Friday, September 1, 2017

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Saudi Arabia may finally face accountability in Yemen as another air strike kills five civilians

Bethan McKernan 

At least five civilians have died in a Saudi-led coalition air strike in Yemen, eyewitnesses have said, as calls at the UN grow for an independent body to investigate possible war crimes being committed in Yemen’s civil war.
Fighter jets attacked a Houthi rebel-controlled checkpoint outside the capital of Sanaa on Wednesday morning, killing five civilians sitting in a taxi and two armed personnel at the site, witnesses said.
Rebel officials said that the strike hit an oil tanker waiting at the checkpoint, which exploded – as did a nearby petrol station, which caught fire and complicated rescue efforts. They put the death toll at 13, adding that the victims had all been burnt alive. 
There was no immediate comment from the coalition on the strike in Masajed, about 10 km (six miles) west of the city.
The civilian deaths come on top of last week’s bombings of a hotel and civilian three-storey building which combined killed approximately 60 people. 
Riyadh and its allies have extensively bombed Houthi rebels in charge of Yemen’s capital and north since March 2015 at the request of the exiled, internationally recognised president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The campaign has been repeatedly criticised for causing an excessive loss of civilian life. 
Saudi blockades on Yemen’s ports and airspace have also been blamed for causing the current famine facing the country’s 22-million-strong population as well as the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, which has infected 500,000 people. 
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and 56 other international non-governmental organisations urged the United Nations to establish an international body to investigate abuses they say may amount to war crimes committed by all the warring parties in Yemen.
Such a panel should “begin chipping away at the impunity that has been a central facet of Yemen's war,” HRW’S Geneva director John Fisher said in an open letter to the UN’s human rights council.
A report authored by several international aid agencies released earlier this month said Yemen suffered more air strikes in the first half of this year than in the whole of 2016, increasing the number of civilian deaths and forcing more people to flee their homes.
Western governments have also faced criticism for their role in the war: arms sold to Saudi Arabia are destined for use in the Yemeni war, rights groups say.
Officials within former US President Barack Obama’s administration were worried the sales could amount to complicity in war crimes.

We're complicit in Saudi crimes

It’s the type of photo that Saudi Arabian and U.S. officials don’t want you to see. It’s of a young Yemeni boy, acutely malnourished like 2 million other children in Yemen — caught up in what the United Nations calls the “world’s largest humanitarian crisis.”
Their suffering is largely a result of monstrous misconduct by a Saudi-led coalition that is supported by the United States and Britain. Let’s be blunt: With U.S. and U.K. complicity, the Saudi government is committing war crimes.
“The country is on the brink of famine, with over 60 percent of the population not knowing where their next meal will come from,” the leaders of the U.N. World Food Program, UNICEF and the World Health Organization said in an unusual joint statement.
Yemen, always an impoverished country, has been upended for two years by fighting between the Saudi-backed military coalition and Houthi rebels and their allies (with limited support from Iran). The Saudis regularly bomb civilians and, worse, they have closed the airspace and imposed a blockade to starve the rebel-held areas into submission.
That means that ordinary Yemenis, including children, die in bombings or starve.
Buthaina, a girl believed to be 4 or 5, was the only survivor in her family of a bombing last week by the Saudi coalition that killed 14 people. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly concluded that many Saudi airstrikes were probable war crimes and that the U.S. shares responsibility because it provides the Saudis with air-to-air refueling and intelligence used for airstrikes, as well as with much of the weaponry.
Yet victims like Buthaina aren’t on our television screens and rarely make the news pages, in part because Saudi Arabia is successfully blocking foreign journalists from the rebel-held areas. I know, because I’ve been trying for almost a year to get there and thought I had arranged a visit for this week — and then Saudi Arabia shut me down.
With commercial flights banned, the way into rebel areas is on charter flights arranged by the United Nations and aid groups. But Saudi military jets control this airspace and ban any flight if there’s a journalist onboard. I don’t think the Saudis would actually shoot down a plane just because I was on it, but the U.N. isn’t taking chances.
This is maddening: Saudi Arabia successfully blackmails the United Nations to bar journalists so as to prevent coverage of Saudi atrocities.
“The situation in Yemen is a disgrace that brings shame to our global community,” says Michelle Nunn, president of CARE USA. “More than 20 million Yemenis are in need of emergency assistance, and a child dies every five minutes. Yet few Americans know about the daily bloodshed, near-famine conditions and a raging cholera epidemic.”
If we feel that shame, we should cut off military transfers to Saudi Arabia until it ends its strangulation of Yemen.
The civil war in Yemen started as a local conflict, but Saudi Arabia rushed in because of exaggerated fears of Iranian influence there. All parties have behaved outrageously. But it’s our side that appears to be responsible for the most deaths: A draft U.N. report says that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for 65 percent more deaths of children than the Houthis and their allies, and it’s the Saudis who have imposed the blockade that is leading to starvation.
In addition, the world’s worst cholera epidemic has broken out in Yemen, partly because so many people are malnourished. An additional 5,000 Yemenis are infected with cholera each day.
The Saudis say, correctly, that they are also providing large amounts of aid to Yemen. But bombing and starving civilians is not excused if one provides Band-Aids afterward.
This catastrophe started under President Barack Obama, although he tried — not nearly enough — to rein in Saudi Arabia. President Donald Trump has removed the reins and embraced the rash and inexperienced Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is overseeing the assault on Yemen.
“Yemen is a moral, humanitarian and strategic disaster for America,” says Aaron David Miller, a former State Department Middle East analyst who advised both Republican and Democratic administrations. “U.S. policy is being driven by its pro-Saudi proclivities and its own desire to contain Iran. But by enabling Riyadh, it’s only making an already fraught situation worse.”
What do we do? Jan Egeland, a former senior U.N. official who now leads the Norwegian Refugee Council, urges an immediate cease-fire, a lifting of the embargo on Yemen, and peace talks led by the U.N., the U.S. and the U.K., forcing both sides to compromise.
A glimpse of moral leadership has come from the U.S. Senate. A remarkable 47 senators in June voted to block a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia, largely because of qualms about Saudi conduct in Yemen. Those senators are right, and we should halt all arms transfers to Saudi Arabia until it ends the blockade and bombings.
We Americans have sometimes wondered how Russia can possibly be so Machiavellian as to support its Syrian government allies as they bomb and starve civilians. Yet we’re doing the same thing with Saudi Arabia, and it’s just as unconscionable when we’re the ones complicit in war crimes.

Doklam standoff settlement a victory for Asia

India withdrew its troops to its own territory along the China-India border on Monday. The next day, it announced that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the BRICS summit in Xiamen, China in early September. Both China and India have indicated that they intend to leave the Doklam border standoff behind as soon as possible.
But some people in both countries are still indulging in a confrontational atmosphere that had lasted in the past two months. The standoff has severely affected how the two sides view each other.
A few Indian media outlets claimed a victory for New Delhi. A so-called inside story was revealed to prove that the Indian side took the upper hand. Chinese public opinion has exercised restraint and avoided irritating India that has to pull its soldiers from the Doklam area.
The fact is that the Indian troops withdrew to their own side on Monday. By so doing, India has admitted that China has sovereignty and the actual control over the Doklam area. China has also made it clear that its border troops will continue with their patrols in the area. Public opinion in India is trying its utmost to prove New Delhi's dignity, which China doesn't refute. The Chinese side was willing to see Indian soldiers withdraw without losing face.
As nationalist sentiment is surging in India, it was not an easy decision for the Modi government to withdraw the Indian troops.
Besides pressure from China, India has taken a rational approach. Therefore, we should encourage India's move, which matches China's demeanor as a great power.
This newspaper hit hard at India during the faceoff, but now we don't want to engage in an argument with the Indian media as to which side won this standoff. We just want to say that the two countries can end this crisis without having to resort to war, which is a victory for Asia.
A few Chinese perhaps are not satisfied that the crisis was settled this way. They wish the People's Liberation Army could have given India's troops a good slap. Indians have their own regrets. When the confrontation ended, China stressed its sovereignty and control over the Doklam area and did not make the open commitment that India had hoped for.
But this is perhaps the maturity of the Asian continent. US and Japanese strategists have wanted to see a long-term confrontation between China and India. While such a scenario was about to come, it eventually did not.
But this incident shows that India may act beyond the logic of international relations. As the two countries deepen their understanding, they must pay more attention to avoid any misjudgments that may lead to a new crisis.
China needs to enhance its deterrence to avoid external provocations. China has powerful comprehensive strength, while how we utilize this strength to safeguard our national interests hasn't been recognized by external forces and has to be proved in a crisis. This will add costs to China's safeguarding of its national security, so enhancing our deterrence needs to be one of our grand national plans.


The end of a standoff between India and China over a remote road on the Doklam plateau has prompted a vibrant discussion about the lessons learned. The emerging consensus is that India “won” and China “lost.” India’s willingness to challenge China is even viewed as providing a model that other states can use to counter Chinese coercion. If others stand up, China will back down.
Nevertheless, this consensus is misplaced. And the sports analogy of winning and losing obscures much more than it reveals.
To start, it remains unclear that India “won.” From India’s point of view, the status quo ante of June 2017 was restored, a victory. Yet from China’s perspective, Indian forces withdrew from Chinese territory (also claimed by Bhutan, but not by India). Moreover, on the ground at the site of the confrontation, Indian forces pulled back first. Meanwhile, Chinese forces remain in Doklam, even if Beijing chose not to press ahead with the road extension that sparked the standoff.
There is also no indication from Chinese or Indian statements that China had to make any concessions to convince India to withdraw its troops. The PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson underscored that China’s claims and behavior will not change, noting that China would “continue with its exercise of sovereign rights” in the disputed area. In other words, China will still conduct patrols in Doklam and maintain the portions of road that had been built before the standoff started in early June.
China also had other reasons to seek de-escalation, none of which can be attributed to India’s intervention. An active confrontation would have cast a pall over the upcoming BRICS summit that China is hosting in Xiamen in early September. And on the eve of the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress, Xi Jinping likely wanted to avoid any risky escalation that could affect the significant transfer of power that will occur. Once these events pass, however, China may be less constrained and more willing to tolerate risk on the border with India.
Moreover, even if India scored a tactical win by thwarting China’s road extension, it may have lost at the strategic level. Ironically perhaps, India’s actions underscored to China the importance of enhancing its military position in the Doklam bowl. Before the standoff in June, China’s permanent presence in the area had been quite limited. China had maintained a road in the area for several decades, but did not garrison any forces. In contrast, India has maintained and developed a forward post at Doka La adjacent to Doklam.
Now that India has chosen to confront China at Doklam, however, China may well seek to rectify this tactical imbalance of forces. In fact, the Chinese spokesperson suggested a move in this direction by saying China would continue to station forces (zhushou), most likely a reference to troops deployed to Doklam after the standoff began. If China does this, it would likely build facilities farther away from India’s position at Doka La, making it more challenging for India to intervene and block China next time. When India challenged China’s construction crews in June, it only had to move its forces a hundred meters from the existing border. In the future, India may be faced with the uncomfortable choice of deciding whether to risk much more to deny China a greater presence farther inside Doklam or to accept it. This will be a tough decision for any leader to make. Even if India won this round, it may not win the next one.
One could even make the case that China achieved some of its political objectives, whose importance overshadows the standoff over the road. Bhutan, always worried about being caught between its much larger neighbors, may become more reluctant to test China on territorial issues to avoid being drawn into a conflict between India and China. Despite the triumphalism from some voices in New Delhi, India likely learned that Beijing does not back down immediately or without sustained effort. The disengagement at Doklam took more than ten weeks of diplomacy, much longer than previous confrontations along the China-India border in 2013 and 2014 , which lasted only a few weeks.
The Indian intervention also does not offer a “model” that other states can apply elsewhere for countering China’s assertiveness. To start, India enjoyed tactical superiority at the site of the standoff, leveraging its well-developed forward position at Doka La and reserves of much larger forces based permanently in Sikkim. These advantages likely played a role in limiting China’s response. Moreover, if China seeks to address the tactical imbalance in Doklam in the future, India may be less successful using the same method to deter China again. Furthermore, many other states facing China in territorial disputes lack such tactical superiority precisely where it matters.
Other elements of the Indian intervention cannot be easily replicated, either. Recall that India justified its action based on its commitments to Bhutan under a 2007 treaty. It is unclear whether and to what degree third parties not bound by such obligations would seek to intervene directly in China’s sovereignty disputes with its neighbors. Doing so would significantly raise the stakes in their own bilateral relations with China.
Take, for example, Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. The Doklam “model” would suggest that if China sought to build a permanent presence on the reef, the United States could stop Chinese land reclamation by intervening on behalf of the Philippines to block Chinese dredgers. Yet unlike India’s open support of Bhutan’s claim to sovereignty over Doklam, the United States maintains a position of neutrality on the sovereignty of the contested land features in the South China Sea and around the world.
Any U.S. intervention at Scarborough, then, would require that the United States alter this policy of neutrality. But changing this policy would have far-reaching implications for the U.S. role in all of China’s territorial disputes. The United States would potentially shoulder a raft of new security commitments that it may not be able to meet, especially if states opposing China in territorial disputes actively seek greater material support from Washington. China would view such a change in U.S. policy as a significant challenge to all its territorial disputes with neighbors and react harshly to probe U.S. resolve, perhaps even taking limited military action to deter the United States from carrying out its new policy. For China’s leaders, the defense of territorial claims is intertwined with the legitimacy of the Communist Party.
More broadly, the frame of winning and losing is misplaced. The genius of the Doklam disengagement is that diplomats defined it in narrow and specific terms, focusing only on the forces at the “face-off site.” Larger issues, such as the location of the tri-junction between China, India and Bhutan, along with China and Bhutan’s competing claims to Doklam, were left off the table. By not disclosing the terms under which the standoff ended, diplomats also allowed each other to save face.
The narrow definition of the issue permitted troops to disengage without letting the more complicated problems prevent de-escalation. Two nuclear-armed powers avoided letting a small confrontation escalate into a much wider and more dangerous conflict. Given that China will continue to press its territorial claims against India and Bhutan, as well as in the East and South China Seas, policymakers should be wary of learning the wrong lessons from the disengagement at Doklam. Rather than interpreting events as simply points on a scoreboard for one country or another, the focus should shift to how diplomacy can be employed to avoid military confrontations and reduce opportunities for conflict.

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Book Review: The Real Pashtun Question

By Hurmat Ali Shah
It becomes a tenuous exercise fraught with controversy when the culture of a group of people in an asymmetric federal structure is scrutinized, even if the ones doing the scrutiny belong to that same group. But it is necessary to look inward and question long-held values and beliefs. Only such introspection can reveal flaws within a society which may have been exploited by external agents, most often the state, for their own nefarious purposes.
In The Real Pashtun Question, Farhat Taj dissects the internal cultural narratives and male-dominated public spaces to find the answer as to why Pashtun lands remain in the grip of extremism and why the state is able to make it the ground for its policy of strategic depth. Farhat Taj hails from Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and was an Assistant Professor at Kohat University of Science and Technology. He is now based in Norway where he works as a researcher. The book presents exhaustive details of events, especially in Kurram, and the details are analyzed in a theoretical framework to arrive at conclusions.
Chapter one occupies one-third of the book and presents the Shia-Sunni conflict in Kurram in detail. The author has described the historical mode of conflict resolution between the Shia and Sunni tribes and through anecdotal as well as documented evidence has shown that there existed a goodwill and mutual trust between the Sunni and Shia tribes. For example the main mosque in Parachinar, the capital city of upper Kurram is Shia dominated as opposed to the lower Kurram where Sunnis are in majority. The Central JumaatAhle-e-Sunnat, was built on the land donated by the Shia Turi tribe and an individual from the Sunni Jaji tribe was made custodian of the mosque. The Shias in Kurram have traditionally relied on the state for protection and the political administration of the agency from the British era played an active role in intervening at the right time to resolve crises.
The political administration resolved issues among the tribes in 1961, 1972 and 1973, but things changed with the advent of the Afghan jihad. Parachinar is only 100 km away from Kabul. Kurram’s landmass extends into three important Afghanistan’s provinces: Khost, Paktia and Ningarhar. This extension is called Parrot’s beak. Just on the other side of Parachinar, in Afghanistan lies Tora Bora, the now famous mountain because of the heavy US bombardment in pursuit of Osama bin Laden. Because of the strategic location of Kurram and especially Parachinar, it was of importance for Pakistan in the Afghan Jihad. The Arab Mujahedeen brought with themselves the rabid anti-Shia ideology and found allies in the local Sunnis.
Providing safe havens to the Mujahdeen became an existential threat to the Shias of Kurram, and they started to resist their land being used as a launching pad for jihad in Afghanistan. Then General Zia changed the demography of the agency by rehabilitating 350,000 Afghan refugees in Kurram, and this made the Shias a minority in Kurram. Later these refugees were motivated to cleanse lower Kurram of all Shias who then relocated to upper Kurram. The Shias of Kurram braved multiple assaults on their lands from the Taliban with no assistance from the security forces. A leadership vacuum was created when the elders of the agency and surrounding agencies were killed in targeted attacks and thus the conventional mode of resolving disputes was rendered ineffective. Then the establishment tried to introduce the Haqqanis as an alternate leadership for mediation.
The author has identified three main reasons for the oppression of the Shias of Kurram. First, the surrounding Sunni tribes have been eyeing the lands which belongs to Shia tribes according to ‘Kaaghazat-e-Maal’, the official land records. Second the state has manipulated this rivalry and has accommodated anti-Shia militants in the agency. Third, the dominant discourse in Pashtun society is formed by the Tablighi Jamaat which is a puritan Wahabi movement and its message often has an anti-Shia streak.
The government cannnot be absolved of its role in entrenching an extremist mindset in the Pashtun lands. In 1984,1985 and in 1990,1991 out of the Auqaaf fund, Rs. 15,969 million were given to forty-two Madrassas in the then NWFP. What gave the Taliban wider acceptance was their embodiment of much of Pashtuns’ ‘constitutive narratives’. Constitutive narratives are stories and images that shape the outlook of a community and represent core cultural values. The Taliban have taken these narratives a step further by couching them in global Islamist philosophy. The male egocentric view which the Taliban share with Pashtuns is based on badal (revenge), tarboorwali (rivalry), Siali (competition) and ghairat (honor), which form the basis of Pashtunwali. Another evil in Pashtun culture is the almost-acceptable practice of pedophilia. According to the author this emerges from the benevolent sexism which sees women and children as weak and men as superiors who take care of them. In Pashtun culture benevolent sexism feeds into the power paradigm and with sex being a taboo subject, pedophilia becomes socially acceptable. The Tablighi culture by its insistence on quietism and acceptance of ‘fate’ has encouraged society to comply with dictates such as benevolent sexism, and in the case of misogyny, this male-dominance has been sanctioned with religious and spiritual blessing.
The evils in any culture can be fought by laws implemented by the state and by social movements and by the convergence of such efforts. But unfortunately the state is not interested in reforming society through legislation. Instead the state is adamant in exploiting these very evils for its own agenda. FATA remains a lawless society as the centuries old FCR has rendered society static while in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the state has invested heavily in Madaris and Tabligh, adding further to the religiosity which results in more extremism. KhudaiKhidmatgar led by Bacha Khan was one social reform movement with popular appeal but the British suppressed it because of its affiliation with the All India National Congress. Later the Pakistani state suppressed it because it was seen as a threat to the integrity of the country.
The book is an important addition to the scholarship on Pashtun culture and the relationship of Pashtuns to Pakistan. The anthropological research is presented in easy to digest terms and is backed by exhaustive detail which make it a must read for anyone interested in understanding the problems which have engulfed the Pashtun lands.

Pakistan’s New Big Threat: A Bulging Population

Pakistan is one of the most populated countries in the world. Last week, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics released a provisional report of the country’s sixth population census. According to the report, Pakistan’s population now stands at well over 200 million, which is almost 60 percent more than what it was during the last census that took place in 1998.
Unchecked population growth in Pakistan is among one of the serious challenges which the country faces today. Arguably, this rapid rise in population poses the biggest threat to the state’s plans to achieve self-sufficiency in different human development indicators.
While the current population census was conducted after a long delay, the country’s ruling elite has never used the census results beyond how it can or cannot help them in politicking, power grabs, undermining smaller provinces’ rights, and the redrawing of constituencies to ensure that the established political power sharing structure remains intact.
Since Pakistan’s independence, the country’s smaller provinces have always protested against not receiving their due share in resources. They claim this has been due to the country’s politics being dominated by Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. The ruling elite in Pakistan have not made any determined policy efforts to expand the country’s domestic economy by effectively increasing agricultural and industrial output. It’s one of the primary reasons that Pakistan remains unprepared for rising challenges that uncontrolled growth in population brings such as poverty, a strain on resources, unemployment, and terrorism.
Arguably, Pakistan is not an agrarian country anymore. Unfortunately, this has happened for all the wrong reasons too. While Pakistan has not had any policy to control exploding rates of population, a majority of the lands that are now being turned into villages, towns, and housing societies were once part of the country’s vibrant agricultural landscape. If the population rise continues to take place with the current pace, in a few decades, Pakistan will turn into a country where food insecurity looms large.
With its rapid rise in population, the country’s demographics have changed dramatically. This has directly put strain on the country’s existing urban centers. More than 20 percent of Pakistanis now live in just 10 major cities whose population has virtually doubled during the last fifteen years.
Pakistan’s largest cities, Karachi and Lahore, are densely populated. Young population from all across Pakistan is shifting to major urban centers, for these urban areas are the only places where dwindling employment opportunities exist. According to some reports, urbanization in Pakistan is growing at an annual rate of 3 percent which is the fastest pace in South Asia. The United Nations Population Division estimates that “by 2025 nearly` half the country’s population will live in urban areas.
The latest census results show that the migration trends from rural to urban areas are largely among the causes of the country’s youth bulge, wherein youth make up almost half of Pakistan’s entire population. While a substantial number of Pakistan’s population consists of uneducated people, who can neither read nor write, the virtual shutdown of the agricultural and industrial economy has only added burden to other struggling sectors in the country. On the other hand, private and public universities, with dismal academic standards, continue to churn out degree holders, which the country’s domestic economy has simply has been unable to cope with.
With an annual growth rate of more than 2 percent, Pakistan’s population increase is not expected to stabilize in the next three decades even if Pakistan was to put in place a successful population control policy. There are reports estimating that the country’s population will cross 400 million in the next four decades. With the economic and security policies that are afoot currently, this means an internal implosion for a country with weak domestic economic and financial conditions, an uneducated and largely alienated young population, leaving it prone to violence and civil war. According to a recent survey, one of the biggest worries of Pakistan’s young population is not terrorism but “insecurity of jobs and justice and economic inflation.”
Pakistan’s crucial challenge in the coming decades then is going to be the question of how effectively the country accommodates its young population. Better employment opportunities, economic stability, improved security situation, and strict population control regime are some of the factors that Pakistan’s ruling elite need to start working on immediately.

Pakistan census points to an impending existential threat

New data reveals Pakistan's population has ballooned by 57 percent in two decades to 207.8 million. This has not only raised concerns about the state's ability to provide for its people, but also caused a wave of anger.

 Political parties in Pakistan are busy sparring over the accuracy of the recently-held census, and religious groups are preoccupied bashing America for its alleged threats to Islamabad. This leaves civil society and social scientists wondering: who will take the country's growing population's impact on security and prosperity seriously? Pakistan's population has ballooned to 207.77 million, according to provisional census results. This is a 57 percent increase since the last census nearly two decades ago. After the South Asian nation was established 70 years ago following India's partition, the region that constitutes modern-day Pakistan had a population of 33.7 million. Recently, the most explosive population growth has taken place in Pakistan's major cities, western provinces and tribal areas that border Afghanistan.
Bitterness among regions
The census results have caused a wave of anger across the country with smaller provinces lambasting the federal government in Islamabad for "rigging" the data. Squabbling politicians want to protest the census numbers because they complain their regions' real population sizes are higher. They say the government does not want to increase its funding to local authorities to reflect this. "The large share of budget is taken away by the Pakistani military," said former Finance Minister Dr. Mubashir Hasan. "The rest is taken by capitalists, feudals and bureaucrats. Unless we cut down the military budget, abolish feudalism and distribute lands, we will see nothing but a myriad of problems with this rising population," Hasan told DW. Facing realities Amidst this political wrangling, civil society groups are worried about the implications of this census that shows a 57 percent increase since in 1998.
"If the state does not perform its duty with regard to the provision of basic amenities then the situation will be catastrophic," Farooq Tariq, a Lahore-based activist, told DW. "More than 67 percent of people are already living without concrete roofs, 35 percent of peasants are landless and over 60 million are living in poverty," he added. With Pakistan spending just 0.9 percent of its GDP on health, and 2.6 percent on education, Tariq fears poverty will increase even more in the coming decades. Conscious of the regional bitterness and wave of protests the recent census has triggered, Dr. Mehdi Hasan, a renowned intellectual and author, warns the results will only compound the country's existing challenges. "More than 20 million children are out of schools, and then another 43 percent of the students drop out before passing their fifth grade," Hasan told DW. "[You can] expect millions more that will be added to this figure with the rising population."
Money troubles
Pakistan's current deficit is already alarmingly high and the country's exports are dwindling. Despite the government's borrowing binge over the last four years, the South Asian country is still grappling with a deteriorating economic situation. Economist Zia Uddin says: "With this trend of the rising population, our debts, which are already close to $70 billion (58 billion euros), are set to rise." Uddin says that Pakistan's tax-to-GDP ratio at 4 percent is the lowest in the region. Uddin warns of economic trouble ahead, saying, "Our resources are so meagre that they were not enough even before this census." National security Many analysts predict the country's biggest challenge of the coming decades will be ensuring national security in the face of an exploding population. Analyst Ahsan Raza believes this rapid population growth and the reality of meagre resources will likely strengthen religious and extremist forces in Pakistan.
"We already have around 79,000 registered and unregistered seminaries across the country where poor people with a large family have been putting their kids," Raza told DW. These seminaries, also known as madrassas, provide free food and lodging to its students, making it an attractive option for impoverished communities. However, Raza warns that these madrassas will mushroom across remote regions of the country to compensate for the state's inability to provide for a growing population. "More people will send their children to religious seminaries, which means that you will have more religious intolerance, sectarianism and extremism," he explained, "which ultimately further complicates the security situation." Cities are also not immune to the potential rise in religious extremism, with already more than 30,000 religious schools in urban centers. Raza said, "They teach mathematics, physics, and other science subjects (but) go and visit these schools and you will feel as if you are in a madrassa."
There is a fear that religious groups and organizations will continue to step in where the state fails to provide for its growing population, and as Raza surmises, there will be "more jihadi and sectarian warriors in the coming decades that will not only target alleged infidels but the liberal and secular-minded people of the country."

بے نظیر بھٹو قتل کیس فیصلہ: کون کسے بچانا چاہتا ہے

محمد عامر حسینی

سابق وزیراعظم محترمہ بے نظیر بھٹو شہید کے قتل کیس کا فیصلہ دس سال بعد سنادیا گیا۔پانچ ملزمان رہا اور جنرل مشرف کو مفرور قرار دیا گیا۔اس فیصلے کے آنے کے بعد سے جو ردعمل سامنے آرہا ہے وہ اکثریت میں اس فیصلے پہ ناراضگی کا ہے۔اس دوران محترمہ بے نظیر بھٹو کے قریبی ساتھی واجد شمس الحسن نے بی بی سی اردو کے پروگرام سیربین سے انتہائی اہم گفتگو کی ہے۔
‘ بے نطیر بھٹو کی 2007ء میں جنرل پرویز مشرف سے پہلی بار جب دبئی میں ملاقات ہوئی جس کے بعد محترمہ بے نظیر بھٹو واپس آئیں تو بہت زیادہ غصے میں لگ رہی تھیں۔انہوں نے مجھے بتایا کہ پرویز مشرف ان سے بہت بدتمیزی کررہا تھا اور کہہ رہا تھا کہ وہ ملک واپس نہ جائیں،وہاں ان کی مقبولیت بالکل بھی نہیں ہے اور ان کو بہت سے خطرات ہیں،بے نظیر بھٹو نے مشرف کو جواب دیا کہ مقبولیت اور غیر مقبولیت کا اندازہ لگانا ایک طرح سے ممکن ہے۔مشرف وردی اتاریں اور ان کے مقابل وہ الیکشن لڑتی ہیں۔پتا چل جائے گا مقبول کون ہےاور غیر مقبول کون ہے۔’
واجد شمس الحسن نے مزید انکشاف کیا،’3 اکتوبر کو بے نظیر بھٹو نے فیصلہ کیا کہ وہ 4 اکتوبر کو ملک واپس جانے کا اعلان کریں گی اور اپنے اراکین کو پارلیمنٹ سے مستعفی ہونے کو کہیں گی۔اس پہ مشرف پریشان ہوا اور اس نے کنڈولیزا رائس سے بات جنھوں نے بے نظیر بھٹو سے بات چیت کی۔تو بے نظیر بھٹو نے کنڈولیزا رائس کو بتایا کہ مشرف جھوٹا ہے اور ان کو سیکورٹی فراہم نہیں کرے گا۔کنڈولیزا رائس نے بے نظیر بھٹو کو پورا یقین دلایا کہ ان کو پوری سیکورٹی فراہم کی جائے گی۔نینسی پاؤل امریکی سفیر برائے پاکستان بے نظیر بھٹو سے رابطے میں رہیں گی’
‘ سابق آرمی چیف جنرل کیانی نے مجھے بتایا کہ جب شواہد فوری طور پہ دھودئے گئے تو مجرم کیسے پکڑے جاسکتے تھے’
‘ سانحہ کارساز کراچی کے واقعے کے بعد بے نظیر بھٹو نے بتایا کہ اس واقعے کے مجھے رینجرز کے زریعے نظربند کرنے کی کوشش کی۔اس واقعے بعد بے نطیر بھٹو کی نینسی پاؤل نے فون کرکے پھر یقین دہانی کرائی لیکن جیمرز کام کرنا چھوڑ گئے اور سیکورٹی بھی موجود نہیں تھی۔’
واجد شمس الحسن کا کہنا ہے کہ آصف علی زرداری نے جنرل مشرف کو جانے کی اجازت عالمی دباؤ پہ دی اور ایسا لگتا ہے کہ ان کا اشارہ امریکی دباؤ کی طرف تھا۔واجد شمس الحسن کا کہنا تھا کہ جیسے بھٹو نے نکسن کے کہنے پہ جنرل یحیی کا ٹرائل نہیں کیا تھا۔
اس ساری گفتگو سے یہ بات سامنے آتی ہے کہ اگر جنرل مشرف کی حکومت سابق وزیراعظم بے نظیر بھٹو کو سیکورٹی فراہم کرنے سے مکر گئے تھے تو اس سلسلے میں کنڈولیزا رائس ، نینسی پاؤل اور دیگر بین الاقوامی طاقتیں جو بے نظیر بھٹو کو سیکورٹی فراہم کرنے کی ضمانت دے رہی تھیں وہ کیا تھیں؟
واجد شمس الحسن کا کہنا تھا کہ بے نظیر بھٹو کو جنرل مشرف کسی بھی طرح سے پاکستان آکر اوپن سیاست کرنے، پبلک سے گھل مل جانے سے روکنا چاہتے تھے اور بے نظیر بھٹو کی اوپن سیاست سے ملک میں مذہبی جنونی،بنیاد پرست سیاست کرنے والے اور طالبان،القاعدہ بھی خوفزدہ نظر آرہے تھے اور وہ بھی بے نظیر بھٹو کو ختم کرنا چاہتے تھے۔بے نظیر بھٹو نے اپنے ساتھیوں پہ واضح کردیا تھا کہ یا تو وہ کھلی عوام ی سیاست کریں گی وگرنہ وہ سیاست چھوڑ دینے کو ترجیح دیں گی۔وہ کہتی تھیں کہ میں بزدل سیاست دان نہیں ہوں۔ان حقائق سے یہ بات سامنے آتی ہے کہ ملٹری اسٹبلشمنٹ جو اس وقت ملک میں براہ راست حکومت کررہی تھی اس نے محترمہ بے نظیر بھٹو کی سیکورٹی میں خلاء رکھے اور تحریک طالبان،القاعدہ سمیت دہشت گرد تنظیموں کو موقعہ فراہم کیا کہ وہ وہ بے نظیر بھٹو کو سافٹ ٹارگٹ سمجھ کر نشانہ بنائیں۔
بے نظیر بھٹو کی سیکورٹی جب فوجی اسٹبلشمنٹ نے فراہم نہیں کی تھی اور بے نظیر بھٹو کو جب سافٹ ٹارگٹ بنادیا گیا تھا تو ایسے موقعہ پہ پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے زمہ داروں کو بے نظیر بھٹو کی فول پروف سیکورٹی انتظامات بنانے کا فرض بنتا تھا۔رحمان ملک سمیت جن لوگوں کو بے نظیر بھٹو کی سیکورٹی کا زمہ دار بنایا گیا تھا وہ آج تک اپنی غلطی تک ماننے کو تیار نہیں ہیں مگر اس سے بے نظیر بھٹو کو مقتل گاہ تک پہنچانے والی اصل قوت سے توجہ نہیں ہٹائی جاسکتی ۔کیونکہ پاکستان میں آج بھی جہاد ازم، تکفیر ازم، پولیٹکل اسلام ازم کے حامی، ملٹری اسٹبلشمنٹ میں سعودی نواز لابی اور دائیں بازو کی سیاسی جماعتیں اور دائیں بازو کا پریس بے نظیر بھٹو کے قتل کی ذمہ داری پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کی موجودہ قیادت پہ زبردستی ڈالنے کی کوشش کررہی ہے اور مقصد قاتلوں کی ماں کی طرف سے توجہ ہٹانا مقصود ہے

Benazir murder case verdict leaves a lot to be desired

The judgment of the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC), handed down after a decade, left unanswered the first and foremost question who planned, masterminded and executed the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Meanwhile, the verdict brought another bad news for former dictator Pervez Musharraf whose property has been confiscated as per the ATC order and he has been declared as an absconder for not having presented himself before the court. Thus, the Benazir Bhutto murder case will remain pending as far as he is concerned, and it will be reopened whenever he will be back in Pakistan.
In a murder case, the real culprits, who commit such a heinous crime, are imposed the maximum punishment while the abettors and facilitators also imposed lesser conviction if their guilt is proved. It will be a big surprise if the actual murderers are released but their accomplices and conspirators are punished.
As the young men, who faced the murder trial, are not the murderers of Benazir Bhutto as per the ATC judgment. Who are the killers? There is none to give answer to this question. Following this verdict, this most important case comes to an end, and there is no hope that efforts will ever be made to trace and try the actual killers.
Senior police officers Saud Aziz and Khurram Shehzad, the only accused sentenced to 17 years imprisonment each, were found to have committed criminal negligence and dereliction of duty but they were certainly not the sponsors and killers of Benazir Bhutto. Whatever charges they faced emerged only after the assassination had taken place.
Washing of the crime scene, not getting the post-mortem done and non-provision of adequate security to the illustrious lady for which the two police officials were convicted occurred after she had been murdered.
All the five acquitted young men were the main accused in the murder case. They stood exonerated as per the ATC decision. Saud Aziz and Khurram Shahzad were not arraigned for assassinating Benazir Bhutto but for not doing what they should have done for being in the police.
The prosecution of the high-profile murder case remained “orphaned” as far as Benazir Bhutto’s spouse Asif Ali Zardari and her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were concerned from day one because they never took even minor interest in pursuing it vigorously in the ATC or anywhere else.
They were in government for five years when they were in a good position to do a lot to take the case to the logical conclusion. But they wittingly or unwittingly did nothing. Perhaps they had no hope that the actual killers would be caught and punished. It was never heard that Zardari or any other PPP leader of even the second tier ever attended the ATC proceedings to see what is happening there. They had let the case proceed at the pace chosen by others.
On his acquittal from the last corruption reference by an accountability court last week, Zardari said that he kept running with the courts till they got fatigued. By thus boasting, he presented himself as the shrewdest politician, who knows how to win a legal battle with endurance and perseverance.
But this talent was nowhere in sight in fighting the case of his wife’s murder. He can only explain why he was always nonchalant and unconcerned. During his government, Zardari took some cosmetic measures like the request to the United Nations to appoint a commission to investigate the murder case.
The world body had obliged but when its commission had prepared and released its findings, the PPP disputed it, turning the whole exercise into a futility. On the other hand, Zardari and the PPP have kept referring to Benazir Bhutto’s sacrifice obviously to take political mileage.
Several hours after the pronouncement of the ATC judgment, there was no full-fledgedpresser from top PPP leaders particularly Zardari, Bilawal, and any other senior stalwart that showed the party’s well-considered overall approach to the case.
They have much obsession of addressing news conferences every now and then on important issues, but this case did not merit any powerful reaction. Bilawal gave his reaction on twitter -- the decision is disappointing and unacceptable; release of terrorists is not only unjust but also dangerous; and the PPP will explore legal options. His sister Aseefa tweeted that there will be no justice till Pervez Musharraf answers for his crimes; ten years later we still await justice; and abettors punished but those truly guilty of her mother’s murder roam free.
PPP leader Nafisa Shah said in a tweet that even after ten years, the ATC judgment fails to deliver justice as the conspirators and main accused especially Musharraf has not been sentenced.
The ATC verdict was perfectly in accordance with the judgments that the most important political assassinations of the world had attracted. Since such murders remain untraced, question of conviction doesn’t arise. There were no proceedings or conviction in the murder case of Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan.
The exoneration of all the five accused is a highly dismal reflection on the performance of the prosecution. It was officially claimed immediately after the murder on behalf of the then military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, that the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was responsible for the crime. Some audio tapes had also been then played to show its guilt.

(PAKISTAN'S PUNJABI JUDGES) - Court acquits five accused ‘Taliban’

An anti-terrorism court on Thursday acquitted five men - accused of being Taliban - who had been blamed for being involved in the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and branded former military ruler General (r) Pervez Musharraf a fugitive in the murder trial.
The verdicts are the first to be issued since Benazir Bhutto, the first female prime minister of a Muslim country, was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack nearly a decade ago, sparking street violence and plunging Pakistan into months of political turmoil.
The judge also found two police officers guilty of "mishandling the crime scene", the court official said, making them the only people to have been convicted over the assassination.
Saud Aziz, who was the police chief in Rawalpindi at the time of Bhutto's assassination, and former Rawal Town SP Khurram Shahzad were sentenced to 17 years each and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 0.5 million each.
Khurram Shahzad was accused of hosing down the crime scene less than two hours after the killing - an act the United Nations described in a report as "fundamentally inconsistent with Pakistani police practice".
Saud Aziz was accused of both giving Shahzad permission to hose down the scene, and of refusing multiple times to allow an autopsy of Bhutto's body to go ahead.
The two former police officials had earlier been granted bail and were present in court at the time the verdict was announced. According to the verdict, the former policemen had been awarded 10 years in prison under Section 119 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and seven years under Section 201 of the PPC.
Former president and military ruler Musharraf is alleged to have been part of a broad conspiracy to have his political rival killed before elections. He has denied the allegation. He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder in 2013, in an unprecedented move against an ex-army chief, challenging beliefs the military is immune from prosecution.
But he has been in self-exile in Dubai ever since a travel ban was lifted three years later.
The anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi ruled he had "absconded", a court official told reporters outside, saying it had also ordered the confiscation of his property. The judge acquitted five men who had been accused of being Taliban militants involved in the conspiracy to kill Bhutto on December 27, 2007.
They were set to walk free nearly 10 years after they were first arrested, though a defence lawyer said it was not yet clear when they would be released.
"My clients were held for nine years and eight months for nothing," Malik Jawad Khalid, the lawyer for three of the men - Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul and Sher Zaman - told AFP. Musharraf's government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.
In 2010, the UN report accused Musharraf's government of failing to give Bhutto adequate protection and said her death could have been prevented.

#BenazirBhutto - The most shocking political assassination of the past decade remains an utter mystery

By Pamela Constable
It was one of the most shocking political assassinations of our time. Benazir Bhutto, the charismatic Pakistani leader and two-time prime minister, died during an attack as she waved to an adoring outdoor crowd. At 54, she had recently returned from exile to her homeland — then led by a military dictator — to attempt a political comeback.
Bhutto’s slaying nearly a decade ago, on Dec. 27, 2007, spawned an international investigation, numerous arrests and an array of conspiracy theories, but it was never solved. Now, even after a Pakistani anti-terrorism court finally delivered its verdict Thursday, the killing appears destined to remain a mystery.
The court, which heard the case inside a high-security prison, found two police officials guilty of failing to provide security for Bhutto and improperly handling the crime scene; both were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Among other unexplained acts, they quickly ordered the immediate area hosed down, thereby destroying potential evidence.
The judges also declared Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler now living in exile in London, an “offender” and “absconder” in the case. Musharraf was implicated in the killing by supporters of Bhutto, who claimed he feared her political comeback and was intent on remaining in power. He repeatedly denied those claims but refused to testify in the case and was forced to step down within months of her death.
But the court acquitted five men arrested as suspects in the murder. All were allegedly members of the Pakistani Taliban movement and had been held in prison for nearly a decade on charges of plotting and facilitating the crime. The judges said there was insufficient evidence to convict them, rejecting the official prosecution’s argument that she was the victim of an insurgent plot.
Some commentators expressed deep disappointment in the verdict, suggesting it was a product of political dealmaking and reflected poorly on the independence of Pakistan’s judicial system. Rashid Rizvi, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, commented that the court ruling was “as much a conspiracy as her murder was.”
Farhatullah Babar, a Pakistan People’s Party senator and longtime close aide to Bhutto, called the verdict a “victory for al-Qaeda.” A leading newspaper called the outcome “a disgrace to the memory of one of the country’s greatest leaders.”
But although Bhutto was seen as a democratic inspiration to many as the longtime leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, she was also a controversial and combative figure from a family with a history of violent tragedy, political plotting, internal feuds and military repression. Her father, onetime socialist prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was imprisoned and hanged in 1979 by military dictator Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. Her brother Shahnawaz was killed in France in 1985. Another brother Murtaza, a political firebrand, was killed in a gun battle with police in 1996, and some family members blamed Benazir.
And just over two months before her death, Bhutto had survived a massive bombing in Karachi amid at a huge public throng that had come to welcome her back after eight years in exile; the explosion killed 136 people. Musharraf declared a state of emergency and put her under house arrest; shortly after it was lifted she decided to hold an election rally in a park in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
She had just made a speech and was waving from the sunroof of her SUV, surrounded by aides, when shots rang out and a bomb exploded. Reeling, she fell and hit her head on the vehicle and later died of head injuries on the way to a hospital.
One of the most bizarre aspects of the brazen daytime assassination was that Bhutto’s own family never seemed interested in discovering the truth. Her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who was away at the time, refused to allow an autopsy. Elected president a few months later on a sympathy vote, he called for an investigation by the United Nations, but his government barely cooperated with investigators. In a scathing report, U.N. officials said Pakistani authorities had made no serious attempt to solve the crime, that their own efforts were “severely hampered” by intelligence agencies and that the Pakistani police were hesitant to pursue the case, in part out of fear of higher-ups. The central message of the report was that no one in authority cared about the facts, only about how to spin them.
After the long-awaited verdict was announced Thursday, there was no immediate comment from Zardari, who has been embroiled in a protracted legal battle dating back to the Musharraf era. At the time, he was charged with various acts of corruption, including acquiring assets through illegal means. Several days ago, a full decade later, he was acquitted on some of those charges in an accountability court.

#BenazirBhutto - A controversial verdict

A cataclysmic event in the country’s history appears to have ended with a whimper in court.
Nearly a decade since Benazir Bhutto’s tragic assassination, an anti-terrorism court has delivered its questionable verdict in a case that was controversially investigated and prosecuted.
Five suspects accused of involvement in the planning and execution of the attack on Bhutto in Rawalpindi on Dec 27, 2007, have been acquitted; two senior police officers responsible for protecting her on that fateful day and, later, securing the site of the attack for evidentiary purposes have been convicted; and former military dictator and then president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf has been declared an absconder in the case.
It is a thoroughly unsatisfactory conclusion to a case that raised more questions than it purported to answer.
While criticism has been directed at the court, the problem originated with a weak prosecution.
The possibility that the state may appeal the verdict should be considered seriously, and this time the state should assemble a stronger case that is scrupulously backed up by evidence and the law.
The Bhutto assassination consisted of a number of tragedies wrapped into a single traumatic episode.
Surely, a broken criminal judicial and policing system must bear a great deal of the blame for the failure to identify and punish the architects of the former prime minister’s assassination.
Similarly, the Musharraf regime ought to be held accountable for appearing to use Bhutto’s security as a negotiating tool in the political deal-making that was being attempted at the time. But there is another inescapable fact: the PPP won power in 2008, manoeuvred Mr Musharraf out of office and then proceeded to do virtually nothing to try and identify and hold accountable the perpetrators of Bhutto’s murder.
The party and its sympathisers argue that the responsibility to sustain a nascent transition to democracy forced the PPP government to make unpleasant choices. While that may be true — the Asif Zardari-led PPP was under pressure on many fronts — it is also the case that the PPP itself opted to relegate the murder of its iconic leader to the bottom of its list of governance priorities.
Notions of self-survival and having to make unpleasant compromises tend to characterise politicians’ accounts of their time in office. But Bhutto was no ordinary leader and her death should never have been treated as merely another dark chapter in the history of a country that has seen many such incidents.
The PPP government owed it to the nation, its own party and its assassinated leader to identify and prosecute those responsible for her death. The laments of PPP leaders today may be real, but so was their conscious decision to turn their back on their slain leader for the sake of power and public office.
It is a heartbreaking disgrace to the memory of one of the country’s greatest leaders.

#BenazirBhutto - ‘Disappointing and Unacceptable’

The ten year long Benazir Bhutto murder case has come spluttering to an end, and consistent with its botched, influenced and erratic trial process the judgment is equally fragmented. Two police officers – accused of hosing down the crime scene and otherwise impeding investigation – have been handed town 17 year sentences for negligence. The main accused, former President Pervez Musharraf has been declared a ‘fugitive’ and the seizure of his properties ordered. The five Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) suspects have curiously all been released.
The differing fate of all the parties in this trial only goes to show how partial the process was. The judge hearing the trial was changed eight times and the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) special prosecutor gunned down in 2013 – despite this, and perhaps because of this, the court granted Pervez Musharraf bail, and eventually he was even taken off the Exit Control List, paving his way to a well appointed exile. The court declaring him a fugitive and issuing arrest warrant in his name is a futile exercise now, it might as well scream at the wind to bring him back. Convicting him is a separate issue, the state agencies and the justice system could not even make the former military dictator face trial. A the moment there is nothing to doubt the legal basis on which this sentence was handed out, but as an exercise of the rule of law, this case has been appalling.
Billawal Bhutto is correct in condemning the outcome as “disappointing and unacceptable”; justice was not done. However he must know that a large part of this trial was conducted while Pakistan People’s Party was in power, with his father – and Benazir’s husband – at the helm. If the prosecution was influenced and intimidated, or the police failed to lay down the basic investigative framework on which the prosecution would be built, then it is also the fault of his party.
Of course, the trial may be over, but the case will probably still continue. The option to appeal the release of the five TTP suspects is being mulled, and Musharraf’s case still hangs in the balance. The convictions for the two police officers have only confirmed the existence of foul play.
The former dictator has boasted about his bravery and his willing to come back and face trial but all that seems like bluster at the moment. Declaring him a fugitive may generate pressure on him, but it seems unlikely it will make him return. Instead we would be listening to a declared fugitive’s comments on national television and interviews to foreign publications.
The pressure on the government to muzzle Pervez Musharraf – the way it did Altaf Hussain – will only grow larger. In the absence of providing a free and fair trial, it is the least they can do.