Thursday, July 26, 2018

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U.S. allies have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians from the air. After 22 died at a wedding, one village asks, ‘Why us?’

UN: Saudi Arabia responsible for most Yemen child casualties

Published - June 27, 2018

A new UN report seen exclusively by Al Jazeera yesterday finds that Saudi Arabia is responsible for most child casualties in the Yemen civil war.
A total of 1,316 children have been killed and injured in Yemen, according to the annual Children and Armed Conflict report. The report was submitted to the Security Council on Monday night by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The UN verified that 552 children were killed – 398 boys and 154 girls – with the majority attributed to the Saudi-led coalition, including some 300 injuries.
The Houthi group were held responsible for 83 children killed and 241 injured, while the pro-government Popular Resistance force were responsible for 41 casualties against children. The UN reported that other international forces fighting in support for Yemen’s government were responsible for 19 casualties, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for 10 and Yemen’s National Army among others for only four casualties.
The Saudi-led coalition was invited by the internationally recognised Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to neutralise threats posed by the Houthis in March 2015. Today, it continues to fight for the Hudaydah port in an operation codenamed “Golden Victory”. The UN has warned that the lives of 250,000 Yemenis will be devastated as a result of the military operation to recapture control of the vital waterway.

842 child soldiers

The UN report accused the Houthis, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of recruiting children for war; 842 cases were investigated with some as young as 11 years of age.
Of the children investigated 534 were fighting for the Houthi group in Yemen. But the blame did not stop with the Iranian-aligned group, as the Yemen National Army and the UAE-backed Security Belt Forces used some 142 children.
According to Al-Jazeera, a cobweb of armed groups and parties were mentioned for responsibility over the killing and wounding of children.

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#ElectionResults2018 - Democracy in Balochistan is an illusion

By Mariyam Suleman
One of the bloodied attacks in Balochistan on 13th July during an election campaign took more than hundred lives and injured more than hundred others. Recalling all such attacks in the last one decade in the province, one can find thousands of people killed and injured. What makes it easy for the terrorists to target the same places again and again is simple; the failure of law enforcement agencies and the democracy that claims to protect lives of citizens.
Few of the political parties sympathized with the victims of last week and cancelled their electoral rallies in different cities of Balochistan. Though such attacks have now become common in the province, there is something that is different this time – Parliamentary elections in Balochistan for July 25 are winning general acclaim and acceptance after almost two decades of insurgency, yet a circumnavigation of the political and social dynamics in Balochistan would be useful to review how democracy is limited to an illusion in the province.
With a quick glance one can find; misled and often hardly informed public, opinions and often polls controlled by nonpolitical machines favoring obedient mediocrities, presence of tribalism, high level of corruption, violation of human rights, often incompetent candidates, banning local newspapers and blocking news websites, presence of religious extremism and office holders subservient with wealth and prestige – this list is somehow not much different than the rest of the country. So, what makes Balochistan a special case?
Perhaps, power shift between three different chief ministers in five years, very low turnout in the last two elections – as such 1% in few districts, sudden emergence of a strong political party previously unknown, the fate of province controlled by invisible forces, political engineering, power game of tribal politics, romanticizing nationalism, few candidates alleged as assailants and connected with religious insurgent groups or the increasing insecurity in the province.
Of course, many of us would still favor a faulty democracy – as such in Balochistan. But when democracy excesses with flaws, it only exists in the framework and is itself a shift toward authoritarianism. And since there is no or very little effort to change these defects into achievements, the gap between democracy and our government continues to grow.
What contributes for this overwhelming growth is not only government’s failure to protect its citizens, but also its failure to provide other basic services essential for democracy. The staggering literacy rates in the province where over half of the population is not well informed with very limited opportunities for intellectual growth is again a threat to democratic process.
There is no democracy without the engagement of citizens, and there is no sustaining and developing of democracy without “educated, aware and well-informed citizens”. On the other hand, local newspapers and news websites working toward a more informed and free society are often forced to close and blocked – though the democratic right of citizens to a free press are guaranteed in the constitution.
Another of the important demands of democracy is well educated and competent office holders who would deny obedience toward any other nonpolitical machine in every possible way – it again remains a huge challenge. And therefore, most political parties are too busy with electioneering and campaigning with vague manifestos, to have time to think how lack of basic rights of education, health, water, electricity and public safety are holding socioeconomic development and suppressing progress of democracy in the province.
While the link between democracy and human rights is a crucial part of constitution, it is barely evident in Balochistan where human rights violations swept away the stability and peace of the province in the last two decades. True, a powerful judiciary rescues democracy ending violation of human rights and making access to justice for all with ease. However, a weak judiciary – as such in Balochistan – piles thousands of such cases that never reach the court.
The promise of equality is also sidelined with tribalism in the province where political parities headed by tribal leaders romanticize nationalism and “hereditary democracy” – thus are less criticized as compared to other parties. Having less informed public is a benefit in such cases when public is bribed not to cast their vote but instead – to vote their caste or tribe.
However, in many cases voters’ stance do not make much difference. For instance, a candidate with only 1% votes can not only become a member of the Provincial Assembly but also the Chief Minister, or decision of who becomes the next chief minster can be made invisibly – that says democracy is not more than an illusion in the province.
Although, the recent attack disturbed the entire province yet the current elections in Balochistan are getting popularity with several public meetings of candidates, first-ever use of social media for campaigning and participation of a large part of the population in the campaigning process. But again, before judging the recent elections as a “change” – we should remind ourselves that it is the flaws and weaknesses of the process that have yet not changed much.

Video - #ElectionPakistan2018 - #PPP leaders addresses an important press conference in Media Cell Bilawal House Karachi

#ElectionPakistan2018 - Attempts to keep me away from parliament have failed: Bilawal Bhutto

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that Attempts to keep me from parliament have failed. In his Twitter message he said, ” Attempts to keep me from parliament have failed. While party workers are understandably outraged when it takes 28 hours to announce controversial results. I request all to await party policy decisions after consultative meeting tomorrow.″

#ElectionPakistan2018 - Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari declared successful from NA 200 Larkana

Chairman PPP  Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is declared successful from NA 200 Larkana with a massive lead of 84426.

Pakistan’s military has its fingerprints all over the elections

Ishaan Tharoor

Pakistanis will cast their ballots on Wednesday in national elections that have been clouded by acrimony and violence. A string of suicide blasts have led to dozens of deaths at campaign rallies. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam were sidelined by corruption convictions that many Pakistanis say were politically motivated, while activists warned that a host of candidates were compelled to switch parties, and journalists and media outlets were intimidated and silenced. Amid the chaos, a glut of extremist Islamist candidates entered the field, a worrying sign of the country’s political drift.
The run-up to the election has been defined by “blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate” the result, declared Pakistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.
The apparent beneficiary of much of those efforts has been the once-fringe party of Imran Khan, a dashing cricket star turned nationalist politician. And the hidden power believed to be paving the way for Khan’s victory is Pakistan’s military.
The country’s top brass has a long history of intervening in Pakistani democracy. Pakistan’s generals have run the nation several times over the past seven decades; when not openly in power, they have exerted outsize control over foreign policy, the economy and local politics. The ISI, the military’s shadowy and influential intelligence wing, continues to maintain ties with militants abroad while stifling civil society at home. And though this election will mark the third consecutive transition of power from one civilian government to another — a success story by Pakistani standards — it has the fingerprints of military meddling all over it.
The military’s guiding hand is visible in the partisan judiciary that went after Sharif, who now languishes in jail with his daughter. It is also seen in the cowing of major Pakistani media outlets, including the respected English-language daily Dawn and independent broadcaster Geo TV. In recent weeks, as Sharif’s party staged massive rallies in the province of Punjab, home to more than half the country’s population, Pakistanis had to turn to social media to find any images of the event.
A host of prominent retired military officers have rallied behind the 62-year-old Khan. The charismatic, Oxford-educated former playboy has morphed into a pious nationalist since entering politics, decrying the “toxicity” of the West and the decadent detachment of his rivals. He sees both Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N and the center-left Pakistan People’s Party of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto as corrupt, dynastic factions embezzling the nation’s wealth.
Much like India’s Narendra Modi or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Khan channels the exasperation of the country’s conservative middle classes and trains his ire on secular elites.
“Liberals are thirsty for blood. They have absolutely no idea,” Khan told British journalist Ben Judah earlier this year. “They sit in the drawing room. They read the English-language newspapers which bear very little resemblance to what is real Pakistan. I promise you, they would be lost in our villages.”
But even with the scales now tipped in his favor, Khan is no shoo-in. The PPP is expected to do reasonably well in Bhutto’s native Sindh province. Sharif’s incarceration — and the abiding sense that the military is still calling the shots — has galvanized support for his party, particularly in his native Punjab. If Khan’s Movement for Justice party ends up with a majority of parliamentary seats, it will have to reverse Sharif’s momentum there.
Either way, many Pakistanis expect an acrimonious aftermath. “Anything but an overwhelming victory by either side is likely to be marred by allegations of fraud and a struggle for control of the government,” my colleagues reported, “pulling attention away from a foundering economy, a looming debt crisis and foreign policy concerns that include U.S. attempts to end the war in neighboring Afghanistan.”
Close to 400,000 troops will be deployed at polling stations to prevent terrorist attacks, but that has raised even more suspicions. “Such a show of force is cause for concern among those who believe the military is seeking to manipulate the election, a belief bolstered by recent reports that some candidates with the Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Pakistan People’s Party have been harassed by security forces or pressured to switch political loyalties,” The Washington Post reported.Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani diplomat who now lives in Washington, told Today’s WorldView that the military’s ability to wholly control Pakistan’s civilian leadership has faded. “The way I see it is the military is panicking,” he said. Their attempts to gain back power may create more havoc.
“There is a higher likelihood than there has been in the past that this could end up in a political crisis that makes governance virtually impossible,” Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia expert at the U.S. Institute for Peace, told The Post.
Beyond preserving its extensive economic interests, the military leadership sees itself as the custodian of the nation, one still defined by its birth in the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent. “They have convinced themselves over years that India is an eternal enemy and that they are the only saviors of the country,” said Haqqani, an outspoken critic of the army who now lives in de facto exile. “They still have this general suspicion of civilians.”
Many analysts contend that this view of Pakistan — and the military’s role in it — leaves the country in a permanent cycle of political tumult and economic stagnation. All the while, Pakistan is growing more and more beholden to Chinese interests and indebted to investment and infrastructure projects run by Chinese state companies — hardly a healthy state of affairs for its democracy.
Sharif, once also the anointed candidate of the military, is by no means an exemplary democrat. But his party’s success in this election would raise new headaches for the top brass, including whether to release him from prison. Cyril Almeida, a prominent Pakistani columnist, suspects the military will find a new accommodation to its satisfaction no matter the outcome.
“A section of the public and politics has been primed to loudly cheer [Sharif's] incarceration; the section of the people and politics that may lean against incarceration can be drowned out; and the few quaint, democratic types left can be easily suppressed,” Almeida wrote in Dawn. And if the public mood compels Sharif's release? “Well, then cut a deal with him, let him out again and start the cycle all over again. Heads they win, tails everyone else loses.”