Thursday, March 15, 2018
The visit of a 'war criminal'
Zaid Jilani reports that the U.S. military has no idea what missions are carried out in Yemen by the coalition planes that they refuel:
In a surprising admission on Tuesday, the head of U.S. Central Command – which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia – admitted that the Pentagon doesn’t know a whole lot about the Saudi airstrikes in Yemen that the United States is supporting through intelligence, munitions, and refueling.
U.S. CENTCOM Cmdr. Gen. Joseph Votel made the admission in response to questions from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“General Votel, does CENTCOM track the purpose of the missions it is refueling? In other words, where a U.S.-refueled aircraft is going, what targets it strikes, and the result of the mission?” Warren asked.
“Senator, we do not,” Votel replied.
If the U.S. military doesn’t track what the coalition planes do after they are refueled, it can’t honestly claim that it isn’t aiding and abetting coalition violations of international law. They don’t know what the coalition planes they refuel do later on, and perhaps they don’t want to know. If the U.S. isn’t tracking how our assistance is used, it isn’t credible to say that our government is using that assistance to change the coalition’s conduct of the war for the better. The U.S. is blindly enabling indiscriminate coalition bombing without making any effort to understand the effects of our support.
Gen. Votel also stated that the U.S. is not a party to the conflict. This is the lie that U.S. officials have been hiding behind for the last three years. When our military refuels planes that go on to bomb targets in another country, our military has joined that war on the side of the governments it is aiding. That should be an uncontroversial statement of fact, but supporters of U.S. involvement in the war are desperate to deny it. If the U.S. weren’t a party to the conflict, there would be no need to debate the extensive assistance that the U.S. provides to the governments wrecking and starving Yemen for the last three years.
U.S. support has been essential to the Saudi-led war, and it would be much harder for the Saudis and their allies to continue waging that war without our military assistance. That is why those in favor of continuing the war don’t want to cut off that support. They wish to keep the war going, but they want to dodge the responsibility our government has for aiding and abetting the coalition’s crimes. Americans that want to end U.S. involvement and help bring an end to the war on Yemen should urge their senators to vote for S.J.Res. 54.
THE project of dismantling arts and culture by a 1,000 cuts continues this week in the form of a ban on dance announced by the Punjab School Education Department.
When a similar attempt was floated in Sindh in 2016, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah reacted swiftly to quash it. The provincial government, he said, believed in preserving and promoting culture. “It will not be dictated [to] by isolated extremist elements and will not allow its progressive agenda to be hijacked at any cost. Dance and music are integral parts of a liberal society.”
Over the decades, similar attempts to narrowly redefine our identity have been made. None have fully succeeded because, inevitably, we show our true stripes: diverse, tolerant and defiantly joyous. This is reflected in our shared kinetic energy, whether through the boisterous bhangra, the elegant Kathak or the transcendental Sufi raqs. Yet, each time, the habitually out-of-step fringe concocts a new straw man, such as the selective fear of ‘alien culture’, to exploit society’s existential anxieties.
While not explicitly stated, it seems that the proscription du jour is a cynical, misguided appropriation of a pressing issue, recently foregrounded by the rape-murder of little Zainab and all the abuse allegations that have since followed: how do we keep our children safe?
As is regrettably the case with systemic violence, a particularly unproductive response emerges. Sexual abuse, it is argued, is something that can be rationalised and avoided provided a potential victim behaves appropriately — dress and act just right, and you won’t be a target, the logic goes — stopping just short of suggesting that victims, even children, are morally responsible for being abused.
Such thinking should be resisted at all costs. Surrounded by poverty and violence, Pakistani children are already forced to grow up too soon. They won’t be better off, or safer, for being forced to forgo simple, earnest displays of expression. We should be holding perpetrators accountable, not abetting in the broader crime of stealing childhoods.
Proposed by Shaikh Ijaz, a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party in Punjab, the non-binding resolution was quickly adopted.
“This resolution was passed to stop vulgarity and the promotion of Western culture among youths,” he said.
Ijaz said the resolution passed the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday with no opposition from secular, moderate or Islamic parties.
The resolutionis considered a recommendation to the government, which is being asked to “stop the vulgarity” in the province. Ijaz said the motion followed parents’ complaints that some schools organized mix-gender gatherings, which are prohibited in Islam.
Angered over the motion, students said they would resist it.
Aman Batool, 22, a university student said they had the right to dance and sing at campuses.
Mahwash Ajaz, a Dubai-based Pakistani psychologist, opposed the motion, saying it was not only ridiculous but also a violation of civil liberties of individuals.
“It is up to parents to decide what their underage children can and cannot do in schools. It is not the business of politicians or state to interfere in such matters,” she told The Associated Press from Dubai.
“Don’t we have more pressing concerns to consider such as physical abuse of children, sexual abuse and quality of education rather than kids having some function or dancing once or twice a year,” she asked.
Sahir Ali Bagga, a Pakistani singer, said the best response to violence at campuses was to promote performing art.
It was not the first time that a provincial legislature recommended a ban on school dance.
A similar attempt was made in the southern Sindh province in 2016, but it was rejected by majority of the lawmakers.
Pakistan’s English-language newspaper The Dawn opposed the ban, saying it should be resisted.
In an editorial, the paper said “over the decades, similar attempts to narrowly redefine our identity have been made. None have fully succeeded because, inevitably, we show our true stripes: diverse, tolerant and defiantly joyous. This is reflected in our shared kinetic energy, whether through the boisterous bhangra, the elegant Kathak or the transcendental Sufi raqs.”
We shouted slogans. '"Aurat aiee, aurat aiee, tharki teri shaamath aiee!" (Women are here, harassers must fear!)
We raised our fists in the air, smiling, laughing.
We wore what we wanted to wear: burqas, jeans and designer shades, brightly embroidered skirts, the traditional tunic and baggy trousers called shalwar kameez.
Men gaped, shook their heads, filmed us from passing cars as we walked by, disrupting traffic.
We did not care what the men thought of us.
We were free to stand, walk, dance, with nobody to tell us to sit down, be quiet, be good.
It was the first time in my life that I saw women gathering in public, in strength, in numbers. This was the Aurat (Urdu for "women") March, the first of its kind in the conservative Muslim country of Pakistan. There were actually three marches — in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad – all held on March 8, International Women's Day.
Word spread through Facebook and Twitter posts among the various networks of women involved in grassroots work — in education, health, microfinance, women's shelters, workers' rights. Objectives were ambitious: a demand for the recognition of women's rights and gender equality, and an end to the hideous scourge of gender violence, among other aims.
But the overriding intent was to raise the morale of Pakistani women. The constant drip of misogyny can turn life into a misery, where you are considered a lucky woman if you have a husband who doesn't beat you. The Aurat March wanted to remind women that the bar doesn't need to be set that low.
Before the march began, activists took to the stage and spoke of their struggles and triumphs. Veeru Kohli, a member of the Dalit community in the Thar Desert (low-caste Hindus known by the epithet of "untouchables") related how she escaped a life of slave labor to become a political activist. Kainat Soomro, a victim of gang rape at 13 who is trying to take her rapists to court, described her as yet unsuccessful 11-year fight for justice. An activist from the Christian community excoriated the government for ignoring the scourge of forced conversions, where Muslim men kidnap minority women, force them to convert to Islam and marry them against their consent. The March brought together women across class, ethnic, and religious lines. University students cheered on older feminist icons. Placards in English and Urdu read "Patriarchy is Fitna (sedition)", "Kebab Rolls not Gender Roles", "Woman is King" and "Stop Killing Women." Children waved orange and yellow flags with the Aurat March logo, and 97-year-old folk singer Mai Dhai sang and banged enthusiastically on a dhol, the traditional Pakistani drum played at weddings, stirring women and men to dance together in a spirit of festivity and celebration.
For the first time, I felt as though the invisible ties that held me back, those hundreds of written and unwritten rules about Pakistani women's behavior in public, had been cut through with a blowtorch.
A small group of trans women watched from the edges, nervous and scared, but they soon joined in, along with the procession of nuns bearing giant crosses and the Dalit women from the desert. We marched behind women in red, members of the working women's union, bussed in from Hyderabad. We marched, hair bare or covered, to the beat of the drums and the pounding of our hearts. We were accompanied by women on motorcycles, girls on pink bikes. Tens of men and boys joined us. We walked next to women wearing masks portraying the face of Qandeel Baloch, the social media star who was murdered by her brother two years ago because he could not stand her bold, risqué public persona. They bore a symbolic coffin containing a body shrouded in white, calling it "patriarchy's funeral."
It's been three decades since members of the Women's Action Forum were beaten on the streets for protesting the Islamization laws of dictator General Zia in the early 1980s. Pakistani women in 2018 still find themselves trampled under decades of discrimination and oppression. But the Aurat March has motivated them to demand equality and justice. The Aurat March has uncovered an undeniable truth: The revolution has arrived in Pakistan — and it is a women's revolution.
PPP is ready to make history; Sherry to be the first woman to lead the opposition in the senate: Bilawal Bhutto
PPP chairman Bilawal Zardari has said that PPP is ready to make history again by nominating Senator Sherry Rehman for the position of Leader of Opposition in Senate. In his twitter message today he further said that InshAllah she would be the first woman to lead the opposition in the senate.
Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, the daughter of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has said that PPP always leading with our women in front. Commenting over the nomination of Senator Sherry Rehman as leader of opposition in Senate she in her twitter message said,” Senator @sherryrehman nominated as leader of opposition! #PPP always leading with our women in front – from first female Prime Minister, to Speaker of National Assembly to Foreign Minister & more #PPP 😍🙌🏻💪 #Pakistan”