Friday, June 16, 2017

Video Report - People & Power - Afghanistan: Bullets And Burqas

Published on Jun 8, 2017

US to send 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan

A White House official has confirmed that the US will deploy an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. The move follows concerns from top commanders that the Afghan army is being pushed back by a resurgent Taliban.
Afghanistan Helmand 2012 - US Marines (Getty Images/AFP/A. Berry)
The Pentagon is getting ready to send some 4,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official confirmed on Thursday.
The latest wave of US troops will mainly be deployed to train and advise Afghan forces, following warnings by top US commanders in the region that the local military was facing a resurgent Taliban and a rising threat posed by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) jihadi group.
According to the White House official, who spoke to The Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity, a smaller number of US troops would also be assigned to counterterrorism operations in the region.
The Pentagon is expected to announce the decision next week.
The rise in troop numbers follows US President Donald Trump's decision on Tuesday to give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis authority to set troops levels in Afghanistan. The move mirrored an earlier decision by the president to hand over similar powers to Mattis concerning the number of troops involved in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
Mattis has repeatedly stressed that increasing troop numbers is vital for the stabilization of Afghanistan. However, he has ruled out ever returning troop levels to what they were in 2010, when more than 100,000 soldiers were deployed in the besieged country.
At least 4 dead in Kabul mosque attack
The rising threat of terror in the regionwas seen earlier on Thursday when a suicide bomber attacked a Shiite mosque in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing four people and wounding at least eight others.
Among the dead was the leader of Afghanistan's ethnic Hazaras, Hajji Ramazan Hussainzada. IS, which has frequently targeted Kabul's Shiite minority, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency.
Kabul is already on edge following a wave of recent deadly attacks. A massive truck bomb explosion in the capital's diplomatic quarter on May 31 killed more than 150 people, making it the worst attack in its 16-year war.

Pakistani “leadership” confused on which Mamu to support in Saudi vs Qatar squabble

Pakistani “leadership” is facing a serious dilemma due to the infighting between the various Gulf Despot theocracies that are sugar daddies for Nawaz Sharif and his General daddies. Saudi Arabia is Nawaz Sharif’s closest master.
Saudis offered Nawaz Sharif a palace when he cut a deal with military dictator General Musharaf and ran away to Riyadh like the coward that he is. Saudi Arabia also offered General Raheel Sharif a job for going easy on their kept man Nawaz Sharif. General Pasha and General Kiyani also depend on UAE and KSA for “benefits”. And then there is Qatar…
Qatari despots who support ISIS also support the crooked corruption deals of the Nawaz Sharif dynasty.

#Pakistan - National security requires across the board operations

Cherry picking will neither improve internal security, nor remove neighbors’ suspicions.
This year two of the three drone strikes by the US army were aimed at Afghan Taliban commanders living in Pakistan. The strike on Tuesday which was the latest in the series killed a senior commander belonging to Haqqani network. The presence of foreign terrorists in Pakistan is used by Afghanistan and the US to maintain that despite repeated denials Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network continue to operate from sanctuaries inside Pakistan. This is reflected in Foreign Secretary James Mattis’ testimony before a Congressional panel where the former general underlined a regional approach while formulating an Afghan policy. He particularly stressed the need to recognise “that problems that come out of ungoverned spaces, like that as we experienced on 9/11 … do not stay there. They can come home to roost here.
The IS poses a threat to the world at large including US, Russia and China. Despite some of the most horrendous terrorist attacks in Pakistan having been orchestrated and owned by the IS, the government continues to be in a state of denial about the existence of the network. This year the group launched attack at Sehwan killing about 90 and targeted Senate Deputy Chairman Abdul Ghafoor Haideri killing at least 27. It has now executed two Chinese nationals kidnapped from Quetta.
While Operations Zarb-e-Azb and Raddul Fasad have brought down the incidence of terrorism, the terrorists still constitute a serious threat to national security. Terrorist sanctuaries are not only to be eradicated but also widely recognised to have been genuinely eliminated. Unless the widespread perception of cherry picking is removed, doubts and suspicions will continue to persist between Pakistan, its neighbours and allies. Nawaz Sharif and Ashraf Ghani have agreed to revive at the quadrilateral process at their meeting on the side-lines of SCO. China has reportedly volunteered to remove the differences between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The future of these moves depends on firm and across the board action against all terrorist networks in Pakistan.

Pakistan - Extremism In Sindh

The province of Sindh has become the hub of the banned extremist outfit, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ).
As on previous occasions, the organisation was found to be operating under the guise of other bodies. The federal government has already expressed its concerns to the home ministry of Sindh; this time around it is the Sunni Raabta Committee that is overseeing the activities and providing a platform to expand the network and its agendas. This is not the first time that the outfit has used this tactic and it is certainly not the case that the authorities are unaware of it; this leave a huge question mark on their loyalty to the state and its security.
The National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) has formally written a letter to the Sindh Home Department to inform them of their concerns regarding the growing influence of the outfit in the region.
While it is the responsibility of the provincial government to resolve such matters, a case like that of ASWJ cannot be resolved unless and until the government in its entirety takes action against them and gets rid of the apologists within. And Sindh is not the only province – Punjab also has extremist problems of its own. Noted terrorists such as Hafiz Saeed have their pictures in posh localities of the provincial capital, asking the public for charity. With these organisations operating under other names, it is clear that we offer them protection and a way out despite their activities, which is what helps them thrive.
If dangerous groups such as ASWJ and Jamaat-ud-Dawa are allowed to run charitable organisations, operate twitter handles and conduct all the activities of other, legal organisations, should the presence of ASWJ in Sindh surprise us in the slightest?
It is a shame that men such as Molana Manzoor Solangi, the provincial president of ASWJ, Hafiz Muhammad Riaz, Ashraf Memon, and IIyas Farooqi – organisers – are all operating freely in the province. They are administrators of several seminaries – some on state land – where several Sindhi and Balochi students are getting education. This means that they have influence in the areas and can corrupt the minds of young individuals at their disposal. At the same time, they are also actively involved in local politics. People like Maulana Ludhianvi have no restriction on contesting in the elections.
This is a huge failure of the National Action Plan (NAP), and a sign of our misplaced priorities.
But what should one expect when there are people in government and the bureaucracy who want to bring these terrorists into mainstream politics and refuse to accept the danger of housing these outfits.

Pakistan - Hindu underage girl 'forcibly converted and married off' in Tharparkar

The family of an underage Hindu girl from Tharparkar has claimed that she was kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man. The girl and her husband, however, have filed a petition in Sindh High Court seeking protection and declaring the conversion and marriage consensual.
Ravita Meghwadh, a teenager, reportedly converted to Islam on June 6 and changed her name to Gulnaz. On the same day, she married Syed Nawaz Ali Shah at the marriage registrar’s office in union council Samaro in Umerkot, according to Shah and his family.
However, Ravita’s family denies this and has accused Shah of kidnapping her.
“She was abducted from her house and forcibly married to a man twice her age,” said her father Satram alias Satio Meghwadh who lodged the FIR of the kidnapping at Nano Dandal police station in Nangarparkar, Tharparkar four days ago.
The FIR lodged under Section 365-B of Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with kidnapping to compel a woman to marry against her will, names four people: Shah (the husband), Madad Ali Shah, Umar Junejo and Sheru Junejo. The family claims Ravita is underage based on a primary school certificate, which mentions her date of birth as July 14, 2001, making her about 16 years old.

 Ravita’s brother-in-law, Lajpat Meghwadh, who married her elder sister on April 29 this year said:“My wife is barely 18 years old. How can her younger sister be an adult?” Interestingly, the marriage registrar has mentioned Shah’s year of birth as 1980, and national identity card number on the marriage certificate, but Ravita’s age has been written as “approximately 18” and her NIC number not mentioned. Similarly, the certificate of conversion to Islam also does not mention her date of birth and NIC number, listing her age as “approximately 18.”
Lajpat alleged that Ravita was kidnapped to force the Meghwadh family to leave the village.
“Our family has just four houses in the village. Some men from Syed and Junejo communities, who dominate the village population, kidnapped her and asked us to leave the village through some intermediaries,” he claimed. Lajpat further said that Ravita didn’t use a cell phone and that she had remained restricted to the house after completing her primary education. “Unlike other women, she never left home to fetch water from the well or worked as a maid in anyone’s home,” he said. Shah could not be reached for his version. However, he and his wife told the local media in Kunri, Umerkot that they married of their free will and accused the Meghwadh family of issuing threats to Shah and his family.
Advocate Bhagwandas told The Express Tribune that the Meghwadh family is also filing a petition in Sindh High Court against the marriage. He said the marriage was solemnised in violation of Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013, which was passed by Sindh Assembly in April 2014. The law restricts the registration of marriages of people below 18 years of age. An offence under this act is cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable with a punishment of up to three years in jail for the groom, person solemnising such marriage and even the family of the man and woman tying the knot.
According to the local police station’s SHO Qurban Rajpar, the police are not arresting people nominated in the FIR because of the SHC’s notice.

Executions in Pakistan: Is ISIS targeting China?

By Michael Clarke

The deaths of two Chinese citizens in Pakistan suggest that as Beijing's strategic and economic footprint grows so too will the threats posed to Chinese interests.
These threats now include ISIS, which claimed it had executed the pair that had been in the province of Balochistan on business visas. Initial reports said they were teachers; Pakistan said this week they were missionaries.
While China has often asserted that it is opposed to the terrorism perpetrated by groups such as al Qaeda or ISIS, such a position has not prompted it to join international efforts to combat them in Afghanistan or the Middle East.
    Rather Beijing has maintained an aloof posture consistent with its approach to the Middle East as a whole since the end of the Cold War whereby its core interests in the region -- access to energy resources and overseas markets and investment opportunities -- have been pursued through an "offend no one" and "attach no strings" strategy.
    This position now looks increasingly untenable.

    Is ISIS targeting China?

    Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham's (ISIS) media agency, Amaq, reported on 8 June that the two Chinese nationals who had been taken hostage in Pakistan's Balochistan province on 24 May were executed.
    The reported execution of the Chinese nationals in Pakistan is the latest instance of ISIS' targeting of China, which is home to more than 20 million Muslims, including Uyghurs in the far western province of Xinjiang. In 2014 ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, explicitly equated China with Israel, India and the US as an oppressor of Muslims.
    That this was not mere rhetoric was demonstrated by the group's subsequent execution of a Chinese citizen, Fan Jinghui, in Iraq on 20 November 2015.
    Finally, in February this year ISIS also released a slickly produced propaganda video detailing for the first time "scenes from the life of immigrants from East Turkistan [Xinjiang] in the land of the Caliphate" in which a Uyghur militant promised to "shed blood like rivers" to avenge Beijing's alleged oppression in Xinjiang.
    The conflict in Syria has given a new lease of life to a Uyghur militant group, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), which is linked to that Beijing has blamed for a spate of recent terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.
    TIP now not only has a battlefield presence in Syria where it is aligned with al Qaeda but has also been implicated in the suicide bombing of the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan in August 2016 and Uyghurs were implicated in the New Year's Eve Istanbul nightclub attack.

    Unwanted consequences

    President Xi Jinping's ambitious plans to transform the world economy with its Belt and Road Initiative to link Asia, Europe. the Middle East and Africa with physical and financial infrastructure, makes the threats to China's foreign policy interests global in scope
    The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a case in point.
    A 3,000 kilometer, $46 billion initiative to develop a network of roads, railways and pipelines to connect the deep-water port of Gwadar in Pakistan's Baluchistan province with Kashgar in Xinjiang.
    CPEC is primarily seen by both Beijing and Islamabad as means of consolidating their "all weather friendship" by providing Pakistan with much needed investment and China with over-land access from Xinjiang to Gwadar.
    Yet it also generating a range of unwanted consequences.
    Most obviously, CPEC is proving to be an irritant to both India-Pakistan and Sino-Indian relations by reinforcing New Delhi's perception of Sino-Pakistan ties as a geopolitical maneuver to constrain it and CPEC's traversing of disputed territory in Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
    Within Pakistan there is also growing domestic political disquiet. Some members of Pakistan's parliament have gone as far to suggest that CPEC is "another East India Company is in the offing" that will submit the country's national interests to those of Beijing.
    Finally, as the reported killing of the two Chinese nationals demonstrates, can China ultimately rely on the security forces of local partners such as Pakistan to protect its interests? Indeed, these killings come despite the Pakistani military's commitment to secure CPEC with a "Special Security Division" and in "revenge" for military operations against the ISIS-aligned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-alami.
    This raises the possibility that such groups may increasingly seek to target Chinese projects and citizens in Pakistan as a means of coercing Islamabad.
    It's clear that as China invests and expands its influence overseas, it is facing a string of new security challenges: From transnational actors such as ISIS to deepening domestic political fissures within key allies like Pakistan, and increased geopolitical friction with those states such as India that have not bought into President Xi's rhetoric.

    For Peace in Afghanistan, Talk to Pakistan

    The Trump administration’s Afghanistan policy review provides an opportunity to confront a central truth: No strategy, even with more troops, will succeed without reducing Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban and the affiliated Haqqani network that is responsible for some of the deadliest attacks against the United States and its partners in Afghanistan.
    After more than $30 billion in assistance to Pakistan since 2002, it is understandable that critics of the current United States policy toward Pakistan advocate a more coercive approach: slapping further conditions on assistance, imposing sanctions or listing Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
    The trouble is that such “sticks” are unlikely to change Pakistan’s behavior, because its existential concerns are tied to broader regional priorities. To get Pakistan to alter its approach in Afghanistan, the United States must understand and address Pakistan’s strategic anxieties.
    The Pakistani military, in particular, is moved foremost by their country’s rivalry with India. They have always feared a scenario in which Afghanistan offers India a second base from which to squeeze Pakistan. Leaders in Islamabad also worry that India’s support may embolden their counterparts in Kabul to forcefully challenge the validity of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and reassert Afghan claims on Pakistani territory.
    While most of India’s aid to Afghanistan has been economic, India has stepped up security assistance in recent years, including military equipment, to bolster the Afghan security forces against the Taliban. Other Indian efforts, like financing for Iran’s Chabahar port that allows landlocked Afghanistan to bypass Pakistan, have further stoked Pakistani concerns.
    Though many in the United States and India believe Pakistan is being paranoid, the fact remains that Pakistan is convinced it is under threat. The Pakistani security establishment sees the Taliban as a check on Indian activity in Afghanistan and has doubled down on its efforts to counter deepening Afghan-India ties.
    Yet Pakistan’s goal is not continued chaos in Afghanistan. Nor does it wish for a Taliban victory, as this would strengthen their militant kin in Pakistan. What Pakistan wants is a reconciliation process that ushers the Taliban back into the political fold in Afghanistan, without allowing the militants to control the country once again. The Taliban would counterbalance Indian influence in Afghanistan, and an inclusive political settlement would prevent their radical ideology from taking hold or spilling across the border. United States policies toward Pakistan have long underestimated the centrality of this regional dynamic in defining Pakistani choices. An approach that links efforts to enlist Pakistan’s support in Afghanistan to a strategy aimed at improving India-Pakistan ties could change this.
    Better India-Pakistan relations are necessary to reduce Pakistan’s apprehensions in Afghanistan. They also serve other long-term American interests: eliminating terrorist threats from the region, reducing the risk of nuclear war and supporting a greater global role for India.
    To achieve this, the United States should facilitate an India-Pakistan dialogue on the full range of economic and political issues, including their mutual concerns in Afghanistan, without trying to stage-manage the results. The United States’ playing this role should be contingent on Pakistan preventing cross-border terrorist attacks in India. President George W. Bush encouraged such a comprehensive dialogue after a dangerous nuclear standoff in 2002. Within three years, India-Pakistan relations had made unprecedented progress. Terrorist movement from Pakistan across the border dropped dramatically, and India and Pakistan got extremely close to signing a deal on Kashmir. The budding rapprochement was cut short in part by an internal political clash within Pakistan.
    The United States must also get serious about a political settlement in Afghanistan that involves all elements of Afghan society, including the Taliban. An opportunity to start this process has been created by last week’s agreement between President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan to resurrect the stalled Quadrilateral Coordination Group (the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China). The United States should back this effort as a means of getting the Taliban to the reconciliation table. Other regional consultative forums like the Kabul Process, started by Mr. Ghani recently, will remain useful in keeping a larger set of important countries engaged.
    Without reduction in Taliban-led violence in Afghanistan, the Afghan government will be unable to rally its people behind negotiations. So in exchange for getting a say in reconciliation through the Quadrilateral forum, Pakistan must take verifiable steps to curtail the financing and arming of the Taliban, target those Taliban elements that oppose talks, and give those willing to negotiate with the Afghan government the freedom to do so. The United States also should work closely with China to encourage Pakistan. China has committed over $60 billion in investment in Pakistan and risks losing it if the region remains unstable.
    Our recent conversations with senior Pakistani officials suggest that a window of opportunity exists. Pakistani officials recognize that the Trump administration will have little patience with them if it senses their continued double-dealing on Afghanistan. At the same time, they will not move if they see this as ignoring Pakistan’s own security needs.
    This new, more strategic approach would give Pakistan the incentives it needs to work with the United States on common priorities across the region. And it does so without eliminating any United States options should Pakistan still fail to see the benefits for its own future.

    Khursheed deplores Sharif’s appearance before JIT as PM

    Opposition leader in the National Assembly Khusheed Shah on Friday said that he would have never appeared before a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) as the sitting Prime Minister of the country and rather tender resignation before an interrogation session, ARY News reported.
    “If I were on the behalf of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, I would have never appeared before the JIT rather tendering resignation first before appearing the probing team,” asserted Shah while talking to media.
    The opposition leader said that the JIT must have quizzed the premier about money trail and offshore properties.
    “Albeit, nobody knows the details about the premier’s grilling session with the probing team but one could gauged it and must be concerned with Sharif family’s offshore properties,” he added.
    He said the premier had nothing to say last day after the test of accountability which was apparent while he was reading an already written script in his brief interaction with media.
    He lamented that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) trying to impede the JIT probe by design. “Its deplorable that the ruling party is maligning the national institutions. If you weaken state institutions, it would ultimately weaken the state,” Shah opined.
    Shah urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign and dissolve the assembly in case if he is innocent and loyal to the country. However, he said that Sindh assembly would remain unaffected if national assembly faces tough time [as result of the JIT final report].

    PPP has always stood with poor masses- Bilawal Bhutto

    Pakistan Peoples party is the only ideological party of the country which is following philosophy of its founder Saheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.
    PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said this while speaking at the Iftar gathering of PPP Rawalpindi division. He said that workers of PPP and followers of Bhuttos are his strength. He said that people deserted PPP before as well but they became non-entity in no time. PPP workers should not worry about them leaving the party, he said.
    Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the elements that were against his grandfather and mother cannot be with him or his father Asif Ali Zardari. He said that PPP has always worked for the have-nots and downtrodden masses and vowed to remain loyal to those poorest of the poor. He asked workers to become his ambassador and keep in contact with the people.