Saturday, March 10, 2018

Video - Lebanese Belly Dance - DINA JAMAL - رقص شرقي

Video - UK: Red carpet welcome for Saudi's crown prince

Video - 🇬🇧 🇸🇦 Why is Britain rolling out the red carpet for the Saudi Crown Prince? | Inside Story

New £100m deal between UK and Saudi Arabia branded ‘a national disgrace’

Adam Smith

The UK and Saudi Arabia announced plans for a £100 million deal yesterday – and it’s already has been branded a ‘national disgrace’. Government ministers signed the agreement with Saudi Arabia to coincide with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to London.
Theresa May’s government claimed the deal will create a ‘new long-term partnership’ to improve livelihoods and infrastructure in the world’s poorest countries. However, opposition MPs and people in the aid sector have slammed the deal due to Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military operations in war-torn famine hit Yemen, the Guardian reported. Kate Osamor MP, the shadow international development secretary, said: ‘Over 22 million Yemeni lives depend on permanent, full access for aid, food and fuel in Yemen. ‘Instead, she has won no concessions and simply handed on a plate to Saudi Arabia a new humanitarian partnership and an endorsement from the Department for International Development, the world’s best aid agency. ‘It will whitewash Saudi Arabia’s reputation and role in the war, and it is a national disgrace.’ Labour Liverpool Walton MP Dan Carden tweeted: ‘Before signing any humanitarian partnership with Saudi Arabia the UK Government should have insisted on a full resolution to the Saudi-caused humanitarian crisis in Yemen. It is unforgivable that they chose not to.’
And Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director, added: ‘£100m is a small price for Saudi Arabia to pay to whitewash its reputation as it bombs and starves Yemeni civilians.’ The deal will see Britain’s DfID and the Saudi Fund for Development work together to build infrastructure in drought and conflict-stricken countries. Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said: ‘The Saudi Fund has a long record of investing in successful development projects around the world. We are sharing the best of British expertise, and our collective efforts will help create jobs and livelihoods to support the poorest people to stand on their own two feet. ‘This in turn will help to boost global prosperity, which is in all of our interests.’ During Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman three day visit to the UK he visited Downing Street, met the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Trade agreements worth £65 billion had been signed including a memorandum of intent to finalise discussions on a deal for Saudi Arabia to buy 48 Typhoon jets from BAE Systems.

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Video Report - 🇺🇸 #NeverAgain: Teenagers, Twitter and the US gun debate | The Listening Post (Full)

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar - Baba, Bachi ao School. ''بابا ما سکول ته بوزه''

How I Remember Munnu Bhai (1933-2018)

Alan Woods

Munnu Bhai: journalist, poet and lifelong advocate for the poor and downtrodden.

I had only just arrived in Lahore, Pakistan when I was informed this morning of the death of my old friend Munnu Bhai. The news produced in me a profound sense of sadness and loss. I had known Munnu Bhai for a period of more than 20 years, during which we established a close and rewarding friendship. I knew him as a highly talented and respected journalist, a fine poet and a man of great culture and personal charm. He also had a wicked sense of humor and would frequently burst into bouts of uncontrollable and infectious laughter in the course of our conversations about politics, literature and philosophy.

For many years, whenever I met Munnu Bhai in Lahore he would invariably be in the company of his bosom friend Javed Shaheen, an extremely talented poet and lifelong communist, now sadly deceased. We would spend hours discussing a wide range of topics: Marxism, the political situation internationally and in Pakistan, poetry, art, literature and philosophy. I remember those conversations with tremendous affection now. Munnu Bhai used to recite his own poetry, which combined a great literary creativity with very acute social and political intuition. I distinctly remember one satirical poem which he recited on more than one occasion, the subject of which was a tax inspector. This was a biting condemnation of corruption in Pakistan society.
Munnu Bhai was a very humane person with a profound sense of the injustice of class society. He always took the side of the poor and the oppressed against the rich and the powerful, and did whatever he could to express his indignation in his writings and poetry. As a progressive journalist in the 1960s, he played an active role in the revolutionary struggle against the Ayub Khan dictatorship and eventually became very close to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Chairman and founder of the Pakistan People’s Party. He wrote stage plays for the movement and he was involved in the numerous political rallies that took place in those turbulent times.
One could say that he was a product of the revolutionary movement that shook Pakistan to its foundations in 1968-69. At that time many journalists like Munnu Bhai became politically active in the Pakistan Federation of Unions of Journalists.
Always a man of the left who held the most advanced and progressive views, Munnu Bhai showed great interest in the ideas of Marxism, which I have always defended. He read my articles on our website, In Defence of Marxism, with keen interest and frequently quoted them approvingly in the pages of The Jang newspaper for which he worked as a columnist for many years. During our many discussions about politics Munnu Bhai was fascinated by the life and ideas of the great Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky as also was his friend and comrade Javed Shaheen who later translated Trotsky’s biography My Life into Urdu. Although unfortunately I am unable to read Urdu, I understand that it is really an outstanding translation of the work. Both Munnu Bhai and Javed Shaheen became active sympathizers of the International Marxist Tendency and through their writings they attracted many young people in Pakistan to the ideas of Marxism and Trotskyism.
Munnu Bhai showed great admiration and respect for the late Ted Grant, my friend and comrade of many years standing. The two men first met some years ago at the congress of the International Marxist Tendency in Barcelona, Spain. Although Munnu Bhai himself was not a young man at that time, he always referred to Ted as “Baba Jee” (papa). Needless to say, the pair got on famously and enjoyed a good laugh together on many occasions.
I remember that during one of our conversations about Marxism and literature Munnu Bhai showed great interest in Trotsky’s book Literature and Revolution, written in the Soviet Union in the 1920s before the flourishing art and literature of the early years of the revolution was suffocated by the Stalinist counter-revolution. In fact, he started to translate Trotsky’s book, a work which was unfortunately interrupted by increasing bouts of ill health.
One of Pakistan’s most outstanding intellectuals, Munnu Bhai was extremely distressed by the degree of social, economic, political and cultural decline in his country. In the course of our conversations, he agreed that the problems of Pakistan were too deep to be solved by tinkering with the existing setup and that a radical overhaul would be necessary. Only through the abolition of landlordism and capitalism could Pakistan’s problems be solved under a democratic socialist system. In the words of the Spanish socialist Largo Caballero, “you cannot cure cancer with an aspirin”.
To the very end my friend Munnu Bhai retained an unshakable faith in the socialist future of Pakistan and humanity. Though he has been tragically taken from us, he will forever remain a symbol of progressive thought for the younger generations, who hold the destiny of Pakistan in their hands. He will always occupy a special place in my most affectionate memories of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s First Hindu Senator Aims High

Earlier this month, Krishna Kumari Kohli and her family waited impatiently in front of a television in their small house in a remote corner of the southern Pakistani province of Sindh.
March 3 was a special day for the Dalit, or untouchable, Hindu family. A group of 168 lawmakers in Sindh’s legislature were set to vote to elect 12 new members to the Senate, the upper house in Pakistan’s federal parliament. When Kohli’s name flashed on the television screen, her family in the village of Nagarparkar were elated.
“It was a dream come true,” she told Radio Mashaal about becoming the first low-caste Hindu senator in the Muslim-majority country.
Her election as a representative of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the 104-member house is being hailed as a good omen for Pakistan’s religious minorities, whose members often report discrimination and oppression.
The journey for Kohli, 39, from her time as a bonded laborer in Tharparkar to the corridors of power in Islamabad is remarkable. She says her parents, four brothers, and two sisters are peasants.
“All of us, along with my uncle’s family, worked in the fields for a landlord,” she said of her childhood. “He falsely claimed we owed him money, so we had to work for him as bonded laborers.”
Kohli’s was a second-grader at the time. She says that after toiling in the landlord’s fields for two years, her family won back their freedom. She was married before she finished high school. But her husband, also a student, encouraged her to continue her education, and she went on to earn a master’s degree in sociology.
After completing her studies, she became involved in activism by joining the PPP and providing free legal aid and counseling to victims of sexual harassment. “The PPP has always helped the Hindu community and has a great history of upholding its secular beliefs,” she said.
Kohli rose through the ranks of rural Sindh’s politics, dominated by rich land holders, spiritual leaders, and businessmen. She was elected to a post in the local government in Tharparkar. “Finally, we are seen as humans,” she told The New York Times. “It is like for the first time in history that we have been taken out of a ditch.”
Kohli is ready to play a prominent role in Islamabad’s political arena, where she intends to speak up for Pakistan’s estimated 1.8 million Hindus and millions of others from religious minorities. “Now, my community has a voice. Nobody wanted to listen to them even locally, but now I will raise their issues in the national parliament,” she said.
Most of Pakistan’s Hindus live in Sindh, where their vulnerable members often face forced conversions. In some cases, young Hindu girls are reportedlyabducted, forced to convert to Islam, and then married off to Muslim men. “I want to work for women’s rights,” Kohli said. “I will work for the prevention of child marriages.”
She has made her father proud. She says he glowed with pride as her neighbors distributed sweets to celebrate her election. “My father thinks I have landed a good job in Islamabad. He does not know what a senator does,” Kohli said.

Pakistan: Church members beaten for helping build church wall in Punjab village

A group of Christians in Pakistan have been attacked outside their church.
According to World Watch Monitor, five members of a family in the northeast of the country were beaten on 4th March as they helped build a boundary wall around their church.

The pastor of the Pakistan Gospel Assemblies church in Yousufwala village, on the outskirts of the Punjabi city of Sahiwal, told the news source that around 20 armed men violently attacked the church members as they built the wall ahead of the Sunday morning service.

"Our church elder, George Masih, who is 70, was overseeing masons and labourers who were constructing the wall," said the pastor, who cannot be named for security reasons.

"We were praying [inside the church] when we heard shouting and yelling, and, when we rushed outside, we saw about 20 men, armed with clubs and axes, [who] were beating Masih and others."

While authorities have not confirmed who the suspects are, the pastor said he believes the men were linked to a local landlord.

Religious discrimination in Pakistan - Pakistani Court Orders Citizens to Declare Religion


A Pakistani court ruled on Friday that all citizens must declare their religion when applying for identity documents, a move human rights advocates say is another blow for the country’s persecuted minority communities.
The ruling will pile further pressure on the Ahmadi community, who are not allowed to call themselves Muslim or use Islamic symbols in their religious practices, a crime punishable under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
The Islamabad high court ruled that citizens who disguised their religious affiliation were guilty of betraying the state and ordered that anyone applying for government jobs should declare their faith.
“The Government of Pakistan shall take special measure ensuring availability of correct particulars of all the citizens,” justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said in the judgement.
“It should not be possible for any citizen to hide his/her real identity and recognition.”
If no appeal is launched, the court‘s directives will have to be followed.
The vast majority of Pakistan’s 208 million people are Muslims, with minorities accounting for about 3% of the population, according to a 1998 census.
The Ahmadi community has been a target of mob violence and attacks since legislation categorised the sect as non-Muslim in 1974 and have been vilified as blasphemers by leaders of new ultra-religious political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan.
The judge “is not only attacking everybody’s religious freedom in Pakistan but he is also focusing on one particular sect, which is the Ahmadis,” said Human Rights Watch representative Saroop Ijaz.
“A judgement like this would enable and incite violence.”
The order was issued as a result of a petition brought forward by Tehreek-e-Labaik in connection with a change in wording to an electoral law. The amendment sought to replace a religious oath with a simple declaration, which Tehreek-e-Labaik said was blasphemy.
The government blamed the change on a clerical error and swiftly restored the original format.
Last year, Tehreek-e-Labaik shut down the nation’s capital for nearly three weeks with protests against the change.
Seven people were killed and nearly 200 wounded in a failed police bid to disperse protesters, leading the government to give way to their demand that a minister accused of blasphemy resign.
Insulting the Prophet Mohammad is punishable by death in Pakistan and even a rumour of blasphemy can spark mob violence.
“All his (the judge’s) specific instructions are about ensuring and finding out who is an Ahmadi,” human rights lawyer Jibran Nasir told Reuters, adding that the order would automatically provide the government with specific lists about who belongs to which minority group.
“Every day they are being institutionally reminded that they are a minority,” he added. “It is a bigoted order.”
Pakistan’s minority Shi’ite Muslims regularly come under attack by Islamist groups. Members of its small Hindu and Christian communities have also sometimes been accused of blasphemy.

#Pakistan - Senate election 2018

By - Afrasiab Khattak
Traditionally elections for Senate , the house of federation, held every three years to elect 52 senators ( half of the total) would be held without much suspense because of its limited electoral college and predictability of the results due to the already known strength of the political parties in their respective provincial assemblies. In post Zia era the impact of the non partisan election of 1985, the big money flowing from Jihadist economy and the growing intervention of intelligence agencies at times did create suspense about the results in some provinces at some seats but this problem was of a limited nature. Buying and selling of votes in FATA has been a known practice due to the very limited nature of the electoral college and absence of political parties in the process. But the Senate election 2018 is proving to be an exception. It’s not just the brazen political engineering by the security establishment in these elections that has raised eyebrows but the conduct of certain political parties has proved to be also exact opposite of their professed positions.
But before coming to the details of the aforementioned developments it’s pertinent to note that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment in 2010 the upper house has come to play far more important role than it used to play before. For example before 18th Amendment the government was responsible only to National Assembly but now it’s responsible to both houses of the Parliament. In this way attendance of Senate sessions on the part of federal ministers and the Prime Minister isn’t just a matter of their choice. They are duty bound to attend and present reports to the house of federation. There are other areas where Senate’s role has been enhanced. Even before the 18th Amendment Senate had a crucial role in legislation but with its enhanced role now it has become more important for the power wielders to devise ways and means to control it.
During the last three years there have been a few senators of vey high caliber who have made valuable contributions but due to space constraints I shall confine myself to mentioning only two of them who have played an extraordinary role to raise the profile of the Senate . Mian Raza Rabbani, Chairman Senate for the last three years has taken significant initiatives for asserting and enhancing the role of the upper house. We all know that Parliament operate through standing and functional committees for discussing legislation and policy and also conducting monitoring of the different government ministries and departments. Raza Rabbani took measures to strengthen the working of these committees and ensure the presence of ministers, secretaries and other officials. But the most important initiative of Chairman Raza Rabbani was forming and convening the meeting of Committee of the Whole which turned the entire house into a committee to focus on important national issues such as access to justice, economy, reforms in FATA and many other issues. This provision has been there in Senate’s rules but it was practiced for the first time. These debates not only brought to fore many thorny issues but also came out with suggestions for resolving them through legislation. For example during debate on the issues relating to access to justice the issue of missing persons was also discussed. In this regard a consensus emerged in the house for coming out with legislation for regulating the work of the intelligence agencies of the country that are generally deemed to have a hand in most of the cases of enforced disappearances in the country. The proposed legislation could not take place as unfortunately the political parties didn’t find the courage for going ahead with the legislation but the issue has been duly flagged and remains on the agenda. Similarly it was thanks to the functioning of the Committee of Whole that Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Chief of Army Staff could address and brief senators about the performance of their institutions and the challenges faced by them. Similarly senators are now part of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
Senator Farhatullah Babar became what some people have described as ‘Conscience of the Parliament’ by consistently and boldly advocating supremacy of Parliament, sanctity of the Constitution, rule of law and the need for across the board accountability without any holy cows. He was very keen to bring every section of ruling elites, including judges and generals into the accountability net. He sought information on perks and privileges of the holy cows inviting the wrath of powerful circles. He raised significant questions regarding foreign policy challenging the monopoly of the security establishment over areas which the Constitution doesn’t provide for. The warning in his farewell speech regarding the possibility of a clash between the de facto and de jure was very timely. Although both Raza Rabbani and Farhatullah Babar could neither reform the system nor could they change the direction of policy but they were able to bring important and genuine issues into national discourse which has been dominated by the scripted discourse of getting Nawaz Sharif under the garb of accountability.
Therefore it isn’t surprising to see the focus of massive political engineering by the security establishment turning towards the Senate elections 2018. “ Managing” Senate has become high on the agenda. Plan A was to delay the Senate elections and bring in a prolonged caretaker government. Parliamentary coup in Balochistan a few months ago orchestrated by the intelligence agencies was originally aimed at bringing in a pliable Chief Minister for dissolving the provincial assembly. But some developments on international front and Nawaz Sharif’s campaign of mass mobilization made that option impossible the plan B came to forefront for controlling the Senate by electing a pliable Chairperson. Nawaz Sharif’s Party or the candidate supported by it is to be kept away from the office. When PTI “hands over” its Senators to the so called independent group of Senators ( who are anything but independent) and declares support for Chairperson from Balochistan it’s part of the script. Unfortunately PPP has also jumped on the establishment’s bandwagon. Had these guys uttered a single word about the continuing bloodshed in Balochistan or had they shown concern about the fate of large number of missing persons in Balochistan one would have understood their interest in electing someone from Balochistan. But it’s as usual a struggle for the control over upper house by the elected representatives and the deep state. It isn’t difficult to see as to who stands where.

Pakistan - OP-ED International Women’s Day. Just celebrations?

Shagufta Gul

One can’t help but wonder how women domestic workers and low paid factory employees can benefit from ‘Women’s day events’ held at posh hotels. What do such events do for women who have been victims of violence, harassment or abuse? Most of the women at such events are already quite aware of what their rights are.
In the early stages of education, girls occasionally come across something about her basic human rights. These rights may be given by religion or the Constitution. However, the more she learns about her rights, the more confused she gets. How can she consider herself equal to men, when the foundation stone of discrimination is kept at home for her?
“I still remember when I would go to school, clad in a shawl even bigger than my actual height with the directives that ‘you shouldn’t look here and there while walking to school and neither should you pay attention to anyone, as you are a girl and good girls don’t look around’”, this was narrated to me by a childhood friend. Her experience is a very common one in this country.
The kind of insecurity these repetitive reminders causes in young girls cannot be ignored. Constantly reminding girls that the world is a scary place puts women in a shell. This shell remains even when women reach institutes of higher education. Women are told that they are secure when they get married, but this too is a lie. Married women continue to face threats in public life, and today — even on social media.
Constantly reminding girls that the world is a scary place puts them in a shell. This shell remains even when women reach institutes of higher education
While it is true that there is legislation in Pakistan which protects the rights of women, crimes such as honour killings and acid attacks still continue. To make matters worse, it is usually close relatives who are responsible for such attacks. Furthermore, parallel justice systems like jirgas and panchayat continue to issue verdicts against women.
Harassment and stalking on social media have only made matters worse. Hacking of women’s social media accounts has become an epidemic, and made women more insecure. Such incidents have made women more insecure than ever, and have decimated the legal protection given to women under Article 14 of the Constitution. However, a closer examination of the law reveals that it offers no protection to women. After all, this law, among many others of Pakistan’s laws use the pronoun ‘man’.
The situation is made bleaker by the fact that even many educated women don’t know how to handle these issues. Even if someone is aware of the Cybercrime Bill and other such laws, the country’s police stations still aren’t well equipped or trained when it comes to tackling such crimes. The victim blaming mentality that plagues many Pakistanis makes things worse.
While it is commendable that there is new legislation to protect the rights of women, as well as initiatives by civil society, it seems like the issue of protecting women’s rights has been put on the back burner. There is a need for concrete efforts, as well as an organised plan which involves private citizens, colleges and universities and policy makers to create awareness about women’s issues and women’s rights.
There is nothing wrong with events like Women’s Day, but we cannot pretend that a day’s worth of activism is enough. The pursuit of gender equality has to be a prolonged and continued process, so that a safe and just environment can be created for Pakistan’s women.

#Pakistan - #PMLN has derailed the country’s foreign relations: Aseefa Bhutto

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, the daughter of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has said that PML-N has again showed utter disregard for Pakistan’s foreign policy. 

In her recent twitter message she further said that PML-N has spent over four years without a foreign minister, derailed the country’s foreign relations and now posting Ali Jahangir Siddiqui as Pakistan’s envoy to the US to even further embarrass our nation.

Asif and Bilawal on one page, Mandviwala top choice for Senate chair: Aitzaz

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Aitzaz Ahsan says there is no disagreement between Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari adding that he spent the entire day with the father and son and he witnessed no difference of opinion between them. 
Ahsan told journalists that Salim Mandviwala was the top choice at the moment for being nominated as Chairman Senate adding that Mandviwala was also given the authority to ask for votes. 
He even claimed that firstly the PPP candidate would succeed and secondly it will be a unanimous victory. 

Ticking Clock

With only two days to go and no final candidate officially singled out for the coveted position all political parties are busy trying to lock down the numbers. 
All front-runners claim to have the numbers, PML-N backed Hasil Bizenjo, the PPP claims, it too, has the numbers while the PTI has made it clear neither of the two parties will get its support. 

Raza Rabbani 

After the PTI decision not to support PPP or PML-N, the peoples' party, sources claim, is working on plan-B; nominating Raza Rabbani for the chairman's post. 
Sources also claim that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is playing a key role in the party's plan-B and it is only after Raza Rabbani's meeting with Bilawal that work on plan-B has picked up pace. 
A high-level meeting is taking place today at Zardari house according to party sources where both father and son will discuss plan-B with party leaders. 

PPP considering Senate chairman from Baluchistan: Bilawal Bhutto

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed his desire to see a chairman of Senate from Baluchistan.
Taking to Twitter on Saturday, Bilawal said that his party has always prioritized Baluchistan and will consult with his party and allies on names for Senate chairman & deputy from Baluchistan.
has always fought, sacrificed and delivered on empowering the federation. From devolution to we’ve prioritized Balochistan. Chairman senate from Balochistan sounds like a good idea. Will consult with my party and allies on names for Chairman & deputy.
The Senate elections resulted in PPP winning 12 seats and making their position stronger in the Senate. PML-N, on the other hand won 15 seats and ranked above PPP. Where PPP sits at acquiring 20 seats in total, PML-N leads the way with 33 seats in the Senate.
On Friday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan had said that he will support the candidates from Baluchistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for the Senate chairman and for deputy chairman.

The election for Senate chairman will be held on Monday, March 12.