Saturday, April 20, 2019

Runaway Saudi Sisters Plead for Help on Social Media

Two Saudi sisters appealed for help Wednesday from the former Soviet republic of Georgia after fleeing their country, in the latest case of runaways from the ultra-conservative kingdom using social media to seek asylum.
Using a newly created Twitter account called “GeorgiaSisters,” they identified themselves as Maha al-Subaie, 28, and Wafa al-Subaie, 25. Like other Saudi women who have fled and turned to social media, they posted copies of their passports to establish their identities.The sisters claim they are in danger and will be killed if they are forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia. They said their father and brothers have arrived in Georgia looking for them. Wafa said they fled “oppression from our family” without elaborating.
Saudis can enter Georgia visa-free, making the country a transit point for numerous other Saudi women who have fled in recent years.
Guardianship laws
Saudi women who run away are almost always fleeing abusive male relatives and claim there are few good choices for them to report the abuse in Saudi Arabia. Saudi women caught running away in the kingdom can be forced into restrictive shelters, pressured to reconcile with their abusers or detained on charges of disobedience.
Regardless of their age, women in Saudi Arabia must have the consent of a male relative to obtain a passport, travel or marry under so-called male guardianship laws.
The sisters’ first post to the Twitter account was Tuesday evening. It read: “We are two Saudi sisters who fled from Saudi Arabia seeking asylum. Yet, the family and the Saudi government have suspended our passports and now we are trapped in Georgia country. We need your help please.”
Remember us
In another post, the sisters appear with their faces showing and their hair uncovered — a taboo for conservative families in Saudi Arabia. The post says they are showing their faces in order for the world to “remember us” in case something happens to them.In a later video posted on Twitter, Maha said: “We want your protection. We want a country that welcomes us and protects our rights.”
Her sister posted another video calling for help from the U.N. refugee agency.
“We fled oppression from our family because the laws in Saudi Arabia (are) too weak to protect us. We are seeking the UNHCR protection in order to be taken to a safe country,” Wafa said.The sisters did not give further details on why they have fled. The Associated Press could not immediately reach the sisters in Georgia. A Saudi activist who goes by the name Ms Saffaa told the AP that she and other activists have had direct contact with the sisters in Georgia.
Other, similar cases
Their cases mirror that of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who in January drew worldwide attention when she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Bangkok after fleeing her Saudi family during a trip to Kuwait. Her social media pleas on Twitter prompted quick action by the UNHCR and she was granted asylum in Canada.
There had been speculation that al-Qunun’s successful getaway would inspire others to copy her, but powerful deterrents remain in place. If caught, runaways face possible death at the hands of relatives for purportedly shaming the family.
The issue of male guardianship is extremely sensitive in the kingdom, where conservative, tribal families view what they consider to be the protection of women as a man’s duty.

Western hypocrisy on Khashoggi is shameful

Saudi Arabia has gone out of its way to bring to book those involved in the grisly murder.

One day last October a brutal murder took place within the premises of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. It was a murder so grotesque that its aftermath reverberated with revulsion around the globe. Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who had entered the consulate on some business pertaining to the impending marriage to his Turkish fiancee was never to leave the premises alive.
Rogue elements within the Saudi government had intercepted Khashoggi while inside, and though the details are still being investigated, the journalist was subjected to interrogation and treatment that led to his unlawful death. Within minutes of the event, the previously obscure Khashoggi became known to the entire world as details of his encounter began to filter out.
The wave of charges and criticism against Saudi Arabia also began in an unprecedented manner. Governments from the US, Canada and the capitals of Europe were howling for blood, Saudi blood!
And while the Saudi leadership stated at the time that all those involved in this unacceptable act would be brought to justice, it was met with scepticism and there were few takers from the western world.
The crescendo of voices had forced many international businesses to re-evaluate their relationship with the kingdom, with some of them downsizing their investments, while others pulling out altogether.
Saudi has been continually under a malicious attack that has shown no signs of abating. Calls for the murder to be investigated by the UN and the International Criminal Court (ICC) too appeared. The loudest shrills for swift justice were those being heard within the US government. One man, one murder, and the western world reacted.
Justice blocked
Now fast forward a few months past that sordid day. Last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the US would deny or revoke entry visas to any members of the International Criminal Court who may try to investigate any war crimes or prosecute the guilty for abuses committed by US personnel in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
His threats also included ICC members who may be doing the same for the criminal acts carried out by Israelis.
He justified his actions by stating, “We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation. These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent.”
He made good on his threat a few days later when the US revoked the visa of the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor because of her attempts to investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, including any that may have been committed by American forces.
And just last week, the US administration again included Israelis along with Americans as deserving immunity from International Criminal Court prosecution for war crimes.
Commenting on the ICC rejection of a request to investigate US personnel for actions in Afghanistan, the White House released a statement saying, “Since the creation of the ICC, the United States has consistently declined to join the court because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers; the threat it poses to American national sovereignty; and other deficiencies that render it illegitimate. Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response.”
Wait a minute. Something does not add up. One the one hand you are baying for the blood of Saudi Arabia for the death of one man, and on the other, you are callously shielding countries like Israel whose daily count of war crimes against innocent civilians goes largely unnoticed or unreported!
And even it does and a criminal Israeli is caught, he is soon released as was the case of Elor Azaria, the Israel Forces medic who cold bloodedly shot a Palestinian in the head when he was wounded and immobilised on the ground, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. A medic no less, trained to save lives, but in Israel trained to kill Palestinians. Three months’ detention was all that he had to put up with while the victim’s family will live the rest of their lives mourning their loss.
Such events are an everyday fact in Israel, and with the US throwing a blanket cover, they are bound to increase. 

Trump’s veto over Yemen is a scandalous abuse of presidential power

Simon Tisdall
The US could have distanced itself from a murderous war. Instead, Trump’s unholy alliance with the Saudis continues.

Expected or not, Donald Trump’s veto of a bipartisan Congressional resolution to end US military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s murderous war in Yemen is an outrage. It will prolong the unspeakable suffering of millions of Yemeni civilians, the blameless victims of Riyadh’s vicious proxy war with Iran and its Houthi allies.
Yet Trump’s uncaring arrogance also threatens the US itself. It is further proof that the constitution’s famous checks and balances are just not working, and that, post-Mueller, this unworthy president is raging dangerously out of control.
Trump ’s stated reasons for the veto ranged from specious to risible. He claimed to be protecting American citizens – even as he denied directly assisting the Saudis and said there were no US regular troops in Yemen. So which is it? The Americans Trump referred to, mostly resident in Gulf states that back the Saudi-led coalition, were at risk from Houthi “explosive boats”, he said. They may also face danger when transiting Riyadh airport. In reality, no US citizen is obliged to brave such shocking perils, and very few have.
Yet Yemen’s civilians have no choice.They need not leave their houses to be killed or maimed by Saudi air force bombers, assisted by US advisers. “Yemen is at breaking point, with 10 million people on the brink of famine. There are as many as 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis are more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure,” said David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee. Trump’s veto is a “green light”for further atrocities, he warned.

Trump also rejected the resolution as “an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities”. Yet on the contrary, his action amounts to flagrant defiance of the 1973 War Powers Act that checks a president’s ability to engage in armed conflict without express consent of Congress. Although interpretations differ, this is not a partisan point. I,t is a matter of constitutional law. And it’s a precedent. This was the first time in history that a War Powers resolution had passed from House and Senate to the president’s desk.
Far from protecting presidential rights and prerogatives, Trump is abusing them. He tried it on again earlier this year, when he declared a fatuous, anti-migrant “national emergency” at the Mexican border – and Congress could not stop him. This week, Trump had a chance to do the right thing, said Ro Khanna, the California Democrat who sponsored the original Yemen resolution. Instead, he had “failed to uphold the principles of the constitution”.
Why is the US Congress, which counts itself an exemplary global democratic paragon, apparently so impotent in the face of such abuses? There are echoes of Westminster here. What do these many hundreds of elected politicians, regardless of party affiliation, think they are doing to earn their pay? How did the US arrive at a situation in which an ignorant, irresponsible, arguably corrupt chief executive exercises such arbitrary power? Trump rides roughshod over the people’s tribunes. And they, with valiant exceptions, let him. King George was a pushover by comparison.
Congress should now move heaven and earth, in the name of Yemen’s starving children and the majority of Americans who oppose the Saudis’ war, to override Trump’s veto. The firm expectation that it will fail to do so reflects a broader failure to properly police the corrosive Trump-Saudi relationship. The oleaginous friendship between Trump and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, encompasses far more than an irrational desire for continued carnage in Yemen.It started in 2016-17, when Saudi and other Middle East nationals were first suspected of funnelling illegal donations to Trump’s campaign and inaugural committee. A Trump-owned hotel in Washington profited from Saudi business. The relationship flourished as greenhorn Trump bought into the Saudi-Israeli narrative that Iran, not Russia, was the number one international threat. Riyadh, not coincidentally, hosted Trump’s first trip abroad as president.
Trump and the Saudis have since found common cause not just over Iran, and by association Yemen and Syria, but also over Palestine. The long-delayed, much-hyped “peace plan” by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly pivots on the injection of massive financial investments by the Saudis and other wealthy Arab states. The cash would be used to “buy” Palestinian acquiescence in the permanent loss of large parts of the West Bank and their dream of a viable, fully independent separate state.
Trump’s Saudi-Israeli axis also extends to apparently quid pro quo talks to furnish Riyadh with technological capabilities that could, in theory, enable it to produce nuclear weapons – supposedly to counter Iran. In February an interim report by Democrats on the House oversight committee revealed that Trump relatives, senior officials and business cronies had secretively pursued a potentially multibillion-dollar deal – without reference, at that point, to Congress or the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Trump’s self-serving obeisance to like-minded Saudi autocrats led him to become apologist-in-chief for the brutal murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. It has emboldened him to ignore other egregious human rights abuses, such as the torture of Saudi women’s rights campaigners currently held in jail.
All this is rendered ever more alarming by Trump’s now systemic, vandalistic contempt for international law. Last week his administration revoked the US visa of the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court, who had been inquiring into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan. More significantly, his recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights – a blatant pre-election gift to his fellow “strongman” Benjamin Netanyahu – blew apart international legal norms embodied in UN resolutions.
It’s all of a piece – and Trump’s grubby Yemen veto is but the latest proof. Let’s face it. This worst-ever American president, led by the nose by the Saudis, bedevilled by greed and hubris, is a threat to the world and his own country. He has gone rogue. So when will Americans bring him to heel?

Commentary: China proves socialism best way to eradicate poverty

In the countdown to China’s deadline to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020, the socialist system is playing a crucial role.
"Socialism means development. Development must serve the common prosperity for everyone," President Xi Jinping called for greater efforts to win the battle against poverty on time during a recent inspection tour to southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.
China’s socialist system has made it possible to pool resources for its aims and stick to its targets from start to finish, especially when it comes to tasks concerning people’s livelihoods.
Thanks to consistent hard work, more than 700 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty in the past four decades, with poverty rate in rural areas lowered from 97.5 percent in 1978 to 1.7 percent in 2018.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2017 pledged to eliminate poverty in all poor counties and regions by 2020, waging a final war on poverty to realize its goal.
Under the leadership of the CPC, poverty alleviation has become a strategic task for the country. Governments at every level have taken steps to ensure the task is completed on time.Party members have been dispatched to impoverished villages across the country to assist poverty reduction work, including government officials, ex-servicemen and college graduates, all working to fully implement the central government policy.
China has made it crucial to adopt customized measures based on local conditions to ensure resources are used in the right place at the right time.
With only two years until the deadline, the country is at a critical juncture in finishing off the final, and most difficult tasks, in its poverty reduction campaign. The socialist system will continue to show its strength in the final battle.

From China - Academic block on China is a sleeping pill, not a US remedy

At a US congressional hearing, Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said that foreign teachers and researchers at US universities would lose their jobs if suspected of accepting foreign government funding. Media reports indicated the word "foreign" was mainly about China. It was also announced that Chinese graduate students and PhD candidates in science-related fields, such as robotics and aviation, would be hit with new restrictions when applying for five-year F1 visas. Afterward, Western media voiced concerns that resistance to US-China academic exchanges was spreading into broader territory. 

Over the past year, some 200 Chinese social science professors, academy heads, and researchers have had their US visas revoked or have been denied entrance into the country. The NIH actions have further exacerbated tension among US-China relations. It seems "decoupling" from China is not a groundless rumor, as evidenced by the actions of US higher-learning institutions. Unfortunately, ongoing difficulties with academic and scientific research exchange between the two countries will not diminish. 

Despite the progress achieved in trade negotiations, the idea of an improved trade relationship has obviously not had an influence on the White House administration's careless actions aimed at curbing China's high-tech development. US research institutions and universities will remain on course to "clean up" their "Chinese elements."

This is what panic looks like when the world's only superpower is faced with real competition. The US has lost confidence in maintaining its high-tech leadership position along the track of globalization. In the act of childish naivete, they "slammed the glass door" to safeguard progress. The US felt threatened by the idea of Chinese and American scientists working together, and also thought Chinese students could "steal" core technology by attending university lectures.

Who are the architects of this "closed-door" mentality that has come to characterize the current White House administration? They represent a throwback to the 19th century, a period when science and technology were considered magic tricks and purposely covered with a black sheet, so audience members could remain ignorant.  

China's science and technology development lags behind the US. The gap is not nearly as wide as it was during the Boxer Indemnity period in the early1900s, which the US used as an opportunity to build universities and hospitals in China. However, today, the gap has narrowed enough for fair competition.

China's scientific and technological progress has been the result of domestic market demand. The country's research investments lead the world, and their tech-consumption has made them the world's largest market. This achievement is also the result of the diligence and intelligence of Chinese consumers and the institutional advantages of China. 

The US cannot control these factors. Why would they think that China's scientific and technological advancements would be hindered if the US prohibited or restricted the Chinese from participating in lectures and seminars, or from enrolling in university degree programs? 

It has to be said that this policy making team is one-sided. Their initiatives function as sleep remedies that help them rest through the night after an overly anxious day of implementing self-serving initiatives.

Some Americans have the wrong idea. Since China's reform and opening-up, Chinese students have studied in the US. Is China the only country that has benefited from this? Many graduates from China's top universities have stayed in the US after graduation. Is the US aware of the distress this has caused Chinese society? If the majority of China's top graduates had to stay in China, would anyone believe that it would be harmful to the country? 

Obstructing the academic exchange between the two countries will further isolate the US, a result due to their actions. The US is choosing to ignore unlimited opportunities to expand scientific exchange with China. It is inevitable the Chinese market will achieve worldwide cooperation, including all things within the high-tech sector. And what the White House administration isn't aware of is that the US is not powerful enough to stop the spread of globalization.

The US is behaving unreasonably. From China's perspective, counter-measures against the US will be made. However, it isn't necessary to overestimate the strategic significance of the US, and characterize their detachment as a manifestation of a "New Cold War." 

Simply put, the US is acting petty and wants to keep everything inside their pockets while simultaneously taking advantage of cheap trade with China. The US, on the whole, has grown into a profit-seeking figure, well-versed in playground trickery, that tries to avoid the risks that a real "New Cold War" has to offer.

The Trump administration's China policy violates the fundamental principles of globalization and will not likely continue much longer. By remaining rational and calm, China can tolerate the nonsensical actions of the US. The sky will not fall, and China's only obligation will be to mind its own business.  

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فاټا ګرینډ الاینس وايي حکومت له دوي سره یوه وعده هم نده پوره کړې

د فاټا ګرینډ الاینس په نامه سیاسي اتحاد د اپرېل پر ۲۰مه د خیبر قبایلي ضلعې په جمرود کې داسې ولسي غونډه کړې چې د ټولو قبایلي ضلعو مشرانو پکې ګډون کړی وو.
په دې غونډه کې د قبایلي سیمو په خیبر پښتونخوا تر ګډېدو وروسته رامنځ ته شوي صورتحال خبرې او بحث شوی دی.
د خیبر ملک اسرار کوکي خیل مشال راډيو ته وویل ، “ موږ د اصلاحاتو دغه عمل نه منو چې فاټا یې په خیبر پښتونخوا ورګډه کړه خو حکومت په خپلو وعدو کې یوه هم نه ده پوره کړې.”
ده وویل ، “ سکولونه مو وران دي ، مدرسې ویجاړې شوې ، سړکونه او کورونه ویجاړ شوي ، بازارونه وران دي ، په سی پیک کې برخه رانه کړې شوه او د این ایف سي اویوارډ نه هم ټولو صوبو انکار کړی دی.”
د وزیرستان ملک خان مرجان وویل چې “ اوس حکومت غواړي د قبایلو په وسایلو او معدنیاتو باندې د هغوي د پوښتنې نه بغیر قبضه وکړي ، ایف سي آر ختم دی او خو د پاکستان د نورو بندوبستي سیمو قوانین هم لا نه دي عملي شوي”.
ملک خان مرجان زیاته کړه چې “ موږ سره دې حکومت کښېني موږ پر دې نوي نظام شک لرو دا د قبایلو په ګټه نه دی”.
په دې غونډه کې شریک د مومندو یو مشر ملک نادر منان وویل چې “ دا نوی نظام هلته لانجمن شوی او د ګټې پر ځای تاوان طرف ته روان دی ، دا پریکړه دې بیرته واخیستل شي او قبایلي سیمو له دې د ځان له صوبې حیثیت ورکړل شي”.
د واکمن ګوند تحریک انصاف د قبایلي ضلعو یو مشر او له خیبره د قامي اسمبلۍ غړي اقبال اپریدي وویل ،“ فاټا چې په خیبر پښتونخوا کې ورګډه شوه نو دې سره به قبایلو ته ګټې ورسي ، د قبایلو د ۷۰ کالو محرومۍ به ورسره ختمې شي.”
اقبال اپرېدي زیاته کړه چې وزیر اعظم عمران خان چې کوم اعلانونه کړي او قبایلو سره یې کومې وعدې کړې دي هغه به عملي کیږي.
نوموړي زیاته کړه چې “ د این ایف سي ایوارډ برخه به ضرورو قبایلو ته ورکول کېږي او ۱۰ کلن پرمختیایی پلان باندې به هم عمل کیږي او وزیراعظم د ۵۶ اربه روپیو یوه ځانګړې منصوبه هم قبایلي ضلعو لپاره اعلان کړېده”.
پخوانۍ قبایلي سیمې د ۲۰۱۸م کال په مې میاشت کې د پاکستان په اساسي قانون کې د بدلون له مخې په خیبر پښتونخوا کې شاملې کړل شوې وې.

وزیراعظم عمران خان ٹیکنوکریٹس کے نرغے میں

پاکستان تحریک انصاف کی حکومت سال 2018 کے عام انتخابات کے بعد عمران خان کی قیادت میں برسراقتدار آئی تو اس کا دعویٰ تھا کہ یہ ایک محدود کابینہ کے ساتھ موثر طرز حکمرانی متعارف کروا کے عوام کو معاشی آسودگی اور بہتر معیار زندگی فراہم کرے گی۔
مگر ابھی حکومت کو پہلا سال بھی مکمل نہیں ہوا کہ بڑھتی ہوئی مہنگائی کے باعث حکومت کی کارکردگی تنقید کے کٹہرے میں آنے لگی۔ منتخب حکومتیں ایسی تنقید زیادہ دیر برداشت نہیں کرتیں۔ اس بار بھی ایسا ہی ہوا۔
وفاقی کابینہ میں اکھاڑ پچھاڑ اچانک نہیں تھی۔ کھچڑی تو کئی دن سے پک رہی تھی مگر کہانی ایک خبری ’لیک‘ کی صورت میں 15 اپریل کو مختلف ٹیلی ویژن چینلز پرمنظر عام پر آئی اور بتایا گیا کہ وفاقی کابینہ میں وزیر خزانہ اسد عمر سمیت اہم تبدیلیاں لائی جائیں گی۔ مگر شام کو حکومتی ترجمانوں نے تبدیلی کی اس خبر کی تردیدیں جاری کر دیں اور پیمرا نے متعلقہ ٹی وی چینلز کے خلاف یہ غلط خبریں نشر کرنے کا نوٹس بھی لے لیا۔
دو روز تک خاموشی رہی مگر تیسرے روز تبدیلی کی پہلی خبر اسد عمر نے پارلیمان ہاؤس میں صحافیوں سے شیئر کی۔ وہ قومی اسمبلی کی توانائی کمیٹی اجلاس کی صدارت کرنے وزیراعظم سیکریٹریٹ سے وہاں پہنچے تھے۔ صحافیوں کو دیکھتے ہی بول اٹھے کہ وزیراعظم نے انھیں وزارت پیڑولیم کی پیشکش کی ہے مگر انھوں نے انکار کر دیا ہے۔
تھوڑی دیر میں وزیراعظم سیکریٹریٹ سے صحافیوں کو فون پر اطلاعات موصول ہونا شروع ہو گئیں کہ کابینہ میں تبدیلی صرف اسد عمر تک محدود نہیں ہے۔ دراصل حکومت اسد عمر کی جانب سے غیر متوقع طور پر پیٹرولیم کی وزارت قبول نہ کرنے کے ردعمل سے پیدا ہونے والے تاثر کو زائل کرنے کی کوشش میں تھی۔ حیران کن طور پر وزرا کے قلمدانوں کی تبدیلی اورتین نئے خصوصی معاونین بھی تعینات کیے گئے۔
ان تبدیلیوں میں اہم ترین اسد عمر کی جگہ وزارت خزانہ میں عبدالحفیظ شیخ کو لانا، وزیر پارلیمانی امور بریگیڈئیر ریٹائرڈ اعجاز شاہ کو وزارت داخلہ کا قلمدان دینا، فواد چوہدری کو وزارت اطلاعات سے سائنس و ٹیکنالوجی کا قلمدان دینا اور غلام سرور خان کو وزارت پیڑولیم سے ایوی ایشن کی وزارت میں تعینات کرنا شامل تھا مگر کابینہ میں ان اندرونی تبدیلیوں کے ساتھ ساتھ تین غیر منتخب شخصیات فردوس عاشق اعوان، ڈاکٹر ندیم بابر اور ڈاکٹر ظفر اللہ مرزا کو معاون خصوصی برائے وزیراعظم بھی تعینات کیا گیا۔
وزیراعظم عمران خان کا بنیادی نعرہ تبدیلی تھا۔ اس نعرے کے ساتھ حکومت کے وجود میں آنے سے اب تک آٹھ ماہ کے اندر تحریک انصاف کی حکومت کو مرکز میں دو وزرا یعنی اعظم خان سواتی اور بابر اعوان سے ہاتھ دھونا پڑا۔
اعظم سواتی کو اسلام آباد میں زمین کے قبضے اور اپنے پڑوس میں ایک غریب خاندان کو جیل بھیجنے کے سکینڈل میں ملوث ہونے کے باعث وزارت چھوڑنی پڑی تو بابر اعوان کو نیب میں نندی پور ریفرنس میں ملزم نامزد ہونے کے باعث وزیراعظم کے معاون خصوصی کا عہدہ چھوڑنا پڑا۔
اسی طرح پنجاب میں صوبائی وزیر علیم خان بھی نیب کیس میں گرفتاری کے باعث وزارت سے فارغ ہوئے جبکہ فیاض الحسن چوہان اپنے متنازع بیانات کے باعث گھر بھیجے گئے۔ یعنی آٹھ ماہ کے دورانیے میں پاکستان تحریک انصاف کو تبدیلی کے فریم میں فکس نہ ہونے والے اپنے چار وزرا سے ہاتھ دھونا پڑا۔
18 اپریل کو اسد عمر تحریک انصاف کے پانچویں وزیر تھے جنھیں بظاہر معاشی مسائل حل نہ کرنے کے باعث گھر جانا پڑا۔ وزیراعظم عمران خان انھیں وزیر کے عہدے پر بہرحال برقرار رکھنا چاہتے تھے مگر اسد عمر نے وزارت سے بھی استعفیٰ دے دیا۔
حالیہ سالوں میں اسد عمر، نوید قمر کے بعد قومی اسمبلی میں براہ راست منتخب ہو کر وزیر خزانہ بننے والے دوسرے شخص تھے۔ نوید قمر کو پیپلزپارٹی کے آخری دور میں وزیر خزانہ تعینات کیا گیا تھا مگر پانچ ماہ بعد انھیں بھی وزارت خزانہ سے ہٹا کر وزارت پیڑولیم میں لگا دیا گیا تھا۔ اسد عمر نوید قمر سے محض تین ماہ زیادہ وزارت خزانہ کے قلمدان کے حامل رہے۔
اسد عمر کے بعد عبدالحفیظ شیخ کو بطور مشیر خزانہ وفاقی وزیر کا عہدہ دیا جا رہا ہے۔ امریکہ کی بوسٹن یونیورسٹی سے تعلیم یافتہ عبدالحفیظ شیخ ایک ٹیکنو کریٹ ہیں جو بالترتیب سابق فوجی صدر پرویز مشرف اور پھر پیپلز پارٹی کے ادوار میں سرمایہ کاری کے وزیر رہ چکے ہیں۔
تادم تحریر عبدالحفیظ شیخ کی تعیناتی کا نوٹیفیکیشن تو جاری نہیں ہوا تاہم وزیراعظم کے خصوصی معاونین کے طور پر ڈاکٹر فردوس عاشق اعوان، ڈاکٹر ندیم بابر اور ڈاکٹر ظفراللہ مرزا کے نوٹیفیکیشن جاری کردیے گئے ہیں۔
فردوس عاشق اعوان کو وزارت اطلاعات کے لیے مشیر مقرر کیا گیا ہے۔ وہ گذشتہ عام انتخابات میں سیالکوٹ سے ہار گئی تھیں۔ ڈاکٹر ندیم بابر اورینٹ پاور نامی کمپنی کے سابق سربراہ ہیں جنھیں پی ٹی آئی حکومت نے اکتوبر نے توانائی کے بارے میں ٹاسک فورس کا سربراہ تعینات کیا تھا۔ اب انھیں توانائی کے شعبے کا معاون خصوصی تعینات کیا گیا ہے۔
صحت کے شعبہ میں تعینات کیے گئے وزیراعظم کے معاون خصوصی ڈاکٹر ظفر اللہ مرزا کو پارٹی میں البتہ کم لوگ ہی جانتے ہیں۔ ان کے بارے میں بتایا جاتا ہے کہ وہ عرصہ دراز بیرون ملک صحت کے شعبہ میں خدمات سرانجام دیتے رہے ہیں۔
حیران کن بات تو یہ ہے کہ حکومت کے غیر منتخب معاونین کی فہرست میں سب سے زیادہ معاونین میڈیا سے متعلق ہیں۔ فردوس عاشق اعوان اس فہرست میں ابھی شامل ہوئی ہیں لیکن افتخار درانی اور یوسف بیگ مرزا پہلے ہی میڈیا کے امور دیکھ رہے ہیں اس سے ظاہر ہوتا ہے کہ حکومت کو میڈیا کے زریعے اپنا تاثر بہتر بنانا معیشت اور دیگر چیلنجز سے بڑا چیلنج لگتا ہے۔
اگر اسد عمر کو کابینہ سے نکال دیا جائے تو کابینہ میں وفاقی وزیروں کی کل تعداد 24 رہ جاتی ہے، پانچ وزرا مملکت، چار مشیران اور 13 خصوصی معاونین۔ یعنی کابینہ کے کل ارکان کی تعداد 46 ہو چکی ہے۔
اس سارے عمل میں اگر غیر منتخب افراد کی گنتی کی جائِے تو پتہ چلتا ہے ہے کہ 46 رکنی کابینہ میں وفاقی وزیر کے برابر عہدے کے حامل غیر منتخب مشیران اور معاونین خصوصی یعنی ٹیکنو کریٹس کی تعداد 17 ہوچکی ہے۔ یہ تمام افراد اہم ترین امور کو دیکھ رہے ہیں۔
پاکستان انسٹیٹوٹ آف لیجسلیٹو ڈویلپمنٹ کے سربراہ احمد بلال محبوب کے خیال میں کابینہ میں غیر منتخب معاونین تو محض پتے ہیں اصل مسئلہ تو جڑوں کا ہے جو بہت سنگین مسئلہ ہے۔
ان کا یہ بھی کہنا ہے کہ اگر غیر منتخب افراد آئین میں درج ہدایات کے مطابق ہیں تو اس سے فرق نہیں پڑتا۔
احمد بلال محبوب کی فکر انگیز باتیں اپنی جگہ مگر عملی طور پر وفاقی کابینہ کے اہم ترین امور یہ غیر منتخب لوگ ہی دیکھ رہے ہیں جن میں عبدالحفیظ شیخ ایک اہم اضافہ ہوں گے۔
اس سے قبل احتساب امور کی نگرانی برطانیہ سے تعلیم یافتہ لیکن غیر منتخب معاون خصوصی بیرسٹر شہزاد اکبر کر رہے ہیں جو ملک میں جاری احتسابی عمل کے نگران اعلیِ ہیں۔ وزیراعظم کے سیاسی امور کے معاون خصوصی نعیم الحق بھی ایک غیر منتخب شخصیت ہیں۔
ایسا واضع طور پر دکھائی دے رہا ہے کہ ہر گذرتے وقت کے ساتھ وزیراعظم عمران خان منتخب ارکان سے دور ہو کر غیر منتخب ٹیکنو کریٹس کے قریب ہوتے جا رہے ہیں۔
وزیر اعظم عمران خان کا یہ کہنا ہے کہ وہ بہتر کارکردگی نہ دکھانے پر تبدیلیاں لے کر آئے ہیں اور جو بھی بہتر کارکردگی نہیں دکھائے گا اور ملک کے لیے بہتر نہیں ہو گا وہ اسے بدل دیں گے لیکن سوال یہ ہے کہ مزید غیر منتخب افراد کو کابینہ میں شامل کر کے کیا وزیراعظم مطلوبہ نتائج حاصل کر لیں گے؟

Chinese men lure Pakistani girls with marriage to traffic them

Illegal matchmaking mafia arranges marriages between Chinese men and poor Pakistani girls.
The Pakistan government has warned people against a mafia involved in ‘fake’ marriages of Chinese men with Pakistani girls.
The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad has issued a statement urging caution against unlawful matchmaking centres involved in these marriages to earn profit.
According to reports, the Pakistan government has launched a crackdown on the illegal matchmaking centres. They lure poor Pakistani girls, especially Christian girls to marry Chinese men who are either visiting or working in Pakistan.
They produce fake documents of Chinese men showing them either as Christians or Muslims. They then find poor girls mainly from the Christian community to marry them by offering money and promises of ‘good life’. However, many girls reportedly became vicitms of human trafficking and forced into prostitution.
Talking to Gulf News, a Dubai-based Pakistani Christian community leader Rev Johan Qadir condemned the practice and said various churches in Pakistan have already launched awareness campaign amongst the Christian community warning them against illegal marriages.
“The government should launch a crackdown and save lives of the poor girls who are easily lured with promises of a comfortable life but actually they are trapped and trafficked to China,” he said.
He said the illegal matchmakers make fake certificates or affidavits for Chinese men showing them as Christian and bachelors and trap poor girls to marry them. “We request Prime Minister Imran Khan to take serious notice of this exploitation of the poor girls as many of them are forced into prostitution after their weddings.

The scam exposed

A report revealed that middlemen trapped Pakistani girls by promising them Rs40,000 (Dh1050) monthly besides mobile phones and Chinese visas. A TV channel also aired images of several Chinese men with Pakistani women, including two teenage girls, at an illegal matchmaking center in Lahore.
Thousands of Chinese are now living in Pakistan since the launch of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CEPEC) project in 2015. Many of them have even bought houses and cars in the country.
Some Chinese men have ulterior motives behind marrying Pakistani girls as they take them to China after marriage and force them into prostitution and even sell their organs.
The local facilitators told the TV channel they would lure families into an agreement by saying their would-be Chinese son-in-law was seeking Pakistani citizenship so he could invest in the country as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

Banners for weddings

Roadside banners and posters can also been seen in Youhanabad—the largest Christian locality – in Lahore, inviting families to marry their girls with Chinese.
The banners read: “Long live Pak-China friendship! Attention honorable Christians. Proposals of deserving, poor and good families are urgently required for China. Chinese family will bear all expenses. Education is not a problem.”

Chinese Embassy response

However, Chinese Embassy in Islamabad refutes reports of human trafficking of Pakistani girls and the sale of organs. But the statement did warn against illegal marriages.
The Chinese Embassy statement reads: Both China and Pakistan adopt rule of law and firmly oppose human trafficking and sales of human organs.
The above-mentioned reports about sales of organs are misleading and groundless. We notice that recently some unlawful matchmaking centers made illegal profits from brokering cross-national marriages. Both Chinese and Pakistani youths are victims of these illegal agents.
Chinese laws and regulations strictly prohibit cross-national matchmaking centers. No individual is allowed to engage in any form of such activity by deception or for profit. The Chinese government also strictly prohibits any organisation or individual from buying or selling human organs in any form, or engaging in such activities. For those who constitute a crime, criminal responsibility shall be investigated in accordance with the law.
China is cooperating with Pakistani law enforcement agencies to crack down on illegal matchmaking centers.
We remind both Chinese and Pakistani citizens to remain vigilant and not to be cheated. We also welcome valuable clues to combat such offenses. At the same time, it is hoped that reports should be based on the facts. We hope that the public do not believe in misleading information and work together to safeguard China-Pakistan friendship.”

Pakistan action

While briefing Pakistani lawmakers at one of the recent meetings, senior government officials reportedly said Islamabad was in close contact with Beijing about fake marriages and action was being taken to counter the practice.
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said: “Some private marriage bureaus were involved in these marriages and most of the complaints were being received from Lahore and Abbottabad.

Why Pashtuns in Pakistan are rising up

Miran Shah, the administrative headquarter of my constituency in Pakistan’s western North Waziristan tribal district, once served as the global headquarters of terrorism. Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network and other militant organizations moved there after being routed out by the U.S. military from neighboring Afghanistan in late 2001.
As Pakistan turned a blind eye to their revival, we paid a high price for Islamabad’s misguided policies. First, we endured a decade of rule by the Taliban and al-Qaeda. After the military finally moved into North Waziristan in 2014, about 1 million of North Waziristan’s residents were displaced, and our homes and livelihoods were ruined.
Now that we are trying to rebuild our lives after about three years of displacement, the Taliban are being allowed to return. In a secret deal with the military, some of them are expected to carry weapons. We have already seen a sharp spike in targeted assassinations.
But the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (also known as the Movement for the Protection of Pashtuns, or PTM) is determined to expose this and prevent our people from living under the Taliban’s tyranny again. On Sunday, tens of thousands of the movement’s supporters held a mass protest in Miran Shah to prevent North Waziristan from reverting to dark times.The residents of North Waziristan, whom I have represented in Parliament since July 2018, are perhaps the worst victims of the games that our military plays. But the more than 200 million Pakistani citizens stand helplessly by as our democracy, Parliament, judiciary and media outlets are manipulated by a powerful security establishment. Its policy of supporting militants and conducting proxy wars over the past four decades has resulted in death, destruction and economic disaster for Pakistan.
My skepticism gives way to optimism, though, when I see the energy and hope that drive my young comrades from the PTM. I am energized and reassured by their resolve to carry out a peaceful campaign to reclaim our dignity, security and rights.
The PTM has emerged as a reaction to the death and destruction unleashed upon the roughly 50 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan for years, and it has remained nonviolent despite facing violence from the state. The PTM is also having an impact across the border in Afghanistan, where fellow Pashtuns recently staged a peace march.
The Pashtuns’ sufferings can be traced back to the Soviet invasion and occupation of the 1980s, which devastated Afghanistan. The Pashtun homeland in Pakistan along the Afghan border became a staging ground for one of the largest asymmetrical conflicts of the 20th century. It radicalized two generations and generated an economy tied to terrorism and extremism.In the aftermath of 9/11, the Pashtun homeland in Pakistan also became into a war zone. Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s military regime and its successors failed to prevent Taliban militants from establishing de facto control in parts of what was known until recently as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).Within Pakistan, the costs of these failures were borne almost entirely by the Pashtuns. Since 2003, militant attacks and military operations have killed tens of thousands of Pashtuns and displaced many more. Nearly 2,000 Pashtun tribal leaders died for resisting the Taliban takeover of FATA.
The PTM is a reaction to these failures of the state. The movement’s core support comes from millennials who grew up witnessing a contrived war between militants and Pakistan’s military. Their maneuvers and covert alliances have brought only utter devastation to Pakistan’s roughly 35 million Pashtuns.
At the most basic level, the PTM is campaigning for the right to live. We demand an end to extrajudicial killings and accountability for the perpetrators. We demand an end to enforced disappearances and harassment by security forces. And we want landmines cleared off our civilian areas that have taken the lives and limbs of so many children and adults. It is telling that the state responds to even these simple demands with heartless arrogance.
Every time my bill on enforced disappearances comes up for discussion, Parliament has adjourned. State-backed militants, also known as “the good Taliban,” have killed PTM activists, while the government charges our peaceful comrades under laws meant for terrorists. Our gatherings are discouraged through crackdowns and the creation of official obstacles to obtaining permission for venues. Many of our activists have lost their jobs, while others have had to shut down their businesses. Others have been barred from traveling abroad. As if that were not enough, a brigade of online trolls regularly declares us traitors on social media while inciting violence against us. We also face a blackout from electronic and print media.
Despite all this, our people have awoken. The spring of a Pashtun awakening blossoms against all odds.
A senior Pakistani official recently tried to persuade me to give up our protests because it angers the generals. He argued that the military must be feared because they speak through weapons. I responded that my generation came of age amid bombs and bullets. We have seen our homes demolished and our elders killed. We have nothing more to lose. Our struggle will continue until we have the right to live, and until we win our right to live, threats to our lives are meaningless.

Pakistani establishment is waging a new war: against its own media

Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission says media firms facing attack for reports that are critical of security and intelligence agencies as well as militants.

Pakistan’s leading rights watchdog says it has documented the “unprecedented level” to which the freedom of expression and press freedom has shrunk in the country.
In its annual report documenting rights abuses in the predominantly Muslim country of 207 million people, the nongovernmental Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) revealed a startling decrease in individual and collective freedom of expression in 2018.
“Media coverage was severely inhibited amid a climate of intimidation and fear, most specifically in reporting on abuses by government security and intelligence agencies as well as militants,” the report noted.
According to the HRCP, Pakistani media companies were pressured by officials to avoid covering certain issues while journalists were intimidated into self-censorship as authorities punished violators of such bans by blocking television networks and the distribution of newspapers.
“Overt repression was attributed to national security concerns,” the report said. “In most cases, however, the incidences of interference and intimidation by state and non-state actors received no official acknowledgment and there was a complete absence of efforts to hold anyone accountable.”
The report documented an alarming trend of threats to freedom of expression. These include the naming of journalist Cyril Almeida in a treason case along with former Pakistani Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for interviewing them. Almeida faced an arrest warrant and a ban on traveling abroad, which were later revoked.
“The media were reportedly also pressured into firing certain employees who were deemed too critical of the Pakistani [security] establishment,” the report said. “Prime-time news [television] show hosts Talat Hussain, Murtaza Solangi, Matiullah Jan, and Nusrat Javed either quit or lost their jobs.”
HRCP says protests and movements demanding security, rights, or accountably of officials faced censorship of their coverage.
“The most commonly tabooed subjects cited were: missing persons, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), Baloch separatists, and rights activists,” the report said, citing a survey the HRCP conducted to gauge how officials control and influence the coverage of Pakistani news media.
The report says journalists in the country’s print and broadcast media routinely receive advice from Pakistani civilian and military bureaucrats responsible for public relations.
“In some cases, state or intelligence agencies approached channel or newspaper owners directly, threatening their channel/publication or parent business with NAB or FIA cases or suspension of advertisements unless they agreed to abide by certain conditions,” report said citing the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency by their acronyms.
But last year Asif Ghafoor, a spokesman for the military, rejected imposing curbs on the media.
“We have never told any journalist or media owner what to say and what not to,” he told journalists in June. “We have always told them that Pakistan needs to unite, and we need to bring forward its strengths and success. I thank the media for their willing cooperation.”
Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. According to the global media watchdog the Committee to Protect Journalists, 68 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992. Pakistani journalists face censorship, beatings, threats, disappearances, and illegal confinements.
In an ominous sign of the threats faced by journalists, the HRCP says that even the editor of its annual State of Human Rights in 2017 report faced an armed raid thinly disguised as a burglary.
“In the hour-long visitation, her phones, laptop, and hard drives were removed, and documents inspected,” the report said. “She was questioned on her personal and professional status, including her religion, caste, and who was paying her.”
HRCP says that while some jewelry and cash were taken, the police admitted it was no ordinary burglary and she was advised against filing a complaint.
“An investigation never materialized and formal letters written to the authorities went unacknowledged,” the report noted.