Saturday, September 9, 2017
By Barbara Hans
For 200 days now, Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel has been held in jail in Turkey. But the madness won't become routine just because time has passed.
In some quarters, people tend to exaggerate when they speak of the importance of journalism. It is true, though, that journalism is necessary in a pluralistic society. The fourth estate exposes abuses, condemns undesirable developments, highlights different perspectives and reveals possible ways forward. Articles, editorials and analysis pieces invite us to inform ourselves, but they also present us with new perspectives. Perspectives we agree with, but also those we don't; perspectives that may anger us and that we find incorrect. Even perspectives that we might find objectionable.A spirit of defiance is inherent to democracy. This defiance is its strength. People can say, "yeah, so what!" when they don't like the opinions and views of others. Democracy is powerful enough to withstand these differences of opinion. Moreover, it demands them. Elections are no less than the manifestation of the fact that there are differences of opinion over what is right and what is wrong. The limits are defined by laws that are executed by independent courts. Democracy ensures peace by promoting tolerance - through freedom of expression and the free press.
Democracy can also be uncomfortable because it tells us: "You have to tolerate other opinions." Because there is something greater at stake than our own egos. What, though, does it say about the political elite when contrary political opinions are viewed as the greatest threat facing the country and those holding such opinions are persecuted. When the powers that be seek to eliminate contradiction and criticism by locking those who express such sentiment away in jail? As though one could silence critique by doing so?
A political system that views critics as the greatest evil has lost all perspective. It no longer pursues a larger, nobler goal. The only goal at that point is holding on to power. But that power is hollow if it doesn't serve the well-being of all.
There's More than One Truth
Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel, the Turkey correspondent for the German national daily Die Welt, has been in jail for 200 days now. With no charges against him. With no proceedings. Like so many other critical journalists, he has been accused of disseminating terrorist propaganda. The case says a lot about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and about Turkey's political mores. About its relationship with Germany. With the arrest of journalists Yücel and Mesale Tolus, also a Turkish-German, as well as human rights activist Peter Steudtner, Turkish leaders have shown Germany, a country that respects the rule of law, the middle finger. The detainees - and not just the German ones - are being exploited by Turkish politicians. "Journalism that seeks the truth ... has become a crime in the eyes of Erdogan's government," Turkish-German novelist Dogan Akhanli wrote in an editorial on SPIEGEL ONLINE on Thursday. Meanwhile, Mesale Tolu's father says: "Erdogan has taken my daughter hostage."
Deniz Yücel is allowed to exercise in the prison courtyard for one hour each week and he is permitted to talk on the phone for 10 minutes once every two weeks, his wife Dilek Mayatürk-Yücel said in an interview. The rest of his time is spent in solitary confinement. In fairy tales, it is called perdition. It is an unfathomable state of affairs for those of us who live in freedom. For those of us free to determine our own daily lives. In the time since Deniz Yücel's arrest, German chancellor candidate Martin Schulz has seen his chances of defeating Angela Merkel wax and wane. Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl passed away, France elected Emmanuel Macron as its new president and North Korea has conducted missile launches. The world is a different place than it was on Feb. 14. All of us have conducted countless conversations during that time - good ones, but also unpleasant ones. Yücel and the other detainees have been denied that right -- because a government has presumed to decide that that which it finds inconvenient cannot be true.
People can get used to madness. To the next German who is thrown in jail in Turkey. To the next intellectual who is persecuted. Our adaptability allows us to withstand a lot. But we cannot allow ourselves to become dulled. We cannot allow Erdogan to shape what is normal. We must remain defiant.
The Saudi regime has become so erratic that it turned against Qatar, one of the few regimes that have an identical ideology, and therefore brought Qatar closer to Iran, says professor of politics at Tehran University Seyed Mohammad Marandi.
Saudi Arabia has decided to suspend all dialogue with Qatar after Qatari media was accused of misreporting on phone conversations between the Emir of Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s defense minister.
Previously, US President Donald Trump urged the Gulf States to unite against Iran and expressed his willingness to act as a mediator between Doha and Riyadh.
However, in June, Trump alleged that Qatar was a sponsor of terrorism when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the UAE first cut diplomatic and transport links with the Gulf nation.
RT: President Trump claims that the Qatar crisis is easy to solve. Why is it so hard to get the sides – Qatar and Saudi Arabia – to the negotiating table?
Seyed Mohammad Marandi: I think the most important problem is the Saud family itself and Mohammad bin Salman in particular. He is very young, he was born a billionaire. He has yes men surrounding him. He has created a mess, not just in his relationship with Qatar that we see this problem. He invaded Yemen. He has been killing the Yemeni people. His air force has been bombing hospitals, funerals, weddings, schools, and innocent civilians for almost three years now with Western support, with the US support both under Obama and Trump. And to no avail; he has lost the war effectively. He has been spreading Wahhabi extremism – he, his father, and the regime before his father have been spreading extremism n Syria, in Iraq, and across the world. Wahhabism is something the Saudis export.
What is extraordinary is that the Saudi regime has become so erratic and unpredictable that now it has turned against one of the few regimes that has an identical ideology… Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the two countries that explicitly declare themselves to be Wahhabi… It is not just an issue of sectarianism, the Saudis are even turning against Wahhabis like themselves. I don’t think the US will have an easy task in bringing these countries together. And even if they do, I don’t think the Qataris are going to trust the Saudis in the future. And Trump himself is not considered to be a very reliable partner, as the Republican Party has just discovered themselves.
The present dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and the UAE is difficult to understand because it seems to be totally artificial, it doesn’t seem to have any reality behind it at all. As for President Trump’s offer to mediate, don’t forget he was asked at a press conference after the formal statements have been made, by journalists, whether he supported Kuwaiti mediation. And he said, “Yes, we do support Kuwaiti mediation.” And then he couldn’t resist adding, “I would be very ready to mediate myself if that would be useful.” I am not surprised that he said that. Maybe it is helpful. Any world leader might have said the same thing.- Oliver Miles, former UK ambassador to Libya
RT: The crisis boils down to Qatar’s alleged terrorist links with Iran. Are there any new developments on that front?
SMM: The Iranian-Qatari relationship has never been severed despite the Saudi pressure. And in fact, the Saudis have failed to disrupt the relationship between Iran and other countries, such as Oman. The Saudis, on the other hand, are putting enormous pressure on Kuwait to distance itself from Iran. But in the case of Qatar, I think it backfired. They went way too far by trying to humiliate the country and take away its sovereignty. The Qataris, which were blockaded not only by Saudi Arabia but its allies like the UAE and Bahrain from the land and the sea and air… they were preventing food from getting in. And the only way forward for Qatar was to turn to Iran. And of course, the Iranians felt that they had an obligation to support the Qataris. And this is something that the Saudis have been doing for a long time: the Iranian relationship with the people of Yemen has evolved, improved, and they have grown closer to each other because of the Saudi invasion of the country. The same is true with what the Saudis and their allies did in Syria and Iraq: they basically brought these countries closer to Iran because these countries saw the Saudis’ Wahhabi extremist ideology, which Al-Qaeda and ISIS and Boko Haram are linked to, as a threat to their existence, and they moved to Iran which they saw as a very reliable partner. That is, basically, the Saudis who have been shooting themselves in the foot time after time.
By John Q. Bolton
The newly announced Afghanistan strategy differs only in style, not substance, from the strategies of the past, and certainly from the current strategy. After 16 years we still lack a coherent strategy, once that aligns ways and means to achieve realistic ends.
It’s true the administration promises to utilize all the elements of American power, but this is a bromide. While it renounces nation building and timelines (removed in 2014) and emphasizes “killing terrorists,” the new strategy’s purported end, ensuring that Afghanistan will not become a terrorist safe haven, is wildly out of line with the limited means the Pentagon is said to be planning (an increase of 3,000 to 5,000 troops and the concurrent call to end nation building. Put simply: If over 100,000 troops couldn’t kill enough terrorists, how will only 10,000?
Furthermore, killing isn’t an end state. It is an operational tactic that can only provide the breathing space for destroying terrorist groups, reconciliation, or some other cessation of hostilities. Moreover, if Afghanistan really is a problem requiring the application of “all the elements of national power,” then it is a problem that exists on a nation-building scale, making killing more out of place.
The problem with arguing that Afghanistan will become a haven for terrorists is that it is exactly the kind of open-ended, fight everywhere justification for forever war that the American people have opposed since at least 2008. Not only is this type of warfare deeply antithetical to our form of government, but assertions about enemy safe havens also rest on the faulty logic that the past will repeat itself, exactly. While the Taliban is the major enemy in Afghanistan, it is not al Qaeda in terms of scale and goals. It’s worth noting that the Taliban is not a declared terrorist group. This is partially true and partially political, a way to encourage reconciliation. However, it remains the truth that the Taliban’s aims are predominantly regional. It wants to rule Afghanistan. Indeed, it has an entire shadow government that works alongside, and sometimes in place of, Kabul.
Therein lies the problem with a strategy of “killing terrorists.” Doing so ignores the root causes of radical violence as well as local factors. Killing terrorists in Afghanistan, such as they are, will do nothing to stop domestically organized, foreign-inspired killers like those in Barcelona, France, or the United States. We are continuing — indeed reemphasizing — a failed whack-a-mole strategy. It makes for good television, but is strategically unsound, operationally expensive, and tactically exhausting. It also elevates terrorist organizations to the same level as nation states — a status that makes them proud — when they are simply criminals. This strategy forces the military to run head on into problems it is not designed, equipped, nor trained to solve.
Strangely, after so much time spent in Afghanistan, we have never really examined our military training paradigms or personnel structure, let alone made real changes in order to meet the needs of this supposedly crucial theater. This realization was echoed by Lieutenant General (ret.) Daniel Bolger: “Time after time, as I and my fellow generals saw that our strategies weren’t working, we failed to reconsider our basic assumptions; we failed to question our flawed understanding … in the end, all the courage and skill in the world could not overcome ignorance and arrogance.”
There is another factor clouding our views of Afghanistan, one that distorts its actual place relative to American National Security: the U.S. military. For the military, especially its leaders, this war is personal. For them Afghanistan’s sunk costs are very real and often translate into lost friends and comrades. Conversely, the public may generally oppose the war, but to America at large, the costs are negligible. They are abstract. Therefore, the American people must evaluate calls to “support the commander of the ground,” while noting that the past 16 commanders in Afghanistan all wanted more troops. A harsh, realistic, appraisal is what a great nation owes itself. With that in mind, let us consider these hard facts:
Americans are dying in Afghanistan because Americans are in Afghanistan. Promoting other paradigms of fighting global jihad or making the world safe for democracy ignores the reality that no military strategy has succeed in that far-away land. Setting aside the enormous costs of the war (direct spending of over $700 billion on everything from construction, payouts to families of killed civilians to nonsense like designer goats and a $36 million unused command center), an even harder truth is this: There is nothing beyond the most tenuous of linkages between Afghanistan’s security and governance and America’s national security. While the Taliban may have provided a haven for al Qaeda, they are hardly a threat to America’s security. Indeed, our own actions in the forever war have inflamed the Islamic world against us, sowed the seeds of domestic strife at home, and deeply, perhaps catastrophically, indebted the nation.
We may applaud ourselves for staying the course in Afghanistan, but it is precisely our unwillingness to confront the harsh truths outlined above that we have become mired in a stalemate. This public apathy is underwritten by a social contract that has separated the American people from their military in a fundamentally destructive manner — one in which the public will do anything it wants for the military, “except take it seriously.” A wise people, seeing the situation for what it truly is, would grapple with these harsh truths, determine a way to stop fighting literally on the other side of the world, and seek a settlement, not as victors, but as an honorable people. We can find peace in Afghanistan while fighting other terrorist and regional threats in a coherent manner.
The hills and valleys of Central Asia have unique strategic, historical, and geographic value and their people are deserving of the freedom, stability, and security that humans the world over are entitled to. Nevertheless, such desires are hardly worth the bones of a single American paratrooper, especially in the context of fighting and killing in a forever war. Those deeming otherwise ignore the lessons of history and seek to recast our own strategic folly into a generations-long endeavor to reshape a region of the world profoundly opposed to external influences.
Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani will arrive in Delhi on Sunday to attend the India-Afghanistan Partnership Council meeting that has been delayed for years. The minister is also expected to discuss new avenues for cooperation within the India-U.S.-Afghanistan grouping.
However, officials said no new decisions on defence supplies or security cooperation were likely during the talks which will end with a joint statement on Monday.
All eyes will be on talks to discuss the way forward weeks after the U.S. President Trump unveiled his “new policy” for Afghanistan, where he proposed a larger role for India in development assistance to Afghanistan. Later this month, Afghanistan President Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and a senior U.S. trade or commerce official will travel to India for the first India-U.S.-Afghanistan trade expo, funded by USAID.
“We are breaking new ground in working with another mission on this sort of project. Delhi is a natural market for Afghanistan, and we want to develop that,” a U.S. official told The Hindu. Senior Afghan diplomats said the emphasis of the Partnership Council talks would be on “capacity building” for Afghan security forces in training and enhancing existing cooperation as well as about 287 “small development projects (SDPs)” that India is is committing funding for including small dams, road and highway construction, agriculture, education and health of the SDP-Phase III that were signed in 2012.
Air corridor issues
The two sides will also discuss enhancing trade, especially the “air corridor” for freight that was inaugurated in June to circumvent Pakistan, and has faced teething troubles due to non-availability of cargo aircraft.
However, the Afghan government has recently engaged private airline Kam Airways to carry freight, and officials said they would like to connect more Indian and Afghan cities including Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Herat for trade in cotton, fruit and dry fruit from Afghanistan and medical and electrical equipment from India.
The air corridor agreement could be signed during Dr. Abdullah’s visit.
In addition, Mr. Rabbani and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will witness the signing of two agreements: the Motor Vehicles agreement, announced in 2014, and an agreement on Orbit Frequency Coordination for the South Asia satellite launched in May this year. Mr. Rabbani will also raise the problems of Afghans travelling to India for medical care and students face in obtaining a visa as the process requires repeated visits to the Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRRO). The minister is likely to request longer duration visas for them.
According to the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2011, the India-Afghanistan Partnership Council was supposed to meet annually. When asked about the reason for the delay in holding the Partnership Council, which last met in May 2012, an official said elections in India and Afghanistan, as well as Ms. Swaraj’s ill-health had delayed the meeting.
The Afghan Foreign Minister will be accompanied by four deputy ministers who head joint working groups on Trade and Economic Cooperation, Capacity Development and Education, and Social, Cultural, Civil Society and people-to-people contacts, and will meet with Ms Swaraj for talks.
Mr. Rabbani is also the head of the Jamiat-e-Islami party that is part of the National Unity Government in Kabul, and officials said he would call on Mr. Modi and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi during his visit.
د نړۍ د مخ پر ودې اقتصادي قدرتونو مشرانو په اول ځل په خپله اعلاميه کې د ځينو پاکستان مېشته وسله والو ډلو نومونه ياد کړي او د هغوی پر ضد د جدي اقدام غوښتنه يې کړې ده.د پېښور پوهنتون يو استاد او د نړيوالو اړيکو شنونکی ډاکټر سرفراز خان وايي، نړيوال له يوې مودې راهيسې له پاکستانه غواړي چې پر خاوره يې د فعالو وسله والو ډلو او کسانو پرضد کاروايي وکړي. نوموړی زموږ دا خبرې د مشال راډیو له خبریال هارون باچا سره په مرکه کې کړې دي. هغه ویلي ، چې پاکستان د نړيوالې ډپلوماسۍ په چارو کې د هند مقابله نه شي کولی د ډاکټر سرفراز خان مرکه دلته واورئ
By Madeeha Bakhsh
The phenomenon of accusing Christians of committing blasphemy has been on the higher side in past year.
According to details, last year saw the highest number of blasphemy cases registered in Pakistan. This was revealed during a seminar held recently in Karachi. The seminar was titled, “Human Rights, Religious freedom, Social Inclusion & Political Participation of Minority.” Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) had organised the seminar.
In line with details, a senior lawyer of Pakistan Syed Mumtaz Shah while addressing the audience at the seminar stated that in 2014, the record numbers of 14,00 blasphemy cases were registered in Pakistan. This was, as explained by him, the highest number as compared to recent years.
Last year, the phenomenon of blasphemy cases was reached apex if record of last few years was compared. He said this was a disquieting situation as the rising trend points out to growing religious intolerance in the country. A considerable number of cases were registered against Christians and as is general trend blasphemy accusations are followed by mobs attacking the family and houses of the accused.
This seminar was attended by various representatives from civil society, leaders from various walks of life and people from different religions. It was revealed at the seminar that out of 14, 00- 800 cases were registered against Muslims. The participants were all of same accord that “Muslims should take to the streets against the abuse of this law.”
On the other hand, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), noted that during 2014, out of all the 14,00 blasphemy cases the Pakistani courts sentenced three people to death and six to life imprisonment, while three other culprits received two years’ detention for blasphemy.
Another participant of the seminar, Nisar Shar- who is a spokesman for the lawyers association in Karachi, said, “Even for lawyers it has become dangerous to do their job and defend a defendant accused of blasphemy.” Nisar Shah further mentioned the case of a lawyer Rashid Rehman who was murdered because he took the defence case of a blasphemy accused.
Banners inciting religious hatred have been put up in several areas of the provincial capital, singling out Ahmedis and congratulating the entire Muslim community on a day when they were declared “infidels” by parliament, Pakistan Todayhas observed.
The banners put up by the Pakistan Khatam-e-Nubuwwat Forum term ‘Khatam-e-Nubuwwat Day’ as its Defence Day.
The banner further reads: “This is the day when parliament unanimously declared Qadianis (Ahmedis) infidels.”
Permission to display banners on city roads and junctions is granted by the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA), however, a senior official denied that they had given any such permission to the Forum.
“Lahore is a big city. People put up banners overnight all the time, and sometimes we don’t even know about it,” said Shahzad Tariq, a deputy director in PHA.
Interestingly, the inciting banners were not put up overnight and no action has been taken by the authority to take them down either.
Pakistan Khatam-e-Nubuwwat Forum General Secretary Muhammad Hassan told Pakistan Today that they don’t need permission from any authority to put up banners as the whole nation celebrates the day as Defence Day.
He further said that they have put up these banners in the past too and have never gotten into trouble with the authorities.
“As far as the National Action Plan (NAP) is concerned, it is only limited to the two majority Muslim sects in the country,” he claimed.
Maulana Abdul Naeem, a member of the Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatam-e-Nubuwwat, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that NAP doesn’t apply to any matter pertaining to Ahmedis, so the banners are not violating any law.
Imran Maqbool, public relations officer of the District Coordination Office, said that the banners are put up either with the permission of Metropolitan Corporation or PHA. The police department is responsible in case any violent incident takes place, he added.
“The DCO office has nothing to do with the matter,” he said before hanging up the phone.
Salim Ud Din, spokesman for the Jamaat-e-Ahmediya, said that display of such banners incited more hatred against the community.
“No group or individual should be allowed to display banners that may provoke religious sentiments against any community,” he said.
Commenting on the matter, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Director Najamuddin said that religious outfits were quite capable of putting up such banners.
“Both the federal and the provincial governments are responsible for implementing NAP in letter and spirit,” he said.
Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Asma Jahangir condemned the targeting of the minority Ahmedi community.
“We do not even try to hide our bigotry and then we wonder how we have a poor image,” she said.
Repeated calls were made to Lahore Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf but he did not respond.
However, Lahore Police Spokesman Syed Hammad Raza said that he is not aware of any such banners displayed in the city.
“The PHA and Metropolitan Corporation are to be blamed if such banners are put up in the city,” he said.
The National Action Plan (NAP) bans literature, newspapers, and magazines promoting hatred, violence, sectarianism, extremism, and intolerance. It also says that stern action will be taken against religious persecution, and the act comprises various other points that deal with religious intolerance or promotion of it in any way.
By Zahra Khan
In April of 1979, 26 years old Benazir Bhutto witnessed the beginning of a bloodied epoch, only to be destined to a fate similar to that of her father and her brothers’ years later. The Oxford University graduate, assumed command of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1980 following the hanging of her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Chairperson PPP and elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, he was convicted of criminal charges and faced the death penalty one year after dictator Zia Ul Haq overthrew Bhutto’s elected government.
Benazir Bhutto was the first elected female Prime Minister in the Muslim world. Till today, she is described as a woman of substance – empowered and courageous – she stood graceful and dignified with her chin up despite witnessing the horrific death of her father and brothers. Nothing could bring this woman down – she had survived immense tragedy. After the hanging of her father in 1979, her brother Shahnawaz Bhutto was murdered in his apartment, in 1980, it is said that Shahnawaz was poisoned to death, however, no charges had been brought forward. Another tragic atrocity occurred in 1996, whilst Benazir was in power, when her brother Murtaza was assassinated in a police encounter in Karachi.
In a country like Pakistan where women like Ayesha Gulalai are subjected to abuse for raising their voice against sexual harassment or women like Malala are shot in the face for demanding an education, the nation where women such as Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy are welcomed with a string of online abuses and threats, even after returning to Pakistan being the only Pakistani to receive two Oscars for raising awareness on acid attacks and honour killings, in such a country Bhuttto stood as a powerful woman, firm and brave, speaking up for what she believed in. She was the symbol of resilience and defiance, every time she stood on stage she shattered the stereotype of a Muslim woman, her speeches were so passionate you could almost romanticise her presence, she was a symbol of victory for Muslim women around the world, she posed a threat to the military and the Islamists of Pakistan. It is unfortunate that this very triumphant courageous persona of hers later became the reason behind the tragic murder of Benazir Bhutto.
The men of this country were so intimidated by her presence that one army General is said to have refused to salute Bhutto because she was a “female Prime Minister”, she won her first election in 1988, soon after she gave birth, but her tenure came to a halt in 1990 and she was instead found defending herself in court against charges of misconduct. She won another election in 1993 before once again having her tenure terminated on grounds of corruption. In 1996, she fled to Britain and remained there in a self-imposed exile, and finally in the year 1999 she was convicted and was sentenced to three years in prison.
Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 2007 – in a triumphed return to Pakistan, she aimed to regain her seat after spending 8 years in exile. She describes her return as emotional, and states in her book that this was the first time she had cried in public –“tears are a symbol of weakness” Bhutto stated and didn’t want her opposition to believe that she was weak. She tried to hold back her tears but upon seeing her homeland after 8 years the tears were uncontrollable, however, her homecoming rally was hit by suicide attack, which killed over 100 people. Bhutto survived the attack by the skin of her teeth she backed down behind her bombproof vehicle and survived.
Unfortunately the next attempt to take her life did not go in her favour.
December 27th 2007 a gloomy day in Pakistan’s history – Bhutto had just finished her homecoming rally and was standing in her carwaving to her diehard supporters, through the sunroof of her car, in Rawalpindi when an assassin opened fire followed by a suicide bomb. It is said that Bhutto’s cause of death was not in fact the bomb or gunshots but she hit her head in a metal piece of the sunroof.
Ten years later, the anti terrorism court of Pakistan located in Rawalpindi finally came to a verdict declaring General Pervez Musharraf a fugitive, two police officers party to the crime have been sentenced to 17 years in jail for “mishandling the crime scene”, whilst five alleged Taliban militants have been acquitted. Musharraf fled Pakistan in 2016 in a self-proclaimed exile. The verdict has angered PPP supporters and her son Bilawal Bhutto stated that the verdict is “disappointing” and “unacceptable”, saying they will explore other legal options.