Saturday, February 3, 2018

Music Video - Taylor Swift - …Ready For It?

Video Report - Nancy Pelosi Tells Cuomo That Memo is W0RSE Than He KN0WS, "You D0N'T KN0W What You're Talking About

Video Report - "TRUMP IS WEAK!!!" Elizabeth Warren's BRILLIANT Takedown of Trump's Environmental Destruction

Video Report - At least 30 terrorists killed as Russia responds to downing of Su-25 fighter jet

Video - Stephen Colbert Suggests Why Donald Trump Is Skipping The Super Bowl Interview

Urdu Ghazal - Tanya Wells - Aaj Jaane Ki Zid Na Karo

#Pakistan - Dead end of the Afghan policy

By Afrasiab Khattak

In recent times Pakistani political and military leadership has come around to the position where it is publicly accepting the fact that General Zia’s policy of supporting private Jihadist networks in 1980s was actually a fassad (turmoil) as according to them Jihad is sole domain of the state. Not only that. From General Musharraf’s “enlightened moderation” after 9/11 to the Zarb-e-Azb and National Action Plan (NAP) of 2014 and Operation Radul Fassad of 2016, military and political campaigns were launched one after another with the declared aim of eliminating the phenomenon of fassad. But unfortunately the country’s security establishment has stubbornly clung to an Afghan policy which is totally based on the very evil which the Pakistani state claims to be eradicating.

This policy is basically aimed at supporting Taliban to fight a war of attrition against the Afghan state and society. By owning responsibility for the recent brutal terrorist attacks in Afghan urban centres, Taliban have given up even the pretence of being a serious political opposition of any sort. For supporting the demolition squad of Taliban now practically amounts to supporting the efforts for deconstructing the Afghan state and Afghan national identity. The result is rise of animosity with Afghans and growth of extremism and terrorism in the region without an end. Problem is that for exporting Talibanisation to Afghanistan its production line in Pakistan has to continue. That explains non implementation of NAP, active existence of the so called proscribed organisations and “mainstreaming” of organisations working for promotion of religious militancy.
Movers and shakers of the country’s Afghan policy have always depended on the strategy of living in denial. Non of the four wars fought in Afghanistan have ever been publicly owned. But this option is not available anymore. In the first week of March 2016, Mr. Sartaj Aziz as Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Policy and National Security, publicly and on record admitted the fact about presence of Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan for the last so many years. Taliban’s “Emirate” revolves around its Amir and the “ Emirate” is where Amir resides. So going by the statement of the country’s top foreign policy and national security person, Pakistan has been hosting the Amir. In the last one year when Pakistan claims to have cleared its territory of all terrorists, US drones have been targeting lower Kurram Agency to hit Afghan Taliban commanders. Out of 13 drone strikes during the last one year, 9 have hit targets in Lower Kurram Agency and 4 have gone after targets in Waziristan. After most of the attacks, reports appearing in Pakistani media confirm the death of important commanders of Afghan Taliban. Which means sanctuaries of Afghan Taliban still exist inside Pakistan. Now even even in 2018 foreign terrorists are being attacked by foreign drones in Pakistan. Ironically some Pakistani leaders reject the idea of acting against Afghan Taliban on the ground that it will bring Afghan war into Pakistan but that’s exactly what they are doing by providing safe heavens to Taliban.
One is amazed to see some pro establishment media circles and analysts in Pakistan gloating over the “successes” of Taliban in Afghanistan. Interestingly these are the very people who will outrightly reject the reports of the “ infidel” western media on many subjects. But when the same western media publishes reports about the growing activities of Taliban in Afghanistan these “patriots” will enthusiastically quote such reports to prove the “invincibility” of Taliban. It’s particularly disappointing to watch mentors of Taliban celebrating these so called successes achieved through devastating suicide bombings in various Afghan cities.
But this is a very myopic policy with potential for creating the following serious security and political threats to Pakistan. One, the experience of the last four decades has proved that the ascendency of religious militancy in Afghanistan results in the rise of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan. It was not long ago that local and international terrorist networks were not only ruling FATA but they were expanding their control over different districts in Malakand Division. Traders in Peshawar, Islamabad and many other cities were forced to pay extortion money to Taliban. At one stage according to credible experts 40 per cent of Karachi was under the influence of Taliban. Why wouldn’t all this happen again? Two, the growing Talibanisation of the region will undermine regional peace creating serious security challenges to regional economic development projects such as CPEC, TAPI and CASA. Taliban is basically a security threat for this region which includes, apart from others, China and Russia also. US did topple Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan for providing sanctuary to OBL but US didn’t go for their total elimination which would have included elimination of their sanctuaries in Pakistan. Americans are angry at Taliban for killing their soldiers in Afghanistan and they would try to push them back to that extent. In the final analysis the task of tackling terrorist threat emanating from Taliban will be left to regional players including China and Russia. Three, naked and brazen Pakistani support for Taliban is creating immense hatred against Pakistan among the Afghan people. This process has particularly intensified after recent horrendous terrorist attacks in Afghan cities for which Taliban publicly claimed responsibility. As if this wasn’t enough the policy of pushing out Afghan refugees for creating chaos in Afghanistan in support of Taliban’s war is taking this animosity to new heights. It is even worse than the hostility that existed between Sikh Punjabi state and Durrani Afghanistan in the 19th century.
Four, the aforementioned bankrupt Afghan policy is creating alienation among Pashtuns in Pakistan because it is bringing war with large scale death and destruction, displacement ghettoisation to them. Five, the rise of local IS or Daish is yet another existential threat capable of turning this region into a battlefield by attracting players from outside. By now it is quite clear that far from being the actual branch of Middle Eastern IS it is just a side show of Taliban. It is meant to make Taliban look good by taking responsibility for some “undesirable” terrorist attacks. In eastern Afghanistan most of Daish’s cadres are from Pakistan and in northern Afghanistan it’s ranks are manned by Central Asian fighters. It’s needless to say that factors mentioned above originate from Pakistan’s flawed Afghan policy and they constitute an explosive mix. Again it’s not a coincidence that political government in Pakistan has been rendered totally incapacitated to have any say in foreign policy.

#Pakistan - EDITORIAL - No more pardoning for rape

This time last year a 17-year-old-girl suffering from a hearing impediment was raped. By a relative of one of her father’s employers in Rawalpindi’s Gujar Khan district. Indeed, at the time of filing an FIR Munir Ahmed confirmed that he himself was witness to the grave assault.
Yet fast-forward to the present and Mr Ahmed has now pardoned his daughter’s rapist; explaining that he had registered the criminal case by mistake. That he was at the time working as a cattle-herder for a wealthy man likely played a major part in his decision. But it’s not our place to pass judgement on the poor or vulnerable. What is our duty, however, is to point out lax procedure when it comes to collecting important evidence. In this case, like so many others — no DNA samples were collected from either the victim or the accused. This despite a medical examination proving rape. This serves to weaken, if not absolutely paralyse, the court’s hand. For the incident took place just months before the Criminal Law (Amendment Offences Relating to Rape) Act, 2016 was passed; which provides for DNA as evidence.
This once more brings to the fore the question of how Pakistan’s Diyat laws allow the most serious of crimes to be treated as nothing more than a private dispute between two parties. This leads to travesties of justice across the board. Indeed, Pakistan rang in the New Year by witnessing the parents of an eight-year-old madrassa student ‘forgiving’ the cleric who literally beat their son to death. The point is that if these two criminals — for we must call them what they are, regardless of their being pardoned or not — repeat these offences then it will be our laws that ought to be in the dock. After all, data shows that conviction rates dropped by an alarming 55 percent following the introduction of the Qisas and Diyat laws back in 1990. At a time when the whole country is still baying for the blood of Zainab’s rapist — we think these figures speak for themselves. Moreover, the rich and powerful find it all too easy to exploit these legal provisions for their own ends. In the not so curious case of Raymond Davis, for example, the American contractor was able to be spirited out of the country in the wake of Washington paying ‘blood money’ to secure his safe release; despite his fatal shooting of two men. And closer to home, Shahbaz Sharif’s implication in the Sabzazar Shootout Case prevented him from contesting the general elections of 2008. Yet just one month later, the father of this young man withdrew all charges. The rest, as they say, is history.
At a time when Pakistan’s criminal justice system is under the microscope — the time has surely come to treat crimes such as rape and murder as being against the state. For this will be true test of the country’s democratic health. It’s the least all of us deserve.

#Pakistan - #Polio wars

Since 2012, an estimated 80 workers in Pakistan have lost their lives in the battle against polio. But the End Polio Now website that registers the country’s efforts at polio elimination does not even mention the polio workers who died in the line of duty.
Mehwish, eyes flashing behind her niqab, narrates with quiet confidence the tale of how she escaped sexual harassment during a routine vaccination campaign in her area. “At a home in one of the posh localities, a man asked us to come inside to give polio drops to the two children in his house. Once we entered he asked me to come into the bedroom, attempting to grab my hand with the intention of pulling me further in, but thankfully I managed to escape”.
Sitting with her colleagues inside the rickety union council office in Lahore from where the anti-polio campaign is conducted in that area, this young polio worker brings to mind the spectre of Sakina Bibi and her daughter Rizwana, two women who weren’t lucky enough to escape, and got killed in the outskirts of Quetta on January 18, 2018 as they were going about their job.
Mehwish, like many of her counterparts across the country, is a young woman who has done her Matric and is employed by the government as a Lady Sentry Patrol, earning a monthly salary of Rs18,500. Her job is to go door-to-door during both Dengue and Polio campaigns, administering information and vaccine. Cases of attempted sexual harassment are reported mostly around posh localities, she tells me, where the houses are bigger and neighbours cannot keep a watch out. Her male colleague and in-charge of the union council tells me Mehwish’s harasser followed her for a while till she called the office and a team was dispatched to help her. An FIR was registered against the harasser who spent the night in the police station where he was given ‘due treatment’, he adds with some satisfaction.
Given that the logistics of the polio-eradication operation are sprawling, providing security to every single staff member becomes a near impossibility. In Punjab, it is also not strictly required, since there has never been an attack on a polio worker’s life in this province.
Of the 260,000 health workers and support staff employed for anti-polio campaigns in the country, a majority are women, dozens of whom have been shot dead while on duty. More than 84 per cent of the health workers trying to eradicate the polio virus in Quetta are women.
In a job where getting killed is an imminent possibility, sexual harassment seems to be a concern relatively lower down the rung, especially if the women bearing the brunt of it manage to escape relatively unscathed. Anika, a Social Mobiliser in the same union council as Mehwish’s says she sometimes has to face catcalls and lewd remarks on the street when she goes door-to-door to recheck the work that her colleagues conducted earlier, “But that is to be expected. I have now become confident enough to ignore such harassment, and then there are always two or three girls with me. We manage,” she says.
Anika who has an FA receives a monthly salary of Rs20,500, an amount greater than what many school teachers get with an MA degree. These pay scales were revised a few years ago when concerns over polio eradication reached their peak with 198 cases of polio registered in 2011 (a decade-long high), and after workers’ lives were endangered.
Given that the logistics of the polio-eradication operation are complex and sprawling, providing security to every single staff member becomes a near impossibility. In Punjab, it is also not strictly required, since there has never been an attack on a polio worker’s life in this province.
The rest of the country poses a different story, though. Since 2012, an estimated 80 people in Pakistan have lost their lives in the battle against polio. These systematic attacks gained legitimacy in the minds of many Pakistanis after 2011 when certain reports claimed that a local doctor, Shakil Afridi posed as a Hepatitis B vaccinator while working for the CIA to locate and kill Osama Bin Laden. Polio campaigns had been a target even prior to that with clerics like Sufi Mohammad spreading false information that the vaccine caused infertility. There was also a grenade attack aimed at the Red Crescent compound in Peshawar in 2007 damaging vehicles but not resulting in any casualties. Fatal attacks on workers by militant groups, however, gained currency only around 2012. (See ‘A partial timeline of violence against polio workers’).
After each polio worker killing, the public clamours for greater security for individuals conducting this vital national task, but the police itself has faced a substantial loss of life during polio campaigns, having borne the brunt of suicide attacks and drive-by killings in Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Police personnel are installed in every area that is monitored under the polio plan but an excess of crime and the lack of personnel means they can’t accompany every single polio worker. They sometimes arrive too late to be able to do anything, as was the case in the recent killings in Quetta.
There is also the issue that security personnel are said to create suspicion among certain locals who see polio vaccination as a governmental conspiracy conducted on the behest of western powers. A conspicuous uniform and weaponry is said to attract too much unwanted attention towards polio workers, a reason offered by police officers for hanging back.
Pakistan is one of the last two countries in the world where the polio virus is still endemic. However, an improvement in the overall security situation in the country is tied to the success of the polio campaign – which has seen far fewer reported cases this year as compared to the past. Pakistan has outperformed Afghanistan for the first time since both countries whittled down to the last three among the list of polio carriers (Nigeria is the third, which did not report a case last year, but is still not considered completely in the clear).
Although it’s still too early to celebrate, this move towards eradication was helped by three crucial factors: making sure that polio workers belong to the community and area they work in so they can establish an essential trust with the households in that vicinity; by bringing the country’s overall security situation under control, particularly in Karachi which saw both sustained polio cases as well as militant violence against polio workers; and by involving the country’s clergy who have come together to give fatwas in favour of the polio campaign, assuring people that there are no haraam substances in the vaccine, nor is it a conspiracy against Muslims.
Polio eradication efforts in Pakistan are supported financially by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UAE government and Rotary International, and implemented with the support of UNICEF and WHO. There is a slick and friendly website End Polio Now that registers the country’s efforts at polio elimination, narrating the efforts of many a polio worker in urban centres and remote areas of the country. Oddly it does not even mention, let alone have a separate section, on the polio workers who died in the line of duty.
This also means there is no trace of the investigations that are regularly ordered into the murders of polio workers but only one of whom has been noticeably recorded by the media, i.e the sentencing of a TTP militant Afsar Khan who killed polio vaccinator Umer Farooq in Sohrab Goth, Karachi when he was returning from his anti-polio campaign duties.
Munir Ahmed, Coordinator Emergency Operation Centre Punjab, says one of the reasons polio hasn’t been eliminated from Pakistan yet is that polio workers get paid very little for the immense effort they put into their work: Rs250 per day. This money is solely for their engagement as polio campaigners, in addition to their regular salaries as government health workers. “Although the Rs250 is on top of their regular salaries, even then the work they do requires great physical labour, vigilance and danger. It needs to be acknowledged financially and through praise.” Another reason he suggests is the free movement of people at the Afghan-Pakistan border, “Unluckily we found a positive environmental sample in December in Lahore which was linked to Kabul, Afghanistan. The virus tells you the travel history.”
In Icchra, a densely populated area of Lahore, there is a smaller neighbourhood known as Chaudhry Colony, an enclave of largely Christian domestic workers. Their houses sit on either side of an open-air sewage canal lined with garbage and filth. This nullah is one of the places in Lahore which has tested positive for polio samples in the environment. A special campaign is being run here to counter the effects of this result. The day’s proceedings have gone well, all the children who needed to be immunised have cooperated. The residents of the area seem happy with their polio team.
When I ask if they have any reservations, one man running a small corner shop says, “None. They are doing great work. People who don’t let them do their work are just uneducated. They don’t realise this is for our own good”. The lady workers’ team who has been going door-to-door has a friendly rapport with the community. A young girl who is assisting tells me she has just sat for her FSc exam and is hoping to become a doctor.
A large band of energetic young boys of school-going age play beside this nullah at 11 o’clock in the morning.  One of them tosses a tennis ball into the air, another boy jumps to catch it, precariously perched at the edge of the canal as he just about manages to grab onto the ball before it splashes into the foul water. They are playing chuk danda, my guide informs me, a cross between cricket and gulli danda. Their energy is infectious.
As is that of most workers I have come across throughout my reporting. I have been impressed by the detailed planning that has gone into reaching every single child in this union council and the hard work being carried out by people from top to bottom. I wonder what it is that is going right here: the donor money, the implementation, or the involvement of the community. If we can reach nearly every single child in the country and map them from neighbourhood-to-neighbourhood, overcome parental concerns and religious propaganda, what is preventing us from making it compulsory to send these children to school or to provide them with a better life in general. It just seems like a matter of will.

#Pakistan - Suicide bomber kills at least 11 soldiers in northern Pakistan

Jibran Ahmad

At least 11 soldiers were killed and 13 wounded on Saturday in a suicide attack near an army base in northern Pakistan, officials said, in a region that was once controlled by a local faction of the Taliban. Attacks have decreased sharply in the picturesque Swat Valley but can cause alarm in a region where Pakistani Taliban insurgents took partial control in 2007, before being ousted two years later in a major military operation hailed as an important blow against Islamist violence.
Swat was the first sizeable region outside Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan to fall to the militants. More than 2,000 Taliban fighters have been driven out of the region, government officials say.
The Pakistan Army’s public relations wing said in a statement that the “suicide attack” in the Swat Valley took place at the “army unit sports area”.
“The soldiers were playing volleyball in the evening outside the military base...when a suicide bomber managed to blow himself up,” said a security official who asked not to be identified. The match was also being watched by civilians, and the casualty count could rise as a large number of people had gathered in the area, he said, adding that wounded were being shifted to a nearby military hospital.
The attack was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, in a statement sent to the media.
“God willing Tehreek-e-Taliban has started the process of revenge attacks,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani said in the statement. “Wait for more (attacks) to follow.” The military has been on alert for signs of a Taliban resurgence as it seeks to rebuild civilian institutions and win over the local population as a bulwark against radical ideology. Since being chased out the region, the Taliban have carried out revenge attacks against anti-militancy activists and attempted to extort money from business owners in a region where Pakistan has stationed more than 4,000 soldiers.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the attack.
“No cowardly attack can deter us in pursuing our struggle against the menace of terrorism to its logical conclusion. We will continue our fight till the last trace is rooted out,” the prime minister said in a statement.