Friday, May 26, 2017

Terrorism, climate change top this year’s G7 agenda

Video Report - Clinton roasts Trump, compares him to Nixon

Video Report - ‘We work to prevent possible attacks’: Russian FSB holds massive anti-terror drills in Crimea

Video Report - Jared Kushner Reportedly Wanted Secret Communications Channel With Kremlin

The Pope Is Wrong, "Islamic Terrorism" Does Indeed Exist

César Vidal
Just as terrorism in the name of other religions has existed throughout history. We must call evil things by their name if we want to overcome them.
Pope Francis declared in February that there was no such thing as Islamic terrorism. By doing so, he negated the existence of terrorism that is inherently religious in nature whether it’s Christian, Jewish or Muslim. I do not dispute his good intentions — he avoids slandering a whole religion because some of its followers commit acts of terror — but I do have a serious problem with the actual truth of his assertion.
History provides us with many examples of religious terrorists. The Jewish assassins who cut the throats of Romans and their own compatriots in a war against Rome (66-73 AD) invoked the God of Israel. Jesuits did the same to non-Catholics even if it does seem ironic to do so considering the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Islamic case is essentially different, as I point out in my book Mahoma, el guía ("Muhammad the Guide").
Prophet Muhammad was a different character before and after the year 622. Prior to that year, he was a peaceful man who announced the approach of the Day of Judgment, and urged people to submit to The One God.
In 622, when Muhammad left Mecca for Medina, he became a military ruler who used the sword to spread his word. Since Islam considers Muhammad's life a model for emulation, even in its smallest details, this change of path would lay the foundation for legitimizing various forms of violence including terrorism. While there are Muslim terrorists whose actions cannot be attributed to Islam. Many Muslims are, certainly, opposed to terrorism. But this does not mean that Islamic terrorism is not, as the pope claims, simply terrorism perpetrated by Muslims. ISIS, al-Nusra, Hamas, Hezbollah and similar groups backed by regimes in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Iran, are terror groups that invoke Islam in their actions.
This makes Islamic terrorism a real threat, even though many leaders, including the pope, are regrettably unable to face that fact.

Kashmir is Pakistan’s diversion from its collapsing economy and faux democracy

Kashmir is burning again! The violent aftermath of Burhan Wani’s death underscores the fragility of peace in the valley. And, as usual, the anger is directed at those who bear the brunt of failed policies, mis-governance, political machinations, and pay for it with their blood: the security forces.
Soldiers who were lauded months ago for saving thousands during floods are now denigrated as sadistic torturers and killers. Students attending schools a few years ago are elevated to CheGuevaric status and goaded into martyrdom. This is a familiar and oft repeated pattern. A young charismatic lad takes up arms after an incident with security forces. The cause gets a face to a name. He becomes the rallying point for those whose growing reputation is grudged by the state (as well as other leaders of the “cause”). Stakeholders ranging from terrorist outfits, Pakistani sponsors, secessionist elements, and political fringes leverage this exposure; stoking the fire, egging on the youngster and conferring him with grandiose titles. Eventually the poster boy takes one risk too many and is killed. And all hell breaks loose. Claims of human rights violations, strident demands for removal of security forces, and leaders crawling out of the woodworks professing “solutions” to a six-decade-old problem.
It is déjà vu. This scripted frenzy hides the underlying dynamics of proxy war and the true motives of players far removed from brickbats, bullets, and bodies on the streets. Kashmir is Pakistan’s diversion from its collapsing economy, civi l-military power struggle, volatile internal dissent and most importantly, the charade of democracy its leaders have foisted on their populace. Since independence, Pakistani power play has been a cat and mouse game between the army and autocratic civilian leaders with no semblance of democracy. A comparison of the civilian-military relationship in India and Pakistan establishes the latter’s raison d’etre of keeping the Kashmir bogey alive.
The starting point of both the countries seemed alike, with respective prime ministers promising a secular democratic fabric. But that is where the similarity ended. While India was able to integrate hundreds of its states into a democratic union, through a largely peaceful process, Pakistan suffered sectarian, provincial and linguistic schisms from its inception. This was exacerbated by a leadership vacuum with Jinnah’s death within a year of independence and estrangement between West and East Pakistan which began with the imposition of Urdu as the official language on a nation whose majority spoke Bengali. Widespread protests were brutally crushed by West Pakistan which culminated in the Dhaka Medical College massacre in February 1952, when protesting students were shot dead by the police.
The subsequent years saw Pakistani civil and military leadership embark on a series of blunders which included the attempt to seize Kashmir, using their trademark farce of state soldiers in the guise of “freedom fighters,” followed by the first of many coup attempts in 1951 and the inability to control the persecution of minorities and severe rioting. Ironically, in 1958, the civilian leadership asked the military to take over by imposing martial law. This reliance on the army to obtain power and then help retain it, is a continual phenomenon displayed by successive Pakistani politicians over the years—for which their civilian leadership and citizenry have paid a heavy price. Pakistani army chiefs take over “reluctantly,” promise speedy transfer of power to the civilian government—and then decide to stay put in power after all. So despite the experience of Liaquat Ali Khan elevating a Brigadier Ayub Khan to the chief’s position who promptly seized power or Bhutto appointing Zia and being hanged by him or Nawaz Sharif selecting his nemesis in Musharraf, Pakistani politicians either don’t seem to learn or are incapable of anything but proxy governance by the army.
That is the difference between India and Pakistan. The cliché that India has an army and the Pakistani army has a country, aptly describes the situation. The conflict in Kashmir needs deeper strategic understanding in addition to operational deployment of forces. As a nation we need to be aware of the root cause in the form of a failed neighbour whose civilian and military leadership needs a façade to bolster their legitimacy and mask the fact that it has been deteriorating across every social, economic and developmental metric. The irony of a prime minister who is unable to stop foreign drones or militants from killing citizens within his own country, but is concerned enough to move the UN over atrocities committed in another country, is ludicrous. Couple that with the hypocrisy of separatist leaders who extol Kashmiri youth to fight unto martyrdom while their own children are educated abroad using the funds they extort from the intimidated citizenry. Or the duplicity of leaders who demand the removal of security forces from the valley but keep asking for more troops for their personal protection. Kashmir has become a conflict economy. There are many stakeholders with vested interests in continuing the conflict. And until we recognise that reality—we will continue this endless cycle in which Indian youth—both in and out of uniform, will continue to be fodder in the Great Game. Comparatively, the civil-military relationship and civilian control of governance in India has been the bedrock of its democracy. Despite severe differences between the military and civilian leadership, chequered with several instances of the latter’s suspicion about the former’s motives and apathy towards the armed forces—throughout our history, the Indian armed forces have stoically resisted the temptation to take matters into their hands.
Nehru for instance, was distrustful of the army, interfered in military operations, and succumbed to civilian advice in 1948 just when the army was gaining initiative and could deliver far larger gains if they were allowed to do their job. In 1962, he trusted Krishna Menon’s assessment over the professionalism of his army chief even when Chinese troops were killing Indian soldiers. Despite the 1962 debacle, the strength of our civil-military leadership put India in pole position during 1965 war with Pakistan and notwithstanding major differences of opinion regarding the conduct of the 1971 offensive; two of the most charismatic leaders of that era—Indira Gandhi and General Sam Manekshaw, together, delivered a stellar victory. And in every war, gains paid for in soldier’s blood were frittered away by civilian leadership but the Indian armed forces deferred to their government’s decision.
They stayed true to their oath of loyalty to the government of the day, even during other opportunities of national turbulence like the Emergency or traumatic tasks like Operation Bluestar or ambivalent campaigns like IPKF. Even the extreme and militarily questionable constraints placed on Indian troops of not crossing the international border during the Kargil operations was obeyed in letter and spirit. Despite systematic denigration of the status of the armed forces and the lackadaisical attitude towards long overdue promises like OROP (one rank one pension), our troops swing into action at the behest of their civilian superiors—be it external aggression, internal security duties or aid to civil authorities.
That is the difference between India and Pakistan. The cliché that India has an army and the Pakistani army has a country, aptly describes the situation.
The conflict in Kashmir needs deeper strategic understanding in addition to operational deployment of forces. As a nation we need to be aware of the root cause in the form of a failed neighbour whose civilian and military leadership needs a façade to bolster their legitimacy and mask the fact that it has been deteriorating across every social, economic and developmental metric. The irony of a prime minister who is unable to stop foreign drones or militants from killing citizens within his own country, but is concerned enough to move the UN over atrocities committed in another country, is ludicrous. Couple that with the hypocrisy of separatist leaders who extol Kashmiri youth to fight unto martyrdom while their own children are educated abroad using the funds they extort from the intimidated citizenry. Or the duplicity of leaders who demand the removal of security forces from the valley but keep asking for more troops for their personal protection. Kashmir has become a conflict economy. There are many stakeholders with vested interests in continuing the conflict. And until we recognise that reality—we will continue this endless cycle in which Indian youth—both in and out of uniform, will continue to be fodder in the Great Game.

Ramadan: Controversy in Pakistan over increased penalties for fast-breakers

Critics say a bill currently before Pakistan's Parliament to increase fines for eating and drinking in public during Ramadan, alongside jail terms of up to three months, is evidence of increasing intolerance in the country.
With temperatures on the eve of Ramadan in much of Pakistan 40 degrees or above, opponents of the hiked penalties for public eating or drinking in daylight hours have warned the vulnerable will suffer.
"People are going to die from heatstroke and dehydration, this is a ridiculous law..." tweeted Bakhtawar Bhutto-Zardari, the daughter of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, adding "this is not Islam".
Citing a need to more effectively preserve the sanctity of Ramadan, the religious affairs committee of Pakistan's Senate unanimously approved ten-fold increases in the maximum fines for fast-breakers, alongside prison terms of up to three months.
The committee's chairman, Maulana Hafiz Hamdullah, told the ABC some cinemas had even been screening movies, which he said was unacceptable.
"Any kind of violation of Ramadan, be it in hotels, cinemas or any other public place, this will have negative impact," he said.
The fines are not massive — $A10 to $A300 for individuals, up to about $A650 for businesses.
But that was not the point, opponents argued.
Tahira Abdullah, a noted Pakistani rights activist, said the plan went against "the spirit of Islam as I know it".
She believed the targets were religious minorities.
"When you close down all restaurants and hotels and access to food and water and drinks during the month of Ramadan, what about non-Muslims?" she asked.


Taliban AFG group has sent a chit to extort money from a businessman in Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of Karachi and Aziz Bhatti Police have registered a case onm the complaints of the businessman.

Mohammad al Samad of the Taliban AFG group sent a chit to Farman Aslam, a businessman who is resident of Irum Garden Gulshan-e-Iqbal Block 13-D. He demanded the businessman to pay Rs2.5 million to him. Two bullets were also sent with the chit and in that the Taliban AFG ringleader threatened Farman Aslam of dire consequences if he doesn’t pay the demanded money.
The businessman lodged complaint with Aziz Bhatti Police who registered a case 66/2017 against unidentified persons.
The chit shows that Deobandi terrorists are active in Karachi and security agencies have failed to take action against them.

Pakistan - Opposition leaders reject budget 2017-18

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented annual budget for FY 2017-18 on Friday in the National Assembly, following which politicians from opposition parties started condemning the recommendations of the fifth federal budget.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s leader Asad Umar spoke to media representatives and criticised the recommendations laid forth in the budget.
This government is not farmer-friendly instead it is an enemy of them, he said. The country which is buried under debt cannot be free, the PTI leader added.
He said that the PML-N government took the same amount of loans within 45 months that the Pakistan People’s Party government took in five years’ tenure.
Senator Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party expressed concern over the state of the economy and regretted that the government had “run Pakistan into a debt trap deeper than it had ever been in before”.
“This must be the only government which is happy about a trade imbalance,” the PPP leader said in a statement while commenting on the Economic Survey released by the government here on Thursday.
The PPP senator said “by putting everything on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the government is sitting back and explaining away all its missed targets and growing deficit”.
“Instead of even pretending to balance its budget, this government is going headlong into the next financial year by deepening the huge annual current account deficit,” she said, adding: “This is unprecedented even for this government which has run the treasury on empty.”
Ms Rehman said according to the Annual Plan 2017-18, the budget would be marked with incessant borrowing, more indirect taxes, a surreal deficit and skyrocketing debt.
“It is projected that our current account deficit will reach a staggering $10.4 billion from $7.2bn last year. This is mainly because our trade deficit amounts to almost $26.9bn which was roughly $16.5bn during the PPP’s last year in government. Estimates suggest that this year’s current account deficit rose by 42pc compared to last year. How is this not raising any red flags for the government?” the PPP senator asked.
Muttahida Quami Movement-Pakistan rejected the fiscal budget for the year 2017-18. Party Chief Farooq Sattar called the budget ‘status quo budget’.
Sattar said that taxes have been piled up on the poor. Sattar said the ratio of sales tax should be reduced from 17 percent to nine percent. Petroleum levy should be ended along with sales tax, Sattar added. “There is nothing for the youth, women, non-Muslims in the current budget,” said the MQM-P chief.
The Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) government on Friday presented its fifth and possibly last budget before general elections in 2018, earmarking a total of Rs 4,757 billion in expenditures for the next fiscal year.

Pakistan - Speechless Republic

By: Haroon Baloch
The abduction of bloggers triggered a wave of intolerance across the country and resulted in the haunting environment to further intimidate dissenting voices and those touching upon the tabooed areas.
Pakistan’s human rights record, specifically when it comes to civil liberties, is dismal. In next July, the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva is due to review Pakistan’s performance under International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is the first time since 2010 when Pakistan ratified this UN convention which deals with fundamental rights including freedom of expression, the right to information, assembly, association, privacy, and religion among others. Another important event vis-a-vis human rights will take place in November 2017, again in Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council will take a holistic review of human rights in Pakistan under its unique instrument — Universal Periodic Review. Several civil society groups and individuals have submitted shadow reports on different thematic areas parallel to the state’s reports for these two reviews. Nonetheless, there has been a progression in human rights violations, but the state staunchly believes that all rights are well protected and promoted according to global standards.
Is it so? A quick review of civil liberties, especially in reference to online expression in Pakistan and how the government is trying to circumcise this freedom rejects its claims. Kicking off with unfortunate abductions of five bloggers and a minority rights activist, 2017 so far has proven perilous for political dissent. At least three of the abducted bloggers were vocal for criticising military policies, particularly its approach towards combating terrorism. These abductions triggered a wave of intolerance across the country and resulted in the haunting environment to further intimidate questioning voices and those touching upon the tabooed areas. The country witnessed an unprecedented rise in blasphemy cases originating from rapidly growing dangerous online spaces for citizen’s political dissent. The reason was obvious that some ‘unidentified angles’ or so-called ‘cyber troopers’ purportedly associated with ‘holy cows’ painted the bloggers’ abductions as punishment for allegedly committing blasphemy.
Smelling the danger, bloggers’ families had to hold a press conference in Islamabad to dispel the false propaganda and circulated a disclaimer categorically stating that they were Muslims and could not even think of profaning Islam. In Pakistan, insanity always prevailed over wisdom whenever the claim is of religious defilement. And it’s a naked truth that justice to blasphemy accused has always been done extra-judicially in Pakistan, as we witnessed in the case of Mashal Khan more recently. The frequency of cases pertaining to online blasphemy in Pakistan has risen in two years’ time. Bytes for All’s monitoring records of one-year (May 2016 to May 2017) contains at least eight cases where blasphemy accusations were levelled against individuals for their online religious expression.
Besides these bloggers, former governor Punjab Salman Taseer’s son Shaan Taseer was also accused of spreading religious hatred and committing blasphemy on Facebook, when he extended Christmas greetings to Christians. At least two blasphemy accused in recent times belong to Christianity. These included a case of WhatsApp message being circulated in Sarai Alamgir that allegedly carried blasphemous content. Another case merely started with liking the picture of Khana Kaaba on Facebook by a Christian teenager Nabeel Masih of Chak 66 in Bhai Pheru. Other trends include the government’s nondemocratic approach towards law making that aims to restrict and criminalise online expression. An overbroad Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 is one of the results. Although the entire law is not problematic, however, it contains several provisions that suggest heightened punishments that do not meet the criteria of necessity and proportionality. Such as the outdated concept of defamation that gradually is being decriminalised by modern democracies to avoid misuse of related laws against journalists, activists or ordinary citizens. In contrast, the PECA suggests a three-year imprisonment or one million rupees fine or both for offences related to defamation originating from the shrinking cyberspaces.
Similarly, any online expression or content that the state deems ‘unlawful’, which is a subjective term, will also be removed or censored. Although the government has not officially confirmed, however, sources privy to Pakistan Telecommunication Authority have informed that the authority blocked several websites and pages that published objectionable content using PECA Section 37. Khabaristan Times, a satirical online newspaper, is one of the examples.
An overbroad Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 shows government’s non-democratic approach towards legislation. Although the entire law is not problematic, however, it contains several provisions that suggest heightened punishments that do not meet the criteria of necessity and proportionality The announced ongoing crackdown against ordinary citizens, political workers and journalists who took to the social media to criticise military on the issue of Dawn Leaks, has rung the alarms within right-wing political parties who earlier had supported the making of such laws aiming at circumcising political dissent. Federal Investigation Agency so far has summoned several political workers of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and ruling party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for criticising military.
Still, the list is long and the battleground for next general elections is fast-approaching. Social media was the most effective tool for campaigning and mobilising people for a vote in 2013 polls. However, this time draconian laws have already been promulgated and practised, threatening to limit free speech because the state has yet not been acclimatised to democracy where the freedom of expression is the cornerstone of success. And insanity is the word — I dare using for this matter. All is terrorising, intimidating and daunting. Still, the government is adamant to tighten the noose around its own neck, and circumcising the liberty to speak.

Pakistan's lack of state’s writ - Chinese Kidnapped In Quetta

The story of Quetta and its security lapses is not a new one.
In the last few years, the city has become the hub of deadly terror attacks, abductions, and arms seizure. It is a huge question mark upon our intelligence agencies, and their failure to control such situations.
This time around, two Chinese nationals have become the target of the lack of state’s writ in the province. On May 24, one man and woman were kidnapped in the Jinnah Town area of Quetta city. The third lady escaped abduction, and in an attempt to shoot at her; passersby got injured by the firing.
While investigation is underway and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has ordered the recovery of the abducted persons; it will be difficult explaining the lack of security in the province this time around because Chinese officials have gotten involved in the process. The country has invested billions in Pakistan and will surely demand answers if the security situation is not improved. Pakistan is just a small part of their larger plan, and they need us to work out the glitches, so that they can move ahead. And if we cannot provide security for our investors, the risk is that China will provide this too, impacting our sovereignty and pride.
Kidnappings are just a tiny fraction of what happens in the provincial capital. Abductions in the province are rampant.
Just last month, Balochistan’s higher education secretary Abdullah Jan was abducted from Quetta. Militants also kidnapped three government school teachers returning from a training session facilitated by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. A week ago, a cache of arms and ammunitions were seized from the same area and it was cordoned off for further investigation.
After so much time, bureaucrats, paramilitary officers, police and politicians all need to be held accountable in such situations. If there is a continuous breach in security, that means that the job is not being done as it is supposed to be done. The fact that people can comfortably continue in their offices despite such incidents is something that needs to be reconsidered. Our first priority should be to address these issues and replace those in office who are not doing the job that is required of them.
The writ of the state cannot and should not be challenged by anyone; and if someone attempts something of the sort, it needs to be dealt with seriously.
And negligence in such cases cannot go unpunished.

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad holds protest against budget in Islamabad

Pakistan Kissan Ittehad group is holding a protest in Islamabad’s D-Chauk against the upcoming budget, reported Waqt News.
Pakistan Kissan Ittehad group wanted to move forward and sit in front of the Parliament, to get their demands fulfilled, but Islamabad Police stopped them. As a result, the protestors got violent and started breaking state property, which included traffic signals.
The protestors were demanding for subsidies on fertilisers and electricity bills. The protesters also chanted slogans against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. They also threatened to seal Islamabad, if their demands were not met.
To disburse the protestors, police started shelling and used water cannons. A number of protestors were arrested too.
Some officials also tried speaking to the Kissan Ittehad leaders but positive results could not be obtained.
Leader of the Opposition and Pakistans Peoples Party representative Khursheed Shah was part of the protest and while speaking to media he said, “During election time, these politicians go to these farmers for votes and make false promises. After the election, those promises vanish in thin air. Its time farmers stand up for their rights.”
He further said, "PPP will always stand with you. We believe that Pakistan will only succeed when the poor man is well-fed and his children go to school."

Bilawal Bhutto stresses for tolerance to fight extremist mindset

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that the extremist wants to divide us along the fault lines of religion and culture. “As we fight against an extremist mindset within and outside our borders, it is up to our teachers to imbue into their students the true ideals of tolerance,” PPP Chairman stated during inauguration of Senate Hall in Sindh Madressatul Islam University (SMIU) here Friday.
Quoting Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that he was hard pressed to find a truer example of Mandela’s words than the Sindh Madrassatul Islam. “This is the institution that educated some of the most renowned soldiers, dedicated educationalists, fine jurists and visionary leaders who went on to change the course of history of this nation and its peoples. And not only that, but change the very map of the world. For the Quaid e Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself studied at this campus, in addition to other luminaries including Sir Abdullah Haroon, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, Khan Bahadur Mohammad Ayub Khuhro, and Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi, just to name a few.  Today as I stand here, at the threshold of one of the oldest institutions of modern knowledge in the Subcontinent, I am both humbled and filled with pride.”
“I take pride in the fact that I am a descendent of Khan Bahadur Hasanali Effendi, and Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, the Founder of this illustrious institution and one of its finest students who dedicated his life to the fight for Pakistan. Seeing all these bright eyed young people who are currently pursuing their quest for quality higher education gives me renewed hope for a modern and prosperous Pakistan that can compete with bright minds anywhere in the world whilst simultaneously retaining pride in its own history and culture,” he added.
PPP Chairman applauded the efforts of the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Mohammad Ali Shaikh, for creating a learning environment conducive to the growth and development of its students, the teachers for providing an opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences with our future generations, and the students themselves dedicated to honing their minds and practical skills, which will serve to bring Pakistan at par with other developed and modern nations.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pointed out that today the role of the educator was more important than any other time in Pakistan’s history. We must ensure therefore, that our children stand undeterred in their quest for peaceful coexistence of all religions in Pakistan. For it is our diversity that gives strength; The strength to survive; The strength to progress; The strength to prosper, he added.
“History is witness to the pivotal role played by the youth in nation building. From Germany to Africa, China to Cuba, young people have striven to achieve their rights, political and religious freedoms, and fight against tyranny. Our very own independence is, in large part, attributed to irrepressible agitations by young people fighting for liberty. From the twelve disciples of Mandela to the Aligarh students, relentless struggle by the youth has changed the face of history.
“In these times when the entire world and our country in particular is going through a difficult time in the form of battling extremist elements, it is up to our youth to stand up to these forces and reclaim Pakistan as a progressive and peaceful nation. We must not confuse extremist ideology with religious beliefs. The fact of the matter is that Islam teaches peace, love and brotherhood, forgiveness, and patience, coexistence and tolerance and lauds “Jihad un Nafs,” battling one’s own evils, as the holiest of all endeavors.
“The young people of Pakistan, I feel, are particularly lucky. They have as the founder of their nation, a man who understood and appreciated their worth. “Pakistan is proud of her youth, particularly the students, who are nation-builders of tomorrow. They must fully equip themselves by discipline, education, and training for the arduous task lying ahead of them,” said the Quaid-e-Azam as he left the youth of Pakistan with a responsibility and gave them the means of fulfilling it.
“And the Pakistan People’s Party is entirely dedicated to providing you the means to fulfill your responsibility to your country. We remain committed to the education and development of Pakistan’s young people. The only way forward for our country is if we excel in every field, be it education, health, technology, or media. We have been striving to provide every child the opportunity to receive quality education in both rural and urban areas through an improved education sector and increased partnerships between private and public institutions. The establishment of SMI University in 2012 was in accordance with the Pakistan Peoples Party’s vision towards improved higher education opportunities for Pakistan’s youth through institutions that would open new doors for research based knowledge building, coupled with opportunities to practice their new found skills and knowledge before applying them to the real world.
“An educated nation is a progressive nation. And the Peoples government in Sindh is particularly cognizant of this. I understand therefore that the Sindh Government has made education its top most priority. In addition to considerably increasing its Education budget in 2017, it is now operating on a three-pronged strategy – (i) the improvement of the public sector schools through improvements in our existing systems; (ii) the outsourcing of public sector schools to reputable private organizations (EMOs) under PPP mode through a fair and competitive process. (iii) and finally, (as public sector schools are not sufficient in number to cover the whole population), supporting private sector schools through Sindh Education Foundation, especially in remote areas.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the basic difference between a good school and a mediocre or below par institution lies in the teachers and how they choose to impart knowledge to the younger generation. If teachers insist on rote learning instead of informed analysis and do not encourage their students to increase their scope of knowledge and learning through impartial and varied research, we will be deprived of a generation of thinkers and innovators, people who break glass ceilings and create new norms to aspire to.
“Inequalities in the education sector exist because of a dearth of motivated teachers who are part of the profession because it is their passion to watch children and young people learn and progress. We need such teachers who wake up every morning imbued with a sense of purpose and knowledge that they are part of building this nation’s future. Inadequacy of resources will always be present in all social sectors, and is given as an excuse for the differences in teaching and learning opportunities in the public and private sector. However, it is my firm belief that dedicated, motivated and enlightened teachers can make all the difference, however meager the resources and however difficult the circumstances. The best curriculum designed by leading educators, highest quality learning materials and grand buildings will fall short without good teachers.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari further said that the students of this nation cannot falter in their mission to take their nation to new heights of glory. “We must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. To make Pakistan a sustainable democracy; to make the world recognize us as a force to reckon with, socially, economically, and technologically; that should be the goal you all leave this exalted institution with,” he added.

Pakistan - TTP splinter groups ‘allowed’ opening offices in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

The government and the security establishment came under fire in a Senate body meeting when a lawmaker said that some splinter groups of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have been “allowed” to open offices in some parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
At a huddle of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, lawmakers also came down hard on the security establishment for, what they called, glorifying surrendered TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan on TV channels. A demand for Ehsan’s trial in several terrorism cases was also raised.
The critical remarks came while Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Defence Rear Admiral (r) Faisal Lodhi was briefing the committee on the revelations made by Ehsan after his surrender and the government’s future policy to treat such terrorists.
Fata Senator Saleh Shah told the committee the government was facilitating some TTP groups and they had opened their offices in Tank, Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu.
He mentioned that groups of TTP led by Hakimullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazaullah had been using “cards of foreign countries while Sajna Group using local cards or resources”.
“Some of the surrendered groups, with the facilitation of government, have established their offices and they were providing justice to the locals through their own judicial system,” he said.
The government had given incentives to these groups who were “using foreign cards”, he said while criticising the “government’s unannounced policy of reintegration of militants”. He sought explanation on the government’s policy about the ‘glorification’ of former TTP spokesperson. “This was not a right step, ” he said. The additional secretary told the committee that Ehsan was allegedly involved in a number of onslaughts, including Bacha Khan Airport attack, terror hit on tourists in Gilgit-Baltistan, Wagah border bombing, Mohmand Agency attack and the killing of former Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada.
Describing the reasons for Ehsan’s surrender, he said, this was because a large number of youth of his age group, who were involved in such activities, were doubtful about their future because of the rifts within Taliban. “Ehsan had made an attempt to secure his future,” he said.
“His revelations have proved the point that militant organisation Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA), a splinter group of TTP, had a direct link to RAW and the Afghan government. Ehsan does not look much important but he remained an insider of the TTP and much more information could be extracted from him,” he said.
“The rule of law and the due process of law would be followed in this case and this case would not be disposed of instantly,” he said, adding that there was no good or bad Taliban and this was the stated policy of the government when MQM Senator Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif said that there were useful and non-useful Taliban. Responding to a question, he said that Ehsan was in the custody of an intelligence agency.
The ministry of defence officer said that the security agencies got their operational level objectives with the airing of confessional statement of Eshan on TV channels and there was no intention of his glorification at all.
The remarks of additional secretary opened a plethora of questions from the lawmakers as MQM legislator Tahir Mashhadi said former TTP spokesperson should be tried under relevant laws if due process of law would have to be followed.
“Then stop presenting him as a hero on TV channels,” he said. “We should treat the terrorists the way they maltreated us,” he added.
Barrister Saif refused to endorse the revelation of Ehsan that JuA had links with RAW and Afghan intelligence agency NDS. “After the death of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, there was split in TTP and reason behind the creation of JuA was differences between Mullah Fazaullah and Omer Khalid Khorasani.,” he said. Rejecting the statement of Lodhi that much information could be extracted from Ehsan, Saif said that how was it possible that Ehsan was presented on TV before debriefing him. He condemned the policy of presenting terrorist on TV channels, saying this would create hurdles during prosecution and the same was the case with Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.
Committee Chairman Rehman Malik said that former TTP spokesperson openly accepted militant organisation Daesh or Islamic State. “If the government wants to make him approver, then proper procedure be adopted. The government should not bring him to TV,” he said while condemning this act and protested over this action on behalf of the committee. The chairman also raised some questions the way the government contested the case of Jadhav in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and asked why the attorney general did not represent the case and the ad hoc judge was not appointed.
The committee also directed the Ministry of Interior to form a task force to launch a probe into reports of smuggling of narcotics through PIA planes. An officer of the Narcotics Division informed the committee that the UK’s National Crime Agency had not given information about the incident to it in black and white.
The committee also observed that the deduction of one percent amount from all projects of the Ministry of Interior, out of its allocated budget, for CPEC project was unfair and the government should make a separate allocation. The chair remarked that the committee would move a privilege motion against the interior minister and the state minister of interior in case they did not attend the meeting next time after PPP Senator Mukhtiar Ahmed Damrah walked out over their absence.