Thursday, December 14, 2017

Video - What is net neutrality?

Video Report - Elizabeth Warren On Defending Net Neutrality From Trump

Video - Bernie Sanders Slams Republicans For Abandoning Net Neutrality, CHIP

US regulator scraps net neutrality rules that protect open internet

By - Dominic Rushe in New York and Lauren Gambino in Washington

The US’s top media regulator voted to end rules protecting an open internet on Thursday, a move critics warn will hand control of the future of the web to cable and telecoms companies.
At a packed meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, the watchdog’s commissioners voted three to two to dismantle the “net neutrality” rules that prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from charging websites more for delivering certain services or blocking others should they, for example, compete with services the cable company also offers.
Outside, protesters angrily called on Congress to block the FCC’s efforts. Bouquets of flowers and white candles were placed on the grass outside the building, an apparent reference to the “death” of open internet. Posters of the angry-face emoji covered the walkway.
And activists carried hand-made signs that read: “Don’t make the internet a private toll road”; “Ajit Pai doesn’t want you to meet your fiancé online”; and “Don’t undermine our democracy – that’s Russia’s job”.
The meeting was briefly interrupted by a security threat.
FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, denounced the move. “I dissent because I am among the millions outraged, outraged because the FCC pulls its own teeth, abdicating responsibility to to protect the nation’s broadband consumers,” she said.
Fellow Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC had shown “contempt” for public opinion during the review. She called the process “corrupt”. “As a result of today’s misguided actions, our broadband providers will get extraordinary new powers,” she said.
But FCC chair Ajit Pai and his two fellow Republicans voted for the repeal. Pai said the current rules had impeded innovation and addressed non-existent concerns. “We are restoring the light-touch framework that has governed the internet for much of its existence.” He called claims that the move would kill the internet “outlandish”.
Net neutrality’s advocates argue that an open internet has been essential to the creation of today’s web, and has allowed companies like Skype to compete with telecoms providers and Netflix to change the media landscape. They say the removal of the rules will affect consumers worldwide.
Cable companies have attempted to block or slow competing services in the past, and the rules were meant to prevent such cases arising in future. Removing the rules, critics argue, will stifle the online innovations that have been enjoyed by people worldwide and set a dangerous precedent for other countries looking to take firmer control of the internet or to hand oversight to corporations.
Evan Greer, campaign director for internet activists Fight for the Future, said: “Killing net neutrality in the US will impact internet users all over the world. So many of the best ideas will be lost, squashed by the largest corporations at the expense of the global internet-using public.” Michael Cheah of Vimeo said: “ISPs probably won’t immediately begin blocking content outright, given the uproar that this would provoke. What’s more likely is a transition to a pay-for-play business model that will ultimately stifle startups and innovation, and lead to higher prices and less choice for consumers.”
Passing the plan is a major victory for Pai, a Donald Trump appointee and former Verizon lawyer who has been a long-term critic of the net neutrality rules brought in under Barack Obama in 2015.
The FCC will require internet providers to disclose how they treat traffic, but regulation of the internet will essentially move to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), removing barriers to potential abuses and leaving the FTC to assess violations after the fact. Cable companies have dismissed critics’ concerns and said they remain committed to an open internet.
“This is not the end of net neutrality,” Comcast’s senior executive vice-president wrote in a blogpost. “Despite repeated distortions and biased information, our internet service is not going to change. Comcast customers will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open internet today, tomorrow, and in the future. Period.”
But critics charge that as cable companies become ever bigger investors in media (Comcast owns NBC Universal, and AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner) the incentives to hamper competition are increasing.
Pai’s proposal still faces heavy opposition. A record 22 million comments were submitted to the FCC by the general public before the vote – the majority in favor of keeping the rules.
Millions of comments submitted in support of Pai’s decision were found to be fake and are now being investigated by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman. On Wednesday morning, two US senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, both of Maine, called on the FCC to cancel the vote. “Repealing the FCC’s net neutrality rules will undermine long-standing protections that that have ensured the open internet as a powerful and transformative platform of innovation and economic opportunity,” they wrote. Eighteen attorneys general, dozens of Democratic congressmen and two Republicans had pushed for a delay to the ruling. Critics and activists will now push for Congress to step in and pass a resolution of disapproval using the Congressional Review Act to overturn the FCC’s order.
The FCC is also likely to face a legal challenge to the order, which has been attacked by internet companies including Etsy, Bittorrent, Netflix, Pinterest, Pornhub, Spotify and Wikipedia. Passing the vote is just the latest in a series of controversial moves made by Pai in his 11-month tenure. The FCC has also relaxed local media ownership rules, potentially ushering in a wave of consolidation, cut a high-speed internet internet scheme for low-income families and allowed broadband providers to raise rates for businesses.

U.S. : FCC Repeals Title II Net Neutrality Protections Amid Uproar

By Ryan Grenoble
The FCC ignored 18 state attorneys general who asked that the vote be delayed for an investigation into the “corrupted” public comment process.
In a victory for internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, forged ahead with the vote, despite widespread opposition and a request from 18 state attorneys general to delay it over concerns that the public comment process was corrupted by fraudulent messages. The repeal proposal passed 3-2 on party lines.
The hearing was temporarily delayed — and the room evacuated — by a bomb threat before Pai could cast the fifth and final vote. Commissioners were permitted to continue after police and dogs searched the empty chamber.
The repeal rolls back so-called “Title II” regulations that classified the internet as a public utility, and which, among other things, required internet service providers, or ISPs, to treat all of the data traveling on their networks equally.
Without the protections of Title II, those ISPs can now legally begin treating data from some websites differently than others.
So Comcast, for instance, could charge customers who use Netflix extra for using so much bandwidth; AT&T could, in theory, decide to block access to some websites entirely; or Verizon, which owns HuffPost’s parent company Oath, could hypothetically decide wireless customers won’t be charged data when they’re viewing HuffPost content.
(HuffPost’s union is represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, which supports net neutrality and opposed its repeal.)
Immediately after Thursday’s vote, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman pledged to sue to halt the FCC’s actions.
In Congress, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joined with 15 other senators to contest the FCC decision via a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution.
“We will fight the FCC’s decisions in the courts, and we will fight it in the halls of Congress,” Markey said in a statement. “With this CRA, Congress can correct the Commission’s misguided and partisan decision and keep the internet in the hands of the people, not big corporations.”
Large tech companies like Netflix and Twitter also reiterated their support for the now-defunct rules.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday ahead of the vote, telecom industry executives sought to calm the storm of public opinion.
Michael Powell, the head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and a former FCC chairman, argued that just because it’s now legal for ISPs to discriminate against internet traffic and create fast lanes doesn’t mean they will.
“We can’t live by a principle that just because there isn’t a rule banning something, it doesn’t mean necessarily that something is going to happen,” he said.
“There are a lot of things in our society we don’t expressly prohibit, but it doesn’t mean that they’re going to happen,” he added. “There’s no law that says I can’t paint my house hot pink, but I assure you I have no intention of doing it.”
He called arguments to the contrary — that ISPs are only repealing net neutrality rules so they can engage in the sort of behavior that would otherwise have been prohibited — “a very lazy and unfounded way of looking at the problem.” While ISPs have previously pledged not to prioritize web traffic in this manner, under the new rules, customers can’t do much but take them at their word. And their word is no ironclad guarantee. Last week, Comcast quietly altered a net neutrality pledge that had been on its website since 2014, removing a promise that it wouldn’t “prioritize internet traffic or create paid fast lanes” and replacing it with a much more cautious pledge to “not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content.” If Comcast decides on a whim to change its pledge again next week, it absolutely can.
In addition to repealing net neutrality, the new FCC rules also strip state and local governments of the power to enact their own laws regulating broadband service.
That provision alarmed a group of nearly five dozen mayors from across the political spectrum, who signed a public letter last week slamming the FCC’s actions as a “stark, inexplicable, and unwarranted attack on the constitutional principles that lie at the heart of our system of government.”
A collective of internet activist groups that have united under the banner of “Team Internet” responded to the repeal by calling on Congress to review and overturn the FCC’s action.
“The telecom industry spent millions lobbying and spreading misinformation to pit Internet users against each other and turn net neutrality into a partisan issue,” the group said in an emailed statement to HuffPost. “They have failed.”
“Net neutrality has more public support now than it ever has before. Internet users are educated, outraged, and strategic, and they know that Congress has the power to overturn the FCC vote,” the statement continued. “Lawmakers cannot hide from their constituents on this issue. The Internet has given ordinary people more power than ever before. We’re going to fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes that power away.”

Video Report - Michael Smerconish on Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race. #Alabama #Smerconish #Breaking

Video Report - USA Today Editorial Board Slams President Donald Trump. #DonaldTrump #USAToday

Video Report - Congresswoman: Use 25th Amendment to remove Trump

Video Report - "Trump Should Resign!" Bernie Sanders' Brilliant Rant On Trump and Moore Election

Video - Black Women Save America from Roy Moore: The Daily Show

#PPP Song - Zara Sochna - Tribute To Shaheed Benazir Bhutto ...

#Pakistan - #RAZAKhan - Silencing dissent

By Zahid Hussain

RAZA Khan, a young civil society activist, is the latest addition to a long list of those subjected to enforced disappearances. He has been missing from his home in Lahore for several weeks. His family and friends believe he has been detained by the security agencies. His crime is that he has a thinking mind and idealises regional peace and coexistence, something that is unacceptable to the self-appointed guardians of our ideological frontiers.
In this atmosphere of fear, few dare to raise their voice against the witch-hunt. There is a criminal silence from our legislators over illegal detentions that are no more restricted to the conflict zones. Many more people are now being picked up from cities for reasons never disclosed. Some of them may have returned home after suffering torture, but many others have not been so lucky. No one knows what crime they have committed or are even accused of.
Raza is among the scores of victims of the latest wave of what is widely seen as state-sponsored disappearances. It has been reported that he is the seventh civil society activist to go missing from his home this year. In January, six bloggers and civil rights activists were picked up from their homes in Islamabad and cities of Punjab.
Apart from one, who remains missing, they returned to their homes within two months after protests from rights groups and pressure from the international community. They were reportedly tortured in detention. Moreover, a systematic campaign was launched on electronic media accusing them of blasphemy, thus putting their lives at risk.
The indiscriminate use of coercive power by the state to silence dissent undermines national solidarity.
Last year, security agencies allegedly abducted from Karachi Abdul Wahid Baloch, a progressive man of letters who also worked as a telephone operator. He returned home after four months and was so shaken that like the others he would not speak about his ordeal. Obviously, no action would be taken against those responsible for his unlawful detention.
Another high-profile case of suspected enforced disappearance is that of Zeenat Shahzadi, a young journalist who was abducted by armed men in Lahore in August 2015. She had been investigating the disappearance of Hamid Ansari, an Indian national. While there were recent reports that she had returned, nothing has been heard of her since. Her younger brother was so traumatised by her disappearance that he committed suicide.
Raza in his late 30s had reportedly formed a group called Aaghaz-i-Dosti, a platform to further the cause of peace between India and Pakistan. The group collected paintings and letters made and written by schoolchildren focusing on the themes of peace and coexistence. The paintings were published in calendar form. He was also active with a group working for environmental protection. One wonders how any of his activities could have threatened national security.
Raza may come back as happened in the case of most of the bloggers. But the real question is whether we have any rule of law in this country. No legal recourse seems to be in sight for the families of missing persons — a euphemism for those allegedly abducted by the security agencies. A recently published Amnesty International report rightly described the rising number of enforced disappearances as a “blight on Pakistan’s human rights record”.
According to the report, hundreds and possibly thousands of cases have been reported across the country over the past several years. “Victims of enforced disappearances are at considerable risk of torture and other ill treatment and even death. To date, not a single perpetrator of the crime has been brought to justice,” the report said.
What is most alarming is that the number of missing persons has marked a massive rise this year under democratic rule. The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances set up by the government received nearly 300 complaints of alleged enforced disappearances from August to October 2017, by far the largest number in a three-month period in recent years.
Although most of these victims belong to Balochistan, there have also been reports of a large number of political and rights activists having been allegedly picked up by the security agencies in Sindh. Some were released after sometime, but the fate of the others is uncertain. It is a pity that the national media reports only a few of these incidents. It is despicable when a state meekly surrenders to a group of blackmailers resorting to violence in the name of religion but uses strong-arm tactics against people who dare to speak their mind without breaking any law. A narrow and twisted interpretation of national security comes in handy to silence them.
There have been some recent reports of a crackdown on Facebook pages supporting diversity of association, thought and expression in the country. Many of these pages have been shut down and their moderators face threats. Such illegitimate actions are often justified in the name of national interest undermining democratic and basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution.
It would have been more prudent to allow the law to take its course if someone is engaged in any wrongdoing. Justice must not be denied on any pretext of national security. In fact, the indiscriminate use of coercive power by the state to silence dissent undermines national solidarity and integrity.
We have seen how such a repressive approach has caused alienation in Balochistan, creating favourable conditions for the insurgents and for foreign intelligence agencies to meddle. The recent wave of enforced disappearances is particularly alarming as the military authorities claim to have contained the insurgency. Now this wide-scale crackdown on rights activists demonstrates the continuing impunity of the security agencies despite protests inside and outside the country. The enforced disappearance of Raza and so many others before him highlights how dangerous the country is becoming for rights activists and for those who dare to raise their voice against excesses perpetrated by the state. It is despicable that this cruel practice is being used against the people who are fighting the forces of obscurantism to make this country more liveable.
It is shameful for a country that is a signatory to the UN Charter of Human Rights that it should have thousands of cases of enforced disappearance unresolved.

Pakistan - Betrayal of the FATA people

By Marvi Sirmed
The way the government has been handling these proposals and their presentation to the House amply proves that some political parties have lost all ability to think beyond their selfish agenda of gaining more and more power.
The government once again went back on its commitment to introduce the FATA reforms bill in the lower house of the parliament, despite putting it on the Order of the Day for the third sitting of the 50th session of the National Assembly. For the third consecutive day, the opposition continued its boycott of the house proceedings against this withdrawal. Citing “technical reasons”, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab Ahmad said the government desired to present the Fata reforms bill in parliament after developing consensus among all parties. There are none in this position as the opposition was never briefed about the ‘technical reasons’ cited, nor was nay discussed in either the business advisory committee or with the leader of the opposition.
This was not the first time that the government faltered on its commitments pertaining to FATA reforms, apparently under the severe pressure of its coalition partners who want to grind their own axe while the coalition leader, PMLN, is fighting for survival after the disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif. The problems which emerged for the party in the aftermath of the Faizabad sit-in, the offshoot of which is still lingering in Lahore, has also continue to make life difficult for the PML-N.

Ever since the process of Fata reforms was initiated in the wake of the establishment of the FATA Reforms Committee under the chairpersonship of Sartaj Aziz, there has been a fierce display of conflicting vested interests from different quarters including the bureaucratic structure that has been in unquestionable, unchallengeable control of FATA, and the political parties pursuing their narrow and selfish political agenda.
For the JUI-F, the best-case scenario is if FATA becomes a seperate province. This otherwise marginal party cannot foresee itself heading a provincial government in KP or Balochistan where it has pockets of influence
The Committee had proposed in 2015 a set of political, administrative, judicial and security reforms alongside a comprehensive and phased program for reconstruction and rehabilitation in order to prepare FATA for the eventual merger with KP in five years. The recommendations included in addition to the merger, the repeal of the draconian colonial FCR imposed upon the hapless people of FATA. The federal cabinet approved this package of necessary reforms along with the phased program for implementation, on March 2, 2017.

But before that, the government had already announced the plan in January 2017 to eventually merge FATA with KP as was recommended by the Committee.Following which, the Bill was approved by the Cabinet in March. One bill, the Tribal Areas Rewaj Bill 2017 was presented in the National Assembly in May. Instead of referring it to the Standing Committee on Law & Justice, the Speaker sent it to the Committee on SAFRON. It was the wrong decision because the SAFRON ministry has conflict of interest as far as FATA’s merger with KP is concerned. The ministry would stand dissolved in case of a merger, or at lease, would completely lose its relevance. It was not rocket science to see that not only would the Committee not get an objective brief from its corresponding ministry, but also, the bill would not have gotten objective treatment from the committee chaired by a member whose party has been (and still is) fiercely against the merger. Which is exactly what happened. The Chair of the Committee abruptly called off the meeting and deferred the discussion on the bill indefinitely. Subsequently, the government decided to bring a new bill in place of the Tribal Areas Rewaj Bill, which became controversial because of its provisions that safeguarded continuation of the FCR. The new bill was to abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and extend the jurisdiction of the superior judiciary to FATA. But when it came out finally, it proposed extension of Islamabad High Court to FATA instead of the previously decided Peshawar High Court. FATA parliamentarians, range of politicians, civil society and intelligentsia belonging to FATA strongly protested. Upon which, consensus was developed during a meeting held in Islamabad on 29 September. Minister for SAFRON Lt-Gen (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch chaired the meeting while 16 out of the 19 lawmakers from FATA attended it. The three absent lawmakers were also consulted via phone that also agreed on the merger. SAFRON Minister announced this new consensus in a presser the same evening. After a long wait of over two months and massive protest sit-in by the FATA people, this new bill had come once again. Only to be taken off the agenda yet again, without any debate.
The way the government has been handling these proposals and their presentation to the House amply proves that some political parties have lost all ability to think beyond their selfish agenda of gaining more and more power. The brown sahibs of bureaucracy, who have been ruling FATA like Moguls for seven decades have their vested interest in maintaining the current status quo. The powers that have been using FATA as an invisible buffer belt between Afghanistan and ‘settled’ Pakistan, also appear to be adamant on keeping the FATA people invisible and unsettled irrespective of their public claims of supporting the reforms process. Every power-holder seems to have its own definition of ‘reforms’.
For the JUI-F, the best-case scenario is if FATA becomes a separate province. This otherwise marginal party in other provinces cannot foresee itself heading a provincial government in either KP or Balochistan — the two provinces where it has some pockets of influence. In FATA on the other hand, this party seems to have more sway than any other party owing to state policies that have historically supported religious puritanism and socio-cultural retrogression, mainly to counter the progressive but ethno-nationalist ideologies. If FATA was to become a separate province, the JUI-F would have its own Chief Minister in at least one province alongside an equal number of seats in the Senate. By insisting on a separate province — despite having a pan-Islamist ideology that discourages boundaries among Muslims — this party can milk the status quo till the lengthy and slow process of the establishment of a new province. Being very politically shrewd, the JUI-F leadership knows very well that Pakistan’s current state of economy cannot afford a new province. Since the situation suits a powerful ‘strategic lobby’, the Maulanas see green pastures ahead. For the ethno-nationalist, progressive and almost secular (although its manifesto doesn’t use the word secular), PkMAP, the merger of FATA and KP would mean the dilution of its political rhetoric on the Durand Line, which in its leadership’s view would be compromised if FATA loses its special status and becomes settled in near-mainland Pakistan. More than the people of FATA, this party appears to be caring more for its strategic constituency among the ethno-nationalists in Afghanistan, which is quite upset on the merger proposal and has expressed so in no uncertain terms.
Amidst all this, FATA people are still waiting for their rights. Seventy years on.

#Pakistan - Another setback to #FATA merger

After yet again backtracking on its commitment to table the FATA reforms bill on Monday, the government finds itself in a tight spot.
On Monday, the united opposition had boycotted the National Assembly session and announced that it would not attend the proceedings until the bill was tabled in the Parliament. Then, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) threatened to stage a sit-in at the Faizabad interchange if the process for FATA merger is not kicked off by December 31.
Alongside the mainstream opposition parties, a newly-formed FATA youth jirga has also been raising its voice on the issue, demanding expedited efforts for the merger of the region with the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (KP) province.
Unlike mainstream parties, however, the jirga members have rightly protested the failure of the authorities concerned to take into account the views of women and other marginalised communities of the region. These are legitimate concerns and must be addressed as the merger process gets underway. Addressing these concerns will entail ensuring wide-ranging consultations with FATA’s civil society and political actors.
Mainstreaming FATA should have been done 70-years ago. The region has been a part of this country and yet has been governed using draconian colonial era Frontier Crimes Regulation. This has robbed generations after generations in FATA of their fundamental right of self-determination, not to mention that it has made a mockery of Pakistan’s credentials as a democratic republic.
Only two parties in alliance with the ruling PML-N have consistently been opposing the merger option. The ruling party needs to fast track its consultations with these allies. The fate of an entire region and its people cannot be held hostage to the wishes of two political parties, who may or may not be popular in the region to begin with.
The constitution needs to be extended to the region immediately

Tillerson: Terror Group Ties Could Cost Pakistan Territorial Control

The United States has warned Pakistan it could lose control of its territory unless Islamabad abandons ties with terrorist groups operating in the country that are growing in "size and influence."
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued the warning as Washington and Islamabad renew efforts to improve bilateral relations and find "common ground" to promote peace in neighboring Afghanistan.
"We want to work with Pakistan to stamp out terrorism within their boundaries as well, but Pakistan has to begin the process of changing its relationship with the Haqqani Network and with others," Tillerson said at a public talk in Washington on Tuesday.
A U.S.-led military coalition is helping the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to contain a resurgent Taliban insurgency.
Insurgents and leaders of a group allied with the Haqqani Network are allegedly orchestrating attacks from sanctuaries in Pakistan, with the help of the neighboring country's spy agency.
"Pakistan has allowed so many terrorist organizations to find safe haven within its territories, and these organizations are growing in size and influence," Tillerson said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum in Washington, Dec. 12, 2017.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the 2017 Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum in Washington, Dec. 12, 2017.
The secretary said he had warned Pakistani leaders that the terrorist groups might turn their attention from Kabul and decide they like Islamabad better as a target. He cautioned, "If they're not careful, Pakistan is going to lose control of their own country."
While there has been no formal response to Tillerson's remarks, a senior Pakistani government official has rejected the U.S. assertions as unfounded.
"In the last three years, our counterterrorism operations have effectively dismantled all terrorist groups on Pakistani soil while more than 200,000 of our troops are still deployed to areas bordering Afghanistan to consolidate the gains," the official told VOA, requesting anonymity.
The Pakistani government has also vowed to take action against any terrorists on its soil linked to the Afghan violence if U.S. officials share "actionable" intelligence with Islamabad.
Tillerson on Tuesday indicated Washington might start sharing such information because it is really concerned about Pakistan's stability.
"We want to work with them in a positive way. We're willing to share information with them and we want them to be successful. But we cannot continue with the status quo, where terrorist organizations are allowed to find safe haven inside of Pakistan," he said.
FILE - A handout from the US Embassy shows US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis being greeted by Pakistani military officials as he arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan, Dec. 4, 2017.
FILE - A handout from the US Embassy shows US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis being greeted by Pakistani military officials as he arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan, Dec. 4, 2017.
Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Islamabad, where he also called on Pakistani leaders to redouble efforts against terrorist groups operating out of their country. He also called for Pakistan to play its vital role in promoting a process in Afghanistan to end the conflict there.
At a public talk in Islamabad following the Mattis visit, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif reiterated that his country had made unmatched sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and was making all possible efforts to promote peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
"Peace in Afghanistan is of extreme importance to us. We are almost on all the platforms or forums from where peace in Afghanistan is being pursued. Our participation is with total sincerity with total commitment," Asif said.
He added that continued Afghan hostilities were hampering Pakistan's efforts to improve its economy and expand its trade to central Asian states.
"I think after Afghanistan the biggest stakeholder in peace in this region or in Afghanistan, is Pakistan," the foreign minister asserted.

The Mullah-Military Takeover of Pakistan

It might still be premature to read too much into former military dictator Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf talking about a political alliance with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its offshoot Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). Not because these groups are officially banned in Pakistan, but because Musharraf is a largely irrelevant political entity these days.
However, events of recent weeks suggest that the unlikely merger of the Musharraf-led “grand alliance of 23 political parties” with the Hafiz Saeed-led proscribed groups would perfectly symbolize the mullah-military takeover of Pakistan.
Four days before the state surrendered to radical Islamist thugs in the capital, the Lahore High Court review board refused to extend Saeed’s 10-month detention period owing to “lack of evidence.” Saeed’s release, coupled with the civil-military leadership kowtowing to a radical Islamist group that has already contested two by-elections in the country, is the formal completion of the political mainstreaming of jihadists in Pakistan.
This mainstreaming has not only been planned by the military leadership, it has also been pushed by them, resulting in the Dawn Leaks episode last year, from which the civilian government never managed to recover.
On cue, the JuD’s first statements following Saeed’s release was accusing the government of “taking orders from India” to further delegitimize the civilian leaders as “anti-national.” Fittingly, Saeed also confirmed that he will be taking part in the 2018 elections under the banner of the Milli Muslim League (MML) – the latest LeT/JuD offshoot, which is yet to be registered by the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The military’s support to the Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) protesters was epitomized by the video of the DG Rangers handing out cash coupons to those prisoners released as per agreement with the state.
For the military establishment, bolstering these Islamist groups not only dents the vote bank of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which 12 months ago was the overwhelming favourite to win the 2018 elections with an even bigger majority. Giving formal political shape to the decades-old mullah-military nexus also further aids the military’s strategic interests in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
This is where Musharraf joining hands with Hafiz Saeed to represent a mega coalition of Islamists and the fringe parties that he already has on board would carry symbolic value, if nothing else.
The ongoing treason trial against Musharraf, which the former army chief escaped from, was among the first sources of conflict after PML-N took over in 2013. Musharraf has further been declared an absconder in the murder case of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.  And so for a former army chief, who has been sanctioned as an absconder in cases pertaining to breaching the Constitution and killing a former elected prime minister, to return to Pakistan and head a political coalition would complete civilian subjugation to the Army.
Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) is among the parties that are a part of Musharraf’s coalition. PAT had joined the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) in 2014 to demand then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation in a four month long protest in the capital – a plot backed by a section of the military establishment.
Qadri is now in Lahore, plotting the overthrowing of the Punjab government, which has been targeted by a damning report of the leaders’ involvement in the 2014 Model Town killings.
Even so, Musharraf’s coalition, even if it takes MML on board, or the potential resumption of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) – an alliance of nationwide Islamist parties – would do little in terms of electoral damage, let alone have a chance of forming the government following next year’s elections.
That means that the military establishment’s main player would remain the PTI and its chief Imran Khan, who have not only gone toe-to-toe with the PML-N in by-elections over the past four years, but have gained the most from the PML-N’s losses in recent months.
And so, what the military leadership is ideally looking at is a PTI government with perhaps a Musharraf and/or Saeed-led coalition a part of the opposition – just to rub in who’s actually in charge, if nothing else.

Why #Pakistan Is Hyphenating #Palestine and #Kashmir

The rest of the world has long distanced itself from the Islamist struggle in Kashmir – unlike Palestine.
In his meeting with Palestinian ambassador Walid A.M. Abu Ali on Tuesday, Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa said that “Pakistan views the unresolved Palestine issue at par with the Kashmir issue.”
In the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also juxtaposed Palestine and Kashmir, maintaining that Israeli control over Palestine is similar to Indian occupation of Kashmir.
Similar efforts were witnessed on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly in September, where Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif met Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit to express “grave concern on the ongoing situation in Palestine and occupied Kashmir.”

The conflation perhaps got a bit carried away when the Pakistani envoy to the United Nations presented a picture from Gaza to make Islamabad’s case for Kashmir.
While Pakistan has always maintained that it sees the Palestinian issue with the same lens as Kashmir, it has traditionally been a gesture to highlight how important the former is for Islamabad. However, not only has Pakistan upped the ante on hyphenating the two in recent years, it seems to be using the Palestine cause as a vehicle for its narrative on Indian-administered Kashmir.
This has been visible since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel earlier this year, which not only symbolized tighter ties between the two states, but also gave birth to outrageous conspiracy theories in Pakistan.
Modi’s trip also had multiple joint references to “terrorism” affecting India and Israel, as exemplified by the Israeli foreign ministry’s reiteration of “mutual cooperation in the fight against terrorism.” And since militancy in Palestine and Kashmir has metamorphosed from nationalist to Islamist nature, these vows for counterterror unity was an attempt to collectively delegitimize freedom fights in both regions.
With Islamist leaders orchestrating militancy in Kashmir being sanctioned by the West – like Syed Salahuddinand Hafiz Saeed, who was recently released by Lahore High Court – the rest of the world has long distanced itself from the Islamist struggle in Kashmir – unlike Palestine.
Pakistan has been instrumental in delegitimizing its own narrative on Kashmir, by backing jihadist usurpation of the indigenous freedom struggle and also curbing human rights in its own administered Kashmir.
This is why there hasn’t been a single UN Security Council resolution on Kashmir since 1957, and 47 on the Israel-Palestine issue.
By hyphenating Kashmir and Palestine, Pakistan is clearly bidding to bring its own narrative to the forefront. But what this is inadvertently doing is further damaging not only Islamabad’s own position, but also both struggles, by reducing the conflicts to the Muslim-non Muslim binary, which is the way the jihadists see them.
Relying on the Islamist card has long been Pakistan’s strategy not only to ensure that the jihadist groups it backs remain ideologically fueled, but also because it has not had a leg to stand on when it comes to human rights. This is not only true for Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Balochistan – two conflict areas – but also the rest of the country, where many fundamental rights are constitutionally curbed.
But Islamabad remains inconsistent even in the aforementioned Islamist binary, considering that China remains its economic lifeline while Beijing implements anti-Muslim policies, most notably in the Xinjiang region. That the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor connects Xinjiang and Balochistan at its two ends perfectly symbolizes not just disregard for human rights, but Islamabad’s own duplicity over a non-Muslim majority subjugating a Muslim separatist movement.
And yet, ironically, Pakistan’s own contradictions make the Kashmir-Palestine hyphenation a perfectly rational strategy.
Pakistan can’t speak up for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, obviously fearing Chinese backlash. And it can’t undo many human rights breaches at home since both Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Balochistan have separatist movements of their own, while the rest of the country is increasingly coming under the influence of the perilous mullah-military alliance.
Hence, Islamabad is pinning its hopes on Palestine to keep the Kashmir issue alive.

Pakistan moves to evict 21 foreign aid groups

By Munir Ahmed
Pakistan has ordered 21 foreign aid groups to wrap up their activities and prepare to leave after they failed to re-register under tough regulations introduced two years ago, officials said Thursday.
The officials said Open Society Foundations, the charity founded by George Soros, and the South Africa-based ActionAid were among the groups informed of the decision this week, without providing a complete list. The non-governmental organizations have been given two months to close their offices and vacate the country. The government is scrutinizing the documents of another 19 foreign aid groups to determine whether they should be allowed to remain in the country. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief reporters.
Pakistan has long treated foreign aid groups with suspicion, fearing they could mask efforts to spy on the country. It stepped up its monitoring after the CIA used a vaccination campaign as a front to gather information on Osama bin Laden ahead of the U.S. commando raid that killed him in 2011.
Jonathan Birchall, the spokesman for Open Society Foundations, confirmed receiving a letter from the Interior Ministry rejecting the group’s re-registration. He declined to provide further details.
The group said Monday it was seeking clarification after the Interior Ministry told it and other organizations that they must halt operations in Pakistan within 60 days. It said that in 2015 Pakistan ordered all NGOs already operating in the country to register with the ministry, a process that entailed submitting detailed accounts of their funding.
“At the end of November, the Interior Ministry issued letters advising more than a dozen international NGOs that their applications to register had been rejected but giving no reasons. The affected organizations may lodge an appeal within 90 days, but it is not clear how this process will be managed,” Open Society Foundations said.
Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, which represents scores of foreign aid groups, says their work directly benefits about 29 million people in Pakistan. Foreign aid groups contributed some $285 million in funding for development and emergency relief in 2016, and employ over 5,000 local staff, it said.
The Open Society Foundations first started working in Pakistan in 2005, providing $3 million of emergency relief for victims of a devastating earthquake. It provided another $6 million in emergency funds after severe flooding in 2010.

#PPP mulls over reorganisation strategy in #Lahore

A meeting to discuss the reorganisational matters and mobilising party workers was held at Bilawal House in Lahore on Thursday. 
The meeting was presided over by the party's Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and attended by important leaders in the province including the party's Central Information Secretary Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmed, PPP's Central Punjab President Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, and PPP's Lahore President Mian Azizur Rehman Chan.

#Pakistan - Corruption rampant in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government

President Pakistan Peoples Party Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Humayun Khan has said that corruption is wide spread in KP Government and the Chief Minister KP and his cabinet is busy in charming Imran Niazi.
Humayun Khan said that Pervaiz Khattak also failed to complete quorum in KP Assembly. Accountability institutions have been locked and corruption is continued unchecked. Imran Niazi claim about education institutions in government sector are false as over a thousand government educational institutions have been closed down in the province.
He said that contracts of all natural resources have been given to Jahangir Tareen and all the money is being siphoned to Bani Gala. On one hand KP government is on a deforestation drive and millions of trees have been cut down and on the other billions have been gulped in the name of tree planting drive. Imran Niazi is a fake individual in every respect, Humayun Khan concluded.