Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Punjabi Music - Sun Way Balori Akh Waleya - ANWARA - Noor Jehan

Video Report - How do you intend to pay for the $180bn housing initiative? - Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath - 10 October 2018

Afghanistan's Civilian Death Toll Rising

Afghanistan's civilians continue to die in record numbers, according to a new report released Wednesday by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
From the start of the year to the end of September, the U.N. documented 8,050 civilian casualties, of which 2,798 died, and 5,252 were wounded.
In the 17 years of conflict, the last five years seem to have been the deadliest for civilians, a chart in UNAMA's report indicates.
Most of the casualties resulted from the actions by non-state actors, including the Taliban and Islamic State. The use of improvised explosive devices used in suicide attacks increased in their "frequency and lethality," according to the U.N.'s Quarterly Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict.
"Of the 65 percent of civilian casualties attributed to anti-government elements, 35 percent were attributed to the Taliban; 25 percent to Daesh/ISKP; and 5 percent to unidentified anti-government elements (including less than 1 percent to self-proclaimed Daesh/ISKP)," the U.N. report specified.
Ground engagements
The second leading cause for civilian casualties, 29 percent, was ground engagements between warring factions.
The report said casualties from ground engagements have declined, which may be due to efforts by various parties to protect civilians from harm, like advance warnings.
The province with the most casualties was Nangarhar, where ISKP, Islamic State's Afghan branch, still has a stronghold. It was also the deadliest province for U.S. forces in 2017.
The increase in NATO and U.S. airstrikes on Taliban and ISKP targets, particularly since President Donald Trump announced a new South Asia policy in August of last year, led to an increase in civilian casualties from air operations, the report said. The U.N. called the trend "worrying."
More than 60 percent of the civilian victims of air attacks continued to be women and children, with the number of child victims increasing 53 percent over the same period last year, according to the report.
Many attacks were on anti-government elements hiding among the civilian population, the report said.
UNAMA has recommended to both Afghan and international forces that they review their targeting and battlefield criteria, including "considering all persons to be civilians unless determined otherwise."
Reports of human rights abuses during government search operations is another concern of the U.N. mission.
"The mission received consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention, and other abuses carried out by NDS Special Forces and pro-government armed groups, including the Khost Protection Force," the UNAMA report said.
The report also documented the "killing, maiming, sexual abuse and recruitment and use of Afghan girls and boys."
Election-related violence
Meanwhile, 366 civilian casualties were a result of election-related violence. Afghanistan plans to hold its parliamentary election on Oct. 20.
Calling the upcoming election "bogus," the Taliban announced this week that it would use all means to disrupt the elections, giving rise to fears that election-related violence will increase in the next two weeks.
"The Islamic Emirate instructs all its Mujahideen to halt this American-led process throughout the country by creating severe obstacles for it, while taking extensive and intensive care of civilian Afghan lives and their properties," the Taliban statement said, asking fighters to attack anyone involved in helping hold the elections.
The U.N. report also pointed out that civilians paid the heaviest toll during several days of fighting in Ghazni city when the Taliban launched a multipronged attack in August.
"All parties can and should do their utmost to protect civilians from harm," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general's special representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.

As 18th Year of War in Afghanistan Begins, Sen. Warren Says: 'Long Past Time to Bring Our Troops Home'

By  Jessica Corbett

Sanders, meanwhile, called for "a vigorous discussion about our foreign policy, and how it needs to change in this new era."

After the U.S. War in Afghanistan passed the 17-year mark this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) turned to Twitter on Wednesday with an assertion popular among advocates for peace: "It's long past time to reexamine why we're in Afghanistan, and whether keeping our troops there is making us any safer. It's long past time to bring our troops home."
Linking to a BuzzFeed News report that pointed out that the military is struggling with recruitment among young Americans—including those who were born after the war began in 2001 and are now old enough to enlist—Warren lamented the numbers of Afghan civilians and U.S. soldiers who have been killed or wounded, and how the U.S. justification for being in Afghanistan has continued to shift over time.
"We went to Afghanistan to defeat al-Qaeda—instead we have become deeply involved in a civil war that no amount of American military willpower, elbow grease, or ingenuity will bring to an end," Warren said. In addition to calling for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, she also demanded that soldiers receive adequate healthcare and other benefits when they return home.
Warren's remarks followed Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pointing to the $700 billion in military spending that lawmakers approved earlier this year and declaring, "The time is long overdue for a vigorous discussion about our foreign policy, and how it needs to change in this new era."

As the U.S. military struggles to recruit new soldiers from a disillusioned and disengaged public, BuzzFeed reports that its leaders are worried "the cost of the U.S. War on Terror is being borne by an increasingly smaller number of families, isolated and unnoticed by the rest of the country."
Writing for OtherWords this week, Stacy Bannerman of Military Families Speak Out detailed the impact the seemingly endless war has had on families, and demanded, "Support the troops, America: Bring them home now. Enough folded flags."
As Bannerman wrote:
Unfortunately, America's amnesia didn't prevent Command Sergeant Major Tim Bolyard from being killed in Afghanistan in early September during his eighth combat tour and 13th deployment.
Eight combat tours—which should be illegal—sent Bolyard down-range repeatedly in a war President Obama purportedly ended over three years ago. A war this country forgot long before that.
A nation that doesn't remember the men and women sent to fight on its behalf has no business whatsoever sending more. And a democracy that spends more time debating kneeling before the flag than the justification for issuing folded ones desperately needs to get re-acquainted with the Constitution—and its moral compass.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)—a combat veteran who lost both her legs while serving in Iraq—also referenced the raging public debate over athletes kneeling or silenting protesting in some other way during the national anthem to direct public attention to police brutality and racism in the United States.
"We've had more discussions about people kneeling during the national anthem than we have about when the war in Afghanistan is going to end," Duckworth said at a recent event, according to BuzzFeed.
Although recruitment numbers and public awareness of the 17-year-old war have declined, BuzzFeed notes that "the U.S. military footprint across the globe has expanded rapidly since former president George W. Bush ordered U.S. troops into Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001. The U.S. still has 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, but last year Americans also died in combat in places like Yemen, Niger, Syria, and Somalia, where most people back home—including some members of Congress—were not even aware the U.S. was fighting."
While some members of Congress have failed to keep tabs on U.S. military action abroad—even as war profiteers like Blackwater founder Erik Prince have pressured President Donald Trump to pour even more U.S. tax dollars into waging war on the world—others lawmakers including Duckworth, Sanders, and Warren continue to demand more critical public discourse about where the United States is engaging in armed conflicts, why, and at what cost.

As journalist Rania Khalek noted in a video breaking down the war on Tuesday, that includes answering to the more than a million allegations of U.S. war crimes that Afghans have submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Keeping with the age-old American tradition of rejecting the ICC's legitimacy, the Trump administration has refused to cooperate and even threatened sanctions against any court officials who probe claims made against the United States or Israel.

It’s a war that can’t be won, but Washington won't admit defeat. @RaniaKhalek

Dealing with Pakistan’s far-right

To what extent can the Imran Khan leadership, voted in by the majority, allow the far right's penetration into official discourse? A question that political mainstreaming struggles to answer.

These past six-weeks have left the nation with plenty to consider.
Despite their limited numerical strength and firm sectarian roots, Pakistan’s far right — led by Tehreek e Labbaik (TLP) – continues to stake its claim to key policy matters. From deciding who sits on the nation’s Economic Council, to dictating the fate of Pak-Dutch ties in wake of the blasphemous caricatures contest, their ability to demand leadership compliance through violence is a perilous practice. One which calls for a critical revision of Pakistan’s deradicalisation strategies, of both past and present.
Political mainstreaming of hardline outfits has clearly not paid off. Hundreds of candidates tied to outlawed groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Ahle Sunnah wal Jamaah (ASWJ) took part in the 2018, general elections, on the false premise that political integration shall render violent elements peaceful. Rather, outfits such as TLP have added to their anti-Ahmadiyya support base, using newfound political legitimacy to impose blasphemy checks on the PTI government. Just last month, its threat of marching on the capital to replicate the violent 201, sit-in, against the Dutch government, evoked endorsement from 2.2 million voters nationwide. While still a fraction of Pakistan’s overall population, TLP’s ability to override democratic autonomy, and take religio-political matters into its own hands, is alarmingly effective.
Despite their limited numerical strength and firm sectarian roots, Pakistan’s far right — led by Tehreek e Labbaik — continues to stake its claim to key policy matters. From deciding who sits on the nation’s Economic Council, to dictating the fate of Pak-Dutch ties in wake of the blasphemous caricatures contest, their ability to demand leadership compliance through violence is a perilous practice
To what extent can the Imran Khan leadership, voted in by the majority, allow the far right’s penetration into official discourse? A question that political mainstream struggles to answer.
A more plausible approach to dealing with the religious-right, is to let progressive economic and social commitments take their due course. Qualities of merit and integration drive this progression — both of which stand contrary to the divisive inclinations of the far-right.
A glimpse of this correlation was evident in Imran Khan’s decision to reconstitute an 18-member Economic Advisory Council, early in September. The need to deliver on Pakistan’s soaring debt crisis prompted PTI’s appointment of Dr. Atif Mian, whose association with the oppressed Ahmadi sect evoked mounting pressure from religio-political parties, including TLP. However, the government’s decision to publicly back the academic’s appointment, citing “the protection for minorities” and “a refusal to bow down to extremists”, came as a rare defiance to a highly contested issue.
Previous governments have steered clear of the disputatious Ahmadi issue, following the assassination of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in 2011, and the resignation of PML-N Law Minister Zahid Hamid last year, at the behest of violent TLP protestors. For PTI to confront the deep-rooted dogma in its first month — through an Ahmadi’s nomination to the Council — set a positive precedent for future times.

In order to deliver on this precedent, however, the PTI government must learn to firmly resist pressure. Imran Khan’s last-minute decision to exclude Atif from EAC, amid fears of countrywide religious protests, was more a case of retaining long-term rule at the center. Moreover, Atif’s removal was contingent upon a ‘calling attention notice’ submitted in the Senate. Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal and Tehreek-e-Labbaik, the two parties pushing for a majority vote on the notice, made up for their dearth of seats by eyeing PML-N’s support. PML-N’s well-known differences with the serving government lay the groundwork for maximum signatories, and the economist’s immediate removal. The core message for Pakistan: if it wants to deter extremist-ideologies from aligning with big party interests, it must rethink its stance on political mainstreaming.
Amid inclusive economic and health reforms, Imran’s chances of demonstrating flexibility against the far-right rest on how accurately his political rhetoric aligns with his actions. For instance, electoral advocacy for Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, and presidential support from TLP members, make it increasingly difficult to design policies that are independent of far-right interests.
There are also important foreign policy implications. The United States continues to demand stronger checks on terrorism financing, specifically Jamaat-ud-Dawa, whose operations under the guise of charity, have long questioned Pakistan’s terror-financing regulations. Furthermore, the implementation of a 26-point FATF action plan is integral to Pakistan’s counter-terrorism narrative.
Despite repeated assurances, Pakistan’s efforts to scrap JuD’s fundraising operations remain inconsistent. On September 13, the Supreme Court allowed JuD and FIF to continue its ‘welfare operations’, dismissing the interior ministry’s plea for a ban. The plea, aimed at giving legal force to Pakistan’s crackdown against JuD, was dismissed because a petition by JuD chief was ‘still being heard’.
The fact that prohibited outfits continue to acquire legal stake, raises questions about the trichotomy of power in the nation. The decision also questions the judiciary’s application of Pakistan’s Anti Terrorism Act, amended via presidential ordinance in February, to facilitate the seizure of JuD and FIF properties across Punjab and KP.
If Pakistan is to come clean on its FATF commitments, and restore democratic autonomy at the center, it must determine what constitute its national interests. Especially, when radical outfits derive the benefit of the doubt under law, and emerge unscathed.

#Pakistan' Christains Under Attack - #AsiaBibi - The trials of one Bibi

The case of Asia Bibi is a test for Pakistan. The Supreme Court has found itself as the arbiter in many crucial verdicts that have shaped our political landscape in the recent past - now it faces another momentous decision. Asia Bibi’s case has become the touchstone for the debate on the misuse of the blasphemy law in the country, post 2009. Not only are its legal contents important – as their interpretation will act as a precedent on key questions related to the misuse of the blasphemy law – the chain of events which the case set off – culminating in the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and the death sentence given to Mumtaz Qadri – are veritable benchmarks in our nation’s collective journey down this contentious debate.
The detailed judgment of a special three-member bench of the SC is yet to come before the public as the verdict has been reserved. Till then the honourable Chief Justice has directed the media not to comment on the issue. His instructions are apppropriate and in fact necessary. Media, indeed, needs to show restraint considering the emotional response to issues relating to blasphemy.
From the legal point of view the case has two important aspects: firstly there are certain discrepancies in the case against the defendant, which if not identified and finally snubbed, will be a blot on Pakistan’s reputation on the treatment of its minorities. Secondly, the case carries importance for there are many jurisprudential misconceptions regarding the blasphemy law that have been deliberately used and misused to muddy the environment in our beloved country.
The courts in Pakistan should be wary of interpreting the vague and generalised section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) in the most conservative fashion. The importance of the precedent that will be set in this case cannot be overemphasised.
Unfortunately, gaining political mileage on the highly delicate topic of the blasphemy law is nowadays a norm in Pakistan. The court has had to deal with an unforetold amount of pressure in the run up to the announcement of the verdict. It cannot be overstated that it is the bravery of the honorable Justices that the case has been fully heard. The urgency of this moment will see a historic judgement from the SC, no matter what the decision is. Aasia Bibi’s trials will end - one way or another.

#Pakistan - #IMF decision

IT took a crisis to get the government to focus on reality, but it finally happened.
The government’s announcement of seeking support from the IMF to help shore up the deteriorating balance of payments has triggered a frenzied debate in the country about the merits, and the underlying necessity, of the move, as well as unleashing feverish market sentiments.
Monday saw a rout on the trade floor, and on Tuesday, the panic spread to the currency markets as the exchange rate plunged by more than anyone can remember in recent years.
A Rs10 devaluation in one day is intense, even by Pakistani standards, and sentiments are set to be stirred further once the price effects of this adjustment work their way through the economy.
On top of this, further pressures have built up in the power sector and the public-sector enterprises and their finances.
The turmoil can now spread beyond the financial markets to the real sector if urgent action is not undertaken.
Almost two months after Prime Minister Imran Khan was sworn in, reality is now knocking hard on the doors of the government, and the country as well.
The markets are impervious to emotional appeals, and they cannot be inspired or otherwise persuaded, other than through the cold inducements of gain and loss.
This is a reality every government faces, and the PTI cannot expect to be the exception.
The minister of state for revenue hit the right note when he said that the challenge for his government is to “use the space offered by the bailout to undertake much delayed structural reforms”, which is how such bailouts are meant to be used.
The minister is right to identify the space as an opportunity to undertake the right reforms, but all governments have made this claim before him and the real challenge will be to keep to this goal.
The biggest enemy now is optics. What needs to be done is comparatively straightforward, and the best path forward can be mapped out quickly as well since the PTI leadership has no shortage of competent people to turn to for advice.
Perceptions, or optics, can derail the whole enterprise in a number of ways. One is if optics becomes the only priority of the government at the top.
A hint of this appeared on Tuesday night when news arrived of the appointment of a new spokesperson for economic affairs, who is known for his focus on optics than the facts.
A further hint was provided when the prime minister summoned his media team for a meeting on how to manage the perceptual fallout from the turmoil gripping the financial markets.
What need to be managed urgently right now are the fundamentals, not the perceptions. That is where the prime minister’s focus is immediately required.

#Pakistan -#PPP - Bilawal seeks to become party in Bhutto reference

Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday requested the Supreme Court to allow him to become a party in a pending reference seeking to revisit the 1979 controversial death sentence handed down to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
“Applicant’s grandfather Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) was brutally executed in consequence of a stroke of a pen,” the 10-page application drafted by Farooq H. Naek stated, adding that his (ZAB) life cannot be brought back by a similar stroke but his dignity and valour can be restored and reflected correctly to some extent in the books of precedents and legal history of this country.
“At the end of the day, the applicant before this esteemed Court is a ‘Nawasa’ fighting for the cause of his ‘Nana’,” the application stated.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari has moved a reference under Article 186 of the Constitution which was pending before an 11-judge special bench to seek court’s opinion on revisiting the 1979 conviction to ZAB, which critics call a ‘judicial murder’.

Says he wants to apprise SC of material facts which led to the ‘unjust and brutal judicial murder’ of his grandfather
The last time the hearing took place by the Supreme Court was in January 2012 when it had temporarily suspended licence of Advocate Babar Awan, pleading the reference, to practice law in the court. It also asked for replacement of the counsel with another counsel to represent Asif Zardari and while admitting that this was indeed one of the most important cases in the history of this court had also decided to resume further hearing when the former president nominates another counsel.
On Tuesday, Mr Bhutto-Zardari stated in the application that throughout his life ZAB wanted to uphold the rule of law and his motto of ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ was a testament to his yearning that every man gets his fair due.
It was a loud cry echoing the chords of justice that “let justice be done though the heavens may fall,” the application argued, adding that this passion of the applicant’s grandfather, however, did not derail the irony that was to befall him.
The spirit of justice that ZAB so admired, was nowhere to be found when he himself was adorned with the noose of injustice, the application stated, adding that ZAB was charged, convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, sentenced and executed on the testimony of an approver in the greatest miscarriage of justice that was ever to befall this country.
The application argued that his grandfather was hanged but his ideology remained and for years to come the applicant’s family had to deal with the 1979 case.
“It is a blot not just on the history of the family but a wretched stain on the entire judicial system of Pakistan and remains so till date. It is in order to remove this stain and correct the wrong in history that the applicant has preferred the instant application of impalement as a party to the captioned reference,” the applicant contended.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari is now the heir to the trust and confidence that the people of Pakistan had reposed in his grandfather, the application stated, adding that the applicant was currently the chairman of PPP and was representing the desires of his family, the Jialas of PPP and the people of Pakistan in general.
“The applicant wants to apprise this Court of material facts which led to the unjust and brutal judicial murder of his late grandfather.”
The applicant has seen the worst in his life. His grandfather was hanged; both his paternal uncles were murdered. His mother, whose lap was God’s cradle for him, was martyred in a gun and bomb attack while displaying her passion to help the people of Pakistan.
“It is pertinent to mention that justice has not been dispensed in any of the cases above. So much sacrifice for this country itself warrants that the applicant be heard regarding the real facts and circumstances of the case surrounding the brutal and unlawful execution of his grandfather,” the application said.

Video - We Want Freedom - #Pakistani Journalists - New Tactics of Intimidation are Forcing Self-Censorship

New Tactics of Intimidation Forcing Self-Censorship in Pakistani Media

Various journalist unions across Pakistan protested Tuesday the direct and indirect intimidation they say they face while trying to do their job.
“The journalist is alive, Ayub saw it, Yahya saw it, now you will see it,” chanted a charged group of protesters in capital Islamabad calling out names of past dictators.
Pakistan has long been a dangerous country for journalists who report on issues like extremism, militancy, religious fundamentalism, or military interference in politics. A country with a history of military coups has recently witnessed an unprecedented period of civilian rule. But journalists say 10 years of democracy has not strengthened freedom of the press.
Veteran journalists Nasir Zaidi was one of the few who was flogged during the dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq in the 1980s. He called the current situation worse and more confusing for the working journalists, leading to an increasing trend of self-censorship.
“Today, we have a façade of democracy, the constitution is intact, but behind the scenes dark forces are using all means necessary to control journalism,” he said.
The “dark forces” is a euphemism for the country’s powerful military establishment and its intelligence agencies. According to the New York based Committee to Protect Journalists, Pakistan’s military uses both direct and indirect intimidation.
For several years, Pakistan was on the list of countries the CPJ considered most deadly for journalists. Its recent report acknowledges that killings of journalists in Pakistan has gone down. But it says the decline in deaths was accompanied by a decline in press freedom.
The report accuses the military of encouraging self-censorship.
“Journalists who push back or are overly critical of authorities are attacked, threatened, or arrested,” the report said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s new civilian government of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, elected in a July election, said it will ensure press freedom.
“We have a track record of freeing institutions of political interference in KPK,” said Faisal Javed Khan, a young senator of PTI, and additional secretary to the information minister. PTI is the ruling party in KPK province since 2013. He said, however, his government in the center was new and needed time to deliver on its promises.
On the other hand, PTI, which is considered close to the military, has already started facing criticism for its treatment of the media.
Journalist Umber Khairi wrote in her column in the Sunday edition of The News, an English language publication, that PTI had tried to block critical reporting by “threatening certain media groups with denial of access to official functions and personalities, uninviting their reporters and editors from meetings with the PM.”
A senior journalist and television anchor Nusrat Javed said media owners and editors in Pakistan are under pressure to either control or get rid of journalists deemed too critical of the establishment or the new government. The establishment in Pakistan is usually considered to be the powerful military and the intelligence agencies linked with it.
Earlier this week, prominent journalist Cyril Almeida was ordered to appear in court to face accusations of treason, a capital offense. He had published an on the record interview with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in which Sharif talked about cross border terrorism, particularly an attack on Indian financial capital Mumbai in which more than 150 people, including Westerners, died. Sharif seemed to imply that Pakistan should do more to curb such attacks and the people responsible for it. India and the United States have long held Pakistan based group Lashkar e Taiba responsible for the attack. After the attack, the group was placed on the U.S. and U.N. lists of terrorist groups.
Amina Malik, the woman who filed the petition to charge Almeida, along with Sharif and another former Pakistani premier, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, with treason said the Sharif interview damaged Pakistan’s reputation in the world and Almeida should never have published his comments.
“Article 19 of the constitution gives you the right to freedom of expression. But it does not give you the right to speak against your own country or your own institutions,” she said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the journalist was “hounded for nothing more than doing his job” and that the move would “further choke press freedom in Pakistan.”
At Tuesday’s protest in Islamabad, organized by Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, another veteran journalist said the combination of the threats to media with apparent freedom led to a culture of self-censorship.
“You don’t know which lines you could cross and which you couldn’t. So, in the fear of crossing the wrong lines, you decide not to publish or air a story,” he said.