Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Music Video - Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello Perform 'Señorita

Video Report - #US #Slavery US marks 400 years since first Africans arrived as slaves

Elizabeth Warren Is Missing a Plan

By Kimberley A. Strassel
According to presidential aspirant Elizabeth Warren and her supporters, the Massachusetts Democrat “has a plan” for everything. Student-loan forgiveness, immigration reform, criminal-justice overhaul—check, check, check. The senator even has strategies for paving dirt roads in Indian country and for providing “fresh, affordable, local food.”
It is the presence of so many plans that make notable the one policy area for which Ms. Warren doesn’t have a clear strategy: health care. That missing agenda item speaks volumes about the shrewdness—or deception—of her campaign.
To be sure, Ms. Warren suggests she has a health-care plan. In the first Democratic debate, she stated she was “with” Bernie Sanders on Medicare for All. She appeared to double down on this commitment in the second debate, joining Mr. Sanders to rough up his detractors, and promising to “fight for” single payer.In reality, she’s been far less clear about what she will do and when. Wade through Ms. Warren’s detailed website, and you’ll find no health-care section. She avoids specifics on the campaign trail, avoids the whole topic when she can. She has refused to answer yes-or-no candidate questions on health topics. Read the second debate transcript closely, and you’ll notice she spends most of her time arguing that insurance companies bring in too much and pay out too little.
When the New York Times asked this spring about her health-care plan, she listed her top priorities: protecting ObamaCare, reducing drug costs, and getting “a consumers’ bill of rights for private insurance so that people don’t get ripped off.” Beyond that, she said she’d “keep moving us to a place where everybody is covered at the lowest possible cost.” She has repeatedly noted that there are many different (incremental) “paths” to Medicare for All—such as lowering the age of eligibility, or letting employers buy into the program.
This isn’t a plan; it’s a hedge. It’s notable because it comes as most of the Democratic field has quietly acknowledged that killing private insurance is a surefire political loser. Five of the seven U.S. senators running for the presidency are officially sponsors of Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All bill. Yet in recent weeks, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand have all backed away from the provision that would prohibit private insurance. Most now instead support giving Americans a public “option” alongside private insurance—joining the likes of Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke. Ms. Warren’s vagueness exposes the limits of her liberal “populism.” She calls herself a progressive, but her campaign has focused on capturing “forgotten” voters by uniting them against “corrupt” Washington, “corrupt” Wall Street, “corrupt” “Big Ag.” Her playbook is relentlessly monotone: Highlight an unpleasant necessity of life (student debt, child-care bills), blame it on the rich and powerful, propose government as the solution.
Her pickle with health care is that more than 100 million Americans still prefer their private insurance to a government replacement. That’s the “popular” will. Medicare for All would also require Ms. Warren to go beyond her wealth tax on millionaires and billionaires, the revenue from which she has earmarked for other programs—free tuition, student-debt forgiveness, child-care subsidies. Medicare for All, as Mr. Sanders has acknowledged, would require her to tax the middle class—which also isn’t very populist.
Ms. Warren faces Democratic primary concerns that she is unelectable—too extreme to win nationwide in November. Her campaign understands that a clear, committed plan for Medicare for All would add to that liability.
She initially seemed set to get around all this by constraining herself to more insurance regulation. But Mr. Sanders and his voters are turning Medicare for All into a progressive litmus test. The Vermont independent is increasingly highlighting his rivals’ failure to embrace his plan as evidence of their phoniness. Ms. Warren wants and needs those voters, especially should Mr. Sanders leave the race. A more modest health-care plan would alienate them. How to straddle this? She can’t. Which is why the woman who has a detailed plan for everything, has no official plan for an issue that Gallup reports 80% of voters said was “extremely” or “very” important to their 2018 vote. So far, it’s worked for her. Progressive activists read from her second debate performance that she is fully committed to Medicare for All. Middle-of-the-road Democrats read from her other comments, and her omissions, that she may settle on an insurance-regulation plan, accompanied by a proposal to expand Medicare incrementally, or over time.
The question is how long she gets away with it. If this election is as mind-bendingly consequential as Democrats claim, surely the public deserves to know Ms. Warren’s plan for the U.S. health-care system. Maybe some intrepid debate moderator might even ask in September: “Ms. Warren, why don’t you have a plan for that?”

Top Israeli officials alarmed by possible U.S.-Iran talks

The Israeli government is deeply concerned about the possibility of new U.S.-Iran nuclear talks, which President Trump discussed today alongside President Emmanuel Macron of France, 3 Israeli Cabinet ministers and 2 senior Israeli officials involved in Iran policy tell me. 
Why it matters: The pressure campaign against Iran has been the main point of collaboration between the Netanyahu government and the Trump administration, and Netanyahu saw Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal as a signature foreign policy achievement. A loosening of Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran could create tension with Israel.
Behind the scenes: Israeli officials tell me the prospect of renewed talks between the U.S. and Iran has been discussed by Israel's Security Cabinet several times lately.
  • The Israeli government is concerned that a summit between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani could happen very soon. They fear the ensuing process will be similar to U.S.-North Korea talks, thus taking pressure off the Iranian regime.
What they're saying:
"We have no interest in talks between the U.S. and Iran, but our ability to influence Trump or confront him on this issue is pretty limited."
— Israeli Cabinet minister
"We were very lucky that until now the Iranians rejected all of Trump's proposals for talks."
— Senior Israeli official involved in Iran policy
Driving the news: Macron said today at the press conference with Trump that he thinks conditions are ripe for a meeting in the coming weeks.
  • Trump confirmed that he'd be willing to meet Rouhani, who said hours earlier that he'd be ready to meet Trump if such a meeting would solve the problems of the Iranian people.
What to watch: One possible venue could be next month's UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Trump, Rouhani and Macron are all expected to attend. Netanyahu, meanwhile, might not be at the annual meeting because it falls 10 days after Israel's elections. 

‘Quichotte’ Is Salman Rushdie’s Latest. But the Act Is Getting Old.

    How do writers privately define success? Is it a matter of sales, prizes, worshipful reviews? Yes, but only that? Are there more idiosyncratic metrics — a conviction in the value of the work or in the risks taken or, perhaps, the knowledge of the cost of its creation?
    “What you hope to do is leave behind a shelf of books,” Salman Rushdie once said, quoting Martin Amis. “You want to be able to walk into a bookstore and say, ‘From here to here, it’s me.’”
    A shelf of books. One wishes Amis had been more specific. Rushdie fills a shelf, even two, nicely. He is the author of nearly 20 books — six published in the last 11 years alone, but of diminishing quality. The novels are imaginative as ever, but they are also increasingly wobbly, bloated and mannered. He is a writer in free fall. What happened?
    Rushdie made his name on the breathtaking originality of his 1981 novel, “Midnight’s Children,” the story of a boy “handcuffed to history,” born at the exact second of Indian independence. It was told in the voice of Bombay — rowdy, musical, tender and profane — a new voice for a new literature of migration and identity; the wave of writers influenced by the book were called “Midnight’s Grandchildren.” He followed it with “Shame,” on the birth of Pakistan, his angriest, funniest, finest novel, to my mind. His next, “The Satanic Verses,” sealed his literary immortality. The Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, and sent the writer into hiding for nine years “a fretful, scuttling existence,” as he described it in his memoir, “Joseph Anton.”
    That famous style has congealed in recent years; the flamboyance that once felt so free now seems strenuous and grating. “If he had a fault, it was that of ostentation, of seeking to be not only himself but a performance of himself,” Rushdie writes of a character in his novel “The Enchantress of Florence,” which could read like stinging self-critique. The later books — “Shalimar the Clown,” “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights,” “The Golden House” — are all tics, technique and hammy narration that try to toupee over patchy stories, exhausted themes, types passing as characters. For a writer so frequently praised for ingenuity, Rushdie actually follows a formula of sorts. You could make yourself a bingo card: Classic Novel or Myth used as Scaffolding, Femme Fatale, Story within the Story (recounted by a Garrulous Narrator), Topical Concerns, Defense of Hybridity.
    Let’s play. The new novel, “Quichotte” is a retelling of Don Quixote (there’s our Scaffold), with debts to “Back to the Future,” the Odyssey, “Lolita,” Pinocchio, the Eugène Ionesco play “Rhinoceros,” and — why not — the 12th century epic, “The Conference of the Birds.” Our hero, a traveling salesman of Indian origin, becomes addled by his obsession with American television (in the original, the Don is addicted to heraldic romances). He begins to believe himself an inhabitant of “that other, brighter world” and resolves to win the heart of a beautiful television host (meet our Femme Fatale), Salma R. He sets off in pursuit of his beloved, and channels for himself a companion, a son he calls, naturally, Sancho. In their quest they encounter an America of Trump voters and vicious racism (allowing for that Defense of Hybridity) and become tangled in a subplot involving the opioid crisis (Topical Concerns — check!). This story is revealed to us as a work in progress, however, the creation of a second-rate crime writer, another uneasy Indian in America who writes under the name Sam duChamp (a.k.a. our Garrulous Narrator), who has some unfinished business back home.
    I didn’t even mention the mastodon invasion. Or the rip in the cosmos. Or the character inspired by Elon Musk. Or the unhappy appearance, toward the end of the book, of a Jiminy Cricket-type character. “This isn’t really happening,” Sancho says. This isn’t really happening, I thought.
    Of all genres, fantasy, E.M. Forster has argued, requires perhaps the greatest adjustment on the part of the reader, a special suspension of disbelief. It is not necessarily a great adjustment but it must be accounted for, and it must be made, otherwise the reader will be left on shore, watching the author’s proud, meaningless exertions with increasing detachment and coldness. When Rushdie’s previous books have succeeded it is because he has been guided by this awareness and found ways to entice us on board, to poke fun at his own excesses. In “Midnight’s Children,” blunt Padma performs the function of in-house literary critic: “Here is Padma at my elbow, bullying me back into the world of linear narrative, the universe of what-happened-next,” our garrulous narrator tells us.The ability to believe in the preposterous is, of course, at the very heart of “Don Quixote,” called the first modern novel with its commentaries on fiction, metafiction and reality. “He doubts everything and he believes everything,” Don Quixote says of Sancho Panza, a fine precondition for reading fantasy. “It is so, it isn’t so,” Arab storytellers would traditionally begin their tales, as Rushdie writes in “The Satanic Verses.” There are feints at exploring what this threshold might mean at a time when notions of truth and reality seem so tattered. But Rushdie’s narrative impulses are centrifugal; they lie in tossing in celebrity cameos and literary allusions, in sending new plots into orbit in the hope they might lend glitter and ballast to a work sorely in need of both, sorely in need of tethering to the world, the concerted thinking and feeling of realism, not magic.
    As Cervantes’s Don Quixote tells Sancho: Teeth are more precious than diamonds.

    'From Taking Srinagar to Defending Muzaffarabad': Bilawal Bhutto Slams Imran Khan Over 'Kashmir Failure'

    Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on prime minister Imran Khan for his policies on Kashmir.
    “Our earlier stand on Kashmir would be how to take Srinagar from India. But now we are in such a position where we need to think on how to secure Muzaffarabad (Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir),” Bilawal said and blamed Khan's 'greed' and 'failure' for it.
    Bilawal’s remarks come amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issue after the Centre repealed J&K’s special status accorded to it by Article 370.
    He also dubbed Khan as a fascist leader, Pakistan media reported. “He is attacking the media and democracy and violating human rights," he said.
    "Niazi is a fascist who is attacking the media, democracy and arresting women but he's forgotten that the PPP never came under pressure and always struggled against dictators and sent Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and General (R) Pervez Musharraf packing. What is this puppet then?" Bilawal said.
    Pakistan has been approaching several countries like Turkey, Poland, China and US and also approached United Nations Security Council to hold talks over Kashmir. It is now mulling to take up the revocation of Article 370 at International Court of Justice and United Nations General Assembly.

    Imran Khan used Modi excuse to give Bajwa extension. But General can’t save him from rivals

    During recent briefings and meetings, General Bajwa had said more than once that he was not interested in an extension.

    On 18 August, Imran Khan completed a year as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The very next day he announced that the tenure of Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will be extended by three years. Earlier, he was set to retire on 29 November, but after the extension, he will now remain the army chief till 29 November 2022.
    Why did Imran Khan give General Bajwa a three-year extension as army chief?

    Convincing the General?

    I remember when the government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) gave a three-year extension to then Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in 2010, it was Imran Khan who had criticised then PM Yousaf Raza Gilani and said, “If you want to make Pakistan strong, you must make its institutions strong and institutions can only become strong when you don’t give preference to individuals over institutions”.
    In several of his interviews, Imran Khan had said that even if a country is fighting a war, its army chief should not be given an extension.
    But in the last one year, Imran Khan has made many U-turns – the latest was this Monday when General Bajwa was given an extension “in view of the regional security environment”.
    Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi further mentioned the situation in Kashmir and Afghanistan as reasons for the decision on General Bajwa. He said, “A clear message was being conveyed to India that there was continuation and clarity in the political and military leadership in Pakistan.”
    During recent briefings and meetings, General Bajwa had said more than once that he was not interested in an extension.
    But a few weeks ago, some TV channels claimed that PM Imran Khan had decided to extend the tenure of General Bajwa, and he would make an announcement at an appropriate time. The prime minister’s office did not deny this, giving fuel to the speculation that Imran Khan was trying to convince the General to accept an extension in service tenure.

    Bajwa and Sharif

    In 2014, General Bajwa was the Corps Commander of Rawalpindi when Imran Khan was staging a protest in front of Parliament house and demanding the resignation of then PM Nawaz Sharif.
    The general impression in those days was that the military establishment was supporting Imran Khan against Nawaz Sharif. Bajwa emerged as one of the pro-democracy Generals who advised his boss General Raheel Sharif that army should not interfere in politics.
    Raheel Sharif wanted not only an extension but also the title of Field Marshal. Then PM Nawaz Sharif refused to oblige him and appointed Qamar Javed Bajwa as the new army chief, who was not even the most senior in the service at that time.
    Bajwa enjoyed excellent relations with Nawaz Sharif, but the situation changed in April 2016 when the Panama Papers scandal hit the Sharifs, finally leading to the Pakistan Supreme Court disqualifying Nawaz from holding public office in 2018.

    Why Bajwa is important for PM

    Imran Khan was one of the luckiest PMs of Pakistan in 2018. When he became Pakistan’s prime minister, both army and judiciary supported him. Yet, he was not able to bring a change in Pakistan’s policies or politics.
    It is not just the ‘regional security situation’ that forced Imran Khan to give an extension to General Bajwa. Many in Pakistan believe that Imran Khan cannot survive without Bajwa. He has privately praised Bajwa many times. “I became Prime Minister because like me General Bajwa also believes in Naya Pakistan,” Imran Khan has said in the past.
    Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan has failed to provide any economic relief to the common people of Pakistan. In April, the PM replaced finance minister Asad Umar with Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, who was the finance minister in the PPP government. Even this change yielded no positive results.
    It was not the job of the army chief to run here and there, asking for economic aid, but still General Bajwa did it. It is widely believed that the General visited Saudi Arabia, UAE and China, and arranged for some loans, giving the Imran Khan government some breathing space.
    But Imran Khan’s popularity has nosedived since then. Last month, opposition parties in Pakistan held rallies against the government, accusing it of destroying the economy and muzzling its critics.

    Can Bajwa defend the government?

    Just when things were getting difficult at home, the Narendra Modi government announced abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. The India-Pakistan tension is a blessing in disguise for Imran Khan. It has helped him divert people’s attention from Pakistan’s economic woes to the threat of a war with India.
    Imran Khan’s announcement regarding tenure extension of General Bajwa came on a day when opposition parties met in Islamabad and decided to launch a mass movement against ‘fascist’ Imran Khan. His government arrested Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam on 8 August when she was meeting her father in jail. Last week, Faryal Talpur, sister of PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, was shifted from hospital to jail against doctor’s advice.
    Will General Bajwa rescue Imran Khan from a possible mass movement by the opposition?
    An army chief can fight a foreign enemy, but it’s not easy to fight political opponents of a civilian government. It is expected that General Bajwa will be more careful in his second term by not getting involved in political battles inside Pakistan. His immediate challenge is to defuse the India-Pakistan tension and push Afghan Taliban for a peace agreement with Washington.
    The political and military leadership are on the same page in terms of tackling the ‘regional security situation’. But the same security situation may force General Bajwa to defend only Pakistan, and not the government of Pakistan.

    #Pakistan - By giving General Bajwa an extension, Imran Khan has lost the leverage he held


    If Imran Khan is unable to deliver, the military will replace him even before he gets to say ‘what’.

    When Imran Khan rode to power on the support of General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his team in July last year, everybody knew that the Pakistan Army chief was here to stay. His tenure extension was a foregone conclusion. Yet for a whole year, much air time and ink were spent on debating a question that was moot.
    Now that the extension has been announced, Imran Khan has lost the leverage he held.
    Contrary to what most experts and Pakistanis think, and indeed what Imran Khan himself thinks – that Imran Khan is here to stay for nine more years – I believe he has become more dispensable now than ever before and has plausibly shortened his own political life with this extension to General Bajwa.

    PM & army chief on same page

    In Pakistan’s history, military dictators have often decided their own tenures, be it Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq or Pervez Musharraf. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was the first army chief to get an extension under a civilian government, but only after a tug of war between the civilian president and the military chief.
    But this time, the civilian and the military heads were on the ‘same page’ on General Bajwa’s extension. It was a historical first for a prime minister in Pakistan wanting to give an extension to the army chief to assure his own political survival, as he hangs on to power by a thin majority cobbled together for him by the army chief and his team.
    Sources close to Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), say that General Bajwa’s extension became a matter of discussion right after the party came to power.
    And according to senior journalist Talat Hussain, by March this year, the question was not whether the extension would be given, but for how long.

    The General’s hubris

    Yet, it wasn’t as linear and straightforward as it may seem now.
    Many believed that General Bajwa to an extent was also dependent on Imran Khan. After all, Khan now possessed the ultimate power – he could choose not to extend the General’s tenure.
    And the dynamics of this power equation played out interestingly over the last few months.
    So, opposition leadersbureaucrats, and several other people were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) and charged with corruption, and put away in prison awaiting trial. Many of them had never criticised and resisted the ‘miltablishment’ nor were they caught in its crosshairs. In fact, many of them are even known to be close to the military.
    So, what went wrong?
    I called up one such person who had ended up on the ECL with ‘trumped up’ corruption charges despite having cordial relations with the military. How did this happen? I asked.
    I found his response entirely unbelievable: “Gul, things are not linear. It’s a game of give and take (between military and the PM)”.
    Imran Khan was getting to be the playground bully and punching above his weight, being vindictive with the opposition or whoever came in his way, because he held the key to General Bajwa’s extension.
    It would be entirely reasonable to ask why the Pakistan Army chief would be so desperate to please Khan to ensure his own extension when he could easily get rid of the puppet and put another less demanding yes man in his place and get the extension.
    The answer to that lies in the General’s hubris to prove that his choice of Prime Minister is right – to change him so soon would be an admission of a huge blunder. It’s another matter that all the key positions in the Imran Khan cabinet have now been taken over by military’s men and women.

    Puppet and the puppeteer

    According to the commonly held belief, with General Bajwa getting a three-year extension and Lt Gen Faiz Hameed being appointed as the ISI chief (he is tipped to be the next army chief), Imran Khan is set to rule for two terms easily.
    But I contend ‘ye hava kisi ki nahi’ (this wind belongs to none) – the wind is a metaphor for military loyalty. If Imran Khan is unable to deliver, or if the military takes fancy to another politician-in-the-making, it will replace him before he gets a chance to say ‘what’.
    The more important question here is not how long the political puppet will last, but how long will be the political tenure of the puppeteer.
    Months before his retirement, the 21-gun salute to the Pakistani General in the US signalled Trump administration’s support for an extension. The US President has clearly put his eggs in General Bajwa’s basket to provide his country a face-saving exit from Afghanistan.
    The UK also appears to have bought Bajwa’s pitch, hook, line, and sinker despite history advising against it.
    What remains to be seen is whether the General has the will or the capacity to actually deliver on the wild promises he made to the US and the UK that helped bolster his bid for longevity.

    A year ago, PM Imran Khan promised Naya Pakistan but gave a series of embarrassments


    Pakistan PM’s score card on altering the economic, foreign and security policies to usher in a welfare state is dismal.

    On August 18, Imran Khan completed one year in office as prime minister. Although a year is not long enough to pass a conclusive judgment, it is enough time to gauge the direction a government has taken and assess whether it will deliver on its promises, and if it is moving in the right direction at all.
    Regardless of how the 2018 elections played out and the not-too-secret manipulations of establishment for Imran’s selection for the victory stand, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) secured nearly 32 percent of the total votes in the general elections and 149 seats in the National Assembly. They then formed a coalition government.
    It will be unfair also to not acknowledge Khan’s two decades of political struggle finally culminating in his forming the governments at the centre and in the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Even though he was aided in his victory in the elections, Imran had some distinct advantages which entitled him to a fair chance to prove his mettle. Being largely untested in the political arena had created some hope. He was also untainted with any serious charges of corruption and enjoyed complete support of the military. The judiciary also appeared sympathetic and there were no destabilising suo moto notices as before. Having made right noises about issues that resonated with the masses, the youth and the poor wanted him to give him a fair chance. Seldom before has a politician entered office with such a credible reservoir of goodwill of the public as well as of state institutions.
    One year down the line, the score card on fulfilling the promise of ushering in a welfare state a la Madina and altering the economic, foreign and security policies for this purpose, however, is dismal.
    Claiming to put economy on right track, the government presented three budgets, including two supplementary ones, in one year. After months of indecision and foot-dragging, the government finally knocked the door of IMF- but the damage had been done.
    The inappropriate sacking of the finance minister in the middle of international negotiations, sending home of an advisor on the economy on the basis of his faith and repeatedly shuffling the economic team betrayed complete unpreparedness and lack of a solid plan of action. As a result, the economy plunged headlong: the rupee fell from 120 to 160 to a dollar, inflation rose to double digits for the first time in over a decade and interest rates soared phenomenally. All this shrank the space for businesses and contracted job creation. The promise of creating 10 million jobs or building five million houses appeared a farce.
    Poverty levels increased. One year ago petrol was available at Rs95 a litre when international prices were over 72 dollars a barrel. As international prices have come down to 67 dollars a barrel, it is at 118 rupees a litre. Foreign debt multiplied as the stock index plunged from 42,500 to under 29,000 in one year. The promise of bringing back 200 billion dollars allegedly stashed abroad by corrupt politicians turned out to be a joke.
    China Pakistan Economic Corridor seems to have been put on the back burner ever since the IMF revealed for the first time that it got all the information about CPEC loans from Pakistan that had long been denied to it.
    The basic contours of foreign and security polices not only remain unchanged but have been further entrenched. Policies are framed without parliamentary oversight and accountability, Foreign Office is completely side lined and state craft is driven by unaccountable backseat drivers. Non-state actors continue to be admired and eulogised, if not aided and abetted. The recent remarks by a federal minister that the victory of Taliban in Afghanistan is a victory for Pakistan, even with the sword of FATF hanging, say it all about the safe havens for non-state actors.
    Pakistan’s international isolation has never been as great as it is today. Make no mistakes about it; Foreign Minister Qureshi’s letter to the United Nations Security Council calling for an emergency meeting of the council was not even considered. Then China urged an informal, closed door meeting of the council to consider whether a formal meeting should be held on Kashmir. The informal gathering of the council members said “no.” Not a word about Kashmir’s annexation.
    On the security and foreign policy front, the first year of Imran Khan’s government may be thus summed up: India called the nuclear bluff and annexed Kashmir as Imran remained busy in hounding political opposition, stifling democratic freedoms, legitimising non-political forces, delegitimised political parties and legitimising politicization of state security institutions. How?
    Bypassing the constitutional National Economic Council (NEC), a new body National Development Council was set up and the army chief was also put in the economy’s driving seat. The army chief was recently given a three-year extension. Imran went back on his own public pronouncements that extensions ill-served the institution of the army, publicly opposing General Kayani’s extension and declaring that as PM, he would not extend tenures of the army chief or the ISI chief.
    When the former army chief General Raheel Shareef announced, 10 months ahead of retirement, that he would not seek an extension, Imran tweeted on January 25, 2016, “The nation’s respect for General Raheel has gone up after his statement refusing to accept extension in service.” What made him think that public respect will be enhanced this time is not explained. It is significant that General Raheel had not been publicly offered any extension and soon after his declaration to reject assumed extension, he went on to become commander of the Islamic coalition forces against Yemen.
    The photos of the press conference of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi published on eve of the first anniversary speaks loudly about the militarisation of politics and politicisation of the military. A major general, in uniform occupying centre stage, addressed the press conference jointly by FM Qureshi and Chairman of Kashmir Committee Fakhar Imam. Deserving a place in a national archive of embarrassment, this picture will sum up, even in a distant age and clime, how politicians and political forces were delegitimize and the security establishment legitimised in the promised “Naya Pakistan.”

    Bangladesh rules women need not say if virgins on marriage certificates

    Bangladesh’s top court has ruled that women need no longer declare if they are virgins on marriage certificates after a five-year legal battle by women’s rights groups trying to protect women’s privacy and potential humiliation.
    Marriage laws in the Muslim-majority country in South Asia had required a bride had to state on her marriage certificate if she was a “kumari” - meaning virgin - a widow, or divorced.
    But the nation’s High Court on Sunday ordered the government to remove the word “kumari” and replace it with “unmarried”, a move welcomed on Tuesday but women’s rights groups.
    According to the ruling, the groom would now also have to disclose if he was unmarried, divorced or a widower.
    No one from the government was available to comment about the change or when it was to take effect.
    Ainun Nahar Siddiqua, one of two lawyers involved in the case, said the case dated back to 2014 with the filing of a writ petition to change in the form provided under the 1974 Bangladesh Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act.“It’s a ruling that gives us the belief that we can fight and create more changes for women in the future,” Siddiqua, of Bangladesh Legal Aid And Services Trust (BLAST), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
    “We filed a writ petition because asking whether someone’s a virgin or not is against the person’s right to privacy.”
    Mohammad Ali Akbar Sarker, a Muslim marriage registrar from Dhaka, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that registrars like him were waiting for the Ministry of Law and Justice to officially inform them about the changes in the form.
    “I have conducted many marriages in Dhaka and I have often been asked why men have the liberty to not disclose their status but women don’t. I always told them this wasn’t in my hands. I guess I won’t be asked that question anymore,” said Sarker.