Sunday, April 22, 2018

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Obama writes piece for TIME magazine praising Parkland students

Ingrid Angulo

Former U.S. President Barack Obama insists that the Parkland students pushing to reform U.S. gun laws have the power to make change happen.
In a piece published by TIME, Obama praised Parkland student activists Cameraobn Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and Alex Wind for their drive to strengthen gun control laws following a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. He says the students are helping to change the minds of Americans in ways that previous forms of activism could not.
"But by bearing witness to carnage, by asking tough questions and demanding real answers, the Parkland students are shaking us out of our complacency," he wrote.
Following the February shooting, the students have had "some success persuading statehouses and some of the biggest gun retailers to change," he wrote. Public opinion has also been steadily shifting.
Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods responded to the shooting. Walmart opted to stop selling assault-style rifles in 2015, but raised its age restriction for firearm and ammunition purchases and stopped selling toys resembling assault-style rifles after the shooting in Parkland. Dick's Sporting Goods decided to stop selling the weapons immediately after the massacre and opted to destroy the merchandise it had on the shelves instead of returning it to gun manufacturers.
A 2018 Harvard poll shows that 70 percent of young Americans likely to vote in the upcoming midterms support stricter gun control laws. This statistic represents a 15-point increase from polling conducted months after the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 20 children between the ages of six and seven.
Obama says that "progress will be slow and frustrating," but he places a lot of faith in the students' work.
Referencing the evidence of changes in voters' views on gun laws, large-scale boycotts of assault rifles, protests like the March for Our Lives and fear from the NRA, he writes that the younger generation has "the power to insist that America can be better" and "the possibilities of meaningful change will steadily grow."

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#PashtunLongMarch2Lahore - ‘How much did you sell 4,000 Pakistanis for?’

 Manzoor Pashteen seeks truth and reconciliation commission on the country's war against terrorism and its fall out in tribal regions. 

“Tell us how much money did you get in return for the Pakistani citizens you sold to Americans. We will raise funds on our own and pay you so that our loved ones can be brought back. We don’t even demand that you release them. Present them before courts and punish them under the law if they are found involved in any crime,” 25-year-old Manzoor Pashteen, the founding leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, said on Sunday.
He was addressing a public gathering at Lahore’s Mochi Bagh that was packed to capacity. The gathering went ahead as planned despite attempts like detention of PTM leaders arrested on Saturday and harassment of workers convoys on their way to Lahore from other cities.
Earlier in his speech, Pashteen said that a high official had come to him and other PTM leaders for negotiations three weeks ago and asked them to withdraw the demand for recovery of those forcibly disappeared. “When we asked him why can’t the missing people be released, he dodged the question. A judge later told the nation that most of them had been sold to Americans.”
Pashteen began his speech by stating that because of the mainstream media’s blackout of the movement, it was the Pashtun community’s desire [to hold the jalsa] to tell their stories of injustices to the residents of Lahore.
“Our movement started with Rao Anwar’s arrest in the wake of Naqeebullah Mehsud’s killing. Anwar and his accomplices wanted the nation to believe that Naqeebullah was a terrorist and he was a hero. But the people’s power proved that it is the other way around,” he said, adding that the entire country saw the result of the PTM’s protest against Anwar.
Speaking about extrajudicial killing, he said under the Constitution of Pakistan, it was mandatory for security officials to produce a detainee before the courts within 24 hours detention, adding that the Constitution was clear that whoever abroagated it was guilty of treason. “You are traitors since you have violated the Constitution,” he said, addressing the authorities concerned.
Further, He told stories of Pashtuns from tribal areas who he said had been victims of atrocities meted out by security personnel. He narrated the story of two children from North Waziristan whose father had wanted them to become doctors. He identified the children as Wajah and Wajeeha and said that their house came under attack by military’s shelling. The two children died as a result. The next day, he said, the newspapers reported that terorrists were killed in military’s bombardment. The crowd chanted slogans of ‘shame’ in response.

“Anyone who wants to verify our claims about violence against the innocent Pashtun citizens can go to the villages and ask if it is a lie.”You are welcome to investigate our claims. We wil tell you names of the villages and the dates when these atrocities took place.”He also told stories of youngsters from FATA who were allegedly arrested by security forces despite having no links with militants. “Should we side with the oppressor or with the oppressed”, he asked, adding that it was Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who taught us to side with the oppressed.
“When the Pashtun citizens speak of peace, they are shot,” he said, adding that traditional jirga were disbanded and their elders were killed. He said ‘fake’ mashairs were installed in their place.
Referring to the flooding of the jalsa venue earlier in the day with sewage water, Pashteen said, “The dirt you spread was cleaned by our youngsters. This is the difference between you and us. We have been cleaning the filth you have been spreading.”
Explaining the movement’s criticism of the military, he said, “we are only against those higher-ups in the military whose flawed decisions have brought us where we are today. The military dictators who violated the constitution are real traitors and they should be tried for their criminal acts.”
Pashteen announced that the PTM would hold a public meeting in Karachi on May 12. Before that, it would hold a gathering in Swat on April 29.
Before concluding his speech, he extended solidarity with students and an academic of Punjab Univeristy who had been threatened with dire consequences for their support for the movement. He thanked the leadership of the Awami Workers Party, Pashtun community and the residnets of Lahore for attending the rally.
After his speech, Pashteen was surrounded by young activists and supporters who wanted selfies with him. Once done with the selfies, he went to a side and offered Maghrib prayers on the stage. Earlier, he stopped in the middle of his speech in respect for the azaan.
Another PTM leader Ali Wazir, who lost several of his family members in military operations and could not attend their funerals because he was incarcerated under colonial-era FCR, said the youngsters born and raised in the shadows of war were leading the movement. He said the PTM stood with the peasant households in Okara who were being victimised by the authorities for demanding rights to the land their families had been tilling for generations.
Lawyer Hina Jillani also spoke at the jalsa. She said that safe return of those forcibly disapeared would not be enough. “We want to know who picks up our sons and daughters and makes them disappeared.”
Advocate Fazal, whose son died in the Army Public School (APS) attack in December 2014, lamented that no judicial commission had been formed to investigate the massacre. He said the APS was a consequence of flawed polcies of seucrity establishment. “I was in touch with my son during the attack. He was alive 20 minutes into the attack and could have been saved if there had been timely action.”

#Pakistan - Punjab government has destroyed education system

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar dismissed on Sunday the vice-chancellor (VC) of Lahore College for Women University.
The decision came after the court took suo motu notice of reports that LCWU VC Dr Uzma Quraishi was appointed to the post without merit. 
Appearing before the court after being summoned, the VC clarified that Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had no role in her appointment after the chief justice remarked that they are aware of Iqbal's role in the matter.
The chief justice wondered how seniors were sidelined in the appointment process, adding that, "the state of education has been destroyed". "This is the Punjab government," he remarked further. 
Quraishi pleaded the bench not to dismiss her as it would affect her reputation but the court observed that she can plead her case afresh in front of a search committee. 
Appearing before the court, Punjab Higher Education Minister Raza Ali Gillani informed the bench that Quraishi's appointment was not undertaken in his tenure but added that the inquiry of the matter was forwarded to him for which a committee has been established. 
Moreover, the apex court on Sunday ordered the removal of temporary VCs of Fatma Jinnah Medical College University, Rawalpindi Medical University and Faisalabad Medical University, and ordered permanent appointments in their place. 
The court also ordered that the senior most faculty member should be made the interim VC for the time being. 
The Punjab advocate general informed the bench that a search committee has been formed which comprises Razzaq Dawood, Zafar Iqbal Quraishi and Umar Saif.
Chief Justice Nisar approved the body's members and remarked that the committee will recommend names for appointment of VCs at public sector universities. 
On Saturday, a two-member bench of the apex court, while hearing a suo motu case on illegal appointments of vice-chancellors, had ordered the Punjab government to immediately appoint a new VC at Punjab University.
The court had earlier in the day ordered the suspension of University of Punjab VC Dr Zakaria Zakar.
Appearing before the court today, Zakar pleaded the court to reconsider, stating that he has been teaching for 28 years and has two years of service left. 
The court, however, observed that he can apply for the post afresh when the matter is taken up by the varsity's search committee.

Christians claim they are being forced out of Pakistani city by Isil violence

  • Christians say they are being driven from one of Pakistan’s major cities after a string of deadly terrorist attacks claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
    The jihadist militant group has said it carried out two gun attacks that have killed six Christians in Quetta this month so far, and also bombed a church in the city shortly before Christmas.
    The recent attacks in the south western city come on top of increasing persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan, where Christians and others have faced mob violence and accusations of blasphemy.
  • Christians told the Sunday Telegraph that many in the community were fleeing Quetta fearing for their lives and being chased from homes where they had lived for generations.
    Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Isil) attacked and oppressed Christians after the militant group captured swathes of territory in the Middle East to establish its so-called caliphate. 
    Isil has established a franchise in Pakistan, largely by recruiting established Sunni Islamist militants, but the country’s religious minorities have also long been targets for other extremist groups.
    The terror group said its militants in Pakistan killed two Christians in a motorbike drive-by shooting as they left church last week, and shot dead four members of a family a day after Easter.
    Two suicide bombers killed 10 and wounded scores when they stormed Quetta’s Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in December.
    The recent attacks and a campaign of threatening letters have prompted many of Quetta’s 50,000-strong Christian population to consider fleeing to the port of Karachi.
  • One Christian, who declined to be named, told The Telegraph: “We have been living for centuries in Quetta but due to targeted killings of the Christian community, I have lost nine of my family members and friends.
    “Many of our relatives shifted to Karachi and we will also leave Quetta due to the deteriorating security situation. 
    “We will rebuild our lives and establish our business in some other peaceful city, which is really a difficult task. Leaving home town is quite tough but we have no other option”.
    Pastor Simon Bashir, who was leading a service in Bethel Memorial Methodist Church at the time of the attack, said the incidents had left his congregation “afraid and concerned about their security”.
    Christians make up less than two per cent of Pakistan’s population of 207 million, and many hold only poorly paid manual and labouring jobs.
    As well as being the targets of extremist militants, they also face spurious blasphemy charges.
    The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan last week attacked the government for doing too little to protect minorities and for not pushing back against religious bigotry.
    Saroop Ijaz, the Pakistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: “The recent attacks on places of worship of minorities and target killings in Quetta highlight the increasing insecurity faced by religious minorities in the country.
    “The legal and institutional discrimination against non-Muslims provides a toxic, enabling environment for such acts of violence to be perpetrated against them. The impunity is heightened by the complete failure of the Pakistan government to hold perpetrators of past attacks on churches accountable”.

Pakistan: Gunmen Kill 2 Shiites in Quetta

 Gunmen killed two Shiites and wounded a third in Quetta on Sunday, the latest in a recent series of attacks on the religious minority, police said.
Police chief Abdur Razzaq Cheema said both deceased men were local officials in Shiite community organizations; Ali Raza was a Baluchistan Shiite Conference official while Syed Zaman worked for the Hazara Welfare Foundation.
Cheema said the attackers fled the scene on motorcycles after Sunday's shooting and that a search is underway. No arrests have been made.
It was the fifth attack in recent months targeting Shiites in Quetta. Last week, a Shiite shopkeeper was killed in a drive-by shooting.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency. Sunni extremists view Shiites as heretics and apostates.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pakistan's long #MeToo moment - Sexual harassment in #Pakistan


One would think that a woman going public with accusations of sexual harassment against a man and then facing a severe backlash would not be so common in 2018. But in Pakistan, it keeps happening.
On April 19, Meesha Shafi, a Pakistani pop-star, put up a thoughtful Twitter statement accusing Ali Zafar, Pakistani star actor-singer, of sexually harassing her.
"Today, I speak up because my conscience does not allow me to be silent anymore," she wrote in the statement.
Her tweet was retweeted more than 5,400 times, got a little over 10,000 likes and garnered some 3,000 responses, many of them attacking her. The backlash Shafi is facing is quite abusive and much of it is rejecting the existence of sexual harassment or shaming her for making this public. Conservative commentators and TV personalities have also defended Zafar, who has threatened to sue Shafi. Women from the industry have also come out in his defence, claiming that they were present during interactions between Shafi and Zafar but did not witness any problematic behaviour from him.
There have also been those who backed Shafi, both men and women. Her statement encouraged other women to come out with accusations of sexual harassment against Zafar.
In fact, over the past months, Pakistan has been experiencing a prolonged #MeToo moment. The country did not experience the same flood of stories and a major peak as the West did in the fall of 2017. Instead, little by little, women, and some men, have been gathering the courage to speak out about the trauma of sexual harassment and abuse. Given the difficult and sometimes unsafe circumstances in which people who have suffered sexual assault come out to tell their stories in Pakistan, this sustained trend has been quite remarkable.
Story after story
Slightly before the sexual assault scandal with Harvey Weinstein erupted in the West and the #MeToo movement gained momentum globally, in August 2017, Pakistani parliamentarian Ayesha Gulalai alleged that her party's chair Imran Khan had sexually harassed her. Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi backed Gulalai and supported the creation of a parliamentary committee to investigate the matter.
It was a rare case of a female political figure speaking out about workplace harassment, an issue never discussed before in the context of political parties. As a result of the allegations she made, she faced severe online abuse and was accused of being a political opportunist. In late October 2017, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Chinoy, too, faced a backlash on social media and TV when she tweeted about her sister's harassment by a doctor. Her allegations caused a heated debate even among women on what constitutes harassment. As the #MeToo movement picked up, there were also some Pakistani voices who joined the global conversation, sharing stories of their own, although it never gained enough momentum to expose men of power who had used their position to enable their predatory behaviour.
In January, the brutal rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl shocked Pakistan and caused a wave of protests. It was in the aftermath of this horrible crime that Nadia Jamil, a popular Pakistani actress, decided to share her story on social media of being sexually abused as a child.
Model Frieha Altaf and fashion designer Maheen Khan also followed suit with their stories of sexual abuse. This was the first time since the #MeToo movement grew globally that high-profile Pakistani women came forward with their traumatic experiences on social media. Then on April 11, a young woman took to Twitter to share her stories of sexual harassment by the cofounder and CEO of a Pakistani music streaming service, posting screenshots of an alleged WhatsApp conversation with him. Shortly after, another woman joined her, tweeting "I knew that I wasn't the only one who he made so f****** uncomfortable." The same day, the company announced that its CEO was stepping down and that it has launched an investigation into the alleged misconduct. Following the scandal, young Pakistanis also took to Twitter to share their stories of harassment, some posting screenshots of conversations in which men crossed boundaries on social media or messenger apps.
Despite Twitter not being a safe environment for women and minorities to come out and share their stories on, as they almost always get attacked by trolls, as well as just regular misogynistic and racist users, this trend to speak up grew.
From sexual abuse suffered during childhood to public groping, thread after thread reflected on personal trauma and societal denial of it. And such stories have not stopped appearing on Pakistani Twittersphere. The fact that in these past seven months, Pakistani women, and some men - anonymously or not - have had the courage to come out with their stories of sexual abuse and claim a space within the hostile online environment for their voices to be heard has been truly inspiring. Testimonies not being taken seriously or survivors fearing to report to the police has been one of the main challenges in addressing sexual violence in Pakistan and elsewhere. The #MeToo movement and its Pakistani rendition (as slow as it has been to pick up) has the potential to introduce meaningful change in our society.
As significant as this has been, we still have a long way to go to make sure women and men are safe from sexual abuse.

Video - #Pakistan’s Pashtuns rise up - Rally in #Pakistan's Lahore for #Pashtun rights

#PashtunLongMarch2Lahore - Thousands rally in #Pakistan's Lahore for #Pashtun rights

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Defying government ban, thousands attend rally in Lahore city demanding basic rights for ethnic Pashtun citizens.

Thousands of people have attended a rally in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore demanding basic rights for ethnic Pashtun citizens and others.
Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), addressed protesters on Sunday, calling for an end to enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and other alleged rights abuses committed by Pakistan's military in its war against the Taliban.
"Pakistan's constitution says that if anyone has committed a crime, arrest them and bring them before the courts within 24 hours," said Pashteen.
"But thousands of Pashtuns have been killed extrajudicially."
Pashteen, a native of the South Waziristan tribal district, once the birthplace of the Pakistan Taliban, led a movement that has expanded across the country in recent weeks to hold the military and government accountable for alleged excesses committed by security personnel.
The rally on Sunday was held in defiance of a government ban.
The provincial government denied permission for the rally "due to specific threats to the security of organisers of PTM", according to a statement.
Police also briefly detained at least five PTM leaders, including vocal military critic Ali Wazir, on Saturday evening, PTM leader Mohsin Dawar told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, the PTM, despite drawing thousands of supporters to its rallies, has received little coverage from Pakistan's news television and print media.
Opinion articles on the group have been removed from several newspapers' websites in recent days.
On Sunday, Pashteen appeared to blame Pakistan's powerful military for the media blackout.
"Right now, why are there restrictions on the media, on their lips to be sealed?" asked Pashteen.
"They want to be able to continue to disappear people, to kill them extrajudicially, to establish their own rule rather than that of the constitution."
Manzoor Pastheen (C) called for an end to enforced disappearances [Arif Ali/ AFP]
The army has ruled the country for roughly half of its 70-year history since independence from Britain. Its decade-long war against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has centred mainly on ethnic Pashtun areas.
While public criticism of the army is rare, the PTM's rallies have been marked by the openness of its leaders to call out the security forces.
For its part, the army has been critical of the movement.
Last week, army chief General Qamar Bajwa said the protests were "engineered" by foreign forces, and said his concern was they could reverse the military's gains against armed groups.
Pashteen denied the claim on Sunday, saying the PTM was "not anti-Pakistan" and was only demanding constitutional rights for the Pashtuns, who make up 15 percent of Pakistan's 207 million people.
Those attending the rally said it had been a rare event for Lahore, the political heartland of the ruling PML-N political party.
Protesters managed to circumvent the apparent media blackout by posting live video streams on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
On Twitter, the hashtag #PashtunLongMarch2Lahore topped Pakistan's countrywide trends on Sunday.
Others to address the gathering included leaders from the leftist Awami Workers Party (AWP), prominent rights activist and lawyer Hina Jilani and rights activist Amna Janjua.
"Just being at this rally was the most electrifying experience - this was not a political rally, it's a civil rights one," said Mubashir Zaidi, a television anchor and journalist.
"I have never seen this in Lahore ever before, this mix of students and teachers and just people who wanted to be a part of this movement for equal rights. It was truly electrifying."

په لارهور کې د پښتون ژغورنۍ غورځنګ غونډه پیل شوه

د پاکستان په لاهور ښار کې د پښتون ژغورنې د غورڅنګ یوه لویه غونډه روانه ده. دغه غورځنګ د پاکستان له دولت څخه غوښتنه کوي چي د دوی په وينا تر ۱۴ زره څخه زيات هغه نارينه او ښځي چي په زور سره لادرکه کړای سوي دي يا خو دي آزاد او يا د پاکستان له قانون سره سم محکمو ته وړاندي کړل شي.

لاهور: د پښتون ژغورنې غورځنګ جلسې ته ګڼ خلک ورغلي #PashtunLongMarch2Lahore

د پښتون تحفظ غورځنګ د لاهور جلسې ته د پاکستان له بېلا بېلو سیمو څخه ځوانان او فعالان ورغلي دي. دوی د جلسې ځای ته په رسېدو د خپلو حقونو لپاره نعرې هم ووهلې.

په موچي ګېټ کې د جلسې منتظمینو مشال راډیو ته وویل، د غورځنګ مشران منظور پښتین، محسن داوړ، علي وزیر او د عوامي ورکرز ګوند عصمت شاه جهان هم په سیمه کې موجوده ده.
جلسې ته له پېښور پوهنتونه هم یوه ډله خلک ورغلي چې له جملې څخه یې سیال مشال راډیو ته وویل، دا تور ناسم دی چې پښتون ژغورنې غورځنګ د پاکستان خلاف دی. ده زیاته کړه چې د پښتنو د حقونو لپاره مبارزه کوي.
له جنوبي وزیرستان څخه جلسې ته ورغلی الله نور ننګیالی وزیر وايي، د پښتنو د حقونو د خوندیتوب لپاره لاهور ته ورغلي دي. ده زیاته کړه چې لاهور د پاکستان د واکمنانو ښار دی نو ځکه غواړي غږ یې واورېدل شي.
د لاهور د پولیسو یوه چارواکي مشال راډیو ته وویل، د جلسې د امنیت لپاره یې ۶۰۰ پولیسان ځای پر ځای کړي دي.
ارشد حیات کانجو وویل، اته لنډمهاله پوستې یې هم جوړې کړې دي. ده دا تاثر رد کړ چې ګواکې کنټېنرونه یې جلسې ته د ورتلونکو د مخنیوي لپارده درولي.

خو د جلسې یو منتظم عبدالله ننګیال بېټنی وايي، دوی چې له پولیسو سره خبرې وکړې نو بیا یې له کنټېنرو سره درولي کسان موچي ګېټ ته تګ ته ورپرېښودل.
پښتون ژغورنې غورځنګ د اپرېل پر اتمه په پېښور کې جلسه کړې وه او ټاکل شوې چې د اپرېل په پای کې په سوات کې هم غونډه وکړي.
دا غورځنګ د پاکستان له حکومته غوښتنه کوي چې په قبایلو کې دې ماینونه پاک کړي او هلته دې پر چېک پوسټونو د خلکو ځورونه بنده کړي. دوی غوښتنه کوي چې حکومت دې ورک کسان عدالت ته وړاندې کړي او د ماورای عدالت وژنو د پلټنو لپاره دې عدلي کمېشن جوړ کړي.

Bilawal Bhutto Tweets On Pashtun Tahafuz Movement - #PashtunLongMarch2Lahore

All Pakistani citizens have right to peaceful protest. PTM are no different. From the arrest of their organisers and allies, to the continued harassment of students in Lahore, I condemn the high handedness and disregard for the constitutional rights of the people.

All Pakistani citizens have right to peaceful protest. PTM are no different. From the arrest of their organisers and allies, to the continued harassment of students in Lahore, I condemn the high handedness and disregard for the constitutional rights of the people.