would be given to China. And if Chinese military or navy decided to lay anchor in Gwadar that would attract all sorts of regional and global enemies to Pakistan and Pakistan would find itself devastated amidst a plethora of proxy wars.
Meanwhile inside Pakistan, military-sponsored media, which includes almost all the TV channels and newspapers, continues to play victim. The US bashing has touched its peak and now everything associated with the US and the West is bad. — much on the lines of ISIS propaganda. There is no space left for civil society and independent media. The military is continuously drumming the narrative that India and US are out to get Pakistan, while China and Saudi Arabia are the saviors. In a country where more than 65 percent of population is illiterate, the propaganda gets currency, but sooner or later it will expire its shelf date.

Blasphemy allegations – the new way of muzzling free speech in South Asia

Freedom of expression in South Asia's Muslim-majority countries has never been under a bigger threat than today. And it comes in the form of blasphemy allegations, forcing journalists and bloggers to self-censor.
Government critics and secular writers in Pakistan and Bangladesh have never been more vulnerable. They fear religious extremists and their governments alike when it comes to blasphemy allegations, which are enough to put them in prison or get vigilante mobs to lynch them.
After Bangladesh witnessed a spate of killings of secular activists, Pakistan is experiencing a government crackdown on liberal bloggers, journalists, academics and activists. At the same time, religious fanatics are targeting secular social media activists, who have to go into hiding or self-censor to save their lives.
The "abduction" of liberal bloggers in January – allegedly by Pakistan's security forces – and the recent lynching of a secular journalism student in the northwestern city of Mardan by a mob have shocked activists and the journalist community in Pakistan. There has been increased social media vigilantism, which is forcing critics of the government and military as well as human rights activists to censor their thoughts and words.
Pakistan is already one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, but the blasphemy issue has made it even more dangerous for them.
Pakistan Proteste nach Mord an Mashal Khan (Getty Images/AFP/B. Khan)
In April, a 23-year-old journalism student in Pakistan was killed by a vigilante mob over allegations of blasphemy
Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where around 97 percent of its 180 million inhabitants are Muslim. Rights advocates have long been demanding a reform of the controversial blasphemy laws, which were introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Activists have said the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas.
'Political witch hunt'
Rights group say the government is using the "blasphemy tool" to intimidate critics and dissidents.
In January, renowned Pakistani rights activist and university professor Salman Haider disappeared from the capital Islamabad. Three other secular activists - Waqas Goraya, Asim Saeed and Ahmed Raza - also went missing. After weeks, all these bloggers returned to their homes, with Goraya claiming that he was "abducted" by Pakistan's law enforcement agencies.
On January 16, the missing bloggers' issue took a new turn when a resident of the capital Islamabad filed a complaint with the police accusing the missing activists of committing blasphemy. The complaint was followed by a media campaign against bloggers portraying them as "anti-Islam."
Pakistan's conservative sections started sharing images and quotes from a number of secular Facebook pages that they claimed were administered by activists like Haider and Goraya. Although there was no proof that these people were running those pages, the South Asian country's anti-liberal TV commentators criticized them for engaging in "anti-national" and "anti-religious" activities.
But why has the government suddenly intensified its crackdown on academics, writers and intellectuals?
While these activists work in different fields, they all have one thing in common: their consistent and sharp criticism of Pakistan's security establishment and conservative groups. Rights groups say the authorities want to stifle dissenting voices as an increasing number of people are criticizing their policies and actions through social media and other cyber platforms. And that is also the reason why the Pakistani government has introduced stricter measures to control social media and the Internet.
"The crackdown on dissidents is actually a political witch hunt," Arshad Mahmood, a Pakistani writer and social media activist, told DW.  "Those who are critical of the state, the military and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project are being picked up by the government agencies. I wish the authorities had shown the same enthusiasm in targeting Islamist militants," Mahmood added.
Intimidation and self-censorship
The situation in Bangladesh is quite similar to Pakistan. A series of ghastly attacks on bloggers in the past few years has showcased the deteriorating state of freedom of expression in the Muslim-majority country. People are now feeling more threatened to express their views online.
Local media have reported scores of attacks in the past few years that have killed at least 35 people and injured over 130.
While radical groups claimed responsibility for those killings, the Bangladeshi government has so far denied any presence of international terror outfits on its soil.
As attacks on secular bloggers and activists have intensified, Bangladesh has slipped in international press freedom rankings.
Benjamin Ismail, head of Paris-based Reporters without Borders' Asia-Pacific desk, told DW the situation of press freedom in the country is extremely concerning. "The many attacks of the last few years have provoked a sharp increase of self-censorship among journalists and bloggers. If the government continues to refuse to react firmly and significantly, what were already sensitive subjects to cover will become irreversible taboos," he underlined.
Faheem Hossain, a researcher of social media and assistant professor at the State University of New York in Korea, believes Bangladeshis, in general, are feeling less secure to express themselves either online or, to some extent, offline due to the recent gruesome killings. "This sense of insecurity is transcending from individual level towards online and offline media as well," he told DW.
Pakistan P.E.N. Inhaftierter pakistanischer Journalist (picture alliance/dpa)
Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists
A battle between secularism and extremism
Activist Bonya Ahmed lambasted Bangladesh's Information and Telecommunication (ICT) Act, arguing that it was being used to muzzle free speech in the country.
"The newly amended ICT act has made the criticism of religion on the Internet punishable with up to 14 years of imprisonment," she told DW. "The ICT act is being widely used to persecute and harass critical writers, bloggers and journalists. Police have arrested numerous bloggers, writers, journalists and publishers under this law," she added.
This view is shared by analyst Hossain. He believes liberals in the country are facing threats from both the government as well as the extremists. "As a result, people in Bangladesh are now feeling threatened to express themselves, particularly online."
Ahmed said the real issue is not only about fanatics reacting violently to criticism of Islam; it is also a battle between secularism and extremism.
"Historically, fundamentalists have always felt threatened by scientific facts and secularist ideas," she added. "It is easily understandable why they perceive us as their prime enemy."
The killing spree has led a number of bloggers to flee the country, atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin relates. "At least 28 bloggers have fled Bangladesh over the past years, and another 40 are seeking ways to do so due to the constant fear of being attacked," he told DW.
Mohiuddin has been living in Germany since 2013 after being attacked by religious fundamentalists in Dhaka and jailed by the government for criticizing Islam. His blog was banned, which ultimately led him to leave the country.
"A number of international organizations are now helping Bangladeshi bloggers who are in desperate need of help," said Mohiuddin.
Despite threats to their lives, journalists and activists in both Pakistan and Bangladesh refuse to give up the fight. They say they would continue to strive to report and express their views independently.
"Civil society needs more unity now to protect freedom of speech. In the age of social media, independent thinkers have a platform to voice their concerns against certain actions of the government, and it is their right," Nahyan Mirza, an Islamabad-based development professional, told DW.
"Pakistani society, unfortunately, is being controlled to a large extent by the right wing," Mirza added. "These groups will never tolerate social, cultural and intellectual change that poses a challenge to their power. But I am hopeful the change will come soon."

Pakistan - Curbing Illegal Organ Trade

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has busted an illegal organ transplant ring on Saturday in Lahore, lodging its first-ever case under the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA) against two doctors, two foreigners and two organ donors. The raids and arrests continued through the week as two more foreigners were arrested from a Gulberg hotel, and another illegal “clinic” was targeted in the posh EME society on the outskirts of Lahore.
The FIA must be commended for its action in making prompt arrests, several of whom were made when the operations were under process so the case against the culprits could be stronger. What is troubling in the whole episode is the doctors arrested in connection to the criminal ring were respected and affluent individuals working in prominent public hospitals and holding high positions in doctor’s associations. The illegal organ trade is only the province of doctors on the fringes of the medical profession, but involves individuals at the heart of it. The FIA must work towards uncovering the other abettors of this illegal ring – those who set up the deals with foreign receivers, those who entrapped the poor donors, and those who allowed their premises to be used for such purposes.
This includes conviction of the foreigners who came to Pakistan seeking illegal organs; only when these individuals are given hefty sentences the influx of these ‘medical tourists’ will decline, cutting of the impetus for this trade.
While new figures are unclear, before Pakistan tightened laws and enforcement in 2010, the country was one of the top destinations for individuals seeking illegal organ transplants. While that number has gone down in recent years, there still exists several gangs carrying out such activities – as the busting of another ring in Rawalpindi earlier this year demonstrated.