Sunday, December 2, 2018

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#YellowVests #giletsjaunes - #France’s Dangerous Yellow Vest Protesters

    By Gregory Viscusi

The “Yellow Vests” protests now challenging President Emmanuel Macron have exposed a widening hole in the center of French politics—created by Macron himself.
It was Macron whose election in May 2017 all but obliterated the two establishment parties that had run France for 30 years. His own political movement had been launched less than a year before and his closest opponent for the presidency was from the far-right. By positioning himself as a reformer, Macron, 40, had hoped to establish a centrist consensus.
Instead, with his popularity now at record lows and his Republic on the Move far from becoming a real political party, the president faces widespread opposition across the country, especially outside major cities. The “Yellow Vests”—“gilets jaunes” in French—reflect France’s frustration at a young leader whose agenda is perceived as favoring the rich and whose manner is regarded as aloof and arrogant.
“The ‘gilets jaunes’ movement will probably peter out, but not the anger, which is likely to go on and take new forms maybe more dangerous for Macron,” said Jim Shields, a professor of French politics at Warwick University in the U.K. “It’s hard to see how he can complete controversial reforms like pensions and unemployment insurance without yet more blood on the pavement.”
The grassroots movement, organized through social media and without real leadership, has led to two weeks of sporadic and mostly peaceful blockades of roads, fuel depots and warehouses. A protest Saturday in Paris exploded into violence that left over 100 injured and more than 400 arrested, as well as burned cars and looted stores in the heart of the capital. Named after the colored vests motorists must keep in their cars for emergencies, the campaign began as a protest against higher gasoline taxes to reduce emissions. It’s now expanded to other demands and has the support of three-quarters of the French public, polls show.
“We are talking about cost of living and Macron is talking ecology,”
France got a new 21st Century Mary Antoniate.
said Joffre Denis, a 33-year old fireman who had come 125 miles from his home in the north of France to Paris, wearing a yellow vest at Saturday’s protest. “His solution for people who can’t afford food by the end of the month is to buy solar panels and electric cars.” Denis said that after 17 years on the job, he takes home 2,300 euros ($2,600) a month.

“We pay more and more for fewer and fewer services. Where is the money going?” he asked. He wants the movement to focus on finding leaders at the local level and slimming its demands: “We need to focus on the basics: taxes, bringing back the wealth tax, politicians’ salaries, pensions, minimum wage.”

As he spoke, standing on Avenue Marceau near the Arc de Triomphe, a line of riot police blocked access to the monument and tear gas was being fired on the other side of the circle. Denis said he condemned the violence.

The movement itself is split between moderates who want to create a structure to negotiate with the government, and radicals who reject any form of leadership. An attempt by eight local spokespeople to create a national committee was disbanded after four days when they received threats. Only two of the eight invited leaders showed up for a planned meeting Friday with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
The Yellow Vests at this stage aren’t likely to evolve into a political party like Italy’s Five Star Movement because they lack a charismatic leader, said Sylvain Boulouque, a historian who has written books about extremist parties. But there’s no way their votes will go to the center-right Republicans or the center-left Socialists, the main establishment parties. Neither party has recovered from being marginalized in the 2017 election, the second round of which pitted Macron against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

“This is a movement that holds all institutions and the establishment in disdain,” Boulouque said. “They aren’t going to vote for parties whom they hold responsible for the past 30 years.”Most Yellow Vests supporters will split their votes between Le Pen’s National Rally and Jean-Luc Melenchon’s far-left France Unbowed, Boulouque said. Together, they received 41 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential voting in 2017.

Although polls show the French public overwhelmingly supports the demands of the Yellow Vests, respondents don't see anyone else handling the situation better than Macron. An Ifop poll released Nov. 22, after the Yellow Vests’ first major strike, said 26 percent thought Le Pen would do better and 21 percent chose Melenchon. The center-right establishment party was chosen by only 15 percent and 6 percent went for the Socialists—who controlled both the presidency and the parliament until Macron arrived.
That hasn’t kept other parties from jumping onto the Yellow Vests’ bandwagon. “All this violence is the fault of the government refusing to listen, of its arrogance, its disdain for common people,” Le Pen said on BFM TV Saturday. Recent polls have shown that her anti-immigrant, anti-European Union party will get the most French votes in next May’s European Parliament elections.
Macron himself was in Argentina Saturday attending a G-20 summit. He returned Sunday and went straight to visit the damage to the Arc de Triomphe before holding an emergency meeting with top ministers. There was no statement after the 90-minute session.
In a speech Nov. 27 he outlined the need to maintain the gasoline taxes as part of efforts to wean France off fossil fuels, but offered “town hall-style” debates about the country’s environmental policies and vague promises of reviewing future tax increases.
Macron doesn’t face national elections until 2022 and has prided himself on sticking to his policies no matter how low he goes in the polls, saying the unpopular tax and labor law reforms he pushed through early in his term will eventually pay off in higher growth and job creation. He now faces two unpalatable choices: breaking his promises not to back down on his program or further deepening his unpopularity.
Why People in Yellow Vests Are Blocking French Roads: QuickTake
But even several of his own deputies have said the government should consider postponing gasoline tax increases planned for January, which Macron’s ministers have so far ruled out.
Macron hasn’t helped himself with some ill-judged comments, such as saying on trips abroad that the French are resistant to change, or telling an unemployed gardener in Paris in September that he just had to cross the road to get a job. Many protesters Saturday turned those comments around, writing on their vests: “Macron, we’re crossing the road.”

Video Report - #YellowVests #giletsjaunes - #Macron surveys damage after worst riots in Paris for decades, calls for talks

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Video Report - #YellowVests #giletsjaunes 🇫🇷Can Macron survive the biggest challenge to his presidency?

Music Video - Noor Jahan - Jadon Holi Jai lenda mera naam

گورنر ہاؤس کی دیوار توڑنے سے کیا ہو گا؟

وسعت اللہ خان

وزیرِ اعظم عمران خان کی زیر صدارت یکم دسمبر کو پنجاب کابینہ کے اجلاس میں ہونے والے فیصلوں کی تفصیل بتاتے ہوئے صوبائی وزیرِ اطلاعات فیاض الحسن چوہان المعروف حاجی نرگس نے کہا کہ لاہور کے گورنر ہاؤس کا لان جو دو ماہ پہلے ہی عوام کے لیے کھول دیا گیا ہے، اب وزیرِ اعظم کے حکم پر اس کی بیرونی دیواریں بھی اگلے دو تین روز میں گرا دی جائیں گی۔ گورنر ہاؤس کو چڑیا گھر، عجائب گھر اور آرٹ گیلری میں بدل دیا جائے گا۔ اس کے سات سو کنال احاطے میں قائم سکول کو علیحدہ کر دیا جائے گا۔
بقول چوہان صاحب دیوار ڈھانے کا مقصد عوام کے زہن سے ان اداروں اور عمارات کی ہیبت نکالنا ہے۔ یہ کوئی تاریخی عمارت نہیں بلکہ نمائشی جگہ ہے۔ وزیرِ اعلی کے مشیر نے بھی ایک ویڈیو پیغام میں اس فیصلے کا اعلان کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ یہ عمارات نو آبادیاتی اقتدار کی علامت کے طور پر تعمیر کی گئیں تاکہ یہ جتایا جا سکے کہ حکمران طاقتور اور عوام کمزور ہیں۔
ملک میں اس وقت جیسا علمی و تحقیقی ماحول ہے اس میں یہ کہنے کی چنداں ضرورت نہیں کہ گورنر ہاؤس کے احاطے میں ہی اکبرِ اعظم کے ایک عم زاد محمد قاسم کی قبر ہے اور اس کے اردگرد موجودہ عمارت مہاراجہ رنجیت سنگھ کے ایک مصاحب خوشحال سنگھ نے اپنی رہائش کے لیے بنائی تھی۔

انگریزوں نے پنجاب پر قبضے کے بعد یہ جگہ خوشحال سنگھ کے بیٹے تیجا سنگھ سے ڈھائی ہزار روپے میں خریدی اور اسے لیفٹننٹ گورنر ہاؤس قرار دے دیا ۔اس عمارت کے پہلے انگریز رہائشی رابرٹ منٹگمری تھے۔ گویا یہ عمارت لگ بھگ پونے دو سو برس سے زیرِ استعمال ہے۔
اسی طرح عوام کے لیے اتوار کے اتوار کھولا جانے والا گورنر ہاؤس پشاور کم و بیش سو برس پرانا ہے۔ کوئٹہ کا گورنر ہاؤس انیس سو پینتیس کے زلزلے کے بعد دوبارہ تعمیر ہوا۔ کراچی کا گورنر ہاؤس اسی برس پرانا ہے۔ پاکستان بننے کے بعد کراچی کا گورنر ہاؤس کچھ عرصہ گورنر جنرل ہاؤس اور ایوانِ صدر بھی رہا۔ ان سب عمارات اور ان کے احاطوں پر نادر و تاریخی عمارات کے تحفظ کا ایکٹ مجریہ انیس سو پچھتر لاگو ہوتا ہے۔
حکمرانوں کے زیرِ استعمال محلات و دفاتر عوام کے لیے کھولنا کوئی نئی یا غیر معمولی بات نہیں۔ بکنگھم پیلس، وائٹ ہاؤس، کریملن اور دلی کے راشٹر پتی بھون کے کچھ حصے عوام کے لیے مخصوص دنوں میں کھولے جاتے ہیں۔ تہران کا قصر سعد آباد کمپلیکس تو پورا کا پورا عجائب گھر ہے۔ ریاستیں ان عمارات کی حفاظت تاریخی ورثے کے طور پر کرتی ہیں اور ان کا تشخص توڑ پھوڑ اور خستگی سے بچاتی ہیں۔
پاکستان میں راولپنڈی کا سابق ایوانِ صدر جس میں ایوب خان ، یحییٰ خان اور بھٹو رہے کئی برس پہلے اسے خواتین یونیورسٹی میں تبدیل کر دیا گیا۔ البتہ عمارت کی شکل صورت میں کوئی تبدیلی نہیں کی گئی اور فرنیچر بھی محفوظ ہے۔
سرکاری و تاریخی عمارات تک عام آدمی بالخصوص محققین اور طلبا کی رسائی یوں ضروری ہے کہ ماضی اور طرزِ حکمرانی سے روشناس رہا جا سکے۔ ضروری ہے کہ اسلام آباد کا ایوانِ صدر، وزیرِ اعظم ہاؤس، وزرائے اعلی کی سرکاری رہائش گاہ اور جی ایچ کیو اور بڑے بڑے گالف کورسز اور جمخانوں کو بھی عوام کے لیے کھولا جائے اور گائڈڈ ٹورز کا بندوبست کیا جائے۔
بے شک ان عمارات میں درس گاہ، عجائب گھر یا آرٹ گیلری کھولی جا سکتی ہیں لیکن خود یہ عمارات بھی کسی تاریخی تعلیم گاہ سے کم نہیں۔
اور جب آپ گورنر ہاؤس کی دیوار توڑنے جیسے اہم ترین کاموں سے فراغت پا جائیں تو باقی مسائل کے نپٹارے کے بارے میں بھی سنجیدگی سے دل کے بجائے دماغ سے سوچیے گا۔ پچھلے تہتر برس میں یہ ملک بذات ِخود تماشا بن چکا ہے۔ آپ کو ووٹ جا بے جا تبدیلیوں کے لیے نہیں اس عجائب گھر کو پھر سے ایک نارمل ملک بنانے کے لیے ملا ہے۔ پانچ برس میں سے سو دن گذر چکے ہیں۔

WHO: #HIV Epidemic Spreads at Alarming Rate in #Pakistan

Pakistan is registering approximately 20,000 new HIV infections annually, the highest rate of increase among all countries in the region, warns the World Health Organization (WHO).
The international body says mortality among Pakistanis living with the virus, which causes the deadly AIDS disease, is also rising, in spite of the availability of lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.
The latest government figures show that only 16 percent of the estimated 150,000 people living with HIV had been tested and only 9 percent have access to lifesaving treatment.
"The remaining 135,000 people are walking around in the communities as carriers of (HIV) infection who are ready to transmit infections to those who are not infected, even to their unborn babies," Dr. Saima Paracha of the National AIDS Control Program, told VOA.
Officials say the HIV epidemic in Pakistan remains largely concentrated among the key populations, including people who inject drugs, the transgender community, sex workers and their clients and men who have sex with men.
"The drivers of infection are now the sexual networks and they are ready to spill the infection into the general public," Dr. Paracha cautioned.
Paracha says the Pakistani government offers free HIV testing and treatment, but she notes the marginalized key populations continue face widespread stigma and discrimination in the society.
The fear of maltreatment, and punitive actions by law enforcers impacts the willingness of these populations to pursue testing, which remains a major challenge facing national efforts to treat and prevent the spread of HIV, she lamented.
Official estimates show that Pakistan has seen a 45 percent increase in new HIV infections since 2010.
"The number of new HIV infections will continue to increase dramatically if implementation rates of intervention remain at current levels," said Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, country head of WHO.
An official statement issued in connection with World AIDS Day quoted him as saying that Pakistan has the lowest rate of all regional countries in diagnosing people who are infected and linking them to care and treatment.
Naila Bashir, who heads the HIV treatment center at Islamabad's Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), told VOA the facility receives up to 40 new HIV patients every month, underscoring the alarming increase in the number of infections.
The center was established in 2005 and the number of patients has since increased from 22 to more than 3,000, including men, women and children of all ages, said Dr. Bashir.
HIV has never been a priority program in the national health system and the recent abolition of the federal health ministry and the devolution of its functions to the provinces, which lacked preparedness and capacity, have led to the increase in infections, say WHO experts in the country. However, they acknowledge the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is giving priority to tackling health emergencies in Pakistan, including HIV.
Federal Minister for National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, Aamir Mehmood Kiyani, says the government is working on a strategy to remove barriers and challenges in protecting people from HIV infections.
Kiyani told a seminar in Islamabad that since taking office three months ago, the government has moved to established 12 new HIV treatment centers while overall 33 such facilities have been working throughout Pakistan.
U.N. officials say the Pakistan government urgently needs to redouble efforts to "de-stigmatize HIV testing, advocate for confidential, non-discriminatory, community based care models and raise awareness about disease transmission, prevention treatment" to achieve reductions in new infections in affected populations.

    Sushma Swaraj slams Pakistan's Qureshi on 'googly' remark, says it 'exposed' him

    Soon after union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan demanding action against his minister for his "googly remark", the man at the receiving end of criticism said his comment was "distorted" and "misrepresented".
    Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also clarified that the remark was "strictly with reference to bilateral interaction with the Indian government" in a tweet.
    After the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan, which was attended by central ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri, Mr Qureshi had controversially said that "Imran (Khan) delivered a googly and India sent two ministers to Pakistan".
    "The world watched, Pakistan watched, that PM Imran Khan bowled a googly at Kartarpur. As a result of the googly, India, that had refused to engage with Pakistan, had to send two ministers to Pakistan," he had bragged in a misplaced reference to Mr Khan's earlier career as a fast bowler in international cricket and cancelled talks between the two countries.
    "Nothing can be more disgusting than this," Ms Badal snapped back today.
    She accused the Pakistani minister of "hurting sentiments of Sikhs and peace efforts by equating attendance at function at Sri Kartarpur Sahib with trapping India by bowling a googly".
    .@SMQureshiPTI As a devout Sikh I feel anyone having deep respect for Sikhism wud not politicise holy initiative of by calling it ‘googly’ or as a good ‘chaal’ as termed by u & ur prez. Sikhs are not pawns in chess. Pls, don't play with our faith.
    193 people are talking about this
    In his defence, Mr Qureshi tweeted:
    Dragging my comment towards "Sikh sentiments" is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent & mislead. What I said was strictly with ref to bilat.interaction with the Indian Govt. We have deep respect for Sikh sentiments & no amount of distortions or controversies would change it. 1/2
    712 people are talking about this
    In deference to the long-standing desires of our Sikh brethren, we decided to open the Kartarpur Corridor. We have taken this historic initiative in good faith and will carry it forward in good faith. 2/2
    397 people are talking about this
    Mr Qureshi's remark had come after India refused to attend the next SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) meet in Pakistan, citing cross-border terrorism. "Unless Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, there will be no dialogue and we will not participate in SAARC," Ms Swaraj had said.
    She had also stressed that bilateral talks and Kartarpur corridor are "two different things". "The moment Pakistan stops terrorist activities in India, the dialogue can start. But the dialogue is not only connected with Kartarpur corridor," Ms Swaraj said.

    In September, India had agreed to a meeting between Sushma Swaraj and Mr Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. But following the killings of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani terrorists, and the release of postage stamps "glorifying" terrorist Burhan Wani by the Pakistan government, India cancelled the talks.
    During the religious ceremony on Wednesday, Imran Khan had said his government and army both want a "civilised relationship" with India. The cricketer-turned-politician added if India will take one step forward, then Pakistan will take two.

    #Pakistan - First open heart surgery performed in Larkana

    The National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) created history in the cardiac care on Saturday when a two-member team of surgeons led-by Dr. Fazl-e-Rabbi and Dr. Ali Raza Mangi along with anesthesiologist Dr. Amin Khuwaja performed the first, free of charge open heart surgery at the NICVD Larakana, at a building lying functionless for last six-seven years.

    Chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party, Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has inaugurated NICVD’s first State-of-the-Art satellite centre at Larkana city.
    Larkana is the first city in the interior of Sindh to have a satellite NICVD center where facilities of angioplasty and angiography as well as cardiac OPD are available and it became the third city of Sindh after Karachi and Sukkur to have the facility of open heart surgery. The Executive Director NICVD Prof. Nadeem Qamar said their Chief of Surgery Dr. Fazl-e-Rabbi along with Dr. Ali Raza Mangi, anesthesiologist Dr. Amin Khuwaja along with technicians and the nursing staff performed the first open heart surgery at the NICVD Satellite Center in Larkana, which is a historic day for the people of Larkana and entire Sindh. “Earlier, people had to travel to Karachi for even cardiac OPDs and other smaller issues related to heart but now we have established Satellite Centers in different cities of Sindh, which would soon become full-fledged cardiac centers and hospitals in the days to come”, Prof. Nadeem Qamar remarked.
    Claiming that the patient operated at the NICVD Larkana is stable and recovering, he said the patient when told that he would be operated upon near to his abode was overwhelmed with joy and added the people of Larkana and adjoining areas are jubilant over the successful bypass surgery in an area closeby.
    According to him, NICVD Sukkur which is a 200-bed specialized facility, has completed 100 surgeries within a short span of time while hundreds of patients were also treated at NICVD Satellite centers at Hyderabad, Sehwan, Mithi, Nawabshah, Khairpur and Tando Muhammad Khan.

    #Pakistan - Don’t get breathless over Kartarpur, Imran Khan has no power to wage war or peace


    Imran Khan can’t defy the template for power set by his Army. Don’t waste time reading his intentions, his limitations are clear.

    Imran Khan is right to say a war between India and Pakistan is unlikely as no nuclear power would lose.
    It doesn’t, however, mean that peace is about to break out. It also depends on what kind of war we are talking about.
    War and peace between enemies who’ve fought four wars of various sizes in seven decades, continue a low-intensity conflict through most of these and have existential fears about each other is too serious and complex an issue to be analysed in terms of events and speeches. Analysts — peaceniks and warmongers — on both sides have made that error often enough in the past.
    I am no exception. Over the 33 years since my first reporting visit to Pakistan (summer of 1985, to cover the trial of Sikh hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane), I have over-read the situation more than once, on the positive and the negative side. That, despite the fact that I have probably spent more time in Pakistan as a journalist than most in the Indian media.
    It takes you time — and patience — to appreciate the many unresolved ideological and political issues underlying our hostility. It is fashionable but juvenile to make comparisons with France and Germany. Khan is only the latest to use it, not the first. Nothing can be lazier. Neither France nor Germany was born by a division of the other. They fought many wars, but one was defeated with finality. Europe spent decades dismantling its toxic nationalism. There was America as the Big Daddy supervising this, and guaranteeing Western Europe protection.
    To put it brutally: This peace wasn’t reached because good sense descended on both sides. It is because one was defeated, devastated, divided and occupied by the world’s biggest powers. The first and the last opportunity for India-Pakistan peace was the Simla Agreement. We know who was insincere from the moment the agreement was signed.
    This is precisely when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (an elected, civilian leader with the vanquished Army deflated) launched Pakistan onto the path of pan-Islamisation and nuclearisation. He dissed that great Simla opportunity for permanent peace as a humiliating Treaty of Versailles and began preparing for a “thousand-year war” (his early-1970s boast, repeated about two decades later by his daughter as prime minister). Bhutto Senior wanted it to be a war Pakistan would never lose again. Hence the nukes.
    That’s the reason Khan can stand at a solemn religious celebration and remind the much bigger India that its conventional military power amounts to nothing.
    Bhutto founded this post-1971 strategic doctrine. Let’s call it the ‘we shall never lose another war to India’ doctrine. We could argue that Pakistan lost in Kargil. But the nukes closed India’s options, or a provocation like that would have invited a full military response.
    By the time Bhutto was done re-toxifying his country, his Army was set to reclaim power. It has gone through challenges, particularly from two full-majority governments under Nawaz Sharif. But now the template is set. An elected government is allowed as an optical necessity. Foreign, strategic, India-US-China policies, control of the nukes, temperature in Kashmir, Afghanistan are all out of the syllabus for elected governments.
    In their own different ways, both Benazir Bhutto and Sharif challenged it. One paid for it with prison, exile and life. The other with prison more than once, even with key family members, exile and disenfranchisement.
    Khan won’t make a pretence. Since Zia-ul-Haq’s assassination and the return of some democracy, his is the first government elected and set up entirely with the institutional Army patronage. His party is truly the ‘King’s Party’ in Pakistan’s politics. To ensure his election, the guy most likely to win was barred from contesting and campaigning, jailed with his daughter and son-in-law. Numbers Khan still fell short of were “arranged” overnight. Of course, his patrons were humane enough to free his rivals once the mission was accomplished. Khan isn’t about to make the blunder of his predecessors and challenge the fauji-democracy template of divided powers. Or what an exasperated Sharif described to me once as “aadha teetar, aadha bater” (half a partridge, half a quail).
    Don’t be judgemental about Khan. Be realistic. On my first visit to Pakistan, eminent Pakistani lawyer, politician and activist Aitzaz Ahsan had described Zia’s party-less Muhammad Khan Junejo government as “bonsai democracy”. Pretty to look at from the outside, but never allowed to grow roots and branches outside of its little shelf-space.
    Over the decades, Pakistan has cemented that template. One who challenges it, goes to jail, exile, death or all three. Khan is smart, not stupid. In all evidence so far, he’s Pakistan’s first volunteer bonsai. His intentions are unclear and don’t matter. His limitations do, and these are clear.That’s the fundamental reality to remember before we get breathless over a gesture, an event, a speech, a pilgrimage.

    Pakistani military establishment shouldn’t have put all their eggs in Imran Khan’s basket


    The Pakistani PM has made a laughing stock of himself in governance, economy and foreign policy.
    Prime Minister Imran Khan is being hauled over the coals for failing to match words with deeds in his first 100 days in office. Indeed, he has made a laughing stock of himself by justifying 19 controversial decisions and 35 U-Turns so far as tactical policy befitting “great leaders” like Hitler and Napoleon. Since he wittingly proposed the 100-day yardstick to measure his government’s performance, he has only himself to blame for this media onslaught.
    The most urgent item on PM Imran Khan’s agenda is related to the crisis in the economy manifested by a yawning gap in the balance of payments, falling forex reserves and a plummeting rupee. As opposition leader, he had thundered endlessly against crawling to the IMF or foreign countries for financial bailouts. Instead, he had pinned his hopes on billions in donations from overseas Pakistanis and tens of billions from unearthing black money stashed abroad. The problem arose when, after assuming office, he persisted in his delusionary approach, and the situation went from bad to worse. When his finance minister, Asad Umar, dared to baulk, he was forced to eat his words. It was only when the army chief, General Qamar Bajwa, “launched” himself purposefully that Imran Khan reluctantly packed his achkan, dragged himself off to Saudi Arabia and China with bowl in hand, and Asad Umar sat down to engage the IMF, both making a bald-faced virtue out of necessity.
    But even this belated dawning of “wisdom” has failed to yield the desired results. China is not even ready to reveal the nature of its help. The Saudis have made an insignificant deposit that doesn’t tally with the tall expectations of government. And the IMF delegation has returned to Washington without any commitment, leaving the PM and his FM wringing their hands in despair.
    The second item related to the efficient and honest functioning of government. On that score, there is even more confusion and contradiction. Parliament cannot function properly without consensual committees to steer legal reforms and oversee public accounts. But the hounding of the opposition parties at the behest of the interior ministry and civil-military “agencies” directed by Imran Khan himself has log-jammed the core committees. Worse, the PM’s intent to run Punjab from Bani Gala via a weak chief minister in a sea of cunning contenders for power like the Punjab Governor and the Speaker of the Provincial Assembly, has deadlocked the bureaucracy and administration. The rapid postings and transfers of high and low officials at one power broker’s behest or another’s has led to lack of direction and motivation.
    The third agenda item is foreign policy. Here, too, the government’s stumbling is embarrassing. When the need of the hour is to keep the American beast at bay so that it doesn’t waylay the IMF on its way to Pakistan or lean on the Saudis to put pressure on us, Imran Khan has tried to win cheap brownie points at home by counter-tweeting President Trump. On the Afghanistan front, the war of words and proxy terrorism continues unabated even as Islamabad vows to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
    Now Pakistan’s reopening of the Kartarpur corridor to the Sikh shrine of Baba Guru Nanak is being billed as some sort of “peace breakthrough” in Indo-Pak relations. It is nothing of the sort. Like the IMF, China and Saudi Arabia “openings”, this initiative comes courtesy General Bajwa whose bear hug of Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu at Imran Khan’s oath taking ceremony in Islamabad put Indian PM Narendra Modi and Punjab state CM Amarinder Singh in a tight corner. Neither politician’s prospects are too bright in the forthcoming elections in Punjab state next year. Therefore, they have reluctantly yielded to the Pakistani proposal only to curry favour with tens of millions of devout Sikhs. It is a tactical and short term concession as the hard, anti-Pakistan statements from Amarinder Singh and the Indian FM Sushma Swaraj, coupled with PM Modi’s refusal to attend the SAARC summit for the third year running, prove. Indeed, even as the Kartarpur protocol was being signed, proxy terrorists were taking a toll at the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, SP Tahir Dawar’s murdered body was being handed over to the Pak authorities at the Afghan border, suicide bombers were striking in the lower Orakzai Agency and India’s brutal repression in Kashmir showed no sign of abating.
    On the Pakistan side, too, General Bajwa’s initiative is tactical, aimed only at reducing current Indian hostility – in the form of armed conflict along the LoC and proxy terrorism across the country – that destabilizes Pakistan and makes Imran Khan’s job of focusing on government difficult. This is the same Miltablishment that winked at the Labaiq Ya Rasul Allah during Nawaz Sharif’s time and crushed it in Imran Khan’s, the same that kicked Nawaz out for wanting to promote peace with India and is propping up Imran now at Kartarpur.
    The Miltablishment has put all its eggs in Imran Khan’s basket. It will take more than 100 days of incompetence to shake its faith in their chosen man.

    #Pakistan - Let us send girls to school


    It’s time that we educate all girls and have some gender equality for a better future.
    Only recently, Pakistan was rocked by at least two terror attacks. While sadly, the country is still vulnerable to incidences of terror, what comes as a relief and hope is when they are foiled successfully by security forces. And what came as a double surprise was when in one of the incidents of successfully thwarting a terror plot, the lead was taken by a female police officer. Not only was this an emerging case of breaking patriarchal values, it was also a living example of how education can shape the future of a woman in Pakistan.
    There was a time when Suhai Talpur — the female SP who led the operation to foil an attack on a Chinese consulate in Karachi — had to almost give up on any hope of getting educated. Belonging to a lower middle-class family of Bhai Khan Talpur village in Tando Muhammad Khan district, Sindh, she was expected to receive religious education, at the most. Attending a school was out of the question.
    But Suhai’s father, a writer and activist, had bigger dreams. He moved to another village, cut off ties with his relatives, only to get his daughter educated. His dream came true, when Suhai cleared the competitive examinations for civil service in her first attempt and joined the police force. The rest is, as they say, history.
    According to UNICEF, Pakistan stands second in the world ranking of out-of-school children with only Nigeria ahead of it. Out of the 5.06 million children not going to primary school, 60 per cent are girls. Recent country statistics show that compared to a girl, a boy in Pakistan has a 15 per cent higher chance of going to primary schools.
    What are the reasons for lower enrolment of girls? Unfortunately, despite entering the 21stcentury, Pakistan has still not been able to break away from the shackles of poverty, misogyny and patriarchal tradition.
    Human Rights Watch organisation reports that “Lack of access to education for girls is part of a broader landscape of gender inequality in Pakistan”. The country has one of Asia’s highest rates of maternal mortality. Violence against women and girls — including rape, ‘honour’ killings and violence, acid attacks, domestic violence, forced marriage and child marriage — is a serious problem. Twenty one per cent of females still marry as children in Pakistan.
    And if there is willingness to educate a girl, government schools are in such short supply that even in major cities, many children cannot reach a school on foot safely or in a reasonable amount of time. The situation is far worse in rural areas. Secondary schools are in shorter supply than primary schools, and colleges are even more scarce, especially for girls. In a highly gender segregated society, acceptance of boys and girls studying together diminishes in more traditional and mostly rural setups. Many girls are pushed out of continuing studies because they finish at one school and cannot access the next grade level.
    If there is willingness to educate a girl, government schools are in such short supply that even in major cities, many children cannot reach a school on foot safely or in a reasonable amount of time. The situation is far worse in rural areas. Secondary schools are in shorter supply than primary schools, and colleges are even more scarce.
    But for many parents, the most fundamental barrier to sending their children to school is poverty. Even relatively low associated costs can put education out of reach for poor families, and there are many poor families in Pakistan. In 2016, the government determined that about 60 million Pakistanis were living in poverty, about 29.5 per cent of the country’s population. With many mouths to feed, poor families, if educating their children, opt for the boys.
    Many children, including girls, are out of school because they are working. Sometimes they are engaged in paid work, which for girls often consists of home-based industries, such as sewing, embroidery, beading, or assembling items. Other children — almost always girls — are kept home to do housework in the family home or are employed as domestic workers.
    Social stigmas are plenty. Girls are seen as a burden since birth. Spending on their education is still considered futile, when compared to the ‘cost’ of their upbringing, nutrition and clothing, all to be able to spend more to marry them off with a dowry which may be a crushing blow to their parents’ economy. Men are the providers, the bread earners. Women are only supporters, hence the early they assume their role, the better.
    Empowered girls are seen as a threat to the false ego of boys, as well a danger for demanding their rights in property and inheritance. Under false pretences of a family’s image and social status, they are kept behind walls and layers of fabrics, to choke them into isolation.
    Educating girls in Pakistan is an issue not restricted to class or a segment of the society. Well educated and well off families may also prefer limited education for their females, just ‘enough’ for them to make a good impression for gaining a decent proposal. Career oriented studies are still deemed unnecessary, since females may not be expected to work after they get married.
    Some men fear, that if their women step out of their houses to earn a livelihood, they would refuse to succumb to a submissive persona and tend to centuries old tradition of nurturing and caring. Yet, there are some men who do not hesitate to let their women toil to earn to pay for their drunken stupors, ensured by a barbaric display of violence.
    Violence is used in not one, but multiple ways to keep girls away from schools. Malala Yousufzai — now an internationally renowned activist for female education — is a living example. She dared to tell the truth about the elements trying to restrict young females like her at home. She was responded to by a bullet in her head.
    Malala managed to escape death, and a moratorium on her education. But the elements prevail. Many girls’ schools were attacked and bombed in the northern areas this year, sending out a strong message to families to keep their girls at homes.
    Where the state may still be failing to endeavour to educate more women, national and international non-governmental organisations are taking a lead in the effort. UNESCO and the World Bank are running various projects in the country. Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education (PAGE) is another prominent NGO striving for the purpose.
    If there was no education for girls we would not have Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah — not just a sister to the founder of Pakistan, but herself a fierce campaigner for independence and later, women’s rights. Without literacy, Pakistan would have not had the privilege of having the first female prime minister in a Muslim nation — Benazir Bhutto. Without education there would have been no Ismat Chughtai, Kishwar Naheed, Fehmida Riaz, Parveen Shakir, Haseena Moin, Bapsi Sidhwa, to name a few of the female literary icons of the country. There would have been no champion of human rights like Asma Jahangir, braver than any man of her time.
    Had Suhai not attended school and had her parents opted to keep their blood ties close, a different chapter would have been written in history. Suhai Talpur may have been married off to some close or distant relative at a tender age. She may have been spending her life quietly, attending to chores and family. The desire in her heart to read and write may have already been burnt out, and she definitely would not have made to headlines as she has done today.
    It’s time that we educate girls, not only few privileged ones but all. It’s time we let the likes of Malala live in her own country and prosper. It’s time we have some gender equality. We could begin by sending our girls to school.