Saturday, January 26, 2019

Video Report - #Putin Warns US: Hands Off Venezuela

Video Report - The people, history and culture of Uzbekistan - Traveling the Silk Road | DW Documentary

Saudi Arabia's turbulent years: For how much longer can King Salman shield MBS?

In the four years since King Salman assumed the throne, his son has made a mess of domestic and foreign policy.

Show comments The euphoria that accompanied King Salman’s succession to the throne in January 2015 has been difficult to sustain over the ensuing four years. As his son was promoted to the highest positions in the kingdom, becoming the new face of the country while his father almost disappeared from public view, the realm has looked increasingly difficult to defend. Several crises have left their shadow in recent years; only a miracle could stem the tide of criticism rolling over the most controversial years in the kingdom’s history. Domestically, regionally and internationally, Saudi Arabia is at an impasse.

Zero tolerance
At home, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) mismanaged family affairs and shook the foundation of al-Saud rule when he unleashed his newfound power to exclude and humiliate several senior princes, detaining them with others inside the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel. They were released only after vast ransom money was paid, and now survive in the margins, unable to regain respect and recognition.
The fiercest blow, however, was reserved for dissidents, with MBS showing zero tolerance for peaceful dissent. He has sent hundreds of people of all political persuasions to notorious prisons in Riyadh and Jeddah, targeting professionals, Islamists and female activists. Some have fled the country in fear, taking refuge in Western countries such as Canada or the UK. The real test will come when MBS loses the cover his father has provided over the last four years. When he is alone in the palace, new opportunities may arise to rid Saudi Arabia of this menace.Saudi youth have been distracted by a series of entertainment programmes, masking the brewing crisis among the unemployed, especially those who have returned with higher education, only to find no jobs (and without jobs, live entertainment becomes costly and out of reach).The private sector is still struggling to expand, as wealth leaves the country for more reliable safe havens. The fact that Saudi officials had to call on the elite to keep their money in the kingdom revealed the magnitude of this crisis.Many projects have been postponed, perhaps forever. The most notorious was the privatisation of five percent of the national oil company Aramco. This plan was always far-fetched, and it took just a couple of years for the difficulties and obstacles to become clear. Now, the privatisation is on hold, and no one knows whether it will ever happen.
The Khashoggi factor
Socially and economically, many promises have been made over these past four years, with a mixed outcome. The Saudi economy is still dependent on oil, but energy prices remain flat. This will impact the ability of MBS to honour his many pledges, from the knowledge economy to the diversification programme, as all of them need cash in the absence of serious foreign investment. All this became even more difficult after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. Many foreign investors cancelled their participation in the glamorous "Davos in the Desert" conference. Only one option remained available: liquidating the sovereign fund and continuing to issue government bonds. Saudi Arabia has become a country that can only function by borrowing money from international markets.
A protester wears a mask depicting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman next to people holding posters of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 25 October (AFP) Regional policies are even more complicated. The war in Yemen is entering its fifth year, with no real victories. Late last year MBS succumbed to pressure to negotiate a peaceful solution and accommodate his enemies, the Houthis, but the end is not yet in sight. In the meantime, thousands of Yemenis have died from Saudi air strikes.
The Saudi-Qatar conflict is also at a stalemate. The Saudi-led blockade amounted to a declaration of war, but fortunately did not erupt into a fully fledged one. Reconciliation is not imminent, and the media war continues to rage.Instead of toppling the regime in Doha, the Saudi-led sanctions have strengthened the small peninsula and its relations with Turkey and Iran - the opposite of what Saudi Arabia hoped to achieve. Qatar has also reigned supreme in the media battle.
Deteriorating relations
Regionally, Riyadh is now depicted as the lead Arab regime desperate to normalise relations with Israel. This may prove to be a fatal blow, whose ramifications are yet to surface.
MBS may ultimately learn that without Palestinians agreeing to a peace plan, his efforts will merely allow Israel to penetrate the Saudi market, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to threaten peace throughout the region, from Amman to Beirut to Cairo.
At the same time, Saudi relations with old allies have been deteriorating, with conflicts arising between Riyadh and Canada, Germany and Sweden. The world watched as the Canadian ambassador was expelled from Riyadh simply because of a tweet by Canada’s foreign ministry critical of the detention of female activists. Canada has become the desired destination for Saudi asylum seekers.

While MBS remains on good terms with US President Donald Trump, he does not seem to believe in diversifying his diplomatic relations. Both Trump and MBS are erratic and impulsive characters, whose relationship may not survive the eclectic nature of both personalities. 
It may be difficult for King Salman or his son to reverse the tide of discontent that has swept Saudi Arabia with the latter’s domination over all aspects of government. The real test will come when MBS loses the cover his father has provided over the last four years. When he is alone in the palace, new opportunities may arise to rid Saudi Arabia of this menace. 

Opinion She Wanted to Drive, So Saudi Arabia’s Ruler Imprisoned and Tortured Her

By Nicholas Kristof

The U.S. should pressure Saudis to respect the human rights of outspoken women.

Remember this name: Loujain (pronounced Loo-JAYNE) al-Hathloul. She is 29
years old and a courageous advocate for gender equality — so she is in a Saudi Arabian prison, and reportedly our Saudi allies have tortured her, even waterboarded her. There has properly been global outrage at Saudi Arabia’s murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and resident of Virginia. Jamal was a friend of mine, and I find it infuriating that President Trump and other officials won’t hold Saudi Arabia accountable for killing and dismembering him. Still, we can’t bring him back. So let’s direct equal attention to those still alive — like Hathloul, along with nine other women’s rights activists who are also in custody, including some who say they have endured torture. Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Jared Kushner bet big on the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, but they were bamboozled. M.B.S. isn’t a great reformer, and he isn’t coming clean about Khashoggi’s murder.
Nor is he releasing Hathloul, who, along with others, had peacefully and persistently campaigned for years to allow women the right to drive.
In 2014, she was arrested when she tried to drive into Saudi Arabia with a driver’s license from the United Arab Emirates, nominally valid also in Saudi Arabia. Then in 2015, Hathloul was one of the first women to run for a seat on a municipal council. (She lost.)
She moved to the emirates. But in 2017, Saudi security forces effectively kidnapped her and her husband and returned them to the kingdom. The couple have divorced, and while accounts differ, some believe this is because of pressure the government placed on the husband. Shortly before women were allowed to drive last June, the government rearrested Hathloul, along with other women’s rights activists who had fought for the right the government was about to grant.
“She said she had been held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder,” her sister, Alia al-Hathloul, who lives in Belgium, wrote in a searing Op-Ed in The Times this month, recounting what Loujain had told their parents when they saw her. “My parents then saw that her thighs were blackened by bruises.”
Despite being threatened with rape and murder and having her body thrown into the sewage system, Hathloul would not stay silent and reported the torture to her parents.
Her sister said Loujain was “shaking uncontrollably, unable to hold her grip, to walk or sit normally.”
The other imprisoned women suffered similar treatment, according to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and their families. They were said to have been subjected to electric shocks, whippings, forced kissing and hugging, threats of rape and more. Some were tied to a metal bed and flogged.
“Loujain’s abuse exemplifies the methods of Saudi thuggish and lawless leadership, hellbent on exacting sadistic vengeance against any citizen who dares to think freely,” Sarah Leah Whitson of Human Rights Watch told me. “The Saudi people owe a huge debt to Loujain.”
A government spokesman did not respond to my inquiries about why Hathloul was imprisoned and tortured. A pro-government newspaper did suggest that Hathloul is a traitor who could even deserve to be executed.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has stepped up the pace of executions, with about 150 reported last year. Apparently for the first time, prosecutors have sought the death penalty for a woman who is a nonviolent human rights defender, Israa al-Ghomgham. Trump is right that Saudi Arabia is an important ally. That’s why it’s important that it have a decent, modernizing leader, rather than one who feuds with neighbors, kidnaps Lebanon’s prime minister, invades Yemen, murders a journalist and tortures outspoken women.
Saudi politics are murky, but there are whispers that the crown prince will not necessarily be elevated to king on the death of his father. Yet Trump, Pompeo and Kushner are acting as M.B.S.’s protectors and backers — so the world could be stuck with M.B.S. as a destabilizing and oppressive ruler for the next half century.America doesn’t have much leverage to improve human rights in countries like China, Venezuela or Iran. But we have enormous leverage over Saudi Arabia, because it depends on us for its security. Yet Trump, Pompeo and Kushner refuse to use that leverage.
I can’t find any indication that any official in the Trump administration has even publicly mentioned Hathloul’s name or called for her release. So I hope Congress will step up, oversee the relationship and ask tough questions about why we are silent when our close ally waterboards a woman seeking equal rights.
Saudi Arabia will never live up to its potential as long as it treats women as second-class citizens. What’s at stake is not only justice but also stability, economic development and peace in the region.
Thus I urge the Nobel Peace Prize committee to consider selecting Hathloul this year.

Saudi Arabia: Let Outside Monitors See Detainees Local Inquiries Lack Independence, Credibility

Saudi authorities should immediately allow independent international monitors to enter Saudi Arabia and meet with detainees, including those who have alleged torture, Human Rights Watch said today. The detainees should include the prominent princes and business leaders held as part of a so-called corruption probe, and the prominent women’s rights advocates detained since May 2018.
Media outlets have reported that Saudi authorities opened two investigations into the torture allegations by women’s rights advocates, one by Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission, a government agency, and one by Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor, which reports directly to the royal court. Neither agency has the independence necessary to conduct a credible, transparent investigation that would hold those responsible for torture accountable.
“Saudi Arabia’s internal investigations have little chance of getting at the truth of the treatment of detainees, including prominent citizens, or of holding anyone responsible for crimes accountable,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If Saudi Arabia truly wants to get to the bottom of what happened and hold abusers accountable, it needs to allow independent access to these detainees.”
On January 2, 2019, a panel of British parliament members and international lawyers sent an official request to Saudi authorities for access to the country and to detained women’s rights advocates, but the request has not received a response.
On December 17, 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that members of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission had interviewed prominent women’s rights advocates in detention and recorded their allegations of torture, which included electric shocks, whippings, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. It is unclear whether the commission will issue a public report or recommendations based on these allegations, but informed sources told Human Rights Watch that a member of the Human Rights Commission told one of the detained women the commission could not help them.
On January 13, Bloomberg reported that Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor had opened an investigation into the torture allegations by the women’s rights advocates. The Saudi Public Prosecution was created in June 2018 and reports directly to the Saudi royal court.
The announcement of the investigation came after Saudi Arabia’s media ministry on November 23 denied evidence of torture published by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
In addition to the women’s rights advocates, independent monitors should also be allowed access to other detainees, including human rights activists and independent clerics held since September 2017, as well as prominent royal family members, businessmen, and current and former government officials held on suspicion of corruption since November 2017.
A March 12, 2018 New York Times report said that 17 detainees among these held at the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh required hospitalization for physical abuse. They included one who later died in custody, the report said, “with a neck that appeared twisted [and] a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse.”
The New York Times identified Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the Saudi Binladin Group, and Prince Turki bin Abdullah, former Riyadh governor and son of the late King Abdullah, as two of the men who remain in detention. It identified Maj. Gen. Ali al-Qahtani, an aide to Prince Turki, as the man who later died in detention. The report cited a person who saw the body, which had signs of physical abuse including a twisted neck and burns that appeared to be from electric shocks.
The report indicated that in addition to Prince Turki, the corruption probe targeted several other sons of the late King Abdullah. Another son, Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah, was reported to have been briefly detained after he complained privately about Qahtani’s treatment. On November 17, Middle East Eye reported that another son of the late king, Prince Miteb, the longtime head of the country’s National Guard, was one of the 17 people who required hospitalization.
The detention conditions and legal status of Prince Turki, former economy and planning minister Adel Fakieh, and others are unknown.
“Independent monitors can help confirm what has happened to people detained during these operations and find out about their current wellbeing,” Page said. “Without such scrutiny, there is every reason to believe that the Saudi authorities may still be treating them with unspeakable cruelty.” 

Pashto Music - LAILA KHAN BEQARAR YOUM JANANAA_ لیلا خان بی قراره یم جانه

Foreign troops to quit Afghanistan in 18 months under draft deal: Taliban sources

By Abdul Qadir Sediqi, Jibran Ahmad, Rupam Jain
Taliban officials said U.S. negotiators on Saturday agreed a draft peace deal setting out the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan within 18 months, potentially ending the United States’ longest war.
The details of the draft were given to Reuters by Taliban sources at the end of six days of talks with U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar aimed at ending the war, more than 17 years since American-led forces invaded Afghanistan.
It stipulates that troops would leave within 18 months of the agreement being signed.
While no joint statement was issued, Khalilzad tweeted later that the talks had made “significant progress” and would resume shortly, adding that he planned to travel to Afghanistan to meet government officials. “Meetings here (in Qatar) were more productive than they have been in the past. We have made significant progress on vital issues,” he wrote, adding that numerous issues still needed work.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and everything must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive ceasefire,” he said in the tweets.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson declined further comment.
A Taliban statement issued later also noted progress on troop withdrawal and other issues but said more negotiations and internal consultations were required.“The policy of the Islamic Emirate during talks was very clear — until the issue of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is agreed upon, progress in other issues is impossible,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, using another name the group calls itself. It was not clear if the draft described by the Taliban sources was acceptable to both sides or when it could be completed and signed.
According to the sources, the hardline Islamic group gave assurances that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants to attack the United States and its allies — a key early demand of Washington.They said the deal included a ceasefire provision but they had yet to confirm a timeline and would only open talks with Afghan representatives once a truce was implemented.Up until now, the Taliban has repeatedly rejected the Afghan government’s offer of holding talks, preferring instead to talk directly to the U.S. side, which it regards as its main enemy.“In 18 months, if the foreign forces are withdrawn and ceasefire is implemented then other aspects of the peace process can be put into action,” a Taliban source said, quoting from a portion of the draft.
More talks on the draft are expected in February, again in the Qatari capital Doha, the Taliban sources said.
They expect their side to be led by new political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the movement’s co-founder and a former military commander who was released from prison in Pakistan last year.
While they said his appointment had boosted momentum for a deal, it was unclear if he joined the talks.
News of progress on a deal comes as the Taliban continues to stage near-daily attacks against the Western-backed Afghan government and its security forces.
Despite the presence of U.S.-led foreign forces training, advising and assisting their Afghan counterparts 17 years after the U.S.-led an invasion to drive them from power, the Taliban controls nearly half of Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said last week that 45,000 members of the country’s security forces had been killed since he took office in 2014.
The United States has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led mission, known as Resolute Support, as well as a U.S. counter-terrorism mission directed at groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda.Despite reports in December last year that the United States was considering pulling out almost half of its forces, a White House spokesman said that U.S. President Donald Trump had not issued orders to withdraw the troops. However, the administration has not denied the reports, which have prompted fears of a fresh refugee crisis.
The Taliban sources said other clauses in the draft include an agreement over the exchange and release of prisoners, the removal of an international travel ban on several Taliban leaders by Washington and the prospect of an interim Afghan government after the ceasefire is struck.
The suggestion to appoint an interim government in Afghanistan comes as top politicians including Ghani have filed their nominations for the presidential polls in July this year. Ghani has repeatedly rejected the offer to agree to the formation of an interim government.
The Taliban sources also confirmed provisions in the draft that have broader implications for Afghanistan’s ties with its neighbors, particularly Pakistan, India and China.
They said the deal included provisions that separatist militants from Balochistan, a resource-rich southwestern Pakistani province, will not be allowed to use Afghan soil to target Pakistan.

Water could become the major flash point between #India and #Pakistan besides #Kashmir


As rivers and taps run dry, trouble is brewing over hydroelectric projects India is building along the Chenab River that Pakistan says will impact its water supply.
As rivers and taps run dry, water has the potential to become a major flash point between arch-rivals India and Pakistan.
Women and children walk miles each day in search for water in a crowded, downtrodden district of Pakistan’s financial capital, Karachi — a scene repeated in cities throughout the country.
Across the border in India, government research indicates about three-quarters of people don’t have drinking water at home and 70 percent of the country’s water is contaminated.
As rivers and taps run dry, water has the potential to become a major flash point between arch-rivals India and Pakistan. Both have repeatedly accused each other of violating the World Bank-brokered 1960s Indus Waters Treaty that ensures shared management of the six rivers crossing between the two neighbors, which have fought three major wars in the past 71 years.
The latest dispute is over hydroelectric projects India is building along the Chenab River that Pakistan says violate the treaty and will impact its water supply. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is sending inspectors to visit the site on Jan. 27. Indian leader Narendra Modi — who faces elections in the next few months — has vowed to proceed with construction, and it remains unclear how the impasse will be resolved.
“Tensions over water will undoubtedly intensify and put the Indus Waters Treaty — which to this point has helped ensure that they have never fought a war over water — to its greatest test,” Michael Kugelman, a senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington said by email.
“The prospect of two nuclear-armed rivals becoming enmeshed in increasing tensions over a critical resource like water is unsettling and poses highly troubling implications for security in South Asia and the world on the whole,” he said.
For now, relations between India and Pakistan appear to be stable, and even looking more positive. Khan’s six-month-old Pakistani government has sought to mend ties with India, and has said the country’s powerful military supports those efforts — a notion greeted with skepticism in New Delhi.
Still, all sides see the long-term risks of a conflict over water: Khan himself is attempting to raise $17 billion via the world’s largest crowd fund for the construction of two large dams, one of which would be built in the disputed territory of Kashmir. In a region that’s home to about a quarter of the world’s population, failure to manage water shortages could be catastrophic.
“Any future war that happens will be on these issues,” Major General Asif Ghafoor, Pakistan’s military spokesman, told reporters last year, referring to water issues. “We need to give it a lot of attention.”
The most serious threat to the water agreement of late followed a terrorist attack on an Indian army camp in September 2016, when Modi stated that “blood and water and cannot flow together” and vowed to review the treaty.
If Modi is re-elected “there’s a possibility that water may become a tool to try bring Pakistan to heel,” said Ashok Swain, professor of peace and conflict research and the director of research at the School of International Water Cooperation at Uppsala University in Sweden.
“He may not do something immediately after resuming power but if relations with Pakistan deteriorate, by 2020-21, it’s a possibility,” Swain said. And although Pakistan’s new political leaders are aware the two dams being built by India are only one part its problem, “a water conflict with India can be a good way to hide their own mismanagement.”India’s Ministry of Water spokesman Sudhir Pandey didn’t respond to phone calls, while Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah was unavailable to comment.

Water tankers in Karachi | Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg
Water tankers in Karachi | Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg

Pakistan, India and Afghanistan are among the world’s eight most water stressed countries. Waiting for hours or going days without water supply is the new normal in some crowded South Asian cities. The Indus river, one of Asia’s longest that originates in the Tibetan Plateau and flows into the Arabian sea near Karachi, has shriveled to a shadow of its former self. Water scarcity has led to regular protests in cities from Shimla in India to Lahore in Pakistan.
Most South Asian nations are heavily dependent on agriculture that consumes the majority of fresh water supply. Rice and sugarcane are grown by flooding the entire area with more than four feet of water. About 60 percent of households in India rely on agriculture while about half of Pakistan’s labor force is employed by the industry.
“South Asia has a water crisis,” said Pervaiz Amir, a regional expert for the Stockholm-based Global Water Partnership, pointing to the cities of Karachi and India’s capital, New Delhi. “You immediately start a ripple effect, first it is poverty that will increase. In the southern areas of Pakistan, extremism and terrorism will increase.”
Global agencies have made dire predictions that Pakistan — despite having the world’s largest glaciers — will face mass water scarcity by 2025. Already availability per capita has dropped by a third since 1991 to 1,017 cubic meters, according to the International Monetary Fund.
In most areas of Karachi flowing piped water is a rarity and its more than 15 million residents receive less than half of their daily needs. Even when it is supplied in the densely populated district of Lyari it only reaches a handful of houses through a leaking line that passes through mounds of garbage and leaves it smelling of sewage.
“When water comes, women come from far, far away to fill water,” said 30-year-old fisherman Abdul Qadir, pointing out dilapidated pipelines in Lyari’s Khadda Market area. “There is a line of more than 200 people here.”
Last year a judicial report showed that 91 percent of Karachi’s water was unsafe to drink. Pakistan’s poorest urban dwellers have access to only 10 liters per capita — just one fifth of the requirement, according to James Wescoat, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The World Economic Forum rates the water crisis as the biggest risk in Pakistan, with terrorist attacks third on the list. Waseem Akhtar, Karachi’s mayor, told Bloomberg the city needs to fix widespread leakages and theft, but funding is scarce.
Neighboring India’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply by 2030 and will lead to a six percent loss in the country’s economic growth by 2050, according to the New Delhi-based government think-tank NITI Aayog.
While a solution will need regional cooperation, there’s been little coordination between India and Pakistan apart from their decades-old river-sharing agreement. Still, officials on both sides of the border recognize they need to act with urgency.
“We have a near crisis,” said S. Massod Hussain, chairman of India’s central water commission. “We need better management of our water resources.”-Bloomberg

#Pakistan - If Zardari’s sister can appear before JIT, why can’t PM’s: Asfandyar

January 21, 2019

    The Awami National Party (ANP) President Asfandyar Wali Khan on Sunday said if the PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s sister can go to the JIT, then why Prime Minister Imran Khan can’t do so.
    He was speaking at an event organised at the Bacha Khan Markaz in connection with the death anniversaries of Abdul Ghaffar Khan aka Bacha Khan and his son Abdul Wali Khan. The ANP senior leaders, including Ghulam Ahmad Bilour and Mian Iftikhar Hussain and Afghan Cultural Attaché Hazrat Wali Hotak, also attended the event.
    Asfandyar warned the policy makers of the dangers of the reckless steps being taken at a time when the country was facing international isolation. “Pakistan is facing isolation due to flawed and failed policies,” he maintained. He advised the policy makers to learn from the mistakes of the former Soviet Union and devise policies in the best interests of the country.The ANP chief said they were the custodians of the 18th Amendment in the Constitution and warned of street protests ifeven one clause of the amendment was changed. He said it would prove costly for the rulers if they tried to amend the financial clause of the 18th Amendment.The ANP chief said the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) had been abolished, but the country’s laws were yet to be extended to the erstwhile Fata.
    “The government’s inability to implement the country’s laws in former Fata has created problems for residents of these tribal districts,” he said. Asfandyar said Waziristan was still not safe for its residents. He said that making governor the head of the merged tribal districts was meant to freeze the system of government.
    The ANP chief said Prime Minister Imran Khan had been propagating that he would build five million houses in Pakistan, but he was unable to see the destroyed homes and infrastructure in Waziristan. He asked the government to show seriousness in the reconstruction, return and rehabilitation of the displaced families from former tribal areas.
    Asfandyar expressed astonishment over the peace talks in Islamabad that would be held in the absence of Afghanistan. “Pakistan, US, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are attending the Afghan peace talks in Islamabad, but the Afghan government will not be represented,” he pointed out. He said talks about Afghanistan without the participation of the Afghan government could not succeed.

    #Pakistan - #Sahiwal Scramble: A mother’s perspective

    Wajiha Arshad
    The heart goes out while watching the kids answering some absurd (I toned the word down otherwise it would never have been printed) questions on news channels by our respectful reporters and anchors. The incident itself undoubtedly moved us as a nation, however what has disturbed us more was the way the kids involved in the incident were mishandled by ‘all of us’.
    The purpose is not to get into an institutional debate of whose fault it is, or what went wrong. The most surprising fact that stuck in my mind was the innocent eyes of the two daughters; the questioning face of that son; images of the little girl carrying a feeder in her hand all dressed up for the wedding and in the end the same poor angels being interrogated in the most bizarre manner on media and made as an object of sensational media. I am forced to doubt if anyone would have thought of keeping the kids away from whole situation to avoid PTSD. Those eyes had been haunting me since the incident took place. I was ashamed to tell my kids a made-up cover story so that they are not psychologically disturbed and that feeling revealed a hypocrite mother in me. For a moment the thought of those three kids’ psychological state comes to my mind and horrified to hair stand on ends.
    The children may be requiring psychological assistance, help and counselling. Instead of flashing the incident in front of them every day, they need to forget those ill-fated glimpses. Instead of making appearances only for the sake of ticking the boxes, a substantial plan for the future grooming and upbringing of those kids would heal their bleeding wounds in a much more effectual way. Scapegoats and blame games are above the comprehension of those little minds to understand at the moment.Have we as a nation gone insensitive? Dead? Numb? Every day, without even feeling guilty, we pass by the poor and needy around us on roads seeking help. Then how can one ask the government or other state institutions to stand for us and to carry out reforms overnight and revolutionise the country where every individual living here is responsible for the state of affairs we are going through today? Am I fulfilling all my duties at the individual level as a responsible citizen? This is the question every Pakistani needs to ask one’s self.
    The anger behind, as a mother may have taken over the words and very rightly though. The passion and sentiments must be funnelled and worn to highlight the true and futuristic perspective. I think what we can do on the individual level to comprehend our leadership sitting at responsible position is trust. Faith in our state institutions, trust in our government and belief in our law enforcement agencies, though keeping the healthy criticism to crop side by side, would take us as a nation another mile ahead. Although the time may not seem appropriate keeping in view the chaos created around, however testing time demands at least a mature and appropriate behaviour from “all of us”.
    Sentiments, feelings and emotions aroused by the unfortunate incident need be driven in the right direction. Taking it as a wakeup call and moving ahead, yet not closing eyes to harsh realities seems like the need of hour. A state is more than a government; that is clear so far. Thereby the components and units at individual and national level stick together, headed straight ahead, and could take the ship out of whirlwind. If we as nation keep on acting like Lippmann rightly defined as a “bewildered herd”, the emergence on shore after current deep dive would become complicated. The ‘change’ nation is seeking for and looking up to, would not come by using the unfortunate children to objectify the situation.

    #Pakistan - Govt, security agencies, educational institutions need to be on one page to root out extremism

    Ajmal Meer Mehdi
    Religious extremism weakens the fundamental basis of brotherhood and religious harmony. It has been declared as an alarming and throbbing issue of the country.
     From a developed and civilised viewpoint of prosperity, youth can prove to be a well-thought-out asset for the country and certainty youth can transform the destiny of a nation.
    Religious harmony among people of different religions is the biggest dream of today. There is need to proclaim the provision of sustainable religious harmony among different schools of thought with respect to religion. Every religion of world preaches good faith of humanity and lays great emphasis on morality on humanitarian grounds. No religion teaches inflicting harm to anyone.
    Religious extremism weakens the fundamental basis of brotherhood and religious harmony. Extremism has been declared as an alarming and throbbing issue of the country for the last four decades.
    Pakistan is one of those Muslim countries in the world which is suffering from religious extremism very badly. Pakistan is a swing of social problems countenanced by common people in daily life in sphere. Fanaticism in Pakistan is day by day rising because of social problems which are faced by citizens of the country like energy crisis, bad governance, unfairness, bribery, demeritocracy, police highhandedness, no serious attitude of citizens and absence of quality education which adds to this problem.
    Religious extremism is an intense behaviour to impose one’s religious view point on the other or insist to adopt it.
    Pakistan is one of those Muslim countries in the world which are suffering from religious extremism badly. Pakistan is a swing of social problems countenanced by common people in daily life in every sphere. Fanaticism in Pakistan is day by day rising
    Different factors like religious disharmony, intolerance, prejudice and extremism are pushing factors for religious extremism in Pakistan. Religious extremism is inherited by religious intolerance among youth which is regulated through lack of awareness and silence of responsible institutions in the country.
    According to the United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organisation website, tolerance is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance recognises universal human rights and fundamental freedom of others. People are naturally diverse; only tolerance can ensure the survival of mixed communities in every region of the globe.
    Minorities are also not safe in the country and are one of the most victimised communities by members of majority represented religion. Root causes of many social problems are also arising from extremism and intolerance with respect to religion.
    Conditions and facilities such as poor residence, bad governance in society, low income and other such types of problems make people intolerant. Some types of books, movies, speeches and other videos are also included in the causes.
    Extremism is harmful be it in any form.
    Religious extremism is the division of harmony which brings into the present situation of detest and distress among the people of different groups whereas acceptance realises harmony in assortment.
    Religious extremism is a rapidly increasing problem of our society. It depends upon the environment of society also as the people of less developed societies not having enough facilities are mostly aggressive in their nature. There are some people who are naturally intolerant. If conditions are not favourable for people living in a country than it’s natural that fanaticism might increased.
    The condition of extremism in youth may take place because of economic disappointment.
    Meritocracy must be utilised in the country to save our future.
    Similarly, education along with awareness about religious harmony must be promoted.
    There’s a need for collective action to curb religious extremism and sectarian violence. We have to promote harmony, tolerance and brotherhood in the country and its neighbours.
    To curb religious extremism, the government must initiate measures to eradicate poverty and social disparity. It should provide speedy justice, as well as quality and affordable education, health facilities and employment to all irrespective of caste or creed. Reforms should be a part of Constitution for eradication of roots of extremism in Pakistan by the union of all elements. Security agencies must be in harmony with all other organisations of the government to play their role in this serious problem by mutual understanding.
    Extremism should be addressed purely on meritorious basis through education from primary to higher secondary education. Due to lack of strong research, traditions and capability to study current issues, Pakistani universities can’t take accurate cognisance of extensive social problems, including extremism.

    #Pakistan - #PTI is a failed govt, says Hussain

    The current regime is a failed government, said Awami National Party Secretary General Mian Iftikhar Hussain at a public gathering held at Nowshera to mark the death anniversaries of ANP founder Khan Abdul Wali Khan and his father the great Khudai Khidmatgar Tehreek founder and proponent of non-violence in Pashtun society, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan popularly known as Bacha Khan.
    Hussain said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has presented budget thrice in a year showing its competence as planners. “Finance Minister Asad Umar has become budget khan,” Hussain said.
    The ANP secretary general said that Imran Khan was a security risk for the country due to his policies. “The enemies of 18th Constitutional Amendment will regret their actions,” he said warning the government from acting against the provincial autonomy. Regarding the accountability process, Hussain said a drama was going on in the name of accountability. “The only party safe from the NAB is PTI,” he said adding “Imran Niazi has become a security threat for the country and if those who handed him the throne don’t throw him away, they will regret too.”
    He said that owing to faulty policies of the PTI government, dollar is on the rise leading to fears of runaway inflation.

    #Pakistan - Fourth member of PM Imran’s Economic Advisory Commission resigns

    Another prominent member of the PTI government’s Economic Advisory Commission (EAC) has stepped down citing ‘personal reasons’, The Express Tribune has learnt.

    Former chief economist of Pakistan Sakib Sherani is the fourth member of the 18-member EAC to have resigned since its establishment in September 2018. The EAC was set up by Prime Minister Imran Khan to seek expert advice on economic and financial policies of the government.
    The commission comprised seven members from the government and 11 from the private sector.
    Officials at the finance ministry have sought to downplay Sherani’s resignation, saying that he had said in the first meeting of EAC that it wouldn’t be possible for him to continue as member for too long because he was already working as a consultant.
    According to sources, Sherani has informed the prime minister and Finance Minister Asad Umar about his resignation. Second mini-budget: Tax cuts, incentives to boost growth
    Sherani is the fourth member of the EAC to have resigned within four months and 25 days of the formation of the premier commission. Finance Ministry officials claim that Sherani has resigned due to personal reasons. However, sources say that is not the case.Sources say that Sherani has stepped down in protest against the government move to bypass the EAC in the preparation of the Finance Supplementary (Second Amendment) Bill, 2019, and five-year macroeconomic framework and midterm budgetary framework.Atif Rehman Mian, Professor of Economics, Public Policy and Finance at Princeton University, was the first to quit days after the formation of the EAC on September 1, 2018.Atif Mian, who belongs to the Ahmadiyya community, was asked by the government to step down after politico-religious parties agitated his appointment on the commission.
    The withdrawal of Atif Mian’s nomination, for which the PTI government drew flak on the social media, didn’t go down well with other private members of the EAC.
    Dr Asim Ijaz Khwaja, Professor of International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, pulled out of the EAC, saying “being a Muslim I can’t justify this”.Dr Khwaja announced his quitting on Twitter. “Have resigned from EAC. Painful, deeply sad decision. Grateful for chance to aid analytical reasoning but not when such values compromised. Personally as a Muslim I can’t justify this. May Allah forgive/guide me&us all. Ever ready to help. Pakistan Paindabad,” he had written on his official Twitter handle.
    Mini-budget to decrease revenue by Rs7b, says Dawood
    Dr lmran Rasul, Professor at Department of Economics, University College, London, followed suit a day later.
    “With a heavy heart, I have resigned from the EAC this morning. The circumstances in which Atif was asked to step down are ones I profoundly disagree with. Basing decisions on religious affiliation goes against my principles, or the values I am trying to teach my children,” Rasul wrote on his Twitter handle.
    After the resignation of Sherani, the number of private sector members on the EAC has also come down to seven. The remaining members on the commission from the private sector are Dr Farrukh lqbal, Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan, Dr ljaz Nabi, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Dr Asad Zaman, Dr Naved Hamid and Syed Salim Raza.From the government side, the commission’s members are finance minister, Planning Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa, Adviser on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Hussain, Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razaq Dawood and Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.
    Read more: Economic Advisory Commission , Latest , Sakib Sherani

    ایک نسل کے بچپن اور جوانی کی یادیں روحی بانو کے ذکر کے بغیر ادھوری ہیں

    روحی بانوتصویر کے کاپی رائٹPTV

    ٹیلی ویژن، سٹیج اور فلم کی معروف اداکارہ روحی بانو جمعے کو ترکی میں انتقال کر گئیں۔ بے شک جو اس 

    دنیا میں آیا ہے اس کو جانا بھی ہے اور زندگی نام کے اس مختصر وقفے میں اپنے حصے کا کام سرانجام بھی دینا ہے، اپنے حصے کے دکھ، سکھ، خوشیاں، غم، سب ہی بھوگنے ہیں۔ یہ ہی قدرت کا نظام ہے اور ہم سب اسی میں راضی ہیں۔
    مگر یہ بھی ایک حقیقت ہے کہ کچھ لوگوں کے چلے جانے سے یوں لگتا ہے جیسے ہماری زندگی کا کچھ حصہ بھی ان ہی کے ساتھ رخصت ہو گیا ہو۔ روحی بانو بھی ان لوگوں میں سے تھیں جنھوں نے اپنے پرستاروں کی زندگیوں پہ ان مٹ نقوش چھوڑے۔ ایک پوری نسل کے بچپن اور جوانی کی یادیں، ان کے ذکر کے بغیر ادھوری ہیں۔
    وہ پاکستان کی ان اداکاراؤں میں سے تھیں جو نہ صرف اپنے فن کو بخوبی سمجھتی تھیں بلکہ دنیاوی حساب سے بھی بہت تعلیم یافتہ تھیں۔ میری معلومات کے مطابق انھوں نے تین ایم اے کر رکھے تھے۔ انگریزی ادب اور نفسیات کے بارے میں تو مجھے معلوم، تیسرے مضمون سے میں لاعلم ہوں۔
    روحی بانو قسمت والی تھیں کہ انھیں وہ دور ملا جب ٹیلی ویژن پہ ڈاکٹر انور سجاد جیسے گوہر شناس افراد موجود تھے۔ ان کو ڈراموں میں لانے کا سہرا بھی ڈاکٹر صاحب کے سر ہے۔ ان کے ہم عصروں میں خالدہ ریاست، عظمی ٰ گیلانی، عابد علی اور فردوس جمال جیسے بڑے بڑے نام شامل ہیں۔
    ڈراموں کی فہرست طویل ہے، شاید 45 سے زائد ڈراموں میں کام کیا۔ ان کا آ خری کام غالباً فصیح باری خان کا ڈرامہ تھا۔ زندگی کے آخری سالوں میں جب وہ فاؤنٹین ہاؤس میں زیرِ علاج تھیں تو وہاں بھی انھوں نے ایک ڈرامہ لکھا اور پرفارم کیا۔ ان کی اداکاری، پونا فلم اکیڈمی کے نصاب میں شامل ہیں۔ ایک فنکار کے لیے اس سے بڑی خوش نصیبی کیا ہو گی؟
    لیکن اس کے ساتھ ساتھ، روحی بانو سے متعلق ہماری فنکار برادری اور معاشرے میں ایک احساسِ جرم پایا جاتا ہے کہ شاید ہم ان کی وہ قدر نہ کر پائے جس کی وہ مستحق تھیں۔ ایک اداکارہ کے طور پہ خوش نصیب ہو نے کے ساتھ ساتھ وہ نجی زندگی کے کچھ معاملات میں بد قسمتی کا شکار رہیں۔ شادی کی ناکامی، جوان بیٹے کی موت اور دیگر حالات نے مل ملا کے انھیں مالیخولیا کا مریض بنا دیا تھا۔
    اس مرض کا علاج بھی ہوتا رہا اور ان کے حالات پہ بارہا مختلف چینلز ان کے انٹرویو بھی نشر کرتے رہے۔ میں چونکہ روحی بانو کی پرستار ہوں، یہ انٹرویو بغور دیکھا کرتی تھی۔ مجھے ان کے چہرے اور گفتگو میں کبھی مالیخولیا کا مرض نظر نہ آیا۔ ہمیشہ یوں ہی لگا کہ یہ تو وہی درد ہے جو ہر فنکار کے دل میں چھپ کے بیٹھا ہوتا ہے۔ تنہا ہونے کا درد، اپنی نوع کے واحد فرد ہونے کا درد اور یہ درد اندھیرے سویرے ہمیں کہیں بھی دبوچ لیتا ہے۔

    کمزور اور بزدل اس درد سے چھپ کے دنیا سے سمجھوتہ کر لیتے ہیں۔ اپنی صلاحیتیں چھپا کے عام انسانوں جیسے نظر آنے کی کوشش کرتے ہیں۔ روحی بہادر تھیں۔ درد کا یہ بھوت جب انھیں ملا تو انھوں نے اس سے خائف ہونے کی بجائے اسے گلے سے لگا لیا، اسے خود میں ضم کر لیا۔ مختلف ہونے کا درد وہی جانتے ہیں جو مختلف ہوتے ہیں۔ سوانگ بھر کے مختلف نظر آنے والے اس درد کو کیا جانیں؟
    چونکہ معاشرے کا مقصد لوگوں کو ایک وردی پہنا کے ایک جیسا کرنا ہوتا ہے اس لیے مختلف لوگوں کو ذہنی مریض قرار دے دیا جاتا ہے اور چونکہ معاشرے کے اصول بھی چوکور دماغ والے طے کرتے ہیں اس لیے دماغی امراض کو کبھی سنجیدگی سے نہیں لیا گیا۔ ڈپریشن، تنہائی، خوف اور دیگر ذہنی مسائل کے لیے ہمارے پاس دو ایک ٹھپے ہیں جو ہر اس شخص پہ لگا دیے جاتے ہیں، جس کے پاس معاشرے کے لیے سوال ہوتے ہیں۔
    روحی نہیں رہیں، کئی سوال چھوڑ گئیں۔ فنکار معاشرے کو بہت کچھ دیتے ہیں، جواب میں معاشرہ انھیں، خوف، ناداری، تنہائی اور بے کسی دیتا ہے۔ کیا فنکار رشتوں کے محتاج ہوتے ہیں یا ان کے پرستار ان کے سب رشتوں کی کمی پوری کرسکتے ہیں؟
    روحی بانو کی حد تک تو یہ جواب نفی میں ملتا ہے۔ نجی زندگی کے مسائل، صرف روحی کے مسائل تھے لیکن ان کی فنکارانہ صلاحیتوں پہ ہم سب کا حق تھا۔ کیا ایوارڈز کے دھاتی اور چوبی ڈھانچے ہی عمر بھر کی تکلیفوں کا ثمر ہیں؟
    'مجھے فلسفۂ موت نہ سمجھ آیا، بڑا میں نے سوچا کہ موت کیا ہوتی ہے؟ کیوں آتی ہے؟' سر پہ سیاہ دوپٹہ اوڑھے، روحی بانو نے آج سے 11 سال پہلے اپنے ایک انٹرویو میں یہ سوال کیا تو مجھے لگا سکرین کے پار ان کی آنکھیں میرے دماغ میں اتر کے مجھ سے بھی یہ ہی سوال کر رہی ہیں؟
    آج 11 سال بعد، جب وہ ہم میں نہیں تو میرے پاس اب بھی ان کے سوال کا جواب نہیں، مگر شاید ان کو اس سوال سمیت ان سب سوالوں کا جواب مل گیا جو انھیں ستاتے رہتے تھے۔

    Pakistan blocks young Catholics bound for WYD Panama

    A delegation of young Pakistani Catholics was prevented by government officials from flying out of the country to join the Jan. 22-27 World Youth Day in Panama.Young Pakistani Catholics who were about to fly out to join the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama were blocked at Lahore airport by Pakistan’s Department for Immigration Office, the Fides news agency has reported.
    It said the Pakistani Catholic delegation was blocked at Allama Iqbal International Airport and 14 young people with regular visas, were not allowed to travel. Only a Jesuit seminarian, Emmanuel, was allowed to embark.
    The WYD is currently unfolding in the Panamanian capital, Jan. 22-27, which Pope Francis joined on Jan. 23.
    Paul Mohan, coordinator of the Catholic Youth Commission of the Diocese of Hyderabad, narrated the delegation’s ordeal and bitter disappointment to Fides. He said on the morning of January 23, the group collected the boarding passes, went through the security checks at the airport but were blocked by the Immigration Office. They were kept waiting for more than an hour with the officials refusing to let them go.
    Mohan said they tried talking to the members of Immigration Office and the officials of the airlines and changed the tickets for the following day, paying the penalty, hoping the problem was over. But the next day, Mohan said the Immigration Office stopped them again despite a regular visa and the letters from the bishops.
    Speaking to Fides, Atif Sharif, Coordinator of the "Jesus Youth" movement in Karachi, regarded the action of the Immigration Office as discrimination. “If you meet the criteria, if you have the regular documentation requested by the Consulates of foreign countries and you get a visa,” he said, “a citizen must be free to leave.”
    The plane ticket costs 300,000 Pakistani Rupees (about 1,800 Euros). Sharif said the huge investment in the trip abroad was all lost because of the government’s discrimination.
    According to Fr. Bonnie Mendes, a priest of Faisalabad Diocese, "the right to movement, including the right to travel, is a fundamental right of every citizen, in some cases the government can enter the names of some citizens in the special exit checklist, applying a restriction to prevent expatriation.” “But if this is not the case, government departments cannot prevent people from travelling, if they have all the documents in place", Fr. Mendes stressed. "At this point, a political and legal battle is needed to protect this right. It is a matter that the Justice and Peace Commission or the Human Rights Commission will have to face," he added.