Wednesday, January 2, 2019

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Nancy Pelosi, Icon of Female Power, Will Reclaim Role as Speaker and Seal a Place in History

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg

There was a brief moment in Nancy Pelosi’s life when she worried she had too much power. She had so many titles in the California Democratic Party, including chairwoman, that she told Lindy Boggs, a Louisiana congresswoman, that she was thinking of giving some up.
That was in 1984, and Ms. Boggs “said, ‘Darlin’, no man would ever think that. Don’t you give anything up,’” Ms. Pelosi said in a recent interview, leaning forward as she mimicked Ms. Boggs’s Southern accent. “And then she said, ‘Know thy power.’”
More than three decades later, Ms. Pelosi is all but assured on Thursday of reclaiming her former title as speaker of the House, the first lawmaker in more than half a century to hold the office twice. With the gavel in hand, she will cement her status as the highest-ranking and most powerful elected woman in American political history.
The story of her rise, from the well-mannered daughter of a Baltimore mayor to a savvy legislator and prolific fund-raiser who is as much feared within her caucus as she is admired, is, in some ways, the story of the women’s movement itself. It is also a comeback story; after losing the speakership eight years ago, she will now usher in a new era of divided government in Washington.
And in the era of #MeToo, Ms. Pelosi, a mother of five and grandmother of nine, will be the public face of the opposition to a president who won the White House after disparaging women, and paying hush money to a Playboy model and a pornographic film actress who said they had extramarital affairs with him.
But Ms. Pelosi, 78, long a target of Republicans who have demonized her as a San Francisco liberal, is also coming to the speakership with self-imposed constraints. To quell an uprising among Democrats who wanted a younger generation of leaders, she has agreed to limit her term to four years. Some say that could weaken her — a notion she dismissed.
“I’m used to, shall we say, enthusiasms from all elements of the party — I can roll with that,” she said.
Republicans do not underestimate her. “She is a skilled adversary and a master at keeping all Democrats in line,” said Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Ms. Pelosi knows that this speakership will be defined by how she handles President Trump. The last time she was speaker, from 2007 to 2011, legislative accomplishments made her reputation. She muscled through bills that bailed out Wall Street and helped arrest an economic free-fall, allowed gays to serve in the military, overhauled the nation’s banking laws and expanded access to health care for an estimated 17 million people. Many say passage of the Affordable Care Act is her signature achievement.
But divided government, an unpopular president and wide-ranging, possibly criminal investigations into Mr. Trump, his presidential campaign and his businesses have changed her role drastically.
“This is legacy-building time,” said Jennifer Lawless, an expert on women in politics at the University of Virginia. “If she can be the person who is remembered for holding Trump accountable, or not letting him put forward facts that are not facts, if she can be the one who just calmly sits there and hold his feet to the fire, in a lot of ways, that’s just as important as anything else she does.”
On a recent Saturday morning, Ms. Pelosi ducked into a closet in her office and retrieved a T-shirt that a colleague had given her, bearing the quote that she used to smack down Mr. Trump during a televised Oval Office meeting on his border wall: “Don’t characterize the strength that I bring.”
“You know, it’s really sad. Nothing he said was true — nothing,” Ms. Pelosi said of that December meeting.
Her power stride out of the White House that day, in dark sunglasses and an orange coat, turned Ms. Pelosi into a fashion trendsetter; ever mindful of the messages she sends, she frets that she needs to retire the coat: “If I show up with that coat, doesn’t it look a little like — hey, look at me?”
Ms. Pelosi has long governed with a touch of gender-consciousness. When she became speaker the first time, she surrounded herself with her grandchildren and the children of other lawmakers on the podium inside the House chamber. A woman was in charge.This time Ms. Pelosi seems to be casting off maternal imagery. “I put on a suit of armor, eat nails for breakfast,” CNN quoted her as saying.
One good friend, former Senator Barbara Boxer of California, said Ms. Pelosi seemed “very liberated” after surviving the challenge to her speakership, and coming off the meeting with Mr. Trump. “They tried to kick her down, and I don’t think she ever got down,” Ms. Boxer said.
A generation of young feminists is taking notice.
“She’s unapologetic about her ambition, she’s insulting Trump’s manhood and storming out of the White House in orange coat and sunglasses,” said Amanda Litman, 28, and a founder of Run for Something, which recruits and supports young liberal candidates. “It’s very authentically her in a way that I’m not sure she was able to do in past decades.”
Most accounts of Ms. Pelosi’s rise begin with her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., an old machine politician who doled out favors from their living room in Baltimore’s Little Italy. But her mother, Annunciata, was an equally powerful role model.Ms. Pelosi, left, during a meeting between President John F. Kennedy and her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., the former mayor of Baltimore, in 1961.
Ms. Pelosi, left, during a meeting between President John F. Kennedy and her father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., the former mayor of Baltimore, in 1961.CreditWilliam Allen/Associated Press “Big Nancy,” as she was known, was a strategist, an organizer of Democratic women and the keeper of what the family called “the favor file.” From her, Ms. Pelosi learned the power of social networking and the personal approach to give and take in negotiations.
“Nancy knows how to listen; she learned that from her mother,” said former Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, a Baltimore native who was a few years ahead of Ms. Pelosi in their all-girls Catholic high school. Young Nancy D’Alesandro had dreams of becoming a lawyer, but by the time the women’s liberation movement was in full swing, she was married to her husband, Paul, and raising children.
“We missed the burning bra,” said Rita Meyer, a college roommate and close friend. “We missed the marijuana.”
Even when she was pushing strollers, Ms. Pelosi said, she was active in Democratic politics and pushing her own children to get involved. With her husband growing ever more successful in business, they opened their large home on one of San Francisco’s most exclusive streets for Democratic events.A turning point for Ms. Pelosi came in 1976, when she got behind the presidential campaign of Gov. Jerry Brown of California. She persuaded him to compete in the Maryland Democratic primary, drawing on her ties (her brother Tommy had also been Baltimore mayor) to help engineer his victory, a setback for Jimmy Carter.“I had no direct knowledge of anybody or anything in Maryland,” Mr. Brown, wrapping up his second stint as governor, said in an interview. “It was her idea. Just to think of that is a bold move.”
Ms. Pelosi first ran for her San Francisco congressional seat in 1987. Ms. Pelosi first ran for her San Francisco congressional seat in 1987.CreditPaul Sakuma/Associated Press Ms. Pelosi then was chairwoman of the California Democratic Party and helped organize its 1984 convention. Then, in 1987, Sala Burton, the incumbent congresswoman from San Francisco who was dying of cancer, summoned Ms. Pelosi to her bedside and asked her to run to fill her seat.
There were 23 women in the House — 12 Democrats and 11 Republicans — when Ms. Pelosi arrived. Ms. Boxer, who was then serving in the House, recalled an event where a colleague — she could not recall who — introduced his fellow members.
“He goes through everybody, and then he gets to us and he said, ‘And then there’s Nancy and Barbara,’” Ms. Boxer recalled. “She and I never forgot it.”
Ms. Pelosi carved out a niche as an advocate for human rights, particularly in China, and for AIDS patients, a significant part of her San Francisco constituency. She sought, and eventually landed, a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee and a national security post on the Intelligence Committee.
She was forceful about her ideas, said George Miller, a retired congressman and close friend, adding, “I don’t know that leadership was all that excited” to hear them. At a Democratic retreat after the party lost the majority in 1994, Ms. Pelosi planned a presentation on how Democrats in California picked up seats. Almost nobody came.
Ms. Pelosi, right, during a House Appropriations Committee meeting in 1995.
Ms. Pelosi, right, during a House Appropriations Committee meeting in 1995.CreditJoe Marquette/Associated Press “She said, ‘These boys just don’t know how to win,’” Mr. Miller remembered.
In 2001, Ms. Pelosi was elected Democratic whip, beating her longtime rival, Representative Steny D. Hoyer of Maryland, to become the first woman to hold that post. The next year she was elected Democratic leader, the first woman to lead a party in Congress. At her swearing in, she distributed buttons that read, “We’ve waited more than 200 years for this day.”Ms. Pelosi was swept into power as speaker in 2007 on a wave of revulsion over President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq. But she proved that she could work with Mr. Bush when needed; as the country faced economic collapse in 2008, she delivered the necessary votes to pass a Wall Street bailout plan — after Mr. Bush’s Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., got down on one knee and begged. (“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” she wryly said to him.)She was relentless in gathering votes, even when it put her members in jeopardy. If her own pressure campaigns and horse-trading did not work, she would call in outsiders. Henry A. Waxman, a former California congressman, recalled Ms. Pelosi’s effort to win over a nervous young member, Zack Space, on a climate change bill that had almost no prospects in the Senate. Mr. Space had Greek roots.“She had a woman, a leader in the national Greek community, talk to him,” Mr. Waxman said, “and then this woman came and sat in the front row while the vote was taking place.” Mr. Space got the message, voted yes, then lost his re-election.
But she is most remembered for passage of the Affordable Care Act, without a single Republican vote. Norman J. Ornstein, who has studied Congress for decades at the American Enterprise Institute, called it “as masterful a piece of legislating as I have ever seen.” It may have been matched only by her remarkable talent for raising money. Ms. Pelosi has raised $728.3 million for Democrats since 2002, her office said.
Now, after an election that ushered a record number of women into Congress, Ms. Pelosi is determined not to let another history-making moment pass. She is marking her return to power with a string of events, including a women’s tea, a dinner at the Italian Embassy featuring the singer Tony Bennett and a town hall-style meeting, televised on MSNBC.
Asked if she considers herself Mr. Trump’s equal, she replied, “The Constitution does.” She frowned at the memory of a dinner at the White House last year when men talked over her, and she asked, “Doesn’t anybody listen to a woman in the room?”
“Hopefully that will become a thing of the past now that we have so many women in Congress — and with the gavel,” Ms. Pelosi said. “The gavel makes a big difference.”

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74% of blasphemy cases in #Pakistan originate from #Punjab, reveals report

As many as 74% of all cases related to blasphemy in Pakistan are reported from Punjab, according to a report by the Center for Social Justice to the Fides News Agency.
The report by the non-government organisation (NGO) reveals that there has been an “extraordinary increase” in the number of blasphemy cases in Punjab over the last three decades, especially in the district of Lahore.
Stating that 74% of all cases are recorded in Punjab, the Center noted that in Lahore, 173 such cases have been verified. According to the non-profit group, more than 11% of all blasphemy cases in the country originate from Lahore. Out of the 75 people killed in relation to alleged blasphemy until January 2018, 14 murders took place in Lahore, including the murder of retired judge Arif Iqbal Bhatti, the NGO has stated.
In relation to blasphemy cases, at least four murders took place during police custody or in prison, the report added.
“The stories of men and women of different faiths present shocking accounts of brutality and enormous suffering of helpless victims,” the Director of the NGO noted in his assessment.
“Hundreds of people have been tortured, jailed, and imprisoned. Property worth billions of rupees was destroyed by an angry mob on the Lahore Mall Road in 2006 and at Joseph Colony in 2013,” the Center reported, but “the economic loss is only the tip of the iceberg compared to the social, political and cultural consequences in Lahore”.
Religious hostility, vulnerability of minorities and erosion of cultural ethos, according to the report, are in stark contrast to the known cultural openness, hospitality and intellectual wealth of the metropolis.
“Recent studies by Amnesty International have documented that the blasphemy law is widely abused to perpetrate hate crimes based on religion, regulate personal vendettas and perpetrate economic injustice,” says the Center for Social Justice.
Given that the Lahore district is home to many groups promoting a narrative based on religious intolerance, it is not difficult to understand why Lahore has become an epicenter of the abuse of blasphemy laws, the NGO has highlighted.
The Center recalls the recent case of Patras Masih, accused of blasphemy in the suburb of Shahdara, Lahore, is the story that involved his cousin Sajid Masih, and both were subjected to torture and attempted sexual abuse.
The report has concluded that the circumstances involving these cases deserve a deeper thought from a legal standpoint.
“Members of civil society have not given up despite the difficulties. Lawyers have fought for years in a hostile social environment,” says the non-profit group.

#Me Too: a failed movement in Pakistan?


Bringing justice to victims of harassment in Pakistan seems further than ever. What's holding up accountability?

It’s been a year since #MeToo. The fact that it progressed beyond accusations and has resulted in arrests, resignations and serious questions over unacceptable behaviour, both past and present, speaks of the volume of change #MeToo has brought and the potential it has for more. 
Change in Pakistan, however, is still evolving. 
Here, #MeToo seemed to be an answer for women suffering in a taboo-stricken and tradition-bound society. The movement began when famous actress Meesha Shafi accused her fellow colleague Ali Zafar of sexual harassment on multiple occasions. Both had their own supporters who stood by them. 
What was missing however was a thorough analysis of unchecked behaviour, often protected under the guise of performance requirements, and the need for measures to ensure the entertainment industry is safer for women. 
As a result, there are ongoing proceedings in court with Zafar and Shafi still performing, with no clear outcome visible. 
In 2018, after a two-year investigation, Professor Sahar Ansari, a famed literary figure in Pakistan, was found guilty of harassing his female colleagues at a top university. 
But far from being shunned by society, Ansari continues to garner accolades and reverence, even attending events at the university from which he was barred following harassment allegations.
Female journalist Urooj Zia, in a series of tweets, accused Faisal Edhi, son and heir to Pakistan’s largest philanthropist, of harassment during her interactions with him regarding a welfare project. 
The allegations, hardly seconded, received deafening silence and no investigation. Comedian Junaid Akram, who unlike Edhi, faces multiple anonymous accusations, continues to provide comic relief to his undeterred audience. 
In local newspaper The Dawn, Xari Jalil, reported on Tanzeela Mazhar, an anchorwoman for state-owned Pakistan Television, writing: “[She] stayed on in PTV for about a decade trying to fight against the sexual harassment she had faced but eventually resigned in 2017. The man [against whom Mazhar had filed a harassment complaint] was still there though, with all his power.”
Jalil cited various incidents in which female journalists –in both print and electronic media– have faced harassment from male colleagues, both young and old, in the form of verbal comments, suggestive messages or even threats. 
Speaking out poses a major challenge, simply due to lack of evidence. In many cases, instead of the work organisation involved beginning an investigation, many question the authenticity of an allegation. 
Women, especially those belonging to the lower middle class, who work to support their families or their own education expenses, prefer to stay quiet for as long as they can bear it, in order to keep their jobs. 
Whether it’s #MeToo or the law -the 'Protection Against Harassment of Women in the Workplace Act' was the first of its kind in South Asia- female employees do not feel confident that their pleas or complaints will be taken seriously and try to maintain their dignity by avoiding troublesome situations or people.
Women who share stories of harassment that happened years ago, are not only snubbed with the question ‘why now?’, but trolled, slut-shamed and accused of attempting to make personal gains, to name a few. 
The women still find it difficult to explain that these cases are genuine, and again, stay quiet fearing backlash, loss of their jobs, family upheaval or even social boycott. 
The dismal response in Pakistan to even high profile allegations points to an entrenched misogyny as well as the fear of isolation among women, even when they are wronged. 
As evident in the cases of Ali Zafar, Professor Ansari, Faisal Edhi and Junaid Akram, in countries like Pakistan, the accused roam free with bared chests and heads held high with impunity due in their knowledge that no serious probe will look into their behaviour.
A lack of camaraderie among women in Pakistan has also put men at an advantage. Women generally either fear lending support to others or deem it wise to stay quiet in order to keep their own jobs or relations intact. Those who suffer believe that it is something shameful and should be hidden from society. 
However, a growing number of working women are seeing harassment as a punishable crime, thanks to the awareness brought about by #MeToo. Courage-building may be slow, but it’s evolving and gaining momentum. Women are lending each other support, and newly-established large-scale organisations are trying to take up sexual harassment cases in accordance with the relevant laws. 
It is when allegations are not taken seriously, such as the case of Edhi, or when professional excellence is given priority, in the case of Ansari, that the movement suffers a blow. 
Moreover, in small-scale companies, where there may be no checks and balances by any authority, men have historically been able to take advantage of the subordination of women, lurking behind ever-newer victims, confident they will never be threatened.
Society in Pakistan, although very receptive to technological and occupational advancements, is still bound by tradition and taboos.
Any change which attempts to shake up the patriarchal structure is almost immediately shunned as a Western or even un-Islamic agenda. 
Change however, eventually does come, particularly when it is a matter of prestige and honour. 
In today’s awakening of Pakistani women, a change, even if it is late, is bound to come. 

IP gas project in limbo: #Pakistan wants #Iran to interpret sanctions

Khalid Hasnain

Pakistan has urged Iran to explain in-writing its interpretation of sanctions that resulted in a massive delay in completion of the mega Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project.
“The government has taken up the issue in a recent meeting with the Iranian petroleum ministry’s advisers held in Islamabad. During the meeting, we have asked them to give us a detailed clarity over their interpretation of the sanctions under which they claim that the restrictions don’t affect completion of the project,” Inter State Gas System (ISGS) Managing Director Mr Mobeen Saulat told Dawn on Tuesday.
For the last four years, the IP gas project, under which Pakistan was reportedly supposed to receive as many as 750MMCF of natural gas from Iran daily through an agreement, is off the table due to international sanctions - both multilateral imposed by the United Nations and the unilateral clamped by the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the European Union.
The unilateral sanctions imposed by the US were the most severe amongst all international restrictions — Iran Sanctions Act 1996, Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act 2010 and National Defence Authorisation Act-2012. The construction work on the Pakistani section of the pipeline had been inaugurated in March, 2013 and it was planned to be completed within 22 months.
“As far as we understand, we cannot move ahead on the project due to sanctions imposed on Iran. But they (Iranian petroleum ministry advisers) have their own interpretation of the sanctions. So we have engaged them in the process to understand the [sanctions] interpretation of each other,” the ISGS official said.
“That is why we have told them that we need a detailed clarity in writing from them in this regard, as we cannot go ahead with the project with their verbal interpretation. They have agreed to provide us a detailed reply,” the MD added.The official said as soon as the government received explanation from Iran [over sanctions’ regime] it would study and evaluate the same in depth. And if it finds the same justified, it may be in a position to resolve the issue.
“Since it is a very important project in view of 750MMCFD natural gas provision to Pakistan, the government wants to resolve this issue by understanding interpretation of the sanctions,” he said.

It will take a lot of time for Pakistan to mend its ways, says Modi

Prime Minister asserts that India has always been in favour of dialogue, but it cannot be heard amid noise of bombs and guns.
New Delhi: It will be a huge mistake to believe that Pakistan will mend its ways soon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday, even as he asserted that his government was open to dialogue with Islamabad but that it cannot be done “amid the noise of bombs and guns”.
“Whatever strategy is to be adopted, how to do, is ongoing at appropriate levels, has been happening (sic). 1965 war, war during partition… Ek ladai se Pakistan sudhar jayega, yeh sochne mein bahut badi galti hogi. Pakistan ko sudharne mein abhi aur samay lagega (It will be a huge mistake to believe that Pakistan will mend its ways after a war. It will take a lot of time for it to do that),” Modi said in an interview to ANI.
The Prime Minister was replying to a question on why cross-border terrorism has not stopped since the surgical strikes, carried out by the Indian Army in September 2016 across the Line of Control.

‘Talks, terror don’t go together’

Asked if India was open to dialogue as sought by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Modi said that India had never opposed dialogue, either under the UPA or the NDA government.
“It is our consistent policy that we are in favour of dialogue. It is the consistent policy of the country, not Modi government or Manmohan Singh government. It is our consistent policy that we are ready to talk on all issues, not this issue or that issue,” he said.
Asked if he would go to Pakistan if invited by Khan, Modi replied, “We will cross the bridge when we reach there.”
The Prime Minister added that India has always argued that talks and terror cannot go together.
“We only say one thing, that amid the noise of bombs and guns, the dialogue cannot be heard. Cross-border terrorism must end. And we are persistently maintaining pressure on this,” the PM said.
Modi also criticised the politicisation of the strikes, something which his own government has been accused of by opposition parties.
“I personally believe that surgical strikes should not be politicised… On the surgical strikes, there are some political parties who began to speak the same language as Pakistan. These parties were demeaning our armed forces. They politicised such an issue,” he said.

On China and Doklam

During the interview, Modi also touched upon the issue of China and said India should be judged by what it did in Doklam.
Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from 16 June in 2017 after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese Army.
The faceoff ended on 28 August after hectic diplomatic and back-channel talks. By that time, both India and China had mobilised and deployed large number of men and artillery on their respective sides.
Modi asserted that nothing has happened with India since then that can be considered as deceit.