Thursday, May 17, 2018

Arabic Music Video - Haifa Wehbe "Ana Haifa" (I'm Haifa) beautiful~! هيفاء وهبي - انا هيفاء

Video Report - #Yemen: the world looks away | DW Documentary

Yemen Humanitarian Crisis Ignored by World - Yemen Was Poor Before, But ‘The War Just Finished Us’


Judy Woodruff:
The impoverished nation of Yemen stands on the brink of collapse, with the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Three-quarters of its 29 million people need humanitarian assistance. There are one million suspected cases of cholera. And 10,000 people have died in a brutal three-year-old civil war causing all the misery.
On one side of the war, Shiite Houthi rebels, a religious minority in Yemen, backed by Iran, who now control the capital, Sanaa, and the second largest port city, Hudaydah.
On the other side, the government forces of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which includes the United Arab Emirates and the United States. A Saudi-led air campaign has pounded Houthi strongholds in the north, and cut off aid and food, driving many people south, homeless in their own land.
Tonight, with the support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, special correspondent Marcia Biggs reports.
Marcia Biggs:
It’s being called the forgotten war. In Yemen, a country where access for journalists is limited and dangerous, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis goes largely ignored.
But after months of waiting, we were able to get permission to enter the country through the southern city of Aden, the new de facto capital of Yemen’s government, controlled by the Saudi-led coalition.
We were hoping to get to areas under siege, but kept hitting a wall.
So, it’s incredibly difficult to access the northern Houthi-controlled areas to cover what’s going on there. Even if you can secure permission from the Houthis, it’s getting there that’s the problem. The airport in Sanaa is shut. There is one flight from Djibouti for humanitarian staff, but the Saudis control who gets on that flight, and right now they’re not giving permission to journalists.
You could drive, but it’s very dangerous and there’s no guarantee that you will actually reach the destination, that you won’t get turned around halfway there.
So we went to a village called Basateen on the outskirts of Aden, to try to tell the story as best we could.
So, since we can’t get to the north to the Houthi-controlled areas, we’re going to talk to some people that have recently arrived to find out what life is like there.
Living in this one room are Souad, her two sons, and daughter-in-law. Souad says she fled daily airstrikes near her home in Hudaydah one month ago, but the lack of food was worse than the bombs.
Souad (through translator):
Life is difficult there. People are hungry. They are looking for water, looking for food, looking for work, but there is nothing. We would eat once a day. If we had breakfast, that’s it for the day. If we had lunch, that’s it for the day.
Marcia Biggs:
Lots of diseases have spread there. Children are getting malaria. Their platelets are low. They are very sick because of lack of food.
Areas here in the south are — quote — “liberated” from Houthis and far from the front line. So, people may be safe from the fighting, but they still face the daily threat of starvation.
Here in Aden, it’s a big city. Food is available. The problem? The prices. We spoke to one shopkeeper who told me that a bag of flour three months ago cost $10. Now it costs 17.
But Souad is living outside of Aden, where food and money are even harder to come by. She says her son makes around $3 a day as a laborer, but work is sporadic. When they have money, food is the first thing they try to find.
So there are some vegetables. No meat. No bread. Just the vegetables. Who do you blame?
Souad (through translator):
God help us with this situation. We don’t know who caused it or who to blame. They are both fighting. I don’t know.
Marcia Biggs:
Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East before the war. But, in 2015, Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, captured huge areas of the country, and the existing government made a deal with Saudi Arabia to fight the Houthis, driving them back north, where Saudi Arabia and a coalition which includes the United States has pounded the Houthis with bombs and tried to choke their supplies with a blockade.
Amid international outrage, some U.S. lawmakers have sought to stop the flow of money and weapons to Saudi Arabia. But the Trump administration recently approved a deal to sell the Saudis $1.3 billion worth of weapons.
Ahmed bin Ahmed al-Maysari is Yemen’s interior minister, a cabinet member of embattled and exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
How does it make you feel that Yemeni people in the north are being bombed and are starving in the name of fighting the Houthis?
Ahmed bin Ahmed al-Maysari (through translator):
Is there a war in the world were people don’t die? War is a disaster on all levels. We didn’t start this war. We were dragged into it.
They came, supported by Iran, to take over our identity and doctrine that we had for 1,400 years. When war is imposed on you, you have to fight back.
Marcia Biggs:
But the cost of that fight is high.
Shabia Mantoo:
So, people try to set up home as best as they can in the circumstance. You can see clothes hanging on the line. People are using these plastic sheets to — for a sense of privacy.
Marcia Biggs:
Shabia Mantoo is with the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Shabia Mantoo:
In the past three months alone, we have seen more than a 100,000 people have to flee their homes.
Marcia Biggs:
This former vocational center outside of Aden is now home for displaced Yemenis, and 33 families are crammed in this building, having just arrived from the front line.
Woman (through translator):
Missiles hit our house, and it was totally destroyed. The bathroom was the only place left standing.
Marcia Biggs:
Seventeen-year-old Roseila fled with her elderly aunt, with only the clothes on their backs. They had to leave her mother and father behind.
Roseila (through translator):
I’m very worried about them and I call them when I can. If we find something, at least if we find mattresses, we will stay.
Shabia Mantoo:
You’re not just dealing with the displacement. We’re also dealing with an active conflict zone. It makes getting assistance to them quite challenging.
Marcia Biggs:
You’re struggling to keep up?
Shabia Mantoo:
Yes, definitely. I mean, if you look at the numbers, 22 million people in need, and humanitarian assistance is only finite. It requires more than a humanitarian solution. It’s caused by a political problem, and the solution to that is peace.
Marcia Biggs:
Twenty-seven-year-old Elsam is the wife of a fisherman from Yemen’s western coast.
Elsam (through translator):
We ate once a day. We were under siege. We could not get anything. All we had was what we could catch in the sea.
Marcia Biggs:
But they are now living 20 miles inland, so supporting the family is difficult, especially with a daughter coping with epilepsy.
Elsam (through translator):
We have to drive two hours to bring her seizure medicine. It’s not available around here. We try our best to provide the medicine for her every 10 days, but it’s very expensive.
Marcia Biggs:
For those most vulnerable, it’s hardship after hardship. Yemen has historically imported 90 percent of its food. So restrictions on imports are a huge blow.
Fuel shortages, inflation, and rising unemployment are crippling the country.
Shabia Mantoo:
So, we’re dealing with a situation in Yemen where you have got state services that are now on the brink of collapse. The health system is really buckling. Families are struggling to make the choice of deciding which child to feed, which child to send to hospital.
I mean, these are really heartbreaking decisions, but this is what life is like for civilians now impacted by war in Yemen.
Marcia Biggs:
Here in this small regional hospital in Lahij province, just north of Aden, Dr. Marwa Gamal says she sees around a dozen children per month with severe acute malnutrition, all of them with complications; 10-month-old Mohamed was already malnourished when he contracted measles and bronchopneumonia.
His mother said, when she brought him in, she thought he was dying.
“His eyes were closed, and he wasn’t breathing,” she says.
Is the biggest problem malnutrition or disease?
Dr. Marwa Gamal (through translator):
Disease. Malnutrition is controllable if there are no complications. But when they come with diseases, this is much worse. There are cases that died. We could not help them because they come too late. They die because of complications.
Marcia Biggs:
Like many public sector employees, Dr. Gamal continues to work, despite an intermittent salary.
Dr. Marwa Gamal (through translator):
I love my work. This hospital is in my village. If I don’t help my own people, who am I going to help?
Marcia Biggs:
Are you concerned about what will happen when they leave?
Dr. Marwa Gamal:
Yes, yes, of course.
(through translator):
I’m worried that the children will get worse or get sick again if the parents don’t follow the proper course of treatment.
Marcia Biggs:
A cycle of displacement, malnutrition and disease brought on not by famine or natural disaster, but by man.
Is there a point when you would say, enough, Yemeni people are suffering, we have to find another way?
Ahmed bin Ahmed al-Maysari (through translator):
War will not end until its mission ends. And in the past three years, we have paid a lot. There is still little bit left to pay, and we have to pay it, so that the bill is completed and the mission is done.
The blood we lost can’t go for nothing. To let this blood go in vain and surrender means we have neither achieved the mission nor saved lives. They should have not started it. But now we’re on this journey, and we have to finish it.
Marcia Biggs:
“We were poor before the war,” one woman told me, “but the war just finished us.”
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Marcia Biggs in Aden and Lahij, Yemen.
Judy Woodruff:
And Marcia Biggs will be back tomorrow with the next part of her series, Inside Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is Still Killing People for Drug Offenses While Letting Royals Off

By Ty Joplin

Waleed al-Saqqar stood before a Saudi judge, facing the death penalty.
In 2014, Waleed al-Saqqar, a Jordanian man, was caught smuggling thousands of captagon pills from Jordan into Saudi Arabia. Preventing from explaining the circumstances that led to him smuggling pills, and without a lawyer to speak on his behalf, al-Saqqar was sentenced to death.
His total trial reportedly only lasted five minutes. In the eyes of the Saudi criminal justide system, that was enough time for the Saudi judge to evaluate the evidence presented and make a life-ending decision.
Al-Saqqar’s case is not unique. In fact, his appears to be the norm for drug crimes in Saudi Arabia. The notoriously conservative country has, according to Human Rights Watch, executed 48 people since the start of 2018. Many of those killed have been sentenced for non-violent drug crimes and often seem unable to acquire legal representation during the trial.
In fact, Saudi has executed over 600 people since 2014, with more than a third of those executions being for drug-related offenses.
While Saudi’s de facto leader, Mohammad bin Salman, tours the world trying to re-brand the country as a progressive and modern place, it keeps killing people for drug crimes.
Saudi’s criminal justice system has, since a 1987 religious ruling, mandated the death penalty for certain drug-related crimes.
The Royal Decree no. 39 of 2005 further gave judges more discretionary power to hand down death sentences to a wide range of drug trafficking crimes, defined as “selling, donation, distribution, delivery, reception or transportation,” of drugs.
Saudi judges have sentenced hundreds to die for crimes relating to drug possession and trafficking.
Human rights researchers and activists say Saudi’s extensive use of capital punishment for non-violent crimes violates international law, specifically the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which was acceded by the United Nations General Assembly. The ICCPR only permits the death penalty for the "most serious crimes.”
A Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch pointed out in an interview that although Saudi is not a signatory to the ICCPR, the laws therein have been so universally accepted that they have become customary international law.
Moreover, the ICCPR seeks to strengthen due process within criminal and civil justice courts—a basic human rights and practice has not shown much dedication towards. Saudi executes an average of 80-200 people annually, making it one of the most prodigious users of capital punishment in the world, third only to China and Iran.
In an interview with Al Bawaba, the researcher said that although Saudi has campaigned to be more outward looking and modern, Mohammad bin Salman has not really touched the criminal justice system.
These deaths are likely something bin Salman is likely “embarrassed by” and may have a plan to change, but no such plan has been publicly unveiled.
 Saudi’s criminal justice system appears two-tiered, with members of the royal family either entirely immune or the subject of only light punishment, with everyone else receiving the death penalty or stiff jail sentences.
Saudi’s royal family are infamous for hosting lavish parties and maintaining illicit drug habits.
In 2010, Wikileaks released cables of U.S. diplomats discussing parties hosted by Saudi royals.
"Alcohol, though strictly prohibited by Saudi law and custom, was plentiful at the party's well-stocked bar. The hired Filipino bartenders served a cocktail punch using sadiqi, a locally-made moonshine," the dispatch read. "It was also learned through word-of-mouth that a number of the guests were in fact 'working girls', not uncommon for such parties."
The diplomatic cable added that cocaine and hashish is common in Saudi royal circles.
One Saudi prince, Abdel Mohsen bin Walid bin Abdulaziz, was caught smuggling tens of thousands pills into Saudi via Beirut. Unlike al-Saqqar, the Jordanian who received the death penalty after a five-minute trial, bin Abdulaziz has been seen partying since he was caught.
Another prince, Majed Abdulaziz al-Saud, had been renting a home in Beverly Hills, California and allegedly abusing female house workers. Court documents detailed testimonies from workers who were subject to emotional and sexual abuse.
At one point, the prince yelled “I am a prince, and I do what I want! You are nobody!” to the women and threatened to kill them. Felony charges against the prince were dropped due to “insufficient evidence.”
When asked why laws simply don’t seem to apply to the Saudi royal family, which has an estimated 15,000 members, the researcher for Human Rights Watch, was blunt. “Because they have undue influence and can get out of these things.”
Mohammad bin Salman, whose predecessor was reportedly removed from power thanks in part to a burgeoning addiction to painkillers, launched an ‘anti-corruption’ purge to show that even royals were not above the law.
This ‘purge,’ turned out to be a measure by bin Salman to round up, detain and even torture members of Saudi’s elite who are critical of his rule.
In November 2017, hundreds of princes and Saudi millionaires were detained in a Ritz-Carlton, and had much of their wealth stripped from them. Over $100 billion was reported to have been confiscated from them, while stories of coercion and even torture emerged.
Major General Ali al-Qahtani, who was an aide to a senior prince that was critical of bin Salman, was found dead with a broken neck while in custody.
Bin Salman insisted that the purge was to re-invest embezzled money into the Saudi economy, but The Intercept revealed secret communications between bin Salman and Jared Kushner, a close advisor and son-in-law to U.S. President Donald Trump which showed Kushner potentially giving away names of Saudi dissidents to bin Salman.
These people were later detained by bin Salman in the purge.
While Mohammad bin Salman has tried to revamp the image of Saudi to look more modern, he has appeared to rework lines of accountability to flow through him. In his permissive attitude towards lavishness, bin Salman is sending a message that as long as you are loyal to him, you are still above the law.
Meanwhile, non-royals and nationals of other countries will continue to be killed for drug offenses in hasty court proceedings, often without defense attorneys present.

Where's Mohammed? Media Speculates About Possible Death of Saudi Crown Prince

The apparent disappearance of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from the public eye has led several Iranian media outlets to wonder if one of the most powerful men in the kingdom might’ve been killed during an attempted coup last month.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was allegedly hit by two bullets during the April 21 attack on the royal palace in Riyadh and may actually be dead as he has not appeared in public since the incident, Kayhan newspaper reports citing "a secret service report sent to the senior officials of an unnamed Arab state."
As Press TV points out, no new photo or video of bin Salman has been released by Saudi authorities since that day, and the prince "was not even seen on camera when new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made his maiden visit to Riyadh in late April."
"Bin Salman was a man who almost often appeared before the media but his 27-day absence since the gunfire in Riyadh has raised questions about his health," the Fars news agency remarks.
The Saudi authorities however are yet to comment on this matter.
On April 21 several media agencies reported heavy gunfire emanating from the Saudi royal palace in Riyadh, prompting speculations about a possible coup attempt taking place.
The Saudi authorities however claimed that the incident merely involved palace security guards firing upon a drone which allegedly was flying too close to the premises.
A number of local media outlets however reported that King Salman himself was evacuated to a nearby military installation during the shooting, with Saudi analyst Ali al-Ahmed naming the King Khaled base as the monarch’s destination.

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#Pakistan - LIFESTYLE - Understanding the #MeToo phenomenon

Javeria Anam

The movement began in 2006 when an African-American social activist, Tarana Bruke met a young girl who told Bruke about being sexually abused by someone.

The movement began in 2006 when an African-American social activist, Tarana Bruke met a young girl who told Bruke about being sexually abused by someone (SHOULDER)
Social media has changed the lives of millions and has made it easy to spread a word or opinion around the globe. The recent #MeToo trend has shaken the social landscape around the world and has had a great impact on people’s lives either directly or indirectly. A lot of people seem to comment on the relevant issues under the #MeToo trend,, but most of them might not know the actual rationale of this movement. So here is a brief background of the massive and pressing campaign for all those who have been discussing “the issue”.
#MeToo is an international movement against sexual harassment and assault. It is aimed at spreading awareness about the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault. The essence of the movement is to fearlessly talk about any sexual abuse one might experience and to rebel against the prevalent toxic culture of staying silent after going through such traumatising experiences.
The movement began in 2006 when an African-American social activist, Tarana Bruke met a young girl who told Bruke about being sexually abused by someone. Bruke said that she could not do anything for her, but when the girl left, Bruke wished she could have said “me too” to that girl. She then formed an organisation named ‘Just Be Inc’, and a page on the social networking site MySpace that would serve as a platform to spread awareness against the near ubiquitous prevalence of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse can happen to a male, but the number of such incidents is far lower than the number of cases of abuse against women. So people ought to refrain from passing such comments that disrupt and divert from the actual motivation behind the movement
The movement gained momentum when renowned American actress, activist, producer and former singer, Alyssa Jayne Milano came forward to join this significant cause and encouraged other women to talk about the issue. After that, a lot of eminent personalities from Hollywood, politics and even from simple backgrounds came forward to highlight their stories on social media about suffering at the hands of sexual abuse, with the use of the hashtag ‘#MeToo’.
The campaign, however, was not restricted to America and spread all over the world. The hashtag ‘#MeToo’ was then translated into many languages. The campaign challenged the reputations of many illustrious people as well. A series of allegations and confessions about high profile personalities from Hollywood, South Korea, and Pakistan emerged.
The importance and significance of the campaign lie in the fact that people need to understand how the movement is about more than just feminism and aims to spread and empower the very basic right of speaking against sexual abuse. Most societies continue to remain socially conservative in terms of talking about this very issue.
Whenever a girl faces sexual abuse, the first thing she hears from those around her is to “stay quiet”. Many women choose to remain silent their entire lives just because of the misguided notion of ‘honour’. The essence of the #MeToo movement is to break this silence.
As the campaign continues to spread, what we on an individual level need to do is educate our sons on how to behave and how to deal with the other gender properly.
Critics of the campaign question why the movement focuses solely on female sexual abuse. ‘Why can a male not be abused by a female’, they ask. In reality, this is exactly what people need to realise about sexual abuse. Yes, it can happen to a male, but the number of such incidents is far lower than the number of cases of abuse against women. So people ought to refrain from passing such comments that disrupt and divert from the actual motivation behind the movement.
The movement, as has already been mentioned, started in 2006 but only gained traction when powerful and renowned women took it up and highlighted their personal experiences. There are hundreds or thousands of untold stories that do not come to the limelight simply because these voices were forced into silence by society’s obsession with tradition.
Supporters and followers of the ‘#MeToo’ campaign should continue to raise their voices against sexual assault, but one thing they should keep in mind is to not take advantage of the movement, as false allegations can risk someone’s personal life and mental health; that is not the very purpose of it. Instead, we must continue to stand in solidarity with those who suffer at the confines of patriarchy.

88% Pakistani journalists self censor in professional and 79% in personal settings; new research study reveals

As many as 88% of Pakistani journalists, who participated in a new research on self-censorship, were most likely to hold back information related to religious and security matters in their reporting and personal conversations. The journalists also considered the policies of their own news organizatons as a major reason for their professional self-censorship. The findings are part of a study titled “Surrendering to Silence: An Account of Self-censorship among Pakistani Journalist.” The research report prepared by Media Matters for Democracy (MMfD) was launched in Islamabad on 3rd May 2018, World Press Freedom Day.
MMfD Director Programs Sadaf Khan said self-censorship has become a “disturbingly noticeable trend” in the Pakistani media but the details of the issue had largely been unexplored.
“Through this study, we hope to map perceptions about self-censorship in the Pakistani media,” she said. “Our aim is to create a baseline that can help understand the issue of self-censorship in Pakistani media better.”
The detailed findings of the study paint a grim picture of the contemporary press freedom landscape in the country. The key takeaways from the study are:
  1. Pakistani journalists work in an environment that makes self-censorship difficult to avoid
Around 88% of the respondents had performed self-censorship at least once in their reporting, and nine in every 10 respondents also said they had seen their news colleagues commit self-censorship. Around 72% respondents thought self-censorship had increased over time in the Pakistani media. Nearly 86% respondents could not think of reporting without self-censorship because of the prevailing conditions in the country. Almost two in three respondents said they had been threatened or attacked for their expression and seven in every 10 respondents said self-censorship made them feel safer.
  1. Pakistani journalists exercise self-censorship in personal settings, too
Around 79% journalists claimed they committed self-censorship in their personal online activity. Exactly half the number of respondents also practiced personal self-censorship offline. The journalists were mostly cautious around strangers and acquaintances on social media and real life.
  1. Journalists perceive the policies of their own news organizations as major hurdles in the way of free expression
Eight in 10 respondents blamed the policies of their own news organizations as the reason for self-censorship. This could indicate an organizational culture of self-censorship creeping into the Pakistani press. The other reasons identified by a majority of respondents included sensitive nature of information, national interest, threat of legal action, and threat of physical harm.
  1. Pakistani journalists are especially likely to curtail expression about military and religion
Respondents admitted they were most likely to self-censor information and opinions about the military and religion in their professional work and personal conversations. Around 64% and 62% respondents were most likely to self-censor information about the security establishment and religion in professional interactions respectively. Nine in 10 respondents said they would self-censor personal speech due to religious sensitivities.
  1. Not all journalists are aware of securing digital communication but most are interested in knowing more
One-third of the respondents did not know how to use encryption. However, nearly 80% of the journalists said they would like to know more about keeping their digital communication safe. 
  1. Popular self-censorship mitigation strategy identified by survey respondents offers encouragement for collaboration and editorial support
Only around half of all respondents said they had used a strategy to circumvent professional self-censorship, but one of the top mitigation strategies picked by them was sharing information with other reporters to ensure the news gets reported in one way or another.
The study offers recommendations for the news media, civil society organizations, and political parties. It urges the media organizations and representative trade unions of journalists to put up a united front against self-censorship, conduct safety training for journalists, and develop transparency in their professional work.
The report calls upon the government and political parties to help end impunity in crimes against journalists and embrace press freedom in their political culture.
For civil society organizations, the report recommends more research on self-censorship trends, advocacy about press freedom, and creation of training opportunities for journalists.
The research is based on a survey of 156 journalists from around the country. The respondents represented national, local, and foreign news organizations. The sample covered all types of media (print, broadcast, digital) and several regional languages in addition to Urdu and English.

Nawaz in cahoots with establishment for past 30 years: Zardari

PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday accused PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif of being in cahoots with the establishment for the past 30 years.
While addressing an Iftar dinner in Lahore, the former president criticized politicians for deceiving their country in the quest for power.
“The country must always come first,” Zardari said. “They are not ready to be loyal to their own country in the quest for power.”
The politician also decried the problems of the common man.
“When people came to Pakistan what did they bring here and what do they own now?” he said.

PPP will continue to protest against IRSA’s discrimination on water shortage: Bilawal Bhutto

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that his party will continue to protest against IRSA’s discrimination and Federal Government’s callous attitude. Condemning the discrimination of IRSA and Federal government in his twitter message he further said that water shortage needs to be shared equally. Divisive policies must end.

We argue with India for downstream water rights but then deprive our provinces of the same.

Bilawal Bhutto strongly condemns terrorist attack on Frontier Corps Madadgar Centre in Quetta

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the terrorist attack on Frontier Corps Madadgar Centre in Quetta and termed the incident as coward attack.
In a press statement, the PPP Chairman said that terrorists were attempting to frighten entire nation, adding that controlling the menace of terrorism was collective responsibility of entire nation and its institutions.
He reiterated that PPP would continue to raise its voice against terrorism and stand by our valiant forces, victims of terrorism and prayed for early recovery of those wounded.

Founded to protest Pakistan 'disappearances', group now sees supporters go missing

Saad Sayeed
As they were about to enter the office of the Commissioner of Karachi for a meeting to discuss a rally planned in Pakistan’s largest city, leaders of a Pashtun-led rights movement were intercepted by armed men accompanied by paramilitary Rangers. “A car with men in plainclothes pulled up in front of us and men with guns got out and told us to stand still,” Said Alam Mahsud, an organizer with the Pashtun Tahafaz Movement (PTM), told Reuters. He said three PTM activists with him were put in a truck and taken away by the armed men, as uniformed Rangers stood by. They returned two days later saying they had been interrogated, threatened, punched and kicked by the unidentified men, then handed over to the Rangers, who released them.
PTM, which drew nearly 10,000 people to its Karachi rally on Sunday, was founded in January in protest against alleged extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention and “disappearances” of young Pashtun men. Leaders of the emerging movement have blamed Pakistan’s military for these abuses, in an unusually direct challenge to the country’s most powerful institution. Now, PTM’s activists themselves have started disappearing, according to Mohsin Dawar, one of the movement’s leaders. PTM organizers again blame the powerful military, saying the movement’s growing popularity in major cities, even amid a local media blackout, has left the security forces feeling threatened. The military’s press wing did not respond to requests for comment on the allegations. In the past, the army has said it does not detain individuals without evidence.
Officials from the paramilitary Rangers, which are part of the security forces and have broad powers in Karachi, also did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did the office of the Karachi Commissioner, who is the head of the city government. “ANTI-STATE AGENDA”
In the past month, PTM says dozens of its activists have been detained across the country, while newspaper columnists have had articles on PTM rejected. Some students and academics say they have been threatened and universities forced to call off talks about Pashtun inequality. In the week leading up to the Karachi protest, PTM’s leadership said Rangers and unidentified security officials detained and interrogated more than 100 of its supporters and kept nearly 30 workers in custody. “The amount they are trying to stop us, it shows they are scared,” student activist Manzoor Pashteen, who has become the face of the movement, told Reuters. “I don’t think they know they are our guardians, their behavior is that of criminals.” Despite the apparent crackdown, the protest in Karachi drew nearly 10,000 people. Pashteen himself was stopped from boarding a flight from the capital, Islamabad, to Karachi on Saturday after the airline told him his ticket had been canceled, he said, adding it took him 40 hours to drive to the city after being stopped and detained several times while on the r While there has been no official action against the PTM, army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa said recently that “no anti-state agenda in the garb of engineered protests” would be allowed to succeed. His comments were widely interpreted as being directed at the group. Many of Pakistan’s 30 million ethnic Pashtun’s hail originally from the borderlands with Afghanistan, where the Pakistani Taliban controlled swathes of territory until they were pushed out by military operations in 2009 and 2014. PTM leaders say they do not want to challenge the government or undermine security, but complain Pashtuns - many of whom have moved to the cities to escape a near-decade long insurgency by Islamist militants - are unfairly targeted and suffer abuses at the hands of security forces in the name of fighting terrorism.
In April, a week before PTM was due to stage a rally in Lahore, Habib University in Karachi and the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) called off talks related to Pashtun rights organized by students and academics. On the morning of the talks, both universities received calls from security officials, including representatives of Pakistan’s spy agency the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), telling them to cancel the discussions, faculty members said. “Calls were made to the administration as well as in-person visits from people who identified themselves as ISI,” said a LUMS professor. “I received a call and was told to refrain from anti-military activity.” Officials from the ISI did not respond to a request for comment.
At Habib University, the administration received visits from security officials and a call on the morning the lecture was due to take place, three different faculty members said. Representatives from LUMS and Habib University did not respond to requests for comment. Three students who had expressed support for PTM on social media told Reuters they had received threatening calls from unknown numbers telling them to stop, adding they knew of a dozen others who had received similar calls. The same week, Punjab University professor Ammar Ali Jan said he was removed from his post for encouraging students to be vocal about human rights issues and supporting PTM. Punjab University spokesman Khurram Shahzad said Jan was dismissed because of incomplete paperwork. Pakistan’s minister for state and interior affairs, Talal Chaudhry, said such actions “by unnamed forces” were part of a wider clampdown on freedom of thought in Pakistan. “We now have to listen to the people of Pakistan,” Chaudhry said. “There have been very few such things in Pakistan’s history where people come out on their own, to support a leaderless group,” he added, referring to PTM. Relations between the army and civilian government have been increasingly strained since the removal of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the courts last year, with some ruling party insiders accusing elements of the military of trying to destabilize it ahead of a general election expected in July. The military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half its history, denies any interference in civilian politics.
Mohsin Dawar arrived in Karachi on May 6 and, along with other PTM leaders, began meeting local Pashtuns to plan the weekend rally. “From the day we arrived they [the Rangers] began arresting our supporters,” Dawar said. People who provided PTM with logistical support, such as a place to hold their meetings, were picked up for five to six hours and threatened, he said.
“They told them not to support us; that we will leave Karachi but they have to continue living here,” Dawar added. Karachi is where the killing of a young Pashtun, Naqeebullah Mehsud, by police in January sparked nationwide peaceful demonstrations about Pashtun rights, from which PTM emerged. Organizers say they attempted to contract vendors to supply chairs, a stage, and a sound system for the rally, but none of the equipment was delivered.
One vendor, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters he received a call after meeting PTM members. “They said that if even one candle was delivered to the rally, my body would never be found,” he said.