Monday, June 19, 2017

Music Video - Bebe Rexha - I Got You

Comedy - Donald Trump: A Man of Characters: The Daily Show

Ten years in jail and 1,000 lashes: why we must defend Saudi blogger Raif Badawi

By Andrew Brown

It was the fifth anniversary yesterday of the arrest of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, whose supposed crime was to argue for secularism, democracy and human rights. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes – a punishment that amounts to death by torture – although only 50 lashes were inflicted on him in the one session. Medical opinion was that he would not survive the remainder of that part of his sentence.
His cause has been taken up by humanist organisations, as well as by Amnesty International. He has been honoured with the EU’s Sakharov prize. Even Prince Charles raised his case on a visit to Saudi Arabia. We may be sure that neither Theresa May nor Donald Trump would do so. It is one thing to coat huge arms deals in the rhetoric of defending western freedoms, but quite another to risk any of the profits for the sake of a Saudi man who wished to enjoy those same freedoms.
The Badawi case is illuminating about the nature of the Saudi regime and the ideas that it understands as an existential threat. These include Badawi’s brisk dismissal of the role of Islam in public life: “No religion at all has any connection to mankind’s civic progress … the codes governing the administration of the state can hardly be derived from religion.” Such ideas are obviously incompatible with the practice of theocracy. And perhaps they are so strange to the Saudi authorities that they can’t be taken seriously – after all, those convicted of “sorcery” in the kingdom are beheaded, whereas Badawi may survive his sentence, given enough attention and support from the outside world.
It is, of course, the Saudi regime that is chiefly responsible for his suffering, and that has the power to release him, but the case also suggests how hollow are western commitments to so-called western values. Badawi believes in democracy, rationalism and freedom of speech. These are all ideas we are supposed to promote and applaud, but in places where their exercise is costly we are mostly silent.
I suppose the Saudis might defend their repressive state by pointing to the horrors that have engulfed Iraq and Syria to their north and even Yemen to their south. But in all those cases, and especially in Yemen, the repressive Saudi state has itself been a destabilising factor for its neighbours.
There isn’t a clean or simple answer to the appalling horrors of the Middle East. If the Saudi theocracy falls, as it eventually must, what comes after won’t be a tranquil, secular democracy. Nonetheless, we owe it to Badawi to support and honour his courage with as little self-righteousness as we can possibly manage. At its root, the idea of human rights means that there are some things that it is wrong to do to any human being, and the punishment to which he was unjustly sentenced is one of them.

World Remains Silent: Yemeni General Vows to Respond to Deadly Saudi Strikes

Dozens of people were killed in the north of Yemen during an airstrike, carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on June 18. In an interview with Sputnik Arabic, a representative of the Yemeni army, Brigadier General Aziz Rashid, said that the attack was not an accident.

The UN Security Council has recently issued a resolution calling on Yemeni forces to cease attacks against the Saudi army.
According to Rashid, the resolution has given a green light to the Arab coalition to continue airtrikes against Yemeni citizens.
"The world is silent about the crimes committed against Yemen by the international coalition and terrorist organizations financed by certain countries," Rashid said.
"But we, the Yemeni army, tell our compatriots that these crimes will not remain unpunished. The response to the committed crimes will be an attack on military infrastructure in the center of Saudi Arabia. We will choose the right time to respond to this aggression," he added.
An airstrike conducted by the forces of the Saudi-led coalition in northern Yemen against the Houthi movement resulted in the death of at least 24 people, media reported Sunday, citing a local doctor.
The airstrike hit a market in the Saada governorate, while civilians were present at the site, the Houthi movement's Saba news agency reported.
Yemen has been suffering from a brutal conflict between the government and the Houthi movement backed by army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh since 2014. In March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition of mostly Persian Gulf countries started carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis at the request of Yemeni authorities.

America will regret helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen

Medea Benjamin

Selling weapons to Saudi Arabia has consequences. The intense anti-US sentiment in Yemen should be a wake-up call for Americans.

USA Kills Yemeni People”, screams graffiti plastered on walls in Yemen’s capital Sana’a. The Yemeni people who have been on the receiving end of US bombs dropped by Saudi pilots know all too well that the United States is complicit in their suffering.
The intense anti-US sentiment in Yemen should be a wake-up call for Americans: if you don’t care about the millions of suffering Yemenis, you might think about the future blowback.
Two US Senators, the Republican Rand Paul and the Democrat Chris Murphy, understand full well the implications and have been trying to halt the weapons sales. “The United States has no business supporting a war that has only served to embolden our terrorist enemies, exacerbate a humanitarian crisis, and incite fear and anger among the Yemeni people toward the United States. This will come back to haunt us,” warned Murphy.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration and the majority of US senators have failed to heed their call. On 13 June, their resolution to stop the Saudi sale of precision-guided munitions was narrowly defeated by a 53-47 vote.
The vote broke down mainly along party lines, with four Republicans and five Democrats breaking ranks. It also broke down along another divide: peace and humanitarian aid groups v the Trump administration, lobbyists for the Saudi government and the weapons industry.
Paul, an anti-interventionist Republican pushing the resolution, railed against the senators who were more concerned about the jobs the weapons manufacturers could generate than the lives of Yemeni children. “I am embarrassed that people are talking about making a buck while 17 million people are threatened with famine,” he said.
He didn’t mention that many of the senators, Democrats and Republicans alike, have taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the same corporations benefitting from the sales.

Despite the loss, the vote reflected an unprecedented level of Senate opposition to the sale. A similar effort during Obama’s presidency failed 71-27. “Today’s vote total would have been unthinkable not long ago, but Congress is finally taking notice that Saudi Arabia is using US munitions to deliberately hit civilian targets inside Yemen,” Murphy said.
The more cynical interpretation would be that Democrats are more willing to criticize Saudi weapons sales under a Trump administration than under a Democratic one.
Yemenis are desperate to end this conflict, now in its third year. Nearly 19 million people require assistance and 6.8 million are at risk of famine. This has been compounded by a cholera outbreak that has surpassed 124,000 cases and is projected to double every two weeks. Almost half the country’s medical facilities have been destroyed. A Yemeni child dies every 10 minutes from the combined effects of hunger and lack of medical facilities.
Saudi forces have targeted farms, food facilities, water infrastructure, marketplaces, and even the port of Hudaidah, where most of the humanitarian aid was entering the country. Meanwhile, extremist groups such as al-Qaida and Isis have seized upon the chaos to expand their reach.
US backing for the Saudi-led intervention against the Yemeni Houthi rebels is not new. But after Saudi Arabia bombed a funeral procession in October 2016 that resulted in 150 causalities, the Obama administration put a halt to the sale of munitions that would be used in Yemen and pulled back on US logistical support.
Donald Trump has been quick to resume weapons sales, bragging about clinching an enormous $110bn deal during his trip to the kingdom in May. With the growing chorus against US support to the Saudis, the royal family promised Trump that their military would undergo rigorous US training to reduce civilian casualties, signing a $750m training program.
The Saudis also agreed that US advisers would sit in their air operations control center; previously, only a small US team was allowed to operate from another office to coordinate logistical assistance.

But US training or having a seat in the operations control center will not stop the conflict; only a ceasefire and political talks will do that. In December 2015, UN peace talks were launched in conjunction with a ceasefire but no agreement was reached; the same happened in October 2016.
The United Nations Security Council is now making another attempt to address the conflict, calling on all parties to allow unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, to keep all ports functioning (especially the critical port of Hudaidah, which the Saudis have threatened to take from Houthi control), and to make a good-faith attempt to find a political solution.
This is where the United States should be putting its efforts. People in the region understand that until there is a serious US interest in a political solution, it won’t happen. Even if Trump is only interested in “putting America first”, he would do well to stop being involved in dropping bombs on Yemenis and instead use his “art of the deal” to join with the United Nations in ending this catastrophic conflict.

Video - Bernie Sanders And Elizabeth Warren DESTROY "Cowardly" Republican Health Care Bill

Video - The core characteristics of leadership

Video Report - Radical Past: Finsbury mosque known for previous links to terrorists

Video Report - 'Conflict gets more dangerous': Russia halts co-operation with US in Syria

Video Report - No More Games: Russia Vows to Track and Target Any US Aircraft 'West of the Euphrates'

Persian Music Video - Alireza Ghaderi - Golpari joon

Book reveals - ‘US army airlifted Karzai to Pakistan after he survived Taliban attack’

By Tahir Khan
Book reveals how Mullah Omar's death was kept secret * Book also tells tale about verbal dispute between Saudi Arabia's head of intelligence and Mullah Omar.
The American military helicopters had airlifted Hamid Karzai to Pakistan in November 2001 after the Taliban attacked on a compound where he stayed.
After the Taliban killed prominent leader Abdul Haq in eastern Nangarhar, who was poised to become Afghan ruler after the US military toppled the Taliban regime, they had launched an attack to kill Karzai in Uruzgan province. Karzai had entered Afghanistan from Quetta when the US started military operations against the Taliban in October 2001.
"Karzai survived and the American helicopters airlifted him along with some fighters and took him to Jacobabad air field in Pakistan on November 4, 2001," i1 has been revealed in the Pashto-language book "Mullah Muhammad Omar, Taliban and Afghanistan". Jacobabad airfield was one of the few air bases military ruler Pervez Musharraf had handed over to the US for operations against the Taliban.
Mutmain has been one of the Taliban's media persons who remained very close to Mullah Omar and as a confidant attended some important confidential meetings. He also remained a witness to the decision making process of the Taliban leaders on major issues. Therefore, his book offers a unique insight into the thinking process of the Taliban, especially on matters of foreign policy and puritanical injunctions.
In the book, the first of its kind, Abdul Hai Mutmain provides new insight into the way Mullah Omar led the Taliban during both its rule in the 1990s and in the period of its re-emergence in the 2000s.
The author says, "Karzai remained with the American military at Jacobabad for two weeks but he would tell the media through satellite phone that he is in Uruzgan."
The US forces again brought Karzai to Harawat district in Uruzgan at a time when the Taliban war machine had been weakened. Taliban fighters were again sent to target Karzai but the US airstrikes killed several fighters and foiled their attempt to reach Karzai, who was later installed as the Afghan interim leader at the Bonn conference. Embassy attack: Pakistan was angry at the 1995 attack on the embassy that had killed a worker and critically injured several others a day after the Taliban captured Herat as they continued to make advance in the western parts. Burhanuddin Rabbani and his defence minister suspected Pakistan's role in the fall of Herat city into the hands of the Taliban.
Many Panjsheri youths had been killed while defending Ismail Khan, then governor of Herat. Pakistan shut its embassy and severed diplomatic relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan believed the govt had organised anti-Pakistan demonstration. This was a serious setback to then regime of Rabbani and paved the way for contacts between the Taliban and Pakistan. Rabbani govt was upset at the Taliban gains in the south and the western parts.
Rabbani's regime wanted to mount pressure on Pakistan through demonstrations although Pakistan had not extended any support to the Taliban in fighting. However, Pakistan had adopted a soft attitude towards in view of widespread sympathies among Pakistanis for the Taliban. The burning of embassy disappointed Pakistan and tried to extend hand of friendship to the Taliban who had emerged as a strong force in the south and western parts.
Low-rank Taliban officials met a Pakistani delegation who had arrived in the Taliban-controlled Kandahar to receive Pakistani goods that Taliban had rescued after a trade convoy of Pakistani trucks had been looted by gunmen on Kandahar-Herat highway. Taliban handed over the goods to Pakistan but were very cautious and gave a lukewarm response to Pakistani delegation.
The author claims Taliban officials led by Mullah Abbas, a member of the Taliban leadership council, was not enthusiastic about the Pakistani delegation, said, "Pakistan intends to have good relations with the Taliban."
"Do not create problems among the Afghans," Abbas told the Pakistani delegation in reference to the infighting between Rabbani and Hekmatyar, according to the book.
Taliban leaders realized that their "cool ties" with Pakistan will benefit their opponents. The Taliban also changed mind in view of the support they would receive from the refugees in Pakistan and the arrival of youth to fight alongside with the Taliban against the Rabbani forces. Taliban would also transfer their injured fighters for treatment to Pakistan.
Pakistani rulers also used some religious and political parties to strengthen relations with the Taliban. Pakistan enhanced relations with the Taliban as they expanded their control. Pakistan also strengthened its symbolic consulate in the Taliban-controlled Kandahar and opened consulate in Herat that formalised its relations with the Taliban.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had launched criticism at the Taliban when the US slapped sanctions on the Taliban in July 1999. Nawaz Sharif sought handover of some Pakistani militants who were wanted to Pakistan. Shahbaz Sharif had threatened to close border with Afghanistan. But the Musharraf coup was a sigh of relief for the Taliban regime. The book discloses Mullah Omar was taken to Quetta after he was injured while fighting against the Soviets. He returned to Kandahar after getting an eye treatment. This was the only visit he had made to Pakistan in his life. Mullah Omar had been injured 4 times while fighting the Soviets. Foreign relations: Mullah Omar had issued special instructions to the Foreign Ministry during the Taliban 1996-2001 govt to focus on relations with China as China was a good choice with compare to the US and Russia. Chinese were also allowed by the Taliban officials to explore investment opportunities in Afghanistan, the book says.
Omar believed the Chinese never had imperialistic approach towards Afghans. The author disclosed that the Taliban had allowed the Chinese security officials and engineers to examine an unexploded missile that Americans had fired on Afghanistan in August 1998.
The writer has made it explicit in the introduction that he has no formal job at the Taliban currently, and that by writing the book he wanted to write the history - neutrally - of a crucial period of Afghanistan based on his access to sources and his firsthand experience. The author was not only a spokesman for Mullah Omar, but also continued his job as a spokesman or media advisor serving alongside acting Taliban leaders, who led the insurgency throughout one decade of the movement's resurgence.

The 400-page book, according to its publisher, has become one of the best-sellers in the first month of its publication, among Afghans in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Some of the key events about which Mutmain provides fresh insight are as below:

* How Mullah Omar's death was kept secret and how he died?

* Taliban's relations with Pakistan, China and Iran: start and development.

* The circumstances around an Indian plane hijacked to Kandahar in 2000, and the Russian plane hijacked to Kandahar, and then flown by its pilots from detention.

* The verbal dispute between Saudi Arabia's head of intelligence Turki Al Faisal and Mullah Omar. The writer was a witness to that meeting in 1998.

Afghanistan - غني کړکېچ جوړونکو ته: موږ هر اقتصادي کړکېچ په فرصت بدلولای شو

Video Report - د رزمک د ځېنو سیمو خلک د څښلو اوبه نه لري

د شمالي وزیرستان د رزمک ځېنو سیمو اوسېدونکي وايي، د څښلو اوبه نه لري او کوهیان وچ شوي دي. دوی وايي، که ورته حکومت نللیکه جوړه کړي نو د دوی د اوبو کمښت به پوره شي. دوی مشال راډیو ته وویل، ښځې یې لرې، لرې چینو ته ورځي او په مشکل اوبه راوړي. ویډیويي رپورټ وګورئ.

Beware of Daesh in Pakistan

By Mubashir Akram
The Pakistani state and society are at war for over forty years. This asymmetrical warfare has seen many actors since the late 1970s. First, it was the backlash on Pakistan’s policies in Afghanistan and bombs started to go off in trains and buses killing people. This trend converted into the high pitched battles that two sects in Pakistan fought apparently with ideological and financial assistance from two ‘brotherly’ Islamic nations.
The trends of sectarianism got upped from domestic objectives to transnational and global designs, and Al-Qaeda was born in Peshawar. Yes, this was Peshawar where it happened as those were different days and terrorists of today were holy warriors then. Instead of taking a very sharp u-turn, the state should have rather tried rehabilitating a maximum number of these militarised individuals but the political hastes of a dictator made tremendous social wastes.
The terrorists’ ideology of a promised future operates more successfully in societies where the state-citizen connectivity is weak Locally and internationally financed, a mix of sectarian and Al-Qaeda militancy later provided crucial support to the emergence of Taliban. A huge number of Pakistani Muslims would probably still believe that the emergence of Taliban was because of the popular support of the local populations, and as if this was the reemergence of their faith, but cold facts point toward the global oil and pipeline politics of the day that needed a relative stable Afghanistan for a couple of huge and ambitions energy projects.
Prior to the Iraqi and Syrian wars, the non-state violence was less organised and lethal, but the convergence of the hyper-radicals in these countries not only created an organised comradery of the militants, but also brought new ideas of the gory violence these people perpetrated against combatants and non-combatants alike. This new harbinger of militant threat is Daesh that essentially grew in Iraqi and Syrian voids of political governance that broke down as a result of wars there. Extremist obscurantism grows when states and societies do not counter the emergence of violent and misdirected religious and political falsehoods that attract particularly the youth in the name of making a change that would get them the promised glory. Daesh deploys the same tactics and the appeal toward the Muslim youth across many nations of the world, including Pakistan.
Although the political and administrative executive have repeatedly rejected the reports of Daesh’s presence in Pakistan, the group raises its venomous head every now and then. The Pakistani law enforcement agencies have been fighting the terrorist group in the urban, semi-urban and rural backgrounds across the country, and have scored commendable successes. But the real challenge, and accomplishment would be to constantly refuse letting the group claim any ideological and geographical foothold in Pakistan. This is a war that barrels and bullets cannot win alone; brain will. For reference’s sake, let us not forget what Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) did to people in Swat once they had a foothold.
The terrorists’ ideology of a promised future operates more successfully in societies where the state-citizen connectivity is weak. This relationship becomes turbulent when the state does not deliver on what the citizenship otherwise promises to people. Inside the sphere of mistrust, the radicals constantly throw the catch phrases to attract popular support, particularly among the youth. Disenchanted by a mix of political, social and individual reactions, the youth are more susceptible to ideologies of violence and extremism. That is exactly what has happened in Pakistan for truly a long period of time now, but that must be checked diligently to prevent Pakistan from slipping into four more decades of violent turbulence.
With a critical consciousness, the Pakistani society must respond toward the fallacy of what the Daesh promises. People, particularly youth need to understand that violence can never be a journey or a destination. The state and civil society must collaborate against a challenge that is emergent, and poses clear danger to a Pakistan that is slowly becoming good news for its citizens and the world. The political establishment has to deliver on governance. The military establishment has to ensure security. And the ‘people’s establishment’ must ensure that the Daesh’s ideologies are successfully rejected whatever the packaging is. Extremism, political or religious, is a fallacy. It is a problem, and not a solution.

Pakistan - 2 Navy sailors gunned down in Gwadar shooting

Two Navy sailors were martyred and at least three others wounded when their vehicle was attacked the Jiwani area of Gwadar district on Monday.
The sailors were transporting iftar items during a routine run from Jiwani city when their vehicle was ambushed by four assailants on two motorbikes, a senior local administration official told DawnNews.
The assailants opened fire on the vehicle indiscriminately, leaving one man martyred and five wounded, he said.
A spokesman for the Navy, however, said that three personnel had been injured.
The five wounded were shifted to Karachi for medical treatment. One of the wounded succumbed to his injuries, bringing the death toll to two, the official added.
Security was tightened after the incident and a search operation was launched in the area to apprehend those involved in the attack.
Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri condemned the incident and directed the levies and police to submit a report regarding the attack.
"We will not bow down before the terrorists," Zehri said in his condemnation statement.
There has been no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Security challenges facing Balochistan and CPEC

The shooting incident occurs after Pakistan and China have inked agreements aimed at boosting cooperation in various sectors between the two countries.
China is also developing the warm water Gwadar port, a prominent feature of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan. The CPEC project — with an investment of $57 billion and the Gwadar port as its lynchpin — is billed to be a 'game-changer' and manifestation of a strategic partnership between Pakistan and China.
Though the road where the labourers were working was not a specific CPEC-funded project, it was a part of a network of connecting roads that are part of the corridor ─ a common target for separatists militants who view construction projects as a means to take over their land.
The need to tighten security in Balochistan has grown over the years as separatist militants continue to wage their campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich region's resources.
In May, at least 10 labourers were killed in Balochistan's Gwadar district when unidentified assailants opened fire at the construction site where they were working, Levies sources said.
Unidentified gunmen on motorcycles opened indiscriminate fire on a group of labourers working at a road in Gwadar's Pishgan area, killing eight of them on the spot, Levies sources confirmed.

Balochistan: Pakistani forces abduct head of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons

The Pakistani police and other security agencies have attacked a tailoring shop in Quetta on Sunday and abducted the chairman of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Nasrullah along with his three friends.
According to a brief press statement by Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), Nasrullah was working in his tailoring shop in Quetta when the Pakistani forces barged into the shop and arrested him and his colleagues.
“The Pakistani forces have abducted Nasrullah and others without any proof and reason,” the VBMP said.
Mr Nasrullah Baloch formed the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, a human rights organisation striving for the safe release of all abducted Baloch after Pakistani forces abducted his uncle Ali Asghar Bangulzai in 2001.
Since early 2009 he has been actively and peacefully raising voice for the safe recovery of abducted Baloch. His organisation (VBMP) has used all the democratic venues for the release of their loved ones.
They have submitted numerous applications at Balochistan High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan and organised peaceful protests, hunger strike camps and meetings to highlight the cases of enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons also organised the longest ever peaceful march from Quetta to Islamabad in its effort to raise awareness about enforced disappearances in Balochistan. The VBMP has also been on a continuous token hunger strike from past 2698 days.
Pakistani security forces and the government of Pakistan instead of listening to their plea for help have been threatening them and creating hurdles in their way in order to force them to give up their struggle.
The leaders of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons include Nasrullah Baloch, Abdul Qadeer Baloch and Farzana Majeed Baloch who started their struggle after Pakistani forces disappeared and killed their loved ones.
Pakistani force abducted Nasrullah’s uncle Ali Asghar Bangulzai (a tailor by profession) in 2001 and his whereabouts still unknown, Farzana Majeed’s brother Zakir Majeed, a senior student leader, was abducted in June 2009 from Mastung and he’s also still in the custody of Pakistani forces but his family has not been made aware of his whereabouts. Abdul Qadeer Baloch’s son Jalil Reki a leader of the Baloch Republic Party (BRP) was abducted from Quetta and later killed in custody.
The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons has made it their task to strive for the safe recovery of all Baloch abducted persons instead of only struggling for their loved ones. Their struggle has been the most peaceful, democratic, and longest ever struggle for the safe release of Baloch enforced-disappeared persons.
They are struggling in accordance with International Human Rights laws, UN, and Geneva conventions but the Pakistani state’s intolerance and frustration have now left no space for the peaceful struggle.

Saudi Slave - Pakistan’s dilemma

Since Pakistan has cordial relations with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia it cannot afford to take sides in the prevailing conflict.
Following the holding of Arab-Islamic-US summit held in Riyadh in May and the Saudi led action taken against Qatar in June, Pakistan having cordial relations with both Saudi Arabia and Qatar is facing a paradoxical situation.
How should Pakistan cope with recent crisis in the Gulf and what should be its strategy to deal with the growing schism between the Saudi led GCC members and Qatar and the Turkish-Iranian position taken against Riyadh? What leadership role Pakistan can play in preventing an impeding armed conflict in the Gulf and how it can withstand growing Saudi pressure over Islamabad to take a position against Qatar?
Saudi led action against Qatar on June 5 tends to divide the Arab-Muslim world because Doha has rejected the allegations of Saudi Arabia and the United States of Qatar sponsoring terrorist groups in the Arab world. Paradoxically, if Qatar is involved in fomenting terrorism then why are there 10,000 US forces in that country and why were the charges against Qatar not presented during the Riyadh summit?
Supporting Hamas against its struggle to emancipate the Palestinian territories from the clutches of Israel is legitimate and cannot be equated with terrorism. Likewise, Qatar’s support to the then regime of Mohammad Morsi of Egypt made sense because it was a legitimate and democratically-elected government which was overthrown in a military coup. In fact, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that charges against Qatar of sponsoring terrorism in the Middle East were baseless and action against the Gulf state must be withdrawn immediately.
Qatar has remained an important member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) but it refused to take sides against Iran. In fact, the Saudi led action against Qatar emanates from insecurity prevailing in some Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain about Doha’s successes in transforming Qatar as an economic and technological hub of the Middle East.
When it is becoming obvious that the very purpose of Riyadh summit and the so-called IMA was to isolate Iran and now Qatar, Pakistan must seek an immediate withdrawal from that alliance before it is too late.
As far as TV channel Al-Jazeera located in Doha is concerned, since long its independent and professional news coverage and analysis caused reservations and insecurity among the conservative and dictatorial Arab regimes. Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani said in Moscow the other day that his country will not come under any pressure from Saudi Arabia or UAE to close Al-Jazeera and will not compromise on its foreign policy interests.
On these grounds, actions taken against Qatar under the initiative of Saudi Arabia and the United States are devoid of any legitimate reason and tend to generate a major crisis in the Middle East. Furthermore, two key members of GCC: Kuwait and Oman, are not a party to the Saudi led action against Qatar, which further reflects deep split in the Gulf.
Because of four main reasons Pakistan is facing a catch 22 situation as far as dealing with Qatar crisis is concerned. First, since Pakistan has cordial relations with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia and is also dependent on both the Gulf countries for economic reasons, it cannot afford to be partisan and take sides in the prevailing conflict.
If Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain exert pressure over Pakistan to cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar and ban Qatar Airways operating its flights from that country, Pakistan must refuse such coercion because acquiescing to Riyadh led alliance against Qatar would compromise its national interest and sovereignty.
Second, following the Islamic-Arab-US summit held in Riyadh and the subsequent action against Qatar, the issue of Pakistan remaining in the so-called Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) needs to be given second thoughts. Saudi-US nexus against Iran is a serious matter as both countries are focusing on further isolating Tehran on unsubstantiated charges of sponsoring terrorism.
The recent terrorist attacks in Tehran and Qum and the allegations of Iranian leaders that Saudi Arabia was responsible for conducting such attacks has made the position of Pakistan quite delicate. Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf countries were angry with Qatar on why it was not supporting their anti-Iranian alliance and was pursuing an independent foreign policy.
If the motive of IMA is to isolate Iran and take action against Qatar, in that case, Pakistan must adopt a bold stand by withdrawing from that alliance, which is becoming a source of embarrassment and rift in the Arab-Muslim World.
Third, without further wasting any more time, Pakistan must play a leadership role in the Muslim world by presenting a meaningful plan for managing existing conflicts between Saudi Arabia and Qatar because crisis between the two is detrimental to the interests of the Arab-Muslim world.
In that case, Pakistan can coordinate with Oman and Kuwait, the two neutral GCC members on Qatar crisis and compel Saudi Arabia and Qatar to resolve their contentious issues through negotiations. Qatar, unlike Iraq, which in August 1990 had occupied Kuwait, is not involved in any aggression and cannot be punished by imposing sanctions on dubious charges of sponsoring terrorism and terrorist groups in the Middle East.
If Saudi Arabia and its allies want to take a position against aggression, occupation, and terrorism, they must take measures against Israel which since its inception is involved in targeting innocent Palestinians and is also an occupier of Arab lands including the holy city of Jerusalem.
Finally, the perception that Pakistan is a hub of sectarian proxy war of Saudi Arabia and Iran needs to be dispelled by denying any space to all those forces that have foreign linkages and are using religious discords to pursue their own agendas.
Pakistan also needs to dispel the notion that it can be taken for granted by Saudi Arabia because of economic dependence. It needs to be cleared by those who wield power in Pakistan that their country is not a mercenary state and cannot be used in Saudi-Iranian conflict.
Unfortunately, the fault lines in Pakistan’s crisis of decision-making are responsible for creating doubts, ambiguity and concerns on how to respond to a situation which appears to be quite critical.
While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with the Chief of Army Staff paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and had a meeting with the Saudi monarch to find a solution of Qatar crisis, Nawaz Sharif on account of his personal relations with the royal family should have also visited Qatar and discussed with Qatri leadership on how to resolve the prevailing conflict between Qatar on the one hand and the Saudi-backed GCC countries on the other because a unilateral diplomatic initiative cannot succeed and is always counterproductive.
The Qatar crisis is a test case for Pakistan’s foreign policy because the aggravation of crisis will negatively impact on the country’s vital interests. When it is becoming obvious that the very purpose of Riyadh summit and the so-called IMA was to isolate Iran and now Qatar, Pakistan must seek an immediate withdrawal from that alliance before it is too late and the sectarian divide in the Gulf destabilises the state and society of Pakistan.

Journalists in Pakistan under fire from many sides

Bakhsheesh Elahi was waiting for the morning bus when a lone gunman on a motorcycle pulled up beside him and shot him dead. Rana Tanveer had just taken his family to safety after radical Islamists spray-painted death threats on his door, when a car smashed into his motorcycle and sped away.
Taha Siddiqui answered his phone to hear a menacing voice from a government agency telling him he needed to come in for questioning, without saying why.
The three men are journalists in Pakistan, considered one of the most dangerous places in the world for this profession. But even by Pakistan’s standards, things have gotten worse, according to journalists, Pakistani and international human rights activists, and advocacy groups.
In addition to attacks from militants or criminals, Pakistani journalists are also facing threats from government agencies or the military itself.
“Journalists are not threatened from one side alone, they are threatened by drug mafia, they are threatened by political gangs. They are also threatened by religious extremists,” said Asma Jehangir, a human rights lawyer and the director of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
“They are threatened by the military. They are also threatened by people who are deeply (involved) in corruption, but when it comes to the extremist elements, governments are very reluctant to move because they themselves are afraid of them.”
Elahi, a determined investigative reporter in northwestern Pakistan’s Haripur, is just the latest example. The father of five, including a daughter born just 20 days earlier, was killed on June 11 while waiting for a bus a few hundred meters from his home.
Local journalists turned Elahi’s funeral into a protest, carrying his body through the streets and stopping traffic to demand that the killers be brought to justice, according to Zakir Hussain Tandi, president of the Haripur Press Club.
But impunity and a lack of prosecution has characterized many of the attacks on journalists in Pakistan. Elahi, who was bureau chief of an Urdu language newspaper and sister television station, was the fourth journalist killed in Haripur district in the last three years. All but one of the murders has gone unsolved.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says 60 journalists and 10 media workers have been killed in Pakistan since 1992. Elahi’s Facebook page featured his relentless reporting against political corruption. One of the country’s largest television news channels to feature one of his stories.
“We think his death is probably related to journalism,” said Tandi of the press club. “Lots of people didn’t like his investigations, the drug mafia, corrupt politicians, car thieves. He wrote about them all.”
Pakistani journalists and social media activists have been detained, often by intelligence agencies, tortured according to some who were released, and threatened with blasphemy charges, which carry the death penalty and routinely incite mobs of radical extremists to violence. Last week, a social media activist was sentenced to death for allegedly posting an item deemed insulting to Islam. That sentence “sends a threatening message to all ... causing fear and leading to self-censorship,” Steven Butler, Asia director of the CPJ, said in an email. “It’s clear that authorities — including investigative authorities, prosecutors, and the military — are keeping a close eye on journalists and ready to act when red lines are crossed.”
Last month, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan ordered a crackdown on “those ridiculing the Pakistan Army on social media (to protect) the prestige, reputation and goodwill” of the armed forces.
On May 18, Taha Siddiqui, Pakistan’s correspondent for France 24 TV, received a threatening call from someone claiming to represent the counter-terrorism wing of the Federal Investigation Agency , ordering him to come in for questioning. Siddiqui, who is also bureau chief of the World Is One News website, is an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies.
“My work is in the public domain,” Siddiqui asked. “What does counter-terrorism have to do with journalism, with free speech?”
Siddiqui phoned colleagues for advice and stopped answering his door. He eventually spoke to Jehangir, the human rights lawyer, who advised him to file a petition demanding to know why he was being investigated. Siddiqui, who didn’t go in for questioning, has already made at least one court appearance and was told by the FIA that he was being investigated because of his critical stories about the military. On May 30, Rana Tanveer, a correspondent for the English-language daily newspaper, The Express Tribune, found death threats spray painted on his home in eastern Lahore saying he would die for writing stories about the plight of minorities in Pakistan — particularly Ahmedis, reviled by mainstream Muslims who label them as heretics because they believe in a messiah who arrived after the Prophet Muhammad.
Pakistan has officially declared them non-Muslims, making it a crime for Ahmedis to identify themselves as Muslims. Dozens are facing charges.
“That was shocking for me,” Tanveer said of the spray-painted threats. He went to the police, which didn’t register a case but instead advised him against filing a formal complaint, saying it would enrage the radicals who had threatened him. Tanveer has received several such threats over the years; even his landlord had been warned against renting to him because of his coverage of religious minorities.
On June 9, Tanveer was riding his motorcycle after meeting a colleague from the Pakistan Union of Journalists to decide how to deal with the threats when a speeding car slammed into him and sent him crashing to the pavement. He suffered a fractured leg and believes it was no accident.
Today, he is in hiding with his family, unprotected by police and unsure when he can return to his job.
Jehangir said she believes the government crackdown is being done at least partially at the behest of Pakistan’s military.
“They think that the image of Pakistan is being destroyed by the word getting out of here,” she said. “Now, if you stop picking up people, stop torturing people, the image will improve, but don’t shoot the messenger.”

How Pakistan's army is politicizing Champions Trophy win

Pakistan's army took to Twitter aggressively on Sunday to politicise the Pakistani cricket team's win against India in the Champions Trophy final.

It also announced 'umrah' for the cricket team, underlining the significant role that both religion and the army play in the country's body politic. (Umrah is a non-mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca.)

Throughout the duration of the match on Sunday, It appeared that for the Pakistani army, the Champions Trophy final was indeed "war minus the shooting", to borrow a phrase from cricket writer Mike Marqusee.

On Sunday, not only did the Pakistani army's media unit flood its Twitter account with pictures of soldiers and various army personages watching the match, it then quoted its army chief Qamar Bajwa describing the team as one that is "against every threat".

To be clear, Bajwa was talking about his country's cricket team and not its notorious Border Action Team which is responsible for cross-border attacks, mutilation of Indian soldiers' bodies and raids across the Line of Control.

There's more.

The army's media unit then painted the Pakistani cricket team as one that along with the "valiant soldiers of Pakistan" and the "nation" would "defend Pak against all threats our enemies hatch."

Again, this was a cricket win that was being described.

Then, the media unit - called Inter-Services Public Relations - posted a photo, purportedly of people watching the match in Balochistan, with a caption that said "lay off".