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Pakistani politician’s new book offers rare look at the nation’s invisible poor

By Pamela Constable

Published February 25, 2017
 In Pakistan’s vast and highly stratified society, tens of millions of people endure daily deprivation, humiliation and grinding toil for pennies. Occasionally an especially egregious case makes the headlines, such as a recent scandal about the brutal treatment of a 10-year-old girl working as a maid for the family of a prominent judge.
For the most part, though, the struggling masses remain invisible. Some beg at traffic signals as dark-tinted SUVs charge past, or silently sweep patios at luxurious homes. Many more labor in brick kilns, wheat fields and at carpet looms, far from the insulated precincts of the educated but feudal elite. 
Mian Raza Rabbani, Pakistan’s Senate chairman and a fixture in its establishment, has suddenly broken ranks with his privileged class, producing a book of plain but wrenching short stories called “Invisible People.” It is not a work of literature, like his countryman Daniyal Mueenuddin’s acclaimed collection of stories, “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders. Rabbani is a lawyer, not a poet. But his effort is a powerful, later-life cri de coeur that aims to stir consciences in clubs and drawing rooms across the country. His characters survive on the fringes of an inequitable and corrupt society, helping to make it function but routinely suffering cruelty and injustice — at the hands of both powerful strangers and people just a notch above them. A boy whose mother dies is sold into servitude by scheming relatives. A poor man, falsely accused of a shooting committed by a wealthy teenager, starves in prison while a mafia boss has delicacies delivered to his luxurious cell. An injured mill worker is fired and refused help at a hospital.
Death and abuse serve as routine backdrops or ironic twists to stories that hammer at the reader’s conscience. Sometimes the pathos is too thick, the characters too angelic or evil. A beaten child beggar tears open a cage full of birds, trying to free them, and is struck and killed by a limousine. But these are literary flaws rather than excuses for cynical dismissal. The circumstances and behavior have an uncomfortable ring of truth.
Rabbani, a dapper and self-assured politician of 64, favors monogrammed shirts with cuff links and circulates in a world of smoke-filled rooms and elegant receptions. He is third in line to replace the prime minister and is constantly called upon to settle political disputes or opine on weighty public matters.
Yet when asked why he decided to write “Invisible People,” he had this to say:
“What prompted me was a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of despair, a feeling of frustration, because even after achieving this office, this chair, I am still a slave of the system. Apart from cosmetic changes, I can do nothing meaningful to change it substantially or to change the plight of the people who are invisible. In our society, it is still hands off.” This admission may seem astonishing to an outsider, but class barriers and social conformity are deeply entrenched in Pakistan. Even liberal politicians have silent servants and lands worked by peasants, and no one really wants to upset the status quo.
Rabbani’s anger is political as well as personal. He is a lifelong loyalist of the Pakistan People’s Party, founded in the 1960s as a socialist reform movement. A framed portrait of its late leader, Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister who was assassinated in 2007, sits next to his office desk. As he describes it, the ideals of the Bhutto family, and the activism they fomented among students, labor groups and intellectuals, were quashed by the Islamic-themed dictatorship of Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s and never recovered. Rabbani, then a student activist, was expelled and spent two formative years in prison.
His father, an air force officer and young aide to Pakistan’s democratic founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, in the 1940s, taught him “the importance of empathy and the dignity of labor.”
Rabbani’s party is out of power, but he is a respected senior leader of the institutional opposition. Despite the trappings of success and the double standards that abound in Pakistani politics (the Bhuttos, for example, were feudal landlords as well as social reformists), he has kept his rebellious credentials polished — and his graying hair in a discreet, trademark ponytail. And although Pakistan’s economy is enjoying an upturn, Rabbani’s subject is still very relevant. In a country of an estimated 200 million people, the per capita income is on a par with Sudan and Honduras. Income distribution is highly skewed, with the richest 10 percent enjoying 28 percent of the nation’s wealth. Only 58 percent of adults can read, one of the lowest rates outside Africa. Thirty percent of the populace lives in poverty, and 25 million children are out of school.
“This has nothing to do with religion. Everything is about the cutthroat economy now. People live in cozy cocoons and can’t see that outside a storm is building,” he said in an interview this month his sentences cadenced from years of public oratory. “There is no justice. People cannot meet their basic needs. There is only so much they can absorb until they explode.”
“Invisible People” opens with a blurry photograph of an elderly scavenger sleeping against his sack on a piece of rocky ground; it ends with one of a barefoot woman, huddled on a sidewalk amid scrolls of barbed wire. They are not named and do not need to be. The author’s hope, he writes in the introduction, is to “lay bare the hidden evil that surrounds us” and “touch some common core we all share.” When Rabbani’s book was launched in the capital last month, he anticipated that some people would be offended by its portrayal of upper-class callousness and cruelty.
“I knew I would be treading on a lot of toes, so I asked a few friends to be ready to defend me at parties,” he said.
According to one report, snide comments were heard in the audience that perhaps his invisible people were government spies. Some critics suggested that his characters were mere fiction, to which he replied that “the names and localities might be fiction, but the experiences are true.” Instead of having guest commentators at the launch, he placed seven empty chairs on the stage.
Yet Rabbani said he was also pleasantly surprised when a woman approached him and said that she had been moved by his story of an urchin who washes car windows outside an exclusive private school and daydreams about a future he can never hope to have.
“She said it made her remember when she was a girl being picked up from school and would see the boys trying to wash cars,” Rabbani said. “When she read the book, for the first time she thought about them from the other side.”
If even a small segment of the elite is “beginning to question things,” he added, “perhaps that is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pakistan's Gaddafi and Saddam - The Next Prime Minister of Nuclear-Armed Pakistan Really Hates the U.S.


There is compelling evidence that the Pakistani army is supporting Imran Khan, intimidating his opponents and suppressing the press to get him into power.

The most dangerous country in the
World just got considerably more dangerous. Pakistan, home to the fastest growing nuclear weapons arsenal on earth, has broken the decades old domination of its electoral politics by two family dynasties. Imran Khan, a world champion cricketer, is poised to be the next prime minister backed by the powerful army. Khan blames Pakistan’s problems on America and is the most anti-American politician in South Asia.
Imran Khan, 66, is charismatic and bold. He has campaigned for decades to break the logjam of Pakistan’s revolving elections in which either Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto and her heirs dominate the highest office of the country. Sharif, 65 and a three-time prime minister, is now in jail along with his daughter on trumped-up charges of corruption. Benazir’s son Bilawal, 29, ran an impressive campaign on his own for the first time but came in third place. Khan’s Pakistan Justice Movement (PTI) is leading the parliamentary elections with around 110-120 seats out of 272. Sharif’s party is around 60 and Bhutto at 45. These numbers are not final and there are several independents and small local parties.
Khan will need to persuade independents and small parties to join in a coalition government. He has ruled out working with either Sharif or Bhutto. The horse trading may be prolonged before a government is set—and volatile once created. There are widespread charges of fraud and tampering with the vote. Protests and boycotts are likely. A central question is which party will take control of the Punjab, the country’s largest province and the traditional base of the Sharif clan.
The central platform of Imran Khan’s movement has always been to fight corruption. Pakistan’s politics are certainly full of corruption as is the judicial process. But the most corrupt institution in the country is the army. Pakistani analysts like Aeysha Saddiqa have long documented how the army has become a major land owner and business maestro to enrich the pockets of the officer corps. The generals for decades have manipulated the judicial system to punish their enemies.
There is compelling evidence that the army is supporting Khan, intimidating his opponents and suppressing the press to get him to power. The army soured on Nawaz Sharif years ago and was especially alarmed when he blamed the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack on the army intelligence service known as the ISI. The ISI was certainly responsible for the Mumbai operation, but to acknowledge that is verboten in Pakistan.
Khan is an outspoken defender of the army and is closely aligned with the Islamist movements patronized by the ISI. He is a frequent critic of the United States which he says treats Pakistan like a “doormat.” Khan says the American war on terror since 9/11 has cost Pakistan billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives. While domestic violence has gone down in the last couple of years it spiked during the election season. Pakistan and the United States have had a deeply troubled relationship for decades with great highs and lows. Both sides have used the other and been unreliable partners. Donald Trump’s administration has been outspoken about Pakistan’s connections to terrorism and its support for the Afghan Taliban. Military assistance has been suspended, although the Congress soured on aid for Pakistan in the Obama years.
Imran Khan has said that it would be a “bitter pill” to have to meet with Trump if he Khan is prime minister, but one he would swallow. He probably doesn’t have to worry. South Asia is not a priority for the Trump administration. The president has made clear he wants to bring Americans home from Afghanistan and wash his hands of the war there. His hard line rhetoric on Pakistan is unlikely to persuade Khan and the army to press the Taliban to peace negotiations. So far Trump has been all talk and no action about Pakistan’s ties to terrorism. His generals have persuaded him to stay in Afghanistan, but he is not persuaded they have a viable strategy. He may well be right.
I have been impressed by Khan’s determination when I’ve met him, but also by his proclivity for conspiracy theories no matter how irresponsible. He has a reputation for independence and volatility. His political movement is almost a cult of personality. The generals may find him hard to control. The election is Pakistan’s second consecutive transfer of power by the ballot box, an important milestone for the country. The democratic process is still weak but it has now produced an outcome not in the old family.
Pakistan desperately needs good governance and a healthy civil-military relationship with the civilians in charge. It needs to abandon terrorism and slow down its nuclear weapons drive to devote attention and resources to development and infrastructure. It is becoming dangerously dependent on China. It has a self interest in warming relations with India. Above all it needs stable and experienced leadership.
None of that seems likely. Get ready for an uncharted future.

Pakistan's bailout becomes a pawn in US-China tensions

By Srinivas Mazumdaru
With its economy in distress, Pakistan's new government is expected to soon go cap in hand to the IMF seeking yet another loan. But US Secretary of State Pompeo's recent comments highlight the tough road ahead.
Political tumult and civil-military tensions figured prominently in Pakistan's recent raucous parliamentary election campaign. The vote saw cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's party emerging as the leading actor in the nation's politics. Khan is widely expected to take over the reins as prime minister.
Regardless of the political challenges he may encounter, the prime minister in waiting and his government will have their work cut out when it comes to tackling the difficulties the Pakistani economy is grappling with.
The South Asian nation's economy has been in poor shape over the past several years. While its current account deficit jumped 43 percent to $18 billion ($15.4 billion) in the fiscal year that ended June 30, its fiscal deficit rose to 6.8 percent of GDP. 
The country's foreign exchange reserves, meanwhile, are dwindling, plummeting to just over $9 billion now from $16.4 billion in May 2017. The central bank has been forced to devalue the currency thrice since December. Rising global crude prices present another challenge, as Pakistan imports about 80 percent of its oil needs.
IMF to the rescue, again?
Creating enough employment opportunities for the nation's over 200 million people will also be a daunting task for the government. Experts say Pakistan needs to generate 2-3 million jobs annually, and that would require measures to ensure security, cut bureaucratic red tape, improve ease of doing business and strengthen the nation's manufacturing industry, among other things.
"Pakistan is facing the biggest economic challenge in the country's history," Khan said in his victory speech.
Economic problems over the past three decades have repeatedly forced Islamabad to knock on the doors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) seeking assistance. Since 1980, Pakistan has had 14 IMF financing programs, according to fund data, including a $6.7 billion three-year loan program in 2013.
Many inside and outside Pakistan expect Islamabad to once again seek IMF's financial help. A loan from the Fund could help the country close its external financing gap temporarily and avert an economic catastrophe.
"Pakistan urgently needs $10-15 billion. We have no other option but to reach out to the IMF for loans," said Muzzamil Aslam, a financial analyst.
'No rationale'
But recent statements made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about any potential IMF bailout of the country have underlined the difficulties the Pakistani government would face in accessing IMF funds this time around.
In an interview with CNBC, Pompeo said the United States looked forward to engagement with the government of Pakistan's expected new PM, Imran Khan, but said there was "no rationale" for a bailout that pays off Chinese loans to Islamabad.
"Make no mistake - we will be watching what the IMF does. There's no rationale for IMF tax dollars - and associated with that, American dollars that are part of the IMF funding - for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or - or China itself," Pompeo said.
His comments were in reference to Pakistan's involvement in China's mammoth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious $1 trillion infrastructure project that aims to bolster China's trade and investment links with economies in Asia, Africa and Europe.
Pakistan is estimated to have already received over $5 billion in bilateral and commercial loans from China this fiscal year. And Beijing is also pumping billions into the South Asian country as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The multibillion-dollar initiative, part of BRI, is aimed at modernizing Pakistan's infrastructure by building and expanding ports, railways, power plants and other physical infrastructure.
While the initiative's proponents view CPEC, valued at over $60 billion, as a positive force that could transform and boost the Pakistani economy, detractors say it will turn Pakistan into China's "economic colony."
Pressure on Pakistan
Following Pompeo's remarks, China on Tuesday said it expects the IMF to follow its own rules and standards when providing funds to countries. "I believe they will handle it properly," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said.
The Chinese government has also repeatedly refuted the claims that its BRI scheme has saddled a number of developing countries with excessive and unsustainable debt.
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international studies at the Beijing-based Renmin University of China, told DW that Pompeo's statements showed that the US wants to put pressure on countries relying on Chinese money to develop their infrastructure.
The US, he said, is joining forces with countries like the US, Japan, Australia and India, in a bid to counter Beijing's growing economic clout. "The 'Indo-Pacific' alliance, including these countries, has so far been mainly strategic, but now they're also looking to develop an economic component," Yinhong said.
The US secretary of state's remarks have also caught the attention of Pakistanis. US President Donald Trump's administration is trying to impose "harsh conditions on Pakistan" as part of its efforts to "harm China's interests," said Ikram Sehgal, a defense and security analyst.
"The US generally tries to influence the economy and politics of developing countries," he stressed, adding that Washington's ongoing trade spat with Beijing meant nations like Pakistan would come under growing American pressure to move away from China and side with the US.
In order to escape the repeated boom-and-bust cycles and improve Pakistan's financial position, experts say the new government will have to undertake an array of structural reforms. They include reforming the nation's state-run firms as well as furthering liberalizing the product and labor markets. 
However, it's uncertain at present whether the new government in Pakistan would be up for the task.

Pakistan's Taliban Khan Imran Defending blasphemy laws and seeking peace talks with militants: Five of Imran Khan's most controversial public posturings

Pakistan's former cricket captain is viewed as something of a liberal in the West, particularly in Britain where the press remember his high-flying lifestyle and marriage to Jemima Goldsmith. But Khan sparked outrage in January when he lambasted feminism as 'a Western concept', saying in an interview that it had 'degraded the role of mother.'
Critics accused him of pandering to his conservative vote base.
On blasphemy
Khan was accused of mainstreaming extremism by launching a full-throttled defence of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, which carry a maximum penalty of death. Just weeks before the election, Khan told clerics in televised comments that his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party 'fully' supports the blasphemy law 'and will defend it.'
"No Muslim can call himself a Muslim unless he believes that the Prophet Mohammed is the last prophet," he said — a statement that raised alarm among the Ahmadi sect, who are persecuted for their belief in a prophet after Mohammed.
'Taliban Khan'
The ex-cricketer has earned the moniker 'Taliban Khan' for repeatedly arguing for peace talks with militants and for his party's alliance with Sami ul Haq, the so-called Father of the Taliban whose madrassas once educated Taliban stalwarts Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani.
In 2013, Khan even suggested that the Pakistani Taliban should be allowed to open an office in the country.
The previous year, he had come in for criticism for his perceived lukewarm condemnation of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl-turned-women's rights activist and Nobel prize winner.
American drone strikes
Khan, 65, has railed repeatedly against United States drone strikes on Pakistani territory, angering the South Asian country's biggest benefactor. He has claimed that the strikes have killed innocent civilians, something the American government denies.
In 2012 he was briefly removed from an international flight from Canada to New York and questioned by US immigration officials on his views about the strikes.
Khan was elected largely on an anti-graft ticket — he has described corruption as a 'security risk' to Pakistan. But he drew flak for welcoming politicians from parties he has accused of being corrupt into PTI ahead of the election.
In April, Khan announced that he would refer 20 PTI lawmakers to an anti-corruption body after they were accused of selling votes during senate elections.

#Pakistan - Attack on schools

AN assault on education, particularly girls’ education, brings back some of the most terrible memories of Pakistan’s fight against extremism.
Early Friday morning, at least 13 government and private schools in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Diamer district were vandalised; several were set on fire. Most of them were girls’ schools, including one which has been attacked five times since 2004.

Fortunately, there was no one present on the premises at the time. According to law enforcement, preliminary investigations indicate that the perpetrators were not associated with any militant group but locals opposed to girls’ education.
It is therefore some consolation that a good number of other locals in the area hold very different views: members of political parties, student groups and local organisations came out in droves to hold protest demonstrations, shouting slogans against extremism and demanding that the culprits be severely punished. Deliberate, wilful attacks on schools in any setting — and by definition, on education itself — are worthy of condemnation in the strongest terms, but they have a particularly symbolic significance in the context of Pakistan’s recent history.
They are associated with some of its worst tragedies, and also its most enduring acts of bravery. In fact, a campaign of intimidation against girls’ education from 2008 onwards was among the initial indications of the TTP’s increasing hold over Swat Valley, when it started asserting itself outside Fata.
In early 2009, the terrorist group ordered a complete ban on girls’ education. Resistance to these ominous developments coalesced in the form of young Malala Yousafzai, whose bravery very nearly got her killed by the TTP, and who went on to become an international icon for the right of girls to education. In early 2014, 15-year-old Aitzaz Hasan gave his life while preventing a suicide bomber from attacking his school in Hangu, KP.
Later that year, on Dec 16, a group of TTP militants targeted the Army Public School, Peshawar, and slaughtered 132 students and 17 staffers in one of the country’s deadliest acts of terrorism. Hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, have been bombed by militants during the last decade or so.
Opposition to girls’ education is a trait common to violent extremist organisations, and Friday’s attack in Diamer is evidence that a similar mindset continues to prevail in parts of the country; indeed, the district has long been known as a hotbed of radical and sectarian groups. The authorities must act swiftly to find the perpetrators before their actions embolden others to once again make the obliteration of girls’ schools the centrepiece of an obscurantist agenda.
Literacy rates in Diamer are abysmal and in terms of education indices, it ranks among the 10 lowest-ranking districts in Pakistan.
Fortunately though, it seems many of its residents are prepared to fight for the right of their girls to go to school. The state must not let them down.

Why Is Pakistan Going Bankrupt?


Pakistan’s Prime Minister in-waiting Imran Khan may have promised the country a 'Naya Pakistan', but the first thing he will need to address in order to deliver on his promise is the country's struggling economy, which is on the brink of collapse. 
To put it simply, Pakistan’s debt is soaring, the Current Account Deficit is widening, reserves are dangerously low, and the currency has been devalued four times in just eight months, according to a Reuters report.
Pakistan is almost bankrupt, and here’s why.

1. Dwindling Currency Reserves

Several reports, including one by The Globe Post, indicate that the Pakistan state bank had just $9.1 billion worth of reserves as of July 2018. The report adds that these funds are barely sufficient to cover even two months’ worth of spending.
As a result, Khan may find himself at the doorstep of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – the body that has saved the country from reaching a full-fledged financial crisis 12 separate times since the 1980s.
Notably, Asad Umar, the man who is widely tipped to be chosen as finance minister in Khan’s cabinet, told Reuters that the PTI government would not rule out asking China for a bailout, rather than approaching the IMF. Already, Pakistan has taken $60 billion worth of loans from China, much of which is for the development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
China may well be the better bet for Pakistan, because US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cautioned against any IMF bailout to Pakistan that would be used to repay its existing debt to China. Pakistan responded, saying “third parties cannot weaken its resolve” to build CPEC.

2. Increasing Tax Revenues Harder Than Pulling Teeth

As per a Bloomberg report, only 1 percent of Pakistan’s 210 million people, from grocers to billionaires, file income tax returns.
To quote Bloomberg, “This is a country known for rampant tax avoidance”.
Efforts to increase reserves with tax revenue through a government programme that profiles taxpayers aren’t expected to have much success in improving the tax-to-GDP ratio of 12 percent, one of the lowest globally, according to experts.

3. America’s Stance on Pakistan-Funded Terror

Earlier this year, Pakistan was added to the Global Financial Action Task Force’s “grey” list of countries to watch for terror financing.
This came after Donald Trump announced he’d be cutting US aid to Pakistan in the form of military expenditure in January, after accusing it of funding terror groups that attack Afghanistan.
If Pakistan is placed on the Financial Action Task Force’s blacklist, the sanctions against it would be more serious, further impacting its ability to borrow in the short-term.

4. Falling Exports, Rising Imports = Trade Deficit of Near $35 Billion

The value of Pakistan’s exports in 2017-18 stood at $21.9 billion. This was approximately 94% of the country’s annual export target of $23.1 billion.
But in the same period, the country imported goods worth $57.4 billion.
The value of Pakistan’s two highest export goods – miscellaneous textiles and cotton – in 2017 were around $7.5 billion. But the country has also relied heavily on imports for mineral fuels as well as machinery including computers, with the combined import value of the two at approximately $21 billion in 2017.
This has left the country with a trade deficit of nearly $35 billion, up from $29.4 billion in April, as per The Express Tribune.
Exports, which did show growth from the previous year, came on the back of tax incentives and rupee devaluation, further weakening the economy and the government’s coffers.

5. Developmental Activities With Borrowed Money

Pakistan’s caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar said that the total public debt-to-GDP ratio would be 74 percent by the end of the current financial year with a 2 percent increase within a year, Pakistan Today reported.
Pakistan Planning Commission’s former chief economist Dr Pervaiz Tahir said that public debt was the highest since 1990. The total public debt in 2017 was recorded at Rs 21401 billion, up from Rs 14318 billion in 2013.
This has been attributed to the fact that many developmental activities have been undertaken with borrowed money, in large part from China, because of inadequate domestic resources.
In the 2013-18 period Pakistan’s domestic borrowings were Rs 16.5 trillion and its external borrowings were Rs 8 trillion in the same period.
The present public debt in terms of the total size of the economy was around 72 percent, the report added.

6. Currency Devalued Four Times Since December

The Pakistan economy is currently valued at $305 billion, Reuters reports.
In an attempt to escape a “balance of payments crisis”, the report states, Pakistan’s central bank has devalued the currency four times since December 2017, which has led to the weakening of the rupee by more than 20 percent.
A similar situation back in 2013 had left the economy in a hot mess, and compelled the country to take a $6.7 billion loan from the IMF, according to Reuters. However, given the placement of Pakistan on the FATF’s terror “grey” list and America’s unwillingness to let the IMF pay off Pakistan’s Chinese debt, a bailout may not be so simple this time around.
Given the dwindling currency reserves, mounting debt, widening trade deficit, difficulty generating tax revenues, among the other reasons mentioned here, Imran Khan will likely inherit a country that is, economically speaking, on its last legs.


Saleem Safi, a semi-literate journalist who once had been affiliated with the hate mongering fanatics of banned militant outfits, still continues to preach the similar hate mongering ideology of intolerance and hatred based on ignorance.

For the literate and mature Pakistanis who are well-versed in the international politics and well-aware of facts of the power politics of Pakistan, people such as Saleem Safi has no value because of his illusionary mythical inference against the incontrovertible fact. 
Safi has been disseminating malicious and misleading propaganda against Shia Muslims of Pakistan in a bid to equate them with takfiri Deobandi fanatics of banned militant outfits to which he also hailed from. 
As a matter of fact, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has no politician that has any sort of links with Iran but Imran and his PTI’s other leaders have an undeniable links with Saudi-allied United Kingdom and United State. 
For instance, Imran’s former in-laws are influential British people and his two sons are being brought up by their maternal UK national relatives. His close aide Sarwar Chaudhry had remained Member of British Parliament. 
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, an Oxford graduate and another close-aide of Imran, has a son who was team member of Senator John Kerry who later became US Secretary of State. And if a literate journalist sees things objectively, PTI leader Shireen Mazari has a scholarly background and she headed an Islamabad-based think tank that helped Pakistan government shape its policies and she too cannot be linked with any foreign government. 
Ali Zaidi, a Karachi-based PTI leader, has no record of sect-based politics since he never remained a member of any religious or sectarian Shia party. Instead, he is known as a well-connected Karachiite due to his social activities and even sportsman such as Javed Miandad is his friend, because Pakistanis always turned down such division within them and this was the spirit due to which Pakistan came into being. 
Saleem Safi, it seems, has not read history of Pakistan and has no knowledge of sectarian identity of founding fathers of Pakistan. Father of Pakistani nation Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Raja Sahib of Indian princely state Mehmoodabad, Habib family, Isphahani family, Iskandar Mirza, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and countless others who sacrificed their everything for the sake of Pakistan or served Pakistan with dedication, were all Shia Muslims and they never founded any Shia party or joined such groups. 
Pakistan was financed by Habib group, its aviation industry was brought up by Isphahani family, its army and bureaucracy had many Shia Muslims and Pakistan’s first constitutionally-elected President Iskandar Mirza was a Shia Muslim. 
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the world-class statement was founder of Pakistan and Muslims of the subcontinent had faith in his dynamic leadership. Stanley Volpert has written that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a Shia Muslim. The credit for overseas Pakistanis remittances from GCC countries goes to Bhutto and he was architect of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. His widow Nusrat Bhutto is known as mother of democracy since she led struggle for restoration of democracy during the black rule of Martial Law dictator Zia ul Haq and then Saleem Safi was a tool of the US-Saudi proxy war against USSR in Afghanistan. Hence, he should study history of impartial historians to understand facts instead of continuing as a proxy for same foreign masters.

Pakistan: Surge in Militant Attacks on Schools

Authorities Need to Better Protect Students, Teachers from Violence.
Alleged militants attacked and burned down at least 12 schools in Diamer district of Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region early on August 3, 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. At least half were girls’ schools. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Pakistani government should take urgent measures to make schools safer, and fairly prosecute those responsible for attacks against students, teachers, and schools.
“The devastating attacks on schools in Diamer highlight the dangers that many students and teachers in Pakistan face on a regular basis,” said Bede Sheppard, deputy children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should promptly investigate and prosecute these attacks and ensure that children have a safe place to attend school.” Pakistan faces significant education challenges, with an estimated 25 million children out of school. Militant violence has disrupted the education of hundreds of thousands of children, particularly girls. Militant Islamist groups, including the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and their affiliates, attack schools and universities to foster intolerance and exclusion, target symbols of the government, and particularly to drive girls out of school. Militants have previously targeted girls’ schools in Diamer district. In February 2004, attackers destroyed nine schools, eight of them for girls. Explosives hit two girls’ schools in December 2011.
The nongovernmental awareness campaign Alif Ailaan reported that Diamer is the lowest-ranked district in terms of quality of education in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, and is among the 10 lowest ranked in the country. Only 3,479 girls are among the 16,800 students enrolled in government schools in the district, which has 88 government schools for girls and 156 for boys.
After the Taliban took over large parts of the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2007, it began a violent campaign against education for girls. Over 900 girls’ schools were forced to close and over 120,000 girls stopped attending school. About 8,000 female teachers were driven out of work. For many girls, the loss was permanent, and they were not able to return to school even after the army displaced the Taliban.
The Pakistani government says it does not collect specific data on attacks on schools and universities, or on deaths and injuries from such attacks. However, according to the Global Terrorism Database, there were 867 attacks on educational institutions in Pakistan from 2007 to 2015, resulting in 392 fatalities and 724 injuries. The Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack recorded at least 203 attacks on schools in Pakistan between 2013 and 2017.
The government’s failure to keep consistent and transparent national data about such attacks raises serious concerns about its ability to track repairs of damaged schools, identify trends that could help create measures to protect schools, or investigate and prosecute the people responsible, Human Rights Watch said. The attacks on Malala Yousafzai, who later became a Nobel peace Prize laureate, on October 9, 2012, and on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, which killed at least 145 people, mostly students, directed international spotlight on the threat to education in Pakistan. In some areas, government forces have used educational institutions, including both schools and college housing, as temporary or permanent barracks or military bases. When educational facilities are used for military purposes, it places them at increased risk of attack. The government should issue clear and public orders to Pakistan security forces to curtail the military use of schools.
Pakistan should develop a comprehensive policy for protecting students – especially girls – as well as teachers, schools, and universities from attack and military use, and involve all concerned ministry staff at central and local levels in carrying out this strategy, Human Rights Watch said.
Securing schools has been largely left to the provincial governments, whose efforts have been sporadic, varying across provinces with little attention to protecting girls’ education. In most cases, responsibility for enhancing and maintaining security has fallen to hard-pressed school authorities. Pakistan’s federal government should cooperate with provincial and regional authorities to create a rapid response system for attacks on schools. Schools should quickly be repaired or rebuilt, with destroyed educational material replaced, so that children can return to school as soon as possible. Schools should operate in alternate sites during reconstruction, and students should have mental health support as needed.
Pakistan should join the 80 countries that have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, a non-binding political agreement opened for state support at an international conference in Oslo, Norway, in May 2015. Countries that endorse the Safe Schools Declaration pledge to restore access to education when schools are attacked and undertake measures to make it less likely that students, teachers, and schools will be attacked. They agree to deter such attacks by promising to investigate and prosecute crimes involving schools, and to minimize the use of schools for military purposes so they do not become targets for attack.
“The Pakistani government should do all it can to deter future attacks on education, beginning with improving school security and providing the public with reliable information on threats,” Sheppard said. “Attacks on education not only harm the students and families directly affected, but also have an incalculable long-term negative effect on Pakistani society.”

After controversial election, a tribal rights movement in Pakistan carefully plots its future

Shashank Bengali 

Many Pakistanis were stunned this year when a charismatic young ethnic Pashtun from the country’s tribal region — long the focus of counter-terrorism operations — drew tens of thousands into the streets in a direct challenge to army generals.
“This terrorism that you see, the uniform is behind it,” they chanted.

It was a rare expression inside Pakistan of the view — widely held outside its borders — that the security establishment sponsors militant groups such as the Taliban, whose presence in the tribal belt has long been a pretext for crackdowns against Pashtuns.
Now Pakistan’s most significant popular uprising in years faces a reckoning after an election many believe the army tilted in favor of cricket legend Imran Khan.
Due to take office as prime minister this month, Khan is not expected to contest the army’s grip on security policy. But he has expressed sympathy with some of the demands of the protest group that calls itself the Pashtun Protection Movement, known as PTM.
The group has called for an end to alleged army abuses including extrajudicial killings, abductions and scorched-earth offensives that it says disproportionately target the country’s estimated 25 million Pashtuns, most of whom hail from the rugged tribal areas along the Afghan border.
Security forces have arrested scores of its supporters while bullying news outlets into keeping the protests off the air. “We do not know much about Imran Khan, but we are clear about our demands,” the movement’s 23-year-old leader, Manzoor Pashteen, said in an interview. “Whether a good person comes to power or a bad person comes to power, our struggle will continue until our demands are met.”
The most vocal grass-roots opposition to the security establishment since a lawyers movement helped drive military ruler Pervez Musharraf from power a decade ago, the PTM did not field candidates in the July 25 election, hoping not to muddy its message with politics. The group is planning a fresh wave of protests and sit-ins this month, risking further arrests, beatings and worse.
“Militaries are powerful all over the world, but in Pakistan the army is omnipotent,” Pashteen said. “Nobody can even think of resisting it until somebody is ready to risk his life.”
Pashtuns have long complained of being marginalized and harassed by the Pakistani state, which often identifies their community as the wellspring of Taliban insurgents. But with doctors, professors, college students and journalists in its ranks — including many who grew up in cities to escape the militant violence and army operations — the PTM has challenged the army’s stereotype of Pashtuns as long-bearded, warlike tribesmen.
Its allegations of abuses have also undermined the military’s claims that a years-long counter-terrorism campaign has brought security to the former tribal area, which until this year was governed by a colonial-era law that allowed security forces to punish entire villages for the crimes of individuals.
The chief military spokesman declined requests for an interview. The army has long denied committing atrocities or sponsoring militant groups.
“This has become a war against Pashtuns,” said Afrasiab Khattak, a retired politician and commentator. “PTM members are nonviolent but prepared to die to speak the truth — and our security forces have no answer.”
The group vaulted to prominence after police gunned down a 27-year-old Pashtun shopkeeper in January in the port city of Karachi, home to a large Pashtun community.
Police accused the man, Naqeebullah Mehsud, of having links to terrorism. But Mehsud was a meticulously groomed aspiring model with a sizable Facebook following, and his death catalyzed outrage against the security forces’ tactics. Within weeks, the group had mushroomed into a nationwide nonviolent uprising. Thousands flocked to rallies where Mehsud’s long-haired image beamed from posters and Pashteen’s calls for nonviolent resistance rang out with intensity.
Trained as a veterinarian in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, at the edge of the tribal zone, Pashteen has been dismissed by army officials as an agent of Pakistan’s neighbors, India and Afghanistan. Pakistani journalists say they have been told not to write about him.
After one English-language weekly published Pashteen’s image on the cover along with three articles about the PTM, its management received a call from a senior military official, according to individuals with knowledge of the situation. The articles were swiftly scrubbed from the newspaper’s website. In June, dozens of PTM supporters were arrested before a demonstration in Islamabad, the capital. Interviewed last month while out on bail, several activists said they had been shoved into small, mosquito-infested cells and slapped with charges including terrorism and treason. “Someone like me, raised in Islamabad for 18 years, when I raised my voice for my rights and I see the way the security forces reacted — you can only imagine what they do to people in the tribal areas,” said one arrestee, a 25-year-old who asked to be identified only as Ishfaq.
Nobody can even think of resisting [the army] until somebody is ready to risk his life. MANZOOR PASHTEEN, LEADER OF THE PASHTUN PROTECTION MOVEMENT
The military has met some of the movement’s demands, at least on paper. In May the tribal region was merged into the neighboring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, ending the harsh laws that Pashtuns said had granted impunity for army abuses.
Security forces also reduced the number of checkpoints where Pashtuns said they were subjected to humiliating searches.
The changes “have both bolstered support for the PTM in being able to bring about these outcomes, and also weakened the urgency of their cause” outside the former tribal belt, political analyst Fasi Zaka said.
Despite Pashteen’s admonitions against political participation, two PTM leaders ran for parliamentary seats as independents and won. Although they were ousted from the group’s decision-making committee, the elected lawmakers said they would raise PTM’s demands in Parliament.
“I think a pressure group can sustain itself only for a specific time period,” said one of the elected candidates, Mohsin Dawar. “In the future, PTM will have to join the mainstream political process.”
Some analysts speculated that the lawmakers would align with Khan, who has opposed military operations in the tribal region and endorsed some of PTM’s demands, including a truth commission to investigate army abuses. “I think the elections have taken the air out of PTM,” said Arif Rafiq, a nonresident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, contending that most Pashtun voters supported Khan in the election. Others said the group’s message had spread to mainstream Pashtun parties, whose recent rallies claiming army interference in the election adopted the PTM’s provocative anti-military slogans.
“I don’t think the PTM will fizzle out — instead it will spread further,” Khattak said. “What happened in the election has vindicated PTM’s narrative. Earlier it was only they who were talking about the real rulers of the country, and now all parties are talking about it.”