Saturday, July 13, 2019

Pashto Music - SARDAR ALI TAKKAR - چه په تورو سترګو تور رانجه شي پوری

Video Report - #Pakistan #Peshawar: Roti price hikes up to 15PKR

Is Bangladesh falling into a Chinese 'debt trap'?

Bangladesh and China have inked billions worth of infrastructure deals. Investment from China promises advantages, but many remain concerned that reliance on Chinese money will make Dhaka beholden to Beijing.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's official visit to China last week seemingly succeeded in bolstering ties between the countries. During the trip, both sides inked a host of agreements, including two deals to provide loans to the Bangladeshi power sector, worth $1.7 billion (€1.52 billion). 
The countries also expressed interest in accelerating the work related to the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM EC) project, an initiative aimed at expanding the economic ties of the four countries that together are home to nearly 3 billion people.
Bangladesh and China turned their relationship into a strategic partnership in 2016, and, in recent years, Chinese investment in the South Asian country has risen rapidly.
As part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing and Dhaka signed deals worth $21.5 billion covering a raft of power and infrastructure projects. To date, pledged BRI-related investment in Bangladesh stands at around $38 billion, estimates Standard Chartered, a British bank.
Chinese money
China has pumped more money into Bangladesh than any other country over the past couple of years. Bangladesh saw a record inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2018, with the country attracting some $3.6 billion of FDI, 68% higher than in the preceding year, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). China alone accounts for almost a third of this investment, worth over $1 billion.  
Bangladesh now increasingly relies on Chinese money to achieve its ambitious target of producing 24,000 megawatts of power by 2022, up from 17,000 megawatts now. The Padma Bridge, a major road-rail project across the Padma river, is being built by the China Major Bridge Engineering Company. And China's Exim Bank is providing $3 billion for the construction of the rail link accompanying the bridge.
"Chinese investment is a welcome addition for Bangladesh, because it creates a new source of funding," Ahsan S Mansur, executive director of Dhaka-based Policy Research Institute, told DW. "Traditional sources of funding are not adequate for emerging economies like Bangladesh."
Chinese money brings with it other advantages, Mansur said. "It creates a bit of competitive environment. It prompts countries like Japan and India to also come forward and invest."
Bangladesh has announced an ambitious plan to set up 100 special economic zones by 2030. Many Chinese companies appear interested in investing in these zones. Zhejiang Jindun Pressure Vessel Co Ltd., for instance, has offered to invest $5 billion in one such site near Chittagong.
A debt trap?
In South Asia, Bangladesh is the second-biggest receiver of Chinese investment, behind Pakistan. But not everyone seems optimistic about the development, with many warning that the growing reliance on Chinese money will make Dhaka beholden to Beijing.
Critics point to Sri Lanka's experience, where Colombo had to cede control of its southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease after it failed to repay its debts.
Mansur, however, said it would be more beneficial for Bangladesh to draw direct investment from China rather than debt financing.
"Chinese investment comes in both equity and debt. The infrastructure projects are mostly carried out through debt financing," Mansur said. "So I would rather be interested in equity, not debt."
It's too early to say that Bangladesh is falling into a debt trap, some experts argue. Bangladesh's total external debt at the end of 2018 stood at around $33.1 billion, and the share owed to China doesn't seem big, they say.
"The loans granted to Bangladesh by China so far account for just 6% of the total debt," Zahid Hussain, lead economist of the World Bank's Dhaka office, told DW. "There is not enough information as to the grounds on which the loans have been granted," Hussain said.
However, the analyst didn't want to call the Chinese investment a "debt trap."
"It presents both risks and opportunities. The information we have so far doesn't point us to a debt trap scenario."
Skeptics, however, remain worried about China's growing economic influence over Bangladesh.
Why is India concerned?
But trade and investment may not always have the last word when it comes to international relations. In 2016, Dhaka quietly killed a deep sea port project that China proposed to build at Sonadia, in southeastern Bangladesh. New Delhi expressed concern about the project, which if completed would have brought the Chinese presence closer to India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Nevertheless, China's increasing economic clout in South Asia presents a huge challenge for New Delhi, not for economic reasons, but for political and security reasons, said Siegfried O. Wolf, director of research at the South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF), a Brussels-based think tank.
"China has a port facility [Hambantota] in Sri Lanka, they have Gwadar [in Pakistan], they are building a port facility in Myanmar [Kyaukpyu] – this gives India the feeling of being surrounded by China. This is the military dimension of Indian concern," Wolf told DW.  
The expert also warned that by pumping investment, China gains political influence over the governments. "So there is a threat for India that China might influence the government of Bangladesh." This influence may also have an economic dimension, Wolf said. "We have seen China driving out other countries from the market. For instance, it has become very difficult for French and German companies to get contracts in African countries."

India to continue helping Afghanistan limit Taliban, Pakistan & China’s influence: Pentagon

The Pentagon said a significant deterioration of security conditions in Afghanistan may adversely affect the ability of India to provide aid to the war-torn country.

India is likely to continue supporting Afghanistan with its financial and other assistance despite the US’ troop withdrawal to limit the Taliban, Pakistani and Chinese influence, the Pentagon has told the Congress.
In its latest report to the Congress on Friday, the Pentagon said a significant deterioration of security conditions in Afghanistan, however, may adversely affect the ability of India to provide aid to the war-torn country.
With USD 3 billion in aid since 2001, India remains the largest regional donor to Afghanistan, the report said.
“In the event of a US drawdown in Afghanistan, India likely will attempt to continue its support to Afghanistan and try to limit Taliban, Pakistani, and Chinese influence,” the Pentagon said.
India desires a stable Afghanistan that does not harbour terrorists who could target Indian interests and does not have close ties with Pakistan, it said.
“There are no reports indicating that India has taken any serious action during the reporting period that would affect the situation in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon said.
It said that in the 1990s, India supported the former Northern Alliance and maintains contact with Afghan power brokers.
India has transferred a total of eight Mi-35 helicopters to the Afghan Air Force, four during 2015/2016 and four more during 2018.
“This aid marks a significant departure from India’s previous policy of providing only non-lethal military assistance,” the Pentagon told the Congress.
“Pakistani sensitivities towards Indian involvement in the country ultimately limited the assistance. Additionally, the Indian military provides procurement and training support to help professionalise the Afghan military and to improve its vehicle maintenance capabilities,” it said.
However, Indian aid to Afghanistan focuses primarily on four main categories: humanitarian assistance, major infrastructure projects, small and community-based projects, and education and capacity development, the report said.
US President Donald Trump in his new South Asia strategy unveiled in August 2017 had sought a major role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan.
He had accused Pakistan of giving “safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” and said the time had come “for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace”.
In December last year, Trump had announced that the US would pull out troops from Afghanistan.
The US still has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, nearly 18 years after the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban.

What is behind the crackdown on freedom of speech in Pakistan?

Published 16 Jul 2018

The security establishment is trying to push a certain narrative on the Pakistani public ahead of the July 25 elections.
Last week, a journalist was suspended after he asked Pakistan's military spokesperson, Major General Asif Ghafoor, an uncomfortable question.
"Now that Nawaz Sharif has been sidelined, and former President Asif Zardari is about to be, maybe you should take care of the scourge called Imran Khan, too, as he will not spare anyone either?" Express News reporter Ahmed Mansoor asked at a press conference.
His comment implied what many in Pakistan have been wondering about: the perceived meddling of the security establishment in politics to pave the way for its favourite candidate, Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI), to win the upcoming general election. And it seems Mansoor's question was not well-received.
His suspension comes at the backdrop of a months-long crackdown on the freedom of expression in Pakistan in advance of the July 25 vote. For those who follow Pakistan's domestic affairs closely, it is clear that this effort to silence independent voices in the media is part of an attempt to unlawfully engineer the country's political landscape.

Controlling the public narrative

Today, it is quite difficult to steer the public discourse in Pakistan in one direction. Gone are the days when there was only one state-owned television channel that tightly controlled what people were allowed to hear or believe.
Pakistan now has dozens of independent news channels, and thanks to high mobile and internet penetration, the public lives and breathes politics. News shows are the most popular form of entertainment, and a vibrant social mediaallows the public to follow and comment on minute-to-minute developments. Conversations on militancy, foreign policy and court cases of politicians are staples at work, the dinner table and social gatherings.
As a result of all this, the general public has acquired a certain level of independence of thought and is no longer buying official narratives.
And despite the presence of security-establishment-friendly journalists and anchors, who push a certain discourse and observe the red lines, there are still some others who continue to do factual reporting.
That is why, in an effort to the reign in the "runaway" narrative before the elections, a brutal crackdown on media houses and journalists was unleashed.
In April, Geo TV, the most critical of the lot and the market leader, was taken off the air and its journalists were threatened. It came back only after its management reportedly agreed to all demands of the military. However, its broadcast is still being blocked in several areas of Pakistan.
In May, the circulation of Dawn, Pakistan's oldest and most-respected English-language daily newspaper, was blocked across the country. This came right after it published an interview with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in which he questioned the lack of progress in the trial of the alleged mastermind of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Saeed - a sensitive matter for Pakistan's security establishment.
Then, in June, at another press conference, Ghafoor declared that the military is monitoring "social media and who's doing what" and warned of "social media cells". He also showed a presentation slide with the social media avatars of prominent Pakistani journalists which some perceived as a veiled threat.
These are just a few examples of the ongoing campaign by the security establishment to intimidate critical media professionals in an attempt to turn public opinion against Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party and in favour of Imran Khan's PTI.
All this has to be viewed in the context of the country's recent political history.

Political games

Last year, Sharif was forced to step down as prime minister after the country's supreme court unanimously disqualified him on grounds that he lied during a corruption investigation.
But some Pakistanis saw the story differently: It was Sharif's attempt to try former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf for treason, implement an independent foreign policy and force the military to curb support for Islamist and militant groups that got him ousted.
Now, there are new attempts to block Sharif's return to power and bring in a weak, puppet-like coalition parliament instead. The establishment needs a compliant and cooperative parliament to undo the 18th constitutional amendment, which was enacted in 2010.
This amendment has been a thorn in the security establishment's side for two key reasons. First, it makes the direct military intervention in civilian affairs and its endorsement by the judiciary a near impossibility. Second, it devolves power and resources to the provinces, capping funds available to the federal centre.
Successive transfers of power from one popularly elected government to the next in the long term would sound the death knell for the military's outsized role in Pakistan's politics and policymaking. 
But to reverse the 18th amendment, without throwing the country into political turmoil and mass riots, the military needs a change in government and to make this a reality it needs to sell a narrative.
Sharif has been portrayed as a dishonest politician involved in election-rigging andcorruption. After an inquiry into alleged vote-rigging at the 2013 elections failed to produce any results, the former prime minister was then targeted with a corruption court case for failing to disclose the source of funds used to pay for two luxury apartments in the UK.
This narrative has also failed so far, as polls continue to show that the PML-N is leadingin the polls ahead of the PTI. When Sharif returned with his daughter, Maryam, on July 13 to serve his jail sentence, he was greeted by a large crowd of supporters at the airport in Lahore. Thousands joined the rally despite the roadblocks, riot police and the shutting down of mobile networks.
What we are witnessing in Pakistan at the moment is the first mass resistance to the military's political engineering attempts since East Pakistan seceded to become Bangladesh after the Pakistani army's bloody attacks on the Bengali population in 1971.
The poll results on July 25, however, will show how much of this revolt will translate itself into a push-back to bring Sharif's party to power again.

As videotape scandal blows up in Pakistan, critics say judiciary’s independence ‘eroded’

Maryam Nawaz Sharif has alleged the judiciary acted under coercion to convict her father. ThePrint takes a look at how this might unfold.
Pakistan’s broken systems have been on display once again over the last week after Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) president Maryam Nawaz Sharif released a controversial videotape alleging that the country’s judiciary acted under coercion to convict her father.
In the video, accountability judge Arshad Malik can be seen allegedly admitting that he was “blackmailed” into delivering a verdict against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a corruption case in December last year.
Although an admission of a judge acting under duress should force the authorities to reopen the case against the former prime minister, analysts contend that the independence of the Pakistani judiciary has been eroded to the extent that such a scenario remains unlikely.

‘Blackmailed into convicting Nawaz’

Maryam stirred Pakistan’s entire political and judicial system last week when at a press conference she released a video featuring Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) judge Arshad Malik admitting that he was blackmailed into giving the verdict against her father Nawaz Sharif.
The particular verdict in question is the Al-Azizia judgment in which Sharif was found guilty of corruption charges and sentenced to seven years in prison.
In the video, Malik can be seen telling a sympathiser of the PMLN that there was no evidence of corruption, money laundering or kickbacks against Sharif, but he was forced to rule against him.
At one point, Malik says that “invisible forces” have a video of him of a very personal nature and if it were to be released, he would not be able to “sustain the pressure” and might even “commit suicide”.
Claiming that she’s in possession of more such tapes that prove her father was convicted in a fraudulent trial, Maryam has demanded that Sharif be released.
Following her press conference, Malik released a statement refuting Maryam’s claims.
“I want to clarify it there was neither any direct or indirect pressure on me nor was there any greed. I decided all these cases on the basis of evidence,” Malik said in the statement.
However, he has not made a single public appearance since.

Legitimacy of verdict in question

The videotape scandal has put the legitimacy of Nawaz’s conviction under scrutiny.
Pakistani legal experts argue that a judge admitting to have been blackmailed into giving a verdict against a prime minister is highly questionable.
“The fact that he has admitted to being under duress completely vitiates a trial. The judgment is now under question,” Ahmad Rafay Alam, lawyer and Yale World Fellow, told ThePrint.
However, two separate issues related to the videotape have also been highlighted.
“There is an issue about privacy, because Arshad Malik was recorded in a video without his consent. And the evidential value of the tapes are subject to forensic tests,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, advocate of High Courts of Pakistan.
“But my own understanding is that these tapes are genuine. Both the government and PMLN have independently conducted forensic tests,” said Hamdani.
ThePrint could not independently verify this claim.
Maryam’s critics have argued she should have taken the tapes to the judiciary and not released them through a press conference.
Hamdani contends that her prime motive behind releasing these videotapes was political and not legal. And she seems to have succeeded in doing that.
“The leaked video is a vindication of Nawaz Sharif and shows how judiciary is manipulated behind the scenes to get decisions desired by the military,” Taha Siddiqui, exiled Pakistani journalist and a professor of journalism at French institute SciencesPo, told ThePrint.

Response of Imran Khan government, judiciary

The Imran Khan government in Pakistan initially said that it would facilitate an investigation looking into the legitimacy of these tapes. But it soon backed down, deferring the case to the judiciary.
Meanwhile, a major crackdown was launched against various media organisations for airing the “unedited version” of Maryam’s press conference.
“Right now the government in connivance with the military is trying to silence the media. It took channels off air and is asking them to even mute statements by political opposition on live TV when there is talk of the video,” said Siddiqui.
The scandal also seems to have also rattled the Pakistani judicial establishment.
“Judiciary has been shaken by these revelations,” said Hamdani.
Following Maryam’s press conference, the Acting Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court had a 45-minute meeting with the Pakistan Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. Their discussions reportedly centered on the videotape scandal and Malik.
The NAB comes under the administrative supervision of the Islamabad High Court.
Legal experts argue that there are potentially two options before the judiciary now.
“Either the Islamabad High Court can take the matter forward or the Supreme Court can initiate proceedings suo moto,” remarked Hamdani.

The precedent

After the scandal broke out, the Pakistani media highlighted a twenty-two-old legal precedent, possibly relevant to this case.
In 1997, Supreme Court Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum had convicted former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari in a corruption case. But it was later found that Qayyum had colluded with the executive and the ruling was overturned.
However, legal experts suggested that a repeat of that outcome is unlikely given the current state of judicial independence in Pakistan.

‘Erosion’ of judicial independence in Pakistan

Back in 2007, Pakistan saw a lawyers’ movement led by Iktikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, for restoration of judicial independence in the country.
“After 2007, judiciary became much more important and at some points completely independent,’ said Hamdani.
But the events of the past couple of years seem to have completely overturned that hard-fought judicial independence.
“Nothing of that movement survives today. It is very different powers at work now. Their independence is constantly under attack,” noted Ahmad Rafay Alam.
“Last year another judge came forward and spoke about how ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) even manipulates which bench will have what judge to control the outcomes of political cases,” said Taha Siddiqui.
He was referring to Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who was sacked in 2018 after he made the accusations.
“I don’t see anything happening in the Nawaz case,” said Alam.

#Pakistan - Democracy and no-trust move

The democratic history of Pakistan will pass another milestone if the process of a no-confidence move against the Senate chairman is done smoothly. A no-confidence move is a form of direct election to remove an incumbent office-bearer of a House, and it is the manifestation of democratic norm. No one should frown upon opposition’s no-confidence move against Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, which has submitted the request to the Senate secretariat. Opposition parties’ candidate is Hasil Bazenjo, a seasoned politician from Balochistan. 

The incumbent chairman, who was once a unanimous candidate of the opposition parties – the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf – faces the no-trust move not because the opposition parties have an issue with him but because of the growing confrontation between the opposition and the treasury, mainly upped by the government side. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has advised Sanjrani to resign voluntarily, while Sanjrani has refused to accept the advice and has vowed to meet the fate. He is likely to face defeat given the numerical strength of the opposition benches. The opposition needs 53 heads to pass the no-trust resolution while their total number is 66 – most of them are from the PML-N (30) and the PPP (20). By unseating Sanjrani, the opposition parties have shown their resolve to make parliament relevant. Once they are disappointed from the parliament’s role, they may take to the street.

But it seems that the time is not far when the opposition will be turning to the agitation given the government’s tendency to trample democratic principles. Parliament has failed to take notice of an announced censorship on the media when it comes to give coverage to the opposition parties. The implications of censorship are not domestic; the international community is also taking notice of the muzzling of media and opposition. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had to face the boycott of media at the ‘Defend Media Freedom’ conference in London on Thursday. A few present there launched vociferous attack on him for gagging the media. The exchange of words between Qureshi and a Canadian journalist is making the rounds on the social media. A similar situation may arise during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US in the coming week.
Now when the democratic practices have come of age, all state organs should show maturity towards other democratic principles as well.

#Balochistan: #Pakistani forces abduct Baloch writer from Panjgur

Pakistani forces have abducted a Baloch writer from Chitkan area of district Panjgur Balochistan on Saturday midnight.
According to details, Pakistani Para-military forces raided the house of Iqbal Zaheer son of late Abdul Sattar Baloch in Chitakn and abducted him around 12 am Saturday midnight. Iqbal Zaheer Baloch is a freelance writer, social activist and teacher.
The forces also reportedly confiscated the laptop and books of Mr Zaheer and broke the furniture of his house.
In August 2010 Pakistani forces abducted Iqbal’s father master Abdul Sattar Baloch from Zaheer Medical store in Panjgur and kept him incommunicado for around ten months. Master Sattar mutilated and tortured dead body was found on May 11, 2011, from Panjgur.
In 2013 Iqab Zaheer son of Master Abdul Sattar was abducted and kept in illegal custody for around one month but he was released later.
Panjgur is among the restive districts of Balochistan where Pakistani forces have already abducted hundreds of people and many of whom were killed in custody.
July last year (2018) a mass grave containing four dead bodies was discovered in Panjgur, one of the dead bodies was identified as that of Khair Bakhsh Baloch who was abducted in June 2014. A Pakistani military official called his family and informed them that his dead body was among them.
The dead bodies were decomposed beyond recognition and his family had no other way of confirming his identity but to believe the Pakistani military official.
Lately, Pakistani forces have started abducting and intimidating the family members of previously abducted and killed Baloch activists.
On 17 June Ali Haidar son of abducted Mohammad Ramzan Baloch was abducted and kept in illegal custody for five days and on 19 June Pakistani forces abducted 70-year-old Shahsowar Baloch – father of four Baloch martyrs.
Both Ali Haidar and Shahsowar were released yesterday 21 June 2019.
Ali Haidar told BBC Urdu service that first day of his abduction he was slapped on the face and kicked but rest of the days he was only kept in a segregated room and questioned about the long march in 2013. He was also questioned about the people who hosted the Baloch marchers on their way to Islamabad.

#Balochistan: 19 people including women and children abducted from Kohistan Marri, Khuzdar

Pakistani forces have abducted at least twenty persons including women and children from Balochistan’s Kohlu, Gwadar and Khuzdar districts between Wednesday 3rd July 2019.
According to details, Pakistan army and their local collaborators conducted offensives against Marri Baloch civilian populations in Nisao, Jannatali, Siyah Koh, Soren Kaor, Sekhain and Padkae regions.
Pakistani forces flocked in from Dera Bugti, Pelawagh and Kohlu to attack the population including houses of Saed Ali Marri and Rabba Marri in Siyah Koh and abducted at least six Baloch women and their children (age 5-8 years).
Three of the abducted children have been named as Hameed Ullah, Naseebullah and Peerli whereas 70-year-old Mirza Khan is also among the latest victims of Pakistan’s forces enforced disappearances.
Two abducted women have been named as Mehr bibi and Noor Bibi Marri Baloch.
The identity of rest of the abducted persons including women and children could not be confirmed at the time of filing this report as Pakistan forces have blocked the exit and entrance routes to the above-mentioned area.
Pakistan forces also burnt down the houses of abducted persons and loot valuables including several motorcycles and around 300 livestock of local nomads.
Pakistan army have warned the residents of Siyah Koh to vacate the area as soon as possible and in case of refusal, the military will come back and take away the rest of the residents including women and children.
On July 6, Pakistan forces carried raids a houses in district Khuzdar Balochistan and abducted two Baloch youth from Greesha area.
The victims have been identified as Manzoor son of Elahi Baksh and Khair Bakhsh son of Shah Muhammad.
sources reported the Pakistani forces harassed women and children during their offensive in Khuzdar.
On July 7, Pakistan forces raided several houses in Balochistan’s district Gwadar but no arrests have been reported.

Pakistan slapped with $6 billion penalty in Reko Diq case

The International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has announced a massive $5.976 billion (Rs944.21 billion) award against Pakistan in the Reko Diq case, which is one of biggest in ICSID history.
The international tribunal on Friday issued a 700-page ruling against Pakistan in the Reko Diq case. Sources revealed to The Express Tribune that ICSID awarded a $4.08 billion penalty and $1.87 billion in interest. However, Pakistan has decided to challenge the award “very soon” by filing a revision application, sources said. The revision application may take two to three years to decide.
Earlier, Tethyan Copper Company’s (TCC) management, the complainant whose contract was terminated, had claimed $11.43 billion in damages. In 2012, TCC filed claims for international arbitration before the ICSID of the World Bank after the Balochistan government turned down a leasing request from the company. The litigation has continued for seven years. Former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s verdict in the Reko Diq case was the first in a series of events that led to the massive award.
After the case was filed, Pakistan lost its first jurisdictional challenge, when the international tribunal said that it has the jurisdiction to adjudicate the Reko Diq matter. After that, the tribunal declared that there was no wrongdoing in the agreement – the grounds on which the Supreme Court of Pakistan terminated the deal in 2013 – and eventually, the tribunal held that Pakistan is liable to pay the damages.
The only remaining issue in the case was the final penalty on Pakistan, which has been now announced.