Saturday, July 27, 2019

Video - CrossTalk on Boris Johnson: PM BoJo

Video - Protests Erupt in London as Boris Johnson Is Sworn in as New Prime Minister, Promising Swift Brexit

Video - UK sold £1.2bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia when BoJo was FM – Human Rights Watch

Video Report - Record temperature heatwave in Europe: The new normal? | DW News

Video - If You Don’t Know, Now You Know - Asian Nations Reject Western Trash | The Daily Show

Pakistan’s budget has lost credibility: World Bank

By Shahbaz Rana
Pakistan’s budget has further lost its credibility and the public finance management system has also deteriorated, according to a draft report of the World Bank that has downgraded the country’s ranking on almost all 31 fiscal management-related indicators.
The Washington-based lender shared the final draft of the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) report with the Ministry of Finance in June. The report carries an objective assessment of Pakistan’s public finance management system and its budgets from fiscal year 2015-16 to 2017-18.
But the findings reflect extremely poor performance of the Ministry of Finance that failed to carry out its responsibility and let the fiscal rules violated.
The World Bank was facing pressure from the Ministry of Finance to soften its report but a senior official of the World Bank told The Express Tribune that on the lender’s part the report was final.
Sources said various wings of the Ministry of Finance were putting responsibility on each other but so far no action had been taken in that regard.
When compared with a similar assessment that the World Bank carried out in 2012, the country fared poorer on almost all indicators and seven key pillars. There were hardly two indicators where the score improved while on the other two the score remained unchanged.
In 2012, the country had secured five A grades – the highest score – but in the 2019 assessment there was not even a single indicator where it got A. Pakistan lost the highest score on critical indicators like classification of budget, comprehensiveness of budget information, transparency in inter-governmental fiscal operations, participation in budget process and predictability of direct budget support.
The lowest score is D plus and D. In 2012, the country got only six Ds and D plus but the lowest score reached a staggering 13 in 2019, reflecting extremely poor performance of the finance ministry. In 2012, there were 10 Cs, average score – a figure that stood at eight in 2019.
The final draft of the report showed that Pakistan was assigned the lowest score ‘D’ on the indicators of reliability of budget due to higher-than-budgeted expenditures and low revenue collection, extent of unreported government operations, public access to key fiscal operations, effectiveness of internal audit, lack of information about service delivery, poor quality and timeliness of annual financial statements, public assets and investment management, and revenue administration.
In 2012, the country fared well on eight indicators and secured B and B plus and in 2019 it got 10 Bs and B plus. These included budget classification, transfer of resources to provinces, fiscal risk reporting, debt management, macroeconomic and fiscal forecasting, fiscal strategy, budget preparations, procurement management and financial data integrity.
“Despite the progress achieved in different areas, there are still challenges in making the public finance management framework at the federal level a fully effective and efficient component of Pakistan’s system of governance,” said the report.The report acknowledged the importance of the 18th Constitutional Amendment that “re-asserted the federalist character of the Pakistani state”, which set the stage for provincial governments to improve local-level participation.The Ministry of Finance declined to comment on the report’s findings, saying, “The PEFA report has not been finalised yet, therefore, the ministry cannot comment on it at the moment.”The public finance management performance has been gauged on the basis of seven pillars of budget reliability, transparency of public finances, management of assets and liabilities, policy-based fiscal strategy and budgeting, predictability and control in budget execution, accounting and report and external scrutiny and audit.
The World Bank has completed the assessment in collaboration with the federal government and the European Union. The assessment started in December 2018 and it covered three financial years 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was in power.
The issues identified in the report remained unaddressed even in the last fiscal year 2018-19, which was the first year of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.There are “inadequacies in fiscal discipline evidenced in expenditure and revenue overturns”, said the final draft report. The report found that internal audit control functions were very weak, there was poor revenue estimation and expenditure estimates were based on “inflated revenue targets”.The Public Accounts Committee has repeatedly observed lack of interest of the executive to comply with its directions, underlined the report. The report recommended making the office of the Auditor General of Pakistan “independent” from the executive for an effective oversight of expenditures.
Pakistan had not developed an effective cash management system, which allowed government entities to keep public money in private commercial bank accounts, said the report.
As of the end of 2017, Rs2.3 trillion had been parked in 450,000 accounts, maintained in private commercial banks. This money could not be audited, according to the draft report.

The Disappearance of Shia Muslims In Pakistan – Is Saudi-Iran Rivalry Taking A Toll On Shia Muslims?

Are Shia Muslims in Pakistan bearing the brunt of Iran-Saudi rivalry? In a rather quiet city in southern Karachi, Pakistan, Sabiha Jafar (60) has been spending sleepless nights for more than a year waiting for her 32-year old son Syed Ali Mehdi. Mehdi was working in Dubai as a taxi driver and returned to Pakistan in 2017. On March 2018, he was whisked away by masked security personnel from his home for interrogation only to never return. The family has been shuttling between offices looking for Mehdi but no one can tell them where he is. Syed Ali Mehdi is one of the many Shia Muslims in Pakistan to have disappeared over the past few years.
Shia Muslims In Pakistan
Genocide of Shia Muslims In Pakistan – A Harsh Reality

Shia Muslims in Pakistan

The existence of Shia Muslims in Pakistan has been one of great turmoil since the founding of the state. In a country where only 20% of the entire population is Shia, it becomes very difficult to enforce the community’s intrinsic value and existence. Like it is often said about the Shia life in Pakistan, “A protest that initiates a movement and a protest that has to be done because there is nothing else left to lose as far as Shia history in Pakistan is concerned.”

Shia Muslims in Pakistan – Missing

The reach for sectarian violence in Pakistan is large and predominant. It can be said that 2012 was one of the lethal years for Shia Muslims in Pakistan. More than 200 people are said to have been killed in sectarian cleansing in different parts of the country. The trend for missing persons is not new in this part of Asia. The head of the Shia Missing Persons Committee in Karachi, Rashid Rizvi has led several protests in the city calling attention to the issue. Most of the people who were detained or have gone missing have been so only after returning from a pilgrimage from the Middle East. There are more than 1500 unsolved cases of enforced disappearances in Pakistan.
The commonly heard excuse for arrest and detainment (or even disappearance) have been that most of the men who have been to the Middle East have been suspected to have been engaged in some form of militant activity in Syria or IS fights across the region. The Zainabiyoun Brigade, a network of Shia foreign fighters operating in Syria and linked to Iraq have been one of the most secretive recruitment campaigns within Pakistan territory.
The other militia includes the Hezbollah, Fatemiyoun Brigade which consists of Aghan fighters. The authorities in Pakistan believe that most of the returning fighter from these militias could continue working under the orders of Iran or other Shia powers against the sovereignty of Pakistan. The Shias and other minority communities are hunted at their homes, places of worship and even in public buses. A large number of unprovoked violence has increased in the last few months.
“The most terrifying aspect of the state’s complicity in sectarianism is the nexus between sectarian extremists and the security establishment,” says Michael Kugelman in an article in the National Interest. There are credible reports that various state-run intelligence agencies are involved in feeding information on minorities in various parts of Balochistan.
These separatists are given free hand to do as they please to the minorities with little to no repercussions. The suspects are seldom arrested et aline prosecuted. There have been many instances where the police have refused to come to the aid of the minorities. The sectarian entities in Pakistan are found to receive considerable public support and adequate state protection.
The repeated attacks on Shia Muslims in Pakistan have made them flee to Europe and Australia. The region is strife with sectarian violence which makes Pakistan one of the deadliest places for Shiites outside the Middle East. Pakistan has fewer laws that cater to the protection of religious minorities. The establishment of the blasphemy law favours the majority Sunni population and is found to prosecute the minorities. The Pakistani government has in more than one way managed to institutionalise sect discriminations.
Pakistan has been at the epicentre of many of the instances where Shia Muslims have gone missing. Experts suggest that the situation in Pakistan is such that it has taken very precarious forms. Though Shia Muslims are being prosecuted around Pakistan, the situation is particularly challenging in Balochistan and northwestern region where they are facing “systematic onslaught by the Taliban and other militant groups.
There is a clear indication of “sectarian cleansing” in the region that is trying to eradicate the Shia Muslims. There is an utter disregard for the lives of Shia Muslims in Pakistan considering how poorly the state administration handled the case. An incident wherein several gunmen dressed as Pakistani security officials stopped a bus and asked passengers to produce their identification cards. The people belonging to the minority Shia group was shot in point-blank. Around 22 people were killed for which the Taliban took responsibility.
The situation in Balochistan is disappointing, to say the least. In regions of Balochistan, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimates more than 728 Pakistanis have gone missing as of the 2016 annual report. Most of the disappearances are connected within the Western Balochistan province where there is a high rate of insurgency and separatist activities.
The Shiites and civil society activists are of the view that the establishment of a governor’s rule in the region could lead to more killings and random disappearances. The editor of the radical magazine ‘Baloch Hal’, Malik Siraj Akbar finds the appointment of the governor’s rule despicable for the reason that now there exists further chances of coup and military overtake which does not bode well for the insurgency-ridden region.
“The way a democratic government-although corrupt and incompetent – has been dismissed clearly shows that Islamabad treats Balochistan as a colony where it does not respect the public mandate,” says Akbar. The suggested and now imposed governor’s rule in the region will not solve anything until the government decides to go after the militants.
The region of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is especially targeted by Sunni-backed militants owing to the reason that the region has a Shia majority. Unlike the Wahabi groups which are close to Saudi Arabia, the Pakistani Shia groups are closely aligned with Iran. This connection has brought sectarian differences in the GB region.
Alternatively, the Pakistan government is against the movement itself. The Sunnis jihadists are fighting against the Assad regime in Syria. The GB region is ripe with violence as a result of the geopolitical value the region holds. The region connects Islamabad with the borders of China, Afghanistan and Kashmir. The possibility of an autonomous and prosperous Shiite majority region does not seem to sit well with the Sunni majority state and that seems to be one of the sole reasons behind the Pakistan-backed violence in the region.
An attempt to undermine any attempt at the relevance of the Shia Muslims in Pakistan has been brought down by militant groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba among many others. The region is sceptical of turning over to Pakistan Administered Kashmir for the sole reason that they may become minorities and end up on the wrong side of persecution and violence.
The twin bombings in Parachinar was an indication to the fact that it would be unsafe to pander to the idea of a Pakistani accession. The region is one with a Shia majority and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Al Alami) terrorist outfit laid claim on the bombing, clearing indicating that they were targeting Shias.
Many of the security agencies suggest that the Syrian connection is the reason behind much of the disappearances of Shia Muslims in Pakistan. Pakistan, a Sunni majority country, is closely aligned to Saudi Arabia. With Riyadh and Tehran locked in conflicts peppered across the Middle East, Pakistan has become one of its theatres. The Syrian connection is more often than not used as a lazy excuse to detain the many Shiites.
Rashid Rizvi has found that most of the “missing Shiites” have no militant background and most of the people have been detained on account of having gone for a pilgrimage to Iraq, Iran and Syria. He finds it absurd that all of them could be enemy of the state and even if they were should be allowed a just and fair trial. Enforced detained is not an answer to the possibility of a crime.
With the Shia Muslims in Pakistan being persecuted in every part of the country, it becomes difficult to see hope but the Shia community stands resilient in their struggle for survival. The Shia community has found itself in a unique position, having intrinsically increased their assertion of their Shia identity. Though the violence is ripe and rampant, the community has sought to mobilise themselves into Shia-only committees and factions that are coming up as a result of their more insular approach.
As is the case with protest, it can be the first or the last resort to achieve an objective that otherwise cannot be fulfilled. The chosen path of Shiite protest by taking a rather defensive stand among many others can be seen as idealistic or delusional, to say the least. It is most definitely a double-edged sword in that they become easy targets for the simple reason that ‘they stand out’. The reason behind the violence is not factional it also trickles down to socio-economic inequalities that the state fails to provide infrastructure for. The failure of the state calls for community initiatives and sometimes one tends to fight back with whatever one finds.
“When you are a minority group whose collective memory is drenched in martyrdom and opposition to the perpetrators of violence, these are the battles you pick: you do whatever you feel will help you resist and survive — and you do it big.”
Maybe all that the Shiites have, are these manifestations of collective solace in the face of unmerciful persecution. The families of the disappeared men still wail in the dark shadows of violence and agony as Islamabad turns their backs like they always have.

Pakistani Christian looks to Canada for help after death threats


A plea has been issued for Canada to rescue a Pakistani Christian refugee who is in hiding after a viral video calling on jihadi fighters to kill him swept through Bangkok's refugee community.

The appeal was made to Canada’s ambassador in Bangkok, Donica Pottie, after Australia rejected an emergency asylum appeal from Faraz Pervaiz, a prominent defender of Christian rights. It comes two months after Canada gave asylum to Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman forced into hiding from Muslim extremists following false accusations of blasphemy.
Pervaiz is a Pakistani Christian refugee who fled to Bangkok after being accused in Pakistan of blasphemy under laws which can result in a death sentence. He has several fatwas against him, calling for him to be killed.
His location in Bangkok was revealed last week in a video released on social media that went viral. Following death threats by phone and text he moved his family to a secret location outside of the city.
The video posted to Facebook, YouTube and several WhatsApp groups called for jihadi fighters to travel to Bangkok and kill Pervaiz. Several mullahs attached “fatwas,” or religious rulings, to the video to endorse killing Pervaiz.
“She's saying (in the video) this is the responsibility of every Muslim in this world to find me, and to kill me,” Pervaiz told The Catholic Register. “Since this (video) proclamation, the danger is that the jihadis are coming, day by day. Once they come to know exactly where I am, it takes one hour.”
Pervaiz, accompanied by his wife, three children and his parents, is being supported by Australian Jesuit Fr. Michael Kelly. 
“The would-be assassins continue to ring and assure Faraz that they’ll find him and kill him and his family,” said Kelly in an e-mail. “I’d take them at their word.”
A long-time Bangkok resident and advocate for refugee rights, Kelly is assisting the Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto to resettle up to 63 Pakistani Christian families through Canada's private sponsorship program. The number of refugees headed to Canada will depend on how many dioceses and parishes agree to make the financial and volunteer commitment to resettle them, but that process takes an average of two years. Kelly is seeking immediate action to rescue Pervaiz.
He appealed to the Australian government in a July 18 e-mail to Ambassador Allan McKinnon. After an initially positive response, the request was denied on July 20 without an explanation.
“Next stop, the Canadian Ambassador,” said Kelly in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.
Pervaiz and his family are hiding in a one-room apartment, staying indoors 24 hours a day.
For more than a year, Pervaiz has had a price on his head of 10 million Pakistani rupees (about $82,000) issued by Pakistan’s populist, conservative political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik — the same party that urged Muslims to kill Bibi after she was acquitted of blasphemy by Pakistan's supreme court. Following several months in hiding, Bibi was granted asylum and in May resettled at a secret location in Canada.
Pervaiz, who fled Pakistan in 2014, and his family had been relatively safe in Bangkok because Pakistani extremists thought he was in the Netherlands. Tehreek-e-Labbaik even organized a rally in front of the Dutch embassy in Islamabad last year, calling on the Netherlands government to return Pervaiz to Pakistan.
But he was discovered to be living in Bangkok and, after his address was revealed in the video, Pervaiz was in immediate fear for his family and his life.
The video was made by a Pakistani Muslim refugee, well known among Bangkok’s 1,500 Christian refugees, named Saira Ismail. Several Pakistani Christians told The Catholic Register Ismail often socialized with the Christians in Bangkok, attending Church dances and asking for food and rent aid.
Pervaiz said Ismail had requested aid from the small Christian church his family attends, but the church had no funds to help her.
Ismail's video begins by displaying her identity card issued by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.  
The UNHCR office in Bangkok contacted Google and Facebook and eventually succeeded in having the video blocked. The refugee agency said it was unable to comment specifically on Ismail’s case or her actions.
“UNHCR counsels all its asylum seekers and refugees regularly to respect Thai laws at all times given that asylum seekers and refugees are subject to Thai laws while residing in the Kingdom of Thailand,” said UNHCR Thailand spokesperson Jennifer Harrison.
Ultimately, responsibility for protecting refugees falls to Thai officials, she said. 
“A host government shoulders the main responsibility for protecting and assisting refugees on its territory. UNHCR works to provide support until the particular government can assume this responsibility on its own,” Harrison said.
Pervaiz said a UN official advised him to leave Thailand. Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva convention on refugees and regards refugees as illegals.
“The UN protection officer said to me, ‘Why don't you cross the border and go to Burma. Why don't you go to another country. Muslims are everywhere, so we cannot protect you,’” Pervaiz told The Catholic Register.
 “I said, what are you talking about? You are not a peanut. You are a big elephant in this world. … I said you are putting my life in danger again.”
Pervaiz has been a target of Pakistan’s religious conservatives since he began speaking out in defence of Christians after a 2013 mob attack on a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province. He led protests demanding action from the police and ran a blog in which he challenged both the politics and theology of Islam, presented his own interpretations of the Quran and criticized the Prophet. His father was a political leader in the Christian community and was nominated to sit in Parliament. 
“We are not criminals. Our only crime is that we speak against their brutality,” Pervaiz said. “I don't have words to explain to you their barbarism towards us. How Christians are marginalized every day. No one raised this issue.”
In 2017 an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan acquitted 106 Muslims accused of torching Christian houses in the 2013 mob attack.

#Pakistan’s slice of the moon

Pervez Hoodbhoy

MONDAY’S launch of the Chandrayaan-2 water-finding moon mission is a significant demonstration of India’s scientific and engineering capacity. It puts India firmly within a select group of countries prowling the solar system for commercial, strategic, and scientific reasons. Pakistanis naturally want to know where they stand in science — of which space exploration is just a small part — and why. What gave India this enormous lead over Pakistan?
It is natural that India’s Hindutva government should boast Chandrayaan-2 as its own achievement and claim continuation with imagined glories from Vedic times. But rightfully the credit goes elsewhere. Just imagine if history could be wound back by 70-80 years and prime-minister Jawaharlal Nehru was replaced by Narendra Modi.
Instead of astronomy, today’s India would be pursuing astrology. Its university departments would have many ganitagayons but few mathematicians, an army of rishis would outnumber physicists. The cure for cancer would be sought in yoga while floods and earthquakes would somehow be linked to cow slaughter. Instead of devising Chandrayaan, Indian scientists would be searching for the fictitious Vimana of Ravana.
Aiming for a culture of science will serve Pakistan better than trying to match India’s new moon shot.
The atheistic Nehru brought to India an acceptance of European modernity. For this Hindutva hates him even more than it hates India’s Muslims and Christians. Still, his insistence on ‘scientific temper’ — a singularly odd phrase invented while he was still in prison — made India nurture science. Earlier, vigorous reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) had shown the path. As long as Nehru stood tall no rishi, yogi, or army general could head a science institution.
Will Pakistan also get a slice of the moon? That depends upon the quality of our scientists and if a culture of science develops. Of course, Pakistan never had a Nehru. A further setback happened in the Ziaul Haq days when Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s modernism had its remaining flesh eaten off by Allama Iqbal’s shaheen. As if to compensate the loss of appetite for science, buildings for half-a-dozen science institutions were erected along Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue. They could be closed down today and no one would notice. Today’s situation for science — every kind except agriculture and biotechnology — is dire.
The official website of the National Space Agency of Pakistan (Suparco) is silent on space exploration plans. Born a year before its Indian counterpart ISRO, Suparco lists its earliest achievement as the periodic launches of US-supplied weather monitoring Rehbar rockets between 1962 and 1972. The most recent activity listed is of July 9, 2018, when China launched two remote sensing satellites for Pakistan to monitor progress on CPEC. One of the two “was indigenously designed and solely developed by Suparco, and is primarily aimed at remote sensing”.
As a space-filler this pathetic website speaks in hushed terms about the Hatf and Shaheen-III missile programmes but falls short of saying what Suparco’s role was, if any. The last four chairmen of Suparco, together with their educational qualifications, are listed as Maj Gen. Raza Husain (2001-2010, BSc), Maj Gen. Ahmed Bilal Husain (2010-2016, MSc), Maj Gen. Qaiser Anees Khurram (2016-2018, BSc), and Maj Gen. Amer Nadeem (2018-present, BSc).
National achievements in space science being so lean, where should bright young Pakistani science buffs be pointed towards? Every day they read of some great achievement — spacecraft landing on asteroids, new planets being discovered, black holes colliding in distant galaxies, etc. But Pakistan’s three most celebrated scientists have precious little to offer. Let’s call them X, Y, Z.
X appears to have lost his earlier passion for bombs and missiles and these days is mostly concerned with finding religious cure to cancer as well as advising women on how to deal with menopause problems. Y is (or was?) under a NAB investigation because he spent Rs4.69 billion gasifying Thar coal but failed to produce a single watt of electricity. He may be in much hotter water once the Reko Diq investigation gets going and his role in the Tethyan Copper affair is revealed. Mishandling Reko Diq currently threatens Pakistan with a mind boggling $5.9bn fine. Z has clawed his way back to power but cannot explain why billions spent upon his institute have not produced a single useful pharmaceutical product.
Lacking guidance from knowledgeable elders, a few of Pakistan’s most gifted kids have found their own way. I have been astonished and thrilled to meet some. Aged 12-18, like hungry animals, they have gorged themselves on distance learning materials offered by Stanford, MIT, Coursera, etc. They seem to owe nothing to their environment, teachers, and even their parents. Some are village bumpkins, others are English-speaking urbanites. Natural genius propels them. But how far?
It’s good that such talent is achieving some recognition. Fawad Chaudhry, the newly appointed minister of science and technology, told me that he plans to start 1500 STEM schools for exceptional students. One hopes that the right students will be selected and that by some miracle good teachers can be found. Chaudhry should realise that the chance of failure will be one hundred per cent if students are graded by ratta-promoting local examination boards. Duffers must never be allowed to judge geniuses; alternatives must be explored.
More encouraging news: Pakistani doctors in the US are fabulously rich but are not known to spend their money wisely or well. That may be changing. Last month, at the annual meeting in Florida, the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) put out an appeal to create an institute that would identify and support young people with exceptional math/physics talent. Let’s hope that that pans out.
Pakistan’s chance of a moon shot — unless on the back of a Chinese rocket — will stay zero for a long time. There is no reason to cry about this. Much more important problems need to be addressed. Solving them needs a strong scientific base at every step. Creating this base calls for developing scientific attitudes and dumping non-scientific ones. Symbolically this amounts to putting Sir Syed ahead of Allama Iqbal as a national icon. Impossible? Maybe. But, as they say, you can’t make an omelet without breaking an egg.

Despite Khan’s Visit, U.S.-Pakistan Ties Aren’t Ready for a Reset

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan enjoyed a warm visit to Washington this week, with his hosts, from President Donald Trump to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Lindsey Graham, all affirming the importance in particular of cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan in Afghanistan. For a Pakistani government that viewed Khan’s visit as an opportunity to reset a relationship that suffered immensely during the early months of the Trump administration, it was an encouraging sign.

The bilateral relationship has indeed come a long way since 2017 and 2018, when Trump threatened a harder line on Pakistan, tweeted angrily about Islamabad’s “lies and deceit,” and suspended American security assistance. The main reason for this about-face is rooted in Trump’s increasingly urgent desire to end the long war in Afghanistan—a war he often criticized before becoming president and has never seemed comfortable continuing, even when he announced a new South Asia strategy in August 2017 that entailed staying the course.

In recent months, the Trump White House has decided to aggressively pursue peace talks in Afghanistan and to enlist Islamabad as a key partner in helping launch and sustain negotiations with the Taliban. The administration invited Khan to Washington in large part to recognize and reward Pakistan for its help with the Afghan reconciliation process over the past year, bringing U.S. government officials and Taliban representatives together for multiple bilateral talks in Qatar.

However, despite this progress, it would be premature to conclude—as many in Islamabad would like to—that the relationship with Washington has been reset. A restoration of security assistance, a resumption of high-level dialogue or other signs of repaired relations are not on the horizon anytime soon. In essence, from the Trump administration’s perspective, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship may have improved, but that doesn’t mean a reset is in order—or that Trump even wants one.

First, as Trump and other U.S. leaders likely made clear to Khan and other senior Pakistani officials traveling with him, Washington’s two core priorities with Pakistan are Islamabad’s assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistani counterterrorism efforts. To be sure, the Trump administration is open to broader cooperation, particularly when it comes to trade and investment. During Khan’s visit, an official White House statement, and Trump himself, made reference to U.S.-Pakistan trade cooperation, while Khan met with both the secretaries of the treasury and commerce. However, for the Trump administration, there’s little real interest in truly broadening the scope of the relationship until it believes Pakistan is doing more on the Afghan reconciliation and counterterrorism fronts.

The U.S.-Pakistan relationship may have improved, but that doesn’t mean a reset is in order—or that Trump even wants one.

This leads to the second reason why a reset isn’t in the cards: Islamabad is unlikely to deliver in a way that satisfies Washington. The Trump administration wants Pakistan to convince the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire and to formal negotiations with the Afghan government. Yet Taliban insurgents have categorically rejected these demands and appear to be interested only in a deal with Washington that involves the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The Taliban, of course, enjoys ample leverage and comes into talks from a position of renewed strength. It is waging intense battlefield offensives, holds more territory than at any time since the U.S. invasion following 9/11, and most importantly has little urgency to conclude a deal. This means that any entity—even one like Pakistan that has close ties to the Taliban, and considerable leverage over it—will struggle to get the insurgents to agree to American demands.

Similarly, Washington wants Islamabad to take irreversible steps against terrorist groups in Pakistan that target both Afghanistan and India. It has not been satisfied with Pakistan’s recent crackdowns, which have involved the arrests of dozens of militants. But on reality, it is hard to imagine Pakistan completely dismantling the entire infrastructure of extremism within its borders—that is, prosecuting and convicting top terrorist leaders and permanently shutting down their organizations’ vast networks. That is because Islamabad continues to harbor a strong interest in maintaining ties to certain militant groups, such as the Haqqani Network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which it views as key assets to help pursue its interests in Afghanistan and to deploy against India.

Third, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship remains beset by tensions rooted in fundamental policy differences. Despite recent bumps in its ties with India, Washington remains committed to forging a deep, strategic partnership with New Delhi, Pakistan’s bitter enemy. Similarly, Islamabad is closely allied with China, Washington’s top strategic rival. In effect, Washington and Islamabad enjoy deep partnerships with each other’s main adversary—a geopolitical reality that constrains closer U.S.-Pakistan cooperation.

Indeed, hypothetical scenarios that could actually boost bilateral ties—such as Washington scaling down its ties with India and easing up on pressuring Islamabad to detain terrorists who target India, or Islamabad pivoting away from Beijing—are not in the offing. More broadly, each country pursues foreign policy objectives throughout Asia that go against the other’s interests: Pakistan seeks to limit the influence of India, while the U.S. is pursuing an Indo-Pacific strategy that is meant to push back against China.

Finally, the Trump administration does not support the type of diplomacy that one would expect to see in a rebooted relationship. It prioritizes bursts of transactional diplomacy over sustained and formal dialogue. In effect, there’s no going back to the early years of the Obama administration, when the two sides launched an albeit short-lived strategic dialoguefocused on a variety of topics, not all of them security-related. The Trump administration simply isn’t interested in investing the resources in such broad and extended exchanges, which, if they were to take place, could go a long way toward generating more confidence and goodwill for a relationship that badly needs new infusions of both, even after Khan’s positive visit.

The bottom line is that while Khan’s trip to Washington may have been full of smiles and good vibes, and it may have even solidified U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in Afghanistan, it shouldn’t be mistaken for a reset in troubled ties. This newfound comity can’t mask the reality that U.S.-Pakistan relations are still in need of major repair.

Video Report - "The number of casualties of kargil war are far more than 1971 war"

Last Resort: India and Pakistan's Informal Schools


NEW DELHI / KARACHI / JAIPUR / MULTAN — In a slum on the outer periphery of Gurgaon, far away from all the trappings of luxury, lives Pooja — a young bright-eyed girl who dreams of a better life. Like many her age, Pooja is not privileged to receive education at a private school. The 15-year-old hails from a family of poor migrants who have never witnessed the miracles of education.
Pooja is enrolled at a small makeshift school with a frail structure and temporary ceiling that shivers when strong winds blow.
“I want to become a teacher,” she says in a brittle voice.
Her face glows with joy every time she talks about her school. Pooja’s school is no ordinary school. She receives education at a mobile school.
Across the Radcliffe line in Maripur, Karachi, approximately, 1,000 kilometers away from Pooja, lives Roshail Atta Mahommad. The 17-year-old’s life has an uncanny resemblance to Pooja’s situation. She too has defied all social and cultural odds for education. Roshail, like Pooja, wants to become a teacher and contribute to her community’s well-being.
Even after 70 years of independence, millions of children in India and Pakistan are deprived of education. Both countries are confronting the perils of their failure to educate their citizens, notably the poor. Pooja and Roshail are among the deprived generation who were left out of the state-run education system in their respective countries.
The two may be divided by the border, but they are united by the failure of their governments to fulfill their basic fundamental right to education.
Children study in an informal school in Jaipur. The classrooms don’t have benches in order to accommodate more children.
For decades governments in India have made tall symbolic promises about improving the state of education in India. They’ve conceived policies and plans that have been nothing more than toothless paper tigers. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP)-led government in Delhi has slashed education spending by nearly 50 percent in the last 4 years. Such misplaced national priorities deprive many like Pooja of education — a promised universal birthright.
Echoes of similar hollow political promises are also responsible for the burgeoning education crisis in Pakistan.
The two nuclear rivals inherited innumerable common issues. Education is one of them. In many ways their approaches to the issue have been similar too. The two arch-rivals have identical laws that ensure free and compulsory education but little has been done to implement them. The Right to Education Act, 2009 (RTE) in India recognizes free and compulsory education for children between the age of 6 and 14, under Article 21a of the Indian Constitution. Similarly, in Pakistan Article 25-A of the constitution guarantees the right to free education to all children between the ages of 5 to 16. The right to education was enacted, in both countries, with the idea to improve the state of education, but it has been haunted by procedural inefficiencies.
According to Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPAM) report, an estimated 22.8 million children are out of school between 5 and 16 in Pakistan and those who do go to school haven’t even achieved the basic learning levels.
Students prepare to go back home after a productive day at their makeshift school, the Tikri Education Center outside Karachi.

The Heroes

When governments fail to deliver fundamental rights, people rise to help their communities. Sandeep Rajput in India and Gamwar Baloch in Pakistan are two such heroes.
The mobile school, run by Rajput, 41, is a free education facility on wheels. Rajput is known for chasing illiteracy in decrepit areas of Gurgaon in an old public bus. The decommissioned vehicle, once used by commuters, is now reconfigured to serve as a classroom on wheels. It is equipped with small tables and everything else a teacher might need to run a classroom. Rajput’s school on wheels, as it’s commonly known, is also recognized by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
This converted bus acts as a mobile classroom for children.
Rajput blames the government for failing to support free education. “The school in this area was visited by a local commissioner once who made tall promises but we’re still waiting for him to deliver upon them.”
With limited resources, Rajput claims that the school is self-sufficient and runs with the help of independent donors or funds provided by corporate organizations.
“So what if they can’t go to a school, we can ensure that a school reaches their doorsteps and that’s where our mobile school plays a crucial role,” Rajput says passionately.
A busy day in class for Mobile School students in Gurgaon.
A busy day in class for Mobile School students in Gurgaon.
Like Rajput, Pakistan too has a warrior, who fights against an unfair educational system. In 2013, Gamwar Baloch, 21, established a makeshift school named “Tikri Education Center.” The school provides free education to the deprived students in Maripur — a neighborhood of Kiamari town in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi. Baloch helps those who have been neglected by the state and are at the very bottom of Pakistan’s social ladder.
Infrastructure is weak at her school. There are no benches and there are no desks. All of her 300 students are seated on the floor during class hours. Roshail was one of those students who survived the challenges and made it through. She now teaches along with Baloch, who is supported by a staff of three permanent teachers at the school.
“I don’t want girls from my community to suffer or struggle for education,” says Roshail, who has joined Baloch’s small army of heroes fighting the war against illiteracy in Maripur.
Students at Tikri Education Center.
Despite all the political promises of promoting equality, education has become a crucial marker of inequality in both India and Pakistan. In Rajasthan, education remains a distant dream for Pooja and many like her.
“I want to pursue so many things but that is not possible,” she says with a tinge of hopelessness in her voice.

The Struggle

In her hostel-cum-school building, Shivani has found a quiet corner for herself to study in a big shared room. She has her medical entrance examination approaching in 15 days. Her days are spent surrounded by medical books piled on top of each other. She is not an ordinary girl and her struggle sets her apart from the 200,000 other medical aspirants. The 19-year-old recollects childhood memories of her father abandoning her after her mother’s death, and a careless family structure. Her past hasn’t deterred her spirits.
Shivani was enrolled in a makeshift school in Jaipur, Rajasthan, when she was four years old. After several years of teaching students in open spaces, parks, under makeshift tents, the school finally moved to a three-story building in 2008 where she studies and resides along with many children who have been deprived of education by an unfair state-run system. The school is run by 66-year-old Vimla Kumawat, whom the children fondly refer to as “Dadi.” The school has been named Sewa Bharati Bal Vidyalaya after the organization Sewa Bharati, which is one of the major donors of the school.
Children rush back home after a busy day at their informal school in Jaipur.
The stories of struggle by children of marginalized communities in India and Pakistan have an uncanny resemblance. Away from the deserts of Rajasthan, India, along the banks of Chenab river, resides Mohammed Siddiq, who is the founder of Ujala foundation — a temporary school for underprivileged students in Multan. One such student is Iqra whose illiterate parents dreamed of educating their daughter. Owing to financial constraints, they couldn’t provide for her education. However, Siddiq’s makeshift school ensured that children like Iqra do not remain deprived of education.
Now she vows to help children who belong to the bottom of Multan’s multilayered society where Saddiq’s makeshift school is their only hope and individuals like her are saviors.
Initiatives by local superheroes like Vimla Kumawat and Mohammed Siddiq play a pivotal role in the lives of children who are struggling to acquire good education — a fundamental and promised constitutional right in Pakistan and India.
Shivani’s journey from a life of ignominy as a ragpicker to a medical aspirant studying in a premier coaching institute of the city is a journey from the margins to the mainstream. However, the community in which she was born, Valmiki (Dalit), is still hesitant to allow girls to study.
“If Shivani clears her medical entrance, it will be a beacon of hope for the children and motivate them to push their boundaries,” remarks Kumawat, her eyes carrying a hope for a better future.
To win Shivani’s admission in a medical coaching program, Kumawat waited two days at the reception of the coaching institute in the hope that she would get a fee waiver. The journey hasn’t entirely been easy for Kumawat. Coping with the lack of money, she has had a tough time managing the needs and expenses.
“There have been days when I couldn’t even provide the students with notebooks but I’ve never given up,” says Kumawat with her usual politeness and unwavering resolve to fight the battle against an unfair education system in India.
In this informal school in Jaipur, close to 30 students are crammed in a 10×10 room.
Siddiq faces a similar situation in Pakistan. He does not receive any support from any organization, “I believe that education of underprivileged children is the society’s responsibility,” says Siddiq.
Vimla Kumawat’s school in Jaipur’s Mahesh Nagar has another branch on the outskirts of the pink city, in Baksawala. The area is inhabited by people from the Dalit community, who live in slums. Their homes are located along the main road and the nearest government school is one-and-half kilometers away.
“Parents are reluctant to send their children to government school because they have to cover this distance by foot,” says Ashok, the upkeeper of Baksawala makeshift school. The school at Baksawala has no permanent structure. Children study under a tree or out in the open, fighting the high temperatures in Rajasthan.
Ashok runs the school with two more volunteers. They found an abandoned building for children to study. The children are crammed in tiny congested rooms with little space for movement. A small window and the classroom door act as the only source of natural light and air.
When it comes to the deficiencies in the education system, K. B. Kothari, managing trustee of Pratham Education Foundation, a charitable trust that works toward the provision of quality education to underprivileged children in India, puts the blames squarely on the political leadership in the country.
“The major responsibility for this [failure] must be attributed to political leadership at all levels,” Kothari says.
Nevertheless, both India and Pakistan have heroes like Kumawat and Siddiq, and warriors like Shivani and Iqra. They stand tall against all odds and against all failures.
“I used to roam around garbage for rag-picking,” Shivani recalls without batting an eye. “I dream of becoming a doctor now,” she says, with a visible glow on her face.
This story is a collaboration by journalism students of AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia (India) and the Center for Excellence in Journalism (Pakistan). The team members include Madhuraj, Sarah Khan, Babrah Muskan Naikoo, and Tehseen Abbas.

Imran Khan govt took away a chance from Pakistan’s terror-infested FATA to join mainstream

FATA had its first provincial election in Pakistan’s history last week. But rigging and military crackdown made sure the region remains open for Taliban.

The recent election in Pakistan’s former tribal districts was an opportunity for millions to vote their representatives into the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly for the first time in the country’s history. The 20 July election was a key marker in the ongoing merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to bring the region into Pakistan’s constitutional and administrative mainstream.
But with reports of massive rigging, this historic election turned out to be a lost opportunity for not only Pakistan but also for the international community. Widely regarded as a terror-infested territory bordering Afghanistan, a clean election in FATA could have potentially overturned the dirty strategic games being played there for long, and also provided a critical window in case Doha peace talks come undone.

FATA’s troubled past

Until May last year, the erstwhile FATA was ruled directly by the President of Pakistan under a set of colonial-era laws, including the draconian and discriminatory Frontier Crimes Regulation, which runs contrary to all provisions of fundamental rights and due process in the Constitution of Pakistan.
FATA was infested with several militant groups like the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Haqqani network. It also served as the base and launch pad for the ‘mujahideen’ of the 1980s fighting then USSR-backed Babrak Karmal regime in Afghanistan, and later the USSR itself. Pakistani police or the courts of law had no jurisdiction in this land, which was governedthrough tribal Maliks and government-appointed political agents. Hence, the seven districts in FATA region have remained severely underdeveloped, with some of the poorest socio-economic indicators to show in the country. The region has also been an information black hole, primarily serving as a place from where strategic policies with regards to Afghanistan were devised.
Until 1997, voting rights in FATA were not uniform, with only a few thousand tribals allowed to vote or contest elections as ‘Independents’. It was only in August 2009 that then-President Asif Ali Zardari announced the lifting of the ban on political activities in FATA, supposedly keeping his wife and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s wish. Zardari, however, couldn’t implement it because of the military’s resistance.
FATA remained the place from where the entire infrastructure of ‘jihad’ – the militant-producing madrassas like the Haqqania – continued to thrive.

Robbed by a rigged election

Political parties were finally allowed into FATA in 2011 – two years after Zardari’s announcement.
Therefore, the 2019 election, being the first under a constitutional decree and thus a redressal mechanism, should have served as a watershed to ‘open up’ FATA. It should have become the moment that gave its people genuine representation in the local assembly to have their grievances heard by mainstream Pakistan. But this process was subverted with heavy rigging to bring in Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and some ‘Independent’ puppets while keeping out popular candidates belonging to the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).
Barring PTI candidates, all were harassed with arrests, FIRs, threats or simply prevented from campaigning through the imposition of curfews. The environment in the run-up to the election was made so harsh and frightening that not a single party president or chairman could visit and campaign for their candidates.
PTI candidates, on the other hand, campaigned under military protection or under the aegis of armed good Taliban. None of this is recorded in the mainstream press or media. Journalists like Adnan Bitani and Ihsan Tipu Mehsud (who covers Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for The New York Times) and several activists from Waziristan have, however, recorded these violations and manipulation of the election in the form of videos, narrating arrests, attacksharassment, and election-day rigging on social media.
The PTI Candidate Naseer Wazir staging firing of his victory by Good Taliban with heavy weaponary in WANA Wazirstan. They have violated all the rules & laws of ECP. How will National & KP Govt respond to this. Injustice in Justice Party Rule.
Protests by supporters of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement ahead of the election revealed a curious and worrying development – that of an attempt to re-Talibanise the tribal region as a launch-pad for attacks in Afghanistan and as a counter-force to the PTM itself, which demands peace in the area and resists the Taliban. Until the end-game in Afghanistan, that is the successful installation of the Taliban in Kabul as part of a coalition government through the US-Taliban ‘peace negotiations’ – the security establishment does not want to open up the FATA.

Keeping the Taliban’s base intact

An isolated, unrepresented black hole FATA, in particular in North and South Waziristan, would then continue to serve as the Taliban’s base for a new wave of attacks on neighbouring Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, etc should the Doha talks fail for any reason. The Haqqani network is stationed in these two former agencies of FATA. So, if the Taliban are not catapulted into Kabul, they will at least rule the provinces to continue their march towards the capital.
Towards this aim, ingenuous election rigging plans were conceived and executed. For example, the population census of FATA of 2017 wiped out half the population of the region, which politicians and activists of the area have estimated to be at least 10 million based on the government’s own numbers of refugees leaving from or returning to the tribal areas after various operations. This effectively robbed the region of its due number of seats in the national and provincial legislatures during the delimitation exercise ahead of the merger.
Mohsin Dawar, the massively popular PTM activist and member of the national assembly from North Waziristan, managed to table and get the 26th constitutional amendment bill passed unanimously. The bill had sought to increase the erstwhile FATA’s seat share from 6 to 12 in the national assembly and from 16 to 24 in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly. But he was thwarted by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani’s efforts to repeatedly withdraw the bill from the agenda. The bill ultimately became redundant because the Senate never got a chance to act on it. Had the bill passed into an Act, Mohsin and PTM’s popularity would have further soared, leading to a clean sweep by the PTM in the provincial election.
One of the biggest attacks on the fairness of the recent election was the May 26 Khar Qamar incident, when MNAs Ali Wazir, Mohsin Dawar and activists of the PTM came under military fire. Thirteen people, including two children, were killed (the military says three); Wazir and Dawar were ‘arrested’ and prevented from campaigning for their candidates in FATA. They remain in prison to this day.
What happened in the FATA election, therefore, has domestic as well as international implications. Domestically, a transparent and genuine election would eventually have led to the presence of the Taliban, their bases, and the military’s illegal internment centres in the erstwhile FATA to be exposed. From the transnational perspective, it was important to keep options open in case of a collapse of the Doha talks.