Wednesday, July 5, 2017

China, Russia team up to challenge the dominance of Western media

In an article published in the Russian newspaper Izvestia on Tuesday, Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev wrote that the Western mass media distorts information about the intentions of countries as the main weapon in their information war.
According to Kosachev, the main objective behind this distortion is the creation of a myth that portrays certain countries as dangerous aggressors. “Thanks to all these Orwellian statements we are now living in some sort of an inside-out reality,” the Russian senator wrote, according to an English translation of the Russian-language report in RT.
Though Kosachev was talking specifically about how the Western mass media distorts Russia’s intentions, his comments apply to all key potential U.S. rivals, including, and perhaps especially, China, which is often cast as a rising power with malign intentions and commonly singled out as the biggest threat to U.S. hegemony.
His comments also come at a time of profound time change in discourse, as media from all corners of the world battle to gain the dominant position in a fast-changing global media landscape.
On July 4, Lu Xinning, deputy editor-in-chief of the People’s Daily, urged the Chinese and Russian media to work together to break the dominance of Western discourse in a speech at the third China-Russia Media Forum in Moscow, Russia.
Lu said China and Russia should work together to seize the opportunity of this new media era. “As two big powers, strategic collaboration between our two countries is related to global stability. This same logic applies to discourse, which can have a global impact,” Lu said.
Lu noted that in recent years, the Western discourse against China and Russia has been strong and the West is trying to force its Hobbes’s “war of all against all” view on China and Russia, creating a distorted view of the two world powers.
The Chinese and Russian media cannot let others interpret the international order and international rules on their behalf, and should take the initiative in this fierce international competition over discourse, Lu added. “This new media era has redefined the way in which information is disseminated and acquired, creating a rare opportunity for developing countries and emerging market countries to win the right to speak.”
But Lu’s call to action will be far from simple, as one reader pointed out. “No doubt [this effort] will be portrayed in the Western Privileged Press as a vast communist conspiracy against ‘freedom,’ ‘rule of law,’ and of course ‘democracy’ through the spreading of evil propaganda,’ the user wrote on People’s Daily Online. Then added: “[But] I certainly hope this effort helps to refute the false narrative of the 'Empire of the Exceptionals.'”
The Russian senator in his comments also talked about countering a false narrative: “The demagogy about attacks on values and freedoms should be countered with the truth about the geopolitical motives of Western nations’ actions,” Kosachev wrote.
The practice of demonizing other countries in the Western mass media plays a key role in keeping the myth of exceptionalism alive and well, but comes at the cost of other countries’ image and progress. In the U.S., for example, elite policymakers and the mainstream media passionately believe in “American exceptionalism.” They are convinced that the U.S. is a “shining city upon a hill,” morally superior to every other country on earth, and this thinking is reflected in their powerful and influential discourse.
But the tide may be turning. On Tuesday, visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin witnessed the signing ceremony of a media cooperation agreement in Moscow. The agreement, signed between People’s Daily President Yang Zhenwu and Sergey Mikhaylov, director general of Russia’s TASS news agency, will allow both sides to form a comprehensive strategic partnership under the principles of equality and mutual trust. Eighteen other agreements were also signed at the China-Russia media forum in Moscow on July 4.

Merkel: Europe Still Can’t Rely on Washington

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated earlier remarks that Europe can no longer rely on the United States.

In claiming that EU members — and Europe as a whole — can no longer rely upon Washington, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has issued a call to arms, saying that the continent must take its fate into its own hands.

Just two days before the G20 summit of world leaders, which will include the attendance of the increasingly polarizing figure of US President Donald Trump, Merkel doubled down on earlier remarks, affirming that Europe "really must take our fate into our own hands," according to the Washington Examiner.
Insisting that her pointed remarks are not to be interpreted in any way except literally, Merkel added: "yes, exactly that way," in an interview with the Associated Press.
"It is, for example, open whether we can and should in the future rely on the US investing so much as it is has so far in the United Nations' work, in Middle East policy, in European security or in peace missions in Africa."
A three-time world leader who has been criticized as being too soft on the policies of the current US president, Merkel observed that Trump's anti-globalization posture serves to exacerbate the belief that only "winners and losers" populate the global financial architecture, ignoring the possibility of a "win-win situation" in which all nations benefit.
"While we are looking at the possibilities of cooperation to benefit everyone, globalization is seen by the American administration more as a process that is not about a win-win situation but about winners and losers," Merkel said.
In an interview with the weekly Die Zeit magazine ahead of the upcoming July 7-8 world financial summit in Hamburg, Germany, Merkel stated that — in spite of expected disagreement on the economy, trade and migration — "As G20 president, it is my job to work on possibilities for agreement and not to contribute to a situation where a lack of communication prevails," cited by Reuters.

Merkel criticizes Trump trade policy before G20 Merkel criticizes Trump trade policy before G20

By Ivana Kottasová  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized the U.S. administration for its zero-sum approach to world trade.

Her remarks were published on the eve of a bilateral meeting with President Trump, and as she prepares to host world leaders for a G20 summit in Hamburg on Friday and Saturday.
"While we are looking at the possibilities of cooperation to benefit everyone, globalization is seen by the American administration more as a process that is not about a win-win situation but about winners and losers," she was quoted as saying in an interview with German magazine Die Zeit published on Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized the U.S. administration for its zero-sum approach to world trade. Her remarks were published on the eve of a bilateral meeting with President Trump, and as she prepares to host world leaders for a G20 summit in Hamburg on Friday and Saturday. "While we are looking at the possibilities of cooperation to benefit everyone, globalization is seen by the American administration more as a process that is not about a win-win situation but about winners and losers," she was quoted as saying in an interview with German magazine Die Zeit published on Wednesday.

Trump has consistently painted the U.S. trade deficit with countries such as China, Germany and Mexico as evidence that America is losing the global economic game.
Merkel told Die Zeit she didn't share the view expressed by Trump advisers that the world was an arena in which nations compete for advantage, rather than a community.
"We don't want just a few to profit from economic advances. Everyone should participate," she was quoted as saying.

Trump has consistently painted the U.S. trade deficit with countries such as China, Germany and Mexico as evidence that America is losing the global economic game. Merkel told Die Zeit she didn't share the view expressed by Trump advisers that the world was an arena in which nations compete for advantage, rather than a community. "We don't want just a few to profit from economic advances. Everyone should participate," she was quoted as saying.

Merkel's first meeting with the U.S. president in March turned awkward when Trump appeared to decline to shake her hand.
Trump has spoken out against Germany on several occasions, both on the campaign trail and while in office. He criticized Merkel's decision to welcome Syrian refugees to Germany, accusing her of "ruining Germany," and has slammed the country for running a big trade surplus.
At a meeting with senior European officials in Brussels in May, Trump said Germany was "very bad on trade."
In response to Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and his tilt towards protectionism, Merkel, who is facing an election later this year, has been championing free trade and cooperation on the environment.
Speaking to the German parliament last week, she said that "anyone who believes they can solve the problems of this world with isolationism and protectionism is making a big mistake."

Merkel's first meeting with the U.S. president in March turned awkward when Trump appeared to decline to shake her hand. Trump has spoken out against Germany on several occasions, both on the campaign trail and while in office. He criticized Merkel's decision to welcome Syrian refugees to Germany, accusing her of "ruining Germany," and has slammed the country for running a big trade surplus. At a meeting with senior European officials in Brussels in May, Trump said Germany was "very bad on trade." In response to Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and his tilt towards protectionism, Merkel, who is facing an election later this year, has been championing free trade and cooperation on the environment. Speaking to the German parliament last week, she said that "anyone who believes they can solve the problems of this world with isolationism and protectionism is making a big mistake."

Putin, Xi message to Trump: US unipolar world is over

Finian Cunningham 

The US' strategy has been to isolate Russia internationally. Evidently, it is Washington that is becoming more isolated on the global stage. This week in the run-up to the G20 summit in Germany, the reverse in fortunes could not be more glaring.
While North Korea was openly defying Washington with a breakthrough ballistic missile test, and US President Donald Trump was embroiled in his usual juvenile tweeting antics, Russia and China’s leaders were proudly consolidating their strategic alliance for a new multipolar global order.
Western media won’t acknowledge as much, but the meeting this week in Moscow between Putin and Xi Jinping was of historical importance. We are witnessing a global transition in power. And for the common good.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping bond through an apparent deep sense of mutual respect and wisdom about the political challenges facing today’s world. The two leaders have met on more than 20 occasions over the past four years. President Xi referred to Russia as China’s foremost ally and said that in a topsy-turvy world the friendship between the two was a source of countervailing stability.
On the breaking news of North Korea’s successful test launch of its first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), both Putin and Xi called for calm restraint. By contrast, US President Trump took to Twitter to taunt Kim Jong-Un. “Does this guy not have anything better to do with his life?” said Trump in words that could apply more pertinently to the American president.
Then the US and its South Korea ally also launched their ballistic missiles in a military drill aimed as a show of strength to Pyongyang. Kim Jung-Un responded that the ICBM was a “gift for the American bastards” on their Fourth of July Independence Day holiday and that there would more such gifts on the way.
Rather than escalating tensions, Putin and Xi put forward the eminently reasonable proposal that North Korea should freeze its missile tests and the US should likewise halt its military exercises on the Korean peninsula. All sides must convene in negotiations with a commitment to non-violence and without preconditions to strive for a comprehensive settlement to the decades-old dispute.
The contrast in Putin and Xi’s dignified, intelligent response with that of Trump’s petulance is clear proof of Russia and China showing real global leadership, whereas the Americans are just part of the problem.
But the Korean drama was only one illustration this week of how American ambitions of unipolar dominance have become redundant.
The G20 summit prelude of Putin hosting Xi in Moscow was followed by the Chinese president making a state visit to Germany on Wednesday two days before the gathering in Hamburg. Xi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedlysigned new trade deals between the world’s two leading export economies.
“Relations between China and Germany are at their historic best,”said Michael Clauss, Germany’s ambassador to Beijing. “The economic and political dynamic from a German perspective is moving toward the east.”
Of significance too was news this week the European Union is preparing to finalize a major trade pact with Japan.
It is also significant that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on China and Russia to help mediate the Korean crisis immediately following Pyongyang’s ICMB test launch.
Evidently, Japan, despite being an ally of Washington, is reaching out to a multilateral solution as proposed by Moscow and Beijing.
In so many ways, therefore, whether on matters of security or trade and economy, the world appears to be moving inexorably toward a multipolar format as the most appropriate response to challenges.
Not so from the American point of view, especially under Donald Trump’s leadership. All nations seem to be nothing more than a footstool for the “exceptional” Americans who feel entitled to hector and browbeat everyone else to get what they want.
America’s isolation in the world was glimpsed at the G7 summit earlier this year in May when the other nations awkwardly diverged from Trump on his decision to withdraw the US from the global climate accord. Two months on, the isolation of Washington is even more vivid on the world stage as G20 leaders gather in Hamburg this weekend.
A Bloomberg News headline put it succinctly: ‘Trump risks uniting Cold War allies and foes against him’.
Trump’s quest for “America First” through trade protectionism and his narrow-minded unilateralism toward issues of global security have put America out on a limb as far as the rest of the world is concerned.
Where is the American “team player”, the supposed “leader of the free world”? All the self-proclaimed virtues are being seen for what they always were: overblown, pretentious and vainglorious bombast.
America is seen as nothing more than a selfish, hulking giant. Its trade imbalances with the rest of the world are not because of “rotten deals”, as Trump would have it, but rather because the American economy has ruined itself over many decades. The off-shoring of jobs by American corporations and gutting of American workers with poverty wages are part of it.
When America now talks about upholding international law and security, the rest of the world just laughs with bitter irony. The wars across the Middle East and the sponsoring of terrorism are largely US products of criminal regime-change intrigues. Who is this deluded head-case in Washington?
The same deluded head-case that has “beautiful chocolate cake” with China’s president in a Florida beach resort, and then proceeds to slap sanctions on China and make provocative military incursions on its territory. It’s not just Trump. It’s the whole American political leadership. The American ruling class has become so blinded by hubris that it can’t even see how the world it claims to dominate is collectively shutting the door on it and walking away.
Washington has no answers for today’s world challenges. Because simply put, Washington is the source of many of today’s problems. It has not even the modesty to acknowledge its responsibility. The only thing the US seems capable of is to make current problems fiendishly worse. The Korean crisis is an object lesson.
Presidents Putin and Xi are not scheming to usurp world domination, as Washington would have us believe. Only in Washington would a vision for a multipolar, more democratic global order be construed as something threatening and sinister. That’s because American ambitions of unipolar “full spectrum dominance” are actually threatening and sinister.
The world can be thankful it has genuine leaders in Putin and Xi who are forging ahead to create a multipolar global order. Fortunately, the strategic alliance between Russia and China is underpinned by a formidable military capability. Joint naval exercises this month carried out in the Baltic Sea are a vital insurance policy to back up what Moscow and Beijing are increasingly bold enough to say to the Americans.
That message, as Putin and Xi effectively gave to Trump this week, is that American ambitions of world domination are no longer acceptable and no longer tenable. Washington’s days of bullying the world with its moralizing hypocrisy and military aggression are over.

Clinton responds to GOP request for healthcare plan with campaign page

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton fired back at the Republican National Committee's request Wednesday for a healthcare plan by sending them her former campaign’s plan on the topic.
The RNC sent out a series of tweets Wednesday targeting Democratic lawmakers, including Clinton, with clips of those lawmakers calling for changes to healthcare, asking them, “Where’s your plan?”
Clinton shot back a few hours after the initial tweet, linking a page to her campaign website.
“Right here. Includes radical provisions like how not to kick 23 [million people] off their coverage. Feel free to run [with] it,” Clinton tweeted in response.

Right here. Includes radical provisions like how not to kick 23 mil ppl off their coverage. Feel free to run w/it. 

Clinton said throughout her presidential campaign that she would defend ObamaCare, but admitted that changes did have to be made to the plan.
The GOP Twitter account tweeted the message at Clinton along with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
The RNC was targeting Democratic senators who are refusing to back the Republican plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Senate Republicans are currently working on their second draft of the legislation after several GOP senators said they wouldn’t support the first version of the bill.

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Video - PM Modi meets Mumbai attack survivor Moshe in Israel

Video - PM Modi at Indian Community Event in Israel


Israel’s venture capital community is beginning to truly discover India and its enormous potential not for just the IT sector, but also for many different hi-tech fields.

As the hi-tech sectors of Tel Aviv, Bangalore and Silicon Valley continue to blossom, a group of Indian-American entrepreneurs are hoping to build a robust triangle to connect these three hotpots. 

“Maybe we could envision an Israeli investor, putting money into a company in India that sells to the US market, through an office in Silicon Valley,” M. R. Rangaswami, a Silicon Valley-based software executive and investor, told The Jerusalem Post. “Or it could be the opposite – an Indian-American investor who invests in an Israeli company and sells stuff to India."

Rangaswami is among 15 Indian-American business leaders currently visiting Israel in parallel with the historic arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the country. In a trip organized by the Indiaspora organization in conjunction with the American Jewish Committee, the delegates are meeting with Israeli and Indian accelerators, venture capitalists, incubators and entrepreneurs over the next few days, with hopes of cementing future partnerships among the three communities.
"Maybe someone this week will end up investing in an Israeli start-up – this gets the ball rolling," Rangaswami said.

In addition to his role as founder and president of Indiaspora, which strives to unite Indian-Americans to promote a meaningful impact for India, Rangaswami is the co-founder of Sand Hill Group, one of the first angel investors in Silicon Valley.

While the Tel Aviv-Bangalore-Silicon Valley network that Rangaswami and his colleagues are envisioning would be a virtual framework, physical interactions among investors and start-ups from each side would be critical to future work together, he explained.

"There's a lot of entrepreneurial potential in all these groups,” he said. “There have been many successful role models to follow as well."

In Silicon Valley alone, one out of every three start-ups has an Indian-American co-founder, and Indian-American CEOs serve at Microsoft, Google and Adobe, Rangaswami added.

While the Indian-American members of the Indiaspora delegation are interested in many potential areas of collaboration, they are particularly eyeing Israeli innovators who specialize the cyber-security sector, according to Rangaswami.

"That's a hot sector – everybody is curious,” he said. “Our whole delegation is curious about the work Israeli companies and venture capitalists are doing in this space. It's an important thing for us, important for India, so it's an obvious choice."

Arun Kumar, who previously served in the Obama administration as assistant secretary of commerce for global markets, likewise emphasized the mutual benefits of working together in such a triangle for innovation. 
"There is tremendous potential in the connection between Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Bangalore – more broadly, between Israel, India and the US, particularly in areas of innovation tech and entrepreneurship,” said Kumar, who is now chairman and CEO of India’s KPMG, which specializes risk, financial & business advisory.

Kumar stressed that parties could benefit from increasing the number of Indian students studying at Israeli universities, as well as from connecting the start-up ecosystems and incubators in all three places. As he takes part in his first trip to Israel this week, Kumar said he is particularly eager to see such connections made in areas like digital health, agriculture and irrigation.

“It’s going to be a journey of discovery – things can’t be done in one trip,” he added.

Jason Isaacson, AJC's associate executive director for policy, who has been working for years to promote Israeli-Indian relations, said he feels that the potential between the countries is “almost unlimited.”
"It clearly is a natural fit between Israel and India,” Isaacson said. “It's really a trilateral fit – Israel, India and the United States – in terms of hi-tech, in terms of the entrepreneurial spirit, in terms of the high value given to innovation."

Israel’s venture capital community is beginning to truly discover India and its enormous potential not for just the IT sector, but also for many different hi-tech fields, according to Isaacson.

“We’re on a threshold of an entirely new chapter for Israel and India,” he said.

Simultaneously, Isaacson explained, the US also needs hi-tech partners – people who can help make the economy grow and provide a solution to the shortage of engineers that the hi-tech community is facing.

“But frankly, as Israel grows in different sectors and as India grows in different sectors and as the US continues to be the world leader, the synergistic possibilities are immense,” Isaacson added. 

India's Modi lifts the curtain on ties with Israel

PM Narendra Modi's visit to Israel marks the first time an Indian premier sets foot on Israeli soil. The trip shows both countries' deepening bond amid increasing convergence in their security and economic interests.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's three-day visit to Israel, starting from Tuesday, is described as a historic occasion, which is likely to herald a new era of ever closer bilateral relationship encompassing an array of areas ranging from defense and security to agriculture and irrigation technology.
As the first Indian PM to travel to Israel, Modi wrote in a Facebook post, "I am greatly looking forward to this unprecedented visit that will bring our two countries and people closer.
"I will have in-depth talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the full spectrum of our partnership and strengthening it in diverse fields for mutual benefit. We will also have the chance to discuss major common challenges like terrorism."
Modi's Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the visit a "further expression of the state of Israel's military, economic and diplomatic strength.
"This is a very significant step in strengthening relations between the two countries," Netanyahu said. "India is a huge country with over 1.25 billion people and is one of the world's largest, growing economies. Ties between Israel and India are on a constant upswing."
Defense ties
This year, the two countries are marking the 25th anniversary of full diplomatic relations. Ties between the two sides have expanded and deepened considerably over the past decade, particularly in defense.
India is the world's biggest importer of defense equipment, and Israel has become one of its major suppliers. India is reportedly close to signing deals to purchase anti-tank missiles and a naval air defense weapon system from Israel.
India has recently signed three defense pacts worth $3 billion with Israel. The three deals include the acquisition of 164 "Litening-4" targeting pods to be used by the Indian Air Force and an undisclosed number of Spice 250 precision guided bombs with a standoff range of 100 kilometers (62 miles).
Eli Alfassi, executive vice president of marketing at state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), the country's biggest defence firm, was quoted by Reuters as saying that it was supplying India with drones, radar, communication systems and cybersecurity.
The centerpiece of the collaboration is the Barack 8 air defense system, built jointly by the two countries in a boost for Modi's campaign to develop a domestic defense industry.
In the three fiscal years to March 2016, Israel was the third-biggest weapons supplier to India, having sold armaments worth a total of 76 billion rupees ($1 billion), according to an Indian parliament report.
Only the US and Russia have made more defense deals with India during the period.
Boosting the defense cooperation further, in addition to giving momentum to trade and upgrading cooperation in water technologies will be on top of the agenda during Modi's trip to Tel Aviv.
Balancing conflicting interests
As Israel's ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon, said in a recent interview, "When presidents and prime ministers visit and sign agreements and showcase the strength of each country, this makes the relationship tangible and goes beyond declarations."
India's relations with Israel, more so their defense cooperation, are now in the public domain underscoring how security and military concerns weigh heavily in their ties.
"It is now a given that both countries will work more on counterterrorism exchanging perceptions of threats emanating from terrorism and their determination to fight the menace," said counterterrorism expert Ajay Sahni.
But as ties burgeon, questions are being asked on how India will continue to balance its ties to Israel with its engagements in the Gulf region.
And how will India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, known for its high-decibel brand of Hindu nationalism, reconcile its push for closer Israeli ties with New Delhi's traditionally pro-Palestinian stance?
"Both the Congress (India's biggest opposition party) and the BJP have promoted and upgraded relations with Israel. It does not detract or change our position with respect to the Palestinian cause," Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary, told DW.
In the Middle East region, Modi has already visited key Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Qatar as well as Shia-majority Iran.
But Modi's trip to Israel will not see him visiting Palestine, a move to stress the "de-hyphenation" of India's relations with the two states.
"Modi's Middle East policy and interests in the Gulf region are well articulated. We have eight million Indian workers there whose remittances are very important. The region is a strategic periphery and we do not want to meddle with the politics there," added Mansingh.
A path-breaker trip?
Other foreign policy experts argue that good bilateral relations with Israel are likely to generate some collateral benefits for India in the form of a closer partnership with the US, as the Jewish lobby is widely seen as an influential force in American politics.
"Seeing the likely visit of Modi through a narrow BJP prism misses the larger picture. Since coming to power, the BJP-led NDA government has been engaging with all the countries of the wider Middle East, Arab and non-Arab alike," PR Kumaraswamy, a professor of international relations at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University and expert on Israel, told DW.
Moreover, a number of key countries in the Middle East are preoccupied with more serious geostragetic challenges and the issue of Palestinian statehood is way down on their list of priorities.
"Modi's visit will not be able to ignore these realities when dealing with the Middle East," emphasizes Kumaraswamy.
Since Modi came to power in May 2014, his government has more openly embraced India's ties with Israel, in contrast to the approach favored by Modi's predecessors who preferred to keep relations low-key. 
Modi last met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2014 on the margins of the UN General Assembly session.
Since then there have been other high-profile visits. Israel's President Reuven Rivlin arrived on his first state visit to India last November which was reciprocated by President Pranab Mukherjee's trip.
Ties are widely expected to scale new heights.

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Music Video - Bhutto - Benazir - Bilawal - Long live Bhuttoism

Video - Pakistan - Former President Asif Ali Zardari AddressTo Party Workers At Dadu

Balochistan: Daughters of disappeared Baloch doctor set up three-day token hunger strike

The daughters of an enforced-disappeared Baloch doctor have started a three-day token hunger strike camp at Karachi Press Club on Monday (26/06/2017) to demand for the safe release of their father.
The Pakistan security forces abducted and disappeared Dr. Deen Mohammad Baloch, a doctor by profession and a member of Baloch National Movement, from Ornach area of Khuzdar Balochistan on the night of 28 June 2009. His whereabout remain unknown since his abduction and his family has been striving for his safe recovery from past eight years.
Sammi and Mehlab Baloch, daughters of Mr. Baloch, have been struggling for the release of their father and have knocked the doors of every courts in Pakistan, has organised dozens of protests, press conferences, held hunger strike camps and even Sammi Baloch walked 3000 km “long march” from Quetta Balochistan to Islamabad Pakistan along with other victims’ families but failed to get justice from Pakistani institutions and human rights organizations.
On 25 June Dr. Deen Mohammad’s family announce to organize a three-day sit-in vigil outside Karachi Press Club from 26-28 (three days of Eid).
The entire Muslim is celebrating Eid festival with their families, while 1000s of Baloch families are still waiting for their abducted loved ones from Pakistani dark torture cells to be released and reunited with their families. Daughters of Mr. Baloch have appealed from United Nations to play its role for the safe release of their father.
Sammi Baloch, older daughter of Dr. Baloch, said that she has used all the democratic and peaceful channels for her father’s safe recovery but nobody has listened to her plea for help. She said if her father has committed any crime, he should be presented to a court of law and trialled according to law.

Pakistan - Bahawalpur and Parachinar

If there is one thing that sets Shias apart from other Muslim denominations, it is their elaborate rituals of mourning centred on the gravest tragedy in Islamic history – the massacre of the family of the Prophet (pbuh) at Karbala. In the last three decades, Shias in Pakistan have found ample opportunity to mourn their own dead, targeted for no reason other than their faith and religious rituals.
Two Shia communities, the Hazaras in Quetta and theTuris in the Kurram Agency of Fata, have been particularly targeted by sectarian terrorists. This has forced them to live a life under a state of siege, although the siege has failed to provide them any protection from their tormentors. The recent incident of terrorism in Parachinar, the capital of Kurram, has highlighted the plight of victims of terrorism, sectarian terror in particular.
Occurring within days, an accident in Bahawalpur and the twin blasts in Parachinar have ripped open many wounds and become an occasion to articulate grievances against the government and the state. Interestingly, it was the government’s reaction to the Bahawalpur tragedy that enabled the protesters from Parachinar to highlight the state apathy to their situation. On a more optimistic note, democratic and peaceful expression of discontent has forced Pakistan’s rulers to shake off their complacency and take notice.
On Friday 23, Parachinar was hit by two blasts that killed more than 100 innocent persons and injured hundreds more. On the same day, a suicide car bomber killed at least 13 people, including seven police officers, in Quetta. A day later, an accident involving an oil tanker killed 150 people and injured many more in Ahmadpur Sharqia, near Bahawalpur in southern Punjab.
The Ahmadpur accident instantly diverted the media’s attention from the incidents of terrorism. The media had its reasons to find the accident more newsworthy. The accident had an element of novelty. In Pakistan, incidents of terrorism are far more common than such accidents. A similar accident had happened near Jhang in 1999, killing 65 persons. That was before the advent of independent media. Thousands of blasts have happened in the meantime. Secondly, though the event happened in the relatively marginal space of southern Punjab, it was still closer to cities where rating metres are located and from where the bulk of advertisement revenue is generated. It was also more accessible for reporters and DSNG vans.
For politicians too, Quetta and Parachinar are the periphery, while southern Punjab is closer to the core if not the core itself. When these incidents happened, the prime minister was out of the country for almost ten days, first in Saudi Arabia to earn religious merit during Ramazan and then in London to participate in the graduation ceremony of his grandson. While he remained unmoved on the terrorist bombings, the Bahawalpur accident forced him to cut his visit short to arrive on the scene of the accident on June 26, Eid day.
The prime minister had his own reasons to rush back. Punjab is the crucial battleground in the next general elections. As tough contests are being foreseen in central Punjab, the constituencies in southern Punjab have suddenly become important while this region is seething with anger. The accident became an occasion for opposition leaders to articulate public grievances in ethnic and geographical terms. “Lives are cheaper in South Punjab”, said a normally mild-mannered Shah Mahmood Qureshi. “People in south Punjab are second rate citizens.”
As many research studies have shown, there is a scandalous gap between the per capita availability of public goods including schools, hospital beds, roads, piped gas and other facilities between southern and central Punjab. During the nine years of PML-N rule, this gap has further widened. Khadam-e-Ala has consistently spent more 60 percent of the development budget of the province on one city and there are no points for guessing where the bulk of remaining 40 percent is spent.
In his regal manner, the prime minister announced an unprecedented compensation of Rs2 million for the family of each victim and one million for each survivor of the accident. Doling out Rs300 million is certainly easier than being accountable for the gap that has been created through swindling the poor area of hundreds of billions of rupees of its share in development funds.
Unfortunately, this generosity created another complication. The families of the victims of Parachinar blasts were promised only Rs300,000 to compensate for deaths of their near and dear ones. Suddenly Bahawalpur stared to seem like a privileged area in comparison to Parachinar.
People in Parachinar have been at the receiving end of terrorism for years. While terrorism has abated in other parts of the country since Operation Zarb-e-Azb, Parachinar has witnessed a spike in terrorist bombings. In this year alone, five explosions have already taken place in Parachinar.
The bombings in Parachinar became an occasion for Shias from all over the country to express their grievance for being targets of terrorism. The Shia population of Kurram Agency, of which Parachinar is the capital, is amongst the favourite targets of sectarian organisations including the Taliban. After the Hazaras of Quetta, the Turis of Kurram are the worst affected Shia community in Pakistan.
It was perhaps the first time that an effort was made to silence the Shias from expressing their grievance in terms of their faith and hold them responsible for what is happening to them. Zaid Zaman Hamid tweeted: “the stupid Shias perhaps deserve LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) treatment if they can’t see that I am the friend & not enemy...” A sit in at Parachinar became the focus of attention where protesters wanted a senior government representative to visit them to respond to their demands. And they demanded nothing more than their most basic right – the right to life and to make government officials accountable.
While the prime minister and other senior officials have not visited Parachinar so far, many other politicians complain that they have been denied security clearance. Imran Khan, who was shooting his canons from the heights of Nathia Galli, finally descended from his summer retreat and visited Parachinar on June 30.
The protesters ended their dharna after the COAS visited Parachinar and announced different measures in response to demands made by locals. The prime minister in the meantime announced a new package, raising the compensation for families of victims to Rs1 million each.
If nothing else, the government should see that the tokenism that benefitted it in the past has now started hurting. They need to form a proper policy to compensate victims of accidents and terrorism. Transporters should be made to ensure proper third-party insurance that pays victims of an accident. The provincial governments should also start a scheme of road insurance. The expense for such insurance can be recovered from road users and motorists by slightly adjusting the toll and petroleum levy. Such a scheme can save thousands of families from destitution each year. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 26,000 persons are killed in road accidents in Pakistan each year and only a fraction of them can benefit from the direct generosity of a chief minister or the prime minister.
The state bears more direct responsibility to victims and survivors of terrorism and their families because ensuring right to life is the basic responsibility of the state. While the National Action Plan has a point promising “Dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists”, it contains no promise for survivors. A separate policy is urgency required.

Pakistan - Why political parties don’t care about FATA and Balochistan

By Rafiullah Kakar
During the past two weeks, Pakistan witnessed a terrorist attack in Quetta, devastating twin bombings in Parachinar and the tragic oil tanker inferno in Bahawalpur. The way the government, media and mainstream political parties reacted to these incidents spoke volumes about the nature of the Pakistani federation.
Their response to the terrorist attacks in Quetta and Parachinar was muted compared with the Bahawalpur tragedy. No senior government official or political party figure visited either Quetta or Parachinar following the attacks.
In contrast, in the wake of the ghastly oil tanker inferno in Bahawalpur, the prime minister cut short his trip to London and rushed back to Bahawalpur to visit the injured and condole with the victims’ families.
These events have once again revealed the ‘step-motherly treatment’ that FATA and Balochistan receive in Pakistan. More importantly, it has shed light on the traditional apathy of Pakistan’s mainstream parties towards the plight of the people of Balochistan and FATA.
The PML-N, in particular, faces long-standing accusations of catering only to its voter base in Punjab.
The indifferent behaviour of these parties is explained by Pakistan’s majoritarian federal design, which institutionalizes the dominance of Pakistan’s core ethnic group — the Punjabis. The province of Punjab dominates Pakistan’s premier decision-making body ie Parliament and core federal institutions i.e. the bureaucracy and the military.
For now, let’s consider the case of Parliament. The distribution of seats on the basis of population in the National Assembly means the province of Punjab has more seats than all other three provinces combined. Senate, where all provinces have equal representation, was supposed to be the “majority-constraining” institution.
However, lesser powers especially with regards to money bills, fewer votes in joint settings and the indirect method of elections mean the Senate has not been very effective in protecting the interests of smaller provinces.
A weaker senate combined with the fact that Punjab possesses the majority of seats in the NA means that any political party seeking to come to power in Pakistan has to be mindful of the Punjab vote bank.
Pakistan’s current federal design makes Balochistan and FATA the least-rewarding political constituencies and thus offers little or no incentive to political parties to care about these regions As long as Punjab’s voters are happy, a political party can easily afford to ignore other provinces especially Balochistan and FATA. With no provincial legislature, FATA fares the worst of all federating units.
To cut it short, Pakistan’s current federal design makes Balochistan and FATA the least-rewarding political constituencies and thus offers little or no incentive to political parties to care about these regions.
The 18th amendment partially undid the majoritarian character of the Pakistani federation by devolving powers to the provinces and reinvigorating the role of the Council of Common interests (CCI). Owing to resistance from Punjab-based parties, the amendment, however, could not address the concerns of smaller provinces regarding powers of the Senate and the creation of new provinces — the two principal instruments for constraining majoritarianism at the federal level.
Moreover, the return of the pro-centralization PML-N to power, the reluctance of political parties to devolve powers to local governments, and the poor capacity of provinces has meant that even the changes introduced by the 18th amendment have not been a great success.
All this implies that control of, and representation in the Centre continues to have high political value and significance. The challenge is to somehow make parties ruling at the Centre take peripheral regions equally seriously.
The most effective way to achieve this is to alter the institutional rules of the game that political parties follow. Political parties are vote-maximising actors who respond to the incentives presented by the institutional environment in which they operate. These institutional rules need to be modified so that political parties see higher returns and rewards on their political investment in smaller regions.
In this regard, the creation of a pluri-national and more inclusive federation which combines territorial self-rule with consociational government at the centre and re-organises provinces along ethno-national lines, is the best way forward.
Since the 18th amendment has already introduced territorial self-rule, it is high time for ensuring some consociational power-sharing mechanisms at the Centre. This can be done by giving the Senate co-equal powers with the NA in both financial and non-financial matters including money bills, high-level executive appointments, ratification of treaties and other matters affecting the whole federation.
Most importantly, the current indirect elections should be replaced by direct elections of senators by the people of each province through a system of proportional representation. This, combined with enhancing the powers of the Senate would incentivise political parties to care equally about smaller provinces, which will in turn induce more political competition in smaller provinces.
Lastly, boundaries of existing provinces should be re-organised along ethno-national lines and FATA should be either merged with KP or declared a full-pledged independent province in par with other provinces.

Pakistan - Why remain a petro-puppet?

Pervez Hoodbhoy

NOW that Qatar is being choked of food and water by a Saudi-led coalition of five Arab countries, Pakistan must once again ask itself why it belongs to the wider Saudi-led so-called Islamic Military Alliance of 41 Sunni-majority countries. Popularly known as the Islamic Nato, IMA is headed by ex-hero retired Gen Raheel Sharif. Ostensibly a counterterrorism coalition for fighting the militant Islamic State (IS) group, in fact IMA is a Saudi-American-Israeli instrument squarely pointed at Iran.
Lingering doubts of the IMA’s actual purpose disappeared after President Donald Trump’s speech in Riyadh last month. Announcing a whopping 110-billion-dollar sale of weaponry to KSA, Trump singled out Iran as the world’s sponsor of terrorism: “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fuelled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”
To Israel’s delight, CIA director Mike Pompeo thoroughly agrees. Soon after being appointed by Trump, he castigated Tehran for being “intent on destroying America” and tweeted that he was looking forward to “rolling back” Obama’s “disastrous” nuclear deal with Iran. He wants regime change in Tehran: “Congress must act to change Iranian behaviour, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.”

Pakistan must declare its neutrality in the Saudi-Iran conflict by immediately quitting the Saudi-led IMA.
Here’s why being a member of IMA is bad for Pakistan and why we must withdraw immediately.

First, we don’t have a dog in the fight. Whereas Trump’s tweet that Qatar’s isolation could mark the “beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism” must please KSA, we Pakistanis know otherwise. As KSA’s obedient puppets, Maldives and Mauritania cut ties with Qatar but it would be stupid for us to, for example, ban Qatar Airways from Pakistani airspace. Feuds between Bedouin tribes and inter-Arab brawls are not our business. It matters hugely to KSA — but not at all to us — that the largest mosque in Doha (Qatar) is wrongly named as the Shaykh Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab Mosque. Nor do we care that an unnamed Qatari prince is right or wrong in claiming Abd al-Wahab as his great grandfather.
Pakistan did wonderfully well when parliament unanimously voted in April 2015 to decline a military role in KSA’s war against Yemen, the poorest country of the Arab world. Over the next 18 months, the Saudi coalition, supported by the US and the UK, killed at least 10,000 Muslims. According to the United Nations human rights office, “The coalition has unlawfully attacked homes, markets, hospitals, schools, civilian businesses, and mosques.” Most casualties have come from coalition air strikes.
Unfortunately, after briefly standing up, our government lost nerve. To soothe an irritated octogenarian Saudi monarch and his angry princes, our prime minister, chief of army staff, minister for defence, foreign secretary and various high officials had to scurry to Riyadh while wearing contrite expressions. If they had moral courage they would not have so panicked. Sending Pakistani troops to kill and be killed in some overseas civil war is wrong, and no quantity of free oil or fat bales of cash can make it right.
Second, Pakistan must not commit itself to either side of the Muslim world’s bloody Shia-Sunni sectarian divide or make more enemies. The Persian-Arab conflict goes far back in history. However it is equally a battle for regional influence. Iran is an insurrectionary, revolutionary power with Iranian mullahs openly calling for the overthrow of all monarchies. On the other hand KSA, which relies on American weapons and imported soldiers, wants to maintain and extend its hegemony.
The Saudi-Qatar conflict is evidence of a power tussle, not a sectarian divide. Officially, Qatar is a Sharia state run according to Hanbali law, but both Shia Iran and Sunni Turkey are breaking KSA’s blockade by rushing water and food to fasting Qataris. Turkey’s parliament has just approved the dispatch of 3,000 troops to bolster Qatar’s defences.
Third, Pakistan must not side with a country that works relentlessly to prevent modernisation of the Arab world. No Muslim country is more socially and culturally regressive than Saudi Arabia. Although KSA and IS are now bitter enemies, they share identical world views. Neither, for example, believes in democracy. To preserve the legitimacy of the ruling family, Saudi ideology insists that Wahabism — which frowns upon democracy — is the only true Islam. Calling for democracy in KSA can send you to prison — or perhaps even to the chopping block.
Fourth, being part of the Saudi camp takes away from Pakistan’s traditional support for Palestine. Indeed, one part of the Saudi-Qatar feud is that the kingdom wants Qatar to cut ties with Hamas, which it has so far refused. Whereas Hamas has used terrorist tactics that cannot be justified, it is effectively now the only force that resists Israeli occupation.
Fifth, bowing to petro-power has diminished Pakistan’s self-esteem. Whereas we insist upon calling Saudis our brothers, Pakistanis in KSA are called miskeen — alms seekers. Many Pakistani labourers there experience terrible abuse. Official Saudi statistics say that in 2012-2015, 243,000 Pakistanis were deported with another 40,000 over four months this year. Human Rights Watch and other rights organisations say mass deportations often involve illegal beatings and are largely over matters of unpaid wages, contract violations, etc.
Saudi disrespect is not reserved exclusively for poor Pakistanis. Our prime minister had to listen glumly to Islamophobe Donald Trump — famed for stoking anti-Muslim hysteria — as he lectured on Islam before a Saudi-invited audience. Together with 30 other Muslim heads of state, Mian Nawaz Sharif had been asked to listen but not speak. The subsequent token apology did not lessen Pakistan’s humiliation.
Pakistan must declare absolute neutrality in the Saudi-Iran conflict by immediately quitting the IMA. The recent attacks on key targets in Tehran — claimed by IS but which Iran’s Revolutionary Guards blame on KSA — makes this ever more urgent. The recruitment of Pakistani mercenaries to fight wars for KSA must stop and Gen Raheel Sharif must be ordered home immediately. If he is keen about fighting terrorism, there’s plenty for him to do here.