Sunday, April 14, 2019

#AlaaSalah - 'I was raised to love our home': Sudan's singing protester speaks out

Zeinab Mohammed Salih

 Alaa Salah, 22, talks to the Guardian about having her image seen around the world.

The young woman in a photo that has come to symbolise the protest movement in Sudan has been identified as Alaa Salah, a 22-year-old architecture student in Khartoum.
Salah told the Guardian she was happy that the image, taken on Monday evening at a demonstration in the Sudanese capital, had been viewed so widely.
“I’m very glad that my photo let people around the world know about the revolution in Sudan … Since the beginning of the uprising I have been going out every day and participating in the demonstrations because my parents raised me to love our home,” Salah said.
The current wave of protests against the 30-year rule of Omar al-Bashir started in December but intensified at the weekend when huge crowds gathered at a crossroads in front of a heavily guarded military complex in the centre of Khartoum.
Salah said she does not come from a political background, and took to the streets to fight for a better Sudan. “Our country is above any political parties and any sectarian divisions,” she said.

SUDAN-UNREST-DEMOAlla Salah stands on a vehicle as she sings to the crowd.
 Alaa Salah stands on a vehicle as she sings to the crowd. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

“The day they took the photo, I went to 10 different gatherings and read a revolutionary poem. It makes people very enthusiastic. In the beginning I found a group of about six women and I started singing, and they started singing with me, then the gathering became really big.

A line in the poem she read - “The bullet doesn’t kill. What kills is the silence of people” – is popular with protesters, and was chanted by demonstrators in January 2018 and during unrest in September 2013.“I have practiced presenting at the university; I don’t have an issue with speaking in front of people and at big gatherings.”
Salah’s mother is a fashion designer working with the traditional Sudanese toub – the dress she was wearing in the photographs – and her father owns a construction company.
The garment has become a symbol of the female protesters, and Salah said she had narrowly escaped arrest when she wore the toub at an earlier demonstration.
“The toub has a kind of power and it reminds us of the Kandakas,” Salah said.
Kandakas were queens of the Nubian kingdom of Kush, which ruled much of what is now modern-day Sudan more than 3,000 years ago.
Some commentators have raised concerns that the reference represents only one of Sudan’s many ethnic and tribal communities and that while the history of the Nubians is particularly popular with the Sudanese diaspora it excludes many of the country’s communities.
Salah said she now has to rest her voice as her throat has become sore from all the chanting this week.

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Student body vows to fight religious extremism on Mashal’s death anniversary

The Progressive Students Federation
Karachi (PRSF) and various civil society groups on Saturday commemorated the second death anniversary of Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student who was lynched in Mardan by his fellow students for not conforming to their ideas, by holding a march and announcing a campaign against growing religious fundamentalism among students and academia.
The participants of Mashal March walked from the Arts Council of Pakistan to the Karachi Press Club. They chanted slogans against extremism and expressed sorrow for the slain Khalid Hameed, an associate professor who was killed by his student at Sadiq Egerton College in southern Punjab.
The PRSF and civil society speakers said Mashal Khan was just 23 years old when he was lynched on April 13, 2017 by a violent group of students and outsiders because of his unconventional opinions. It was the darkest day in the history of academia in Pakistan, they said, adding that it was the day when a young, bright and progressive student was tortured to death by his very own class fellows.
The speakers said with the Mashal March, they were starting a campaign to voice concerns over the growing extremism in students and collectively say no to the hateful curricula and fundamentalism being taught and propagated in the academic places of the country.
The PRSF presented some demands and resolved to continue their struggle until their fulfilment. It was demanded that the brutal murder of Mashal and Hameed be termed a national tragedy. The student organisation also demanded that the authorities lift the ban on student unions in order to put the students’ politics on the right path.
The speakers were of the view that the freedom of expression and speech on campus should be encouraged. The state institutions should not have the right to intervene in the varsities’ curricula or dictate what should or should not be discussed, they said.
Calling the militarisation of students unacceptable, they demanded complete elimination of extremism and hatred-inciting themes in the curricula. They called for upgrading the curricula according to global standards and putting a stop to the propagation of hate speech, religious extremism and physical violence.
Those who propagate hatred and religious extremism on campus should be given the maximum punishment allowed in the varsities’ rules, they said.

اسلام اباد کې د مشال خان تلین په مناسبت لاریون #MashalKhan

د اپرېل پر ۱۳مه په اسلام اباد کې د مردان عبدالولي خان پوهنتون زده کوونکي مشال خان دویم تلین په مناسبت لاریون شوی چې ورته لسګونه زده کوونکي ورغلي ول. په ۲۰۱۷ز کال کې پارېدلو کسانو نوموړی د مذهب سپکاوي په تور وژلی وو خو وروسته پلټنو وښوده چې پر مشال خان لګېدلی تور ناسم وو. عدالت د هغه د وژنې په تور ځېنو کسانو ته سزاګانې هم اورولې دي. ویډیويي رپورټ.

An overview of the media landscape in the ‘Naya’ Pakistan - Media muzzled


Journalists face inquiries and cases by way of myriad laws, strong-arm tactics as well as other hidden means. An overview of the media landscape in the ‘Naya’ Pakistan.
Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (PECA) is just an addition to the already existing laws that are often used against the media and journalists; laws that allow the government of the day and the state to resort to newer tactics of censorship without having to use muscle power.
To this day, no one knows about the dozens of plainclothes people who stormed the house of Jang correspondent, Matloob Hussain Moosvi, on March 30. IGP Sindh, Kaleem Imam claims he has no clue about it except that the journalist was missing and the family had lodged a complaint.
Among the existing laws, there is Press, Newspaper, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance, 2002 which is likely to come into effect with more restrictions as reflected in the new drafts pending at the Centre and in Sindh (both drafts had been withheld owing to timely protests).
The Anti-Terror Law, Sect. 11(W) takes into account “printing, publishing, or disseminating any objectionable material to incite hatred or giving projection to any person convicted for a terrorist act or any proscribed organisation placed under observation or anyone concerned in terrorism”. At least, nine newspapers in Quetta have been facing cases for publishing the statements of outlawed groups for the last few years. The editors pleaded in the court that they were facing threats from these proscribed organisations if they refused to publish their statements. If found guilty under this law, the punishment is five years in jail.
The MPO, Sec. 6 is considered necessary to prevent or combat activity prejudicial to public order. This includes power to control publications, prohibit printing or publications.
PEMRA, supposed to be an independent body under the law, in reality, always acts in accordance with the wishes of the state and government of the day. There are at least six such clauses in the Pemra Act which are liable to be misused and meant to curb the electronic media.
Besides, the hidden powers can always use their influence and muscle power on the cable operators to pull any channels off air or shuffle their numbers in a bid to keep their transmission from easy surfing.
A recent notification by Pemra asked television channels to get prior approval from the ISPR in case they wanted to discuss security matters, or invite a defence analyst. Secondly, “if they invite retired officers to speak on political topics, they should address them as political analysts.” It is now learnt that the notification was withdrawn after sections of retired officers raised objections.
There are other laws as well which could be used against the media for ‘offences’ that fall under ‘obscenity’ Sections 292, 293 and 294 of CrPC. Interestingly, while the term obscenity is not defined.
In the last seven months, over 1,000 journalists and media workers have lost their jobs. Some media outlets closed down different operations and converted their main offices into bureaus.

I belong to a school of thought that believes in journalism with responsibility, strong professional editors for print and director news for television. Keeping in view how the said laws could be misinterpreted and misused, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), in 2008, proposed a ‘Media Complaints Commission’, an independent forum to be headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge.
PFUJ has always been in favour of strong and effective defamation laws, instead of letting the state use its muscle against the media. Unfortunately, this is an era of corporate and social media in which the government and state have enhanced their control over the media. The voices of dissent are silenced on social media through laws like PECA and ‘undeclared’ censorship.
In the coming months we may see a new wave of terror against the media and journalists in different forms. The power to resist has weakened among journalists. There is division in their rank and file. There are ‘economic sanctions’ too, like reduction of salaries, change in the mode of employment from regular to contractual.
In the last seven months, over 1,000 journalists and media workers have lost their jobs. Some media outlets closed down different operations and converted their main offices into bureaus. The ‘newsrooms’ of many newspapers and TV channels have also shrunk. Post-2001 media saw tremendous growth, which in the last 18 years is said to have uplifted the economic conditions of some 30 percent journalists. All romance and glamour associated with the media is gone now.
Many journalists have switched to digital media, relying on their own individual voices. These are one-person institutions, which in some cases are exposed to risks and dangers. The media houses that once used to act like a ‘family’ where the editor would take ownership and responsibility of whatever was printed, have been replaced by corporate leaders who attach more importance to market returns rather than ethics, and need actors rather than journalists.

The government defends the changing trends in the media, and believes that almost 60 percent market has been captured by the digital media. No wonder the Federal Information Minister is keen on opening a digital media university. Yet, no one wants a ‘free’ or autonomous state-run national television and radio.
The laws to curb media and journalists exist despite the general growth and rise of media in Pakistan. Like good and bad terrorists, there are good and bad journalists in the eyes of the government. Those who fall in the ‘bad’ category are not invited to official briefings, particularly those related to sensitive security matters.623554_6360888_matloob-moosvi_updates
It is in this backdrop that six journalists, who in their individual capacity had replaced their profile photos on social media with Jamal Khashoggi during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince, are now facing an FIA inquiry on an official complaint from the Ministry of Interior. The prime minister holds the portfolio of Interior. When contacted, Director General FIA, Bashir Memon, confirmed that an inquiry is underway as they have received an official letter from the Ministry of Interior. “We are holding an inquiry under PECA,” he said. “Journalists will be asked to record their statement as the letter contains the text of their views on social media in this particular case.”
Jamal Khashoggi, a Middle East Eye and Washington Post correspondent, was murdered in Istanbul, in October, last year. Pakistan government had distanced itself from the whole episode while the PFUJ, affiliated with International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), had joined in the global protest.
The FIA has not officially summoned the journalists so far, or issued any further order but sources claim its cyber wing is monitoring their social media accounts. In other words, they are under ‘surveillance’. No less sinister is the FIR lodged against Shahzeb Jillani, senior journalist and executive producer of a news show on Dunya.
Ironically, PECA was passed a few years back with consensus but certain political parties that favoured the law are today protesting over the misuse of power by the Interior Ministry and FIA, especially against journalists and social media activists. 
The Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry is keen to bring the print, electronic, and digital media under control of one body called Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority, PMRA. If approved by the parliament, all forms of media will be controlled by the state although Chaudhry claims it will be an independent body whose members will be picked by the government.
When Musharraf imposed his ‘Emergency Plus’ on Nov 3, 2007, he also banned the electronic media against which PFUJ launched an 88-day movement. Not many people know that during that period the government even used the Ministry of Commerce to restrict the import of equipment used for reception, broadcast, and distribution of satellite signals pertaining to the field of electronic media. The purpose was to prohibit the viewers from using dish antennas during the ban on TV channels. An Import Policy Order was amended just to check the media under which prior NOC was required from PEMRA.

Report on Pakistan pilots training on Rafale traced to Egyptian site run by ‘ex-radical’

Cairo-based Youm7, which offers news from Egypt and West Asia, was reportedly the first to state that PAF pilots had received training on Rafale jets.

The controversial report that claimed Pakistan fighter pilots were trained on Dassault Rafale jets, which India has purchased from France, originated in an Egyptian news website called Seventh Day (Youm7), said a column in Business Today Sunday.
The report, carried by the US portal Aviation International News (AIN), had triggered concerns in the Indian security establishment with its claim that Pakistan Air Force pilots participating in an exchange programme with Qatar, a recent Rafale buyer, had received training on the jets.
Cairo-based Youm7 offers news from Egypt and West Asia.
Screenshot of Egyptian website
Screenshot of Egyptian website
In 2015, a columnist in The Guardian had described Youm7 editor Khaled Salah as “an unlikely jihadist” in an interview that traced his transformation from being a jailed radical to “running Egypt’s only digital-first newspaper”.

Roots of the row

The controversy over Pakistani pilots having access to Rafale jets began in February, when AIN carried a report with a passing reference to the fact that “the first batch of pilots trained for Qatar in November 2017 were Pakistani exchange officers”.
The training operation in question was just over a year after India and France sealed the deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft, manufactured by Dassault Aviation, in September 2016, and the report stoked worry in India, which will receive the first batch of the Rafale aircraft in September.
The report has since been discredited, with the French Ambassador to India Alexandre Ziegler calling it “fake news” and AIN removing the line from the article.
Writing for Business Today Sunday, Rakesh Krishnan, a New Zealand-based defence and foreign affairs analyst, noted that the news article had also appeared on a website called World Armed Forces Forum(WAFF), which had taken the story from Seventh Day (Youm7).
WAFF is one of the popular news websites that boasts of membership from 140 countries.
On being contacted by Krishnan, AIN’s Jon Lake, who wrote the controversial report, stated, “I merely repeated the report on the Arabic language news website Seventh Day (Youm7) which was reposted on WAFF.”
Qatar has bought 24 Rafale jets from France’s Dassault Aviation for €6.3 billion, receiving the first of the planes this February. According to the AIN Online report, a dozen more aircraft were added to the order in December 2017.

پي ټي اېم: حکومت دې په وزیرستان کې د هدفي وژنو مخنیوی وکړي #PashtunLongMarch2MiranShah

میرامشا ـ د پښتون ژغورنې غورځنګ مشرانو د میرامشا په جلسه کې پر حکومت او امنیتي ادارو غږ وکړ چې په شمالي وزیرستان کې دې د هدفي وژنو د مخنیوي لپاره کوټلي ګامونه پورته کړي.

په دغه جلسه کې د شمالي او جنوبي وزیرستان ترڅنګ، د بلوچستان او د خیبر پښتونخوا د نورو سیمو زرګونه خلکو ګډون وکړ. جلسه چې د سهار پر ۱۰ بجو پیل شوې وه، تر مازیګره یې دوام وکړ.
په یاده جلسه کې د پښتون ژغورنې غورڅنګ مخکښو مشرانو منظور پښتین، علي وزیر، محسن دوړ او نورو ویناوې وکړې.
منظور پښتین د میرامشا جلسې ته د وینا پر مهال وویل، د ضرب عضب تر عملیاتو وروسته، له تېر یو کال راهېسې هلته هدفي وژنې زیاتې شوي.
ده ویل، خلک په خپلو کورونو کې ځانونه خوندي نه ګڼي او په وېره کې دي. پښتین غوښتنه وکړه چې حکومت دې خلک وساتي.
جلسې ته د وینا پر مهال علي وزیر، محسن دوړ او د غورځنګ نورو مشرانو وویل، د وزیرستانونو خلکو ته دې د دوی د وسایلو اختیار ورکړل شي.

همدا رنګه د جلسې ویناوالو د کرم تنګي ډیم پر ضد هم خپل غږ پورته کړ او ویې ویل چې دوی به کله هم د دغه ډیم د جوړولو اجازه ور نه کړي، ځکه چې که داسې وشول نو د شوې تحصیل به د اوبو د لاندې شي.دوی د وزیرستان په غرونو کې د کرومایټ، تانبې (مسو) او نورو قیمتي معدنیاتو یادونه وکړه.
د پښتون ژغورنې غورځنګ د دغو او نورو غوښتنو په ځواب کې پاکستاني چارواکي وايي، د یاد غورځنګ غوښتنې سمې دي، خو د دوی د غوښتنې طریقه مناسبه نه ده.
پاکستاني چارواکي وايي، د پي ټي اېم زیاتې غوښتنې یې پوره کړې هم دي، چې پکې د ورک کړل شویو کسانو موندل، د فرش کړل شویو ماینونو پاکول او ځینې نورې شاملې دي.
په وزیرستانونو کې د هدفي وژنو د ختمولو د غوښتنې په اړه حکومتي او پوځي چارواکو وخت په وخت ویلي چې د شمالي او جنوبي وزیرستان په ډېرو برخو کې یې امن قایم کړی او هغه سیمې چې د بدامنۍ پېښې پکې رامنځته کېږي هلته د امن راوستو هڅې کوي.

د کرم تنګي ډېم د جوړولو په سر د ناندرۍ په اړه هم د خیبر پښتونخوا حکومت خپل دریځ تر دې وړاندې ښکاره کړی دی. د خیبر پښتونخوا اعلا وزیر محمود خان شمالي وزیرستان ته د خپلې دورې پرمهال ویلي ول که ولس د کورم تنګي ډېم نه غواړي نو دوی یې نه جوړوي.

#Pakistan - #HazaraGenocide #HazaraCommunity #ShiaGenocide #ShiaHazara - Hazaras in Pakistan protest

Gul Yousafzai
Minority Shi’ite Hazaras blocked traffic in a sit-in protest for a third day in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on Sunday after a suicide bomb killed 19 people in an outdoor market, many of them ethnic Hazaras.
Dozens were wounded in the blast on Friday on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of resource-rich Baluchistan province, officials said. Islamic State claimed responsibility.Hazaras have been frequently targeted by Taliban and Islamic State militants and other Sunni Muslim militant groups in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“We’ve lost hundreds of our loved ones in the last 10 years,” Tahir Hazara, leading the sit-in, told Reuters. “The government failed to protect our community. Terrorists are free to target us.”
“Stop killing Hazaras,” the crowd chanted. “Down with terrorism and sectarianism.”
The protesters, who include many women and children, have set up camps and burn wood to keep warm at night. One police official said there were about 200 people taking part on Sunday, blocking the key arterial Western Bypass leading into Quetta.
About 50 Hazaras gathered in the southern city of Karachi, some holding signs saying “Shi’ite lives matter”.
Friday’s bloodshed came two days after authorities freed Ramzan Mengal, a top leader of a banned sectarian group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Quetta police chief Abdul Razzaq Cheema said.
Mengal had been detained for three months suspected of public order offences, he said.
The LeJ has worked both with al Qaeda and Islamic State in Pakistan and has claimed several coordinated attacks in Baluchistan against what it terms Shi’ite heretics.
In 2013, three bombings killed more than 200 people in Hazara neighborhoods, prompting security forces to escort Hazara buses to the market. The same practice was followed on Friday, but the bomb exploded inside the market.

Hazara Shia sit-in against genocide continues on third day

Quetta’s Shia Hazara community continued protesting the suicide attack at Hazarganji Fruit Market for a third consecutive day on Sunday (today).
Rights activist Jalila Haider, Tahir Hazara and some other notables are leading protesters at sit-in.The Hazara community has also staged protest demonstrations against the killings following the attack.At least 19 people, including eight members of the Hazara community, were killed and 48 others were wounded in a suicide blast on Friday whose responsibility was claimed by the Qari Husain faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan as well as the militant Daesh group.
On Saturday, despite reassurances by federal minister Ali Zaidi, the protesters refused to call off their sit-in until all their demands were met, including the arrests of those involved in the attack, steps for protection of the community, and implementation of NAP without discrimination.

Militants & Military: Pakistan’s Unholy Alliance

By Ahmed Rashid
Pakistan has largely escaped the ghastly destruction of the civil wars in the Middle East—despite its continuing struggle with homegrown Islamist extremism and terrorism. Since September 11, 2001, Pakistani governments have tried to fly under the radar, attracting minimal international pressure even though its territory has been used as a sanctuary by the Afghan Taliban, al-Qaeda, Kashmiri militants, and other extremists from the region. But the US and NATO have now begun to express their concerns.
The international community is worried because there is a growing domestic political crisis in this nuclear-armed nation that is fueled by extremists at home and by a foreign policy that involves harboring insurgent groups, which has become unacceptable to the world as well as to Pakistan’s neighbors in South Asia. President Donald Trump and NATO have clearly signaled they will no longer tolerate the Pakistani army’s alleged duplicity—that while it fights those terrorists who threaten the state of Pakistan, it shelters outside groups like the Afghan Taliban, which does its fighting elsewhere. Pakistan’s response is to accuse the Americans of looking for scapegoats, having lost the war in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani “miltablishment”—a name coined by the weekly Friday Times that describes the alliance between the army, its all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), the senior judiciary, the government bureaucracy, and some politicians—is now deeply at odds with itself. A power vacuum has developed into which has stepped a bewildering array of Islamist extremists. The future of Pakistan itself is at risk.
During a harrowing three weeks in November, a small, almost unknown fringe group of well-armed Sunni militants blocked the capital Islamabad’s main highway and demanded the resignation of the justice minister and other officials for trying to change the stringent blasphemy law and for being sympathetic to the Ahmadis, a Muslim sect controversially proscribed by the state. The group, which calls itself Tehreek-e-Labaik (TEL), or the Movement in Service to the Finality of the Prophet, then ordered its followers to block major roads all over the country. For several days, traffic across Pakistan ground to a halt. Six or seven people were killed and more than two hundred were injured.
As public speculation grew about which part of the “miltablishment” was allowing food, water, and blankets to reach the militants, the government seemed paralyzed—unwilling to act decisively or to send in the 8,000 police officers at its disposal to arrest those mounting the blockades, who never numbered more than 3,000 in Islamabad. At long last, the government called in the army to clear the barricades. But none of the militants was arrested, and when the army arrived, it was to broker a deal, which the militants quickly accepted—and to which the government, too, was obliged to accede.
The entire episode had the air of a well-rehearsed drama. The army and the government gave in to all the militants’ demands, including the resignation of the justice minister, the release of all the group’s prisoners, compensation to the protesters, and further entrenchment of the harsh blasphemy law. An ISI general signed the agreement as its “guarantor.”
The BBC World Service subsequently broadcast a video that showed a senior army officer giving 1,000 Rupee ($10) banknotes to the protesters to pay for their fare home. “This is a gift from us to you,” the major-general is heard telling one bearded militant. The clip went viral. Meanwhile, the High Court in Islamabad asked how the army could act as a mediator between the government and a party the court had already declared a terrorist group.
Islamabad has seen unrest many times before. In 2007, the assassination of the democratic icon Benazir Bhutto led to widespread rioting. The same year, heavily armed militants took over the Red Mosque and fought a pitched battle with security forces. In 2014, supporters of Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician, laid siege to the city for months to press Khan’s demand that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign. This time around, there was a new pitch to the public’s anger and despair as the state surrendered to mob rule.
“There has hardly been an instance where the state capitulated so humiliatingly to a group of extremists holding the nation’s capital hostage,” said Zahid Hussain, a leading newspaper columnist. Still, no politician spoke up—but for the courageous Bilawal Bhutto, son and young political heir to his mother Benazir’s legacy. “It was demoralizing for my entire generation in the last few days to see the writ of the state erode… to see the rule of law made a mockery of… but now I want to give a message to all the forces that enough is enough and let the country move ahead,” Bhutto said, in a clear jibe at the army. Moving ahead is difficult, though, when Pakistanis are still at odds over who is holding back the country and allowing extremists to run riot in the capital.
The latest round of crises began in July when the thrice-elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was forced to resign after a controversial Supreme Court ruling disqualified him from holding office because of corruption charges. Sharif’s term was plagued by allegations of corruption against ministers, by incompetence, and by maladministration—all exacerbated by a permanent state of conflict with the army, which has always detested Sharif. Sharif wanted to assert civilian rule, while the army wanted to assert its influence, especially over foreign policy. Only the army, the officer class maintains, can define and protect the national interest. Sharif’s replacement as prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, has governed better than Sharif, but it is the ousted Sharif who still runs the Pakistan Muslim League party and calls the political shots.
There has been enough discreet signaling through the media for every Pakistani to know that the military wants Sharif and several other leading politicians to go quietly or face prosecution. But the army miscalculated when they expected Sharif to heed such signals and his popularity to plummet once he left office. That never happened. After holding a series of political rallies, Sharif bounced back, and may still emerge as the major contender in critical elections next summer. As a result, there is endless speculation about what the army’s plan is now. Nobody believes that the military will intervene or take power, but will elections be held on time, or will the judiciary come up with rulings that delay, postpone, or even cancel them?
The Islamabad fiasco brought to the surface another deep concern: the growing sectarianism among the Islamist groups. For two decades, Sunni extremists have been killing Shia Muslims in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. These Sunni militants usually belong to the Wahabbi or Deobandi sects, or offshoots of them, and these include al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic State. Their interpretations of Islam are severe, and they reject Shi’ism and Sufism (the mystical side of Islam). The largest Sunni sect in Pakistan is the Barelvis, who have a moderate and more gentle interpretation of Islam partly inspired by Sufism. Until now, they have been largely peaceful and tolerant, and not inclined to religious violence.
That is changing. The Tehreek-e-Labaik are Barelvis who have become extremist in response to what they claim is a lack of respect for the Prophet Muhammad. Barelvi militancy remains a fringe phenomena, but its spread could endanger stability in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province, where it is a majority belief. It could also lead to future Deobandi-Barelvi rivalries and conflicts.
At the same time, the military is helping resurrect extremist groups that were used by General Zia ul-Haq back in the 1980s, or by General Pervez Musharraf after 2001. Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the extremist anti-India group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LT), was freed from house arrest in Lahore in late November after terrorism charges against him could not be proven. LT carried out the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack that left 166 people dead, including many foreigners, as well as attacks on Indian outposts in Kashmir. The US government imposed a $10 million bounty on Saeed and LT was declared a terrorist group by the United Nations, yet the Lahore court saw fit to release him. In the interim, the group had turned itself into a charitable organization and got permission to form a new political party, the Milli Muslim League, which will take part in elections next year under Saeed’s leadership. Indian officials are apoplectic about this legitimization of Saeed—the White House called the release of Hafiz Saeed a step that “belies Pakistani claims that it will not provide sanctuary for terrorists on its soil.”
Another cause for concern is the revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), an alliance of half a dozen Islamist parliamentary parties that are not necessarily extremist but are certainly pro-Taliban. President Musharraf created the alliance in 2002 to give political cover to retreating Taliban fighters coming over the Afghan border and provide them a sanctuary in Pakistan. The MMA won the 2002 elections in two provinces on the frontier with Afghanistan and it hosted thousands of defeated Taliban arriving from Afghanistan. None of this would have been possible without the army’s assent. At times, the military claims this is part of the process of reconciling former terrorists with the state, but Pakistan has no national program of deradicalization; there is no mechanism for militants to surrender their arms or seek amnesty. A twenty-point charter to counter extremism that was signed by the military and all the political parties two years ago has largely been abandoned.
The paradox is that even as extremist groups are being rehabilitated, Pakistan faces unrelenting terrorist attacks. On November 29, nine people were killed and thirty-seven injured when at least three terrorists dressed in burkas stormed a student hostel in Peshawar. The attack was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, which is partly based in Afghanistan and carries out cross-border raids. Pakistan said the attackers had received support from both Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies. A week earlier, Peshawar’s second-highest ranking police officer was killed in a suicide attack. Meanwhile, hundreds of police and civilians have died in Balochistan province, where there is also a separatist insurgency. Pakistan blames India and Afghanistan for what is largely home-grown terrorism.
Despite the ire of the US, NATO, and neighboring states over Pakistan’s refusal to reign in the terrorist groups on its soil, the government in Islamabad either says nothing or parrots the army’s claim that it’s all the Taliban and an Afghan problem. But the US under President Trump is ratcheting up the pressure, including by slashing military aid to Pakistan. On November 30, a US drone strike hit a militant compound inside Pakistan close to the Afghan border, killing three militants. The attack clearly signaled that the US was prepared to carry out more like it, but a more aggressive approach from Washington carries risks; the Pakistani army could respond by shutting down the US supply route for its troops from Karachi port to Afghanistan. A reckless tweet from Trump himself could even prompt an anti-American backlash from a broad cross-section of Islamists—as happened in 1979, when President Zia sat on his hands while a mob burned down the US embassy. It is not only the US, though, that has been urging Pakistan to stop nurturing the Taliban; Pakistan’s ally China, as well as Iran and the Central Asian republics, have joined the chorus. According to Western diplomats, the Chinese were deeply worried by the recent siege. They have reason to be, since their investment in Pakistan as part of the One Belt, One Road project is worth some $56 billion. Tens of thousands of Chinese technicians are now working in Pakistan; for Beijing, their security is paramount.
Pakistan’s strategic reason for maintaining its support for the Taliban is to prevent Indian involvement in Afghanistan and to assert its influence in any future political settlement there. But there is no sign that Islamabad is taking any initiative of its own, let alone holding peace talks. Instead, it blames Washington for the stasis.
On Pakistan’s eastern border with India, frequent shelling by both armies in the disputed territory of Kashmir reflects increased tension between the two countries. India remains the Pakistani military’s central obsession, and this is the underlying cause of a permanent strife between the army and civilian governments, which would prefer peace and trade with both India and Afghanistan rather than perpetual war.
Even as the Pakistani public is questioning the purpose of the army’s efforts at geopolitical engineering, the parliamentary Islamist parties are being revived to form an electoral bloc that will counter mainstream democratic parties like Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and Bilawal Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party—neither of which the “miltablishment” likes. And for the first time, extremist groups like LT are being integrated into the political system, a dangerous and provocative move. Their purpose is also to take votes from the larger parties and help to create a fragmented parliament in which no party has a governing majority—and which the army can more easily control.
Admitting extremist Islamists into the electoral process—groups that have not reconciled with the state and do not subscribe to the constitution or to democracy itself—will pave the way for an even more deadly cycle of violence. If a small fringe group can force the resignation of the justice minister for not being religious enough, the future looks grim. A genuine opposition that could be a counterweight to these machinations—a strong middle class, modern democratic political parties, a vibrant civil society, robust human rights groups, and free media—barely exists. What little there is has been cowed.
Pakistan could have so much going for it—if it dedicated itself to bringing peace to the region and denied militant groups a base. The choices it makes today will determine the future of the region.
December 12, 2017

#Pakistan #PPP - Bilawal warns of consequences if 18th Amendment is ‘touched’

* PPP chief says PTI wants to split country by bringing back ‘One Unit’ system
* Tax amnesty scheme a slap in the face of taxpayers: Bilawal
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Friday warned the government of consequences if the 18th Amendment is ‘touched’ or efforts are made to bring One Unit system in the country, a private TV channel reported.
Addressing the participants of a rally in Ghotki, Bilawal accused the government of intending to amend a consensus constitution given by late former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “They want to do away with the 18th Amendment slowly and gradually, and want to usurp the rights of Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he alleged. “They want to bring One Unit system. Do they want to split the country?” he added.
The PPP chairman said because of One Unit system, the country was split in the past as well. “We have rendered sacrifices of our lives and we will not let the constitution to be harmed,” he asserted.
Bilawal said they know that stronger provinces result in a strong federation, adding, “But this ‘benami’ prime minister wants to deprive you of your rights. They say the federation is going to be bankrupted. Listen you puppet! The federation is pushed towards bankruptcy due to your economic policies.” The PPP chairman warned that if efforts are made to roll back the 18th Amendment, then there was going to be ‘Dama Dam Mast Qalandar’ in the country.
Bilawal criticised the prime minister for not having reached Quetta despite a tragic loss of lives there in a suicide blast earlier in the day. “Today, people have been longing for food. Load shedding and inflation have made life difficult for the masses,” he lamented. “This is a bunch of incompetent individuals, who have been unable to govern the country,” he added.
The PPP chief reminded the participants of the prime minister’s claims in which Imran Khan had vowed not to take loans, maintaining that doing so impawned the security of the country. “[He] had said he would commit suicide but won’t take loan nor would go to the IMF,” the PPP chairman recounted, and lamented that the dollar, which was once traded at Rs 100, is now being exchanged for Rs 142. “The puppet had claimed to provide 10 million jobs, but today the youngsters are complaining about unemployment,” he said. “They deprived the people of shelters in the name of anti-encroachment drive, let alone providing the masses with houses they had promised.”
The PPP chairman also criticised the new tax amnesty scheme announced by the government describing it as a ‘slap in the face of taxpayers’. “Whose black money you want to turn white through this amnesty scheme? Is it of Jahangir Tareen’s, yours or Aleema Baji’s?” he asked. “Imran Khan, do you want to whiten the black money of your properties converted into offshore firm? Do you want to whiten the black money of the properties built by earning through Aleema Baji’s sewing machines?” he questioned.

Sindh Govt moving forward to the ‘vision’ of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto: Bilawal

Speaking to an inaugural ceremony of Engro Powergen Thar Limited (EPTL) 660 MW Power plant in Thar Block-II, on Wednesday, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed pleasure that following the PPP policies, Sindh Govt moving forward to the vision of Shaheed ZB and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto by inaugurating the 660 megawatts (MW) power plant in Thar.
Adding he said that Shaheed Benazir Bhutto had dreamed it in 1994 and now Sindh Govt offered the real interpretation of the dream in 2019, by inaugurating the 660 megawatts (MW) Power plant in Thar adding that “Thar ne Badla Pakistan”.
Chairman PPP said that 10th April was remain glorious to Pakistan People Party mentioning that Shaheed ZB had given us legal constitution of 1973 in same date of month of April.He said that PPP provincial Govt was delivering nice, the power plant of Thar was the evidence which was adding 660 MW to National gird adding that it was his mother who had first introduced the concept of public-private partnership in her 1993 manifesto. “I am happy that the fruit of your blood sweat and tears was being added to the national grid,” he said while also announcing that the Sindh government will provide free electricity to the residents of Islamkot and the general Thar area once the project starts running.
He said that according to report of “Economist Publication of Britain” that Sindh was on the number of six on its list for best development under scheme of Private Public Partnership (PPP) in South Asia subcontinent.
PPP Chairman said that he was happy that 70pc local people of Thar were provided the employment through the project adding that all basic facilities would also be provided by Sindh Govt to the people of Thar.
Adding, he expressed that royalty of this mega project would be given to Thar foundation, (an NGO) for the welfare and development of the local residents of Thar Desert.He termed a project “Engro Powergen Thar Limited (EPTL) 660 MW Power plant in Thar Block-II” as successful project of Sindh Govt under Private Public Partnership in Pakistan.Bilawal also pledged the establishment of a campus of NED University of Engineering and Technology in Thar. “The engineering disciplines that will be taught in the university will benefit the dwellers of Thar greatly,” he said adding that Sindh Govt would also start is working on “Multi-Disciplinary University” in Thar.“I visited the housing society that has been created to rehabilitate the people who were affected by the coal power project. I have to say, there have been many projects created all over the country but I have not seen the people affected by those projects rehabilitated in such a manner” he added.
He said that as we have no provincial mechanism to distribute the power at local level, hence Sindh Govt was adding this generated power to national gird at Faisal Abad which according to him was injustice with people of Thar. He also announced to provide electricity free of cost to the people of Thar amid to pay compensation of their resource.
Bilawal earlier announced on Twitter that he had inaugurated the power plant, describing it as the “highest man-made structure in Pakistan”.
On the occasion, Sayed Murad Ali Shah, Chief Minister Sindh, Sayed Qaim Ali Shah, former Chief Minister Sindh, Imtiaz Shaikh, provincial Minister, Sindh, Khurshid Anwar Jamali, Chairman, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company, Samand Daud and others also addressed the participants of the inaugural ceremony.
The power plant has the capacity to generate 660 megawatts (MW) of electricity. It consists of two power generation units of 330MW each. The project was completed under a public-private partnership in 10 years’ time. It is part of a portfolio of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.
The Sindh government has provided a sovereign guarantee of $700 million for the project.
Earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had welcomed Bilawal at the Thar Coal Field Block-II, after which the two had inspected newly-built houses for people who were affected by the coal power plant.