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Highest recorded number of Afghan civilians killed in 2018: U.N. report

A record number of Afghan civilians were killed last year due to stepped up aerial attacks by U.S-led forces and more suicide bombings, the United Nations said in a report on Sunday.
The conflict in Afghanistan claimed 3,804 civilian lives that included 927 children, both all-time highs, leading to an 11 percent spike in civilian deaths versus 2017, the report from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.
“The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting. That is why there is all the more need now to use all our efforts to bring about peace,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the top UN official in Afghanistan.
The Afghan war - which started after U.S. forces led a campaign to overthrow the Taliban following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington - has intensified despite peace talks gaining momentum.
Afghan forces, backed by U.S. advisers, have in recent months stepped up airstrikes and raids to the highest levels since 2014 in what senior security officials have described as a coordinated series of attacks on Taliban leaders and fighters.
Suicide attacks and aerial operations each caused the most civilian casualties ever recorded by UNAMA. Ground engagements, mainly between pro-government forces and anti-government groups remained the second leading cause of civilian casualties.
The report stated that 1,185 civilians were killed and 1,427 civilians were injured from operations conducted by pro-government forces. Their aerial operations caused 492 child casualties as many attacks were on anti-government elements hiding among the civilian population.
“The fact that the number of children killed this year is the highest on record, is particularly shocking,” said Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The report said the Taliban was responsible for 1,751 civilian casualties in 2018, versus 916 in 2017, while the Islamic State killed or wounded 2,181 civilians last year.
A wave of suicide attacks in the eastern province of Nangarhar and in the capital Kabul last year hit students preparing for exams, spectators at sporting events, people waiting to register for elections as well as Shi’ite mosques.
The mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority has been heavily targeted by attacks claimed by the local affiliate of Islamic State.
The UNAMA report comes amid efforts to find a peaceful end to the 17-year war. U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is expected to meet Taliban negotiators on Monday in Qatar.

#Pakistan's Selected Prime Minister: Imran paid a little over Rs100,000 as tax in 2017

  • ٣٠٠ کنال کے گھر کا مالک، نیا پاکستان کا مہاتما ، ٧٠٠٠ ارب رپے ٹیکس اکٹھا کرنے کے دعوے کرتا رہا ہے- ٹیکس ریوارڈ کی تقریب سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے لمبے بھاشن- اپنا ٹیکس گوشوارہ شرماناک اور معیار زندگی شاہانہ- یہ سب ATM کا کرم ہے ترین #ImranKhan
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    12:26 AM · Feb 23, 2019 · Twitter Web Client

    The tax payment by Prime Minister Imran Khan fell by about 35 per cent to Rs103,763 in the tax year 2017 from Rs159,609 a year ago, while that of former premier Nawaz Sharif saw a staggering fall during the period.
    Mr Sharif paid Rs2.524 million in 2016, when he was prime minister, but it fell to Rs263,173 in 2017, a decline of 860pc or Rs2.27m. However, former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s tax payment saw a growth of over 16pc to Rs3.086m in 2017 from Rs2.65m a year ago.
    The fifth tax directory of parliamentarians released by the Minister of State for Revenue, Hammad Azhar, on Friday provided some insight into the wealth of members of the National Assembly, Senate and provincial assemblies, but lifestyles and expenditures of many of them are in stark contrast to what their income tax declarations indicate. The directory prepared by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) shows that, save a few worthy exceptions, the sums paid as income tax by most of the elected representatives are laughably low and do not match their princely lifestyles.
     Former MNA Jahangir Khan Tareen, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court, was the richest parliamentarian in the country in 2017 with a tax payment of Rs97.3m, while MPA Khatu Mal Jeewan, with Rs1,145 tax payment, was the poorest. In the tax year 2016, Mr Tareen was also the richest parliamentarian with Rs53.67m tax payment.
    Ex-PM Nawaz’s tax payment dropped by staggering 860pc to around Rs260,000
    Former Punjab chief minister and current MNA Shahbaz Sharif paid Rs10.29m tax, while his son Hamza Sharif paid Rs8.26m in 2017.
    Sindh Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah paid Rs988,864 tax in 2017, besides a hefty amount of Rs7.08m in the category of association of persons (AoP). Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan paid Rs232,725. Balochistan Chief Minister paid Rs6.14m in 2017. Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervez Elahi paid Rs2.13m.
    Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed paid Rs702,698 tax, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai Rs138,573, Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq Rs138,573 and JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman paid Rs125,225.
    The directory has been compiled on the basis of returns filed with the FBR.
    According to the directory, the senators paid more income tax in 2017 than the MNAs. Of the 104 senators, 98 filed tax returns. Senator Talha Meh­mood from Khyber Pakhtun­khwa paid the highest income tax of Rs43.18m, while Rubina Khalid of the Pakistan People Party paid only Rs44,485.
    Other taxpayer senators are: Rozi Khan from Balochistan (Rs40.86m, second highest) Taj Mohammad Afridi Rs29.3m, third highest) Dr Farogh Naseem (Rs27.88m), Aitzaz Ahsan (Rs25.86m), Muhsin Aziz (Rs1.5m), Farooq H. Naek (Rs11.06m), Ishaq Dar (Rs9.38m), Shahi Syed (Rs2.4m), Chaudhry Tanvir Khan (Rs3.03m), retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayum (Rs3.12m), Sherry Rehman (Rs1.8m), Saleem Mandviwalla (Rs1.44m) and Islamuddin Shaikh (Rs1.89m).
    Senator Raza Rabbani paid Rs605,984 income tax, along with contribution in AoP. Most of the senators paid income tax in the range of Rs100,000 to Rs200,000, followed by Rs200,000 to Rs400,000, with a few exceptions.
    The MNAs who paid taxes in 2017 are: Sheikh Fayyazuddin (Rs14.01m), Khawaja Saad Rafique (Rs5.22m), Khawaja Mohammad Asif (Rs5.56m), Finance Minister Asad Umar (Rs4.84m), Bismillah Khan (Rs4.59m), Ghulam Ahmed Bilour (Rs138,573), Aftab Sherpao (Rs1.17m), retired Capt Mohammad Safdar (Rs165,243), Murad Saeed (Rs241,946), Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry (Rs255,555), former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan (Rs1.72m); Ghulam Sarwar Khan (Rs1.38m), former minister Khurrum Dastgir Khan (Rs284,780), Saira Afzal Tarar (Rs190,739) and former NA speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq (Rs289,174).
    Only two MNAs paid less than Rs100,000 in taxes — Rasheed Ahmed Khan (Rs34,941) and Ihsanur Rahman Mazair (Rs96949).
    Most of the MNAs paid income tax between Rs100,000 and Rs300,000.

    Members of provincial assemblies

    As many as 61 members of the Balochistan Assembly filed their tax returns in 2017 and only three of them paid less than Rs1m, which is unprecedented compared to other provinces. Sardar Sanaullah Zehri paid the highest tax of Rs10.1m, while Abdul Malik paid the lowest tax of Rs640,248.
    Of the 369 members of the Punjab Assembly, 30 did not file returns for 2017.
    MPA Chaudhry Arshad Javaid Warraich is the highest taxpayer with Rs13.6m, followed by former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif (Rs10.29m), Ghulam Saeed Butt (Rs5.8m), Sheikh Aladdin (Rs4.8m) and Monis Elahi (Rs5.77m). The least income tax of Rs4,100 was paid by Malik Mohammad Iqbal Channar and Malik Nadeem Kamran, followed by Rs5,645 by Raheela Anwar. Around 125 MPAs paid less than Rs50,000.
    Of the 168 members of the Sindh Assembly, 23 did not file their returns for 2017, but their names exist on the tax roll. Sohail Anwar Khan Siyal is the highest taxpayer in the assembly with Rs2.3m, and the lowest by Poonjo Bheel (Rs3,500), Ali Nawaz Shah (Rs4,053) and Shahid Taheem (Rs5,604). Around 64 MPAs paid less than Rs50,000 tax in 2017.
    Of the 123 members of the KP Assembly, 17 did not file their returns for 2017. Sardar Zahoor Ahmad paid the highest tax of Rs14m, followed by Amjad Khan Afridi (Rs6.36m), Nawabzada Wali Muhammad Khan (Rs6.08m), Fazal Shakoor Khan (Rs3.76m) and Jamshaidudain (Rs2.76m). Most of the MPAs in KP paid more than Rs100,000, with few exception of more than Rs50,000 as income tax.


    When Fatima was 20, she moved away from her village in north-western Pakistan to study medicine. Soon after moving into an all-female hall of residence, she began talking to Asad online. He was Pakistani too, but living and working in Saudi Arabia. They talked over the phone. Fatima quickly grew deeply attached and imagined that they would build a future together.
    Although the relationship continued for seven years, Fatima met Asad in person only once, when he visited Pakistan. They took photos together. Fatima was wearing a burqa, her head and body covered in loose fabric, but she uncovered her face for the meeting. In the area Fatima came from, it was considered immodest for women to be photographed at all – but she trusted Asad.
    She gave him her iPad to fix, and he handled the repairs. After the meeting, they continued to talk regularly on the phone and online. Fatima knew she could only tell her family about Asad if he proposed marriage.
    Her family was originally from Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area, an area bordering Afghanistan. Due to ongoing terrorist and military violence in the area, they had relocated to a small village in Charsadda, also in north-western Pakistan. Both areas were deeply conservative. Most women did not work outside the home, and if they went out without a male guardian, they covered their faces.
    It was frowned upon to speak to men outside the family, and most events – even weddings – were gender segregated.
    When she finished her medical degree, Fatima moved back to Charsadda, and her family began looking for a suitable husband. Although she had wanted to marry Asad, she did not rebel against her family’s wishes, and was soon married to a man they chose. After the wedding, she told Asad she was cutting off contact, and blocked his phone number and social media accounts – Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram.
    That was when the nightmare began...
    When we hear the words ‘revenge porn’, we typically think of sexually explicit images, but in a context like Pakistan, even non-explicit images can have a devastating impact. A 2017 study found that 70% of Pakistani women were afraid of posting or sharing photographs of themselves online in case the pictures were misused.
    First, Asad messaged Fatima’s sister on Facebook, trying to coerce Fatima into resuming contact. Then he threatened Fatima, telling her he would share the photographs he had of them together. He carried through, contacting her father and her brother via Facebook and WhatsApp.
    Next, he created a fake Facebook account in Fatima’s name and sent friend requests to her entire family. He posted an album of photographs of all the women in Fatima’s family. That was when she realised that when he had fixed her iPad, he had stolen photographs. In her area, it was considered dishonourable for women to be photographed at all, let alone to share them online.
    'I trusted him,' says Fatima. 'I never thought he would do this.'
    Throughout the ordeal, her father, husband and brothers were supportive, but the family was humiliated. Fatima was so afraid of retaliation from her extended family that she and her husband moved away from the village. Both she and her sister contemplated suicide.
    In desperation, Fatima contacted the Digital Rights Foundation, a Lahore-based organisation that runs a cyber harassment helpline. The helpline was established in 2016 after the death of social media star Qandeel Baloch, murdered by her brother in an ‘honour’ crime. Between 2016 and 2018, the DRF helpline received nearly 3,000 calls, mostly from women. The most frequent complaints are blackmail, revenge porn, cyber stalking and harassment.Many of the cases are related to sexually explicit images being shared non-consensually online or, as in Fatima’s case, non-sexually explicit images.'If a woman doesn’t want others to know they have been in a relationship or have been talking to somebody, it can be used against them,' says Shmyla Khan, head of the helpline at DRF.
    The first port of call is to complain to the social media companies and ask for the offending content to be removed. However, this can be complicated when the images are not sexually explicit. From a western perspective, it is difficult to see what objection anyone would have to the images of Fatima and Asad – in which she is modestly dressed from head to toe, and is not even physically touching Asad – or the family pictures of her female relatives.
    Gender-based harassment can look extremely different in different parts of the world, posing a conundrum for global social media companies.
    When a complaint is received, Facebook assesses it against their community guidelines. When we reached out for comment, the social media platform said they do understand that what is 'acceptable in one country may not be in another'.
    'Our Community Standards are designed to respect the many different cultures represented on our platform, and our policies consider the intent behind content that has been posted,' said a Facebook spokesperson via email. 'Our content reviewers are based all over the world and they speak over 50 languages; we encourage our community to report anything worrying them using our reporting tools on every single page, profile and piece of content.”'
    The problem, says Khan, is that often local context is not really taken into account.
    'That is improving – there are now more reviewers who speak different languages – but things still sometimes slip through the cracks,' she says.
    In 2015, a year before the helpline launched, Nighat Dad, the founder of the DRF, was contacted by a group of young women studying at Edwardes College in Peshawar. Someone was posting their Facebook photos, names and phone numbers, saying they were prostitutes.
    It transpired that two men had been blackmailing female students for money, threatening to create and release digitally doctored naked photos if they did not comply. The photographs that had actually been posted were not sexually explicit, however, and the text was written in Pashto.So when the girls had complained to Facebook themselves, they were not found to be in breach of community standards guidelines. Dad lobbied Facebook and eventually got the posts removed. After this, Facebook hired more moderators who spoke different languages.But it can still be a challenge to make social media giants understand that what might appear to be a simple photograph of a man and a woman holding hands actually constitutes blackmail and harassment.
    Khan explains that the two key routes to getting Facebook to remove this kind of content are either to demonstrate that the woman faces an imminent threat of violence, or to complain of a privacy violation. The latter is usually more successful.
    If a non-marital relationship is revealed, it can have devastating consequences for a woman in Pakistan. There have been at least five reports of suicide because of online harassment. ‘Honour’ violence remains widespread.
    But the most common repercussions are less visible.
    'Many women we speak to say that the leaking of a photograph leads to the family restricting them,' says Khan. 'Lots of women say they’re not allowed to go to work, school, college or university after being harassed online.'
    At the DRF’s suggestion, Fatima reported Asad to law enforcement agencies. Pakistan’s Cybercrime Act criminalises the sharing of pictures without consent, levying heavy penalties if these photos are used for blackmail. But, around the world, laws relating to online crimes are notoriously hard to enforce.
    Fatima was told it would be impossible to retrieve the photographs from Asad. Although the harassment has stopped for now, this leaves open the possibility that he could blackmail the family again in the future.
    Registering a crime with the agency that monitors and investigates cybercrime involves disclosing not only your personal details, but your father’s name –nerve-wracking for women who are trying to keep their harassment from their families. Some women are not allowed to leave the house alone, making it impossible for them to report the abuse without revealing it to their male relatives.
    For Fatima, the unwavering support of her immediate family was crucial.
    'If it had been any other girl from the same background as me, I probably would not be alive today,' she says.

    #Pakistan - Three provinces except Sindh fail to increase tax collection

    Imran Ali Kundi
    Punjab, KP, Balochistan heavily relying on resources received from centre under National Finance Commission award.
    Pakistan’s three provinces except Sindh have failed to increase their tax collection during six months as they are heavily relying on resources received from centre under National Finance Commission (NFC) award.
    The tax collection of four provinces has recorded at Rs187.7 billion during first half (July to December) of the ongoing fiscal year as against Rs176.4 billion of the corresponding period of previous year, showing growth of only 6.43 percent. The increase in percentage in provincial tax collection is due to 14 percent growth in tax collection of Sindh province. Growth in tax collection in other three provinces is negligible, according to official documents of the ministry of finance.
    “Provinces except Sindh have not increased their own tax collection because they are receiving sufficient resources from federal government under NFC award,” said an official of the ministry of finance. He further said that federal government and provinces should devise a strategy to boost the tax collection in the ongoing talks for new NFC award. The provincial governments have the right to collect general sales tax on services, provincial excise and stamp duties, motor vehicle taxes and income tax only on agriculture, according to the constitution.
    Apart from provinces, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is also struggling to achieve its annual tax collection target. The FBR’s tax collection has gone to Rs191 billion in seven months. The FBR’s provisional collection stands at Rs2,060 billion against the desired target of Rs2,251 billion for the first seven months (July-January) period, indicating a shortfall of Rs191 billion. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has requested the government to revise downwards the tax collection target. The government had set Rs4398 billion tax collection target for the current fiscal year. However, the FBR is struggling to achieve the target despite announcing two supplementary finance bills in last five months.
    According to the official documents, the Sindh government has improved its tax collection by 14.8 percent. The Sindh government collected Rs83 billion during July-December period of the year 2018-19 as compared to Rs72.2 billion of the corresponding period of the previous year. On the other hand, Sindh government has received Rs297 billion from the federal government during July to December period of the year 2018-19. The Sindh would receive Rs648.8 billion during entire current fiscal year.
    Punjab’s tax collection has marginally increased to Rs92.8 billion during July-December period of the year 2018-19 as compared to Rs91.8 billion of the corresponding period of the previous year. The Punjab government has received Rs583.3 billion from the federal government during first half months of the current fiscal year, which is 45.5 percent of the annual share of Rs1282 billion.
    The KPK’s tax collection has also enhanced marginally to Rs8.7 billion in first half of the ongoing financial year from Rs8.4 billion of the same period of last year. The province has received Rs195.9 billion from the federal government under NFC during first half of the current fiscal year.
    Balochistan’s tax collection has slightly decreased to Rs3.6 billion during July-December period of the year 2018-19 from Rs4 billion of the corresponding period of the previous year. The province has received Rs123 billion in first six months from the federal government, which is 58.7 percent of Rs233.2 billion to be released in the ongoing financial year under NFC.

    #Pakistan - Getting tough with social media

    At a time when spaces for free expression in the country are already shrinking, the announcement of a crackdown on social media has justifiably evoked criticism among citizens, including digital and human rights activists.
    The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry’s statement that the government would regulate hate speech on social media and come down hard on fake news has raised serious concerns among social media activists. They fear the government will use this to silence political dissent.
    The statement has come at a time when spaces for free expression in the country are already shrinking, and the state is employing different tools to censor content it considers objectionable. Recently, some rights activists and advocates of free speech received warning messages from Twitter about violating the laws of Pakistan. Understandably, the social media giant must have responded to complaints from the government of Pakistan.
    This follows up on the government proposing a regulatory authority Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PMRA) for the entire media, including social the media. There are concerns about how judiciously the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 will be invoked by the regulatory authority.
    Soon after the federal minister’s statement, police in district Multan arrested four persons on charges of uploading “objectionable” speech against Prime Minister Imran Khan on the social media. The police also lodged cases against these social media users on charges which include violation of Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) under which they can be sent to jail for at least a month. The main charge against them, however, was criticising Prime Minister Imran Khan’s actions and government policies. In another case, Maulana Abdul Rauf Yazdani and his three followers were booked for criticising PM Khan for announcing a “plan to establish 1,100 cinemas” in a speech. The case was lodged after somebody uploaded his speech on social media in Aziz Pura, Multan.
    Earlier, the government had taken stern action against activists of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) for using social media for its campaign against state policies. A few weeks ago, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), arrested a senior journalist from Lahore, Rizwan Razi, and lodged a case against him for “promoting hate and anti-state narrative” on the social media.
    “We cannot allow running an anti-state and anti-army narrative. This is not freedom of speech. We also cannot allow speaking against security institutions and issuing fatwas. We need a formal framework to control the social media and take action against fake news,” the Federal Minister for Information, Fawad Chaudhry, tells TNS.
    The PECA was brought into effect under the last PML-N-led government amid a lot of criticism. But the party leaders now appear to have seen the light. “Such regulations suppress criticism and freedom of speech and expression,” says Ahsan Iqbal, senior PML-N leader.
    He talks about preparing a “comprehensive framework” and mechanism under PMRA which would also regulate social media. “Digital media is taking over formal media and without rules and restrictions it can take a very dangerous shape.
    “The government will also monitor social media activity to eliminate fake accounts and take action against fake news. People who violate Pakistan’s cyber laws will be prosecuted. However, there would be no misuse of this law to target political opponents. We want to promote healthy debate and tolerance, and encourage constructive criticism rather than abusing and promoting fake news.”
    The PECA was brought into effect under the last PML-N-led government amid a lot of criticism. But the party leaders now appear to have seen the light. “Such regulations suppress criticism and freedom of speech and expression,” says Ahsan Iqbal, senior PML-N leader. “This is a tool to suppress critical voices. It would face serious opposition in the parliament.”
    The PPP which was critical of PECA that the previous government had placed on the statute book, is understandably opposed to the current announcement. “This law [PECA] is so harsh. On the other hand, there is no law on data protection,” says Farhatullah Babar, a senior PPP leader. “The announcement to regulate social media raises alarm bells about the agenda of the government and what does it want?”
    Babar too is worried about the government wanting “to restrain social media activists who present the ‘anti-state’ narrative. This has already been demonstrated in recent days when social media activists, supporting organisations like PTM, have been arrested”. He says if the government is serious in taking action against militancy and hate speech “it should first take action against the militant groups operating easily in Pakistan with the alleged backing of certain corners”.
      Shahid Hassan, Deputy Director FIA who has expertise in dealing with cybercrime tells TNSthat freedom of expression will continue, and action will only be taken when there is a clear attack on the dignity of a person. Citing an example, he says, “a person who is not an advocate of judicial activism can post his divergent views on social media but must refrain from using abusive language against a member of the judiciary.”
    He agrees there are concerns about the mechanism to criminalise acts committed online and how not to invoke this law on the basis of personal likes and dislikes. Many a time, he says people post content which is objectionable but there is no criminal intent involved. “They are not aware they are culpable under law.”
    A major complaint against FIA authorities is that they try to include charges of cognizable and un-bailable cybercrimes like cyber terrorism in the FIRs just to ensure that the accused do not get out and the case remains un-compoundable. On many an occasion, the judges hearing these cases have removed such clauses and granted bails to the accused. An FIA Investigation Officer (IO), on condition of anonymity, refutes the charge and clarifies that unlike in the police cases they do not hound the accused. “Following the registration of an FIR, we collect evidence first and make arrests once these are credible and sufficient.”
    Aftab Alam, an Islamabad-based lawyer, believes there was no need to include cyber terrorism, defamation and hate speech in PECA because these are already covered in ATA, civil & criminal laws and Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) respectively. “The premise for this law was to monitor cyber-crime like online fraud, data theft, fraudulent online transactions, identity theft, etc. but other subjects were included even though they do not fall within the ambit of this law.”
    Alam points out “there are no data protection laws and mechanisms to secure digital safety of users that can protect them from cyber attacks but only cyber crime laws that are invoked once a crime is committed. We do not have anything on the preventive side.”
    Internet governance and public policy expert, Fouad Bajwa, foresees global social media giants serving the interests of the state of Pakistan because “they are doing business and do not want to lose it by refusing to comply. Over the last year, the government’s requests about blocking social media accounts have increased and so has the level of compliance.”
    Within the country, it is the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which under Section 37 of PECA can remove, block or restrict access to inappropriate online content once pointed out by some organisations having access to its monitoring portal. The decision can be challenged in a high court within 30 days.
    Ammar Jaffri, former Additional Director General, FIA, says that Pakistan has not signed the cybercrime convention, also known as the Budapest Convention, “which is a way to address internet crimes by seeking help from other nations. It is the only binding international instrument on this issue and serves as a guideline for any country developing comprehensive national legislation against cybercrime”.
    Human rights activist and former ANP member Afrasiab Khattak sums it up: “Throughout the civilised world, we see the media is self-regulatory. We can learn from the best practices in the world. The intention of the government is not to regulate media but to shut opposing voices. There is a need to create awareness rather than control the social media with a stick. Such policies reflect an authoritarian system which is bad for the country.”

    #Iran's Gen. Soleimani Cautions #Pakistan to Stop Terrorists along Borders with #Iran - Saudi Arabia wants to ‘destroy’ Pakistan

    TEHRAN (FNA)- Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Qassem Soleimani warned the Islamabad government to stop cross-border attacks by the terrorists based in neighboring Pakistan."We have always offered Pakistan help in the region, but I have this question from the Pakistani government: where are you heading to? You have caused unrest along borders with all your neighbors and do you have any other neighbor left that you want to stir insecurity for," General Soleimani said on Thursday, addressing a ceremony in the Northern Iranian city of Babol in Mazandaran province.  
    His remarks came a week after an explosives-laden truck rammed into a bus carrying the personnel of the Islamic Revolution Guardian Corps (IRGC), killing 27 and injuring 13.

    Addressing the Pakistani government, General Soleimani asked, "Are you, who have atomic bombs, unable to destroy a terrorist group with several hundred members in the region? How many of your own people have been killed in different terrorist operations? We do not want your condolences, how could your condolence help the people of Iran?"

    General Soleimani went on to say, "I tell the Pakistani people that the Saudi cash has influenced Pakistan and they want to destroy Pakistan with such measures."

    He warned that the Pakistani Army should not let several billion dollars of "a Saudi criminal" burn alive Muslims on a bus and finance other terrorist operations in the region, and said, "I ask the Pakistani government what has been left for Pakistan?"

    "I warn you not to test Iran and anyone who has tested Iran has received firm response. We are speaking to Pakistan with a friendly tone and we are telling that country not to allow their borders to become a source of insecurity for the neighboring countries; anyone who has made this plot for Pakistan is seeking to disintegrate that country, the Islamic Republic of Iran will take revenge of its martyrs from those mercenaries who have committed this crime no matter where they are in the world," General Soleimani added. "We will punish this wicked group in any part of the world and we will not allow the blood of our youth to be shed in the country and cleaned (and forgotten) easily."

    General Soleimani said Iran enjoys independent power and honor. "Some countries have wealth, but no prowess, (US President Donald) Trump tells the Al-Saud that if it hadn't been for the US support, Saudi Arabia would not have survived and Saudi Arabia's monetary coalitions in the region have all ended in failure."

    The IRGC bus was carrying personnel on a road from the city of Khash to Zahedan, the capital of Iran's Southeastern province of Sistan and Balouchestan on Wednesday evening, when a truck loaded with explosives and moving alongside the bus detonated.

    A statement released by the Quds Base of the IRGC's Ground Force the same night said the bus was carrying a group of IRGC personnel "coming back from a border guarding mission when it came under a suicide car attack by Takfiri terrorists", but did not mention the number of passengers."27 IRGC members have been martyred and 13 others wounded in the terrorist attack so far," the statement said, and further blamed "the intelligence services of hegemonic system - a phrase used normally to refer to the United States and its allies - and Zionism for supporting the attack".

    Meantime, Jeish Al-Adl, a Pakistan-based radical Wahhabi terrorist group staging cross border attacks into Southeastern Iran from South-West Pakistan, has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement.
    The group has bases in Southwestern Pakistan and started operations nearly 6 years ago after recruiting the remnants of Jundullah notorious terrorist group and reorganizing them. Iran had captured leaders of Jundullah notorious Wahhabi terrorist group and dismantled the terrorist organization years earlier.
    The terror attack has stirred fury among Iranian officials, specially the military brass. On Tuesday, Military Aide to the Iranian Supreme Leader Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi lashed out at Pakistani Intelligence service’s backing for terrorists, advising Islamabad and its intelligence apparatuses that Saudi Arabia is not a reliable partner.

    Speaking in Iranian central city of Isfahan, General Safavi said that the Pakistani government and its intelligence service have to respond to the Iranian nation and government, holding Islamabad responsible for the recent terrorist attack in Sistan and Baluchistan.

    Referring to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent visit to Pakistan, General Safavi said Pakistan is a neighbor of Iran, and it should know that Saudi government is not reliable because it will not last for long.The senior official added, 16 research organizations in Europe have announced in a document named ‘World in 2030’ that Saudis will not be existing in 2030 while Iran will be the strongest country of the region.

    His comments came as Saudis are using aid packages and investment promises to buy the economically embattled Pakistani government's loyalty and convince it to turn a blind eye to their destructive actions within Pakistan's borders, including the Saudi-funded seminaries that have become breeding ground for extremism and terrorism.

    In earlier remarks, Safavi had also slammed Saudi Arabia for supporting the terrorist groups acting against Iran, and said Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) should account for the recent suicide attack on IRGC.

    "These criminal outlaws were from one of the tribes of Balouchestan who had been trained on suicide operations in the neighboring country, and the neighboring country and the ISI should account to the Iranian government and nation and the IRGC for (the question) how they have crossed the borders of that country and why this neighboring country has turned into a safe haven and a place for the training and dispatch of these infidel terrorist grouplets (to Iran)," he said on Saturday.

    He referred to insecurities at common borders of Iran and Pakistan in the past, and said, "The Pakistani government should account for this issue."

    General Safavi further pointed to the main backers and sponsors of the terrorist groups operating against Iran from Southwestern Pakistan, and said, "Proof and evidence shows that these terrorist groups are financially sponsored by a number of Persian Gulf Arab states, including one whose crown prince is in Pakistan at present, alluding to Saudi Arabia."

    He added that the same states sponsoring the Wednesday attack also planned to launch several similar terror attacks on Iran during the ceremonies commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in mid February, which were all defused thanks to the vigilance of the IRGC and other security and intelligence bodies.

    Meantime, General Safavi reiterated that Iran wants to have good relations with its neighbors as it believes that insecurity in the region only serves the interests of the United States and Zionists who had gathered in Warsaw conference earlier this week, but vowed that Iran and the IRGC will give a "crushing and proper response in due time to the provocateurs and puppet perpetrators of the terrorist attack against the IRGC".

    Earlier on Saturday, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned Riyadh and Abu Dhabi of Iran's revenge for the Wednesday terrorist attack, and blasted Pakistan for supporting the terrorist groups which act against Tehran.

    "The traitor governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran's patience has run out and the Islamic Republic will not tolerate your secret supports for the Takfiri grouplets. We will take revenge for our martyrs from the UAE and Saudi governments and want the president to give us more free hands than the past for retaliatory operations," General Jafari said in the Central city of Isfahan, addressing the burial ceremony of the IRGC personnel killed in the Wednesday terrorist attack.

    He said that the Saudi and UAE intelligence agencies are clearly hatching different plots to foment insecurity in Southeastern Iran in addition to the US and Israeli plots to create insecurity and conduct assassination operations, noting that Iran has reliable intel in this regard.

    General Jafari also asked the Pakistani army and intelligence body why their country is sheltering Takfiri groups, including Jeish al-Adl which has claimed responsibility for the Wednesday terrorist attack, and noted, "We believe this silence is kind of support for this grouplet and the Pakistani intelligence organization should account for it."

    "Pakistan should also know that it should pay the cost for the Pakistani intelligence organization's support for Jeish al-Zolm (as Jeish al-Adl is called in Iran) from now on and this price will not doubt be very heavy for them," he added.

    "Undoubtedly, the Pakistani security organization knows the hideout of the grouplets but it has kept mum," General Jafari said.

    Earlier, General Jafari had also underlined harsh revenge from the culprits and masterminds of the Wednesday terrorist attack against the IRGC personnel, warning that Iran would act against the terrorists itself if Pakistan does not tighten security at the borders.

    "The recent crime has caused the IRGC and other Armed Forces to boost determination to continue the path of martyrs and confront threats and they will protect security of the country's borders with more strength and power and will take revenge of the blood of our oppressed martyrs," General Jafari said, addressing a ceremony in Isfahan on Saturday.

    He said that Pakistan which is aware of the hideouts of the terrorists who conducted the Wednesday suicide attack against the IRGC should account for their crimes too and act upon its responsibilities to establish security at common borders and should not allow the terrorists to use its bordering areas to carry out acts against the Iranian nation's security.

    "If Pakistan does not comply with its responsibilities, the Islamic Republic of Iran reserves the right of confrontation against these peripheral threats at the borders with the neighboring country, based on international law and rules, and will adopt compensatory measures to punish the terrorists who are mercenaries of the regional and trans-regional states' spy agencies," General Jafari warned.
    The US officials have repeatedly stressed that they would take every possible measure to pressure Tehran, including support for groups operating against Iran. The incident came hours before the start of a US-sponsored security conference against Iran in Warsaw, Poland.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News last month that Washington would jointly host a global summit focused on Iran and the Middle East in Poland in February, but senior US diplomats later softened tone to shift the conference title to security in the Middle-East, denying that Iran will top or be the main agenda. The gathering took place in Warsaw from February 13 to 14, the US State Department said in a statement.

    In mid October, Jeish al-Adl group abducted 14 Iranian Basijis (volunteer forces) and border guards at Mirjaveh border in Southeastern Sistan-Balouchestan province. Five were released a month later on November 15.The IRGC Ground Force then blamed foreign intelligence services for supporting and assisting the terrorist group.Jeish al-Adl also abducted five Iranian border guards in Jakigour region of Sistan and Balouchestan Province and took them to Pakistan in 2014. After two months of abduction, four of them were released and the fifth one was killed. His body was returned to Iran months later.
    Then early in March, 2015, Pakistani sources told the country's media that authorities in Southwestern Pakistan had arrested the ringleader of Jeish al-Adl terrorist group as he was traveling on a bus from the lawless border area.

    Salam Rigi, cousin of the Jundollah terrorist group's ringleader Abdolmalek Rigi, was seized by Pakistani authorities who were tipped off to his movements and intercepted the bus some 50 km from Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Baluchistan, a security official said on the condition of anonymity.Salam Rigi was accused of involvement in suicide bombings in Iran and Pakistan, as well as sending terrorists to the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

    Other sources said the terrorist arrested was Abdo-Sattar Rigi (Abdolmalek's brother), explaining that he was carrying his cousin's ID card at the time of arrest, but further investigations revealed his true identity.
    Later reports proved that the captured terrorist was Abdo-Sattar Rigi.

    Abdo-Sattar (the third of the notorious Rigi brothers) headed the Jeish al-Nasr terrorist group, but his cousin Salam leads Jeish al-Adl.

    Abdo-Sattar's two older brothers, Abdolmalek and Abdolhamid Rigi, who led the more powerful terrorist group, Jundollah, were both captured and condemned to death by Iran earlier.

    In early 2009, Abdolhamid Rigi, the Jundullah terrorist group's number two man and brother of its ringleader Abdolmalek Rigi, was arrested by Iranian security forces.

    Abdolhamid had conducted a number of bombing operations and other violent attacks in Iran resulting in many casualties and was sentenced to death by the court in 2009, but his execution was delayed on several occasions. Officials did not mention any specific reason for the delayed execution of Abdolhamid at the time.

    Iran arrested Abdolmalek Rigi, the number one man of the Jundollah terrorist group in late February 2011. Abdolmalek was executed in June 2011.

    Iranian military and police officials voice concern over the presence of terrorist groups in Pakistan's territories, criticizing the Pakistani army and border police's lax control over shared borders.
    The two sides' state and military officials have exchanged frequent visits to enhance anti-terrorism cooperation specially in border regions. In early December, top security officials from Iran and Pakistan met in Iran’s Southeastern city of Zahedan to hold the 22nd joint meeting on border cooperation between the two countries.

    Late in October, Commander of the IRGC Ground Force Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour announced his forces' preparedness to launch joint operations against the terrorists who abducted the Iranian border guards in Southeastern Iran.

    "We have had different contacts with the Pakistani army and urged them to guarantee extradition of the outlaws and healthiness of the abductees and they should show more responsibility," General Pakpour said, referring to the fate of the 9 border guards that are still kept by Jeish Al-Adl.

    "These terrorists have a stronghold and a base on Pakistan's soil and we are prepared for any joint operations with the Pakistani army against the outlaws to release the hostages," he added.