Sunday, March 3, 2019
Jared Kushner slipped quietly into Saudi Arabia this week for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, so the question I’m trying to get the White House to answer is this: Did they discuss American help for a Saudi nuclear program?
Of all the harebrained and unscrupulous dealings of the Trump administration in the last two years, one of the most shocking is a Trump plan to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia that could be used to make nuclear weapons.Even as President Trump is trying to denuclearize North Korea and Iran, he may be helping to nuclearize Saudi Arabia. This is abominable policy tainted by a gargantuan conflict of interest involving Kushner.
Kushner’s family real estate business had been teetering because of a disastrously overpriced acquisition he made of a particular Manhattan property called 666 Fifth Avenue, but last August a company called Brookfield Asset Management rescued the Kushners by taking a 99-year lease of the troubled property — and paying the whole sum of about $1.1 billion up front. Alarm bells should go off: Brookfield also owns Westinghouse Electric, the nuclear services business trying to sell reactors to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi swamp, meet American swamp.
It may be conflicts like these, along with even murkier ones, that led American intelligence officials to refuse a top-secret security clearance for Kushner. The Times reported Thursday that Trump overruled them to grant Kushner the clearance.
This nuclear reactor mess began around the time of Trump’s election, when a group of retired U.S. national security officials put together a plan to enrich themselves by selling nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia. The officials included Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, and they initially developed a “plan for 40 nuclear power plants” in Saudi Arabia, according to a report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. The plan is now to start with just a couple of plants.
As recently as Feb. 12, Trump met in the White House with backers of the project and was supportive, Reuters reported.
These are civilian nuclear power plants, and Saudi Arabia claims it wants them for electricity. But the Saudis insist on producing their own nuclear fuel, rather than buying it more cheaply abroad. Producing fuel is a standard way for rogue countries to divert fuel for secret nuclear weapons programs, and the Saudi resistance to safeguards against proliferation bolsters suspicions that the real goal is warheads.
Trump may be vigilant (destructively so) about Iran’s nuclear plants, but in the Saudi case his response seems to be: There’s money to be made! When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised objections to the transfer last year, Axios reported, “Trump and his advisers told Netanyahu that, if the U.S. does not sell the Saudis nuclear reactors, other countries like Russia or France will.” Trump seems to believe that the Saudis have us over a barrel: If we don’t help them with nuclear technology, someone else will. That misunderstands the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The Saudis depend on us for their security, and the blunt truth is that we hold all the cards in this relationship, not them.
Why on earth would America put Prince Mohammed on a path to acquiring nuclear weapons? He is already arguably the most destabilizing leader in an unstable region, for he has invaded Yemen, kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister, started a feud with Qatar, and, according to American intelligence officials, ordered the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
The prince has also imprisoned and brutally tortured women’s rights activists, including one who I’m hoping will win the Nobel Peace Prize, Loujain al-Hathloul. As Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, has noted, “A country that can’t be trusted with a bone saw shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons.” The White House won’t clarify whether Kushner discussed the nuclear issue when he met Prince Muhammed a few days ago, but Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, told me, “I’d be surprised if it didn’t come up.” Along with Senators Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, Merkley has introduced a resolution to oppose the transfer of nuclear technology that would allow Saudi Arabia to create nuclear weapons.
There’s another element of Trump’s Saudi policy that is simply repulsive: the fawning courtship of a foreign prince who has created in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, murdered a journalist and tortured women’s rights activists. The White House genuflections are such that Prince Mohammed had a point when, according to The Intercept, he bragged that he had Kushner in his “pocket.
No one knows whether Prince Muhammed will manage to succeed his father and become the next king, for there is opposition and the Saudi economic transformation he boasts of is running into difficulties. Trump and Kushner seem to be irresponsibly trying to boost the prince’s prospects, increasing the risk that an unstable hothead will mismanage the kingdom for the next 50 years. Perhaps with nuclear weapons.
By Zoha Masood
We live in a country where people educate their children not for wisdom but for making them a source of income.How can a country advance if its people don’t value education as it should be? How can it prosper when people get the degrees but still remain uncivilized? The problem is actually the education system which offers the education but not its worth.
There are a number of problems Pakistan is facing nowadays in its education system including syllabus, multiple education systems, no uniformity in programs of study, religious issues, poverty, gender inequality and many more. Due to the unnoticed complications, our education method is getting more and more rotten, yet the rising issues are still unsolved. Here are some of the serious setbacks in Pakistani education system.
Focus of syllabus is quantity not quality
One of the major drawbacks of our education system is its bulky syllabus which is shifted to students’ shoulders without any reduction. No matter how irrelevant the books are and how inappropriate is the way of teaching, but they want students to memorize all the stuff and expect them to give the exam as soon as they complete the syllabus. Students are now being transformed into memorizing machines rather than learners.
Career planning is one of the issues that are given least importance yet they should have the highest. Majority of the students in our country don’t know their interest and choose their field of study as per their parents’ wish or how their friends do. Many people fail to discover their talent throughout the life by choosing wrong field of education and they just have to regret when they have made their career in the wrong direction which does not give them any sort of happiness.
Increased demand of tuition
After spending half of the day in school, the child is sent to the tuition where he has to study further thus gets no time for activities like playing, fun, entertainment and amusement. The students are getting very busy in their studies that their childhood and adult age is full of books more than anything else.
If the schooling is such that the student does not need tuition, it will ease students as well as parents because the burden of school and tuition gets very difficult for parents to pay for.
The teachers nowadays are not professional, they teach not to convey information but just to get paid. Regardless of the fact that they are appointed to teach and make the students gain knowledge, they just try to complete the syllabus anyhow, whether a student understands anything or not. Many of the teachers are not even capable at the subject they are teaching, it’s just like they are teaching because they fail to get employed anywhere else.
Conduction of exams is no less than a joke
Conduction of exams is yet another issue! Board exams from class 9th to second year are not organized sincerely. Many of the examination centers are arranged in such a way that students can cheat very easily, not only this but in some cases the invigilators are also indulged in this exploitation. One can guess that how inferior is the sector of education in our country where the most important years of students’ life are wasted by helping them getting grades through illegal means.
Corrupt educational organizations
The problem is not only limited to examinations but also to the execution of results. Due to the corruption in examination systems, even students’ marks have got a cost. The grades and marks and even positions are being sold just for the sake of a few thousands or lacs. A hardworking students’ career has no value in front of a rich student’s money or source.
This is something of guilt that the government schools and colleges are so useless that even people of lower classes try to admit their children in private schools. Huge buildings but poor quality of education and insincere staff is the fate of most of the government institutions. They fail to provide the facilities to students that are available in private institutes.
Unaffordable fee structure
Inflation in the sector of education is the most important issue that needs to be considered. There is a high fluctuation in the fee of good and average quality schools. People belonging to middle class cannot afford to send their children to a school that offers quality education due to its high fee. Moreover, the schools are now taking the fees of June and July in advance which adds to the problems of parents. This is also due to non-uniformity in the education system, charging the fees according to requirements and setups.
Last Friday, a group of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) activists beat up a student for accompanying his female classmate to the cafeteria in Punjab university.Mobile footage of the student being thrashed is being circulated online.
This is not a new occurrence. Punjab University has always been haunted by extremist student organisations intent on morally policing their peers. They have beaten up students, teachers and even the administration on alleged claims of misrepresentation to justify their violence. This culture of violence on campuses needs to end. We need to foster an environment of learning and tolerance, where students can grow as individuals without fear.
The administration needs to take strict action against these organisations to keep the university a safe space, free of political organisations or at this rate IJT will end up running the administration as well. Media reports in the past have suggested the extraordinary influence that IJT exerts over the PU administration.
The latest incident is not a one off case in which the Jamiat succumbed to such tactics, it was a strategic move to publically thrash the student and keep their control intact. The vast majority of the students witnessed the spectacle without intervening, they either had been victims in the past or were afraid to be targeted in the future.
This shrinking of academic space is extremely problematic as it will only pave the path for violence and extremism. An educational institution where the focus of the student organisation is on what someone wears or their adherence to a particular worldview, instead of open dialogue had failed to fulfill its part. It is time that university spaces are secured and turned into nurseries of ideas, tolerance and enlightenment.
PAKISTAN should be a welfare state. With millions of people straddling the poverty line, there is no other way forward. Those who believe the market will offer a solution are driven by ideology, blind fundamentalists in the same category as religious fundamentalists.
Only the state can cater for such destitution and the fact that a state has no interest or ability to do so does not mean that the task should be turned over to the market. The plain truth is that the market cares nothing for those without the ability to pay and there are many more in that category than should be acceptable.
Not just that, without a strong state the market doesn’t trickle wealth down, it siphons it up. The only viable alternative is to force the state to deliver on its responsibility and in the long run the only peaceful weapon citizens have to achieve that is the power of their votes. Let not this power be exhausted by either subverting it or ignoring its claims. The demand for bread can be fobbed off only so long with the promise of cakes.
We should pay heed to the fact that instead of moving towards a ‘welfare’ state we are consciously turning into even more of a ‘warfare’ state than we already happen to be. It is in this context that one should consider the decision of the cabinet, delivered without any sense of irony by the minister for information at the time of the recent mini-budget: “The country’s defence budget is already low as compared to other states in the region, and therefore it should be increased” — though there was no such known demand for this by the establishment.
Hello, Mr Minister. The country’s budget for everything else — health, education, public transport, environmental sanitation, you name it — is also already low as compared to other states in the region. So why just the privileging of defence? On the contrary, the budget for everything else is being reduced even further to make up for the increase.
The United States said on Sunday it was trying to find out if Pakistan used U.S.-built F-16 jets to down an Indian warplane, potentially in violation of U.S. agreements, as the stand-off between the nuclear-armed Asian neighbors appeared to be easing.Pakistan and India both carried out aerial bombing missions this week, including a clash on Wednesday that saw an Indian pilot shot down over the disputed region of Kashmir in an incident that alarmed global powers and sparked fears of a war.
A Pakistan military spokesman on Wednesday denied Indian claims that Pakistan used F-16 jets.
Pakistan returned the captured Indian pilot on Friday in a high-profile handover Islamabad touted as a “peace gesture”, which appeared to significantly dial down tensions, but both sides remain on high alert.
At the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between the two countries in the disputed Kashmir region, there was relative calm in the past 24 hours, both armies said on Sunday. But Indian security forces said they were carrying out major anti-militancy operations on their side on Kashmir and had shot dead two militants.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said on Sunday it was looking into reports that Pakistan used F-16 jets to shoot down the Indian pilot, a potential violation of Washington’s military sale agreements that limit how Pakistan can use the planes.“We are aware of these reports and are seeking more information,” a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said. “We take all allegations of misuse of defense articles very seriously.”While Pakistan has denied using F-16 jets during a dogfight that downed an Indian Mig-21 warplane over Kashmir on Wednesday, it has not specified which planes it used, though it assembles Chinese-designed JF-17 fighter jets on its soil.
Pakistan has a long history of buying U.S. military hardware, especially in the years after 2001 when Islamabad was seen as a key partner in the U.S.-led War on Terror.
Pakistan bought several batches of F-16 planes, built by Lockheed Martin Corp, from Washington before relations soured and the United States cut off subsidized sales in 2016.
It is not clear what exactly these so-called “end-user agreements” restrict Pakistan from doing. “The U.S. Government does not comment on or confirm pending investigations of this nature,” the U.S. Embassy added.
On Thursday Indian officials displayed to reporters parts of what they called an air-to-air missile that can only be fired from F-16 jets, alleging they were used to bomb its side of the disputed Kashmir border on Wednesday.A Pakistan military spokesman told reporters on Wednesday that Pakistani jets “locked” on Indian targets to demonstrate Pakistan’s capacity to strike back at India, but then chose to fire in an empty field where there would be no casualties.Pakistan said its mission on Wednesday was in retaliation for India violating its airspace and sovereignty a day earlier, when Indian jets bombed a forest area near the northern city of Balakot.India said it struck at militant training camps, but Islamabad denied any such camps existed, as did some villagers in the area when Reuters visited.
Cross-border shelling in the past few days has killed seven people on the Pakistani side and four on the Indian side of Kashmir. But on Sunday it was relatively quiet near the de facto border of Kashmir, the source of two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since independence from Britain in 1947.
“By and large the LoC was calm last night but you never know when it will become active again,” said Chaudhry Tariq Farooq, a minister in Pakistani Kashmir. “Tension still prevails.”
In Indian-administered Kashmir, troops on Sunday shot dead two militants after a three-day gun battle that also killed five security force personnel, taking the total death toll to 25 in the past two weeks.
By Basharat Peer
Both countries share responsibility for reducing Kashmir to a ruin and destroying generations of lives.For the past few decades, Kashmir has largely been referred to in news reports and policy papers as a “low-intensity conflict,” as if someone were leisurely making a lamb stew. But for those of us who call the region home, it means living with the constant ache of our painful history, a despair and rage about an oppressive present, and an uncertain future.
Political discontent has simmered in Kashmir since the partition of India in 1947. India and Pakistan, which each control parts of the region and claim the whole, have fought three wars over it. India eroded the autonomy of the part of Kashmir it controlled by imprisoning elected leaders and appointing puppet administrators. After a rigged local election in 1987, Kashmiris began a secessionist armed uprising with support from Pakistan.
Indian military presence rose to half a million, and by the mid-1990s Islamist militants from Pakistan began to dominate the insurgency. Fighting ebbed by the 2000s, but not before it exacted a high price: Around 70,000 people have been killed, several hundred thousand displaced, 10,000 more are missing since being arrested.
Half a million Indian troops remain in the region. In the 2000s, Kashmiris turned to street protests — either peaceful or armed with nothing more than stones — against the military occupation. Indian troops responded with bullets, and more recently, with pellet guns, completely or partially blinding hundreds of protesters.
India and Pakistan blame each other, each country obsessed with proving itself better than the other, but they share the responsibility for reducing Kashmir to a ruin and destroying generations of Kashmiri lives. In the past several years, the phrase I often recall when I think of my home is “dying invisibly in ones and twos.” Every death is another knife into a bloodied body.
I have been thinking about all of this quite a bit over the past two weeks. On Feb. 14, a suicide attack on a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces in Kashmir killed at least 40 soldiers. The bomber was a young Kashmiri who had joined a Pakistani militant group.
After the bombing, India’s hypernationalist television networks and social media warriors relentlessly screamed for revenge. A nationalist tide baying for the blood of Kashmiris rose across India. College students from Kashmir were attacked by mobs; fearful for their safety, more than 2,000 reportedly have returned home. A journalist from Kashmir who has worked in New Delhi for about 25 years found his home circled by a mob. He was there with his wife and son, writing a column. “I thought this was the last column I was writing,” he messaged me. His neighbors saved him. As strongman rulers tend to do, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, set to convert the nationalist surge into votes in an election that begins next month. He promised to avenge the tears. On Tuesday, India carried out airstrikes on a militant camp in the Balakot area in northwestern Pakistan — the first time Indian warplanes had crossed the border since 1971.
India’s top diplomats hailed the strikes in wickedly obtuse language as “pre-emptive nonmilitary strikes” and the giddily compliant news media were told by official sources that more than 300 militants had been killed. Security analysts in India credited the airstrikes with destroying the illusion that nuclear deterrence can keep India from hitting terrorist infrastructure inside Pakistan.
But Mr. Modi’s plan didn’t go as intended. Independent reporting showed that the Indian jets had hit some trees, a field — and not much else. The next morning, Pakistani fighter jets dropped some bombs inside Indian-controlled territory, which did no damage, restored Pakistan’s national pride and showed its willingness to escalate beyond Indian expectations.
A dogfight between Pakistani and Indian jets ensued. An Indian plane was shot down in Pakistani territory and its pilot, Wing Cmdr. Abhinandan Varthaman, was captured. Pakistan released a video of the pilot: an athletic man with a luxurious mustache on his bruised, bloodied face. He was filmed drinking a cup of tea offered by his captors. A civil and graceful conversation followed between him and his interrogator. It was a moment filled with a hint of hope, as the Indian and Pakistani militaries are notorious for shredding the Geneva Convention to bits: chopping off heads on the border and burning bodies of insurgents.
The Indian pilot’s capture seemed to deflate Mr. Modi’s bluster; the prime minister and his colleagues stayed silent for a while. On Thursday, Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, announced his decision to release and return the pilot, following it up by offering peace talks. Mr. Modi, according to Indian press reports, refused to engage until Pakistan did more against the terror groups based in the country and patronized by its military establishment.
Wing Commander Varthaman returned home on Friday. But great anxiety remains about Mr. Modi’s next move, as jingoistic cheerleaders haven’t stopped their clamor for war. Videos of tanks and military vehicles being moved toward the border with Pakistan filled Indian social media. At the Delhi airport on Thursday, I watched hundreds of soldiers quietly stand in long lines to board flights, possibly heading toward the border with Pakistan.
Mr. Modi suggested on Thursday that the airstrikes on Pakistan were a hint of more to come: “Now the real one has to be done; it was practice earlier.” Those are words pregnant with catastrophe, the words of a strongman who can’t afford to be seen as having failed to subdue an enemy he loves to hate.
Anxiety about the next fatal step, the cries of revenge and war, and the military escalations all will continue haunting India, Pakistan and the broader world as long as everyone insists on looking away from the issue driving the crisis: the long, bloody dispute over Kashmir.
As fighter planes circled overhead and several thousand more Indian troops were sent to Kashmir, the sense of panic increased. In a renewed crackdown, hundreds have been arrested. But the necessary question is ignored: What led that young Kashmiri man, Adil Ahmad Dar, to become a suicide bomber who brought South Asia to the brink of war? The last suicide bombing in Kashmir — and the first — was 19 years ago.Handlers from the Jaish-e-Muhammad, the Pakistani terrorist group behind the attack, exploited the young man raised in a pitiless war. But the structural violence and political repression in Kashmir are equally responsible for turning Mr. Dar into a weapon.
After dropping out of high school in a small village, he had worked at a neighbor’s sawmill, and did other odd jobs to support his family. His father told a reporter that he often spoke about the day a group of policemen stopped him on the way back from school and made him circle their vehicle while rubbing his nose on the ground. During mass protests in Kashmir in 2016, when Indian troops killed about 100 protesters and blinded several hundred, Mr. Dar was shot in his leg. After he joined the militants in March 2018, his family told reporters, Indian troops raided their home, locked them inside and set it on fire.