Monday, February 4, 2019

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Why Mariah Carey was wrong to play Saudi Arabia

By Owen Jones
When pop stars are duped into performing in the Arab country, they merely help the regime’s propaganda machine.

All I want for 2019 is for much-loved pop stars to stop being inadvertent propagandists for mass-murdering dictatorships. Mariah Carey is the latest musician to perform in Saudi Arabia, following in the ignominious footsteps of Enrique Iglesias and the Black Eyed Peas in December. This is bad on a number of levels. Carey has famously always had a devoted gay fanbase: in Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is punishable by death.
Women are deprived of fundamental rights, and despite Saudi propaganda claims that social progress is being made, scores of women’s rights activistswere detained and incarcerated last year. One of them is Loujain Alhathloul, whose brother has denounced Carey’s concert as a “pathetic attempt to show that the country is becoming more tolerant toward women”, appealing for the singer to at least call for her release on stage.
In neighbouring Yemen, Saudi-led forces – with the critical backing of the US and British governments – have plunged the country into the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth, with civilians – including small children on school buses – butchered. Saudi Arabia has exported murderous extremism across the Middle East and beyond. Just months ago, the regime brutally murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. I could go on.
Carey has claimed that her appearance will further the cause of gender desegregation. This is painfully naive. She is being used. The Saudi regime is trying to present a false image of inclusiveness, “modernity” and social progress to the world. Cultural icons with huge fan bases are invaluable to their propaganda efforts.
The Saudi tyrant Mohammed bin Salman already duped numerous gullible western politicians and commentators with claims he was a reformer, even as Khashoggi’s murder took place and women’s rights activists were being locked up. It is in the interests of his regime for the world to see Saudi Arabia as adoring young crowds singing along to much-loved pop icons, rather than as subjugated women, kneeling prisoners on the cusp of execution, or charred children’s corpses in burned-out school buses.
It underscores why cultural boycotts directed at human rights-abusing regimes are so important. Pop stars such as Shakira and Lorde have cancelled gigs in Israel after campaigns led by pro-Palestinian activists. But there are other regimes armed and supported by the west – such as Turkey, whose government is destroying democracy and waging war on the Kurds – which are surely deserving of boycotts, too.
Pop stars such as Mariah Carey may well be fooled by publicists into thinking that, by performing in countries ruled by abhorrent regimes, they will advance progressive causes. They do no such thing: they simply help legitimise tyranny. They became pop stars because of their love of music. They must surely ask themselves if they really ever aspired to become the propaganda devices of one of the worst regimes on Earth.

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The federal government has issued at least 13 special permits to members of the royal families of Gulf states to hunt internationally protected bird houbara bustard in Sindh during the 2018-19 hunting season. The Bahrain monarch, UAE president and GCC crown princes, their uncles and cousins, and armed forces chiefs belonging to the ruling families of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar are allowed said hunting.
At least one member of the elite group has a dubious distinction, as he is being pursued by a Pakistani investigation agency for his alleged role in a money laundering scam being investigated in the country.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had criticised the-then federal government when it had issued hunting permits to members of the Arab royal families last year and announced that it would not allow them to hunt in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the PTI had its own government.

A king and a president among the elite group

So, although the hunting permits were issued for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well, hunting could not be carried out in the province owing to its government’s tough stance on animal conservation. But this year the federal government, which is led by the PTI, has issued hunting permits for Sindh, according to the sources.

The sources said that Malik Amin Aslam — the president for South East Asia of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, who is also adviser to the federal government on climate change — looked the other way when the permits for hunting houbara bustard were being issued to members of the Gulf royal families.
An inhabitant of the colder Central Asian regions, the houbara bustard migrates southwards in winter to avoid the harsh weather conditions in its habitat.

Earlier, the bird used to migrate right up to the Arabian peninsula, but owing to ruthless hunting there over the years by Arab hunters, who considered it to be an aphrodisiac, it has stopped going there and rests in Pakistan instead during winter.

Owing to the bird’s special status and its dwindling population, the houbara bustard is protected globally. But the Pakistan government, keeping in view the royal hunters’ interest in it, issues special permits to hunt the bird, which is also protected under Pakistani laws. (Pakistanis are not allowed to hunt it.)
However, this is not the first time that such permits have been issued as previous governments have also issued these permits.

As per the permits signed by M. Adeel Pervaiz, the foreign ministry’s deputy chief of protocol, the names of the permit holders and the areas allocated to them are as follows:

King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Issa bin Salman Al-Khalifa has been allocated Jamshoro district, including Thano Bula Khan, Kotri, Manjhand and Sehwan tehsils. President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Gen Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan have been allocated Sukkur and Nawabshah districts. Prince Mansour bin Mohammad S. Abdul Rahman Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia has been given Kashmore district.

Uncle of Bahrain’s king Sheikh Ebrahim bin Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa has been allocated Shah Bunder tehsil in Sujawal district. The king’s defence adviser Sheikh Abdullah bin Salman Al-Khalifa has been granted Jati tehsil in Sujawal district. The king’s first cousin and Bahrain’s Interior Minister Lt Gen Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa has been given Naushahro Feroz district.

Hyderabad and Malir districts, excluding Malir Cantonment and Dhabeji, have been reserved for Sheikh Ahmed bin Ali Al-Khalifa, who is a first cousin of Bahrain’s king. The deputy prime minister of the UAE, Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, has been given Khairpur district, excluding Kotdiji and not across Nara canal. A representative of Abu Dhabi’s rulers, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, has been allocated Khairpur Nathan Shah tehsil, Juhi tehsil and union council Fareedabad in Dadu district, Gaibi Dero in Larkana district, Shahdadkot district and Khairpur district (across Nara canal).

Deputy chief for police and general security of Dubai and a member of the ruling family Lt Gen Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has been allocated Tharparkar district, including Mithi and Nagarparkar (minus protected area), and Umerkot district. A member of the ruling family of Dubai, Shaikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al-Maktoum, has been allocated Badin district, Jungshahi in Thatta district and Dhabeji in Malir district. Mirpurkhas district has been reserved for a member of the Qatar’s ruling family, Sheikh Abdul Rehman bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Nasir Abdullah Lootah, a UAE citizen and chief of the Summit Bank, has been given Thatta district, excluding Shah Bunder and Jungshahi. He is being pursued by the Federal Investigation Agency for his alleged role in a money laundering scam.

د ارمان لوڼي وژنې ضد په بلوچستان کې کاربندیز او احتجاجونه #ArmanLoni

د پښتون ژغورنې غورځنګ او پښتونخوا ملي عوامي ګوند غړي محمد ابراهیم ارمان لوڼي وژنې ضد د بلوچستان په زیاتره لویو ښارونو کې کاربندیز دی. د فبرورۍ پر څلورمه د کاربندیز غږ پښتونخوا ملي عوامي ګوند کړی چې یو شمېر ګوندونو، کاروباري سازمانونو او د وکیلانو ټولنې یې ملاتړ کړی. ارمان لوڼی د فبرورۍ پر دویمه په بوري کې وژل شوی وو. عیني شاهدان وايي، نوموړی پولیسو وژلی خو د کورنیو چارو صوبايي وزیر وايي، د وژنې لامل یې د زړه حمله وه. ارمان لوڼی د سیاسي او بشري حقونو فعال، د پوهنځي استاد او لیکوال وو. ویډیويي رپورټ وګورئ.

Pakistan’s Pashtun Rights Movement Suffers First Casualty

#ArmanLoni - #Pakistan rights group to protest killing of activist

Friends and family of Arman Loni accuse the police of intentionally targeting and killing him in Balochistan.
A Pakistani civil rights group has called for nationwide demonstrations after the alleged murder of a Pashtun leader who advocated for the rights of his community. Mohsin Dawar, a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), said on Tuesday, the group's supporters would protest the murder of Arman Loni of Balochistan.The Pashtun leader was killed on Saturday in Loralai district of Balochistan as police tried to break up a four-day demonstration against forced evictions.
Balochistan's chief minister has ordered an inquiry into the killing.
"[The police] have not even registered a case," Dawar told the dpa news agency.
'Targeted attack'
Dawar said the police had singled Loni out and deliberately beat him to death because of his role as a leader of the group.
"It was a targeted attack on him by police, I think his neck was broken and this was confirmed in the postmortem," Dawar told the Reuters news agency, adding that he was killed for his "association with PTM".A police spokesman said Loni had died of a heart attack following clashes between protesters and police.The PTM emerged last year after the extrajudicial murder of an ethnic Pashtun in the port city of Karachi.The police accused him of having links with armed groups. An inquiry later found him to be innocent, with the incident sparking a public movement to defend the community.The PTM blames the Pakistani military and other state organs for what it says are forced disappearances resulting in thousands of unresolved missing person cases, primarily from the ethnic Pashtun region bordering Afghanistan.
The group draws large crowds at rallies against violence and disappearances allegedly carried out by the state.
Pashtuns make up about 15 percent of Pakistan's population of 220 million and live mainly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in north-western Pakistan, a semi-autonomous region bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistan police culture of impunity faces trial by social media

Five policemen raise their guns and fire dozens of times into a parked car at point-blank range in Pakistan. Then they reach inside, around the bodies of the dead, to pull out three crying children.
The footage filmed by shocked witnesses to the killing went viral, sending Prime Minister Imran Khan scrambling to quell anger over a police culture of impunity that is now being threatened by social media.
Thousands have been gunned down in recent years across Pakistan in so-called "encounter killings" -- incidents where suspects allegedly resist arrest, are slain, then later identified as terrorists to boost statistics.This latest "encounter" saw a family gunned down in broad daylight in the eastern city of Sahiwal last month, leaving four people dead including two parents and their teenage daughter.Three children survived the incident, including nine-year-old Umair Khalil who later told journalists that police shot at the family as their father offered the cops a bribe, pleading to let them go."My father told them to take our money and not to shoot their guns. But they started firing," Umair said in the video broadcast widely across Pakistan news outlets and social media.Police initially defended their response saying terrorists with links to Daesh were in the car using the family as a human shield.But this "encounter" was fundamentally different to others -- it was filmed on phones and the videos posted online.
Authorities have since backtracked as furore grew with the prime minister vowing to mete out "exemplary punishment" to the guilty. Five officers were hit with murder charges and protests erupted in nearby Lahore.
"People... know that a video they make from their cell phone can have far more impact than the camera of a news channel," said Pakistani digital rights activist Haroon Baloch."Had the nearby people not filmed the Sahiwal incident, nobody would have noticed the extrajudicial killing," he added.The incident is the latest instance of how phones are radically changing Pakistanis’ relationship with power. During elections over the summer, a host of videos went viral, showing angry voters hounding elected representatives over their failure to serve their constituents.
And it’s not just in Pakistan.
In the US, the Black Lives Matter movement coalesced as outrage exploded following a series of viral videos allegedly showing police killing black Americans, bringing greater scruity to racial profiling and pushing some police departments to outfit patrol officers with body cams.
- Killing with impunity -
The Sahiwal incident comes almost exactly a year after a similar killing of a young social media star in Karachi ignited a rights movement.
The movement it spawned has been largely sustained by social media and videos captured on mobiles, piling even more pressure on authorities.
But the killings continue, with analysts saying reforms are needed to challenge impunity in the police ranks."It’s a culture of the police in Pakistan to kill people and make it look it like an encounter," Mehdi Hasan -- chairperson of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) -- told AFP.Data compiled by HRCP showed that 4,803 people were killed in these "encounters" in Pakistan within the past three years alone."The police need to be properly trained if such incidents are to be avoided in the future," Hasan added.Security analyst Amir Rana however argued that increased police accountability and judicial reform were key to cementing lasting change.
"This culture has existed in the police force for decades," Rana explained, saying Pakistan’s mammoth backlog of legal cases overloading its judiciary was part of the problem.
"(Police) want quick results and they try to avoid... lengthy legal procedures which leads to staging encounters."