Saturday, November 3, 2018

Music Video - Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire

Video Report - CrossTalk Bullhorns: KSA & MBS

Video Report - Putin & Cuba’s new president speak in Moscow

Joe Biden's Speech at GOTV Rally in Parma Heights, Ohio

OP-ED: #Khashoggi - #Saudi brutality and imperialist hypocracy

Khashoggi evidently suspected he might be detained although he never expected to be murdered on site.
 The murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul’s Saudi Consulate at Istanbul has intensified the diplomatic rows on a world scale due to capitalism’s protracted crisis internationally. After repeated denials the kingdom finally confessed that Khashoggi ‘died’ in a “fist-fight” inside the consulate, without disclosing the whereabouts of his body.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official said, “This puts the ball firmly in Washington’s court… Not only will there be more pressure now from the media but Congress will say, ‘Gina, we would love to have you come visit and you can tell us exactly what you heard’.”
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the killing of Khashoggi: “heinous crime… and justice will prevail… all culprits will be punished”. MBS after extensive negotiations with Russian and Chinese delegates at ‘Davos in the Desert’ investment conference said, “Now we know who our best friends are, and who our best enemies are. “Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said on Friday, “… no one should have any grounds not to believe them.”
The Turkish reaction was damning: “How should a real investigation in Saudi Arabia work when one of the main suspects is the crown prince MBS? The US nor the rest of the world should really accept this.”
The abduction-torture-murder of Jamal Khashoggi must have been planned as a kind of perfect crime in which the journalist would mysteriously disappear without a trace. It went terribly wrong. The planners didn’t anticipate that Khashoggi’s fiancé would be waiting outside the consulate with instructions to sound the alarm. Khashoggi evidently suspected he might be detained although he never expected to be murdered on site. They forgot that that he’d be seen on surveillance video entering the building, but not leaving. And overlooked that Turkish intelligence, having bugged the premises, would have audiotapes of the killing and the Erdogan regime would selectively leak information for its own financial bargains and use the murder to undermine its own vicious repression.
They also figured that the US administration would be willing accomplices after the assassination. Initially Trump made every attempt to give the Saudi rulers the “benefit of the doubt” with Secretary of State Pompeo allowing them time “to complete their investigation” (cover-up). In the past the Saudi Monarchy played a crucial role to rescue of Trump’s failing real estate empire. However with the burgeoning international outrage and rising pressure domestically Trump had to retreat: “They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups. I would say it was a total fiasco from day one…Well, the prince is running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.” On 27 October US Defence Secretary James Mattis said, “Khashoggi’s murder undermines regional stability… US intends to take further action.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir criticised the global outcry as ‘hysterical’. The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard said, “What we know is sufficient to suggest very strongly that Mr Khashoggi was the victim of an extrajudicial execution and the Saudi Arabia government is implicated in one way or another.”
The Turkish reaction was damning: “How should a real investigation in Saudi Arabia work when one of the main suspects is the crown prince MBS? The US nor the rest of the world should really accept this”

 Trump’s main objective is the profits from 110 billion dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the second largest buyer of arms after India. The genocidal impact of imperialist weapons on the people of Yemen was supposed to remain mostly hidden. This means an even greater crisis for Trump’s presidency and the US state and system.
The blatant lies coming from Riyadh collapsed, with each new version exposing the falsity of the previous one. It’s not that anyone actually believed, or was even expected to believe, that Khashoggi had left the embassy, or had been accidentally killed in a “fistfight” during some kind of “rogue operation” – rather, governments and media outlets were expected to pretend to believe it. The bumbling character of the cover-up made the pretence unsustainable.
One member of the hit team of fifteen commandos sent to exterminate Khashoggi has already been killed in a convenient “traffic accident” shortly after returning home. The others according to the secretive regime have been fired or arrested. They were destined to be the scapegoats in hiding the plot. Some may be quietly reallocated; others may even wind up permanently disappeared like Jamal Khashoggi. Whether such measures will salvage MBS’s international stature as a “modernizing reformer” remains to be worked out inside the Royal family’s palatial intrigues and factional knife wars. The consultations among global capital’s corporate and government mafia dons will also be crucial.
This whole episode lays bare the unravelling of geopolitics and the intense crisis of the international relations. Just few months ago MBS was hailed as a ‘reformer’ by the western imperialists. He was a close friend of Trump’s son in Law Jared Kushner. The brutal Egyptian dictator al-Sisi, India’s Narindra Modi and many other pro imperialists quasi-democratic despots and bigots are not touched. Turkey’s autocratic ‘Sultan’ is obscuring his own tyranny through Khashoggi’s murder.
One way or another, these so-called reformers often outlive their usefulness and become disposable. Whether that happens to MBS himself is not certain, given Saudi Arabia’s oil, its massive international investment and financial reach, and its strategic centrality in the war mongering rage against Iran. However imperialists embrace of MBS and others like him make themselves willing accomplices and partners in their horrific despotism. This murder will exacerbate the instability and tensions in the region.
It has also shaken the consciousness of the masses. The already depleted reverence of the Saudi Monarchy as custodians of the Kaaba shall start waning more rapidly. The dangers of a military clash between despotic regimes in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Gulf’s sheikhdoms are looming. Political, economic and social repression is choking and pulverising the youth and working classes. The market economic system is too obsolete and rotten to bring even genuine bourgeois democracy to these neo-colonial societies. Society’s stability and socioeconomic development is in cul-de-sac. Human civilisation faces a dire and barbaric future under this decaying capitalism. In Marx’s words, “The point is to change it.”

Indian Music Video - Ban Ja Tu Mere Rani Remix Ft Sunny Leone

Pakistan's online clampdown

Ramsha Jahangir

On the afternoon of June 3, 2018 — with the general elections only a month away — many users on Twitter took to the microblogging platform to express their inability to access a website operated by the Awami Workers Party (AWP). Once accessible to several users on various internet providers of the country, it now directed visitors to a message stating that the website was “not accessible” because “it contains content that is prohibited for viewership from within Pakistan”. The website, however, was accessible to users outside the country.
The “Surf Safely” alert indicated that the website was blocked by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which under Section 37 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act-2016 (Peca), is empowered to remove, block or restrict access to online content it deems unlawful.
However, in an official application submitted by the AWP workers to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the party stated that despite technical evidence suggesting that the block-out on the website was directed by the PTA, “at no point did AWP receive any information from any government authority, including the PTA, informing us of any reason for the block-out, thereby denying us a chance to resolve the matter amicably.”
The AWP said the blocking of the website of a legally registered political party violated the fundamental rights to association and expression as protected by the Constitution. A similar complaint was also sent to the PTA, but to no avail. The party workers then temporarily launched a new website for election campaigning.
Efforts to control internet content seem to be picking up in the past few months. But murky procedures and guidelines mean that the regulation can easily tip over into censorship of ideas and political dissent
Following the AWP’s appeal, the website became accessible after three days of censorship. However, the reason behind the arbitrary block remains unclear.
This is not the first instance of political content being blocked — and that too without transparency — in Pakistan, where internet clampdown has intensified in the last few years.
According to an internet freedom report by global watchdog Freedom House, Pakistan ranked “not free” for the sixth consecutive year in 2017.
The report noted that the internet freedom status for the year 2017 had in fact worsened for Pakistan as compared to the previous year. The overall ranking for Pakistan closed at 71 out of 100 (100 being the worst) for the year, two points down from 2016’s ranking. Identifying obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of user rights, the watchdog observed that political and social content was being increasingly blocked by the state without transparency as internet freedom was undermined on ‘national security’ grounds.
In January 2017, a countrywide blanket ban was cast on satire website Khabaristan Times which is inaccessible to date. As with the AWP, the editors of the website were not notified by the PTA regarding the decision.
The last post made on the website’s Facebook page on Jan 30, 2017, reads: “Dear readers, Khabaristan Times’ website has been blocked in Pakistan since Wednesday January 25, 2017. There hasn’t been any official notification from any regulatory authority regarding the website being banned, but it can’t be accessed anywhere in Pakistan. We’ll keep you posted, if there are any updates.”
“It’s been a year to the ban, but we still don’t know under what clause of the law the website was blocked,” says Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, editor and co-founder of Khabaristan Times.
Section 37 of Peca defining unlawful content, however, does not include state institutions. “The problem is with the phrasing. ‘Integrity, security or defence of Pakistan’ is open to interpretation and is often [unjustifiably] extended to individuals as well,” says a senior lawyer.
While most readers, including the website editors, agree that the move was imminent given the nature of [satirical] content — mainly targeted at criticism of establishment and religious extremism — the realisation that it would be eventually blocked, that too without an official explanation, is reflective of the state of freedom of expression in the country.
“It is troubling that a satire website was blocked for being offensive and, hence, unlawful,” regrets Shahid. “Even more troubling is the arbitrariness of the method.”
Exacerbating this issue are the vaguely phrased provisions of the Peca.
“There is a difference between false reporting, spoofing and satire. The law emphasises on ‘dishonest intention’ which does not apply on satire — that too with a disclaimer,” Shahid says, adding that internationally-acclaimed satire publication The Onion used actual pictures without disclaimers, but in Pakistan, the content was scrutinised despite placement of multiple satire labels (referring to the new satire publication The Dependent).
Interestingly, Section 37 pertaining to unlawful online content, allows aggrieved parties to file an application with the authority to challenge the order [barring access to content] within 30 days from the date of passing of the order. The appeal against the PTA’s decision shall lie before the high court within 30 days of the order in review.
Despite the understanding that the case for Khabaristan Times could be challenged on legal grounds, Shahid and his team decided not to pursue the matter.
“We thought its better to wait for the [repressive] circumstances to get better,” he laments. “But for now, they’ve only gotten worse.”
Digital rights experts owe the escalating internet crackdown to the draconian Peca, the country’s first comprehensive cybercrime act passed in 2016. Prior to the enactment of the law, requesting the blocking of a website would require complainants to go through an inter-ministerial committee which would then direct the PTA to order the internet service providers to block the relevant website. However, with the passage of Peca, the PTA now has complete authority to directly block what it consideres to be ‘objectionable content’ — a broadly-defined term under the law.
Section 37 of the cyber crimes law chalks out restrictions allowing for the PTA to block, remove and/or issue directions to censor online content through an information system if it considers necessary to do so in the interest of the glory of Islam, or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court.
Despite repeated criticism of the PTA for exercising discretionary powers and clamping down on free speech, moderators at the authority maintain the PTA mainly acts upon complaints it receives from external sources.
“There are three sources of complaints,” explains an official, requesting anonymity. “One is through a list of 30 stakeholders with access to the monitoring portal. Second is the public. And the third source is the authority’s proactive search that monitors specific content only.”
When asked who these stakeholders are, the official shares that agencies including intelligence, counter-terrorism departments, Frontier Corps, ministries, home departments from all provinces bring various complaints to the PTA requesting content removal.
According to official figures, there are at least 831,002 sites blocked in Pakistan at present. Of the blocked sites and URL links, 769,947 are inaccessible due to pornographic content and 34,762 over blasphemy. As many as 11,544 links/web pages are blocked for anti-state, anti-judiciary and sectarian/hate speech content. The authority has also blocked over 800 web pages over defamation/impersonation — a rising trend observed this election year.
“Complaints related to anti-state and anti-army content come from law-enforcement agencies mostly,” the official explains. “As for contempt of court cases, the PTA monitors related content as part of its proactive search. Blasphemous, pornographic and anti-judiciary content is blocked forthwith.”
The official offers solace to aggrieved parties saying that the authority unblocks websites once the unlawful content is taken down.
Earlier this year, the regulatory body had started a short messaging service (SMS) through mobile networks and published newspaper advertisements to provide guidelines for social media users on the suitability of content — a move that digital and civil rights activists condemned, terming it an effort to restrict speech online. The message sent by the authority to people read: “Uploading and sharing of any blasphemous content on Internet is a punishable offence under the law. Instead of taking law in hand, such content should be reported to PTA on for legal action.”
Given the increasing surveillance by the state authorities coupled with Peca’s broad definition of unlawful content, the digital sphere has developed an atmosphere of deterrence. When asked what is the ‘legally safe’ approach to constructive criticism for democratic discourse, the PTA official agreed that there was a need to define the boundaries. “Simply blocking content is not the solution,” he concedes.
Pakistan’s request to social media companies for information and content removal swelled at an unprecedented rate. The trend was reflected in Twitter’s transparency report for 2017, which shows more than a twofold increase in requests in the first half of the year.
Just within the period of July-Dec 2017, there were 75 removal requests from the government, 24 information requests, and 674 accounts were reported to Twitter. However, interestingly, Twitter declined all requests for account information and removal, as opposed to a global trend which saw the microblogging website suspending more accounts as ever as part of its efforts to combat online propaganda and hate speech. The authorities have even threatened Twitter against a shutdown over its non-compliance to requests.
In a report titled Content Regulation in Pakistan’s Digital Spaces submitted to the Human Rights Council in June 2018 by the Digital Rights Foundation, the rights group observed that the nature of requests made by the government were unclear. It noted that it was unspecified if the requests made were legal requests or government requests. “This shows that the lack of transparency by the Government of Pakistan in relation to the process and selection criteria of requests demonstrated by the absence of judicial oversight could have potentially led to Twitter’s refusal.”
Facebook, on the other hand, restricts legal requests based on prohibitions under local laws. According to the Facebook Transparency Report 2017, it received 1,320 requests from the government between July and December and 59 percent of the time Facebook shared data with the authorities. It does not specify if the requests were formal or informal.
Unlike other platforms, Google lists the nature of requests it receives by governments. According to Google’s transparency record, it has received 96 removal requests from Pakistan since 2009 and over 1,000 items have been named for removal up till 2017 — 52 percent of which were objected over religious offence.
Among the many complaints, Google also received a request from the Government of Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology (year unspecified) to remove six YouTube videos that satirised the Pakistan Army and senior politicians. It did not remove the content in response to this request.
Besides attempts to restrict content on social media platforms, the country has a history of blocking access to various international publications over reports that conflict with the state narrative. Following the publication of an Amnesty International report which highlighted threats to activists — who, it said, were being subjected to intimidation, violent attacks and enforced disappearances — there were reports of the website being temporarily inaccessible on various internet providers. Similarly, there is also a growing number of Indian news websites being temporarily blocked/inaccessible in Pakistan.
Efforts to stifle political speech are also concerted within Pakistan and are not limited to social media platforms but news websites as well.
According to a network measurement test carried by Bytes For All in July 2018 — the election month — Geo News website ( was found blocked on Pakistan Telecom Company Limited on July 1, 2018, six times out of the 299 times it was tested.
Similarly, News One website ( was also found blocked once on July 1, 2018 on Pakistan Telecom Company Limited IP out of the 293 times it was tested. The website for Daily News ( was also inaccessible 171 times tested between July 1, 2018 and July 23, 2018. The 694 tests were run on Pakistan Telecom Company Limited, CM Pak Company Limited, Cyber Internet Services Pvt. Ltd. Pakistan and Nayatel.
While the telecommunication authority is swamped with complaints and external pressures to crackdown on the internet, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has its own set of challenges.
Under Peca — specifically sections 22 and 37 — the role of monitoring content and blocking rests with the PTA, but the FIA is the designated authority to investigate the cases.
According to an FIA official — since Peca was passed two years ago — the numbers of reported complaints rose from 18,000 to 20,000 in 2018. The agency has so far conducted 2,295 inquiries, registered 255 cases and made 209 arrests in 2018 — the highest since Peca was enforced.
The FIA, which has been pressing the government to enhance its powers to effectively fight the swelling number of cyber offences, has cited insufficient technical and labour capacity, inability to take down content and requirement to obtain legal warrants from designated courts as reasons behind slow prosecution.
During a Senate committee meeting in June, FIA Cyber Crimes Director (Retd) Capt Mohammad Shoaib had said that the agency had only 10 experts to investigate cybercrimes across the country. The official said that the agency was not inducting more staff since the rules related to FIA’s operations under Peca and procedures pertaining to online scrutiny were yet to be finalised after two years since the law was passed.
“There are 15 cybercrime police stations and reporting centres in the country. Given the high number of internet users and increasing cybercrimes, there should be reporting centres at district level,” says Aun Bukhari, former deputy director of FIA’s National Response Centre for Cyber Crime (NR3C). However, he adds that only 20 percent complaints are reported to these centres and the prosecution rate is equally low since FIA can only act upon cases with evidence.
In October, the interior ministry allowed FIA to establish 15 more cybercrime reporting centres in the country. The decision was taken in accordance with Section 51 of Peca which grants the government powers to take all the necessary measures for the prevention of cybercrime. According to officials, the step was taken keeping in view a sharp increase in cybercrime in the country.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information Technology, Rubina Khalid, says that the Senate panel has been urging both the PTA and the FIA to formulate a mutual mechanism to tackle cybercrimes. Terming it in the best interest of the public, she adds: “We have assured FIA of support for enhanced powers and increased funding to fight cybercrime since there is an alarming rise in cases of child pornography and defamation of politicians online.”
To rights campaigners, the mere idea of giving FIA more powers is troubling because of the agency’s arbitrariness in its treatment of cybercrime cases.
As per Peca (that has 28 sections), bail cannot be obtained for blasphemy, child pornography and cyberterrorism. In terms of the remaining 25 offences, the accused person can, under the law in its current form, obtain bail before arrest.
“Phone calls were made, people detained, summons issued and investigations conducted without any communication regarding what the inquiry pertained to or a formal charge, which is a violation of Article 10-A rights," says Farieha Aziz of advocacy group Bolo Bhi. What was termed as an innocuous and procedurally less dangerous section of the law, i.e. Section 20 — because it is non-congisable and therefore requires a warrant for arrest — was the primary charge in the FIR lodged during this period when the crackdown was in full swing."
In June 2017, Aziz along with other civil rights campaigners, filed a constitutional petition against the agency’s crackdown on social media activists. The petition cited the case of activist Adnan Afzal Qureshi, who was arrested by FIA on 31 May 2017 in Lahore, and charged under Sections 20 and 24 of Peca and Section 419 and Section 500 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The FIA claimed that the activist had been arrested for “anti-military tweets” and “abusive language against military personnel and political leaders.” The petitioners, however, said that the arrest was an example and sign of the authorities intended to misuse Peca to quell freedom of speech, pointing that Section 20 of Peca pertained to “Offense against dignity of a natural person” while Section 24 of Peca pertained to “cyber stalking”. “Even if it is assumed that the arrested activist published comments on Twitter and Facebook that were critical of the armed forces, he cannot conceivably be considered to have violated Sections 20 and 24 of Peca. Indeed, Peca does not prohibit criticism of the armed forces and, therefore, provides no basis for the arrest whatsoever,” they contended.
The FIA, it added, had also sent inquiry notices to several political and social activists.
The inquiry notices direct the addressees to appear at the FIA Counter Terrorism wing police station by a specified time and date. However, the petition pointed out, the inquiry notices were entirely vague in nature and did not specify any alleged offence in respect of which the inquiry was initiated nor the name of the accused nor the nature of information being sought.
“Indeed, the said notices are clearly nothing more than a malafide attempt to create a chilling effect on the freedom of speech and to harass and intimidate people engaging in the exercise of free speech,” the petitioners noted.
Filing comments in response to the petition, the FIA contended that the entire action was in accordance with the law and the FIR was registered based on enquiry against some individuals involved in a campaign of vilification and character assassination on internet by disseminating/uploading defamatory/objectionable and disgraceful material against the Government of Pakistan, the Armed Forces of Pakistan and the top brass of the army.
“Such illegal activities are causing disharmony and unrest among different government institutions as well as inciting hatred and contempt against government and state institutions,” the agency stated.
Maintaining that an investigation was under way and technical experts were “analysing” and “profiling” social media users suspected of involvement in the vilification campaign, the FIA said that the practice was in accordance with Peca Section 20(1) pertaining to offences against dignity of a person.
According to Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed, who represented the petitioners in the case, there has been no progress on the proceedings since last year.
Bukhari, who has worked on drafting Peca for eight years, feels that separate provisions to define and tackle unlawful content, including that against dignity of a natural person, blasphemy and hate speech, were included in the law for effective regulation. “People need to be made aware of what the law entails. The constitution, as well as the law, clearly states that publishing of hateful/misleading content against state institutions [which includes all governmental organisations/departments and armed forces] is punishable.”
However, Section 37 of Peca defining unlawful content does not include state institutions. “The problem is with the phrasing. ‘Integrity, security or defence of Pakistan’ is open to interpretation and is often [unjustifiably] extended to individuals as well,” says a senior lawyer specialising in the law.
On July 5, social media activist Hayat Preghal was arrested for posting ‘anti-state’ content online. During his detention, Preghal’s mobile phone, laptop and USB were accessed by the FIA’s Cyber Crime Unit. Following his post-arrest bail, the court directed the interior ministry to place Preghal on the exit control list and instructed the FIA to monitor his social media activities and, if it found him doing anything against national interest, it may move a petition for cancellation of his bail.
His is not an isolated case of intimidation and surveillance.
Since the past two years, Pakistani journalists and activists face an increasingly hostile climate due to harassment, threats and violence. Earlier in June, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, in a chilling message to journalists, had said that social media was being used against the country and its institutions and that there had been an increase in troll social media accounts which were spewing anti-Pakistan and anti-army content against the facts. Pointing at a slideshow of accounts [including of journalists], he said users propagating conspiracies were using social media to create “ripples” among the masses.
“We have the capability to monitor social media as to who is doing what,” the DG ISPR had said, adding that the army had reported many ‘pro-army’ accounts to the FIA for political posts “with a heavy heart”.
The newly-formed PTI government, too, has hinted at strict regulation of social media. Insistent on curbing the spread of fake news, the information ministry established a ‘fake news buster’ account on Twitter — which is also used to regularly warn users that the use of fake accounts to spread misinformation is punishable under the law.
However, with Pakistan’s widening digital sphere, there is also an increase in concerted vilification campaigns propagated by a network of fake accounts — against journalists, news organisations as well as individuals critical of the government — that are going unchecked by the authorities.
“What has now become really common on social media is the weaponisation of the idea of nationalism and patriotism,” says journalist Abid Hussain, who has been a frequent target of troll accounts on Twitter. “Any opinion which challenges the mainstream narrative earns you the title of a traitor and a foreign-funded agent, killing whatever little space there is to present an alternative view, let alone a dissenting one.”
In addition to heightened backlash, another form of fake news is now doing the rounds. Doctored images of news grabs are being circulated showing news that draws criticism for the news organisation it represents.
The prospects for effective content regulation, though, seem to be thin. With the government’s announcement of its plans to regulate social media with other mediums, its escalating control of online speech is becoming a haunting reality.
“The application of the law is very problematic,” says Nighat Dad of the Digital Rights Foundation. Regretting that the regulation and legal process is very ambiguous and unorganised, the rights expert said that the law was being used as a tool of threat.
“Given the growing internet crackdown and efforts by authorities to warn users to exercise caution online, there persists an environment of self-censorship in the country,” she says, adding that even the citizens were now abusing the law to avenge personal disputes. “People are scared to post their views online fearing what if someone reports them to the authorities for being unlawful.”
Stressing that the need for transparency in pursuing cyber crime cases, the lawyer said that the FIA summoned people for investigation, but the practice was mostly followed by an arrest. She also regretted that the agency was very cryptic in the way it approached people for interrogation. “This is why I urge people to consult a lawyer as soon as you receive a notice from the FIA.”
The concern is not limited to the investigation process. “At the early stages when a FIR is registered, charges that don’t really apply are added," Aziz points out. "Cognisable sections of the PPC or ATA [Anti-Terrorism Act] are added to circumvent the need for warrants to gain powers to directly investigate and arrest. Often the sections of the law are not applicable to the alleged offence and carry higher punishments. This is becoming fairly standard in Peca cases.”
To simplify the rather complex process, a lawyer who has contributed to the drafting of Peca and requested anonymity, explains there are two types of offences under the law: cognisable (cyberterrorism and treason where anyone can be a complainant) and non-cognisable (private cases where only the aggrieved party can file the case and not the investigation agency).
Under usual circumstances, an arrest cannot be made for non-cognisable offence without the magistrate’s approval, he adds. However, this is the reason why other provisions of the ATA or penal code are combined to aid issuance of arrests against non-cognisable arrests.
“This overlapping of laws is what contributes to abuse of law for personal interests by the authorities,” he argues. “Peca offers counsel to people to appeal to the high court within 30 days.”

Can #Saudi Package Resolve All #Pakistan’s Woes? – OpEd

By Shabbir H. Kazmi

Reportedly, Saudi Arabia has finally agreed to offer Pakistan a US$6 billion support package to overcome its prevailing precarious current account deficit crisis. According to the details the Kingdom will transfer US$3 billion directly to Pakistan, while another one-year deferred payment facility of up to US$3 billion for oil import will be made available. This arrangement will be in place for three years, which will be reviewed thereafter.
During the election campaign and even after taking oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran khan has been expressing reluctance in approaching International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ever since coming to power, Khan has been trying to solicit financial support from friendly countries including China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but his efforts hardly yielded any result. From the day one, Finance Minister Asad Umar has been saying that Pakistan needs more than US$12 billion to keep imports and foreign debt servicing at sustainable level.
Negotiating funding with IMF was not deemed easy because of a host of reasons that include: 1) it will be Pakistan’s 13th agreement since late 1980s, 2) the United States enjoying significant control over IMF Board has emerged an opponent of lending to Pakistan and 3) Pakistan has been put at an odd position due to ongoing proxy wars in South Asia, Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The US keeps on singing ‘do more mantra’, Pakistan does not enjoy cordial relationship with three of its immediate neighbors; Afghanistan, India and Iran. It is evident to all and sundry that string will be attached to any assistance be it from IMF, United States, Saudi Arabia and China. In such a scenario, taking small bit from all the lenders may not be a bad idea.
All the political parties have initiated a debate, why should Pakistan approach IMF? Some of the critics say, “It may be true that Saudi package is handsome, but won’t address Pakistan’ all the woes. Having signed a deal with Saudi Arabia has reduced pressure on Pakistan substantially. It will also help it to negotiate a smaller facility with IMF with less stringent conditions”.
South Asia’s second-largest economy is facing balance-of-payments crisis due to bad policies of the previous two governments. These policies have resulted in dismal FDI inflow in the recent years, paltry exports and ever rising imports. Further woes have been added due to the hike in international crude oil prices. Though, remittances are on the rise but fall too short to bridge ever widening current account deficit.
Khan is an opponent of living on borrowed resources but has been forced to beg money from friendly countries and negotiate an assistance package with IMF, at softer terms. Opposition parties are also humiliating Khan, despite having used IMF facilities in their own regimes. It is but obvious that bigger the amount being asked, more stringent are the conditions. Let everyone explore explanations for the following questions:

How urgent is the problem?

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have plunged to an alarming level, hinting towards virtual default if no immediate solution is found. Since friendly countries are not willing to give the desired amount, the incumbent government has no option but to go to the IMF, seeking help of the lender of last resort can reduce the pain. Shrinking reserves has also put Pak rupee under pressure, adding to the woes in two ways, increasing cost of imported items particularly energy products and eroding competitiveness of ‘Made in Pakistan’ Products. Therefore, the country has to boost its reserves to keep imports and debt servicing at sustainable levels.

Does Pakistan have other options?

Without mincing world Pakistan does not have too many options. Though, China was considered a savior but there is a negative propaganda going on “CPEC is another East India Company”. Therefore, both the countries have to be more careful. The US is opposing extension of funding to Pakistan for paying off Chinese loans. Whatever may be the reality, putting all the eggs in one basket is not advisable.

Would IMF be willing to extend yet another loan?

Let one point be very clear that IMF is in the business of lending money to the countries in distress, and it is always on the search for clients. Pakistan has been a regular and tested client that has not defaulted, though have been borrowing to pay off the loans in the past. Pakistan has enormous undiscovered/unexploited resources and a bit of lending can keep the lifeline. However, our own weaknesses, give opportunities to IMF to add the shackles.

What would a next bailout look like?

Reportedly, Pakistan needs more than $12 billion, Umar said in August. That would be higher than the biggest IMF package extended to Pakistan until now. The IMF typically provides three-year loan programs under its Extended Fund Facility to help countries facing balance-of-payments crises. The loans are often tied to economic targets that the government has to meet, for example curbing fiscal or current-account deficits, trimming inflation or allowing more flexibility in currency policy.

Till what time Pakistan keep on borrowing?

In 2013, the government of Nawaz Sharif signed an assistance program of US$6.6 billion disbursed over 36 months. During that time, the government mostly fell short of broadening the tax base or privatizing money-losing state-owned companies. Nevertheless, the economy rebounded after the IMF program, with growth accelerating, stocks soaring, the currency stabilizing and foreign-exchange reserves tripling to a record. All of that was undone last year as higher oil prices and the growth boom pushed up demand for imports, the current-account gap widened and reserves started to slide. To add to the insult PML-N government kept on borrowing from open market at much higher interest rates.
It is believed that IMF will extend the assistance program. However, it is yet to be seen how Khan’s government contains budget and current deficits. It has to boost exports, contain import, attract FDI and channelize remittances though the formal banking system.

#JusticeForAsia - State of #Pakistan is captive to warlords, says Senator Raza Rabbani

Senator Raza Rabbani  has lamented that  the state is not willing to defend its own institutions, adding this inspires no confidence in the common man.
In a pres statement, Rabbani said: "It is unfortunate that the state of Pakistan is captive to warlords and the constitution and laws are molded to their convenience."
"The Quaid must be turning in his grave to see judges of the superior judiciary being intimidated for acting in accordance with law and the state failing to act against the intimidators, or when the military is called to revolt and rebel-rousers are appeased," he said.
"The consequences of such State abdication of its writ are far and wide. In the immediate, no judge of Anti Terrorism Court or other Special Courts will, in these circumstances, dare to give a judgement against the terrorist. "
The recent events have, once again, reinforced the fact that, the applicability of law in Pakistan is selective. But what is really frightening is that, State is not willing to defend its own institutions, this inspires no confidence in the common man.

#JusticeForAsia - Pakistan blasphemy case: Asia Bibi's husband fears for wife's safety

In the wake of his wife's blasphemy conviction being overturned, Ashiq Masih told DW that his family must constantly move due to threats of violence. He fears his wife may be attacked in prison before her release.
Ashiq Masih, the husband of a Christian woman whose acquittal on blasphemy charges has shaken Pakistan, told DW on Saturday that he is worried for his wife's safety.
His wife, Aasiya Noreen, better known as Asia Bibi, has spent nearly 10 years in prison after neighbors accused her of insulting the Prophet Mohammed. In 2010, she was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. She would have been the first person in Pakistan to be executed for blasphemy under the current law and the first woman in Pakistan to be executed.
But on Wednesday, Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled that there was not enough evidence against her and ordered her release, though not until after the court makes a final review of its verdict. The decision prompted angry protests by the Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, which only ended after the government under Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to bar Bibi from leaving the country and to release a number of arrested protesters.
What is your reaction to the agreement reached between the fanatical group of Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan and the government?
The agreement has sent a shiver down my spine. My family is frightened, my relatives are frightened and my friends are also frightened. This agreement should never have been struck. The three judges delivered the verdict after taking into account all aspects of the case, analyzing all factors, studying the contradictions and basing everything on facts. Therefore, the government should not have come to such an agreement. I think the Supreme Court should take notice of this.
What will happen now?
My wife, Asia Bibi, has already suffered greatly. She has spent ten years in jail. The verdict of the Supreme Court had created a ray of hope; we were excited that we would meet her soon. My daughters were dying to see her free, but now this review petition will prolong her plight. She will have to stay in jail until the review petition is decided.
Will there be pressure on the judiciary now?
The judiciary is very courageous. It has really decided the verdict on merit. But now during the review petition, the clerics might gather outside the Supreme Court and try to influence the verdict. It is wrong to set a precedent in which you pile pressure onto the judiciary. I went to session court, where I could see that the judge was under tremendous pressure to convict Asia. The lower court gave the decision against us but we did not threaten any judge, nor did we say anything against him. We went to Lahore High Court and the decision was upheld; we did not say anything against the judiciary, preferring to wait for years, but now when the decision has come in our favor these people want it to be reversed. Clerics want to prove that the Supreme Court is wrong. This is a negative trend. Despite all this we hope that the verdict will be decided on merit in the review petition.
Will you feel safe going to the Supreme Court to attend the review petition?
The current situation is very dangerous for us. We have no security and are hiding here and there, frequently changing our location. I think that the clerics will encircle the Supreme Court on the day of the hearing. I will really feel very afraid of going on that day. But I think God has been protecting us and he will also continue to protect us. I place all my trust in God.
What is the condition of Asia Bibi?
I did not meet her after this verdict, but when they reserved the verdict after the hearing I met her. At that time she said that she would accept whatever verdict the court would deliver. The situation is dangerous for Asia. I feel that her life is not secure. We must remember that two Christian men in Faisalabad were gunned down years ago after a court set them free. They were also accused of blasphemy. So, I appeal to the government to enhance Asia's security in jail.
This interview was conducted by S. Khan, DW Asia correspondent in Islamabad, and edited for clarity.

#JusticeForAsia - Blasphemy agreement: Is Pakistan ruled by Islamists?

Experts say that an agreement between the government and Islamists to bar a Christian woman recently acquitted in a blasphemy case from leaving the country shows that radical groups are more powerful than the state.
When Prime Minister Imran Khan, who took office in August, addressed the nation on October 31, the day when the top court accepted Asia Bibi's appeal against her death sentence for alleged blasphemy, many observers hoped that the government would deal with agitating Islamists with an iron hand. Khan had warned the TLP not to mess with the state power. But the premier left for China the day after, and instead of taking stern action against TLP activists, his government surrendered to the group's demands by sealing a controversial agreement with Islamists.
But for three days the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party (TLP) managed to paralyze Pakistan's major cities, with its supporters blocking streets and highways and vandalizing private and public property. TLP leaders declared the Supreme Court judges who had acquitted Bibi infidels and urged their followers to assassinate them. The TLP had also called for a mutiny within the Pakistani military, with soldiers supportive of their Islamist narrative to oust General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the army chief.
According to the agreement, the TLP will end the nationwide protest (which it has); the government will release arrested protesters without charge; the government will not block a review of Bibi's acquittal in the Supreme Court, and most critically, will take measures to ban Bibi from leaving Pakistan. She and her family continue to receive death threats. Her lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, left for a European country Saturday morning, saying his life was under threat. Unconfirmed reports claim Mulook was heading to the UK. 
"The government has promised to implement the agreement within 100 days. If it doesn't do it, our activists will take to the streets again," Pir Ejaz Shah, a TLP spokesman, told DW.
He denied claims that Pir Afzal Qadri, a senior TLP official, had apologized for criticizing the military. Instead, according to Shah the government officials apologized to them for hurting the sentiments of the Muslims through the Supreme Court acquittal verdict.
'Historic ruling'
Bibi was arrested in June 2009, after her neighbors complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam's Prophet Muhammad. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death under the country's strict blasphemy laws, despite strong opposition from national and international human rights groups.
Pakistan's rights activists and civil society groups had lauded the top court's judges for their bold decision to overturn Bibi's death sentence.
"It is a historic ruling and will be helpful in promoting religious harmony," Ayub Malik, an Islamabad-based political analyst, told DW after the October 31 ruling. "Bibi's acquittal proves that most blasphemy cases in Pakistan are fabricated."
"This is a landmark verdict. The judges and lawyers have demonstrated great courage," Farzana Bari, an Islamabad-based rights activist, told DW.
"But the government's real test starts now, as it faces a backlash from extremists," Bari added.
State weakened
But the way PM Khan's government "surrendered" to Islamists – and in such a short span of time – has left Pakistan's liberals baffled and scared.
"The government's writ has been weakened tremendously after it signed and agreement with the TLP. The move will further destabilize Pakistan and more groups like the TLP will now blackmail the state," Ali K. Chishti, a Karachi-based security analyst, told DW.
Waqas Ahmed Goraya, a blogger and activist based in the Netherlands, who was detained by Pakistani security agencies in January 2017 and subsequently released, told DW that the state has completely "lost its writ" after the agreement.
"If TLP leader Khadim Rizvi declares himself a caliph tomorrow and bring his supporters to the street, how would the Pakistani state deal with him?" said Goraya.
"All state institutions tried to avoid confrontation with Islamist protesters. The surrender will make Islamists more powerful and more resilient," he added.
Bibi's future and Pakistan's international isolation
Khalid Hameed Farooqi, a senior Pakistani journalist based in Brussels, says that while Bibi's acquittal decision was hailed by European diplomatic circles, the government's agreement with Islamists has damaged the country's image.
"The Pakistani rulers must understand that such moves will increase their country's international isolation. The deal has caused much harm,” Farooqi told DW.
The question remains whether Khan's government will put Bibi on the Exit Control List (ECL) and bar her foreign departure.
Zahid Gishkori, an Islamabad-based journalist associated with Geo TV, believes the government is only buying time and will not ban Bibi from travelling abroad. "Only the top court or the government can put her name on the ECL. I think PM Khan won't do that. Also, I don't see the acquittal review stand in the court of law as it was a unanimous verdict by Supreme Court's judges," Gishkori told DW.
Analyst Chishti says Bibi's future remains uncertain as "she is stuck in a friendly country's embassy awaiting documentation."
"The government-TLP agreement would not affect her departure. But it would make the lives of other blasphemy victims more difficult," Chishti said. "The government has failed; it has once again surrendered to fanatics."
Experts say Pakistan is heading toward more chaos, which is evident by the fact that a prominent religious leader, Maulana Sami Ul Haq, also known as "father of the Taliban," was assassinated by unknown attackers on Friday.