Thursday, October 31, 2019

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Video - Chairman pakistan peoples party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speech - #AzadiMarch_UpDates

Video - Asfandyar Wali Khan speech in #AzadiMarch Islamabad

#AzadiMarch_UpDates - Purpose of Azadi March is to try to get PM to resign: Kaira

PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the objective of the Azadi March was to try to get Prime Minister Imran to resign and bring in a new government in its place.
Speaking to media at Mandi Bahauddin, Kaira said that Maulana Fazl's march had shaken the government.
"The march has succeeded in its first phase," he said.
He said that efforts to topple the government had begun. However, Kaira said that this wasn't an alliance of opposition parties.
"The opposition has united to send the government home," he said.
Kaira said that PPP was cooperating with Maulana Fazl. He said that everyone was united in its own position. 

#Pakistan - Judge leaves court after telling blasphemy victim that he cannot preside over appeal as it hurts his Islamic convictions

Christian man who claims to be falsely accused of blasphemy and given a life sentence has had his appeal postponed for a third time in a year.

Zafar Bhatti was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012 after being arrested for blasphemy by police form Police station New Town, Rawalpindi. A First Information report was lodged which claimed he had sent blasphemy texts from a mobile, something he denies. It has been proven the phone from which they were sent was registered to another person, Ghazala Khan.

Whilst Ms khan was granted bail due to her own poor health and vulnerability as a female, Zafar Bhatti is still awaiting his appeal hearing for his conviction that has been postponed three times after the presiding judge decided his conscience could not allow him to hear the case.

At the original trial in Lahore, judge Khalid Mehmood asked the prosecuting counsel to forgive Ghazala Khan, stating that Muhammad forgave also. Ms Khan who asked not to be forgiven as this would insinuate her guilt and wanted to be cleared by a fair trial, later died of Hepatitis C before the trial concluded.

Security for the appeal hearings was not as tight as for the original case trial held at Central Jail Adjala, Rawalpindi where Mr Bhatti has survived several attempts on his life.

Honourable Judge Raja Shahid Mehmood Abbasi raised the hopes of Mr Bhatti’s family and supporters when he said that he has studied the case by listening to both parties, giving them the impression that the conviction decision would be overturned prompting his imminent release.

Judge Abbasi explained in an earlier June hearing that he had not the time to write down all the facts of the case and was about to go on holiday for two months and requested the court to be reconvened in September. However, in September he again reiterated at having no time to dictate his decision to the court clerks and proposed a second postponement for October 10th, 2019.

Zafar Bhatti’s council Tahir Bashir humbly expressed his disappointment to the judge’s decision given that his client had already spent 7 years in jail and was suffering ill health whilst in prison awaiting the appeal but was told by Judge Abbasi to have patience till October.

In the October resumption of proceedings occured at High Court, Rawal Pindi Bench, Judge Abbasi stated that his conscience could not allow him to decide and he would pass the case onto another judge. When pressed by Advocate Tahir, Judge Abbasi, said: "This judgement does not sit well with my Islamic faith and I cannot proceed."

Nawab Bibi spoke with Mehwish Bhatti, BACA's National Executive in Pakistan, while they were attending court, she said:

“It was debilitating hearing the judges intolerant comments”

“they are delaying the case without any reason.

“They will be answerable to God one day."

"My husband, Zafar, is suffering from diabetes and heart disease and he has been told that he can have a heart attack any time due to the depression he is consumed by.”

Nawab Bibi is always accompanied to any court hearings by BACA representative, Mehwish Bhatti, who translates proceedings into language she understands.

Mehwish Bhatti said “Zafar was eagerly anticipating the decision, but his hopes were badly shattered.

"Zafar's morale has ebbed to its lowest point and he now believes he will die in prison - he is tired of his situation.”

Fears for Zafar Bhatti’s health are exasperated by the lack of good medical care within the prison and doctors have said he is suffering from depression that could bring on a heart attack given that he is a diabetic also. Zafar has already suffered from several mild attacks and has lost around 66kg in weight.

Mrs Bhatti has been counselling and encouraging Zafar who is an ordained Catholic Bishop from the Jesus World Mission Church.

"I have been sharing the word of God and reminding Zafar of the love of Christ who was crucified for us on the cross.

“We should keep believing God for his faithfulness and all Christians must pray into his situation.” She said.

The appointing of a new judge and the new court hearing will be confirmed soon. Meanwhile BACA continue supplying Nawab Bibi with shelter, food, medical treatment, counselling and prayer support. You can contribute to our appeal for support of blasphemy victims.

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for the BACA, said: "The continual mistreatment of victims of blasphemy cases through the Pakistan judiciary system is just one such example of where Pakistan authorities can bring their justice system in line with most civilised nations.

"The continual dragging of feet and delay tactics used in this case show a high disregard for Human rights and the protection of vulnerable Christian minorities.

"While Zafar and his wife have suffered forced separation, loss of income and in Zafar's case brutal incarceration and attempts to take his life; those who made the false allegations have felt no impact for their crime and never will.

"If it hurts a Muslim judge to free an innocent Christian man then perhaps he should not be in the legal profession and should earn his living as an Imam or in some other religious profession.

"If you are working within the Judiciary your primary concern has to be the rule of law not your religious sensibilities or those of others - you can do this without causing disrespect to those who observe a religion."

Pakistan: Train fire kills dozens after cooking accident, 71 people died

An exploding gas cooker has caused a massive fire that ripped through three carriages of a speeding train in Pakistan. Passengers were reportedly preparing breakfast whilst the train was moving.
At least 71 people died after a gas stove exploded on a train in southeast Pakistan, officials confirmed Thursday.
"Two cookers blew up. They had oil which added fuel to fire," Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told local broadcaster Geo.
Most of the deaths were caused when people jumped from the train to escape the flames, he added.
A further 30 people were injured in the fire that destroyed three train carriages. Of these, 12 are in a critical condition, said Amir Taimur Khan, police chief of Rahim Yar Khan, the city close to where the accident took place.
Local television footage showed carriages on fire with smoke and flames billowing through the windows.
Emergency services predict the death toll will rise.
A train carriage on fire with flames and smoke billowing through the windows
Passengers jumped from the carriages to escape
Pakistani journalist Zahid Hussein told DW that although cooking stoves are on the list of prohibited items, "security checks on trains are very lax." The long transit times involved often lead poorer passengers to cook their meals on the trains, he said
Train accidents are common in Pakistan where its aging railways have seen a lack of investment as well as mismanagement and corruption.
In July, at least 23 people were killed in the same district when a passenger train coming from the eastern city of Lahore collided with a goods train that had stopped at a crossing.

Lashkar-e-Taiba An Ideal Proxy For Pakistan's Spy Agency ISI: US Expert

"Literally, the Pakistan Army trains, the LeT," Christine Fair from the Georgetown University said during a roundtable at the Hudson Institute think-tank.
Lashkar-e-Taiba, a UN-designated terrorist outfit, is a "perfect proxy" for Pakistan's spy agency ISI, a leading American expert on security issues has said. "Literally, the Pakistan Army trains, the LeT," Christine Fair from the Georgetown University said during a roundtable at the Hudson Institute think-tank.
"Which is why they are so competent," she said on Tuesday in an apparent reference to some of the high-profile terrorist strikes inside India.
"And they are very pro-State. So, in some ways LeT was made that way. LeT is an ideal proxy. LeT is as close as you get to a perfect proxy," said Ms Fair who is author of the book 'In Their Own Words: Understanding Lashkar-e-Taiba.'
Responding to a question, Ms Fair said she supported the government's decision to revoke Article 370 from the Indian Constitution.
"I supported getting rid of Article 370, because I'm a constitutionalist. And because I think Article 370 was a derogatory, discriminatory legal regime," she said.
"Personally, I'm confused as to how Article 370 became the cornerstone of Kashmiri Muslim integrity, when the whole point of having it was to actually enshrine Hindu Dogra rule as politics left the domain of Maharaja Hari Singh and migrated to the National Conference," she said.
Having said this, Ms Fair told the Hudson roundtable that the Indians have not been very wise about how they've handled everything related to it.
"I understand security clamp down is necessary because the Pakistanis would certainly interfere. I also understand there was no other way of doing it," she said.
Pakistan has been unsuccessfully trying to drum up international support against India especially in the United States over the Kashmir issue, which New Delhi has categorically said was its "internal matter".

Video Report - Asfandyar Wali Media Talk | 31st October 2019

#AzadiMarch_UpDates - Purpose of Azadi March is to try to get PM to resign: Kaira

PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the objective of the Azadi March was to try to get Prime Minister Imran to resign and bring in a new government in its place.
Speaking to media at Mandi Bahauddin, Kaira said that Maulana Fazl's march had shaken the government.
"The march has succeeded in its first phase," he said.
He said that efforts to topple the government had begun. However, Kaira said that this wasn't an alliance of opposition parties.
"The opposition has united to send the government home," he said.
Kaira said that PPP was cooperating with Maulana Fazl. He said that everyone was united in its own position. 

بلاول شیڈول کے مطابق آج اسلام آباد میں جلسہ گاہ پہنچیں گے، ترجمان

چیئرمین پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کے ترجمان سینیٹر مصطفی نواز کھوکھر نے کہا ہے کہ چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری  شیڈول کے مطابق آج اسلام آباد میں جلسہ گاہ پہنچیں گے، مولانا فضل الرحمان کی درخواست پر چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے 31 اکتوبر کا دن جلسے میں شرکت کے لیے مختص کیا تھا۔
چیئرمین پیپلز پارٹی کے ترجمان کا ایک بیان میں کہنا ہے کہ اپوزیشن کے مشترکہ جلسے کے حوالے سے صبح سے کنفیوژن رہی، جو اب تک برقرار ہے۔
ترجمان کا کہنا ہے کہ بلاول بھٹو شیڈول کے مطابق آج اسلام آباد میں جلسہ گاہ پہنچیں گے، جیالوں و دیگر سیاسی کارکنان سے مختصر خطاب بھی کریں گے۔
سینیٹر مصطفی نواز کھوکھر کا کہنا ہے کہ رحیم یار خان میں کل پی پی پی کا ہونے والا جلسہ شیڈول کے مطابق ہوگا، کل اگر وقت ملا تو اپوزیشن کے مشترکہ جلسے میں شرکت کی کوشش بھی کی جائے گی۔

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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Opinion: The Rules of Impeachment

Democrats get serious about the next phase of inquiry.
Since taking office in 2017, President Trump and his administration have sought to remove — and in some cases, destroy — many of the guardrails of precedent and tradition surrounding the conduct of the executive branch.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on whether to erect a series of guardrails of its own, for the possible impeachment of the president. The resolution now before Congress avoids past missteps by allowing extended questioning of witnesses by staff lawyers before preening lawmakers take the stage, and it sets fair rules that respect precedent.
Such rules are needed because the stakes are so high and the charges against Mr. Trump so serious. The latest bombshell landed Tuesday, when Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Army officer who serves as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, testified that he was on the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and that he heard Mr. Trump ask Mr. Zelensky to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. More concerning, Colonel Vindman shared that the White House’s reconstructed transcript of the call left out some key details — and that administration officials refused his repeated efforts to correct the record before it was released to the public, according to an account in The Times.
Colonel Vindman considered Mr. Trump’s handling of Ukraine so damaging to national security that he reported his concerns to his superiors. Twice.
With such revelations piling up, the White House and its backers have opted for a defense strategy that avoids addressing the president’s actions and focuses instead on discrediting the impeachment process as illegitimate and unfair. They have criticized House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for not holding a formal authorization vote, for conducting closed-door depositions and for denying the president the due process afforded in formal criminal proceedings.
None of these objections hold up. Even so, Democrats aim to address them with the provisions of the resolution they will consider on Thursday.
Central to the resolution’s ambitions are ensuring order, transparency and fairness as the inquiry moves to the public stage. Rules are being set for conducting public hearings (including who gets to question whom and for how long), publicly disclosing depositions and issuing subpoenas. Guidelines have been established for the participation of Mr. Trump and his lawyers and the transfer of evidence from other committees to the Judiciary Committee, where any articles of impeachment would be considered. The rules providing for the minority party to call its own witnesses are basically the same as those set by Republicans during the Clinton impeachment.
Indeed, many of the procedures outlined in the resolution, and in a related set of procedures drawn up by the Judiciary Committee, are in line with those followed in the impeachment inquiries in 1974 and 1998. These include the president receiving copies of all evidentiary material; the president and his counsel being invited to all hearings; and his counsel being permitted to ask questions at the presentation of evidence, submit evidence on the president’s behalf, question witnesses, object to the questioning of witnesses and so on.
Perhaps the most notable departure from precedent is a provision concerning the Judiciary Committee stipulating that if the president “unlawfully” refuses to make witnesses or evidentiary material available to the investigating committees, “the chair shall have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies, including by denying specific requests by the president or his counsel under these procedures to call or question witnesses.” How to determine what qualifies as “unlawful” and what remedies are “appropriate” will most likely provoke heated disagreement. But in light of Mr. Trump’s open policy of obstructionism, Democrats are right to seek extra leverage. The alternative is lengthy litigation, which would chiefly serve the president’s interest.
Procedures like these aim to fulfill Congress’s obligation to be as deliberative, fair and open as possible. That is the right focus. Of course, no matter how many concessions the Democrats make, Republicans will cry foul.In a statement Tuesday, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, called the inquiry “an illegitimate scam” that left Mr. Trump’s rights “undefined, unclear, and uncertain.” It would be interesting to know what impeachment process the president would approve.As the investigation moves into its public phase, Democrats are determined not to get bogged down in court fights over every document and hostile witness. “We are not willing to let the White House engage us in a lengthy game of rope-a-dope in the courts, so we press ahead,” said Representative Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who has been spearheading the investigation.
When Charles Kupperman, a former deputy national security adviser, defied a subpoena on Monday, after filing a lawsuit last week asking the courts to decide whether he must testify, Mr. Schiff warned that such noncooperation only fueled the case for impeachment. “If this witness had something to say that would be helpful to the White House, they would want him to come and testify,” he said.
This is the right approach. Court cases can and should continue. But if transparency and accountability are the goals of this process, they will be achieved by focusing on those officials who are willing to serve the public interest by testifying under oath about their experiences. The White House is not interested in transparency or accountability, which explains its efforts to stop potential witnesses from appearing.
In other words, process, as important as it is, gets you only so far. Mr. Trump seems to agree. “Process is wonderful,” he told reporters on Monday. “But I think you ought to look at the case.”
Mr. Trump should be careful what he wishes for.


Ahmadis Once Again Fear the Fallout From Pakistan’s Political Tussles

“All political issues, which have nothing to do with us, see us becoming the scapegoats,” says the Ahmadiyya community’s spokesperson.
The Azadi March (Freedom March), a protest rally orchestrated by the Islamist party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Chief Fazlur Rehman, took off from Karachi on Sunday with the plan to enter Islamabad on Thursday, October 31.
Rehman’s demonstration targets the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, which the JUI-F chief accuses of coming to power owing to “massive rigging.” The rally demands the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
While staging a dharna (sit-in) inside the capital has become a frequent expression of opportunist dissent in the country – popularized by Imran Khan himself with a 126-day siege of the capital in 2014 – the Islamist identity of the demonstrators means that religious minorities are wary of being targeted in the political tussle.
Rehman, the JUI-F chief, also spearheads the Islamist coalition Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which reunited ahead of last year’s elections to ensure “true Islamization” and enforcement of Sharia in the country.
In the lead-up to the Azadi March, Rehman regularly repeated his accusation of Khan being a “Jewish agent,” citing the Pakistani premier’s meeting with George Soros in New York last month.
The JUI-F leadership has also maintained that their protest rally is “against those who set free” Asia Bibi, a Christian woman acquitted in a blasphemy case. The party leadership protested against her acquittal last year as well.
In using Islamist rhetoric and hate speech against religious minorities to target the political leadership, the JUI-F is following the recent footsteps of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which camped inside the capital for weeks in November 2017 and staged multiple protests last year.
And just as the case was with TLP’s demonstrations, those that fear the worst amidst the JUI-F rally are members of the local Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

In the lead up to the Azadi March, the JUI-F Karachi Head Qari Usman said on national television that the party is protesting against the government because it “released Christian woman Asia Bibi” and “hired an Ahmadi for the Economic Council,” referring to the appointment of Atif Mian last year, which was annulled following TLP’s announcement of nationwide rallies.
As a result, the Ahmadis are wary of a violent backlash from the protesters, reminiscent of the fallout from TLP’s 2017 rally, which saw edicts of the community being wajib-ul-qatl (liable to be murdered) echoing nationwide in addition to multiple incidents of violence and desecration.
The Ahmadiyya sect of Islam was excommunicated in 1974 by the second amendment to the Pakistani Constitution following years of Islamist unrest, exemplified by the violent demonstrations of 1953. The hatred owes to oft misinterpreted differing theological positions, specifically regarding the Ahmadiyya belief in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as their messiah.
In 1984, under the Islamist military ruler Gen Zia-ul-Haq the Pakistan Penal Code’s Ordinance XX was passed, sanctioning prison for Ahmadis “posing as Muslims,” along with the death penalty for blasphemy.
“I think all political issues are settled on us – whether it was ’53, ’74, ’84 or now. All political issues, which have nothing to do with us, see us becoming the scapegoats,” says the Ahmadiyya community’s spokesperson, Saleem Uddin.
“Our community’s name is always misused to encourage Muslims to agitate over the issue of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat [Finality of Prophethood]Nobody actually ever bothers to ask us about our own beliefs, which are misinterpreted to extract misplaced anger,” Uddin adds.
Observers note that a major reason why the Azadi March is religiously charged is owing to the JUIF’s resistance to the government’s proposed reforms to nationwide madrassas, from which the party extracts much of its street power.
The Ahmadis fear that the government might go out of its way to distance itself from the Ahmadiyya community given the JUI-F’s vocal propensity to label the PTI and Imran Khan as “sympathizers of Jews and Ahmadis,” with conspiracy theorists often labeling the Ahmadiyya community of working at the “behest of Zionists.”
That might explain the national broadcaster, Pakistan Television (PTV), on October 6 airing a six-year old interview of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Shankersinh Vaghela, where he alleged that the Ahmadiyya community was working in tandem with India’s radical Hindu organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“Given the current crisis in Kashmir and the turmoil between Pakistan and India, the timing of that six-year old video is clearly intended to target the community. Ahmadis have never been affiliated with any radical group or terrorist activity throughout history,” says Amir Mehmood, who is in charge of the Ahmadiyya Media Cell.
Vaghela’s statement was condemned by the Indian Ahmadiyya Muslim community at the time. The Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan has lodged an official complaint with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), but is yet to receive a response.
In addition to PTV airing Vaghela’s interview from 2013, pro-PTI social media accounts have started sharing fabricated messages written on behalf of the Ahmadiyya leadership, wherein the community members are being asked to join the Azadi March in a bid to discredit the JUI-F’s protest.
With both the government and the protesters looking to scapegoat the Ahmadiyya community for political mileage, the Ahmadis’ increasing vulnerability to violence was underlined when a mosque affiliated with the sect was destroyed in Hasilpur tehsil of Bahawalpur in southern Punjab on October 25.
Hasilpur’s assistant commissioner of police, Mohammad Tayyab, led the destruction of the mosque’s mihrab on Friday, with local clerics deeming that the mihrab, being an Islamic symbol, should not be allowed on an Ahmadi “place of worship.”
Locals reveal that an Islamic cleric in the village, Mohammed Ishaq, had been agitating against the mihrab for the past few months, asking the police to demolish it. The assistant commissioner had initially asked for a wall to be constructed to cover the mihrab, which was then built by the Ahmadiyya community.
But on October 25, the police succumbed to Islamist pressure, using encroachment as an excuse to demolish the mihrab.
An Ahmadi man who asked the police officials for a court order mandating the demolition, and another Ahmadi youth filming the demolition, were arrested by the police under Sections 506 and 186 of the Pakistan Penal Code for “criminal intimidation” and “obstructing public servants.”
With the government acquiescing to the marginalization of the Ahmadiyya community in some instances, and actively participating in the persecution in others, the Ahmadis have long lost any hope in the state safeguarding them.
“Our persecution is state sponsored. The state declared us non-Muslims, the state brought in Ordinance XX against us – and it is the state that subjugates us to settle political disputes,” maintains Saleem Uddin.

#Pakistan: Hazardous air puts lives at risk

The government’s failure to protect people from exposure to hazardous air in Punjab risks violating their human rights to life and health, Amnesty International said today.
Levels of air quality have been rated “near unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” for most of the year in Punjab. During the “smog season” – from October to January – air quality reaches “hazardous” levels, as recorded by multiple, independent sources including the air quality monitors installed by the United States Consulate in Lahore and the crowdsourced data collated by the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) in Lahore reached 484 at 10am Pakistan time today. The threshold for “hazardous” levels of air quality is 300, where people are advised to “avoid all physical activity outdoors”.
“The high level of smog is neither a new problem, nor one that came without warning. The government of Pakistan needs to do much more to adequately address such a severe public health crisis - one that endangers people’s health and even their lives,” said Rimmel Mohydin, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty International.
There is something very wrong when the air becomes so toxic that you cannot breathe without hurting yourself 
Rimmel Mohydin
Prolonged or heavy exposure to hazardous air can result in severe health issues including asthma, lung damage, bronchial infections and heart problems and shortened life expectancy – putting at risk people’s rights to life and to health, as well as the right to a healthy environment.
The so-called “smog season” is where poor fuel quality, uncontrolled emissions and crop burning worsens the quality of the already unhealthy air, from October to December.
Low income workers, such as labourers, construction workers and farmhands, and marginalized groups are particularly vulnerable as the nature of their work forces them to be exposed to hazardous air throughout the day. The fact that health care is not easily affordable to all means that only those who can afford it will be able to access health care and other preventative measures to mitigate the effects of breathing in hazardous air. Low visibility can also result in accidents and loss of life.
Warmer temperatures, a direct result of climate change, create an environment for smog formation and can lead the air to stagnate – preventing dirty air from leaving an area.
“Air pollution and climate crisis are intricately linked. It exacerbates existing inequalities and paves the way for human rights violations. If authorities continue to stall making concerted efforts to address the smog crisis, it will continue to devastate human life,” said Rimmel Mohydin.
The court-appointed Smog Commission made a number of recommendations in May 2018 including the immediate adoption and implementation of the Punjab Clean Air Action Plan, establishing Smog Response Desks at district levels, adoption of appropriate technologies that reduce emissions of harmful pollutants from brick kilns. Those have only been partially implemented, if at all. Real-time data from the Environment Protection Department on air quality remains unavailable to the public and no efforts are being made to switch to higher quality fuel.
A fundamental shift needs to take place across Pakistan’s industrial, agricultural and transportation practices, to make sure they are consistent with people’s human rights.
“There is something very wrong when the air becomes so toxic that you cannot breathe without hurting yourself. The government can no longer afford to waste time while people are choking to death,” said Rimmel Mohydin.

Media watchdog slams Pakistan's curbs on news anchors

Reporters Without Borders says regulatory body's 'draconian' orders for TV anchors violate journalistic independence.
A media watchdog has condemned a decision by Pakistani authorities ordering news anchors not to express their opinions on air, the latest in a series of assaults on press freedom in the South Asian country.
The statement by Reporters Without Borders, released on Tuesday, came after Pakistan's Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) sent the directive to TV channels on Sunday, sparking an outcry from some of the country's most prominent news anchors.
The statement asked anchors to refrain from commenting on matters that are "under trial" in the courts.
But it adds that only "unbiased" analysts with "requisite" knowledge should be invited to speak on any subject, and warns that anchors must stick to moderating only, excluding their "personal opinions, biases and judgements on any issue".
Many Pakistan television channels host multiple current affairs and politics programmes with often lively discussions of the day's events.
But the space for dissent has been shrinking fast in recent months, with rights activists voicing concerns and many journalists already practising self-censorship so as not to cross the powerful army, which has ruled the country for roughly half its 72-year history.
"It is not the media regulator's role to dictate who can express opinions during debates, or to decree what can or cannot be said," said Daniel Bastard, head of Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) Asia-Pacific desk, in a statement."This grotesque PEMRA directive not only violates journalistic independence and pluralism but even goes so far as to criminalise opinions."We urge PEMRA's members to recover a semblance of credibility by rescinding this order, whose sole aim is to intimidate media outlets and journalists."RSF said the PEMRA directive was sent after television journalists commented last week on the release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, bailed from prison on health grounds.
Judges had "expressed annoyance" over the comments, the monitor said, adding that Sharif is one of the subjects seen as implicitly off limits.
One political analyst is being charged with contempt of court, RSF added.

An H.I.V. Outbreak Puts Spotlight on Pakistan’s Health Care System

By Maria Abi-Habib and Salman Masood
After the reuse of syringes infected hundreds of children in a small city, health workers say the entire system needs to be revamped.
A pediatrician accused of reusing syringes and infecting scores of Pakistani children with H.I.V. is now practicing in a government-run hospital after his private clinic was shuttered, in a case that is raising widespread questions about the integrity of Pakistan’s health care system.The pediatrician, Muzaffar Ghanghro, was initially the sole focus of blame in an H.I.V. outbreak that has hit more than 1,100 people — so far nearly 900 of them are children — in the small city of Ratodero.
But government officials believe he is not the only cause there, and that the bad practices he is accused of, including reusing syringes and IV needles, are so widespread across Pakistan that the entire health care system needs better regulation.
Health workers say the government needs to revamp the national medical syllabus to prioritize infection control, currently a minor part of doctor training. And they say hospitals often scrimp on the sterilization process for tools.“The only good thing about the outbreak has been that it laid bare the multiple flaws in the system that the government with support of U.N. agencies needs to address,” said Dr. Fatima Mir, a pediatric infectious disease expert working at the Aga Khan University in Karachi. She was one of the first responders to help with the outbreak in Ratodero.“What the outbreak in Ratodero says about Pakistan’s health care is that infection control is poor or nonexistent. Pakistan’s health care system is now trying to integrate infection control as a formal part of the system,” Dr. Mir added.
She said that Pakistan’s medical practitioners often lack the logistics and supplies necessary to prevent and contain infections. When she was in Ratodero to help, Dr. Fatima said it was a challenge finding clean water to wash her hands with while seeing patients.
“With the lack of infection control, this outbreak is not unexpected. What is unexpected is that this time, children are the main victims, and there are a lot of them,” she said.
Of the nearly 36,000 residents in Ratodero tested since late April, 1,112 of them have tested positive for H.I.V., 889 of them young children. With not even a quarter of Ratodero’s population tested, officials worry the real numbers are much higher.
The police investigation into Dr. Ghanghro is ongoing, and he has been cleared only of the charge that he intentionally spread the virus, the district inspector general in charge of the case said in an interview. Dr. Ghanghro’s court case for medical malpractice is still ongoing, said the district inspector general, Irfan Ali Baloch.
Dr. Ghanghro has denied that he reused syringes, which is illegal.
“A team of medical experts came and interviewed him,” Mr. Baloch said. “The medical board determined that he did not intentionally spread H.I.V., but his clinic was in such a condition that the protocols were not being maintained.”
Dr. Ghanghro still faces criminal charges, making it unclear how he is able to continue practicing, and why he was recently posted to a government-run hospital near Ratodero.
Provincial health care officials in Sindh Province, who would be responsible for reassigning Dr. Ghanghro, said that he has not been given the permission to resume practicing medicine and that his medical license was not recently renewed.
But Dr. Ghanghro said in an interview with The New York Times last week that he recently renewed his license, and was practicing in a government hospital with a stream of patients waiting to be seen by him, questioning the government’s ability to regulate the system.
“He has applied to us to start practicing again,” said Abdul Sami, an official from the Sindh provincial health care commission. “But so far, we have not allowed it.
“If he has already started practicing, it is not to our knowledge,” added Mr. Sami, who is based in the district of Larkana, where Ratodero is.
Officials from the governing Tehreek-e-Insaf party blamed the outbreak on the poor governance and corruption of the local government of Sindh Province.
Other observers said the outbreak is more about systemic failure.
Zaigham Khan, a development expert who writes a column for The News newspaper, noted that Pakistan spends less than one percent of its G.D.P. on health care, and that only one doctor is available for every 6,000 people, mostly concentrated in urban areas.
“Pakistan is facing a full-blown public health crisis, mainly rooted in ineffective governance and dominance of special interests,” Mr. Khan said.
“Pakistan is one of the two countries in the world where polio persists, the other being Afghanistan” and treatable conditions like rabies and dengue contribute to dozens of deaths annually, he added. “In rural areas, most people are treated by quack doctors. As if that was not enough, even doctors often administer expired medicine. Doctors are hardly ever made accountable for these practices in the legal system.”
Dr. Baseer Khan Achakzai, the program manager of the central government-run National AIDS Control Program, said that Ratodero’s conditions were not unique, and that much of Pakistan was struggling to combat the spread of H.I.V., which causes AIDS. Unregulated clinics were continuing to operate, he said, and used syringes are frequently repackaged to sell as new, although they are supposed to be incinerated after use.
From 2010 to 2018, the number of H.I.V.-positive people in Pakistan nearly doubled, to about 160,000, according to estimates by U.N.AIDS, the United Nations task force that specializes in H.I.V. and AIDS. During that time, the number of new infections jumped 38 percent in those 15 to 24. And only about 10 percent of people thought to be H.I.V.-positive are being treated.
“With the help of U.N. agencies, a state of the art AIDS control center is being established,” Dr. Achakzai said. “It will ensure that contaminated syringes will not be used and all medical waste would be put in the incinerator.”
With the exception of the capital, Islamabad, medical laboratories across Pakistan are not under any regulatory framework, Dr. Achakzai said.
“There is no check and balance,” he said.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

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Opinion: The World Is Fighting More Than ISIS

Al-Baghdadi’s death is profoundly important. But the jihadi movement will continue without him.
The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, is profoundly important. He was a powerfully inspirational figure, more formidable and perhaps more evil than Osama bin Laden.
He was an Islamic scholar who claimed to be a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He built on the apocalyptic ideology and extraordinary cruelty of his mentor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq (the predecessor organization to ISIS).
Importantly, Mr. al-Baghdadi managed to recruit former Iraqi Baathist military and intelligence personnel, hugely strengthening his capacity for the insurgency. And he took advantage of Syria’s civil war to create a first in the history of modern terrorism: a proto-state able to seize and control territory, amass possibly billions of dollars and organize a major military force.
Under Mr. al-Baghdadi’s leadership, ISIS became the richest and most powerful terrorist group in contemporary history.
He promised his global followers a five-star jihad — to include free housing, cars, even wives. His adherents flocked to his “caliphate” from all over the world, the most effective recruitment drive to a jihadi organization that the world has ever seen.
He specialized in unusual cruelty, including live-streamed beheadings of his enemies (most of whom were Muslim), training small children to kill at close range (something most humans have difficulty doing), and selling women to be repeatedly raped. Even Al Qaeda reviled his gruesome tactics.
Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death demonstrated to remaining supporters that even the “caliph” is vulnerable. But it is more important politically and symbolically than it is militarily.
Jihadi leaders, and even jihadi groups, come and go. They split off into new factions, merge with erstwhile enemies, and acquire new names and allegiances.ISIS is perhaps the best example of this trend. Two leaders were vying for control of what remained of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the group supposedly defeated by President George W. Bush’s “surge.” One of the leaders — Abu Mohammad al-Julani — stayed within the bosom of Al Qaeda. The other — Mr. al-Baghdadi — broke with Al Qaeda and eventually announced his creation of a caliphate, eventually attracting tens of thousands of followers.
Did Mr. al-Baghdadi put a succession plan in place? There are highly credible rumors that he did.
But even if there was no concrete plan for succession, ISIS had already returned to its terrorist roots, with the capacity to inspire attacks all over the globe. Even after losing its territory, ISIS continued to attract adherents.
But more important, we need to remember that the world is fighting not a single man, nor even a single organization, but a movement. Unfortunately, many of the risk factors for the rise of ISIS still remain. Among these are weak states with poor governance, unemployed or underemployed youth, simmering sectarian tensions or civil war. ISIS exploited many of these factors to spread its “provinces” into other nations wracked by conflict, among them Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria and Yemen. Many of its provinces remain in place. Despite losing what remained of its caliphate in March, ISIS still managed to carry out several major terrorist strikes, including in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq. For those of us in the West, ISIS exploited social media to attract and inspire global followers, in what became known as “open-source jihad.” Unfortunately, this is one of a number of lessons that other terrorist groups will take on board: Until social-media companies find a way to address the dangers of anonymity online, terrorist groups and criminal rings will continue to follow suit.
On Sunday morning, President Trump provided an unusual level of detail about the workings of the mission to take Mr. al-Baghdadi down. Still, in the coming weeks and months, we may learn about how global intelligence personnel penetrated ISIS, and the kinds of international cooperation that led to his demise.But one thing is already clear: This was not the work of a single president or a single nation taken over a single week. It involved the courageous citizens of the “deep state,” those often-nameless intelligence and military personnel so dedicated to protecting the lives of fellow citizens that they are willing risk their own. It also, according to Mr. Trump, involved cooperation from Russia, Syria, Iraq and Turkey — as well as intelligence from the very Kurds that Mr. Trump abandoned when he pulled American troops out of northern Syria.
In this regard, Mr. al-Baghdadi’s most significant mistake may have been to make himself the enemy of the entire world, inciting his enemies to work together against him.
ISIS will eventually be defeated. But we are fighting the jihadi movement, not a single jihadi group. And the jihadi movement is just one manifestation of the fundamentalist impulse — the desire to turn the clock back to an imaginary simpler time. The ever-quickening pace of technological advancement will continue to bring the entire world into our homes, leaving some feeling alienated and confused. Climate change will continue to contribute to conflict over resources and waves of migration. And terrorist groups will continue to emerge, seeking to return us to a Golden Era when our worlds seemed neatly contained and when right and wrong seemed crystal clear.
Jessica Stern, a research professor at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, is the co-author of “ISIS: The State of Terror.”

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Balochistan: Pakistani forces abduct two Baloch youth

Sindh Rangers and Pakistan intelligence agencies have abducted two Baloch youth from Karachi’s Golimar area on Tuesday night.
According to details, Pakistani forces raided a house in Hassan Auliya village area of old Golimar in Karachi and abducted the youth.
The abductees have been named as Musadiq Baloch and Mansoor Baloch, among them, Musadiq is the son of Baloch Republican party’s slain leader Sher Mohammad Baloch.
Mr Sher Mohammad Baloch was abducted along with Baloch National Movement’s founder Ghulam Mohammad Baloch and Lala Munir Baloch in Feb 2009.
The Baloch leaders were killed in Pakistani forces’ custody after one week of their abduction and their tortured dead bodies were found in Murgaap area of Turbat in district Kech Balochistan.

Tech revolution: are Pakistani women being left behind?

By Fauzia Viqar
We are living in the age of a technological revolution that has fundamentally altered the way people, organisations and institutions connect with each other. Technology has also transformed the world of work, launching the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) that is characterised by a range of new technologies such as financial technologies (Fin Tech), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Deep Learning (DL) that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting every aspect of our lives today. This stage of industrial development is meant to connect people, goods and service with the aim of increasing productivity, alleviating hardship for people and lead to an overall improvement in the human condition.
Pakistan exists in the first, second, third and fourth stages of the Industrial Revolution stage simultaneously, with agriculture still being in the first stage, whereas our e-commerce and financial services appear to have leapt fully to the IR 4.0 stage. Despite delayed progress in some sectors in Pakistan, there is no denying that we are living in an age of technology-induced connectivity that is meant to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people, communities, and organisations. But, is the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the related greatest good being achieved for all? Are women included?
A few stark figures make it clear that the technology-fuelled revolution has perhaps not contributed so well towards the promised gender equality, despite assertions that technology would level the playing field by resolving women’s mobility issues and by creating positive disruptions with respect to the future of work for women. In Pakistan, women are mainly employed in agriculture, home-based work and informal jobs that are exploitative and offer no social protection. In formal work also, women are working in repetitive functions requiring low skill levels, especially in textiles, readymade garments, sports industry, etc. These functions render these jobs more vulnerable to redundancy when technological advancements in the industry replace human function. Reports show that around 60% of garment workers will lose their jobs in Bangladesh by 2030 with the invasion of automation. Data is not available for Pakistan but it is safe to assume that the loss will be greater and will hit women disproportionately due to their low skill levels and lack of preparedness. New employment and entrepreneurship opportunities can be created via digital platforms that provide flexibility and circumvent barriers of physical mobility and domestic commitments. However, results are not showing an increase in women’s businesses that currently stand at only 3%, a regional low. In fact, a tech sector study (P@sha Study) in Pakistan shows that women comprise only 14% of the workforce and that the sector is dominated not only by male tech entrepreneurs but by men in executive positions.
As a region, South Asia has not been able to tackle the tech or digital divide, with women being 28% less likely than men to own a mobile phone and 58% less likely to use mobile internet. Pakistan is, unfortunately, worse than other countries of the region where there is a 33% gender gap in mobile usage and only 13% of women have internet access, in comparison to 29% in India. This translates into poorer financial inclusion outcomes, with only 7% of women owning an account at a formal financial institution in Pakistan, compared with about 36% in Bangladesh and 76% in India. The situation requires action on a war footing if we wish to launch Pakistan on the much-desired path of economic and social development.
What needs to be done to ensure women’s participation in the IR 4.0? To begin with, we need to tackle the societal perception that women’s only role is in the domestic sphere and that any other activity is incidental to this role. Financial imperatives are pushing women into entering the labour market, so it is critical to prepare them for a productive role with advanced technological skills. This will require the government to take a lead role in skilling, re-skilling and upskilling of women for greater inclusion and to offset technology-induced inequality and job losses. Flexibility in work hours and work-from-home, review of commerce-related policies to remove roadblocks for e-commerce and tax-based incentives for start-ups, are some ways of encouraging women’s participation in technology-based work. It will require a review of government plans for technical and technological skills development, in order to ensure their relevance and alignment with the future of work.
It all begins with an increased enrolment of women in subjects related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics from school to university level. Like India, a strong government push to increase bank account ownership through biometric identification cards will also help narrow the gender gap in financial inclusion. Businesses will need to actively undertake technological skills enhancement of their workforce. And finally, cybersecurity will have to be increased to make cyberspaces safer for women. This will not only help with cyber frauds but also decrease online harassment of women, increasing their participation in digital platforms.
In his book, Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, German philosopher and social scientist Friedrich Engels outlines the role of technological development in what he refers to as the “great historical defeat of the female sex”. Therefore, the enhancement of technical skills of the female labour force is necessary to prevent exclusion and marginalisation in the age of Industry 4.0.

#Pakistan: health workers continue struggle against privatisation

A powerful movement of health workers is going on against privatization in Pakistan. The government is snatching the basic right of healthcare from the working class in a country where already more than 80 percent of the population has no access to basic health provision. Rather than building new public hospitals and spending more on health services, the government has planned to close the health department altogether and hand it over to the private sector.
This means that hundreds of thousands of people will die across the country from minor injuries and treatable diseases due to the lack of any treatment. This also means that tens of thousands of health workers will lose their jobs and pensions and will be thrown into a life of extreme poverty and misery. The gravity of the situation has multiplied with the absence of any political party that stands against privatisation and supports the right of free healthcare for all.
In this dire situation, health workers of the Punjab and PakhtunKhwa province have come out in large numbers and have started a movement against this draconian measure of the Pakistani state. Red Workers Front is at the forefront of this struggle and has helped to bring together various unions, associations and groups of health workers in Punjab on the platform of Grand Health Alliance (GHA) to forge a united struggle against this oppressive measure. This strategy has also been replicated in PashtunKhwa, as well and GHA there is also carrying forward this struggle against the present regime.

Health conditions in Pakistan

With a population of 220 million, Pakistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks among the lowest in the human development index. The country is a nightmarish example of the horrors of capitalism and imperialist plunder. With an ever-widening gap between rich and poor and crumbling physical and social infrastructure, the country is a living hell for its working class. More than half of its population lives on less than one dollar per day. Although the masses have to suffer daily in every aspect of their lives, poor-quality and insufficient healthcare delivery is one of the most disturbing aspects of their existence.
The country spends less than two percent of its GDP on healthcare and a large portion of this spending is done by the private sector. This is not a problem for the rich and upper-middle-class, because they can afford the costly healthcare delivered by the five-star, hotel-style private hospitals - but the poor suffer and die untreated in hellish conditions. For 220 million people, the country has only 5,800 basic health units, 950 secondary care hospitals and just 22 tertiary care hospitals in the public sector. The extremely poor quality of these facilities notwithstanding, the sheer lack of quantity speaks volumes about the condition of healthcare available. There is only one bed for every 2,000 people in public hospitals. The patient-to-doctor ratio is 1:1500, and the patient-to-nursing-staff ratio is even worse. The country has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. Every year, some half a million children under five years of age die due to treatable diseases like dysentery, malaria, typhoid and RTI, because they don't have access to free or affordable healthcare. Every year, more than 50,000 women die during childbirth, because of the absence of maternal and child health facilities. Every year, more than 40,000 women die of breast cancer because they cannot even dream of affording the cost of treatment for this disease. More than 200,000 people die every year in road accidents because of the lack of public healthcare facilities. All this happens in a country where working masses bear one of the highest indirect tax burdens on their shoulders and around 75 percent of the annual federal budget is spent on debt servicing and military.


Pakistan’s meagre public healthcare facilities have been a shambles for years due to the lack of government funding, but under the recent IMF loan programme the government is trying to privatise even these dismal services for the poor. One of the basic motives lying behind this privatisation drive, on the part of the IMF and the government, is to reduce state expenditure for achieving so-called fiscal consolidation. That simply means that the government should be able to pay back its debt and interest to international and domestic lenders, while crushing the working masses under its heel in this process. Secondly, its purpose is to open up a profitable avenue of investment for private capital. For the privatisation of public hospitals, the government has proposed a draconian law called the MTI act, which it has imposed upon the Punjab Province through an undemocratic governor ordinance. In the province of PashtunKhwa (KPK), this MTI act was already partially imposed in 2015 by the then-PTI provincial government. Now, in KPK too, it is to be fully implemented and extended to all the public hospitals through a newly proposed RDHA act.
According to these acts, the status of public hospitals will be changed from public welfare to corporate institutions, which will be responsible for generating their own finances through elimination of free healthcare services and utilising the services of private health insurance companies. For this purpose, all public hospitals will be outsourced to private healthcare companies and contractors. Furthermore, the government will also receive a share of profits generated by these outsourced hospitals. While on the one hand, these brutal measures of capitalist exploitation will deprive millions of poor people from access to basic healthcare (as they are totally dependent on these public hospitals, whatever their shortcomings may be), on the other, this privatisation will also cause financial ruin for thousands of junior doctors, nurses and hospital workers working in them. A great majority will simply lose their jobs. The rest will lose their permanent employee status, along with their pensions, and will be converted into contractual, temporary or daily waged employees.
Solidarity railways Image Lal SalaamRWF solidarity meeting with railway workers / Image: Lal Salaam

Movement against privatisation

It is under these circumstances that a powerful anti-privatisation movement of public sector health workers has arisen in Punjab and KPK. All the associations and unions of junior doctors, nurses and health workers of these two provinces have joined to form the Grand Health Alliance (GHA) in order to effectively fight against this onslaught of privatisation. Starting from roadside protests, anti-privatisation conventions and mass awareness campaigns, the GHA of both provinces was compelled to go for a strike in outpatient departments, elective radiology and laboratory services because of the repressive acts of the government, in which some workers were brutally attacked by police in KPK. The strike has now entered its 32nd day in KPK and 19th day in Punjab, and is still going strong despite all the state repression, intimidation, arrests, job terminations and poisonous propaganda through state-influenced media. Besides observing the strike, there have been repeated huge protests across all the major cities of both provinces in the past three weeks, in which tens of thousands of health workers have regularly participated despite all the measures of the state. After failing in crushing the movement through repression, the government has now resorted to the age-old, dirty tactics of trying to break the unity of health workers, and deceiving the movement through sham talks - but the workers are conscious enough that, for now, all these manoeuvres have failed.
Solidarity lecturers Image Lal SalaamRWF solidarity meeting with university lecturers / Image: Lal Salaam
Red Workers Front has stood shoulder to shoulder with the health workers throughout the movement. In fact, the idea of forming a GHA was first floated by the RWF in various meetings. One representative of RWF is also a member of the core committee of GHA Punjab. RWF has also helped to prepare campaigns through leaflets, brochures and posters produced by GHA Punjab. A three-minute, animated video was also launched for a mass campaign last week, explaining the disastrous impacts of this privatisation. This video also got an overwhelming response, as did the other campaign material.
Red Workers Front has also been carrying out a mass campaign for a country-wide general strike among the advanced layers of the working class for the last two years. The anti-privatisation movement of health workers has raised the opportunity to discuss the idea of a general strike against privatisation, with thousands of health workers. In fact, this idea has got a tremendous response, and important steps are being taken in this direction.
RWF is also trying to build bridges between GHA and workers’ unions and associations of various other public sector departments and institutions, which are on the hit list of privatisation. Until now, successful solidarity meetings have been arranged between the leaderships of GHA and railway unions, electricity workers (WAPDA), the school teachers’ union, the college professors and lecturers’ association and clerical staff associations. More solidarity meetings are planned with other unions, especially with telecommunication workers (PTCL), the utility stores corporation union and public insurance (State Life) workers’ unions.
We also appeal to the workers of the world for their solidarity with this anti-privatisation struggle of health workers in Pakistan. United, we are sure of a glorious victory over capitalist and imperialist forces in Pakistan and elsewhere.
Workers of the world, unite!