Friday, October 27, 2017

Video Report - #Chine - #Xi Jinping is officially most powerful #Chinese leader since Mao

Video Report - China, is set to roll out a yuan-denominated oil contract as early as this year.

Video Report - #Catalan crisis escalates

Video Report - Catalan independence effort: What will happen next?

#IndependentCatalonia: #Spanish PM appeals to Senate to seize #Catalonia & dismiss leader

Video Report - #UAE accused of abuse in secret #Yemen prisons

Netizen Report: Voices of Yemen’s “Forgotten War” Speak Out, Despite Legal Barriers

The Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in internet rights around the world. It originally appears each week on Global Voices Advocacy. Afef Abrougui, Ellery Roberts Biddle, Sadaf Khan, Leila Nachawati, and Sarah Myers West contributed to this report.
Yemeni blogger Afrah Nasser was awarded this year’s International Free Press Award for her work covering the conflict in Yemen despite the many obstacles faced by journalists in the country. But Nasser, who also holds Swedish citizenship, was nearly unable to attend the awards ceremony in New York in person because of the U.S. travel ban on Yemeni nationals.
After three applications and many letters in support of her application, Nasser finally obtained her visa from the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, where she resides.
On Twitter, she remarked, “I never really had faith in the power of media & public opinion as I have today. Makes me think of people who don’t enjoy my high media profile. This is why, we need to get the tragedy in Yemen as well-known as hell so we can all help pushing an end for it!”
While Nasser has done much of reporting from her home in Sweden, Yemeni journalists working on the ground face much graver obstacles. Among them is political commentator and writer Hisham Al-Omeisy, who was detained by Houthi rebels without explanation in August. This week, it was reported that Al-Omeisy was arrested on charges related to his correspondence with U.S.-based organizations.
Al-Omeisy has been actively tweeting about the humanitarian crisis and violations committed by both warring parties in the ongoing conflict in Yemen. He also has analyzed and spoken about the conflict to international media, including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, and NPR.
For more than two years, a coalition of Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh (who was removed from power following street protests in 2011) have been fighting to seize power from the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Hadi’s government is also supported by a Saudi-led airstrike campaign.
Journalists and media covering the conflict face risks from all warring parties, making it difficult for Yemenis and the outside work to get information on what’s already been described as a “forgotten war.” Placing restrictions on key voices like those of Nasser and Al-Omeisy only exacerbates the situation. #Istanbul10 human rights defenders released pending trial
The Turkish court in Istanbul conditionally released eight of the 10 human rights defenders on trial who were accused of “membership of a terrorist organization” while attending an information management workshop. Among the defendants was Idil Eser, the director of Amnesty International’s Turkey chapter. In their court testimony, multiple defendants explained that they had never even heard of the terror organizations that Turkish public prosecutors accused them of supporting.
In the days leading up to the trial, netizens tweeted in support of the #istanbul10 using the hashtag #FreeRightsDefenders. The group is expected to reappear before the court on Nov. 22.
Pakistani political workers arrested under Electronic Crimes Act
Two political party workers were arrested by the Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency, for allegedly writing posts critical of government and state institutions. The workers, who are affiliated with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League—Nawaz party, have been charged under the penal code along with multiple sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which carry a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Ironically, the PML–N party was responsible for pushing through the controversial PECA law, despite opposition from digital rights advocates. The PML-N has been engaged in a rift with Pakistan’s powerful military establishment since August 2017, when the Supreme Court disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif following a corruption inquiry into his family’s offshore wealth, sparked by the 2016 release of the Panama Papers. The Ministry of Information Technology, which was instrumental in pushing the electronic crimes law through, now admits that it has no oversight mechanism in place and the law is being misused.
Other political workers and journalists have previously been interrogated and arrested under different sections of the law as well, an indication that authorities may be using it as a silencing tool.
A Palestinian construction worker was arrested by Israeli police after posting a picture of himself with a bulldozer and inserting the caption, in Arabic, “good morning.” The post was erroneously translated (into Hebrew) by Facebook as “attack them.” The man has since been released, and Facebook said it is investigating the issue.
Kuwait’s DNA law was struck down by the Constitutional Court in a decision that is being lauded as a positive step for the protection of citizens’ privacy. The law—which required all Kuwaiti citizens, residents, and visitors to provide DNA samples to authorities for storage in a database operated by the Interior Ministry—was passed following a 2015 suicide bombing that killed 27 people. Anyone who refused to comply with the law faced one year in prison, a fine, and sanctions that could include canceling their passports. The emir requested the law be revised to “safeguard people’s privacy.” It is likely that Parliament will amend it so that only suspected criminals are asked to give their DNA.
Apps designed by the Chinese Communist Party hit China’s Apple and Android app stores surrounding the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party. Estimates of the number of CCP apps range from dozens to up to 400, with many app developers building party apps for local party branches and party organizations. Among the apps is Smart Red Cloud, which “aims to use artificial intelligence to educate and evaluate party members” through ideology tutorials, chat functions, and party-related activity notifications.
The apps disseminate information and enable the CCP to monitor and evaluate party members’ political orientation. At least one state-owned company, the China Tiesiju Civil Engineering Group, ranks party members on a monthly and weekly basis in response to scores on tests of party knowledge, penalizing users who perform poorly and rewarding those who perform well.
Chelsea Manning was turned away at the Canadian border while trying to vacation in Montreal and Vancouver. The former U.S. service member and leaker of documents was detained overnight and told she was inadmissible “on grounds of serious criminality.” A Canadian lawyer representing Manning has submitted a formal request asking the government to reconsider its decision. More than 40 human rights organizations and academics sent letters to the Canadian government in support of the human rights activist.

Saving Yemen: EU Urged to Ban Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

Four political groups in the European Parliament are urging Federica Mogherini, head of EU foreign policy, to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its bombing campaign in Yemen. The ongoing conflict in the impoverished Gulf country has brought about the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world, leaving 20 million people in need of aid. MEPs accuse the EU of breaching its own rules by selling arms to Saudi Arabia in defiance to the 2008 common code on military exports.
Ms. Mogherini can propose an embargo but she would need the support of EU member states, including the UK, one of the biggest arms exporters to the Gulf region. Bodil Valero, Swedish Green party MEP, urged the EU not to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia when faced with “the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world”. To that end, he stressed that “we have our common European values, we have a common position [on arms sales], we shouldn’t sell arms to a country that doesn’t respect humanitarian law or human rights.”
The EU’s code on arms exports lists eight reasons for turning down an arms export license. EU member states are moreover obliged to pay particular attention to countries where serious violations of human rights have been established by the United Nations. The UN sent war crimes investigators to the devastated country to examine alleged human rights violations committed by both sides of the 2.5-year conflict. Saudi Arabia launched bombing in March 2015 since when at least 10,000 people have been killed. Moreover, more than 2,000 are believed to have succumbed to cholera following a collapse of water supplies and sanitation.

Yemen: UN downplays Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s crimes against children

Every time the United Nations makes concessions that allow perpetrators of crimes under international law to evade criticism or justice, it emboldens others to commit violations that cause immense misery to people around the world
Sherine Tadros, Head of UN office for Amnesty International in New York

US lawmaker calls to halt military support for Saudi Arabia

US Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna said he hoped a resolution could be passed that puts an end to US military support for Saudi forces in their war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.
“We have to work to provide food and medicine to the Yemeni people, to end the Saudi siege and to invite other countries to provide assistance in providing these materials and medical staff,” Khanna said during an interview to be aired on Al Jazeera.
“Yemen suffers from the biggest humanitarian crisis at present where about one million people suffer from cholera and seven million are on the verge of famine,” the Congressman said, adding that the second priority for the United States is to stop providing any assistance to Saudi Arabia in its campaign against Houthi rebels including not supplying it with fuel for its warplanes, and not helping it set targets for its bombing campaigns.
Read: US’ Rex Tillerson lands in Riyadh at start of Gulf, South Asia toury
“We have to make it clear to the Yemenis that we have no role in bombing their country or helping the Saudis in their quest to oust the Houthis,” Khanna said.
He also criticised Riyadh for blaming the Houthis alone for the civilian deaths and the spread of famine and cholera in Yemen, explaining that while the Houthis are not innocent and have committed crimes, the main cause of the emergence of cholera is the Saudis who prevent the access of food and medicine to the affected areas.

Music Video - Noor Jehan Sanu Nehar Waley Pul Te Bulake

Pakistan - Child marriage Listen

The issue of child marriage continues to haunt Pakistan, with any progress having been extremely slow. Each step forward seems to be followed by two steps back. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) made its controversial views known last year against the proposal to increase the age of marriage to 18 years of age. The outcry from human rights activists was justified in a country where the UN estimates 21 percent of girls are married before the age of 18. Three percent of them are married off before the age of 15. This is not only an issue of their autonomy, but also one of child welfare and health. Moreover, the ability of these girls to be caregivers in the households chosen for them remains severely compromised. The fear of suffering domestic abuse at such a young age is also greater. Religion is brought into the issue unnecessarily and, while this narrow interpretation might be expected from the CII, it was worse to see a Senate panel reject the amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint Bill 2017 last week. This week, thankfully, the same bill has been approved after much public outcry. Even then the decision was three-to-two, with the ruling PML-N voting against the amendment.
Having chosen to backtrack after passing a law against domestic abuse last year, the PML-N seems like it is trying to appease its perceived religious constituency. The CII representative embarrassed himself before the standing committee when asked to state his source when claiming that a girl reaches maturity at the age of nine. The committee chair noted that the Organization of Islamic Countries has already passed a resolution to increase the age of marriage to 18, which seems to suggest that Pakistan would be acting as a special case that disagrees with the entire Muslim community. Regressive cultural norms should not be defended under the guise of religion. It is logical that if a girl cannot vote or buy property at the age of 16, she cannot be considered mature enough for marriage. The state’s role should be to ensure that girls are provided education, health and a safe environment. That is Pakistan’s role as signatory to the Child Rights Convention. The bill has only passed the first hurdle. One would hope that this time the legislature stands up for what is right, instead of bowing to extra-parliamentary pressure.

Pakistan - Lahore — a city of slums and shanties

By Salman Ali & Abdullah Khan
Under the Sustainable Development Goals, Pakistan is required to ensure safe and affordable housing for its citizens by 2030. 

Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan, is without a doubt, the economic hub of Punjab.
According to the recent census, the city’s population is around 11 million. An overwhelming majority of these are likely to be found in slum settlements, where they don’t have proper food, health, sanitation, living and education facilities and this happens to be the biggest dilemma for our society as well as alarming and thought provoking for our elected representatives. Slums are not just found in Pakistan. Large parts of India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Hong Kong etc are also covered by such localities.
What does a slum mean? Slums are human settlements, mostly in urban peripheries, where the poor, the labouring class and marginalised communities live. In Urdu, these slum areas are called “Kachchi Abaadis”. Just to highlight for my readers that Orangi Town in Karachi is currently the largest slum area in Asia.
Just highlighting Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as Pakistan is the signatory, particularly Goal 11, which states that “making cities and human settlements, inclusive safe, resilient and sustainable”. The first specific target for this global goal is, “By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate safe and affordable housing and basic service and upgrade slums.” As a citizen of Pakistan, we personally hope that these commitments that Pakistan has signed will break the shackles and the government will deliver.
Lahore, which is labelled by the authorities as the Paris of Pakistan, has massive infrastructure projects but there is an ugly side of this massive development i.e. increasing slums in these same neighbourhoods.
Due to the lack of affordable housing, many people are driven to settle in slums in areas across the city. Slums are found in Shahdara, along Ferozpur Road as well as in the newly developed areas like Johar Town. These settlements are generally located near open sewage channels or along the hazardous banks of River Ravi etc.

The majority of people living within these areas are street hawkers and daytime labourers; they earn very little and are not able to afford medical care or even hygienic food. These slums are formed by low-income communities that do not have the means to live in proper housing in the city, and they are a by-product of over population, economic, political and social inequalities as well as of government intervention. Most importantly, within these areas, social problems such as crime, drug addiction, alcohol, high rates of mental illness and suicide are seen. These people move from rural areas of Pakistan towards Lahore, Karachi or other big cities in hopes of attaining a better life. The reality, however, reveals that many who move into the city have a difficult time securing employment, and eventually settle in the slum communities as a result.
Lahore has seen various mega-infrastructure projects in the past few years. The other side of these developments is the increase in the number of slum settlements. Because of a lack of availability of affordable housing, a large part of the city’s population is left with no option but to settle in slums where they lack basic utilities needed for a dignified life
Recently, while crossing River Ravi, I had a chance to explore and capture some moments of these residents of the slum areas. At the bank of River Ravi, we found young kids from the nearest slum areas enjoying and playing sports. It’s a traversty that citizens have been left to be in such miserable condition, marked by poor sanitary conditions, broken roads, polluted and unkempt environment and resultantly drastic health conditions. Approximately, one million people drink contaminated water in Lahore, says the 2014 annual report on drinking water released by Lahore’s Water & Sanitation Agency.
While talking with slum dwellers, we learnt that they were paying the rent of their slums to some powerful groups. However, the government never takes care of their rights and they consider themselves as toys being played by the hands of the government during the election season. Afterwards, no government official shows interest in taking them out from this dirty area or giving them ownership rights.

I remember during former chief minister Parvez Ilahi’s tenure, this issue made it to front-page news but like always it ended up ignored and neglected. In 2013, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz took this initiative for solving the problems of these people but nothing surfaced except unkept promises and false commitments. In the past, international organisations like the UN Habitat and the World Bank worked and raised slogans of “cities without slums” but these campaigns didn’t last long. I think that NGOs instead of taking donations should work and raise awareness among the communities about health and safety issues, mobilise and capacitate them, and the government should provide proper sanitation, health, food and educational facilities to the destitute and also build cemented houses for them so that they can live properly.

Pakistan's youthful population creates education challenges

Saad Sayeed
Pakistani private schools, charitable institutions, and religious seminaries are stepping in to supplement government-run schools to help deal with the education needs of a fast-growing nation with an estimated 50 million school-age children.
Despite 220,000 schools nationwide, Pakistan has over 20 million out-of-school children, according to a 2016 government report.
The government has pumped money into schooling, with the education budget swelling by 15 percent every year since 2010, according to education consultancy Alif Ailaan. The United Nations puts the current budget at 2.65 percent of GDP, roughly $8 billion, or around $150 per student. But experts say the government can’t meet all the education needs and part of the problem lies in quality of teaching rather than just dearth of money.
“It’s not the number of schools, it’s the quality, the attitude,” said Zeba Hussain, founder of the Mashal Schools which educate children displaced by war in the country’s north.
Situated on the outskirts of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, the charitable schools began when Hussain met a group of refugee children while visiting the hills encircling the city.
Many private institutions criticize what they describe as a deeply flawed government education system.
“Students are labeled ‘smart’ or ‘stupid’ right from the start,” said Shaista Kazmi from Vision 21, a privately-funded NGO that runs speed literacy programs for out-of-school children that compress five years of reading proficiency into one.
Federal education director Tariq Masood strongly disagreed with critiques of teachers, adding that population growth and funding were the biggest challenges faced by government schools.
“No one who is underqualified can enter the government system, there are fewer checks in the private system,” Masood said.
Masood said government schools adhered to a nationwide curriculum that was being constantly reworked and innovated.
The country’s poorest often send their children to one of the thousands of religious madrassas (the Arabic word for school) where students are boarded, fed, and given an Islamic education. Most operate without government oversight.
Pakistan’s madrassas have become synonmous with creating militant fighters through hardline teachings of Islam and many have been linked to organizations such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
But many provide shelter, three full meals, and a good education to young people whose families are unable to make ends meet.
“In certain cases people send their kids because they can’t even afford to feed them,” said Irfan Sher from the Al-Nadwa Madrassa, where all subjects are prioritized and students are capable of analyzing what they are taught.
Sher insists that the country’s future hinges on what its youth are taught.
“The overall policy should be changed ... they should understand that if they want to change the country the only way is to spread quality education,” he said.

#MashalKhan - 'Death to blasphemers' increasing as political rallying cry in Pakistan

By Asif Shahzad

Three police officers stand daily guard at the tomb of Pakistani student Mashal Khan to prevent religious hardliners from fulfilling threats to blow up the grave of the 23-year-old beaten to death over rumors he blasphemed against Islam.
His grieving family, now also under police protection, say they have little hope the shocking campus killing will prompt a re-examination of blasphemy laws that carry a death penalty, or action against the mob justice that often erupts in such cases.
On Friday, there was more evidence the opposite is happening.
A new political party that has made punishing blasphemers its main rallying cry won a surprisingly strong 7.6 percent of the vote in a by-election in Peshawar, 60 km (36 miles) from where Mashal Khan was killed six months ago.
“Death to blasphemers! Death to blasphemers!” was a common chant of supporters of the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan party at its campaign rallies in the conservative northwestern city.
The party’s relatively strong showing - and a separate outcry over a proposed change to an election law that outraged the religious right - has elevated blasphemy into a potent political issue in the run-up to a general election in 2018.
While Tehrik-e-Labaik (Movement of the Prophet’s Followers) is unlikely to break out of single digits in coming votes, its rapid rise, along with another ultra-religious party, could create an additional challenge for the ruling Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
The PML-N party’s leader, Nawaz Sharif, was ousted as prime minister in July by the Supreme Court, and opposition leader Imran Khan - who spearheaded the legal case that removed him over unreported income - is seeking to press the advantage.
In this week’s Peshawar by-election, former cricket star Imran’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party swept to a comfortable victory to retain the parliamentary seat, winning 34.8 percent of the vote.
Sharif’s PML-N had 18.9 percent, narrowly coming in third to the regionally strong Awami National Party that won just 40 more votes.
But the gains by the Labaik party - formed just last year - have grabbed attention.
Labaik draws most of its support from the Barelvi branch of Sunni Islam, the largest sect in Pakistan that is traditionally considered moderate. Though the party does not publicly talk about its funding, the Barelvis have a network of mosques and madrassa religious schools that collect donations.
The party emerged out of a protest movement against the state’s execution of Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard of the governor of Punjab province who gunned down his boss in 2011 over his call to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, among the world’s harshest, to prevent abuses.
Qadri is considered a hero by the party, and its candidate in Peshawar, Muhammad Shafiq Ameeni, was equally supportive of Mashal Khan’s killers, although the student’s death was not a main feature at campaign rallies.
“It was state’s responsibility to punish a blasphemer, no two opinions, but when state doesn’t do its job and someone does kill, he shouldn’t be punished as a murderer,” Amini said, referring to the 57 people who face trial over Mashal Khan’s death.
In Pakistan, allegiance to Islam is the official line of most major parties, but ultra-religious parties have so far remained on the fringes.
Labaik is one of two new ultra-religious parties formed in roughly the past year.
Together, Labaik and the Milli Muslim League (MML) gained about 11 percent of the vote in last month’s by-election in Lahore and 10.4 percent in Peshawar, whereas the established religious parties, such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam, combined had 5.3 percent in the 2013 national election.
Blasphemy is such an effective wedge issue in Pakistan because there is almost no defense against an accusation.
For that reason, say critics, blasphemy laws are often invoked to settle personal scores and to intimidate liberal journalists, lawyers and politicians.
Dozens of Pakistanis are sitting on death row after being convicted of insulting Islam’s prophet, a specific charge that carries a mandatory death sentence, though no executions have been carried out in recent decades.
Now, political parties may be in danger of facing blasphemy accusations themselves.
Earlier in October, the PML-N found itself in the middle of a firestorm when it voted through seemingly small changes to the nation’s electoral law. The changes, among other things, turned a religious oath in the electoral laws stating that Mohammad was the last prophet of Muslims into a declaration using the words “I declare”.
The alterations prompted accusations of blasphemy from the religious right and the government quickly retreated, terming the change a “clerical” mistake and apologizing in parliament.
Labaik has vowed to hold a mass rally on Nov. 6 to demand the lawmakers responsible be prosecuted for blasphemy.
Even before the Labaik party’s political debut, politicians found promising swift action against blasphemers an easy way to appeal to conservative voters.
In March, then-prime minister Sharif issued a public order to prosecute anyone posting blasphemous content online.
The next month, Mashal Khan was accused of online blasphemy and beaten to death by fellow students and religious activists as onlookers filmed the scene. Sharif said he was “shocked and saddened” by the “senseless display of mob justice”.
At least 67 people have been killed over unproven blasphemy allegations since 1990, according human rights groups.
Mashal Khan’s father, Iqbal, said his son was the victim of false rumors.
The family has received death threats from right-wingers and Mashal’s sisters had to drop out of school.
“The snakes our country nurtured are now biting us,” the father said, two days before the Peshawar by-election, standing beside his son’s gave strewn with flowers, lace and poetry.
Learning of the Labaik party’s gains a few days later only made him more pessimistic about the government’s ability to stop abuse of blasphemy accusations.
“I know very well, I‘m not going to get my son back,” he said. “But this only adds to my pain.”

Video Report - Corruption in Pakistan

Video Report - Bilawal Bhutto meet PPP Gilgit members

Bilawal Bhutto admires team-work and hard-work of PPP leaders and workers in NA-4 Peshawar by-election

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has admired the team-work and hard-work of the PPP leaders and workers in NA-4 Peshawar by-election despite pre-poll rigging by Federal and Provincial government machineries.

In a press statement issued here, the PPP Chairman said that both the PML-N and PTI governments opened up their exchequers and coffers for NA-4 and unleashed state machineries to steal away by-election. New development schemes were conceived and implemented overnight to influence the voters in complete violations of electoral rules, he added.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that despite all odds the PPP workers performed well and he would like to salute them for working hard without having a level-playing field. PPP KPK and Peshawar leaders and workers have proved that our Party has mature, committed and loyal cadre, which can fight from dictators to their minions in all seasons, he further added.

PPP Chairman said that he understands that Party workers are faced with vulgar and abusive mainly the newly-born political opponents. “In our 50 years of history, the Party has faced a serial of such political bubbles and pricked them finally. However, they pop up again and again in different colors as remnants of dictatorial regimes,” he said.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Peshawar by-election cannot be a litmus test for popularity of any political party for a variety of reasons because 86 % of the women of the constituency didn’t cast their votes and heavily-exerted influence from both Federal and Provincial governments through use of resources and machinery.

He said that PPP will win any elections held in a level-playing field and pledged that it will defeat the opponents in 2018.

PPP has always supported human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law: Bilawal Bhutto

PPP chairman Bilawal bhutto Zardari has said that PPP has always supported human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law. Human rights defenders and civil society are at the forefront fighting for our common goal of achieving Equal Rights and Social Justice for all. He expressed his views in his Twitter message after the meeting with human rights activists today.

Bilawal Bhutto condemns attack on journalist Ahmed Noorani by unidentified people

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has condemned attack on journalist Ahmed Noorani by unidentified people.

In a statement, the PPP Chairman said that his Party won’t tolerate attacks and torture on the journalists as we have always struggled for freedom of the press since the inception of PPP.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that PPP never resorted to intimidation and torture despite being the victim of history’s worst and most expensive media trial.

He demanded immediate arrest of the culprits involved in attack on Ahmed Noorani.