Thursday, June 15, 2017

Video Report - New documentary series Putin the media in its place

Video Report - US signs $12bn worth jet deal with Qatar days after Trump called Doha ‘terrorist funder’

Video Report - Sanctions benefit only the US: Germany, Austria call to scrap new anti-Russian measures

Video Report - 'Russians do not consider Americans as enemies' – Putin at Q&A session

Video Report - 'We are ready to provide political asylum to Comey' - Putin at Q&A session

Pashto Music - Qamar Gula -- speene spogmai waya ashna ba charta weena

Pakistan - Time to pull plug on Islamic Alliance

The Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia has us all wondering if the purpose was to assure the King of support in so-called Gulf Crisis or whether we are going to play mediator. PM Nawaz is said to have been categorical in his response to King Abdullah. Pakistan will in no way be choosing between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. If this is true, we welcome the development.
Pakistan’s Parliament had barred the government from taking sides in the Middle East conflict largely due to the consequences we have had to face when fighting someone else’s war. Thus the government should ensure that the parliamentary resolution is implemented, while, perhaps, lecturing the Saudis on just how democratic governments take decisions. Thought it might not be so easy to make King Abdullah grasp this last point. Furthermore, the Qatar boycott, for which Riyadh is seeking our support, is actually four Sunni Muslim countries cutting ties with another Sunni Muslim country because of the latter’s relations with a Shia Muslim country. This surely has to be the final nail in the coffin of the ‘one Ummah’ concept that we have always been fed.
For Pakistan, becoming a part of any such alliance will threaten the peace at home. We are already engaged in a war against militants and the nation needs unity. Pakistan becoming a part of a sectarian alliance in the region might cause a divide within the country since our population comprises both Shia and Sunni Muslims. Therefore, we should not let our territory be exploited by those who are playing power games. Peace and security at home should be our first priority. It is about time Pakistan pull out of the Islamic Military alliance ‘against terrorism’ and Gen Raheel return home. We now know that it is a ‘Sunni alliance’ established to isolate Iran under the garb of countering terror. So what is he waiting for?
Saudi Arabia has been trying to garner support in the name of protecting Muslim holy sites. We should understand that there is no imminent threat to these — unless, of course one counts the sudden springing up of Hello Kitty outlets — and that this narrative has been used by the Saudis to fuel Muslim sentiments. The ruling regime doesn’t want Yemen to become an axis of resistance against the kingdom, which is why it is playing victim in the war against Houthi rebels. It is Saudi Arabia that is bombing the civilian population in Yemen, where 16 million people are in immediate need of human assistance because the blockades have caused a food emergency. We should not get involved in what is happening between Saudi Arabia and any other country. We should also refuse to be a part of diplomatic boycotts. It is time to send the message loud and clear. Are you listening, Mr Prime Minister?

Pakistan's misuse of the Blasphemy law - Mashal was proven innocent. We were proven guilty

Imad Zafar

According to a JIT report Mashal Khan was proven innocent and the charge of blasphemy on him was baseless as the Joint Investigation Team did not find even a single piece of evidence in this regard. The report further states that Mashal Khan’s murder was pre-planned and that the university management was involved in inciting the students against Mashal Khan. As per the report’s findings the police did not perform their duty responsibly and made no concrete effort to save Mashal Khan from the mob, hence the role of the police should also be investigated. The JIT report also states that there is a culture of drugs and weapons in the university campus and there is news that even the female students have been exploited on many occasions. The report further states that the university management is incapable and is being hired on the basis of political connections.
This JIT report has actually proven the innocence of Mashal Khan who was lynched on the false allegation of blasphemy. One wish is that this report can heal the wounds of the parents who lost their son. The people who killed Mashal could only have given him one chance of proving his innocence. This JIT report is actually a charge sheet against each and every single one in society who supports the killing of people in the name of blasphemy and those who do not even give a chance to the accused to prove his innocence. To all those fanatics, Mashal is proven innocent, now bring him back to life which for sure no one among you can do.
Mashal Khan’s mother told the media she was not even able to kiss her dead son’s body as each and every bone was broken into pieces. This statement from Mashal’s mother is actually a burden on our conscience, one too heavy to carry. If we cannot even bear the burden of her words how on earth will she be bear the loss of her young and innocent child? Mashal Khan’s father is a picture of patience and bravery whenever he talks about his son, it melts my heart and for sure the hearts of millions who have children. The irony it is that Mashal’s father is still pleading for justice and requesting the state to protect his remaining family as they have been continuously threatened by extremists, whereas on the other hand the people who lynched Mashal are enjoying full protocol and a luxurious lifestyle even behind bars and are in the safe custody of the law.
I am one hundred percent certain that millions of people who have somehow developed an extremist mindset will still doubt the JIT’s findings and continue to declare his lynching justified, thus making the killers heroes. One wish is that these kinds of people could understand that God does not need anyone’s protection nor is any holy personality or religion dependent on the extremists to protect them. People who kill others in the name of religion, God or holy personalities can actually be anything but human. And those who silently or openly support these brutal inhumane murders and hail the murderers as heroes are actually responsible for Mashal Khan’s death, as when they encourage this barbaric act of killing other humans, being in the name of religion, actually give the message to the millions of brainwashed people that if you want to be called a hero and want to earn fame and money overnight kill someone who is under the accusation of blasphemy.
It happened before, in the case where Salmaan Taseer was killed by his guard on the charge of blasphemy which was never proven in any court of law. His funeral was not even attended by the stalwarts of his party, contrary to that his murderer had the biggest of funerals in the country’s history. The same was the case with Shahbaz Bhatti. This ideology of killing blasphemy suspects without any proof is present in every second house of the country and completely rejects logic and debate thus resulting in the murders of innocent people. This ideology does not understand a very simple fact that to show love and respect towards a religion or holy personalities one needs to follow their teachings rather than killing others. It actually takes everything to truly follow and practice the message of religion and holy personalities and takes nothing to kill an innocent in the name of protecting religion.
Look at the picture of Mashal Khan’s father standing in front of his son’s grave and giving a salute to him, and honestly tell the parents to raise their kids to bury them at that young age or to be lynched by a mob of zombies. To bury a young child is the heaviest of all grievances and Mashal Khan’s father will carry the burden of this grief for the rest of his life. If we want to avoid this grief and pain then we need to teach our children that there is nothing good in killing others, there is no point in accusing others and killing them in the name of God. We need to tell them that a true hero is not the one who carries the gun and kills others but a hero is one who actually loves humanity and sacrifices everything to make sure his fellow human beings live in peace and harmony without the fear of being killed for a difference of opinion or belief.
If even after this incident we still somehow support or justify the killings of humans we should then expect to face this kind of incident in future as well. This time it was Mashal, someone else’s child, but there is a possibility that it can be our own child in future. After reading the findings of the JIT it seems that Mashal is standing in front of me and with a taunting smile is saying that if a society does not respect a living human being then how can it respect a religion? This society badly needs a law about respecting humanity. To the soul of Mashal Khan and living children like him, this society is actually a graveyard of the living dead who are buried in the grave of ignorance and hatred and are not aware of the death of their collective intellectual and human values.

Death sentence for Facebook post amid Pakistan crackdown online

By Sophia Saifi and Ben Westcott, CNN

A Pakistan government crackdown on freedom of speech online has reached worrying new levels, activists say, after a young man was sentenced to death over a series of Facebook posts.
On Saturday, 30-year-old Taimoor Raza became the first person to receive a death sentence in a Pakistan anti-terrorism court for "using derogatory remarks ... in respect of the Holy Prophet" on social media.
Amnesty International's Pakistan campaigner, Nadia Rahman, said in a statement the conviction set a "dangerous precedent."
    "No one one should be hauled before an anti-terrorism court or any other court solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief online," she said.
    Human rights advocates said 2017 has seen an unprecedented crackdown by the government on Pakistanis' freedom of speech on the internet and in social media.
    In January, the government shut down the websites and blogs of four online activists who regularly campaigned for humans rights and religious freedom, according to Human Rights Watch, right after they were went missing simultaneously.
    They were later released. There is no proven involvement of the government in their abductions.
    Pakistani demonstrators take part in a protest the killing of journalism student Mashal Khan in Karachi on April 22.
    Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in March "nothing can be greater than our religion to us" in stopping blasphemy on the internet.
    "If social media platforms do not cooperate with us despite all our efforts, then we will take the strictest of measures against such platforms in the country," he said.
    In May, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority sent millions of citizens a text message warning them against sharing blasphemy online.
    "The uploading and sharing of blasphemous content on the internet is a punishable action under the law. Such content should be reported for legal action," the alert said.
    Usama Khilji, director of the freedom of speech NGO Bolo Bhi, told CNN asking citizens to report each others actions online encouraged "mob justice."
    "Asking people to record cases of blasphemy online (means) the state's responsibility is being transferred onto citizens," he said.

    Laws 'open to abuse'

    It isn't just the freedom of speech laws in the spotlight after the Facebook ruling -- blasphemy laws in Pakistan have long been controversial, including a mandatory death sentence for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
    A 2016 report by Amnesty International found the laws are "open to abuse" and anyone who is accused is usually presumed to be guilty, leaving them open to mob retribution.
    There were 91 blasphemy cases concerning the Prophet or his companions registered between 2011 and 2015, the report said.
    Specific blasphemy laws which punished perceived insults to Islam were introduced between 1980 and 1986, during a period of martial law under the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq. They were never removed once martial law ended.
    Pakistani cellphone users reads a text message circulated by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on May 10.
    The laws have been recently extended to acts committed on the Internet and social media. In March, three people were arrested for posting allegedly blasphemous content online.
    No one has ever been executed under the law, but in the past year violent public responses to accusations of blasphemy have raised further concerns from activists.
    In April, a young man was brutally beaten to death by his fellow students at a university in Mardan, after being accused of blasphemy on campus. Fifty-seven people were arrested after the lynching. The man himself was later acquitted by authorities two months after he was killed.
    In her statement, Rahman said the government should instead be holding to account those who have lynched alleged blasphemers rather than arresting young men accused online.

    'Miscarriage of justice'

    Prosecutor Shafique Qureshi told CNN Taimoor Raza was accused of regularly sharing "blasphemous pictures and status updates" on his Facebook page, which criticized the companions of the prophet and the prophet himself.
    Raza was arrested on 5 April at a bus stop where he was listening loudly to blasphemous content on his phone, according to Qureshi.
    The images were found on his phone and his Facebook page and were examined by Islamic studies professors and found to be blasphemous. Raza is now being held in a so-called high treason jail in Sialkot.
    But Raza's lawyer Fida Hussain Rana said his client was innocent and had been set up on social media.
    "Two individuals ... instigated Taimoor on Facebook Chat to get him to say things against the Prophet Muhammad. Taimoor never said anything blasphemous," he said in a statement.
    Rana said the trial was a "miscarriage of justice" and that there would be an appeal within two days.
    A spokesman for Facebook said in a statement the social media site was "deeply saddened and concerned" by the sentence. "We do not provide any government with direct access to people's data," he said.

    Pakistan - Vice President PPPP Senator Sherry Rehman questions PM’s pre-prepared speech in JIT appearance

    Questioning the Prime Minister’s statement after the JIT investigation Senator Sherry Rehman asked, “Why and how did he read from a pre-prepared statement after three hours of investigation. Does this mean the difference in all his conflicting statements was not squared?” Objecting to the fact that the ruling party has said that no Prime Minister has faced such accountability, Vice-President PPPP Rehman said that such shocking amnesia about the history of democracy in this country was not expected from those who had witnessed the struggle of the PPP from safe havens.
    “The PPP’s first PM shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto faced his judicial execution without flinching, while his daughter faced all sorts of jail sentences and courts through her life. President Zardari was tortured in 12 years of prison with no plea bargain, and PM Yusuf Raza Gilani stood in the docks, bowed his head and stepped down. Raja Parvez Ashraf is still answering for rental power cases that this government has adopted with other names, and they say no one has faced accountability like this?” asked Rehman. Rehman said, “I’m sorry but a 3-hour investigation is no patch on what even the workers of the PPP have faced in multiple incarcerations and whip lashes”.
    “History certainly has not been made, although facing a JIT of officers that report to his juniors is a telling case of how this moving away from the moral core of democracy is perceived by some. It is not as if there were options left! Any other Prime Minister would have resigned until such an inquiry was over. So yes, a new red line has been set in moving the bar further down for the embarrassments that Pakistan faces!” concluded the Senator.

    Video Report - How The Qatar, Saudi Arabia Rivalry Help Inflame The Middle East | The New York Times

    Mueller investigating Trump for obstruction of justice, Washington Post reports

    By Eli Watkins

    Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening.
    Mueller is interviewing as early as this week three top intelligence officials as part of the probe, the Post reported, citing "five people briefed on the requests."
    The three officials the Post says Mueller is interviewing are Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Richard Ledgett, the recently retired deputy NSA director.
    Coats will also meet with members of the Senate intelligence committee Thursday, one week after his tense grilling by the panel, according to a committee source.
      It is the most significant sign yet that Mueller's investigation is extending beyond questions of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
      The news came the same week as Trump friend Chris Ruddy floated the possibility that Trump would fire Mueller, who was appointed to head up the investigation after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
      Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump's private attorney, Marc Kasowitz, immediately condemned the Post report.
      "The FBI leak of information regarding the President is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal," Corallo told CNN.
      The White House declined to comment, referring questions to Kasowitz.
      The NSA said in a statement that the "NSA will fully cooperate with the special counsel. We are not in a position to comment further."
      A spokesman for the DNI declined to comment to CNN.
      Trump wrote in his letter firing Comey that the ousted FBI director had informed him on three separate occasions he was not under investigation. The President has stressed he was not under investigation, and has taken to Twitter to dismiss the entire investigation as a hoax.
      The report that Trump himself is being scrutinized for obstruction of justice served to undercut Trump's claims.
      Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, hinted broadly that the special counsel investigation could be looking at Trump during a House committee hearing on Tuesday. When asked about a letter he wrote recommending firing Comey, Rosenstein said that Mueller could be looking into the decision-making process for the firing -- and he was therefore "not at liberty to talk about that now."
      Mueller has been tasked with leading the executive branch's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and any potential collusion between Russia and Trump associates.
      Mueller met with Sens. Richard Burr and Mark Warner, the Republican and Democratic leadership of the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday.
      Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee last week and confirmed that he gave Mueller the memos he wrote detailing his interactions with Trump ahead of his firing. In one memo, Comey said Trump tried to direct him to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
      Comey said he believed Mueller would look into Trump for obstruction of justice.
      "I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the President was an effort to obstruct," Comey said. "I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning, but that's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards, to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that's an offense."
      Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, wrote a letter to Chairman Chuck Grassley calling for the judiciary committee to establish its own investigation into obstruction of justice.
      Grassley on Tuesday stopped short of ruling out establishing a congressional investigation into the question of whether Trump obstructed justice.

      After 152 Mass Shootings In 2017, It Took An Attack On Congress To Get Our Attention

      By Nick Wing

      A gunman opened fire on a congressional baseball practice in Virginia on Wednesday morning, wounding at least five people, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), a Republican staffer and a pair of Capitol Hill police officers. The shooter was reportedly killed during the incident.
      Apart from the setting ― a tony neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C.― and the high-profile targets, the episode was sadly not all that remarkable. It was the 153rd mass shooting of the year, in just 165 days, according to a tally by the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit organization that tracks shootings across the country. Hours later, the 154th appeared to be unfolding in San Francisco.
      Mass shootings have only rarely made national headlines in 2017, but they are so far outpacing the rate seen in recent years.
      Many of these incidents inflict more carnage than Wednesday’s shooting. Last week in Orlando, Florida, a gunman entered his former workplace and killed five employees, before turning the weapon on himself. The shooting attracted minimal media coverage at the time.
      Although mass shootings often serve as a catalyst for broader discussions about guns, they are just a small piece of the much bloodier tapestry of gun violence in the U.S.
      Gun Violence Archive has verified nearly 7,000 gun deaths so far this year, not including suicides, as well as more than 13,000 injuries. The overwhelming majority of this bloodshed passes without much publicity outside of local news.
      Even Alexandria isn’t immune to the violence. A shooting at a hotel there last month left one dead and two injured. It was the city’s first homicide of the year.
      The number of mass shootings in the U.S. has become an increasingly heated point of debate over the past few years, as they’ve become more frequent.
      The FBI doesn’t have an official definition of “mass shooting,” and there are disagreements over how to count them. The Gun Violence Archive defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people are shot (injured or killed) in a single event, at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.
      Other sources like Mother Jones use a narrower definition. To be considered a mass shooting under the outlet’s guidelines, the perpetrator, or in rare cases perpetrators, must kill at least four people in a single location, usually a public place. Mother Jones also excludes most crimes that are primarily related to gang activity, armed robbery or domestic violence. Using their definition, there have been four mass shootings so far this year. Wednesday’s incidents are not among them.

      U.S.A. - An Attack on Congress and Baseball

      A congressman was shot early Wednesday morning while playing baseball with his colleagues in Virginia. The congressman, Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives, is in stable condition. Two other people were critically wounded. It wasn’t just an attack on members of Congress and their staff and police protective details but on one of the few vestiges of bipartisanship left in Congress: baseball.
      Every year, Republicans and Democrats compete against each other in the Congressional Baseball Game. The objective is not to score political points but to score runs. The first Congressional Baseball Game was organized by Representative John Tener of Pennsylvania in 1909, who before his time in Congress played as a pitcher and outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, the Chicago White Stockings and the Pittsburgh Burghers, and later served as President of the National League.
      The game as we know it today has been an annual event since 1962 and has raised millions of dollars for charities. The irony is that while members of both parties fight against one another in congressional committee rooms and on the House floor, when they compete in this annual event, it is spirited but civil. There are no angry diatribes about left field versus right field. There are fastballs and curveballs, but no one beans a batter because of how he voted. The rules of the game are respected.
      I know the power of bonding over sports on Capitol Hill because I experienced it. One day I was working out in the members’ gym (internet hoax alert: Members of Congress pay personally for this gym, it’s not a taxpayer freebie). I was on an elliptical and the congressman next to me was grunting on a treadmill. We’d never met, but we began talking.
      He was Tim Johnson from Springfield, Ill. I represented Long Island. Representative Johnson was a Republican. I’m a Democrat. Around us, colleagues from both parties were playing basketball and handball. The two of us realized that in the House gym, members of Congress could engage in healthy competition, but as soon as they walked onto the House floor, civility and respect were lost and partisan warfare erupted.
      We decided that if respectful competition in congressional sports was possible, it could be applied to the battle of ideas. So, in 2005, we formed the House Center Aisle Caucus. Once a month we brought together several dozen Democrats and Republicans over Chinese food at a local restaurant to seek common ground. Those casual dinners were liberating. We surrendered our sound bytes. We laughed (and groaned) at one another’s jokes. We came to understand one another’s districts and political pressures. We saw one another not as partisan warriors but as colleagues with different perspectives.
      Sadly, the Center Aisle Caucus was swept away by the 2010 Tea Party tide, when common ground and compromise were electoral liabilities. But the lesson remains. Events like the Congressional Baseball Game help remove us from our partisan bubbles and connect as human beings.
      It’s depressing that bipartisanship in Washington now seems limited by foul lines on a baseball diamond, that civility and respect are found only in the members’ gym and Chinese restaurants. But it at least demonstrates that there are still places where we can put aside our differences. There’s something about America’s pastime that unites members of Congress from both parties. I hope that today’s tragedy will serve as a reminder of what unites us, not what divides us.

      GOP senator: Obama reached out after shooting

      Former President Barack Obama reached out across the aisle to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) after the shooting at the GOP congressional baseball practice, the senator said Wednesday.
      Flake said Obama sent his "best wishes and prayers" for the victims, according to Politico. Flake was one of the GOP members practicing in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday morning when a gunman opened fire, injuring five, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
      "He went through this a couple of times," Flake told reporters. Obama reportedly travelled to Arizona with Flake in 2011 after the shooting that left then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) severely wounded and killed six others.
      "This is particularly raw for those of us in Arizona," Flake said, adding that Obama asked him to tell Scalise that he was thinking of the congressman.