Friday, October 19, 2018

Video Report - CrossTalk on Khashoggi: Search for justice

Jamal Khashoggi: #Khashoggi - A different sort of #Saudi

David Hearst
The journalist thought that, wherever he was, it was his duty to speak out and call for reform in Saudi Arabia. He paid with his life.
This is the darkest day of my time as editor of Middle East Eye. It should not be. Jamal Khashoggi is not the first Saudi exile to be killed. No one today remembers Nassir al-Sa'id, who disappeared from Beirut in 1979 and has never been seen since.
Prince Sultan bin Turki was kidnapped from Geneva in 2003. Prince Turki bin Bandar Al Saud, who applied for asylum in France, disappeared in 2015. Maj Gen Ali al-Qahtani, an officer in the Saudi National Guard, who died while still in custody, showed signs of abuse including a neck that appeared twisted and a badly swollen body. And there are many, many others.Thousands languish in jail. Human rights activists branded as terrorists are on death row on charges that Human Rights Watch says "do not resemble recognised crimes". I know of one business leader who was strung upside down, naked and tortured. Nothing has been heard of him since. In Saudi, you are one social media post away from death.
A Saudi plane dropped a US-made bomb on a school bus in Yemen killing 40 boys and 11 adults on a school trip. Death is delivered by remote control, but no Western ally or arms supplier of Saudi demands an explanation. No contracts are lost. No stock market will decline the mouth-watering prospect of the largest initial public offering in history. What difference does one more dead Saudi make? As a journalist he hated humbug. The motto in Arabic on his Twitter page roughly translates as: "Say what you have to say and walk away."
And yet Khashoggi's death is different. It's right up close. One minute he is sitting across the table at breakfast, in a creased shirt, apologising in his mumbled, staccato English for giving you his cold. The next minute, a Turkish government contact tells you what they did to his body inside the consulate in Istanbul. Saudi officials have strongly denied any involvement in his disappearance and say that he left the consulate soon after arriving. However they have not presented any evidence to corroborate their claim and say that video cameras at the consolate were not recording at the time.
Last Saturday, Khashoggi told a Memo (Middle East Monitor) conference in London's Euston Road that the kingdom realised it had gone too far in promoting President Donald Trump's "Deal of the Century" by promoting Abu Dis as the future capital of a Palestinian state, and backed away from what is proving to be a burning issue in Saudi.
"This proves a very important point. It is only the Palestinians who will decide, not the Saudis, not the Egyptians. No matter how much they control the payroll of the Palestinian government, no-one can decide for them," he said. A week later, his voice is no more.

Electronic insects

The Arab world calls them "electronic insects," the trolls the Saudis deploy to create a blizzard of false news around any one of the regime's routine crimes. Even before news of Khashoggi's presumed murder, they were gloating about the fate of a man they considered a traitor.
Supporters of Khashoggi stand outside Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate demanding his freedom (AFP)
"You leave your country arrogantly ... we return you humiliated," Faisal al-Shahrani tweeted. One pro-regime troll did not even bother to disguise what had happened at the consulate. Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah Al Saud sent a message to another Saudi dissident: "Don't you want to pass by the Saudi Embassy? They want to talk to you face to face."
But Khashoggi's tweets and articles went completely over their grubby heads. He was concerned about absolutes like truth, democracy, freedom. Khashoggi always considered himself a journalist, never an advocate nor an activist. "I am Saudi, but a different one," he wrote.
As a journalist he hated humbug. The motto in Arabic on his Twitter page roughly translates as: "Say what you have to say and walk away."
He did just that to the fury of those who wanted to shut him up. And it's clear from his tweets why they went to such desperate lengths to do so.
He laughed at the idea that Saudi Arabia under Mohammed bin Salman was fighting for "moderate Islam".
Khashoggi never really talked to me about the danger he was in. As an analyst he hated hypotheticals. 
"Saudi Arabia, which is today fighting political Islam, is the mother and father of political Islam ... the Kingdom was founded on the idea of political Islam, to start with," he tweeted.
Khashoggi was reviled for being sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. "Tweet about freedom and you are a Brotherhood member. Tweet about rights, and you are a Brotherhood member. Tweet about your homeland, and you are a Brotherhood member. Tweet about power-sharing and dignity, and you are a Brotherhood member. Reject despotism, and of course, you are a Brotherhood member. Tweet about Gaza or Syria, and you are definitely a Brotherhood member. To those who hate the Brotherhood, I'd say you have attributed to them all the virtues and have therefore made them the favour of the best promotion."
Khashoggi was an unreconstructed democrat: "Only with freedom of choice can religiosity reach the soul and lift the observant high up."
He was unsparing on the issue that caused his final rift with Riyadh: Trump. "From time to time, Trump tweets that he is protecting us and that we must pay for such protection to continue. He protects us from what? Or he is protecting who? I believe that the greatest threat facing the Gulf countries and their oil is a president such as Trump who sees nothing in us apart from the oil wells," Khashoggi wrote.
Khashoggi was right. None of what was about to happen to him could have happened without Trump.
On three separate occasions recently, Trump has gone out of his way to humiliate the kingdom, simply because he believes he can. No forum is too public. Trump told a campaign rally in Southaven, Mississippi last Tuesday: "We protect Saudi Arabia. Would you say they're rich? And I love the king ... King Salman, but I said 'King, we're protecting you. You might not be there for two weeks without us. You have to pay for your military'." 
Khashoggi was living in self-imposed exile in Washington (Supplied)
In return, bin Salman said: "I love working with him." But it is all too clear why. He would not have been crown prince and one step away from the throne were it not for Trump. Trump knows this and therefore thinks he can say anything he likes. Trump is the bully, the master. And his slave can do whatever he likes, to whomever he likes, even to a journalist embedded in Washington, because ultimately bin Salman knows that Trump has his back.
Khashoggi never really talked to me about the danger he was in. As an analyst he hated hypotheticals. He knew he had passed the point of no return with this regime and that he could never go back, and he set about creating a new life, a new job as a Washington Post columnist in DC.
But he thought too that, wherever he was, it was his duty to continue to speak out.
"The Arab Spring did not destroy ... those who fought it and conspire against it are the destroyers, otherwise you, young man, would be by now enjoying its breeze, freedom, tolerance, jobs and welfare," he wrote.
My bet is that nothing will happen as a result of Khashoggi's murder. Bin Salman has calculated that Turkey is too weak to reply, with something of the order of $700bn in public and private debts which have to be repaid by a falling lira.
The millions of pounds the Saudi prince has just paid to PR companies to burnish his image in the West as "a reformer in a hurry" have just been trashed by a murder that comes straight out of a scene of Pulp Fiction. Maybe he too will pay a price, when he absorbs the reaction of the media in Washington. Americans who cared nothing for Saudi Arabia now know who Jamal Khashoggi is.
"If a prince can pay $1 billion in return for his freedom, how much will a prisoner of conscience have to pay? How much will we all pay to get our freedom?" Khashoggi tweeted.
We now know the price one humble journalist had to pay so that Saudis can one day get their basic human rights. He paid with his life. May he rest in peace.

#Khashoggi - Jamal Khashoggi's murder: The West's selective outrage

Madawi Al-Rasheed
The outrage by western governments is in stark contrast to their silence and, in the case of the US and UK, their active support of Saudi Arabia's bloody war in Yemen.
I share the general outrage at the apparent murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi but cannot help feeling that the response from western governments is selective.The outrage by western governments is in stark contrast to their silence and, in the case of the US and UK, active support of Saudi Arabia's bloody war in Yemen that has left "as many as 10,000 dead and 8.4 million people facing devastating famine".
A legitimate outrage
If indeed Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, either deliberately or as the result of interrogation by "rogue" elements from the Saudi authorities, then it is a legitimate source of outrage. This would be murder, by a state - or the organs of a state - of an unarmed journalist, without judicial process, on diplomatic ground outside the territory of the perpetrators' country.
It is this dreadful cocktail of circumstances that explains the general outrage that it has sparked.
It is the state-sponsored, extrajudicial, extraterritorial nature of the apparent murder that is the source of greatest outrage, and this is where the outrage appears most selective.
The media rightly seeks to protect their own, and Khashoggi was a writer for the Washington Post and a career journalist, even if he had also been a close confidante and advisor to prominent Saudi princes. Media globally feels under siege. All too many journalists have died for their profession, often the result of deliberate targeting.
The profession is under attack, as individual journalists are denied access due to unfavourable reporting or newspapers blacklisted in the barrage of attacks on "fake news".
The international community generally - and Turkey in particular - is understandably concerned at the abuse of diplomatic immunity, even if diplomatic missions have long been home for dubious activities. The reciprocal nature of diplomacy dictates that individual diplomats, their embassies, consulates and even their "bags" are inviolable. This reciprocity is under attack, as abuses exceed their tacit limits and tit-for-tat expulsions abound. Yet it is the state-sponsored, extrajudicial, extraterritorial nature of the apparent murder that is the source of greatest outrage, and this is where the outrage appears most selective.
Extrajudicial killing
The West is rightly proud of its rule of law. As a writer and academic, it is what I value most highly. Freedom of speech is the life-blood of democracy. And the assurance that my freedom cannot be denied, other than through due legal process, is at the core of why exiles flock to the West. The extrajudicial nature of Khashoggi’s apparent killing should, however, be no surprise. There is neither an effective rule of law nor freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, and there never has been. So, why the outrage at yet another extrajudicial murder? While NGO after NGO has condemned the kingdom's human rights record, Western governments have been conspicuously silent.
Targeted killings, that is to say the state-sponsored extrajudicial murder of individuals, is on the rise and has become as much a weapon-of-choice of the West as undemocratic regimes.
State-sponsored murder is hardly new. Whether "democide" or "targeted killing", the idea that the state - or its agents - target and kill certain individuals or groups is not new. Mass killings, such as those of the "death squads" of Latin American dictators, were frequently tolerated by their Western sponsors, even if they were subsequently condemned.Yet targeted killings, that is to say the state-sponsored extrajudicial murder of individuals, is on the rise and has become as much a weapon of choice of the West as undemocratic regimes. The hit-squad with an ice-pick may have been replaced by high-tech drones but this does not fundamentally change the nature of the activity.
Dirty work
When state-sponsored extrajudicial killing is outside that state’s territory then the outrage is particularly vehement. It is one thing to murder your own people within your territory but don’t violate the territory of another state, especially a NATO member, by doing that abroad. The outrage felt by the UK and its allies over the Salisbury attack was a case in point.
They simply can’t tolerate GRU hitmen wandering the streets of England brandishing lethal nerve agents, threatening the lives of not only defectors but the police and the public at large. Even where that territory is strictly sovereign to the perpetrators, as with a consulate, it is considered unacceptable for a state, in this case Saudi Arabia, to do its dirty work in another country.
The outrage is undeniable but highly selective. When it is an ally of the West accused of committing such extraterritorial crimes, the response is muted or non-existent.
None of us watching the recent film, Operation Finale, about Mossad’s 1960 abduction of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, felt any sympathy for the subject of the abduction or the host state. That was because history was clearly on the side of Israel, and rather than simply murder him as several of the team sought to, he was brought back to Israel for a public and well-documented trial.
The extraterritorial activities of Mossad were also immortalised in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, where retaliation was sought against the perpetrators of the 1972 Summer Olympic murders by the PLO. Israel has mostly had a free pass from Western governments to carry out assassinations across the Middle East and beyond, and has even gone on the record to boast about it. Khashoggi's case is outrageous, and it is entirely appropriate that the West should roundly condemn Saudi Arabia for the apparent murder and demand justice for Khashoggi and his family.
Yet this response should also be within a context of a wider condemnation of the Saudis' internal human rights abuses and their own murderous war in Yemen.

This is what Saudi Arabia’s influence network in Washington looks like

By Philip Bump and Justin Wm. Moyer
One of the quieter revelations of the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is the murky world of foreign lobbying. Among the charges faced by President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was that he failed to report income earned from his lobbying efforts on behalf of Ukrainian officials. What was unusual about this wasn’t that Manafort didn’t file the proper Foreign Agents Registration Act reports but, as journalist Ken Silverstein wrote at Politico, that he got busted for it.
If you’re interested, you can peruse FARA reports yourself. The Department of Justice publishes them on its website. They’re filed as PDFs and it takes a bit of digging to suss out who’s reporting what, but it’s generally doable — assuming that the parties who are supposed to do the filing actually do so. The Center for Responsive Politics makes it a bit easier to see where and how foreign entities try to influence the government with an interactive tool detailing FARA filings and reports on spending, but the tool can work only with the information given to the government.
“The filings are only as good as the people making them,” the CRP’s Anna Massoglia said in a phone conversation with The Washington Post this week. Having tracked the filings over time, she’d seen all sorts of ways in which lobbying efforts are kept out of sight, intentionally or not: people not reporting, people not fully reporting, people reporting only years after the fact (as Manafort eventually did).
This issue of influence is nonetheless often important. This week, attention has turned to Saudi Arabia, which has enjoyed a robust relationship with the United States over the years — a relationship that would seem to be at risk given the apparent slaying of Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Turkey. The country, like many others, spends heavily to influence U.S. elected officials and members of the media, to the tune of $6 million this year, according to the CRP’s data. That puts Saudi Arabia among the 10 most heavily spending countries.
Over the past several years, dozens of consulting and lobbying firms have drawn income from work for a variety of Saudi governmental agencies, including the country’s embassy to the United States, Ministry of Energy, sovereign wealth fund and national oil company. To get a sense of that influence effort, we perused FARA reports and reports to Congress on spending to develop a map of the Saudi network.

It looks like this.

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)
There’s a lot of data included in that diagram that requires some explanation. First is the size of the blue-shaded circles. Each of those circles represents a firm that has registered as doing work on behalf of a Saudi governmental entity. We used data from Department of Justice reports to Congress on spending from 2016 and 2017 and combed through more recent filings ourselves to roughly scale the circles by financial scope. Bigger blue circles, in other words, earned more money or have bigger contracts with the Saudi agencies. Gray circles are organizations or companies that filed FARA reports but for which we don’t have a sense of how much was earned.
Outlined circles are entities that worked with the Saudi government in 2016 or 2017 but are no longer actively registered as working for the country. Several others, such as Glover Park Group, recently broke off relationships with the Saudi government after Khashoggi’s disappearance.
The green-shaded circles are governmental entities or groups. “Kingdom” refers to the country itself. Each line indicates a different sort of work performed for the Saudi agency: direct lobbying, for example, or a public-relations campaign.
One firm, Capitol Media Group, filed a report last year showing how that line can be blurry. It showed work it did for the Saudi Embassy: bringing veterans of the U.S. armed forces to Capitol Hill to talk about the Justice Against Supporters of Terrorism Act, legislation that allows, among other things, those affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any possible involvement in the attacks.
The influence of these organizations can be subtle. In addition to references to sitting elected officials targeted by the firms, the names of former elected officials also crop up in the reports. Former California representative Buck McKeon’s firm, McKeon Group, filed a report on work for the embassy. Former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman is the signatory to an agreement between Hogan Lovells and the Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
It’s certainly the case that many other countries have broader, more expensive networks of influence. (The Center for Responsive Politics, for example, estimates that the South Korean government has spent $55 million over the past two years.) But the breadth of outreach by entities affiliated with the Saudi government is nonetheless sweeping in scope.
And that doesn’t include any relationships that might not yet have been reported.

AP Analysis: Missing writer shows Saudi Arabia’s dark side

October 9, 2018

As every country across the Mideast does with its leaders, it’s hard to escape posters and laudatory fawning over Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the kingdom.
For activists, opponents and others willing to speak out against the 33-year-old heir apparent in the world’s largest oil exporter, it looks increasingly like it’s hard to escape his reach either at home or abroad.
The kingdom long has been known to grab rambunctious princes or opponents abroad and spirit them back to Riyadh on private planes. But the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, who Turkish officials fear has been killed, potentially has taken the practice to a new, macabre level by grabbing a writer who could both navigate Saudi Arabia’s byzantine royal court and explain it to the West.
The disappearance also peels away a carefully cultivated reformist veneer promoted about Prince Mohammed amid the kingdom allowing women to drive, instead exposing its autocratic tendencies.
“I’m not Gandhi or Mandela,” the prince told CBS in March when describing his personal wealth.
Saudi Arabia insists the allegations it faces over Khashoggi’s disappearance are “baseless,” but has not offered any evidence over the last week to support their claim he simply walked away and vanished into Istanbul though his fiancée waited just outside. Nor has Turkey fully explained why officials fear Khashoggi has been killed.
Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., sought to convey sympathy with carefully moderate criticism in a note to friends in English the embassy shared with reporters.
“I would normally prefer not to address such outrageous claims, especially when it concerns the wellbeing of a missing citizen who dedicated a great portion of his life to serve his country,” Prince Khalid wrote. “It goes without saying that his family in the kingdom remain gravely concerned about him, and so are we.”
That sharply contrasts with the tone taken by Saudi local media, as well as Saudi-owned satellite channels and other broadcasters. There, newspapers have called Khashoggi’s disappearance a plot ginned up by Qatar, who the kingdom has been boycotting with three other nations since last year. Al-Jazeera, Qatar’s state-funded broadcaster, has focused extensively on the case in recent days.
Online, the smears have been worse, describing Khashoggi as an al-Qaida supporter for the interviews he did with Osama bin Laden in the years before he turned firmly against the West and plotted the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Khashoggi, apparently with royal court support, once even sought to have bin Laden return to the kingdom and renounce terrorism.
That harshness corresponds with the growing concerns internationally about the direction Saudi Arabia is taking under Prince Mohammed and his father. The kingdom won international praise for allowing women to be able to drive in June. But just ahead of that, the kingdom rounded up and imprisoned women’s rights activists, including reportedly grabbing one who was in the neighboring United Arab Emirates.
Similarly, Prince Mohammed wowed the business world with promises of having an initial public offering of the state oil behemoth Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Saudi Aramco as it’s known, suggesting it would have a $2 trillion valuation. He hosted a major business summit at Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton, complete with a humanoid robot named Sophia getting Saudi citizenship.
Only weeks later, the Ritz Carlton would turn into a luxury prison as part of a mass arrest of businessmen, royals and others orchestrated by Prince Mohammed in what was described as targeting corruption. Those released agreed to sign over some of their assets, giving the crackdown the feel of a shakedown.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led war in Yemen grinds on with its years-long stalemate, its toll on civilians in the Arab world’s poorest country unending.
The freeze on journalism and free expression isn’t limited to Saudi Arabia in the greater Persian Gulf.
In the United Arab Emirates on Monday, an influential Emirati official named Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi reportedly told youth gathered for a summit in Abu Dhabi that “our enemies have partnered with media organizations who have reported that the UAE has a prison camp and is committing human rights abuses in Yemen.” The Associated Press has reported on secret prisons in Yemen run by UAE-backed forces where detainees faced physical and sexual abuse, as well as how Emirati forces cut secret deals with al-Qaida militants to get them to abandon territory.
“If the worst-case scenario is realized, Saudi Arabia will have links to the murder of a vocal critic in a fashion engineered to create just enough doubt for the veneer of implausible-but-sufficient deniability,” the New York-based Soufan Center said Tuesday. “It also sends and unequivocal signal to other journalists who dare to criticize the regime.”
But even before now, some like Khashoggi had put themselves in self-exile abroad. If the worst is confirmed about the journalist’s fate, that may push even more critics underground and leave fewer still willing to speak frankly about the kingdom.
As Khashoggi wrote in his first column in the Post: “That is how breathtakingly fast you can fall out of favor with Saudi Arabia.”

Urdu Music Video - Mausam Rangila Nashili Hawa - Film Talash in 1962 - Young Shabnam...

#Pakistan - #PPP - Remembering the martyrs: 11th anniversary of #Karsaz tragedy observed

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari predicted on Thursday that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led government won’t be able to complete its tenure because of its wrong policies. “People of Pakistan can’t tolerate Imran Khan for five years because of his wrong socio-economic policies,” he said, while addressing the media after attending a memorial ceremony held to mark the 11th anniversary of the Karsaz blasts.
Accompanied by senior party leaders, including Khursheed Shah, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and PPP Sindh President Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani and Barrister Murtaza Wahab, Bilawal said that the economy of the country has suffered a big blow in the last two months and people have been crushed under the weight of inflation. Criticising the federal government for taking action against its political rivals, he said, “PTI has become “Tehreek-e-Intiqaam” [movement for revenge]. According to PPP chairman, the actions of the National Accountability Bureau are politically motivated to victimise the opponents. “The arrest of Shahbaz Sharif before by-elections shows it’s not accountability, but vengeance,” he said.
On the Karsaz incident, which took place when terrorists attacked Benazir Bhutto’s home-coming rally on October 18, 2007, he called it a big tragedy where workers rendered their lives for democracy. “After this incident, the terrorists killed my mother. Soon after the blast, they washed the crime scene to eliminate evidence. Despite this, the assassins can be arrested,” he remarked.
Earlier, PPP leaders and workers visited the memorial of Karsaz martyrs, where they lit candles and laid floral wreaths.

Balochistan: Pakistani forces abduct five persons from different areas

 Pakistan intelligence agencies and security forces have abducted at least five men from Balochistan’s district Khuzdar, Awaran, Gwadar and Kech on Wednesday and Thursday.
According to details on Wednesday (17 October 2018), Pakistan forces raided a house in Kahnak Mand region in Turbat Balochistan and abducted two men.
The victims of Pakistani forces abduction were identified as Sameer son of Khoda Bakhsh and Fahad son of Murad Bakhsh residents of Kahnak area of Mand in district Kech Balochistan.
Also on Wednesday Pakistani forces raided a house in Sarbandar region of Balochistan’s port city Gwadar and whisked away Ali Akbar son of Yaar Mohammad resident of Jattani Bazaar.
On Thursday (18 October 2018) Pakistani forces abducted two men from Khuzdar and Awaran Balochistan.
Sources informed Balochwarna News that Pakistani forces raided a house in Peerandar area of Awaran during their offensives and abducted Noor Bakhsh son of Mayar Baloch.
In a separate but similar incident, Pakistani security forces abducted Abdul Waheed from Wadh area of Khuzdar Balochistan on Thursday.
Waheed was abducted in presence of several eye-witnesses who tried to resist his arrest but the Pakistani forces threatened to open fire and abducted him at gunpoint.
Abdul Waheed is a resident of Baghbana area of Khuzdar and owned a milk shop.

Balochistan: Pakistan Navy personnel attacked in Gwadar, railway track blown up in Bolan

An explosion was reported in Balochistan’s port city Gwadar on Friday morning. The Pakistani forces cordoned off the blast site.
According to details, an explosion was heard in GT road region of Gwadar town in Balochistan.
The Pakistani forces have cordoned off the blast site and diverted traffic and commuters.
The Urdu Language Humgaam News has reported that Pakistan Navy officials were attacked in Gwadar and added, ‘the initial reports suggest at least one navy official has been wounded in the attack.’
Earlier on Friday, a portion of Pakistan railway track was damaged in blast .

Pakistan’s Failing Economy Arises From Oversized Army Budget – Analysis

By Dr Subhash Kapila
Pakistan in 2018 has ended up as a ‘Economically Failed State’ chiefly due to massive appropriations by Pakistan Army GHQ in Rawalpindi with no questions dare asked nor accountability called for by Pakistan’s elected/nominated Prime Ministers sitting in Islamabad. Pakistan’s gullible populace is sedated by Pakistan Army hierarchy that this is required to face Pakistan’s threats emanating from both flanks.
Afghanistan and India over the decades have not posed any military threat to Pakistan or threatened it as such. It is the Pakistan Army flush with ‘black money’ diverted from Pakistan’s national exchequer has financed and trained Islamic Jihadi terrorist monsters inflicting terror and suicide bombings in Afghanistan and India.
The Pakistan Army also in the absence of any credible military threats from India or Afghanistan maintains an oversized military machine and an expanding nuclear weapons arsenal. This has drained a limited economy of Pakistan of vast funds which could have been usefully used for stimulating Pakistan indigenous economic activity and for economic and social upliftment of the Pakistani population.
It is commonly said that the Pakistan Army and not the Prime Minister that controls Pakistan’s foreign policy but it would be equally true to assert that the Pakistan Amy has a stranglehold on Pakistan’s economy and has distorted Pakistan’s economic priorities and its international economic directions by selective selection of Pakistan’s economic partners who toe Pakistan Army’s agenda.
The prime example is China virtually colonising Pakistan like the East India Company not only economically but also militarily. This was analysed year or so back in a Paper so titled. People of Pakistan have not realised that China has made use of the Pakistan Army to virtually embrace Pakistan in a tight grip to ensure that Pakistan Army continues to further China’s strategic blueprint in the Indian Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean.
China’s flagship latest blueprint to engirdle Pakistan strategically and economically was furthered by the Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army Chief on his recent visit to China and not the Prime Minister who has yet to visit China gave assurances in Beijing that Pakistan Army would ensure that the CPEC is completed.
Strong murmurs have started sprouting within Pakistan against Pakistan’s hidden clauses on the CPEC endorsed by the Government and Pakistan Army. It forced Pakistan’s new PM Imran Khan to assert that it would be reviewed. Pakistan Railways projects have already been dropped which were part of CPEC.
Pakistan with an already abysmal economy will be entrapped by China in an irretrievable ‘debt-trap’ from which Pakistan will never be able to extricate it. Sri Lanka is the prime example as to how that nation had to lease Hambantota Port to China for 99 years to get out of the Chinese debt trap. Would Pakistan end up the same way for an indefinite lease of Gwadur Port till such time Pakistan clears Chinese exorbitant principal debt and also the interest on loans.
In 2018, what Pakistani citizens must finally recognise that the Pakistan Army favoured external patrons like China and Saudi Arabia have but for a token financial aid to Pakistan have not ‘bailed out ‘Pakistan from its economic woes?
Effectively, China and Pakistan have thereby pushed Pakistan into formally approaching the International Monetary Fund for ‘bail-out loans’ totalling nearly 10-12 billion dollars. Pakistan’s new Government was reluctant to approach the IMF for three major reasons.
The first reason is that the Pakistan Army stands indicted by the US President Trump twice publicly this year as that Pakistan has not done enough to rein-in terrorist groups from Pakistani soil targeting Kabul and India. Pakistan Army bristles at such indictments as it wants the world to believe that what action it has taken against Pakistan Army targeted terrorism as Pakistan combating terror overall. The United States cut off US military aid to Pakistan because of the above reasons.
The second reason is that PM Imran Khan has at present no personal equations with US President Trump to count on to soften the edges of US strategic distrust and pursue US support for IMF loans. PM Imran Khan has also to live down his reputation of being termed in the past as ‘Taliban Khan’ and his anti-US rants while in the Opposition.
The third reason is that in 2018 the strategic utility to the United States of Pakistan stands that much devalued because of geopolitical reasons. Inia carries more weight today in Washington and unlike in the past when Pakistan Army was pandered both by US State Department and the Pentagon.
The United States is also enraged because the Pakistan Army has not prevailed over the Afghan Taliban to sit at the peace negotiating table with Kabul Government on future of Afghanistan stability. Can the United States ever see reason that it is not in Pakistan Army’s interests to have a stable Afghanistan, which implies that there should be a Pakistan Army-preferred Kabul Government?
Then of course Pakistan’s virtual sell out to China is a strategic irritant in United States eyes in terms of Indo Pacific security.
With the above backdrop the United States at the highest levels has publicly asserted that the US will not allow US-funded international financial institutions or US tax payers money be given to Pakistan to service Pakistan’s China-CPEC loans.
Also, as Pakistan now formally approaches the IMF for a bail-out package the IMF would insist that Pakistan lays on the table the complete details of Pakistan’s contracts and commitments made to China by Pakistan on the CPEC. Would Pakistan Army allow the Pakistan Finance Minister to provide such details?
Pakistan in 2018 is in economic distress because the internal stability within Pakistan and on its peripheries is disturbed and turbulent and that does not induce Foreign Direct Investments. Also loaded against external FDI coming to Pakistan is the fact that Pakistan does not provide a level playing field to foreign investors when it comes to competing with China in Pakistan.
In an age of global economic inter-dependence, the natural course of action was to plug into the vibrant Indian economy next door and add vibrancy to its economic activity. But sadly, the Pakistan Army has consistently opposed any Pakistan Government from extending MNF status to India. India is not the loser but Pakistan definitely is.
Similarly, Pakistan could generate sizeable transit revenue if it allows India land routes transit through Pakistan to Afghanistan and Central Asia. But here once again it is the Pakistan Army again that puts spokes in the wheel.
Concluding, it needs to be asserted that in 2018, it is the Pakistan Army which has mortgaged Pakistan’s economic future to China, foreclosed its economic options with India and with its ISI aid to Islamic Jihadi groups’ generated turbulence with its neighbours.
In the process, Pakistan is not considered as an attractive and safe destination to park external FDI. Pakistan Army has made Pakistan a safe destination for economic investments only for China. If Pakistan has to progress economically, which it can, and then it becomes imperative for all right-thinking Pakistanis to raise their voice against Pakistan Army’s dictates on selective choosing of Pakistan’s economic partners.
Besides virtual misappropriation of scant Pakistan’s economic resources, the Pakistan Army like the Chinese PLA has created a parallel economic empire through its Fauji Foundation running everything for logistics requirements of Pakistan Army. One wonders whether revenues so earned from such Pakistan Army monopolies are ploughed back to Pakistan’s economic coffers.

#FATF asks #Pakistan for more action against money laundering, financial aid to terrorists

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Asia Pacific Group has demanded more action from Pakistan to put an end to money laundering and giving financial assistance to terrorists.
Pakistan and FATF’s Asia Pacific delegation recently held talks for a week and half in the capital.
According to sources, the FATF has demanded Pakistan to ‘do more’ in terms of stopping money laundering. The organisation has also expressed satisfaction over the progress made by Pakistan so far in this regard.
In the last meeting today, the FATF delegation held talks with Pakistani officials and presented them an initial report.
Sources said that the group will provide Pakistan the first report until November 19 and visit Pakistan in March or April 2019.
The Asia Pacific Group will make the report related to Pakistan public in July 2019.
It is pertinent to mention that the FATF has included Pakistan in its ‘grey list’ upon failure to stop financial aid to terrorists. 

#Pakistan's PM Imran Khan to attend controversial Saudi conference

Pakistan's foreign ministry announced Friday (Oct 19) that Prime Minister Imran Khan will attend a Saudi Arabian investment conference, despite a string of cancellations from leading policy-makers and corporate chiefs over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The decision comes a day after US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and senior ministers from Europe announced plans to skip the conference.
The move by the White House intensified the kingdom's mounting isolation amid an uproar over the mysterious disappearance of Khashoggi after he entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.
Khan's visit comes as Pakistan continues to court "friendly" nations in search of billions of dollars to shore up its deteriorating finances as it faces a balance of payment crisis and upcoming talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a potential bailout. Khan's participation in the conference "signifies our solidarity with the kingdom in its efforts to become an emerging hub of international business and investment", the foreign ministry said in the statement. "The conference provides an opportunity to interact with important business leaders who are interested in investing in Pakistan."
The conference is being touted as a high-powered showcase for the economic reforms of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - who has been widely accused of having links to Khashoggi's disappearance. Pakistan briefly weighed in on the incident earlier this month, calling on Turkey and Saudi Arabia "to jointly address the matter". Khan made his maiden foreign visit as premier to Saudi Arabia in September as Islamabad explored alternative avenues to financing before approaching the IMF.
Since taking power in August Khan has sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of high-profile populist austerity measures.
But help has been in short supply and economists' warnings have grown increasingly urgent.The visit also comes as Pakistan's central bank warned this week that inflation would likely double in the coming year - hitting 7.5 per cent - while the country's growth target rate of 6.2 per cent would likely be missed.

#Pakistan - EDITORIAL: Media in chains

Two senior journalists who’ve been critical of the government and the establishment’s interference in the political affairs have resigned in less than 24 hours from their respective channels. Matiullah Jan, who hosted the show ‘Apna Apna Gireban’ on Waqt TV, and Murtaza Solangi, the host of program ‘Awaam’ on Capital TV, left their TV channels.
Although the reasons of the resignations are not yet clear, or at least not public, Matiullah Jan tweeted about ‘marching orders’. He was one of the few prominent journalists whose social media account was accused of spreading ‘negative propaganda’ against state institutions.
On the other hand, Murtaza Solangi came under a verbal attack from Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry who accused the People’s Party government of having appointed ‘a taxi driver from New York’ as the Director General of Radio Pakistan. Solangi defended himself on Twitter and also announced moving court against the minister for slander but, for now, has ended up losing his job at a private TV channel.
The unceremonious removal of two respected journalists from their TV channels is so far the harshest punishment we’ve witnessed under the current government for journalists who wouldn’t toe the line. But this could well be a sign of things to come. Journalists and freedom of speech have become the primary casualty of the current wave of authoritarianism across the globe. While the US president Donald Trump has repeatedly slammed media outlets reporting against his administration, cautioned Facebook and Twitter to ‘be careful’ and blamed Google of prioritizing the news reports unfavorable towards his government, the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week was something quite shocking, even by Saudi standards.
And in Pakistan we have journalists being pressurised for speaking their minds. While this is not the first time in country’s history that media organizations are under fire, this is most definitely a first since the return of democracy to Pakistan in 2008. The totalitarian style in which this country is being governed right now is something we all thought we had left far behind us.
The incumbent government should remember that curbing media freedoms ultimately will harm democracy and its tenure. It is time that the parliament and political parties took notice of this situation and protect the vital democratic freedoms. 

Imran Khan wants to create a Medina-like Pakistan but he is no sentinel of human rights

Imran Khan’s die-hard fans refuse to acknowledge the infinite contradictions in the man and his less-than-holy rise to the top.
Imran Khan has promised to deliver to his citizens a Naya Pakistan based on Medina, a city founded by Prophet Muhammad in the 7th Century. Cynically manipulating the sense of prevailing deprivation and inequality, Khan offered them a grand mirage by locating the country in the golden era of a perfect Islamic society.
In his victory speech, he referred to the humanitarian and egalitarian grounds on which Medina was built and the rights given to the downtrodden, the widows, the orphans in the city.
Khan invoked the traditional Islamic Hadith about the Khalifa Hazrat Umar (one of the most powerful caliphs) who had said he could not sleep easy at night even if a dog went hungry in his administered state. I immediately thought of Imran Khan’s own poor dog, who he is said to have almost run over and not given a toss about while driving home with his second wife Reham Khan.
Of course, the responsibility of a hungry dog was also invoked by Gen Zia ul-Haq in his post-coup speech.
I also thought of the donkey his supporters painted Nawaz Sharif’s name on and tortured to death – and the lack of any statement from Imran Khan over the inhuman and cruel treatment of a helpless animal in a vile and puerile game of political scoring. Such is his detachment in reality from the notions of a kind society that he did not even think to condemn supporters of his arch-rival and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when they shot a dog after painting Imran Khan’s name over its body.
Setting aside donkeys and dogs, Khan has never raised a voice for human rights activists and journalists abducted and tortured for dissenting against or criticising his patrons’ political meddling. He has not stammered out a defence once for the Pakistani media, which is in fetters because it is instructed to censor speeches and events of his opponents and protect Khan and his party. Khan has implicitly encouraged attacks, abuse and threats against his detractors on social media by never condemning them and he has encouraged vigilante violence on his opponents by accusing them time and again of blasphemy.
Khan speaks of Medina as a utopia, a heaven for human rights and an egalitarian society that he wants to replicate in Pakistan. If his records on these issues in the recent past are any indication of his future conduct, one shudders to think of the Medina he will create.
It would be too embarrassing to mention all the nominated speakers and cabinet members of the new Medina, but to name just a few: the speaker of the Punjab assembly Pervaiz Elahi is someone Imran Khan had nicknamed ‘Punjab ka sabb se bara daku’ and is now busy taking back corruption charges he filed against the man back in the day. The chief minister of Punjab Usman Buzdar has criminal records for murdering six men and getting off by paying blood money. The chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mehmood Khan was kicked out of the KP cabinet for corruption charges against him, proven by Imran Khan himself. Defence minister Pervez Khattak is someone who has massive cases of corruption against him.
In his widely-praised victory speech after the elections, Khan remained at pains to drive home to the audiences that he drew his inspiration for a new Pakistani state from the welfare state created by the Prophet Muhammad; that his government policies would revolve around upliftment the weak, like the labourers and farmers who do not get their due and are not able to feed their children.
The mention of farmers brings to mind Khan’s right-hand man for the past five years, Jahangir Tareen, a prominent actor within the sugar producers’ cartel in Pakistan. The cartel is alleged to have regularly cheated farmers out of their due by refusing to buy crops on time to depress prices. Tareen is also a convicted insider-trader, having bought and sold stock market shares through his cook and gardener after having manipulated prices whilst being a minister in General Musharraf’s regime. He got away by simply returning the swindled money to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan instead of being fined and jailed, because he was part of the dictator’s cabinet. The ‘weakest of the weak’ mention also brings to mind transgenders in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who were killed with impunity throughout the Khan government’s tenure in the province. KP was the only province which caved into Islamist pressure when it came to legislating against violence that women faced, and sent the women’s protection bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology instead. All other provinces fought to successfully legislate for protection of women, children and minorities.
Khan also made an abrupt reference to China’s success in alleviating poverty, rather incongruously, while talking about his mirage of an Islamic welfare state. He mentioned ‘rule of law’ and ‘equal before the law’, but he has trampled upon it and climbed on the shoulders of those not considered ‘equal before the law’ to reach the top.
It is ironical that this ‘rule of law’ and ‘equality before the law’ exonerated Imran Khan and his cronies. No matter how many offshore companies, undisclosed properties or bank accounts, fake no-objection-certificates or affidavits, perjury in court, undisclosed offspring in election nomination forms, the ‘rule of law’ smiled upon Imran Khan and his party. Conversely, it frowned upon opponents for supposed misdemeanours 30 years ago, or it simply arrested his opponents to prevent them from contesting elections before charges were framed against them.
Khan has climbed the rubble of the Pakistani constitution, law, institutions, and democracy created by military gunships and tanks to reach the top of a pile of a sorry mess to croon of a Medina to a divided country. His die-hard fans refuse to acknowledge or reconcile the unforgivably infinite contradictions about the man and his less-than-holy rise – in an era where he could have fought an honest battle.

Where’s the money for Imran Khan’s ‘promised land’ of 5 million new homes?


No one expected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to ‘launch’ this Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds housing scheme. But he did.
Karachi stock market has been on a roller coaster. It crashes one day and recovers to an extent the next, lurching from negative sentiment to opportunity-buying the next day, but is essentially on a downward spiral.
One would not be off the mark in saying that investors are confused and frightened by the ineptness and cluelessness of the new PTI government. There are daily negative signals of confusion and a display of vindictiveness, instead of a focus on the future.
The colossal stupidity was exhibited in just one interview that the government’s newly appointed spokesperson on economy, Dr Farrukh Saleem, gave on the housing project worth $180 billion, under which five million units will be built. The response was a study in ignorance, cronyism and impending disaster.
No one actually expected Prime Minister Imran Khan to ‘launch’ this Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds housing scheme. But he did. It’s not fleshed out, there is no clear financing plan for low-cost housing for the poor. But it’s billed as a project that will kickstart and form the backbone of Pakistan’s economic future, stimulating 35-40 ancillary industrial sectors and providing millions of jobs to the country’s youth.
His adviser on this scheme, Cheshire-based tycoon Aneel Mussarrat, has been reticent on the details but ordinary Pakistanis are asking some very basic questions about Khan’s grandiose vision.
The yearly cost of this project is $36 billion, almost the same as Pakistan’s annual tax revenue (approx. $36.8 billion at the current exchange rate). The scale is so huge that if you forget about hospitals, defence expenditure, schools, roads, metros, administrative government expenditure, you’d barely manage to build the ‘promised land’ of 2,739. 7 homes per day, and even then it cannot be done.
But wait. Dr Farrukh Saleem tells us that the government does NOT plan to provide low-cost housing to the poor on its expense or to subsidise it in any way. The government will merely be a ‘facilitator’, the money will come from the private sector (mortgage lending by commercial banks), and the beneficiaries of the scheme will be those with an income of Pakistani rupees 100, 000 or less.
Imran Khan had said only the land will be provided by the government, but it isn’t clear if that will come at market price, or free of cost, or somewhere in between. No one knows what’s cooking or how big a scam this could turn out to be, given it’s his buddies who (the likes of Aneel Mussarat) have been entrusted with executing the scheme.
Imran Khan had claimed that while mortgage financed housing was high in the West, it stood at 0.25 per cent in Pakistan, and that the new scheme will attract foreign investment of at least $20 billion. Meanwhile, it’s not even clear whether the $180 billion total cost includes the cost of the land or not.
Meanwhile, housing wizard Mussarat said the scheme has houses under various brackets, costing $10,000, $20,000, $50,000, $75,000 and $100,000. There is no information on what discount rate will apply, the magnitude of monthly repayments, among other details.
With the current discount rate at 8.5 per cent, and that is expected to rise to at least 14 per cent by the middle of next year (to avoid negative real interest rates if IMF prediction of inflation rising to 14 per cent is taken as a base), which commercial banks will lend to those with incomes of say Rs 30,000 or even Rs 100, 000 for these homes?
Even if by some magic, banks were to start lending $180 billion to a single sector and crowd out all others, they don’t actually have that kind of money in their deposits. The current total gross national savings stand at $17.19 billion (5.5 per cent of $304.95 billion). These are the simple numbers this government hasn’t crunched.
A great critic of corrupt politicians and the in-house economic wizard of the PTI, Dr Farrukh Saleem has long been derided for coming up not only with cooked-up numbers, but also cooked-up economics. But the cringe-worthy moment came when he was massacred by TV show host Shahzeb Khanzada who asked him where the money will come from.
Was the scheme realistic, given the size of the project was nearly half of the economy itself?
“There is a dearth of 10 million houses, and if nothing is done, this number will double in the next five years. Five per cent live in pucca homes, 95 per cent in kaccha or are homeless. The average cost of a unit is Rs 15 lakh, to be financed with 90 per cent mortgage and 10 per cent equity. In developed countries, the housing sector leads the economy. Thirty five to forty ancillary industries like steel, cement, labour, fabric (for curtains) will take off,” he replied.
Khanzada reminded him of the size of the economy, and that the average cost of a house is actually Rs 50 lakh, not 15 lakh. And, that Pakistani banks have total deposits of Rs 13, 032 billion and 57 per cent of that is already loaned out in advances, and the rest in investments. So, where would he find Rs 24,000 billion? Instead of answering this very basic question, Farrukh Saleem began to waffle about the rich and the poor, the West and the politics of change. Then he said: “This has nothing to do with the size of the economy. World over, profitable business of mortgage lending happens”. To which Khanzada hilariously replied, “If there’s no linkage with the size of the economy, at least there is a linkage with the money in the economy, no?”
This was the gaslighting moment. The adviser suddenly started talking about corruption, citing a US State Department Study on International Narcotics Control, which states that $10 billion is laundered out of Pakistan every year. And multiplied by 10, that makes $100 billion, which can be brought back, and the current and future savings of $10 billion a year could be made and “extra capital created”.
It is an entirely different matter that the report mentions no such thing, but the PTI government never allows facts to interfere with its plans.
The adviser also added another $30 billion of corruption in government contracts that the PTI could stop, and create “extra capital” for the housing project. Gone was all talk of bank deposits, national savings, tax revenues. But the savage Khanzada politely reminded him that the $30 billion saving from ending corruption would be government money. And the government doesn’t plan to fund the project, right? He ended with: “Ye hai hukoomat ki tayyari?”
The future of Pakistan under this Government-by-Claims doesn’t look pretty.