Tuesday, October 3, 2017

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Call for ban on 'bump stocks' – owned by Las Vegas shooter – that boost rate of fire

By Lois Beckett
Bump stocks were a novelty popular with YouTube gun enthusiasts wanting to simulate machine gun fire. Then they were found in a mass shooter’s arsenal.
Gun control advocates are calling for a ban on “bump stocks”, the largely unregulated novelty devices which Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock may have used to convert a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that mimics the continuous fire of a fully automatic weapon.

At least two bump stocks were recovered in Paddock’s hotel room, the Associated Press reported on Monday night, citing law enforcement sources. It is not yet clear whether they were used in his attack.
Bump stocks attach to semi-automatic weapons and harness the recoil of the gun to allow a shooter to fire much faster than they could do if they repeatedly pulled the trigger – as the rifle recoils, the trigger bumps forward into the shooter’s finger to speed up the rate of fire.
As one company that sells the devices, Bump Fire Systems, put it on its website, “Did you know that you can do simulated full-auto firing and it is absolutely legal?” It listed the price of one stock at $99.99
Gun experts called bump stocks a “toy” and “something a gun geek would want”, not a mainstream product or a tool for serious shooters who care about accuracy. Before Sunday’s attack, bump stocks featured prominently in gun enthusiast stunt videos on YouTube.
Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein, who authored the 1994 ban on assault weapons and has tried unsuccessfully to renew the ban in recent years, said in a statement on Tuesday that she has advocated banning bump stocks for years.
“This is the least we should do in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in US history. It should be our highest priority,” Feinstein said.
“Hardware that turns legal guns into automatic weapons should be prohibited,” Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, one of America’s largest gun control groups, wrote on Twitter. “Automatic weapons are highly regulated; this evades federal law.”
David Chipman, who spent 25 years as an ATF agent and now works as a policy adviser for Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun control group, said the bureau has repeatedly confirmed that bump stocks and similar devices are not strictly regulated under the National Firearms Act or the Gun Control Act.
Bump stocks allow rapid fire “by throwing the trigger against your finger as opposed to your finger pulling on the trigger”, he said. He called the device “a masterful creation of a technical workaround creating a loophole to circumvent the intention of the law”.
Rich, a refinery operator from Wilmington, Delaware, who owns more than 40 guns, said he bought a Bump Fire Systems device for about $100 two years ago because it was “the closest thing that I could have that would simulate a machine gun”. Delaware, where he lives, bans the ownership of machine guns, which he would otherwise add to his collection. He requested that his last name not be published so he could candidly discuss his large gun collection without fearing that it might be targeted by thieves.
Purchasing the bump stock did not required a background check, he said. “It’s just like ammo: you order them online, they ship them to your house.”
The device was fun as a “range toy”, but tricky to master, and very difficult to fire accurately. “This thing requires practice,” he said. “It’s not something that somebody off the street could do the first time.”
Many gun stores do not sell bump stocks, perhaps because they might attract “the wrong kind of crowd”, he said, meaning “irresponsible gun owners, people that they watch YouTube videos [and go], ‘Hey, I guess I don’t own a machine gun now,’ and they go out and they do things without seriously thinking about the impact of what they’re doing.”
Many shooting ranges do not allow bump fire devices for a similar reason, he said.
“I got my fun out of it but the novelty kind of wore off,” Rich said. “It’s definitely not reliable as a self-defense method or anything else.”
He said on Monday night that he expected the devices would face intense scrutiny, and that some politicians would call to ban them, which he said would be regrettable.
“I don’t want to see anything banned because of the actions of one person,” he said. “That just doesn’t jive with my principles of freedom.”

Commentary: Don't listen to Trump and the NRA. Now is exactly the time to debate gun control.

By Jennifer Rubin

I guarantee you that if a Muslim jihadist opened fire on a crowd in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump wouldn't wait a nanosecond before invoking his Muslim ban. After all that is precisely what he did after the London subway attack, when the nationality of the bomber(s) was still unknown. If a mass killing had been perpetrated by an illegal immigrant, do we imagine Trump's press secretary would implore us not to discuss immigration in the wake of the violence?
And yet, the NRA-approved mantra that we should not even raise the subject of guns after a mass shooting has become an entrenched talking point for Republicans. Asked about the implications of the shooting for gun policy, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared, "Today is a day for consoling the survivors and mourning those we lost. Our thoughts and prayers are certainly with all of those individuals. There's a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country." On behalf of a president who rarely waits for facts she intoned, "A motive is yet to be determined, and it would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don't fully know all the facts or what took place last night."

After again admonishing the country that Monday was "a day of reflection, a day of mourning, a day of gratefulness for those that were saved," she insisted that "there will be, certainly, time for that policy discussion to take place, but that's not the place that we're in at this moment." However when pressed again she could not resist seizing on her pro-Second Amendment talking points. "I think one of the things that we don't want to do is try to create laws that won't stop these types of things from happening," she lectured. "I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country. That certainly hasn't helped there ... " The conversation continued:
Q: "So related to gun control, what would the President like to see Congress do — is the question I want to get at."

Sanders: "Again, we haven't had the moment to have a deep dive on the policy part of that. We've been focused on the fact that we had a severe tragedy in our country. And this is a day of mourning, a time of bringing our country together, and that's been the focus of the administration this morning."
Q: "Can you explain where that's different from Orlando, though, Sarah — when at that day he was talking about the travel ban, saying he didn't want congratulations, essentially? Why is this —"
Sanders: "I think there's a difference between being a candidate and being the President."
Q: "Thanks, Sarah. I do want to ask — because before last night's massacre, the bill was advancing through the House; Republicans cleared it through the House Committee on Natural Resources that would, among other things, make it easier for people to buy silencers. Hillary Clinton tweeted about it this morning. She said that, 'Imagine the deaths in Las Vegas if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRA wants to make easier to get.' Does the White House have a position on this particular legislation?"

Sanders: "Again, I haven't spoken with the President about that specific issue, but I don't think that that is something that would have changed. Again, I think before we start trying to talk about the preventions of what took place last night, we need to know more facts. And right now we're simply not at that point.
"It's very easy for Mrs. Clinton to criticize and to come out, but I think we need to remember the only person with blood on their hands is that of the shooter. And this isn't a time for us to go after individuals or organizations. I think that we can have those policy conversations, but today is not that day."
Q: "Sarah, are there any policy prescriptions that the President considers to be out of bounds on the policy debate that will happen in the next few weeks? Could you articulate a little bit what his position on gun control is?"
Sanders: "The President has been clear that he's a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and I don't have anything further at this point."
So it's fine to inveigh against counter-productive gun laws and reaffirm support for the Second Amendment; it's always acceptable to attack Hillary Clinton. Just don't talk about whether we might need better enforcement or new legislation? It's all preposterous, a smoke screen for avoiding a political discussion at a time absolutism on the Second Amendment sounds the most bizarre.
The president (and certainly this president who has trashed all rules for civil discourse) doesn't get to determine the etiquette for addressing delicate topics. We actually need more timely debate, not less, which is why the NRA absolutists shrink from debate at the precise time their arguments sound most inhuman and out of touch. We actually have a good deal of consensus on guns. As Axios reminds us, 89 percent of both Republicans and Democrats oppose allowing the mentally ill to purchase guns, over 80 percent in each party would ban those on the no-fly list from purchasing guns. Even 77 percent of Republicans (90 percent of Democrats) would require background checks for purchases at gun shows. Surely, we can at least reach agreement on those sorts of items before launching into more contentious matters.
Moreover, the argument that no post-shooting legislative response is appropriate unless it would have stopped the particular shooting we've just experienced is nonsensical. Trump proposes all sorts of measures (banning refugees, barring immigrants from Chad and elsewhere, building a wall, attacking funding of so-called sanctuary cities) that have little to no connection to any actual crimes or real threats. If we can reach agreement on some measures that might prevent some shootings, we should proceed promptly to a legislative debate.
In sum, no one should be deterred by the administration's or the NRA's tut-tutting about the ground rules for debating an issue they don't want to discuss at all. We are a country that rarely addresses big problems before they happen so for once let's at least have an extended, serious debate after gun violence again rears its head.

America Used to Be Good at Gun Control. What Happened?

IN the immediate aftermath of one of the worst mass shootings in American history, I sought information about what happened by googling “fully automatic weapons” and “Las Vegas.” Audio recordings from the scene had picked up the utterly distinctive sound of fully automatic gunfire. (It appears the gun was a modified semiautomatic weapon.) But instead of turning up details of the massacre, the top search results yielded multiple advertisements for sites like “Battlefield Vegas” (“Book Now!”) and M.G.V. (“Machine Guns Vegas”), where customers can purchase firing-range time with fully automatic “exclusive Las Vegas gun range packages,” according to the second website.
But what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas, and sometimes the line between fantasy violence and the real thing disappears.
The horror of the mass shooting in Las Vegas is demarcated by the sheer number of casualties inflicted by a single individual — more than 50 dead and more than 500 injured — made possible by the use of a modified semi- automatic weapon or weapons, meaning those that fire a continuous stream of bullets by depressing the trigger. Semiautomatic weapons fire one bullet with each pull of the trigger.
The Vegas shooting stands out because, for all of the gun crimes committed annually in America, fully automatic or modified semiautomatic weapons virtually never play a role, thanks to America’s first significant national gun law. America’s close-up experience with automatic weapons nearly a century ago culminated in the adoption of the National Firearms Act of 1934.
Prohibition and later the Great Depression fueled the rise of gangsterism that spread unregulated but powerful weapons developed for warfare, including the Tommy gun (“the gun that made the twenties roar”) and the Browning automatic rifle. By the start of the 1930s, more than half of the states had sharply regulated or barred such fully automatic weapons. In the summer of 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a measure to bring these and other gangster weapons and equipment, like sawed-off shotguns and silencers, under federal control. The new law required an extensive and intensive background check, fingerprinting, registration with a national database and payment of a $200 fee.
The effectiveness of this measure, amended slightly in 1968 and 1986 to ban possession of full automatic weapons, or machine guns, manufactured after that year, put a lid on the spread of these weapons. According to government records, today only about a half-million such guns are in civilian hands. (To comply with the 1986 law expanding the 1934 Firearms Act, citizens are barred from purchasing any fully automatic weapon made after 1986. That includes weapons manufactured to fire in full auto mode and those altered to fire in full auto.) Of guns used in crimes subject to law enforcement tracing, only three of every 1,000 were machine guns.
This success story notwithstanding, mass shootings are on the rise, facilitated by weapons that can still deliver plenty of destructive power. In a study of mass shootings over a 30-year period, more than a third were committed with semiautomatic assault weapons (there are perhaps five million such weapons legally owned as of 2016).
Yet even as mass shootings rise, most of the nation has gone in the opposite direction, following the contrary notion that somehow we would be better off with fewer gun laws and more guns. For example, at the start of the 1980s, 19 states banned concealed gun carrying by civilians entirely, and 29 states had great discretion over whether to grant carry permits. Only one state, Vermont, imposed no permitting restrictions. As of this year, only nine states retain discretion over whether to grant permits (New York is one).
In 29 states, permits must be issued to applicants unless they are felons or mentally incompetent, and 12 states have abolished permitting entirely. In 24 states, no gun training is required to carry a gun. Congress is now considering a bill, called concealed carry reciprocity, to require that every state’s concealed-carry standard be accepted by every other state. This would have the effect of undercutting states with stricter laws since it would impose a national lowest-common-denominator standard.
A different effort to thwart a successful gun law is afoot in Congress: The House of Representatives was poised to pass a bill to remove the 1934 N.F.A. background check, registration and fee requirements one must satisfy to own a gun silencer (also called “suppressors”). Because of the Las Vegas shooting, that bill is now shelved, but when things die down, expect its progress to resume.
The reason for the change? Advocates argue that silencers are almost never used in crimes, and that silencers help protect the gun users’ hearing. Yet the very reason silencers were originally subject to registration regulations was because they were used in crimes, and because their chief utility was to conceal gun crimes and illegal hunting with guns. And while the modern idea of protecting the shooter’s hearing is laudable, the more effective method for doing so would be to subsidize gun owners’ ownership of proper hearing-protection devices, precisely so that innocent bystanders can tell where hostile fire is coming from — whether in the woods during hunting season or in the killing grounds of downtown Las Vegas.
The gun issue is virtually the only one where the default response is increasingly to shrug and say that laws don’t matter, since bad people do bad things, so why bother with new ones? That facile and false logic jumps over an obvious question: Shouldn’t the government do more to keep highly destructive weapons from the wrong hands? Sure, it’s a politically fraught question, but it’s no less important.
Admittedly, mass shooters tend to be individuals with little or no serious criminal past, making them hard to identify before they commit these acts. Recent research has suggested a high correlation with their abuse of intimate partners or family members, but a vast majority of abusers will never pick up a gun and shoot a bunch of people. Still, many mass shooters do give indications of impending violence to those around them, and only a few states have any measures in place to pick up on that. New York, as it happens, is one, with its extensive character background investigation for pistol permit applicants (a process I underwent). Other states would do well to follow its lead.
If we can’t settle on sensible gun regulations in the wake of Sandy Hook or San Bernardino or Orlando or now Las Vegas (or Aurora or Columbine or Virginia Tech before them), when will we? Maybe the answer will emerge when the nation’s cumulative gun violence toxicity level reaches a critical tipping point. Are we there yet?

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Pakistan - Poor Health Sector in Balochistan

By: Kabeer Elahi
As the health is very important sector of any state. It is the great blessing of Allah Almighty. It is mandatory upon government to provide health facilities to its citizens irrespective of color, race, religion & language. Constitutionally good health is public’s first priority, as written in the Constitution of Pakistan in (eighteenth amendment) act, 2010 promulgated on 19 April 2010.
Health sector is managed by Federal ministry and provincial health ministry of respective provinces. Unfortunately in Balochistan masses have numerous problems regarding health sector. There is no good mechanism of hospitals. There is lack of facilities which are required to be amended. There is shortage of modern machineries in hospitals. Public is facing lots of difficulties specially the poor families for treatment of their patients. In Government hospitals there is deficiency of trained doctors and paramedical staff and there is no such praising nursing services and in the hospitals there is shortage of required drugs on the time and modern surgical equipment.
Beside these all several other troubles are being faced. Patients are in worst and miserable condition during treatment. Most of the time doctors are not available at hospitals. In government hospitals the managing systems is all futile. There is lack of good discipline for cleaning. Rather than the patients be cured they suffer in other many diseases due to the odor of garbage and dirt in the hospitals.
Doctors have their own private clinics and laboratories as part time business. Mostly Government hospital doctors sit on their private clinics just for earning money and for business purpose. The poor people can’t afford the charges and fees of private hospitals. Their last hope is the Government hospitals but the deteriorating Government hospitals condition can be seen.
Many patients or families belonging to the rural areas of Balochistan face plenty of difficulties. Firstly, in many areas there is no hospitals, and not a good transport facility to reach the city hospitals well in time. If in any area, there is any hospital they lack the availability of trained doctors and paramedical staff and lack of drugs too.
Health sector requires much focus. There are some departments belonging to health sector like (BHU), Basic Health Unit, and (RHU) Rural Health Unit which are under the management of People’s Primary Health Initiative (PPHI). Through this PPHI, many amendments have been seen. In the regime of Pervez Musharaf, he announced 20 million for health sector, 3750 million for women health project provided at health department.
In Balochistan unfortunately there is only one medical college, Bolan Medical College (BMC) at the Capital city Quetta which is not enough to produce trained doctors and nursing services for this huge population. There must be 3 to 4 medical colleges in Balochistan. BMC itself lacks many amenities. The MRI machines have not been functioning for last five years. In emergency cases mostly the trouble is faced that is the lack of ambulances and stretchers and beds for patients. Khuzdar being the 2nd largest city of Balochistan, there is no ambulance here and not a proper remedies for emergency cases.
Government should work on health sector on emergency basis. Health sector budget must be raised for Balochistan. The Public sector hospitals must be facilitated all the amenities which are in lack. There should be trained medical staff available all the time in Government hospitals. There are many unlicensed clinics & labs such clinics and Laboratories must be closed. If the Government hospitals are prioritized or facilitated then there is no need of private hospitals because poor people cannot afford the charges and fees of private hospitals.
The Government of Balochistan needs to launch long term plans on health sector and ensure implementation of previously announced projects & proper utilization of funds to improve the health sector in the natural rich province.


The affected Shia families have complained that more than a dozen Shia Muslims have gone missing in Dera Ismail Khan and they believe that their near and dear ones were subjected to the enforced disappearance by the rogue elements within the security establishment.
Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, secretary general, Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, has condemned the enforced disappearance of innocent Shia Muslims. He said that it was a flagrant violation of human rights of illegally detained Pakistani Shia Muslims that neither they were produced in any court for trial if there was any charge against them nor their heirs and relatives were apprised of their whereabouts. He demanded immediate release of all the illegally detained Shiites.  
Syed Nasir Kazmi was picked up 7 years ago. Mohammad Hussain has not returned home since last six years. Syed Imtiaz Kazmi gone missing fpour year ago. Mohammad Anees ul Hasnain missing for six months, Alamdar Hussain, Mohsin Ali and Mehdi Raza have gone missing for 4 months while Mohammad Ramzan was missing for last 10 days. Some other innocent Shia Muslims have also gone missing. 
Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, secretary general, Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, has condemned the enforced disappearance of innocent Shia Muslims. He said that it was a flagrant violation of human rights of illegally detained Pakistani Shia Muslims that neither they were produced in any court for trial if there was any charge against them nor their heirs and relatives were apprised of their whereabouts. He demanded immediate release of all the illegally detained Shiites.  

Allama Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari, secretary general, Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen, has condemned the enforced disappearance of innocent Shia Muslims. He said that it was a flagrant violation of human rights of illegally detained Pakistani Shia Muslims that neither they were produced in any court for trial if there was any charge against them nor their heirs and relatives were apprised of their whereabouts. He demanded immediate release of all the illegally detained Shiites.


Pakistan - Political chaos and the economy

By Lal Khan
Most of the bourgeois politicians are vociferously raising the slogan of changing the ‘system’. However, by the system they only mean the government or the method of governance within the prevalent order.
Seething political chaos and the judiciary’s hyperactivity have concealed Pakistan’s rampant economic deterioration. The politicians seem to have abandoned the electorate and have descended into courtroom dramas. The media’s gurus are oblivious towards the real issues tormenting the oppressed classes that are hit by the economic decline that is further destabilising the state and the society. A defunct ruling class is compelled by its predicament to overuse its sacrosanct judiciary for resolving the elite’s factional disputes. Its excessive utilisation undermines the reverence and authority imposed upon social psychology through protracted manoeuvrings of the state’s ideological apologists and connoisseurs. The agony of existence faced by the poor and the dearth of essential necessities for human existence has become problematic, especially when paired with the media and intelligentsia.
This elusiveness of politics and intelligentsia is not without a cause. Nor is it accidental. The incumbent politicians and the experts of the system have no solutions or way out of this quagmire of the social and economic crisis of their system. Violence, crime, fear, alienation and cultural atrophy are choking Pakistan’s beleaguered society. Even if we leave aside the economy of the oppressed, conveniently but erroneously called the micro-economy, the ‘macro’ economy of the upper classes and the state is in a perilous state. Inspite of the sharp rise in growth rates after the advent of the PML (N) government in 2013 the general state of the economy is far from healthy.
Last week’s publication of The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) annual report revealed an organic decline of the economy already in a fragile state. The current account deficit may widen to as much as $14.5 billion. The ADB also termed the Rs1.4 trillion budget deficit target as “ambitious”, suggesting that ‘it will be difficult to achieve in the prevalent political turmoil’. Pakistan will also miss its 6 percent economic growth target. The ADP has stated unambiguously that due to worsening current account deficit Pakistan’s choice is now limited to either “rapidly depreciate the currency” or increase foreign credit borrowings to finance the external debt. Reckless borrowings had already accumulated an unprecedented $83-billion external debt and liabilities by June this year.
The ADP report conveniently ignores another crucial factor, the parallel or the black economy that has grown larger in size than the country’s formal economy, and also plays a crucial role in politics and state manoeuvrings The ADB estimates the current account deficit to reach 4.2 percent of GDP due to rising imports, declining remittances, and stagnant exports. Pakistan has already obtained almost twenty bailout packages from the International Monetary Fund to correct these macroeconomic imbalances. The share of exports in GDP nearly halved from 13 percent in 2006 to a dismal 7.1 percent by the end of fiscal year 2016-17. Exports fell annually by 2.5 percent on average in the last ten years. Forex reserves have fallen to $14.2 billion. The repayments of the debt and interest of the Chinese companies and banks under the investments in the CPEC projects will further increase the debt to GDP ratio that has already shot up to 71 percent of the GDP. The report concluded, “Growth has improved, but the government needs to address fiscal and external sector vulnerabilities that have reappeared with the wider current account deficit, falling foreign exchange reserves, rising debt obligations, and consequently greater external financing needs... political uncertainty heightened following the Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify the Prime Minister elected in 2013, may hamper growth prospects.”
The main cause of the political turmoil and controversial judicial verdicts that are depreciating the state institutions are the result of the burgeoning economic crisis. The increasing lust for ‘more’ by a corrupt and reactionary ruling class represented by the incumbent politics and protected by the state exacerbates the crisis. However, the ADP report conveniently ignores another crucial factor, the parallel or the black economy that has grown larger in size than the country’s formal economy, and also plays a crucial role in politics and state manoeuvrings. It employs more than 70 percent of the work force and runs services, real estate and many other sectors of the economy. The state has been retrogressively abandoning the social welfare and human development sectors since the 1980s. One reason was the lucrative profitability in social infrastructure and welfare sectors such as health and education. The increasing deficits and debilitation of the state’s finances also led to the state’s desertion of these basic provisions of society.
The paradox is that the mainstream political parties hardly differ in their economic policies. The ‘opposition’ parties will vehemently use this ADP report to further malign PML (N) regime. But the reality is that they also have the same recipes of ‘direct foreign investment’, privatisation, deregulation and restructuring. Anti-workers restructuring of employment from permanent jobs with pensions and other benefits into contract labour with no benefits and job security. The direct foreign investments of ‘western or eastern’ imperialist companies seek greater profits, contract labour, and capital intensive technological investments that hardly generate any jobs. Pakistani rulers ‘incentives’ mean even more economic adversities for workers. With higher growth rates the social development, living conditions and poverty alleviation are inversely affected. During the years of high growth rates, worsening of life conditions reflect the diseased nature of Pakistan’s capitalism.
Literacy rates have fallen and the access to health facilities and scientific treatment has shrunk. The privatisation of crucial social necessities for human existence have become unaffordable with falling incomes and soaring expenditures. This process is irreversible within the incumbent socio-economic system. The irony is that most of the bourgeois politicians are vociferously raising the slogan of changing the ‘system’. However, by the system they only mean the government, or the method of governance within the prevalent order. One cursory look at the prospects of Pakistan’s capitalist economy from a scientific perspective decidedly exhibits this systems total failure to provide human needs, develop society and beget prosperity for the vast majority of its inhabitants: the toilers, the oppressed and the poor. The social asphyxiation, economic disparities and alienation foster extremist mind-sets that nudge the youth into notions of quixotic grandeur leading to terrorist havoc. Only by transforming the basic socioeconomic system breeding this turbulence can society be liberated from this harrowing drudgery and devastation. Karl Marx concluded long years ago: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point is to change it!”

Top U.S. general says Pakistan's main spy agency has links to 'terrorist groups'

The top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday that he believed that Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, had ties to militant groups.
U.S. officials have long been frustrated by what they term Pakistan’s unwillingness to act against Islamist militant groups including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.
“It is clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups,” Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

From the days of Pakistani jihad incorporated

By Mubashir Akram
With families destroyed and children lost, two generations of Pakistani youth were wasted. Society became intolerant when people became violent and conveniently used religion to equalise petty disputes.
Growing up in the Jihadist Pakistan of the late 1980s and 1990s had certain advantages that ignorance bestowed upon its adherents. Youth — myself included — carried a very simple worldview that had a promise of an ultimate victory for (Pakistani) Muslims, and a crushing defeat for the non-Muslim world. A large chunk of my generation, and that too coming from lower middle and poor social economic strata, felt extremely charged and motivated to go out, wage Jihad, kill and be killed. Aggression and death were romanticised by whatever form of the publicity was available those days with PTV in the lead.
I clearly recall that Jamaat-e-Islami and other Jihadist organisations would bring Mujahideen from Afghanistan to my little hometown, Malakwal, to motivate the local youth, and probably also as part of a larger narrative building in favor of the State that fought in Afghanistan. Once the Afghan Jihad was ending, the Kashmir Jihad started, and the Jihad Incorporated started bringing to Malakwal Kashmiri Mujahideen. These Mujahideen would address throngs of locals at the erstwhile Railway Chowk, later renamed as Milad Chowk when Gen Zia started his synthetic Islamisation.
I also remember writing to Jamaat-e-Islami in early 1990s along with my paternal cousin Danial to recruit us and take us to Bosnia. We, as youth, wanted to die in glory of the battle, and what better way could be to heavens than dying in the name of Allah in a foreign battlefield where Muslims were persecuted, brutalised and killed? I and Danial were not alone who fell victim to an extremely unhealthy national narrative of militancy that eventually drove Pakistan to where it is now.
A relief that neither I nor Danial went to fight anywhere and survived to live our lives today — but many did. Some returned, some didn’t. The ones who didn’t would have their names written on shabby metallic boards alongside the potholed roads, mostly in the countryside of Punjab where their mothers mourned, fathers wept silently, sisters longed for brothers, and wives stared with empty eyes unsure of their future. As it all happened to poor and lower middle-class families in Pakistan, the official and religious leaders of the Jihad Incorporated had their sons becoming bankers, doctors, actuarialsts, industrialists, stock brokers, and computer engineers. These sons and daughters of the official and religious leaders greatly benefitted from the  economy of a falsified Jihad. Ironically, they now make quite a fair part of the ruling elite and lecture lesser human beings about Pakistan.

One among the Kashmiri Mujahideen was ‘Major’ Must Gul who reportedly burnt down the Ziarat of Charar Sharif during one of his gun battles in Indian-held Kashmir. He later busied himself selling small quantities of heroin and other drugs, and was arrested a few times too. Another hero of the day was one Ilyas Kashmiri, a former elite soldier and eventually a dangerous Al-Qaeda operator that turned against the State and the very people whom he once vowed to defend and die for. His ‘Jihad’ would have continued hadn’t a drone strike done Pakistan and its people a favour.
I clearly recall that Jamaat-e-Islami and other Jihadist organisations would bring Mujahideen from Afghanistan to my little hometown, Malakwal, to motivate the local youth, and probably also as part of a larger narrative building in favour of the State that fought in Afghanistan
A famous late religious cleric in Rawalpindi once was really close to then Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Nawaz Sharif. His huge madrasa in downtown Rawalpindi was where the Mujahideen would stay going to and coming from Afghanistan. He also served as the Punjab provincial minister for Zakat and Ush’r. The same ‘famous cleric’ finally found his soulmate in Molana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid and was seen with him numerously. His son-in-law ran a small chain of eight ice cream parlours in a huge Western metropolis. While sons of ordinary Pakistanis killed and died on his motivation.

nother chief of a Jihadist party had his brother’s family in a Western country who fought against the deportation to Pakistan for over five years. The brother, an engineer, tried to manipulate the system of immigration, and never wanted to come back to Pakistan, the very country that his family turned into an intolerant society.
With families destroyed and children lost, two generations of Pakistani youth were wasted. Society became intolerant when people became violent and conveniently used religion to equalise petty disputes. A pedestal of civilisations, Pakistan, degenerated in the acid of obscurantism and our State happily plodded the quagmire that dragged it down.
We have drifted a long way from the centrality of our natural course. The damages that the Jihad Incorporated has inflicted on our nation would take a long time to be undone. Yet we, the ordinary citizens of Pakistan, still fear if their steely will to run the full course is present or not. Hapless in the face of their goals.

Imran Khan still Pakistan’s enemy


PTI chief Imran Khan almost singlehandedly took Taliban apologia to a point where it took a terror raid as unprecedentedly gruesome as the APS attack to finally establish groups, with destruction of the Pakistani republic as their raison d’etre, as the state’s enemy.
Imran Khan, himself an opportunistic liberal-conservative yoyo, had fabricated such a resonating rallying cry that progressive minded individuals managed to summon the cognitive prowess of involuntarily interpreting a jihadist group targeting markets, parks, hospitals filled predominantly by Muslim citizens – miles away from any security, let alone US-linked, installation – as an act of resistance to American foreign policy.
But it was a unique perspective for a mainstream Pakistani politician. For, everyone else had backed the Taliban on purely, or quasi, Islamist grounds – which, of course, Khan played with, but never completely co-opted.
Hence, this played its part in both catapulting him to as the obvious political alternative circa 2013 for a completely untested vote-bank, and to the laps of the powers that be.
Over the next four years, that lap of honour has been the only realm of respite for Khan, as his status as a viable alternative plunged, owing to the broken record that his rhetoric became.
Nawaz Sharif’s ouster in July was Imran Khan’s sole success story over the past four years. But ironically, he can’t truly embrace his own triumph, having to downplay the extent of his involvement – only if opposition protests alone sufficed in getting premiers disqualified in Pakistan…
But PML-N has presented the case for itself as having rebounded in the two months since Nawaz’s disqualification. This was done through rallies, a prominent by-election triumph, but most notably the civilian government upping the ante on reiterating those very policies that had helped influence – at the very least – the former premier’s exit.
It in this context that Imran Khan unleashed his tirade against Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Twitter last week, virtually coming clean about his one-point election manifesto for 2018: the aforementioned lap of honour.
It was the civilian-military disagreement over militant groups – especially the eastbound jihadists, spearheaded by Hafiz Saeed – that resulted in the much publicised rift, which is now etched in the folklore of Pakistani power games as Dawn Leaks.
With the foreign minister bringing up the likes of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad in his speech at the Asia Society, and even saying that Nawaz Sharif paid the price for his efforts to improve relations with India, the ruling PML-N government is not only maintaining its position as one that – at least in talk, if not action – is in favour of complete erasure of these groups, and the long boomeranging ‘Good/Bad Taliban’ policy.
Imran Khan allying himself with the establishment’s narrative, and more crucially opposing the government’s, is a no-brainer. But what is also obvious is that it rekindles his apologia for jihadist groups – one-half of the two pronged existential threat for a democratic state in Pakistan – and continues to establish Imran Khan as an enemy of democracy and civilian supremacy in the country.
There could’ve been many better ways to criticise Khawaja Asif’s speech than to label him as “worse than the enemies of Pakistan”. He could’ve argued that an incumbent foreign minister should not act as defensively, and should choose representing the state over acting on behalf of the ruling government, regardless of the intra-state differences. But, by unequivocally dumping Asif’s inward-looking critique – which only maintained that it’s not easy to completely eradicate the jihadist groups, and didn’t even hint at the establishment’s involvement, on the contrary accusing US of hypocrisy and duplicity – Khan has managed to carve out the argument that equates admission of these groups’ presence in the county, with ‘disrespect for the Armed Forces’, and in turn treason against Pakistan itself.
So, while the likes of Haqqani Network, JeM and LeT, continue to function in Pakistan and overlap with the Pakistani – especially Punjabi – Taliban to orchestrate attacks all over the country, acknowledging them as a problem is now ‘anti-Army’ and ‘anti-Pakistan’.
Khan’s Taliban apologia 2.0 – coming in the build up to elections just like the first edition – reconfirms him as a megalomaniac that would continue to patch up excuses and/or denial just to get one over the current ruling party that he would do anything to replace.
If the Pakistani foreign minister admitting the state’s diplomatic and security flaws makes him anti-Pakistan, what does six years of nothing but throwing mud at just about everything in the country – except those responsible for killing over 70,000 citizens and their strategic backers – make Imran Khan?
‘With a foreign minister like Khawaja Asif, who needs enemies?’ is what Khan tweeted following the Asia Society speech, and has reiterated the same over the past week.
But with a self-styled enemy like Imran Khan, Pakistan might metamorphose into a rogue and/or totalitarian state, where any ministries would be superfluous anyway.


Pakistani Christian On Death Row Among Nominees For Sakharov Prize

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have presented their nominations for this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought -- including Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan´s blasphemy law.
Polish MEP Anna Fotyga of the conservative ECR group in the European Parliament said on October 2 that Bibi's "behavior in prison, the dignity she has shown during all these years is the best proof of her being able to represent the dignity of a defender of human rights in the face of the worst fate."
Fotyga spoke at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs, development, and human rights committees in Strasbourg.
Bibi has been on a death row for almost seven years and her appeal to Pakistan's Supreme Court has been postponed to an undetermined date.
She was convicted and sentenced to hang after an argument with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water. Her supporters maintain her innocence and insist it was a personal dispute.
Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam can be sentenced to death. Rights groups say blasphemy laws are often abused to carry out personal vendettas, mainly against minority Christians.
Bibi is among six nominees for the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize, which honors individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The others nominees are Guatemalan human rights defender Aura Lolita Chavez Ixcaquic; Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, co-chairs of a pro-Kurdish party in Turkey; a group of people representing the Venezuelan opposition; the Swedish-Eritrean prisoner of conscience Dawit Isaak; and Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a human rights defender from Burundi.
On October 10, the European Parliament's foreign affairs and development committees are scheduled to vote on a shortlist of three finalists and the laureate is to be announced on October 26. The award ceremony will take place at the parliament in Strasbourg in December.

How a US arms lobby group played both India and Pakistan on the F-16 aircraft

In response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Octopus has created an army of top-secret intelligence agencies, analysts, specialists, and building complexes—phalanxes, really—devoted to identifying, spying on and rooting out terrorists both domestically and around the world.
A large majority of this homeland security and intelligence apparatus actually comprises individuals who do not work for the US government directly. They are employees of private sector companies who are hired by the government to do these jobs, and are known as “contractors.” Many of these individuals and organisations claim that they are not officially lobbying, like think tanks, public relations agencies and political action committees (PACs). Or they claim they are not really lobbyists because they avoid direct contact with the lawmakers. Instead, they send their subordinates to Capitol Hill to do the heavy lifting— the cajoling of members of Congress and their staffs. Or they claim that they spend less than 20 per cent of their time lobbying. This legal threshold is what allowed former South Dakota Democratic senator Tom Daschle to lobby for more than a decade without registering as a lobbyist…This evasion tactic is actually nicknamed and widely referred to as the “Daschle loophole”…In some cases, the organisations these lobbyists work for are lobbying for both sides of an issue—thereby, making money off adversaries.
Let us take the case of the issue of the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan in 2016.
Islamabad had been pushing to resume its purchases of the United States’ advanced F-16 fighter jets ever since 1990. This was the year the Pressler Amendment was enforced, preventing Pakistan from getting 28 of the F-16s they had agreed to buy in the early 1980s. Forced to pay for storage fees as the unused F-16s collected dust in a boneyard in the Arizona desert, the Pakistanis were incensed. However, after 9/11, Pakistan upped its advocacy campaign and convinced the George W Bush administration to sell them the fighter jets—to “exorcise the bitter pill of the Pressler Amendment” and to forge new relations with Islamabad. The United States determined it was critical to placate Islamabad in order to get its cooperation in the war against the terrorists. Consequently, the Bush administration announced in 2005 its intent to once again sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan—as many as Pakistan wanted to buy. How did Pakistan convince the Bush administration and, later the Obama administration, to continue to give it more and more military aid? The manufacturer of the F-16—the massive defence corporation Lockheed Martin—with $47 billion in annual revenue in 2016, also has a labyrinthine lobbying operation. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets database, the company has been spending more than $10 million on it annually since 2006. In addition to their in-house lobbyists, they have amassed an army of outside companies to assist them with their lobbying efforts: law firms, public relations agencies, consultants.
By far the largest amount of Lockheed Martin’s lobbying budget is paid out to the Podesta Group, the powerful firm headed by the super-lobbyist, Tony Podesta. Lockheed Martin paid the group $550,000 in the years 2014, 2015, and 2016. Most of the issues the Podesta Group advocated for on behalf of Lockheed Martin were defence and aerospace issues. It is highly likely that they assisted in the overall effort to push through the sale of F-16s to Pakistan!
In February 2016, the state department and the department of defense announced that they were approving a sale of eight more F-16s to Pakistan, clearly a victory for Lockheed Martin. Under the terms of this new deal, however, the sale of these additional F-16s was to be subsidised by the US government. In a move to make these deals even sweeter, the government sometimes uses what is called Foreign Military Funds (FMFs). FMF is a bucket of taxpayer money that is used to subsidise sales of military equipment to foreign countries. The Indian government immediately and publicly protested both the sale and the subsidy, causing quite a hiccup for the US government. India’s leaders recognised the jets for what they were: a nuclear-capable force projection that could be used against them. The Indian foreign secretary, S Jaishankar, immediately summoned Richard Verma, the US ambassador to New Delhi, to express his displeasure. And then the Pakistani government publicly feigned surprise over the Indians’ complaints.
The Indian embassy in Washington summarily deployed their army of lobbyists to block the deal. So, who has been lobbying on their behalf since 2010? Once again, the Podesta Group. According to their FARA filings, the Podesta Group was paid $700,000 by the government of India for work they performed in 2016. Conventional wisdom says that a firm that is representing India cannot very well represent Pakistan at the same time. But in the world of the Octopus, the same firm represents competing interests and it is all legal. The power and pressure of the Indian embassy’s lobbying firm produced results. A week after the state department’s announcement of the planned subsidised F-16 sale to Pakistan, Kentucky Republican senator Rand Paul introduced a joint resolution to halt the sale. Senator Paul’s resolution was debated on the floor of the senate and a vote was called, but the resolution was scuttled in what is called a “tabling motion.” In a 71 to 24 vote, the Senate voted to “table” the resolution, which effectively killed the effort. Senator Paul received some bipartisan support for this resolution, but not enough.
The sale was approved but without the FMF subsidies, and now Pakistan says it cannot afford to pay full freight for the eight fighter jets. Lockheed Martin also complained about the news, saying that it would not be able to afford to keep its F-16 production line in operation without the sale. It also said, incredulously and ironically, that it planned to move the entire F-16 production line from Texas to India. Indeed, the vice-president of Lockheed’s F-16 programme, Susan Ouzts, said in an interview with reporters from the Pakistani English-language daily, the Nation, that prime minister Narendra Modi had expressed interest in the planes. The Nation article even alleged that India may have lobbied to place on hold an India F-16 deal to disrupt the Pakistan F-16 one.
As cosy a relationship as Pakistan has with the Pentagon, apparently it forgot that the Octopus has many, many tentacles that would need to be choreographed. This case study is just one example of the corruptive—but thoroughly legal—behaviour of the Octopus. It will sink its suctioned feet into any client that will pay it. Everyone and everything is sullied with money. No transaction or representation is completely transparent. Nowhere is that more evident than in the case of the US–India nuclear agreement, inked in 2005 and approved in 2008. Almost a decade later, the only beneficiaries of this deal are arms traders. No nuclear power plant has even broken ground. I blame the Octopus for this.


Pakistan - PML-N trying to influence court: PPP

Former Chairman Senate and Secretary General Pakistan Peoples Party Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari has said that Interior Minister should respect the law of the land. He said that the attempt of Interior Minister to barge in the court is continuation of PML-N disrespect for courts of the country. Nayyar Hussain Bukhari asked PML-N not to drag courts into politics.

 Nayyar Hussain Bukhari said that Nawaz Sharif was summoned by the court on the charges of corruption and wrongdoings and he should face the trial with dignity but the hue and cry by the ruling party itself is a proof that Nawaz Sharif is involved in corruption and wrongdoing. He said that PML-N had in the past initiated false and concocted cases against PPP leadership but now they are themselves faced with cases in the courts during their own government.

 PML-N gathering outside court to influence courts has miserably failed. The end of PML-N is written on the wall and no uproar by the ruling party can stop it now.
The ruling party gathered government ministers and party workers outside court to influence court but failed and now people are forced to remember the attack on Supreme Court by the PML-N goons in 1990s, Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari concluded.