Saturday, May 27, 2017

Video - Spain: Thousands rally against new austerity measures in Madrid

Trump NATO speech breaks Europe’s heart

US President Donald Trump has once again revealed his distinct characteristic and values by accusing NATO members of shortchanging the US by not meeting the shared defense target while neglecting to reaffirm commitment to collective defense. 

He also reportedly called Germans "very bad" for selling millions of cars to the US. A video of him shoving Montenegro's prime minister has gone viral on the Internet. 

What Trump did must have broken many Europeans' heart. NATO has long been a US-led alliance. Now Trump seems to want to turn NATO into a corporation. He cares most about whether the US gain matches its payout. 

If Trump reviews the trans-Atlantic alliance from the perspective of a businessman, what he sees would be different from his predecessors. 

The political and military situations in Europe today are different from the Cold War period. The threat from Moscow is less real and Russia is no longer a global rival of the US. NATO's value for the US is declining and the organization has become more of a tool to maintain the European order. 

In the age of globalization, relations between major powers are less intense and have, to some extent, changed the nature of international relations. However, the three Baltic countries and the former members of the Warsaw Treaty Organization are still feeling uneasy, and the Western European nations are feeling a bit lost. It's the best time for Washington to raise the price. 

The US has built giant security assets overseas in the post WWII era. Now that the US economic advantage has become less prominent, what Trump wants to do is to "sell" some of the geopolitical assets in exchange for cash. 

By demanding more input from European members, Trump is actually diluting US share. But how far would he go? We believe that maintaining US' absolute control over NATO would be Trump's baseline. 

Therefore, it is unlikely for Trump to ruin the US ties with the allies, nor would the establishment forces in the US allow him to do so. 

Trump has shown limited interest in traditional geopolitics. Trump probably understands that mixing politics with business rules requires skills. He significantly increased the US defense budget and bombarded Syrian government forces, holding a calculator in one hand and a missile in another. 

Trump is the first Western leader who disruptively uses international diplomacy. Other Western leaders can hardly keep up with him, let alone oppose him. However, whether Trump would be able to win the game is another question. Many forces do not recognize Trump's dealing of cards and together they possess the capital and possibility to tackle him.

China - Commentary: The wicked are first to complain

By Chengliang Wu, Curtis Stone 

The U.S. Navy accused China once again of conducting “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers near U.S. military aircraft sent to spy on China. Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a P-3 Orion surveillance plane over the South China Sea on Wednesday, according to reports. How ridiculous it is for the U.S. Navy to complain after jeopardizing China’s security and interests. Such behavior makes one think of a Chinese idiom: the wicked are the first to complain.
While some might chalk the recent incidents up as just more examples of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, it was the U.S. military that challenged China by conducting reconnaissance activities in China’s backyard. This would certainly force the Chinese to respond in a safe and professional manner.
If you come to China’s door looking for trouble, then don’t complain about it afterward. On the People’s Daily official Twitter account, a follower, a “little pink” digital warrior as some media outlets like to call young patriotic Chinese, responded to the above mentioned news piece: “Not only did the U.S. sneak into Chinese territory, it complained about it.” She added that if China had acted unprofessionally, then the Chinese military would have shot down the surveillance plane instead of drive it away.
This is not the first time that the U.S. has provoked China. This incident comes on the heels of other recent military provocations from the U.S., including a U.S. Navy warship that sailed within 12 nautical miles of Meiji Reef, which is part of China’s Nansha Islands in the South China Sea. In response to that incident, China’s Ministry of National Defense said it had identified the American warship and warned it to leave.
The increasing frequency of American provocation is a troubling sign for the hard-won peace and stability of the region. As recent events show, the long-term goal of the U.S. remains unchanged: ensure that the U.S. military dominates the Asia-Pacific region in order to maximize relative power.
The frequent reconnaissance activities by U.S. military ships and aircraft is the root cause of security issues between the two countries, according to China’s Ministry of National Defense, and China has urged the U.S. to put a stop to these activities.
China remains firmly committed to the path of peaceful development, and its defense policy is defensive in nature. Until recently, the situation in the South China Sea was cooling down, thanks to joint efforts made by China and other countries directly involved in the region’s issues. China is willing to work with relevant parties to make the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship, and cooperation. But China is also firm in defending its security and interests.
If there is any message that the U.S. should take from this latest encounter, it is that the capability and determination of the Chinese military in protecting its sovereignty is growing stronger by the day. Disrupting joint efforts to promote peace and stability in the region serves no one’s interests, and is not the best path forward. If the U.S. is truly committed to helping maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, then it should stop poking the peaceful panda.

Video: In Front of Trump, Egypt’s President Al-Sisi Exposes the State Supporters of Terrorism

In a strong speech at the American Islamic Summit, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi exposes the supporters of terrorism in the Middle East.
Stop Supporting Terrorism, says president Al-Sisi.
“Comprehensive Counter-terrorism means confronting all terrorist organizations without differentiation
Those who provide terrorists with media and financial support are partners in their crimes.
The criminal is not only the militant but also those who finance them train and arm them.”

Trump’s Apology Tour

By John Feffer
Trump's version of making up with Muslims apparently involves selling $110 billion worth of arms to the most reactionary Muslim country on the planet.
Conservatives used to love to lambaste Barack Obama for traveling abroad and “apologizing” for U.S. conduct. Mitt Romney popularized the argument during one of the presidential debates in 2012. The “apology tour” became an oft-repeated meme among the president’s critics.
According to the Heritage Foundation, the former president “apologized for his country to nearly 3 billion people across Europe, the Muslim world, and the Americas.” Presumably Heritage prefers that the United States unapologetically enslave Africans, commit genocide against Native Americans, torture and kill people in other countries, subvert democracies, and cozy up to dictators.
Being an empire means never having to say you’re sorry.
In fact, though it would have been appropriate if he had, Obama never actually apologized for U.S. actions. But right-wingers were always looking for ways to interpret the president’s words in order to give credence to even more ludicrous arguments: that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, that he was a Muslim, that he embraced socialism or black nationalism. Only someone alien to American ways, Obama’s critics implied, would apologize for his country’s errors.
The man currently occupying the White House is positively allergic to apologies. Now on his first overseas trip as president, there’s no likelihood that an actual apology will pass Trump’s lips while he’s on foreign soil. And he doesn’t know enough history to make any informed comments on what America has or hasn’t done around the world.
But Trump needn’t apologize for his country: There’s plenty in his own conduct that requires contrition. At a time when his already low level of support has plummeted further at home, the president needs all the friends he can get overseas. That’s why his current trip amounts to an implicit apology tour: to make amends with Muslims, Jews, the Pope, and a handful of Europeans.
Making Out with the Saudis
Presidents usually make their first international trip to somewhere in North America. John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama all went to Canada. Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush took their maiden voyages to Mexico. The outliers were Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, both of whom visited Europe.
So, where does Donald Trump go on his initial foray outside America? Mexico is clearly off the list, since he repeatedly pledged to wall off the country and make Mexicans pay for their own quarantine. In Canada, meanwhile, Justin Trudeau has taken stances, particularly on refugees, that are in stark contrast to Trump’s. Perhaps if The Netherlands had made Geert Wilders prime minister or France had elected Marine Le Pen president, Trump would have made a beeline to those countries first.
Instead, Trump decided to go to a place that doesn’t have any elections, welcomes virtually no refugees, discourages political demonstrations, and is about as religiously fanatical as the right-wing evangelicals who still stand by their man in the White House. Indeed, Saudi Arabia is the next best thing to visiting a red state and basking in the support of homegrown fanatics.
Saudi Arabia was also the perfect place for Donald Trump to apologize to the world’s Muslims.
Of course, the speech that Trump delivered in Riyadh to the Arabic Islamic American Summit didn’t sound particularly apologetic. In fact, the president spoke of extremism as if it were only a problem for the Muslim world (oh, how useful it would be if Dylann Roof just admitted already that he’s a secret Muslim). America “seeks peace,” Trump asserted, but “Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion.”
And, of course, Trump tactfully made no mention of Saudi contributions to extremist ideologies such as their funding of the spread of Wahhabism worldwide (not to mention the participation of Saudi individuals in terrorist attacks like September 11). Instead, the only nation he singled out for criticism was Iran: “The Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims are its own people. Iran has a rich history and culture, but the people of Iran have endured hardship and despair under their leaders’ reckless pursuit of conflict and terror.”
Strangely, those same long-suffering people just turned out in record numbers in a competitive election that gave incumbent Hassan Rouhani a commanding mandate for a second term. Iranians savored the irony, with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif chiming in on Twitter: “Iran — fresh from real elections — attacked by @POTUS in that bastion of democracy & moderation,” Saudi Arabia.
But Trump’s words were nevertheless a kind of apology to the Muslim world — at least, certain portions of the Muslim world.
After all, in the past the president hadn’t restricted his negative comments about Islam to extremists. He’d talked about closing mosques, creating a database of all Muslims in the United States, and preventing all Muslims from entering the country. He declared that “Islam hates us.” His travel ban executive order didn’t mention Muslims by category nor did it include Saudi Arabia among the seven (then six) countries listed. But the intent, as a number of court rulings have emphasized, was to exclude people coming to these shores by religion. Some of Trump’s hardcore supporters were not entirely satisfied with his speech in Riyadh. Pamela Geller was upset that Trump didn’t dump on the Koran. Her partner in Islamophobia, Robert Spencer, groused that Trump didn’t do enough to link Islam with extremism. They failed to understand the essence of the speech: Trump needs Saudi help (military as well as economic) just as he must rely on the Gulf States, Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan. These countries all happen to be Muslim. So, even if he never apologizes for the wretched things he said in the past, Trump must still do a measure of groveling to maintain his coalition of those willing to the bomb the shit out of the Islamic State. The president will even sell $110 billion of arms to the most reactionary Muslim country in the world. Money speaks louder than apologies.
Patching Things Up with the Jews
Trump loves to combat charges of anti-Semitism by pointing to his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner and now-Jewish daughter Ivanka. It’s a preposterous argument. After all, his marriages to various women certainly didn’t prevent him from engaging in outrageous acts of misogyny over the years.
During the presidential campaign, the Trump crew used plenty of sly anti-Semitic tactics to appeal to the 12 percent of Americans with deeply entrenched antipathy toward Jews. The campaign associated Hillary Clinton with a secret international financial elite. It used a Star of David to label Clinton “corrupt.” It refused to dissociate or condemn the anti-Semitic tweets and comments of supporters.
Once in office, the administration didn’t improve on its record. It issued a Holocaust remembrance statement without mentioning Jews (and deliberately spurned the State Department’s version that did). Trump’s attacks on the press have echoed Nazi-era broadsides. Anti-Semitic incidents spiked after the election.
It’s entirely possible that Trump doesn’t understand the latent anti-Semitic content of his remarks. After all, he’s ignorant of some basic facts, like that Israel is located in the Middle East. Also, it’s not exactly easy for an anti-Semite to be a New York real estate developer or a big macher in Florida. But no matter: On his first foreign trip, Trump desperately needed to balance his visit to the Saudis — and some nods in the direction of the Palestinians — with an implicitly apologetic drop-in to Israel.
Trump’s shift actually began earlier, when he had to court funder Sheldon Adelson and abandon whatever minimal even-handedness he maintained on Israeli-Palestinian issues. At the outset of his presidential campaign, Trump seemed to put the onus on Israel to make the necessary changes to facilitate a peace agreement with Palestinians. But with the prospect that Adelson, a big fan of hard-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would shift his funding away from a failing Marco Rubio, Trump pivoted to pandering.
In Israel, Trump didn’t make any apologies for his campaign tactics. Nor did he apologize for sharing Israeli intelligence on the Islamic State with the Russian government. But visiting Israel so early in his presidency sent a strong signal of solidarity with the government of Netanyahu. Trump also donned a yarmulke and stood at the Western Wall and later visited to the Holocaust remembrance museum at Yad Vashem.
As with his overtures to Muslims, Trump is only interested in reconciling with some Jews. His approval rating among most American Jews, three-quarters of whom describe themselves as liberal or moderate and object to the divisive policies of Netanyahu, remains abysmal: a mere 31 percent. He’s betting that a “huge” peace deal between Israel and Palestine will win over this constituency. It’s a long shot, to say the least.
A Holy Trinity
Pope Francis is the un-Trump. He is inclusive, humble, and focused on the needs of the poor.
But the pope also has a backbone. During the election campaign, he effectively accused Trump of being un-Christian for his approach to refugees and immigrants. “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful,” Trump wrote in response. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS’s ultimate trophy, I can promise you that the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened.” This was the trifecta of religious intolerance: Trump had managed during his campaign to offend Muslims, Jews, and Christians. You’d think that someone who rarely attended church, routinely engaged in fornication, and broke numerous other commandments would tread very carefully with regard to the Abrahamic faiths. But Trump has never been accused of lacking chutzpah.
But now the president has a chance to make amends with his pilgrimage. The pope, who has washed the feet of inmates from Italian jails, charitably welcomed the serial sinner to the Vatican. He was gracious, but he also raised some controversial issues, such as health care and assistance for immigrants. He also gave Trump a 2015 encyclical on climate change. The president promised to read it. That’s as unlikely as a formal apology from the president — but his presence at the Vatican was at least a gesture in that direction.
The final stops on Trump’s itinerary will be Brussels and Sicily. He’ll have a chance to apologize to NATO for questioning its existence, EU officials for supporting political candidates eager to dismantle the institution, and G7 leaders for leading a populist revolt against globalization.
True, even on these issues, Trump has been retreating from his more extreme campaign positions. But don’t expect any explicit apologies. In one respect, Trump and the pope share something in common. The Donald firmly believes in his own infallibility. Plunging approval ratings, rising talk of impeachment, and the prospect of blistering losses in next year’s midterm elections haven’t shaken his faith.
No surprise: Trump is that rare form of monotheist who believes in no God but himself.

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Benghazi lawsuit against Hillary Clinton is thrown out


A suit blaming Hillary Clinton for the deaths of two Americans during the 2012 Benghazi attack in Libya has been thrown out. A federal judge dismissed the claims leveled against Clinton by Patricia Smith - the mother of Sean Smith - and Charles Woods - father of Tyrone Woods on Friday.
Smith and Woods claimed the former Secretary of State's alleged lack of email security was directly responsible for the deaths of Sean Smith, a State Department communications specialist, and CIA contractor Tyrone Woods, two of four men who died on the night of September 11, 2012. CIA operative Glen Doherty and Christopher Stevens, the American Ambassador to Libya, were the other two men killed.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson dismissed the wrongful death part of the suit after ruling Clinton's email use had been within the parameters of what would be expected of someone in her position.
'The Court finds that Secretary Clinton was acting in the scope of her employment when she transmitted the emails that are alleged to give rise to her liability,' Jackson wrote, court papers obtained by Politico state. 'The untimely death of plaintiffs’ sons is tragic, and the Court does not mean to minimize the unspeakable loss that plaintiffs have suffered in any way.
'But when one applies the appropriate legal standards, it is clear that plaintiffs have not alleged sufficient facts to rebut the presumption that Secretary Clinton was acting in her official capacity when she used her private email server.'
Jackson, who was appointed by President Obama in 2010, added: 'It does not matter whether Secretary Clinton used a private email server lawfully or unlawfully. 'Instead, the relevant inquiry is whether Secretary Clinton’s electronic communications with State Department personnel about official business during her tenure were within the scope of her employment as the head of the State Department. 'Her actions – communicating with other State Department personnel and advisors about the official business of the department – fall squarely within the scope of her duty to run the Department and conduct the foreign affairs of the nation as Secretary of State.' A defamation claim included in the suit, which was based around Smith and Woods' claim Clinton: 'directly called them liars, or strongly implied that they are liars'.
'Secretary Clinton did not refer to plaintiffs as liars,' the ruling reads. 'And in each of the other responses cataloged in the complaint, Secretary Clinton expressed empathy and regret. 'Plaintiffs may find the candidate’s statements in her own defense to be "unpleasant or offensive," but Secretary Clinton did not portray plaintiffs as "odious, infamous, or ridiculous." 'To the contrary, the statements portray plaintiffs as normal parents, grieving over the tragic loss of their loved ones.'
Both parents who filed the suit against Clinton are stringently against the former Secretary of State, with Smith even supporting Donald Trump by speaking at the Republican National Convention last year. 'For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,' she said at the convention. 'I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.' An 800-page report published last June, after a partisan investigation of more than two years by House Republicans, did not blame Clinton.

At Wellesley College, Clinton urges graduates to fight for truth


Forty-eight years after she gave the first student commencement speech at Wellesley College, alumna Hillary Clinton returned for a repeat performance — this time, as the first woman who won the popular vote for president, but not the presidency.
In a defiant speech, Clinton made several references to the troubled administration of the man who vanquished her, now-President Trump, urging graduates to fight for truth and integrity.
“You are graduating at a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason,” Clinton said. “Some are even denying things we see with our own eyes, like the size of crowds, and then defending themselves by talking about ‘alternative facts.’ But this is serious business.”
Delivered under a tent on a dreary, rain-drenched day, Clinton’s commencement address was one of the few speeches she has given since the election and followed the recent launch of her own political action group, Onward Together. She began with a coughing fit and an unsteady voice that she explained away to the crowd by saying, “We’ll blame allergy instead of emotion.”
Still, she addressed head-on her recuperation from her bruising defeat.
“You may have heard that things didn’t exactly go the way I planned. But you know what? I’m doing OK,” Clinton told the crowd. She credited time spent time with her grandchildren, long walks in the woods, and organizing her closets.
“I won’t lie: Chardonnay helped a little,” she joked. “But here’s what helped most of all: remembering who I am, where I come from, and what I believe.”
Harkening back to her first commencement speech, she likened this moment in history to the turbulent time of her 1969 speech.
“We were asking urgent questions about whether women, people of color, religious minorities, immigrants, would ever be treated with dignity and respect,” Clinton said. “And by the way, we were furious about the past presidential election, of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice. But here’s what I want you to know: We got through that tumultuous time.”
Her reference to former President Nixon soon drew criticism, because — though he is the only president to have been forced out by impeachment proceedings — Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. (The full House had yet to take up the three articles of impeachment that had been adopted by the Judiciary Committee.)
Only two presidents have actually been impeached, though both were acquitted by the Senate, and one of them is married to Clinton.
The current president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., quickly chided Clinton for her misstatement and omission.
“The irony of Hillary claiming Nixon was impeached (he wasn’t) but neglecting the fact that Bill actually was impeached is priceless,” the younger Trump wrote on Twitter Friday afternoon.
Though Clinton never directly named President Trump, she aggressively targeted his administration with many of her comments. She criticized his proposed budget (“an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us”), his refusal to confront climate change (“it puts the future of our nation and our world at risk”), and his relationship with the truth.
“As the history majors among you here today know all too well, when people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” Clinton said. “That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality — not just our laws and our rights and our budgets but our thoughts and beliefs.”
She also delivered the 1992 commencement speech, in a year when her husband won the presidency.
It was, of course, a friendly crowd at the all-women’s college where Clinton is, as graduate Lucia Ortega put it, “one of the most respected alumnae that we have.” This year’s student speaker was Tala Nashawati, a daughter of Syrian immigrants, whose remarks about inclusivity were met with snaps, rather than applause, so as not to interrupt her speech.
During her introduction, Wellesley President Paula A. Johnson said she has known Clinton for more than 20 years but has never been more inspired by her than she is now. “She. Does. Not. Give. Up,” Johnson said.
“She reminds us both of our capacities and how far we have to go,” Johnson said.
Clinton encouraged the graduates to use the critical thinking skills they honed at Wellesley as they go out into the world, and to also listen to — and learn from — people with whom they disagree politically.
Many feel left behind, left out, looked down on. Their anger and alienation has proved a fertile ground for false promises and false information,” she said. “Their economic problems and cultural anxiety must be addressed, or they will continue to sign up to be foot soldiers in the ongoing conflict between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ “
If their outreach isn’t welcomed, she said, the graduates should keep trying.
“We’re going to share this future,” she said. “Better to do so with open hearts and outstretched hands than closed minds and clenched fists.”
Some of the graduating seniors were pleased that Clinton directly addressed the issues of the election.
“There were no euphemisms,” said Navisha Gupta, a 22-year-old graduate from Singapore. “It was just straight-up, and I think that’s what we all appreciated.”
“Here is this woman who has fought and struggled and has never given up,” said Shannon Smith, 27, of Rochester, N.Y., who said Clinton struck the perfect tone in her “honest and witty, but passionate remarks.”
“Because what we are dealing with, as she so eloquently put, is a lot of what’s come before,” Smith said. “I think it’s sort of a challenge and rallying cry to say, ‘We have been here. You can, too, and move forward.’ ”

Video - Hillary Clinton delivers Wellesley College commencement address


Pakistan not to jeopardize ties with Iran

Speaker National Assembly Ayaz Sadiq said on Tuesday Pakistan will not take any measures which will endanger its ties with its southwestern neighbour, Iran.
The NA Speaker was speaking in Lahore, where he said that US President Donald Trump in his speech at the Arab summit did not praise Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror.
There were several other leaders at the summit who did not agree with Trump’s views, he said.
On the topic of Kulbhushan Jadhav, Ayaz Sadiq said that the nation needs to unite over the issue of the Indian spy caught from Balochistan. A session of the Parliamentary committee on National Security will be summoned to address the issue of Jadhav. The US president had addressed the Arab Islamic American Summit on May 21 in Riyadh. Iran’s absence was quite conspicuous in the session attended by 55 Muslim countries’ leaders.

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د کلني بجټ په اړه مزدوران څه وايي؟ - Pakistani Budget

په پاکستان کې نن د جمعې په ورځ مرکزي حکومت ته نوې بوديجه وړاندې کوي خو په اسلام اباد کې کارکوونکي خواريکښ وايي چې حکومت بايد دوی ته په بوديجه کې خصوصي پام وکړي، کم نه کم تنخوا دې ۲۵ زره کړي او د ورځې دياړي دې هم له زرو روپو زياته کړي

NATO Chief Urges Afghan Govt To Fight Corruption, Bring Reforms

NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg said corruption in Afghanistan will weaken the Afghan forces and will affect the organization’s political support to Kabul.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an interview with TOLOnews said that in return to NATO’s assistance and support to Afghanistan, the organization asks the Afghan government to fight corruption, bring reforms and build reliable security institutions. Stoltenberg said the continuation of NATO’s support to Afghanistan requires a number of conditions. “It is condition-based operation. And what we want in return is that Afghanistan continue to implement reforms to build strong and reliable security institutions and also fight corruption and the fight against corruption is extremely important because it weakens the armed forces of Afghanistan but it also undermines political support in NATO allied countries and partner countries to provide support with training and also financial support to Afghanistan,” he said.
He also talked about progresses made in Afghanistan, saying that they are not sufficient.
“We have seen a lot of progress. Just the fact that NATO is able to hand over the responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces and that Afghan forces have been able to push back every time Taliban has attacked,” he stated. “When it comes to strengthening the Afghan forces in all ways for instance we are now developing the Air Force. That is extremely important and we are making a lot of progress, more planes more helicopters more pilots and also strengthening and educating more special operation forces. We also need leadership, better leadership.”
Commenting on Stoltenberg’s remarks, the Defense Ministry deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said the ministry is committed to fighting corruption in the security institution. “We continue our efforts to appoint talented and professional leaders and we have had better achievements in our campaign against corruption,” Radmanish told TOLOnews.
The Presidential Palace meanwhile admitted that corruption is still endemic in public offices. “We accept that there is corruption in public offices, but we are committed to fighting the phenomenon,” said Dawa Khan Minapal, President Ashraf Ghani’s deputy spokesman. This comes after leaders of NATO countries met in Brussels on Thursday for a special meeting to discuss the fight against terrorism and the alliance’s defense spending.
U.S President Donald Trump also attended the Heads of State meeting, which was his first visit to NATO’s headquarters. NATO is expected to commit about 1,500 troops in addition to 3,000 U.S troops to Afghanistan – on the back of a request by NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson earlier this year.
The decision however has not yet been made, as mentioned last week by Stoltenberg.
Some countries and some senior U.S officials have questioned whether an increase in troop numbers would change the course of the war in Afghanistan. NATO has been trying to convince its allies that a few thousands more troops will help.


Senator Farhatullah Babar of Pakistan Peoples Party said that the freedom of expression is vital for developing a counter-militancy narrative.
He was addressing the launching ceremony of 'Inclusive Pakistan', a publication of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.
"Building a counter-militancy narrative sans freedom of expression is an illusion," he said. He said that developing a counter narrative also required an end to political exclusivity and mainstreaming the politically marginalised areas like the tribal areas. "It is unfortunate that at a time when we are seeking to build counter-terrorism narrative, the government has rolled back FATA reforms process," he said.
"Even if a counter alternate narrative is developed it will still be open to question whether it will work in a country where the person apparently sitting on the driving seat is not the actual driver," he said.
He said proscribed organisations like Jaish and its leader Masood Azhar were being protected against UN action. "Militants such as Asmatullah Muawia roam free and banned outfits have reared their heads under different names," he said.
"With a reality like this, how can one be sure of the success of the counter-narrative, even if one was developed, for fighting militancy?" he questioned.

"The essential ingredient for developing national narrative for fighting militancy is intellectual infrastructure. This is not possible without the freedom of expression. With curbs being imposed on the freedom of expression in the name of national security, we are uprooting the very foundations of the intellectual edifice needed to build a counter narrative," he said.
"Building a counter-militancy narrative sans freedom of expression is an illusion," he said. He said that developing a counter narrative also required an end to political exclusivity and mainstreaming the politically marginalised areas like the tribal areas. "It is unfortunate that at a time when we are seeking to build counter-terrorism narrative, the government has rolled back FATA reforms process," he said.
"Even if a counter alternate narrative is developed it will still be open to question whether it will work in a country where the person apparently sitting on the driving seat is not the actual driver," he said.
He said proscribed organisations like Jaish and its leader Masood Azhar were being protected against UN action. "Militants such as Asmatullah Muawia roam free and banned outfits have reared their heads under different names," he said.
"With a reality like this, how can one be sure of the success of the counter-narrative, even if one was developed, for fighting militancy?" he questioned.

Pakistani Elite Saudi Slave - ''Foreign policy straitjacket''

Abbas Nasir 

ANYWAY you spin it, what happened at the Riyadh summit was troubling if not outright outrageous and the explanation offered for what looked like a snub to Pakistan, or its elected civilian leader, would normally be unacceptable.
Friday morning’s newspapers quoted the Foreign Office spokesman as saying that the Saudi monarch apologised to ‘all’ the Muslim leaders who were scheduled to speak but were unable to do so because of time constraints.
Do you find this explanation plausible? I don’t. These sort of meetings are choreographed and rehearsed for weeks, even months, in advance, with the details worked out with military precision. Only an emergency can throw the schedule off the rails and none was reported here.
Why then will it be business as usual for the government? Well, simply because the way the foreign policy is crafted and implemented leaves the leadership more or less bereft of options. Had the prime minister not been accompanied by the media, the news may not even have become public.
But the media had reported how Mr Sharif had given final touches to his address on the flight to Riyadh and journalists were told they’d be given copies once the text had incorporated any changes the prime minister made while giving the actual speech. Relatively independent journalists among the prime minister’s media party reported the shock and horror as the Pakistani leader was not called to the podium. In fact, the Saudi-controlled footage/live feed from the summit venue barely showed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, one journalist, who remains possibly closer to the prime minister than his own shadow, in his newspaper quoted usually informed sources who said that Nawaz Sharif decided not deliver his address when he realised that the whole summit was turning out to be an Iran-bashing exercise.
If this was the case, the Pakistan Foreign Office must be utterly incompetent; if it could not see what the summit agenda was and kept the leader in the dark it should simply be wound up. No excuse will be good enough for forcing such an embarrassment on the prime minister.
However, the clarification by the Foreign Office spokesman showed matters in a different light, as the decision not to speak was clearly not taken by Pakistan. How else can one interpret the decision other than see it as a snub to the civilian leadership? The way our foreign policy is crafted and implemented leaves the leadership more or less bereft of options.
Whatever one says of Nawaz Sharif’s close relations with Arab rulers, when his country’s parliament decided against sending Pakistani troops to join the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, he honoured that advice and said no.
This did indeed created a chasm between Pakistan and its close allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where a UAE minister went public expressing his unhappiness with Islamabad’s decision and even assumed a threatening, non-diplomatic tone. After the change of command in the Pakistan Army and visits to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, during his addresses to the officers in different garrisons, the incumbent chief of staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa reportedly suggested that he had been able to reset relations with the two countries.
Around this time it was announced that the former army chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif had been given permission by the government to take up the post offered by the Saudis of military coalition head in Riyadh. Some Pakistani troops are already stationed there. And by August this year, the Pakistani troop presence on Saudi soil may reach levels not seen since the Gulf War. Sources say all approvals are in place. These troops, one is sure, will remain in a defensive role until the ‘territorial integrity’ of the Saudi Kingdom is breached or the holy sites are imperilled.
What one needs to understand is that so far the Yemen war has been fought on Yemeni soil with heavy use of Saudi-UAE airpower and a crippling blockade where, according to human rights organisations, even humanitarian supplies have been targeted.
The Houthi rebels don’t seem to have the capability to launch counter-attacks on Saudi soil, apart from the odd opportunistic hit-and-run raid at border posts and reportedly a handful of short-range missiles; they have also never threatened holy sites and those are at least 500 kilometres from the border anyway.
One Riyadh banquet photo that generated interest on social media showed Jared Kushner (President Trump’s son-in-law-adviser, who is also his point man on Israel)sharing a table with the Saudi king’s powerful son Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman and the latter’s prize hire, retired Gen Raheel Sharif. Trump-led US, Israelis, the Saudis and other Gulf Arab States are actively supporting and supplying armed Syrian opposition groups, most comprising hard-line fanatical jihadis, who are battling the brutal, dictatorial regime of Iran-backed and Russia-bolstered President Bashar al-Assad.
One of the most potent military forces in the Middle East that has even inflicted humiliation on the formidable Israel Defence Forces is Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia which is, in this tragic and bloody conflict, fighting alongside its long-term ally, the Alawite-led Syrian Baathist regime. Hezbollah is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US and Israel, and now that view enjoys broad support among the Arab Gulf regimes too. The Saudi-led coalition may not take on the Yemen rebels as part of its mandate, but targeting terrorist groups is its raison d’être.
What if tomorrow the coalition commander and the forces under his command are tasked with taking on Hezbollah in some sector? I concede that this question is way too hypothetical to warrant an answer from any official.
But aren’t such scenarios gamed by the country’s civil and military leaders so all possible eventualities can be considered even if one or more looks highly improbable at this stage? Or does the foreign policy straitjacket leave no room for this?

Pakistan - Farmers prospered during PPP govt but Nawaz snatched everything

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has condemned the crackdown on peasants and farmers in Islamabad and termed it as a dictatorial action by Nawaz Sharif government.
Announcing his support for the protest and demands of farmers, the PPP chairman said peasantry has been destroyed economically by Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) government, which has proved the worst enemy of agriculture, which is continuously registering minus growth during current government.
He said that shelling and baton-charge on innocent farmers are part of the Sharif brothers’ anti-farmers policy as they have been ignoring and even facilitating protests by banned organisations in the capital city. “The brutal torture against the farmers in Islamabad has again exposed Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar as a remnant of dictatorships,” he added.
Bilawal Bhutto said that farmers and growers always prospered during the PPP governments but Nawaz snatched smiles on their faces. Farmers demanding in Islamabad have every right to exercise their democratic right to protest against injustices, he added.
The PPP chairman said that his party would restore all the rights of farmers after coming into power and will continue to promote and stabilise agriculture sector.

Pakistan - Reversals in FATA

Afrasiab Khattak

News emanating from FATA and also emerging from power corridors of the country about the area is once again ominous. If the news reports about a drone attack in North Waziristan four days back is correct, it is the third drone attack in FATA during the last few months. Pakistan Air Force has also bombarded terrorist positions in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency. The media has reported several terrorist attacks against security forces and members of peace committees in different parts of FATA with numerous casualties. According to a report published in a Peshawar based Urdu daily on 26 May, Taliban belonging to Mulla Nazir group (good Taliban allied with Haqqani network) picked up Azizullah Wazir, local leader of ANP, from Wana bazaar. The group is reportedly functioning like local administration with the blessings of civil and military authorities.
As if this wasn’t enough Senator Saleh Shah of JUI-F revealed in the meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on 22 May that different TTP factions have been allowed by authorities to open offices in Bannu, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan, the three southern districts adjacent to Waziristan. The report wasn’t denied or challenged by the high ranking Interior Ministry officials present in the meeting. As the dust of the high publicity operation Zarb-e-Azb has settled we can see the return of Taliban in FATA, supposedly to have been banished forever. That their return is coinciding with a similar phenomena on the western side of the Durand Line is not surprising, because like always, FATA is the launching pad for the Taliban war in Afghanistan, the pious noises of denial from Islamabad notwithstanding.
Basically, military operations in FATA had no civilian oversight. The area still remains a black hole and a no-go area for national and international media (except of course the journalists embedded with the army). So there isn’t any independent source to monitor the claims of the ISPR. It is particularly so as the local Pashtuns, and the returning IDPs in particular, are facing severe restrictions. They have to pass through a variety of checkpoints where body searches are routine. FATA Pashtuns don’t have access to the internet for the last so many years. Despite the end of Zarb-e-Azb (ZeA), the routine of imposing curfew every Sunday still continues in North Waziristan. The so called mainstream Pakistani media is too obsessed with power games in Islamabad to be interested in reporting these “minor” things from a political backyard.
The backing out of the government from moving the bill for constitutional amendment in the Parliament to implement the FATA reforms package can also be understood in this context. The aforementioned reforms package faces three major challenges. The first and foremost challenge is Pakistan’s Afghan policy. As long as the country’s security establishment is supporting Taliban’s war against the Afghan state it needs FATA as a base camp for this war and the reforms promises can wait. The second challenge comes from the formidable black economy of the area. It includes the huge drug trade, human trafficking, gun running, commodities smuggling across the border and unaudited funds of the political agents. Huge amounts of money change hands every 24 hours. After reaching the upper echelons of the ruling elites it turns into anesthesia as far as the implementation of reforms is concerned. The third challenge comes from the implementation mechanism. The main players for the implementation process are supposed to be the ministry of Saffron and the FATA secretariat that have a very strong interest in the status quo. The day the reforms package is implemented the ministry of Saffron will cease to exist as FATA is the sole reason for its existence. Why would the ministry be keen to liquidate itself is the question. Similarly why would the FATA secretariat, that is notorious for running FATA like a fiefdom and is one of the most non-transparent and unaccountable administrations in the country, be interested in the change?
Be that as it may there are different factors behind the resurgence of Taliban in FATA. In the first place operation ZeA had carefully saved the good Taliban while pushing the rest into Afghanistan. Shawal and Dattakhel weren’t cleared as claimed at that time and these places have attracted fighters scattered by military action in Tochi Valley for regrouping. Haqqanis who were relocated to lower Kurram have their tentacles in Aourakzai Agency and Tirah of Khyber Agency. Taliban handlers were expecting quicker victories in their latest war starting in 2014. They were looking forward to fall of provinces in the south and east of Afghanistan. These expectations haven’t materialised. Afghan National Security Forces have stood their ground defying much of the dark prognosis. Establishing “control” over such and such per cent of rural areas doesn’t mean much in the Afghan context where rural and tribal communities have been living autonomously without much interference of the Afghan state for centuries. The enforced repatriation of seven hundred thousand plus refugees from Pakistan and the unilateral and arbitrary closure of the Afghan transit trade has put some pressure on Afghanistan but all this has failed to break the back of the Afghan Republic as some Pakistani patrons of Taliban were expecting. The Resolute Support of the international community has also not wavered in the face of some spectacular Taliban attacks. In fact, the US and her NATO allies are actively considering sending some military reinforcements to Afghanistan. It is becoming obvious by every passing day that there is no Taliban military victory in sight. Thus the revival of the Taliban’s fall back position in FATA. This explains why Pakistani authorities are turning a blind eye to the resurgence of the Taliban in FATA. So much so, that unlike operation ZeA, operation Radul Fassad even doesn’t care about the optics.
The aforementioned reversals are bad news for FATA Pashtuns but there is also going to be a definite fall out for the terror problem in the rest of Pakistan. When FATA becomes a sanctuary for the Afghan Taliban will also be used by terror syndicates and criminal mafias in Pakistan. It is particularly dangerous at a time when the so-called Islamic State (IS) is expanding its presence here in the wake of its shrinking space in the Middle East and it is forging working relationships with local terror networks. The center of gravity of terrorism is shifting from the traditional Deobandi extremist circles of southern Punjab to the Wahabi networks of central and upper Punjab, a catchment area for the so-called IS. Will both the houses of Parliament really discuss the reversals in FATA and their fall out for Pakistan and the region?

Pakistan's Saudi Slaves - 'Making Excuses'

Now that the Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia at the US-Arab-Islamic Summit has ended, the government is attempting some damage control. A foreign visit that involved two of our closest allies (at least in the past) should have at least featured our leader of government in a more prominent position.
However, this summit saw Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sidelined, Pakistan ignored, with no opportunity to address those gathered, and not even a mention of the sacrifices made by the country in fighting terrorism in President Trump’s speech. After this snub, rather than use the situation to demand from our allies that we be acknowledged, the Foreign Office has chosen to defend President Trump.
Their ridiculous suggestion, that the US President only mentioned victims of terrorism that were not present, is laughable, and completely detached from reality. Mentioning India and omitting Pakistan’s name is a conscious decision, one that can be seen as a clear indication of how the Trump administration sees this picture – Pakistan is fostering terrorism in India, while India’s transgressions in Kashmir are ignored.
Saudi Arabia on its part, has issued a token apology to the 30 states present that did not get an opportunity to speak – Pakistan included – but is that really enough from a country that keeps expecting Pakistan to offer up its military resources in defence of the kingdom?
While Pakistan might see itself as one of the main leaders of the Muslim Ummah, it is clear that others do not. The recent humiliation should be a reality check for our leaders, as well as our security agencies, that we can give as much support and access to the Saudis to our military and society, we will not be acknowledged publicly when it matters.
It is not as if Pakistan had clearly defined its role in the coalition – the former COAS might be leading it, but if it is a targeted alliance against Iran, Pakistan should have steered well clear of all major operations. The coalition got us no laurels from the global community.
And while the government has tried to play this double game of trying to keep both Saudi Arabia and Iran happy, neither of them seem too pleased. At the end of it all, Pakistan has gained nothing in terms of foreign policy. And if the officials at the Foreign Office cannot defend Pakistan, there is no chance that countries like Saudi Arabia and the US will either.

پی پی پی چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری کی ماہ رمضان کی آمد کے موقع پر پاکستان اور دیگر ممالک میں موجود امتِ مسلمہ کو مبارکباد

پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے ماۃِ رمضان کی آمد کے موقع پر پاکستان اور دیگر ممالک میں موجود امتِ مسلمہ کو مبارکباد دیتے ہوئے کہا کہ برکتوں و فضیلتوں سے بھرا یہ مہینہ ہمیں تقویٰ، صبر، رواداری اور ایثار کا درس دیتا ہے۔ اپنے جاری کردۃ بیان میں پی پی پی چیئرمین نے مزید کہا کہ یہ ماۃِ رمضان ہی تھا، جس کے دوران اللہ تعالیٰ نے ھمارے پیارے نبی حضرت محمد ﷺ پر قرآن شریف نازل کیا ۔  انہوں نے علماءُ و مشائخ پر زور دیا کہ وہ معاشرے میں تشدد اور عدم برادشت کے بڑھتے ہوئے رجحانات کے قلع قمع کے لیئے اپنا کردار ادا کریں۔
بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے ملک کے متمول اور صاحب حیثیت لوگوں پر زور دیا کہ وہ ماۃ رمضان کے دوران اپنے دسترخوان کو غرباءُ، مساکین و ضرورتمندوں کے لیئے وسیع کریں۔

Pakistan: Escalating Crackdown on Internet Dissent

The Pakistani government is increasingly clamping down on internet dissent at the expense of fundamental rights, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should immediately end abusive state monitoring of internet activity, prosecute those committing violence on the basis of internet blasphemy allegations, and commit to upholding free expression for all.
On May 10, 2017, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) sent a text message to millions of citizens warning against sharing “blasphemous” content on social media and asking them to report such content. On May 14, the interior minister, Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, ordered the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA) to take immediate action against “all those dishonoring the Pakistan Army through social media.”
“The Pakistani government’s crackdown on online expression will put dissenting voices at a greater risk in an already toxic environment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should focus on protecting those at risk of being attacked for their opinions instead of encouraging violence against them.”
These new government measures threaten greater censorship, arbitrary arrests of critical internet voices, and violence by militant groups against religious minorities and critics, Human Rights Watch said.
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said that in response to its mass text messaging, it had already received 3,000 complaints regarding online “blasphemous” content. As of April, the government had blocked 12,968 websitesaccording to the Ministry of Information Technology. In March, the FIA arrested three people for posting allegedly blasphemous content online. The interior minister has also reportedly ordered the FIA to arrest social media users criticizing the army.
The Pakistani authorities have a long history of abuses against peaceful critics of the government and state security forces. Pakistani and international human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have extensively documented intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings of activists and journalists. The Taliban and other armed groups have also threatened media outlets and assaulted and killed journalists and activists for their work.
Pakistan's “Blasphemy Law,” as section 295-C of the penal code is known, carries a mandatory death sentence. Discrimination is permissible under the law against religious minorities, and the failure of Pakistan's federal and provincial governments to address religious persecution by militant Islamist groups effectively enables atrocities against those most vulnerable. The government seldom brings charges against those responsible for such violence and discrimination.
On March 7, the Islamabad High Court directed the Interior Ministry to ensure the removal of all alleged blasphemous material from websites in Pakistan, even if it required blocking access to all social media. On March 14, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered a ban on all blasphemous material online. On March 16, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan termed “blasphemers as enemies of humanity.”
The March measures and statements may have inspired a series of violent vigilante attacks related to blasphemy accusations. On April 13, university students in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, stripped, beat, and shot a fellow student, Mashal Khan, inside the campus on accusations of blasphemy. On April 21, a man who fled the country after he was accused of blasphemy 13 years ago and had recently returned to Pakistan, was killed in Sialkot, Punjab province. On the same day, police and a local imam stopped a mob in Chitral, Gilgit-Baltistan attempting to lynch a man with mental disability for allegedly uttering blasphemous remarks. On May 4, police intervened to prevent a mob from killing a Hindu man accused of sharing blasphemous content on social media in Hub, Balochistan province, although a child died from the mob’s gunfire.
Pakistani law already adds to the hostile climate faced by journalists and activists, Human Rights Watch said. In August 2016, the government enacted a vague and overbroad cybercrimes law that threatens rights of privacy and freedom of expression. The law includes provisions that allow the government to censor online content, criminalize internet user activity, and access internet user data without prior judicial authorization.
Five activists – prominent poet Salman Haider, bloggers Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, and Ahmad Raza Naseer, and social rights activist Samar Abbas – went missing or were taken away from different cities between January 4 and January 7. All five men were vocal critics of militant Islamist groups and Pakistan’s military establishment, and expressed their views on the internet. Their near simultaneous disappearances and the fact that the government immediately blocked access to their websites and blogs raised grave concerns of state involvement and resulted in popular protests. Four out of the five – all but Samar Abbas – have since been released. Waqas Goraya went to the Netherlands after his release and alleges that the security forces tortured him “beyond limits,” by punching, slapping, and forcing him into stress positions.
“Prime Minister Sharif has vowed to protect human rights, but is moving in the opposite direction,” Adams said. “Protecting critical speech on the internet is the standard by which governments are now held to be considered genuinely democratic.”