Saturday, December 22, 2018

Video Music - Rasputin - Boney M

Video Report - #Belgian - #YellowVests scuffle with police

Video Report - #GiletJuanes #France #Macron - What's next for France's Yellow Vest protest movement?

Video Report - #YellowVests – #France - 6th round: Tear gas, water canons deployed at protest in #Paris

Video Report - #YellowVestProtests - Yellow Vest' protests hit Paris for the sixth consecutive week

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

Video Report - Can the US be a dependable ally?

Video Report - Syria - "There are still US troops on the ground, but the withdrawal process has started"

Opinion: Trump After Mattis

The Secretary of Defense worked to shield the world from President Trump’s worst impulses. But even he had his limits.
Jim Mattis, as secretary of defense, has done his best to preserve and defend the system of global alliances that the United States spent the last 70 years building and leading. In his resignation letter on Thursday, Mr. Mattis wrote that the United States was the “indispensable nation in the free world.” “Our strength as a nation,” he wrote, “is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.”That’s apparently not the view held by President Trump, who ran for office calling for America to do less, calling for our allies to spend more and inviting rival nations to be more assertive.
Some people thought that once Mr. Trump was in office and had shouldered presidential responsibilities, he would adopt a less knee-jerk view of how best to keep the nation safe and the free world free.
Mr. Mattis, a respected and disciplined man, withstood Mr. Trump’s chaotic approach to governing longer than Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state, and H.R. McMaster, the former national security adviser. He worked to prevent or blunt dangerous and impulsive presidential decisions, and he often made a difference.Mr. Mattis helped persuade Mr. Trump not to pull out of NATO and worked to assure Europe that the United States remained committed to a common defense of the continent.Mr. Mattis offered the same assurances to America’s allies in Asia, who are alarmed at an assertive China and unpredictable North Korea. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump, unconvinced of the value of the relationship with South Korea, threatened to withdraw forces there if Seoul didn’t bear a larger share of the basing costs.
During his saber-rattling phase with North Korea, Mr. Trump considered ordering the evacuation of military families from South Korea, which could have been interpreted by Pyongyang as a prelude to an American attack. According to CNN, Mr. Mattis worked to soften the order, which was never carried out.
When it came to other ill-considered presidential directives — a cruel ban on transgender troops and a self-aggrandizing military parade — Mr. Mattis quietly smothered the proposals with Pentagon bureaucracy.
Although he couldn’t prevent it, Mr. Mattis helped delay America’s abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal. He was also unable to prevent upending decades of Middle East policy by moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem without gaining any ground toward peace. In the end, it was Mr. Trump’s decision to immediately withdraw troops from Syria that pushed Jim Mattis over the edge.
On Wednesday, the president said he would withdraw all 2,000 American troops, a decision that was welcome news to Russia, Iran and Turkey. It was a bitter betrayal of groups like the Kurds, who have fought and died alongside American soldiers for more than a decade.Presidents, of course, have the authority to make such decisions. But presidents also traditionally plan out such decisions carefully and coordinate them with allies, particularly if fighting is underway.If the fellow in the next foxhole suddenly heads home, those fighters who remain are right to feel betrayed. In this case, in a telephone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mr. Trump said he would not object if Turkish forces invaded Syria and attacked Kurdish forces — including American allies — whom Ankara considers terrorists. Mr. Mattis could not get Mr. Trump to reverse course. And now, Mr. Trump is also considering a precipitous unilateral drawdown of forces in Afghanistan.
Presidents have tremendous power to make national security policy. But Congress also has a role to play, and it now needs to forcefully assert that responsibility.
Legislation requiring that the secretaries of state and defense have a say in the use of nuclear weapons is one good place to start. Another is to require congressional approval to leave NATO or other treaty obligations, like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
More immediately, the Senate would be wise to hold out for a nominee for defense secretary who is more like Mr. Mattis than Mr. Trump.

Splitting With Trump Over Syria, American Leading ISIS Fight Steps Down

By Rukmini Callimachi and Eric Schmitt
Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, has accelerated his resignation, telling colleagues this weekend that he could not in good conscience carry out President Trump’s newly declared policy of withdrawing American troops from Syria.

Mr. McGurk, a seasoned diplomat who was considered by many to be the glue holding together the sprawling international coalition fighting the terrorist group, was supposed to retire in February. But according to an email he sent his staff, he decided to move his departure forward to Dec. 31 after Mr. Trump did not heed his own commanders and blindsided America’s allies in the region by abruptly ordering the withdrawal of the 2,000 troops.
His decision comes right after the departure of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, whose own resignation letter was seen as a rebuke of the president’s actions in the region.
“The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy that was articulated to us,” Mr. McGurk said in the email to his colleagues. “It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered,” he added.
“I worked this week to help manage some of the fallout but — as many of you heard in my meetings and phone calls — I ultimately concluded that I could not carry out these new instructions and maintain my integrity,” he said.
With more than a decade of experience in Iraq spanning three administrations, Mr. McGurk helped stitch together the 79-member coalition led by the United States, which oversaw the battle to take back cities from the terrorist group. He became special envoy in late 2015, during the Obama administration.
In a shift from the way the insurgency had been fought during the Bush administration, one of the Obama administration’s core doctrines was that America’s allies in the region needed to take the lead in recapturing territory, with American forces providing only air support and limited logistical assistance.
This meant that the ground war to take back key cities captured by the Islamic State, like Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, took years to mount. And it came down to the 45-year-old McGurk to negotiate alliances and broker military aid to the mosaic of armed groups and governments vying for control of the region.
“To my mind, Brett had one of the hardest jobs in government,” said Nicholas Rasmussen, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “His role demanded that he navigate the complexities of Iraqi politics and stitch together a diplomatic and military coalition of states with very divergent interests.”
At its height, the Islamic State controlled an area the size of Britain with a population estimated at 12 million people. Under Mr. McGurk’s guidance, the coalition succeeded in taking roughly half of the territory in the group’s self-declared caliphate by the time Mr. Trump took office in early 2017.
By the end of 2018, the Islamic State had lost all but 1 percent of the land it once held in Iraq and Syria, leading the White House to proclaim that the group had been defeated even though it is still estimated to have some 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in the region. On Twitter, Mr. Trump did not directly address Mr. McGurk’s resignation but took credit for defeating the Islamic State.
“When I became President, ISIS was going wild,” he wrote. “Now ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains.”In fact, one of Mr. McGurk’s biggest challenges was securing the cooperation of Turkey.Early on, it became clear that the only group in northern Syria capable of fighting the terrorist organization was a Kurdish militia. But brokering that alliance was tricky because of pushback from Turkey, which considers the Kurds in northern Syria to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an outlawed separatist group that has been fighting a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.After numerous meetings with senior Turkish officials who wanted to block any American involvement with the Syrian Kurds, Mr. McGurk’s team succeeded in negotiating an agreement. Only once that agreement was in full force did the coalition begin making strides against the militants.
That alliance saved American lives, coalition officials say. Four American soldiers died in the multiyear deployment to Syria, though the coalition estimates that the Kurds lost upward of 10,000 troops. Mr. Trump had declared the defeat of the Islamic State in a tweet earlier this past week. Only days before, Mr. McGurk stood in front of reporters at a State Department briefing and promised that America was in the fight for the long haul.
“Nobody is declaring a mission accomplished. Defeating a physical caliphate is one phase of a much longer-term campaign,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say that Americans will remain on the ground after the physical defeat of the caliphate, until we have the pieces in place to ensure that that defeat is enduring.” The president’s order to begin drawing down troops placed the envoy in the uncomfortable position of having to tell America’s Kurdish allies that the United States was reneging on its earlier commitment.
“Brett is one of our longest serving and most effective officials dealing with the region,” said Gen. John Allen, Mr. McGurk’s predecessor. “His departure, following that of Jim Mattis and others, will leave us less safe at a moment when this president seems unwilling to take, or unable to understand, the ‘best advice’ of his leaders.” Because of his prominent role, Mr. McGurk faced repeated threats from the Islamic State.
This summer, he was the target of a wave of assassination threats from Iranian-backed militias and demonstrators, who marched through the streets of Iraq holding banners showing photographs of Mr. McGurk with an X across his face. At the time, he had been working to encourage the formation of a pro-Western government following a presidential election in Iraq, where Iran has exerted growing influence.

Music Video - Ghazal - Ek Taraf Uska Ghar Ek Taraf Maikada - Pankaj Udhas

#Malala's message needs to be heard by men and boys

By Caitlin Fitzsimmons

Most readers would have heard of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Like Madonna Ciccone, Malala has achieved a level of fame where she has first-name status.
But do you know the names Ziauddin Yousafzai and Toor Pekai Yousafzai? They're Malala's parents and my new heroes. As impressive as Malala is, her family's support has made her who she is. Her father's journey from his patriarchal upbringing to being a self-described feminist is particularly remarkable.
In Australia, it seems that every day we are regaled with stories or allegations of men behaving badly towards women. Actors Geoffrey Rush and Craig McLachlan. Footballer Jarryd Hayne. Senator Barry O'Sullivan's staffer. Pollies Luke Foley and Andrew Broad.Most men are decent human beings but I'm not sure that's enough. We have plenty of good blokes but we need heroes and change-makers. Men like Ziauddin Yousafzai.
Malala, now 20 and a student at Oxford University, was in Australia for a speaking tour recently and I saw her at the Sydney event, where she packed out the 8000-seat theatre at the International Convention Centre.
I knew the bare bones of her story: when the Taliban banned girls from going to school, Malala pushed back and became known for her advocacy. One day a Taliban gunman boarded the bus carrying Malala home from school, shot her in the head and left her for dead. She was saved by doctors, first in Pakistan and then in Birmingham, UK, where her family eventually moved.She's recovered from horrific injuries and continues her work advocating and fundraising for the 130 million girls globally who are not in school.
Malala describes herself as just an ordinary girl and says if she had been born into an ordinary family, she would be married with children by now.I don’t agree that Malala is “just an ordinary girl” – not everyone has her passion for learning, her courage or the poise to speak in front of 8000 people – but her point about her family is well made.She described how her father, Ziauddin, was her biggest supporter when it came to both her education and activism. Malala mentioned that he had written a book, Let Her Fly: A Father’s Journey and the Fight for Equality, which was published in November. I bought a copy after the event and read it. The book takes its name from the fact that people often ask him what he did for Malala to make her the way she is and he answers that they should ask what he did not do – he did not clip her wings.
He describes how he grew up in a typical family where the women and girls served the men and boys and the boys were educated but the girls were not. As a child he never questioned it but as a teenager he witnessed the torment of his cousin trapped in a violent marriage and honour killings in the neighbourhood.
It made a strong impression and he vowed if he had a daughter he would do things differently. He started by recording her birth in the family tree, the first female name anybody had written down for 300 years.
He also realised that he needed to model equality to Malala and her two younger brothers by the way he treated their mother, Toor Pekai. He fully consulted her in decisions and gave her the rare freedom to walk around town unchaperoned.While Toor Pekai is less in the public eye, Ziauddin makes it clear she played a pivotal role in the family's quest for equality.Australia is a much less patriarchal society than Pakistan, but we don’t have full gender equality. Women earn less than men, have lower retirement savings, occupy fewer leadership positions in business and politics, do most of the child rearing and domestic work, and are more likely to be hurt or killed by family violence. Men are more likely to be murdered, more likely to be in jail and have higher rates of suicide. A patriarchal society also goes hand in hand with other power structures based on race and class.
What Malala’s story shows is the importance of parenting and how men and boys need to be part of the fight for equality too.
Yet the 8000 people at Malala’s Sydney event were mostly women and girls. There were men, but they were in the minority, and I saw very few boys.
There were plenty of mother-daughter duos and quite a few groups from girls’ schools. Surely, sons and fathers should go to events like this? What about school groups of boys?
It sometimes feels like we’re having conversations about gender equality with only half the population.
It’s quite common for girls’ schools to study Malala’s first book I am Malala. How many boys study it at school?
There are plenty of strong heroines in books aimed at girls, but have we changed the books we buy for boys?
And while parents of daughters often choose schools with great programs to develop female leaders, do the parents of sons ask prospective schools how they prepare the boys for a more gender-equal world?
If you’re looking for a last-minute gift for a man or a boy in your life, you could do worse than buy him Let Her Fly. It’s an engaging read and only 165 pages.
As Ziauddin Yousafzai writes, there is “beauty to be had for us all in living in a truly equal society”.

#PPP - Raza Rabbani criticised the #Pakistan (#PTI) government on Friday, saying that the country’s foreign policy should be “decided by parliament

#Pakistan - Minorities at risk

Irfan Husain

AS a country, we bask in the praise of foreigners, but when they are critical — as they often are — we bristle with indignation and go into our usual ostrich mode.
So when Pakistan was placed on the US State Department list of countries of particular concern for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing and egregious” religious freedom violations, government spokesmen and editorial writers went into denial. Earlier, Pakistan was on the only slightly less humiliating ‘watch list’.
I’m not much concerned by what the Americans think of the way we treat our minorities. But as a Pakistani, I have been deeply ashamed of how our non-Muslim citizens have been steadily marginalised over the years.
The state has a responsibility to protect all its citizens.
With sickening regularity, human rights organisations, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, report incidents in which Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis have been targeted by extremist groups. Shias, specially the Hazaras, have been killed in large numbers.
While the state may not have been complicit, it has created an environment of impunity by failing to arrest, try and punish those responsible for these murderous attacks. Mullahs incite mobs at regular intervals to torch churches and the homes of Christians. Hapless non-Muslims are regularly victimised under the blasphemy laws.
We often complain of the growing Islamophobia in the West. But what our minorities suffer in Pakistan on a daily basis is far worse. There is discrimination against them in jobs, schools and society as a whole. Sanitary workers are considered sub-human, and have been unable to escape their untouchable status despite their conversion to Islam or Christianity.
Many educated non-Muslims have emigrated to escape the discrimination they faced in Pakistan. In secular states, they have thrived, finding opportunities denied to them in their homeland. Hazaras have risked their lives to flee violence: in Quetta, they live as virtual prisoners in an enclave. Due to their distinctive Central Asian features, they are easily identified as Shias by Sunni extremists. Hundreds have been killed, but few assailants have been arrested.
A major factor driving the rise of Islamophobia in the West is the persistent threat of terror attacks carried out by jihadist individuals and groups. The US, Britain, France and Germany, among other countries, have suffered multiple atrocities carried out against innocent civilians. India, too, has had its share of cross-border terror attacks carried out by extremist groups.
Imagine that a major building in, say, Lahore, had been blown up by a Christian group, and there were hundreds of casualties. In such a scenario, people would be wading in blood in local Christian settlements. In the immediate aftermath of prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, up to 17,000 of their co-religionists were chased down and murdered (the official figure is 2,800).
Mercifully, despite the regular terrorist attacks and uncovered plots, Muslims in the West are not subjected to this kind of mindless backlash. And as hate speech is a crime in many countries, victims can report incidents to the police. Here, non-Muslims stay as far away from the police as possible, knowing they can easily be accused of blasphemy as the charge does not carry the same burden of proof as other crimes do.
We tend to blame Gen Zia for the environment of fake piety that pervades the country. But the reality is that when we created a state in the name of religion, it was only a matter of time when the most extreme version of the faith dominated the public discourse. In this atmosphere of religious zeal, non-Muslims rapidly became second-class citizens, tolerated at best, and suspected of being anti-Pakistan at worst.
Many liberal Pakistanis cling to the famous speech made by Mr Jinnah to the Constituent Assembly a few days before the creation of Pakistan. In his eloquent enunciation of the secular principle, he declared that non-Muslims would be guaranteed equal rights. But ask a student or a cleric what he thinks of the speech, and you will probably draw a blank. One reply is that if Mr Jinnah wanted a secular state, why did he insist on the partition of India? A fair point, and one difficult to refute.
So when we are accused of ‘systematic, ongoing and egregious’ religious freedom violations, on what grounds do we protest our innocence? The state has a responsibility to protect all of its citizens, and not just Sunni Muslims. Time after time, those responsible for attacking non-Muslims have got off scot-free, encouraging others to pick these soft targets for persecution and mayhem. In all this, the police are usually silent witnesses. Mullahs are hardly ever prosecuted for provoking mobs, and non-Muslim villagers live in fear.
We need to take a hard look at our treatment of minorities, not because of American pressure, but to become a just society.

#Pakistan - #PPP to announce new strategy on Dec 27: Bilawal

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Friday condemned ‘attempts’ to roll back the 18th Constitutional Amendment as he announced he will present a new party strategy at the 11th death anniversary of the slain PPP chairperson, Benazir Bhutto.

“A conspiracy is being hatched for pushing the country towards the One-Unit. Basic utilities such as gas and electric supply have been suspended while due shares of the provinces are also being withheld by the federation. A campaign has also been launched in support of disputed Kalabagh Dam,” he said.
Bilawal, together with the PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari was chairing a party meeting at the Bilawal House in Karachi to review arrangements and preparations for the mega public gathering at Benazir’s death anniversary to be held at Garhi Khuda Bux in Larkana on December 27. The PPP chairman said the party’s founder, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave the 1973 Constitution to the people of Pakistan while military rulers have been spoiling the same during their authoritarian rules.
“The PPP restored the 1973 Constitution in its original form through the 18th Amendment and the party will not compromise on that amendment because the PPP has always defeated undemocratic forces.”“Mohtarma’s death anniversary will be commemorated with zeal and passion and the party will also announce a new strategy after the PPP Central Executive Committee meeting,” Bilawal added.
Addressing the meeting, Zardari said adverse situations and hostile attitudes could not intimidate the party as “we have always defeated such situations and gained more strength from adversities.”
He said the difficulties that the PPP faces today are not adversities when compared with the challenges Benazir Bhutto faced, “She courageously faced and defeated that tough time and all the adversaries. She stood against the Martial Law imposed by the dictator, Ziaul Haq.”Zardari said all the allegations that the rivals have leveled against him are baseless.
“They can’t intimidate us through fake documents. They should bear in mind that our level of tolerance and endurance is far greater than their tactical maneuvouring and atrocities. They will fall down in the end,” he said.The PPP supremo said the people will on December 27 prove that the PPP cannot be eliminated and the party with the support of the people will form its governments at the Centre, in all four provinces and in Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit-Baltistan after sweeping the next general elections.

#Pakistan - Former #Punjab CM Dost Mohammad Khosa joins #PPP

Former chief minister of Punjab Dost Mohammad Khosa late Saturday night announced joining the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Khosa met PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari at the Bilawal House, where he announced that he would be joining the party.
PPP leaders Qamar Zaman Kaira, Faisal Saleh Hayat, Abdul Qayoom Soomro, Zulfiqar Shah, Ayoob Khosa were also present on the occasion.
Khosa was elected as Punjab chief minister back in 2008 and is the son of former Punjab governor Zulfiqar Ali Khosa.He was first elected as an MPA when his father vacated the provincial seat after taking oath as Punjab governor in August 1999.

Pakistan: CPEC And Escalating Threat In Balochistan – Analysis

By Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
On December 10, 2018, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Cell, in its briefing to Balochistan Cabinet, revealed that Balochistan’s share in the USD 62 Billion CPEC project was a miniscule nine percent, about USD 5.6 Billion. It was also disclosed that, out of this committed sum, less than USD one Billion had been spent in over five years, since May 22, 2013, when CPEC was launched. The stunned Cabinet members reportedly described CPEC spending in Balochistan thus far, as “a joke”.
In its briefing, the CPEC Cell also disclosed that the current shortfall of 700MW in the Province meant that all the new power injected into the grid as a result of CPEC power projects had not found its way to Balochistan. On October 23, 2018, China engaged the World Bank to undertake a study on the real potential of CPEC investment and its future prospects. 
Expressing concern over the dismal share of the Province in development projects under the CPEC, on December 9, 2018, the Balochistan Government disclosed that only two projects — the Gwadar Port and Hubco Coal Power Plant — had been approved for the Province till that point, since CPEC’s launch on May 22, 2013. The Government, moreover, claimed that even these two projects had no direct benefits for the people of Balochistan. Significantly, the Gwadar Port is the epicentre of the entire CPEC project in Pakistan, yet the residents of the city have a hard time getting drinking water on a daily basis. In order to address the drinking-water shortage in Gwadar, the Federal Government has announced many desalination plants, but none has yet materialized.
On December 5, 2018, the ruling Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) founder Saeed Ahmed Hashmi stated, “despite passage of about five years the people of the Province have witnessed no development project initiated under the CPEC.”
The apprehension that CPEC will not benefit Balochistan has rightly been there for long.  Indeed, the Senate (Upper House of the National Assembly) was informed on November 24, 2017, that 91 percent of the revenues to be generated from the Gwadar port as part of CPEC would go to China, while the Gwadar Port Authority would be left with a nine percent share of the income for the next 40 years. This was disclosed by the then Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, after senators expressed concern over the secrecy surrounding the CPEC long-term agreement plan, with many observing that the agreement tilted heavily in China’s favour.
Moreover, there is also great anxiety that CPEC will convert the Baloch people into minorities in their own homeland. Noordin Mengal, a human rights campaigner from the Province stated, on March 17, 2017, that with an influx of outsiders as a result of the project, the identity of the Baloch was being threatened.
According to the Census 2017, the total population of Balochistan was 12.3 million. Census 2017 indicates the Baloch population (Balochi language speaking population) has shrunk from 61 percent of the total to 55.6 percent over a period of 19 years (Census 1998 to Census 2017) in the 21 Districts where the Balochi-speaking population form a majority.
Pakistan currently hosts a sizable Chinese population and the numbers are only slated to grow as the project progresses. Concerns about the demographic transformation of Balochistan have been reiterated in a December 28, 2016, report by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), which noted that, at the current and projected rate of influx of Chinese nationals into Balochistan, the native population of the area would be outnumbered by 2048.
Since the start of the groundwork on CPEC, more than 39,000 Chinese have come to Pakistan over the past five years, according to official data and documents reported on March 5, 2018. 7,859 Chinese were issued visas in 2013, at the start of the CPEC projects, soon after the Nawaz Sharif Government came to power. Another 69 visas were issued in 2014; 13,268 in 2015; 6,268 in 2016; and, according to informed officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an estimated 12,287 in 2017. In addition, about 91,000 Chinese nationals have visited Pakistan on tourist visas over this period.
Due to these reasons, there is persistent discontent among the ethnic Baloch with regard to CPEC. The Province is at the heart of the CPEC scheme – a massive series of projects that includes a network of highways, railways and energy infrastructure spanning the entire country. CPEC is a flagship project in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This discontent constitutes an enduring threat to Chinese engineers, workers and people associated with the constituent projects, with Baloch nationalists, who consider it part of a ‘strategic design’ by Pakistan and China to loot their resources and eliminate the Baloch culture and identity, strongly opposed.
In a sign of increasing anger against CPEC, in the first of its kind of attack, the Baloch separatist group, Baloch Liberation Army’s (BLA’s) ‘Majeed Brigade’ suicide squad, on November 23, 2018, carried out a suicide attack targeting the Chinese Consulate at Block 4 in the Clifton area of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. At least six people, including three civilians, two Policemen, and a private security guard, were killed. Three terrorists involved in the attack were killed by the Security Forces (SFs). No Chinese national was hurt. Claiming responsibility for the attack, BLA disclosed that the attackers had been tasked to target the consulate.
On October 31, 2018, five construction workers of non-Baloch ethnicity were shot dead while another three suffered injuries in an attack near Ganz, some 15 kilometers west of Jiwani town in the Gwadar District of Balochistan. According to official sources, the labourers were working at a CPEC-related private housing scheme on Peshkan-Ganz road, which links Gwadar with Jewani, when a group of unidentified assailants riding motorcycles appeared on the scene and opened fire. Security officials identified four of the deceased as Naeem Ahmed and Hunzullah, residents of Karachi (Sindh); Irshad Ali of Sukkur (Sindh); and Muhammad Shakir of Multan (Punjab). The identity of the fifth deceased is yet to be ascertained. BLA ‘spokesperson’ Azad Baloch, claiming responsibility for the attack, stated,
The site attacked today was part of CPEC project… Today’s attack is a clear message to China and all other countries that Balochistan is an occupied territory. We warn all military and other constructions companies to immediately stop working on their projects in Gwadar or they will be targeted by Baloch fighters.
Significantly, on October 29, 2018, Pakistan had organised a conference of 26 countries – the Asian Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Political Affairs – in its attempt assert the legality of its occupation in Balochistan. Warning against the ongoing ‘colonisation’ of Balochistan Azad Baloch stated,
China and Pakistan are settling Punjabis and Chinese in Gwadar and other areas of Balochistan’s coastal belt to turn the Baloch into a minority under their expansionist designs… If the international community fails to fulfil their responsibilities and turns a blind eye to the Pakistani and Chinese colonisation of Balochistan, then the Baloch nation will have no other option but to target all non-Baloch settlers in Balochistan… The BLA will continue to resist against the occupation of Baloch Ocean and coastal belt…
He added that China and Pakistan were building around 70 housing schemes under the exploitative CPEC colonisation project.
On August 11, 2018, six persons – among them three Chinese engineers – had been injured in a suicide attack on a bus in the Dalbandin area of Chagai District in Balochistan. The bus, carrying 18 Chinese engineers, was being escorted by Frontier Corps (FC) troops to the Dalbandin Airport from the Saindaik copper and gold mines, when a suicide bomber tried to drive his explosives-laden vehicle into the bus. “The explosives-laden vehicle exploded near the bus on Quetta-Taftan Highway – and as a result three Chinese engineers, two FC soldiers and the bus driver were injured,” an unnamed Balochistan Levies official stated. Saifullah Khatiran, Deputy Commissioner of Chagai District, disclosed that the engineers were working on the Saindak Project, a joint venture between Pakistan and China to extract gold, copper and silver from an area close to the border.
Jiand Baloch, a BLA ‘spokesperson’, had then stated, “We targeted this bus which was carrying Chinese engineers. We attacked them because they are extracting gold from our region, we won’t allow it.” In a statement issued on Twitter, the BLA identified the suicide bomber as Rehan Baloch, who died in the attack, as the elder son of BLA’s ‘senior commander’ Aslam Baloch.
On May 4, 2018, six ethnic Punjabi labourers were killed and one was injured in an incident of firing in the Laijay area of Kharan District. Levies sources said the labourers, who hailed from eastern Punjab, were working on a mobile tower and were sleeping in tents at the site when unidentified militants on motorcycles opened fire on them. The assailants escaped unhurt after the attack. There was no claim of responsibility.
Insurgents trying to disrupt construction of CPEC projects in Balochistan have killed 66 persons since 2014. Colonel Zafar Iqbal, a spokesperson for the construction company Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), on September 8, 2016, had stated, “The latest figure has climbed up to 44 deaths and over 100 wounded men on CPEC projects, mainly road construction in Balochistan, which began in 2014.” Since September 7, 2016, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), another 22 persons have been killed in different CPEC related projects across the Province (till December 16, 2018).
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar stated, on December 10, 2018, “the situation of Balochistan is deplorable” despite the Province having huge mineral resources. The CJP emphasised that the people of Balochistan complained that they were being neglected by Islamabad and they did not even have basic rights.
With the CPEC Cell’s revelation of injustices against the Province coming to light, the enduring discontent among the Baloch people is likely to be further aggravated, and CPEC-related projects will come under an escalating threat in the months to come.

US knew about Pakistan’s nuke programme, overlooked to get support in Afghanistan

A year after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, then US secretary of defence Harold Brown and Chinese vice-premier Deng Xioping decided to ‘set aside’ concerns regarding Pakistan’s nuclear programme to strengthen it ‘against potential Soviet action’, documents reveal.

It’s been known for some years now that the United States and China helped Pakistan build up its nuclear arsenal actively or by overlooking it to purchase Islamabad’s cooperation. But recently declassified official documents reaffirm it.
“There are limits on our ability to aid Pakistan because of their nuclear programme,” then US secretary of defence Harold Brown told Chinese vice-premier Deng Xiaoping at a meeting in Beijing in January 1980, as the two leaders discussed strategy on countering Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the previous year.
“Although we still object to their doing so, we will now set that aside for the time being, to facilitate strengthening Pakistan against potential Soviet action,” the US official said, according to the minutes of the meeting, contained in the US Foreign Relations 1977-1980 volume on Afghanistan, released this week.
Deng, who later went on to rise to the top of the Chinese government, and set the country on the path of economic prosperity that would turn it into the world’s second largest economy, had approved.
“That is a very good approach,” Deng had said. “Pakistan has its own reasons for developing a nuclear programme. We ourselves oppose Pakistan’s effort on nuclear weapons because we believe it is meaningless to spend money on such a programme.”
But Pakistan, he had added, understandingly, “as its own arguments, i.e., India has exploded a nuclear device but the world has not seemed to complain about this”.
Pakistan, whose nuclear scientists had been trained by the United States in the 1950s and 1970s, according to a New York Times report in 1998, had continued to work on its nuclear programme as the US had looked away in the 1980s — Islamabad had become by then a conduit for billions of dollars of weapons smuggled to Afghanistan fighters by the CIA.

Two Christian brothers sentenced to death for web blasphemy in Pakistan

Both men were convicted last week of the “use of derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet”, under strict blasphemy punishments covered by Pakistan's penal code.
“The prosecution has proved its case against both the accused beyond shadow of reasonable doubt,” Judge Javed Iqbl Bosal concluded in a 28-page ruling.
He went on: “Hence, both the convicts are to be sentenced to death.”
The conviction must be confirmed by the high court and both men can appeal.
Tahir Bashir, counsel for the two men, said they were alleged to have uploaded blasphemous content on the United Christians Organisation of Pakistan in August 2010. A complaint was only registered a year later, by a Muslim cleric from another district. Mr Bashir said while the men had started the website, they were not operating it at the time of the offence.
The sentence was handed down only two days after America put Pakistan on a religious freedom blacklist, and is expected to again draw attention to the country's harsh blasphemy laws.The death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Catholic farmhand accused of insulting the prophet in a quarrel with co-workers, caused international outcry in 2010. She spent eight years on death row until she was acquitted by the supreme court in October. She remains in protective custody until the ruling has been reviewed and she can leave the country to claim asylum.French Colony where most of the Christian community resides on Nov 15, 2018 in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Muhammad Saeed, who made the complaint that led to the brothers' sentence told the Telegraph that “justice is done”.
Attempts to reform the country's blasphemy laws have met with fury from religious hardliners and two senior politicians who attempted to speak out for Mrs Bibi were assassinated.
Asia Bibi was the first woman sentenced to death for blasphemy, but the charge is not uncommon in Pakistan and most accused are Muslims. Since 2011 about 100 blasphemy cases have been registered. Around 40 people are awaiting the death sentence or serving life sentences.Many cases never get to court though. Since 1990 at least 62 people have been murdered by vigilantes as a result of blasphemy allegations, before any trial could take place.
Nasir Saeed, director of the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement charity supporting the brothers, said: “This is a very unfortunate situation as because of threats from hardliners lower courts pass their responsibility to the higher court and then it takes years to prove the accused innocent."

Opinion - Blasphemy, #Pakistan’s New Religion


By Mohammed Hanif

After spending eight years on death row, Asia Bibi, a Christian, was acquitted by Pakistan’s Supreme Court this week. For many here it seemed like a good day. The country’s highest court had finally delivered justice and released a woman whose life has already been destroyed by years in solitary confinement. The court decision quoted Islamic scriptures, bits of letters by the Prophet Muhammad and a smattering of Shakespeare. A great wrong was righted.
And that’s why Pakistan’s new religious right, which has rebranded itself as the protector of the Prophet’s honor, has threatened to bring the country to a halt.
Posters were put up with fatwas against the judges who had issued the Bibi decision. The judges’ guards and cooks were urged to kill them before evening; anyone who did would earn great rewards in the afterlife. Pakistani conservatives, emboldened by gains in the general election this summer, goaded the generals into rebelling against the army chief, whom they accused of being an Ahmadi, a persecuted religious minority. They called Prime Minister Imran Khan a “Jew child.”
Khan, in an impromptu address to the nation, seemed appalled at the language and the implication: He said his government had already done more than any other for Islam and warned protesters not to take on the state. But the mobs will settle for nothing short of Bibi’s public hanging.
Bibi probably didn’t even know what blasphemy was when she was accused of committing it. There are many versions of what led to the charges against her, but all revolve around a verbal altercation with Muslim neighbors in Punjab, an eastern province, about drinking water from the same vessel. Some Muslims won’t share utensils with non-Muslims, a belief that has more to do with (Hindu) casteism than (Islamic) scripture. We can never know what she may or may not have said because repeating blasphemy is also blasphemy, and writing it down may be even greater blasphemy. So let’s not go there.
We do know what happened next. Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and, after what her lawyers called a forced confession, was sentenced to death by one court. Another court later confirmed the sentence. The governor of Punjab Province, Salman Taseer, visited her in prison and promised to lobby for a presidential pardon. He was assassinated by one of his police bodyguards who believed the governor had committed blasphemy by questioning the country’s blasphemy laws. The Pakistani media was understanding. Of the bodyguard’s feelings. A federal minister who happened to be Christian and spoke up for Bibi also was assassinated. Although nobody has actually been hanged by the state for blasphemy so far, the mere accusation can be an open invitation to kill the accused. Last year, the university student Mashal Khan was lynched by classmates after he was accused of putting some blasphemous posts on social media. They were nothing more than a campus rebel’s personal thoughts, some revolutionary poetry and musings about the meaning of life.
Also last year, five bloggers were picked up by intelligence agencies in what seemed like coordinated raids. They had all written against the army or its security policies. Some had written in prose, some in poetry; others in Facebook rants. As their disappearance lasted, some people on social media and TV anchors close to the army started accusing them of having committed blasphemy. They were eventually released by their abductors, but so much poison had been spread about them that they had to leave the country.
Ahead of the last election the same people who are now demanding the army chief’s head laid siege to the capital. They were protesting against the government for changing one word in the oath that you are required to take as a member of parliament. This blasphemy brigade was egged on by the media and opposition political parties. Khan, who was the opposition leader at the time, said that his followers were rearing to join the protest. Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the army’s top commander, said publicly that it couldn’t be expected to use force against its own people, an honorable sentiment with little precedent in Pakistan’s history.
After a botched police operation, the army triumphantly negotiated with the protesters, and an agreement was signed conceding many of their demands. The law minister was fired. The word change in the law was changed back. A general was seen distributing 1,000-rupee notes to demonstrators and patting them on the back: Are we not with you? Aren’t we all part of the same brotherhood? Now those brothers have returned to bite our military and civilian establishment. An arm around the shoulder and some petty cash may be a good law-and-order strategy in some potentially explosive situations. But not when you play politics with the Prophet’s honor. It’s almost certain that Bibi will not be able to live in the country after her acquittal. And a lot of people like her are still languishing in cells waiting to be tried. There’s a literature professor, Junaid Hafeez, who has been in jail for the last five years facing bogus blasphemy charges. After he was arrested, his lawyer was shot dead for defending him. His current lawyer can’t be named. Hafeez has to be kept in solitary confinement to protect him from other prisoners who might take it upon themselves himself to avenge the Prophet’s good name. Now that the prime minister himself is in the righteous’s sight — protecting a blasphemer may be even graver blasphemy — and a man even more powerful than him, Bajwa, has been declared kafir, an infidel, one can only hope their respective institutions won’t use the blasphemy card against their perceived enemies. There were about a dozen reported cases of blasphemy between 1927 and 1986, but there have been more than 4,000 since then, when the laws were reinforced.
Pakistani liberals are asking the government and the army to go and crush the mullahs and take the country back. It might be more useful to go after these blasphemy laws that seem to be turning all of us into blasphemers.