Saturday, December 14, 2019

Video Report - #YellowVest - Yellow Vests hold protest in wake of national strike in Paris

Video Report - The rise of Vladimir Putin | DW Documentary

Capitalism is losing appeal to Chinese

As China has stood on a higher level of development, it is having a different way of dealing with, and understanding Western countries. It's fair to say the Chinese people now have the most profound and objective understanding of capitalism.
The US is representative of capitalism. Many Chinese used to adore the US. But with China and the US increasingly having interdependent interests, the Chinese people have begun to understand the US from a new perspective.
We find that the US, though powerful, has many problems and made many mistakes. The US House of Representatives is moving to impeach the president.
If it were long ago, many Chinese would have regarded it a good example of checks and balances. But now, more people believe the US is messing with itself again.
The two camps that support and oppose the impeachment fall along Democrat and Republican lines. US government shutdowns caused by ceaseless partisan squabbling in recent years have exposed the inefficiency of the American system.
Documents disclosed by US media recently reveal that the US government has been deceiving the public about the war in Afghanistan. Although it realized the war had become unwinnable, it kept saying the US was making progress, extending the war to 18 years at a cost of $2 trillion and resulting in mass casualties, without bringing any benefits to the US. The US democratic system has failed to prevent the country from making such a blunder, but has made it quite difficult to fix.
The recklessness, impulse and irrationality of US policies are particularly shown in the country's dealings with China. The US has failed to base their policies on facts and has misjudged China. Many of its practices are not in line with US long-term interests.
Let's have a look at other capitalist countries around the world. India, whose situation was similar to that of China decades ago, has fallen behind China in development. A majority of the developing countries in the world have adopted a political system of capitalism, but only a few have achieved rapid development and good governance. Most have a lackluster performance, and some have even slipped into turmoil.All these at least tell the Chinese that capitalism is not a panacea. The economic and social achievements of Western countries cannot prove the institutional advantages of capitalism. And many problems appearing in developed countries have reflected the capitalist system's institutional flaws. The image of the capitalist system now is the most complex, and it's constantly declining.The Hong Kong unrest has taught the Chinese mainland society a "political lesson." In the originally prosperous Hong Kong society, huge systematic loopholes were lurking. As a result, the city is unable to withstand turmoil, and its rule of law has been ruined easily.We are living in a highly ideological world. A political system is a basic structure developed by each country. But the competition between nations has highlighted the negation of each other's political systems as a means of struggle. In the past few decades, China's high degree of opening-up has expanded into the ideological field. The country has been unswervingly following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics while learning from the world.
Through opening-up, we have had a close look at capitalism in all its forms and have observed various problems. Meantime, the US and other Western countries have been out of touch with reality, blindly believing in the "end of history" and demonizing China politically.
What matters to a country most is perhaps its ability to reform. No country's governance system is perfect. With the changes of the times, continuous reform is the guarantee of a country's progress.
In terms of reform capacity, the Western capitalist countries, such as the US, are far from role models to the world.

Commentary: Xinjiang's human rights progress an indisputable fact

The progress made in the field of human rights protection in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is a hard fact that cannot be disputed. Human rights include first and foremost the rights to life, subsistence and development. For Xinjiang, a vast borderland of challenging terrain, much has been done to develop the local economy, thus granting the people a better life. Xinjiang's economy has expanded 80 fold since the autonomous region was established in 1955. With a better economy, people's living standards improved. Since 2014, nearly 3 million people have shaken off poverty in Xinjiang. Today, Xinjiang is peaceful and moving fast toward prosperity. But the current peace did not come easily. It was hard-earned. Until only a few years ago, Xinjiang often fell victim to violent terrorist attacks which killed many innocent people. It was precisely the regional government's decisive counter-terrorism measures including the establishment of vocational education and training centers that turned the situation around.
Without prevailing peace, basic human rights to life, health and development cannot be guaranteed.
It is a shame that the U.S. House of Representatives, ignoring this progress, passed the so-called "Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019" last week, smearing the human rights situation in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang's preventive counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures so far have proven effective in protecting the human rights of the 25 million people in the region.
The measures put into practice the call of the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which points out that poverty, unemployment, a lack of job opportunities are all conditions conducive to violent extremism and the process of radicalization involves cynical distortion and misuse of religious beliefs, among other factors, by violent extremist groups. The document further recommends providing individuals with educational and economic opportunities to encourage them to leave violent extremist groups.
Since the end of 2018, over 1,000 representatives have visited Xinjiang in more than 70 groups, including officials from various countries, regions and international organizations, and members of the press, religious leaders and academic figures. They have hailed the valuable experience of Xinjiang in counter-terrorism and de-radicalization.
In October, at the Third Committee session of the 74th United Nations General Assembly, more than 60 countries commended in their statements the tremendous human rights progress achieved in Xinjiang.
It is time for the United States to recognize China's effective measures instead of discrediting them. After all, human rights are not a "card" for Washington to selectively play against other countries to serve its own interests.

Pity that reference to human rights sometimes serves as basis to interfere in other states’ domestic issues – Hungarian FM to RT

The EU’s policy regarding sanctions and restrictive measures is sometimes marked with double standards, Hungarian FM Peter Szijjarto told RT, stressing that even an issue of human rights can be seen differently inside the bloc. Budapest is committed to upholding human rights, the Hungarian foreign minister said, adding that unfortunately, sometimes a reference to this matter serves as a basis to persecute some political interest.
Sometimes the reference to human rights serves as a basis to interfere into domestic issues of other countries on an ideological basis, on a political basis, without any good reason.
Szijjarto noted that even an understanding of what human rights means, raises a debate. Migration is a huge challenge, he states. Szijjarto doesn’t agree with other European players that migration is a fundamental human right. He says that the fundamental human right is to have a “safe and secure” life at home, and if this right is violated, everybody is allowed to go to a safe country.
Migration cannot be the reason to violate borders between safe countries.
In this case, it’s important to speak about human rights “universally,” Szijjarto said, because for example, “liberal foreign ministers” have often been dismissive whenever he raises the issue of protecting Christian communities.
“Mutual respect” and “common sense” is very important when it comes to debates among such different EU members, he pointed out.

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#NYT Editorial Board - Impeach Donald Trump

IN THE END, the story told by the two articles of impeachment approved on Friday morning by the House Judiciary Committee is short, simple and damning: President Donald Trump abused the power of his office by strong-arming Ukraine, a vulnerable ally, holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid until it agreed to help him influence the 2020 election by digging up dirt on a political rival.

When caught in the act, he rejected the very idea that a president could be required by Congress to explain and justify his actions, showing “unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance” in the face of multiple subpoenas. He made it impossible for Congress to carry out fully its constitutionally mandated oversight role, and, in doing so, he violated the separation of powers, a safeguard of the American republic.
To quote from the articles, “President Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.”
The case now moves to the full House of Representatives, which on Wednesday will decide, for just the third time in the nation’s history, whether to impeach a president.
To resist the pull of partisanship, Republicans and Democrats alike ought to ask themselves the same question: Would they put up with a Democratic president using the power of the White House this way? Then they should consider the facts, the architecture and aspirations of the Constitution and the call of history. In that light, there can be only one responsible judgment: to cast a vote to impeach, to send a message not only to this president but to future ones.
By stonewalling as no previous president has, Donald Trump has left Congress with no choice but to press ahead to a Senate trial. The president insists he is innocent of any wrongdoing, yet he refuses to release any administration documents or allow any administration officials to testify — though, if his assertions are in fact true, those officials would presumably exonerate him. He refused to present any defense before the House whatsoever, asserting a form of monarchical immunity that Congress cannot let stand.
It’s regrettable that the House moved as fast as it did, without working further through the courts and through other means to hear from numerous crucial witnesses. But Democratic leaders have a point when they say they can’t afford to wait, given the looming electoral deadline and Mr. Trump’s pattern of soliciting foreign assistance for his campaigns. Even after his effort to extract help from Ukraine was revealed, the president publicly called on China to investigate his rival. Asked as recently as October what he hoped the Ukrainians would do in response to his infamous July 25 call with their president, Mr. Trump declared: “Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer.”
BARRING THE PERSUASIVE DEFENSE that Mr. Trump has so far declined even to attempt, that simple answer sounds like a textbook example of an impeachable offense, as the nation’s framers envisioned it.
A president “might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation or oppression,” James Madison said of the need for an impeachment clause. “He might betray his trust to foreign powers.”
Madison and his fellow framers understood that elections — which, under normal circumstances, are the essence of democratic self-government — could not serve their purpose if a president was determined to cheat to win.As the constitutional scholar Noah Feldman testified before the Judiciary Committee last week, “Without impeachment, the president would have been an elected monarch. With impeachment, the president was bound to the rule of law.”At the same time, the framers were well aware of the dangers inherent in impeachment. That’s why they made it a two-step process: First is the House’s vote on impeachment, which is akin to an indictment and requires only a majority to pass. Second is a trial in the Senate, which decides the president’s ultimate fate, and thus has a much higher bar to clear — two-thirds of senators must vote to convict and remove the president from office.
So far, Republicans legislators have shown little sign of treating this constitutional process with the seriousness it demands.
By stonewalling as no previous president has, Donald Trump has left Congress with no choice but to press ahead to a Senate trial. Instead, they have been working overtime to abet the president’s wrongdoing. They have spread toxic misinformation and conspiracy theories to try to justify his actions and raged about the unfairness of the inquiry, complaining that Democrats have been trying to impeach Mr. Trump since he took office.No doubt some Democrats were too eager to resort to impeachment before it became unavoidable. Mr. Trump has been committing arguably impeachable offenses since the moment he entered the Oval Office, including his acceptance of foreign money at his many businesses; his violations of campaign-finance law in paying hush money to a woman who claimed to have had a sexual affair with him; and, of course, his obstructions of justice in the Russia investigation, which were documented extensively by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.Democrats could have pursued impeachment in any or all of these cases, but for various reasons decided not to. That changed in September, when a whistle-blower’s complaint, initially suppressed by the Justice Department, revealed the outline of Mr. Trump’s Ukraine scheme. That made it impossible to ignore the president’s lawlessness because it sounded an alarm that he was seeking to subvert the next election, depriving the voters of their right to check his behavior.
The Republicans’ most common defenses of Mr. Trump’s behavior fall flat in the face of the evidence.
There is, above all, the summary of the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president. Mr. Trump still insists that summary exonerates him. It doesn’t — which is why White House officials promptly locked it in a special computer system.
Then there is the sworn testimony of multiple government officials, including several appointed by Mr. Trump himself, all of whom confirmed the essential story line: For all the recent claims about his piety regarding Ukrainian corruption, Mr. Trump did not “give a shit about Ukraine.” He only wanted the “deliverable” — the announcement of an investigation into the Bidens, and also into a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
The argument that Mr. Trump cared about anything other than hurting Joe Biden and helping himself is undercut by several facts. Even though calling on the Ukrainians to fight corruption was part of his prepared talking points, he never mentioned the subject in his calls with Mr. Zelensky; he also didn’t hold up the military aid in 2017 or 2018, even though everyone knew about Hunter Biden’s Ukraine connection at the time. (What changed this year? Joe Biden emerged as his leading Democratic opponent.) By the time Mr. Trump intervened to block the money for Ukraine, the Defense Department had already certified that Ukraine had made enough progress fighting corruption to qualify for this year’s funds.
Republicans and Democrats ought to ask themselves the same question: Would they put up with a Democratic president using the power of the White House this way? Without any substantive defense of Mr. Trump’s behavior, several Republicans have taken to arguing that he committed no actual crime, and so can’t be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Putting aside a strong case that Mr. Trump has, in fact, broken at least one law, this isn’t how impeachment works. “High crimes” refers to severe violations of the public trust by a high-ranking official, not literal crimes. A president can commit a technical crime that doesn’t violate the public trust (say, jaywalking), and he can commit an impeachable offense that is found nowhere in the federal criminal code (like abuse of power).
Republicans’ sole remaining argument is: “So what? It wasn’t that big a deal.” Or, as acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney said in October, “Get over it.” This stance at least has the virtue of acknowledging the president’s vice, but that doesn’t make it O.K.
ASSUMING MR. TRUMP IS IMPEACHED, the case will go to the Senate, where he will have the chance — on far more friendly territory — to mount the defense he refused to make to the House. Rather than withholding key witnesses, he should be demanding sworn appearances by people like Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, and John Bolton, the former national security adviser.
As recently as a few weeks ago, some Republicans seemed to want to get to the bottom of things. Even Trump’s footman, Senator Lindsey Graham, said, “If you could show me that, you know, Trump actually was engaging in a quid pro quo, outside the phone call, that would be very disturbing.”The time for such expressions of public spirit has, apparently, passed. “I’ve written the whole process off,” Mr. Graham said during the impeachment hearings. “I think this is a bunch of B.S.”Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, says there will be “no difference between the president’s position and our position in how to handle this,” as he told Sean Hannity of Fox last Thursday. Before the House had cast a single vote on impeachment, Mr. McConnell said there was “no chance” the Senate would vote to convict.
For now, that leaves the defense of the Constitution, and the Republic, to the House of Representatives.

#GretaThunberg - Why is the president of the United States cyberbullying a 16-year-old girl?


             Nancy Jo Sales 
What it says to girls is: no matter what you do, no matter how much you achieve, powerful men will try to cut you down.
 The morning after election day 2016, I got a call from a girls’ school in New York where I was scheduled to speak. “We have to reschedule,” said a representative from the school. “The girls are too upset.”
Girls across the country were upset when Trump was elected, but not simply on partisan grounds. They were upset because Donald Trump was a bully, a cyberbully, and he bullied girls and young women like them – women like the former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who revealed that, when she was 19, he called her “Miss Piggy,” a dig at her weight.
In a New York Times poll in the run-up to the election, nearly half of girls aged 14 to 17 said that Trump’s comments about women affected the way they think about their bodies. Only 15% of girls said they would vote for him if they could.
And now Trump has a new target for his bullying: Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist. Thunberg seems to be really making Trump upset, without meaning to. She doesn’t fit into any of his ideas of how girls are supposed to act. She isn’t trying to be a contestant in one of his beauty pageants. She’s too busy trying to get world leaders like him to do something about the climate crisis. She’s too occupied by giving speeches at places like the UN – where Trump was laughed at, when he gave a speech in 2018, and Thunberg was met with respect, despite slamming the entire body for “misleading” the public with inadequate emission-reduction pledges.
In the last couple of weeks, while Trump was seemingly mocked by his peers at the Nato summit in London, and impeachment hearings against him began, Thunberg was named Time’s person of the year, an honor Trump reportedly wanted. And so he did what he always seems to do, on Twitter, when he’s upset: he lashed out by accusing the person upsetting him of the very things he’s feeling, or is guilty of.
“Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Chill Greta, Chill!”
Poor Trump. This tweet didn’t sound very chill. And Thunberg knew it. Like the majority of girls growing up in the digital age, she has been cyberbullied before – by Trump himself, who, after her celebrated speech before the UN General Assembly, sarcastically tweeted, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”
Both times Trump has tweeted about her, Thunberg’s responses have been jocular, and sarcastic in kind. This week, she changed her Twitter bio to: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”
In her handling of being cyberbullied by the president of the United States, at age 16, Thunberg has become an inspiration for girls two times over – first as a climate activist, then as a social media ninja.
But that doesn’t mean that Trump’s cyberbullying of Thunberg is any less despicable, or dangerous. What it says to girls all over the world is: no matter what you do, no matter how much you achieve, powerful men can and will try to cut you down.
This message is depressing, scary and not without potentially dire consequences. It’s a message that has contributed to a precipitous rise in the suicide rate among girls. It’s a message that has contributed to rising anxiety and depression among girls and young women. It’s a message that Trump’s wife, Melania, is supposed to be combatting, with her campaign against cyberbullying.
But girls don’t need Melania Trump to be their role model in fighting against online harassment. They have each other, and they have Thunberg.
  • Nancy Jo Sales is a writer at Vanity Fair and the author of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

#LawyersofPakistan #LawyersAttackedPIC - Are we gangsters?

Babar Sattar
I must start this week with an unconditional apology to victims of the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, to patients and their families who must have felt terror in their hearts as a mob of lawyers pillaged a place people visit in desperate times to seek life; to students aspiring to become lawyers in the belief that we are purveyors of rule of law; and to fellow citizens who might have thought that the considered response of our fraternity after the shameful event would be one of remorse and introspection and not defence of the indefensible.
I owe this apology as a lawyer on behalf of many in the legal fraternity who are as pained and shocked by the attack on PIC as the rest of this country and have been disappointed by the response of our elected councils and associations that have failed to issue one. We seek inspiration from the fact that this country was founded by a lawyer who viewed constitutionalism and the law as a source of protection for ordinary people and those practising the law as facilitators of the rights of others and not apologists for mobocracy. But we have let ourselves down.
We take pride in the fact that all ideological movements in Pakistan have gained from the support of members of our community, which has been at the forefront of opposing dictatorships, fighting against autocratic tendencies of rulers and urging expansion of the fundamental rights of citizens. When we fought to restore judges, we were fighting for the independence of the judiciary, and not for a fiefdom for lawyers. And what a fall from grace and descent into tribalism it’s been since.
Hobbes had called reason the soul of law. It pains one to see that those trained in the practice of law (which is meant to be rooted in morality), and having honed the skills to distinguish right from wrong, are being perceived by our society as a mafia. Our job is to wade through legal texts to see what the law says and how it ought to be read to protect the rightful interests of our clients. Yet, when it comes to personal interests, we act in a manner devoid of what the law says or notions of right and wrong. This contradiction between the law and our actions is mind-boggling.
But is it? We are part of a society where might is right is the Grundnorm. Should we, the lawyers, be expected to rise above the fray and fight for a move from rule of might to rule of law? Yes, in an ideal world. But even in the real world, the tragic fact in the PIC incident is that where everyone in society is able to tell right from wrong, our self-interest as a fraternity is blinding us from doing so. What is unintelligent is that in being obtuse enough to not acknowledge the gravity of the anger this incident has generated, our tribalism is now hurting our self-interest.
Since the lawyers’ movement, our decline has been steady. That was a legitimate movement to protest the actions of the state. The right to protest is a legitimate right, but its exercise must be balanced such that it doesn’t encroach upon the fundamental rights of others. Calls for protest are calls to the morality and sense of fairness of fellow beings. The distinction between peaceful protest against misuse of state authority on the one hand and threat of coercion and violence to protect one’s turf on the other is thus clear.
The PIC attack was part of a gang war between young doctors and lawyers. (Doctors aren’t blameless here, but no matter what the provocation, the lawyers’ response was unjustifiable.) The mistreatment of a lawyer by doctors or their minions hurt the lawyers’ egos and the video with a young doctor seen pouring scorn on lawyers in characteristic Lahori style added fuel to fire. Some of our fellows in Lahore successfully provoked others into a state of frenzy on the basis that the honour of the lawyers’ tribe had been besmirched and revenge was called for.The attack on the PIC was premeditated. The lawyers degenerated into a mob. But in picking the target they forgot that even gang wars have unwritten rules, such as not making a hospital the venue of the fight. What the lawyers’ did was a long time coming, after previous attacks on almost everyone (clients, police, media, judges etc) produced no adverse consequences. The Sher Zaman case where a bar president undermined the authority of high judicial offices, with the then CJP Saqib Nisar coming to our tribe’s rescue, was a precursor to something uglier.So the PIC disaster has been in the making for a while. But what is horrifying is the take of our bar leadership in the aftermath. Most fraternities driven by a sense of loyalty and esprit de corps have a common sense rule: they will stand with each member till such time that they are caught with pants down, in which case the collective interest of the fraternity in its own goodwill and survival will trump the interest of individual members. By refusing to side either with principle or this common sense rule, our bar leadership has scored a self-goal.
Our bar councils could have issued an apology, offered to assist in ensuring that the law must take its course against all involved in the crime, and expressed resolve to use its authority under the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act to also take disciplinary action against the ruffians amongst us. Whether driven by principle or self-interest, such response would have provided face-saving and left the bar with some leverage in how things unfold. But in its response the bar leadership seemed driven by the same tribal mindset that produced the PIC incident.
The Punjab Bar Council issued a strike call even as the horrors of the PIC attack were unfolding on TV screens. In trying to enforce strikes the next morning, office-holders of bar associations policed courts, forced fellow lawyers not to attend hearings and threatened them with dire consequences if they did. In doing so, they defied the other common sense rule fraternities abide by: when under attack from outside, come up with a common denominator to help close ranks as opposed to provoking infighting.
The Pakistan Bar Council and provincial bar councils are statutory bodies. They exercise authority vested in them under the law. It remains to be determined if they are vested with authority: (i) to call strikes against court proceedings that fetter citizens’ right of access to justice; (ii) to enforce strikes by physically forcing lawyers to not appeal before courts and pursue cases of clients that they hold briefs for; and (iii) to initiate legal proceedings against lawyers who refuse to abide by a strike call in breach of obligations under the legal practitioners’ code.
Rule of law and rule of force can’t go together. We can either be armed with legal arguments and principles or we can be backed by mob force and threats of use of force. It is time for the legal fraternity to make that choice. If we pick mob force as our instrument of choice, we must remember that, devoid of moral authority, whoever wields maximum brute force rules the roost. As lawyers, we have historically fought authoritarianism wherein monopoly over force has been used to usurp state authority and determine the manner of its exercise.
It is not too late for our bar councils and bar associations to engage in damage control. As officers of the law, our job is to engage in dispute resolution and not dispute creation. It is completely legitimate for the Pakistan Bar Council to demand that any lawyers accused in the PIC incident must be dealt with in accordance with the law, must be afforded due process and must not be mistreated or tortured in custody. But to state that we will shut down courts unless our colleagues are released and members of the rival gang are arrested smacks of tribalism.
We don’t stand for rule of law if we seek exceptionalism when it comes to us and our own. And if our current bar leadership is unwilling to comprehend the scope of this challenge and the need for introspection and self-accountability, there is a need for those in our fraternity who believe in rule of law but don’t engage with bar politics to step out of their cocoons. The PIC incident has been an ugly shock. It requires us to take a position on who we are and what we stand for as lawyers.

It is friendly and suspicious, distant but curious, paranoid yet cocky. Welcome to Pakistan, a full-fledged national security state which suspects everyone, most of all its own.


The barbed wire fence is the starkest new writing on the Pakistani wall. And the tragedy is, you have to know neither English nor even Urdu to read it.
Now you can travel around the world and find the first line of this sign at almost every immigration window in the world, probably even Pyongyang, with the possible exception of America since immigration there doesn’t seem to respect anybody and suspect all. You can see it in their eyes, body language. But even they do not say so in bold signs for you to read. For that candour, come to Pakistan. As you walk, wheeling your bag from the ceremonial Indian gate at Wagah check-post and into the Pakistani immigration/customs office to complete arrival formalities, the sign looks down at you as the immigration cop squints at your face and the picture on your passport to make sure you are the same guy. To be fair, the staff are friendly, relaxed, totally non-threatening and even willing to exchange banter with Indians.
The Amritsar dry fruit trader ahead of me in the line makes the usual, polite Punjabi conversation: “We are the same people. If only the Angrez had not divided us, we’d be a global power.”
“Oye chhaddo ji, vadde vir (Oh, forget it, older brother), even if we were together, assan lad-lad ke syapa pauna seega (we would have fought amongst ourselves and made a mess). Just as well they divided us, the white man knows us inside out.” His colleagues laugh the Punjabi laughter, as does the nervous trader. You can now see he is right, we are all one people.
It’s only on the way back from Lahore later in the week that the significance sinks in of that first Writing on the Wall that you see on entering Pakistan: “We Respect All, We Suspect All, Until Proven Ok”.
Never in my life travelling around the most troubled parts of the world — war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq in the early ’90s, the unravelling Soviet Bloc (all as a reporter for this magazine), countries and systems which required you to get even an exit visa stamped on your passport to be able to return home and, thereby, suspected “all” on the way in and out — had I seen a declaration of intent as rudely candid as this one. I ask the immigration staff if it isn’t odd. The innocent answer is, “Aap kya sochte hain, sir, some people tell us this is not good, but what’s wrong with being truthful?”
I laugh too and ask if I could take a picture of the sign as a souvenir and am told, by an amused gaggle, OK, but only the sign.
I lift my iPhone and am walking out when a more important looking dude in shades tells me to step aside. He takes my phone, deletes the picture, goes over the archive, asking me to explain each photo. It’s all polite and clinical. He takes screenshots of my passport, ID card and stops, finally, with a video clip I had recorded at a Kejriwal rally in the Delhi election. His “suspicion” over, he now plays the clip and asks me to explain the Kejriwal phenomenon. Then he lets me go, saying, with genuine warmth, “Don’t mind if we look overly suspicious. Ultimately it is for your hifazat (safety) and our qaum’s.”
Welcome to Pakistan, a full-fledged National Security State, and see you again soon. Because it is friendly and suspicious, distant but curious, paranoid yet cocky, all at the same time. And you see that not merely in the Writings on the Wall at the Wagah immigration office. There is much other evidence as you keep looking, even if you can’t read a letter of Urdu (like this reporter). And remember, as our experience of trawling the countryside in the subcontinent has shown, Writings on the Wall don’t lie.
Both India and Pakistan indulge in an exercise of awful, fake and filmi hyper-patriotism on their respective sides every evening as their national flags are lowered. Tourists make noisy chorus on either side, running up to the dividing line with national flags while handpicked 6-ft-plus jawans stomp the ground in exaggerated gestures, exchange threatening glares, and, of course, nobody in the thousands-strong crowds sees the ridiculous side of the daily mime. Both sides play loud “patriotic songs”, which on the Indian side include Alisha Chinai’s “Made in India”. But only on the Pakistani side, on the wall enclosing the sprawling checkpoint area, you see coloured portraits of Pakistan’s heroes of its wars with India, the name of each suffixed with “Shaheed”, as Pakistan does with all its posthumous, topmost gallantry award winners (Nishan-e-Haider, equivalent of our PVC).
Each of these wars similarly produced heroes on the Indian side and, equally, left proud and grieving families. We are at fault being so forgetful about them. But Pakistanis immortalise them on the walls, in school textbooks and road-signs. Most big cities have major roads or squares named after the same heroes. In Lahore, you can’t miss the Aziz Bhatti Road (Nishan-e-Haider, 1965, Barki, Lahore sector). We will come back to him and his equally famous kinsmen in a minute. 
Even more striking is M.M. Alam Road. Alam, the mythologised Sabre pilot who claimed to have shot down 11 Indian fighter aircraft in 1965-the first fighter ace claim since World War II (fully disputed by IAF and Indian war historians)-was a Bengali and became a greater hero because he stayed back in Pakistan even after 1971. In fact, I spotted him on one of my reporting visits in the late ’80s leading a pro-Mujahideen procession in Karachi, sporting a long mullah beard and a Kalashnikov.
For years after 1965, he flew his Sabre with 11 miniature Tricolours painted on its left, each representing an IAF jet he claimed to have shot down. That same Sabre now adorns the main square of M.M. Alam Road although a Google search now throws entries mostly about premium real estate along it. All this reverence, mind you, in a country whose army never won a war. I should actually say that with care. My professor, Stephen P. Cohen’s landmark book, The Pakistan Army, was banned by Zia-ul-Haq, who otherwise adored him, even calling “professor sahib” home for meals. He objected to a line that said something like, Pakistan’s was the finest army in the world that never won a war.
Big cities have roads or squares named after war heroes. The sabre of M.M. Alam, a 1965 fighter pilot, adorns the main square of the eponymous road.
The walls tell you better than any scholarly PhDs or journalistic tomes that the armed forces have a very special place in Pakistani hearts and minds, unmatched by any other country in the world, and mind you, everybody loves their soldiers, as we do in India. Which is the point where we return to late Major Aziz Bhatti, or let’s stick to the full usage now, Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed. He died fighting for the village of Barki after the Indian advance across Wagah was stopped in 1965. I walked to old Lahore’s Urdu Bazaar, filled with textbook shops just like Delhi’s Nai Sadak-Chawri Bazaar, and almost every year’s textbook from Class III on has a chapter on Bhatti, as on some other wars and their heroes.
And remember, I confine myself to relatively gentler English books, being illiterate in Urdu. There are myths about him, that his rooh (spirit) still visits the village at night. One area where the Pakistanis outdo us greatly is the colourful imagination of their gallantry awards citations. Three generations have been made to believe and memorise every one of these in an institutionalised militarisation of the Pakistani mind, through textbooks, folklore and, indeed, the inevitable Writings on the Wall. You might think I am overstating the point, and in any case, this was from half a century ago, so what’s the relevance today, particularly as you did not bother going on and on about it in scores of your previous reporting visits to Pakistan?
Today’s relevance is understood when you leapfrog from 1965 to the next war, 1971, and note the stories of Pakistan’s greatest hero from it, Major Shabbir Sharif Shaheed (Fazilka sector) and their highest decorated soldier ever, with a posthumous Nishan-e-Haider on top of an earlier Sitara-e-Jurat (equal to Vir Chakra) in the same 13-day war. Mythology about him, enshrined in official history, has it that he accepted a challenge for a personal duel with an Indian major (Narain Singh) and won, of course, to be killed later by India’s much larger numbers.
Now let me tell you the connection that any Pakistani interlocutor is quick to underline. Shabbir Sharif was the older brother of General Raheel Sharif, the current chief, and Bhatti their uncle (mama). So, while every army chief in Pakistan has a larger-than-life image and is admired, Gen Raheel is super-special. “Who can ever question him over anything, when he has these two most celebrated martyrs in his family history?” a prominent politician and former minister says over a generous evening of Black Label and biryani. “And then he is also our best looking chief ever.” Sure enough, most people you speak to, including top politicians, don’t bother mentioning his name or rank. He is, quite simply, the big man or the top man.
You shouldn’t call anything impossible, so let’s only say that a physical military takeover of power is very, very unlikely in Pakistan now. But it isn’t needed any more as the military control of the Pakistani mind is so complete. Note the way the National Assembly passed laws setting up military courts for terrorists with such near-unanimous alacrity. And how pending executions resumed at a pace that at the time of writing this piece Pakistan was on top of the world for the year, leading the usual suspect Saudi Arabia 53-48. 
If any doubts remained, these were buried after the killings of army officers’ children in Peshawar, Pakistan’s 26/11 and 9/11 rolled into one. The mood has now shifted completely. The army is the only institution loved and respected and soldiers adored as heroes for fighting to preserve Pakistan, the only difference being that this time they are fighting against their own. Track the Pakistani armed forces discussion groups on the internet, even the Twitter feed of its most eminent, liberal commentators, and you will only see awe and gratitude for the sacrifices “our soldiers” are making in the war against “traitors”.
And mind you, it’s a real war with real casualties and portraits of new posthumous heroes, a Major Tufail now, a Major Hamza keep popping up, rifles in hand, ammunition belts round the torso. You also find old childhood photos posted by schoolmates. There is also widespread repudiation of Raheel’s predecessor Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is now rumoured to have cut private protection deals with the bad guys. Even the spokesman of the armed forces, a serving brigadier, has a Twitter handle (@asimbajwaISPR) that cheekily says it doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the organisation, but still has almost 850,000 followers.
A reference to the Indian version of these war histories is relevant not so much for fairness or to establish equivalence but to underline how this total military takeover of the Pakistani mind, this unquestioning acknowledgement of the army as the sole saviour has been reinforced over the decades. Against each one of these Pakistani heroes was, inevitably, an Indian, also with a high decoration and stirring citation.
Facing Bhatti was Major Asha Ram Tyagi (MVC, posthumous, who died in the battle of Dograi on September 20) and Shabbir Sharif was up against Major Narain Singh (VrC, posthumous). Barki fell into Indian hands after a night of amazing valour and sacrifice on both sides in September 1965, and Pakistani advance in Fazilka stopped in 1971 exactly where Sharif and Singh gave up their lives. But how many Indians remember those names, mark roads, squares, academies after them, or write textbooks celebrating their heroism? We, in fact, go to the other awful extreme. 
The Mazar of Havildar Abdul Hamid in Khem Karan and the memorial to Major Shaitan Singh of Chushul (PVCs, posthumous), killed in 1965 and 1962, respectively, are routinely devoured by weeds. Smriti Irani is now talking of taking a leaf out of Pakistanischool textbooks for ours. Keep also in mind that it is this indoctrination of young minds that has established Pakistan as the world’s most formidable National Security State, suspicious, insecure, prickly, defensive, constantly looking at its front yard and backyard, and sideways across its shoulders. Militarised up there, in the head.
So what exactly is a National Security State? Listen to General (Retd) Jehangir Karamat, one of the finest professional soldiers to lead the Pakistani army (1996-1998). At a seminar at the Institute of Regional Studies in Islamabad in 2012, he defined it as a state where security gets an inordinately high share of the national budget and where strategic concerns override all others, from economy to society to education. He said initially India was also headed that way but has now done a course-correction.
Sure enough, India’s defence budget has been consistently below 2 per cent and declining even as the GDP is rising. Pakistan’s is 3.5 per cent and rising in a stalling GDP. But it is explained somewhat more strikingly by my friend of three decades, former Pakistani ambassador, commentator and now its most eminent political exile, Husain Haqqani. “A good, strong army is needed by every nation, including Pakistan. But look at it like this: if you go to the gym and lift weights with only one arm all the time, you will have one really strong set of biceps while the rest of the body would wither.” Which is precisely what happens to a National Security State such as Pakistan.
You hear this description all the time, and with disapproval, as in the panels of the Lahore Literary Festival, at whose invitation and hospitality I visited Pakistan this time. Another old friend, and a brilliant Pakistani commentator, Najam Sethi and former foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri (wait for his book on India-Pakistan relations), with whom I had the honour of sharing a plenary in front of a full Alhamra auditorium, both underlined the problem.
But forget challenging it, nobody can even debate the notion outside of the charmed, tiny and incestuous English-speaking liberal and very brave intellectual circle. Or, as an old politician friend in Lahore tells me, in the two-passport circuit, alluding to the Pakistani law allowing dual nationality where elites keep a home each, usually, in Lahore, London and Dubai. As elites send their children overseas to study, for the natives the fastest growing knowledge business is religion. Check the backs of autorickshaws. So many display invitations to “deeni” (religious) congregations and marches.
It’s remarkable how much criticism the establishment allows the intellectual class. But only as long as it is confined to english, a marginalised discourse here.
It is remarkable how much free speech and criticism even this security establishment allows the mostly western-educated intellectual class. But with one unwritten condition: it must remain confined to English, which is a marginalised discourse here. Follow some of Pakistan’s finest, most courageous minds-many of them young women-in the new media. They have enormously more spunk than us in India. But all in English. Urdu is a different matter altogether. 
English publications’ circulation is minuscule compared to Urdu and there isn’t even one news channel in English, though they have in Mubashir Luqman someone who can by himself outshout all our English prime-time warriors, including the champion of champions. My friends tell me the story of Raza Rumi, a fine, brave liberal commentator and patriot. He was ignored as long as he confined himself to English. Then one day he succumbed to the temptation of TV, obviously in Urdu, and continued speaking the same honest truth. His car was attacked, his driver died and he escaped with a bullet and is now exiled in Washington. Do Google his writings.
Haqqani and other Pakistani liberals highlight the downside of this imbalance. In a country of 20 crore people where the median age is 23, younger than India’s 29, nearly 46 per cent young people do not go to school. They walk the streets, jobless, aimless, lacking in knowledge of the world and self-esteem, totally alienated with the elites who are now physically quarantined from them.
They are easy victims for the maulvi, madrasa, Kalashnikovs, Lashkars and jihad. It is this wasted generation that India has been fighting, from Kashmir to Parliament 2001 to Mumbai 26/11. And this is precisely what slaughtered the Pakistani army’s children in Peshawar and is drawing this brutal fightback, with artillery, Huey Cobra helicopter gunships, fighter jets. And the nation is cheering this war on some of its own people. I cannot say for sure, but can speculate with some authority on why the armed forces held a parade, a formidable show of power, on Pakistan Day last week after a seven-year break in tradition. My guess: it was to say, don’t worry, we are back, we call the shots and we are the only ones you can trust.
More than three decades ago, when Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law was at the peak of its glory, Lahore’s beautiful liberal landmark, Alhamra Centre’s auditorium, witnessed a spontaneous resurgence of democratic impulse. At a festival dedicated to Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Iqbal Bano sang his “Hum Dekhenge”, an invocation to popular rebellion against dictatorship. With each line, the crowd realised what was going on: Sub takht giraye jayenge, sub taj uchhale jayenge (All thrones will be toppled, crowns tossed), aur raj karegi khalq-e-khuda, jo main bhi hoon aur tum bhi ho (and God’s people will rule, which is you and I), hum dekhenge (we shall see).” A clap built up, a cheer and then, finding safety in numbers, everybody clapped and sang. The civil society had thrown its first challenge at Zia.
The literary festival was held in the same complex this year and the tone was just as liberal, honest, even secular. More than 70,000 people attended over three days and there were lines at the entrance through each day. The difference this time was the security, and a strong barbed wire concertina fence around the complex. At the entrance, police crouched in “position” behind barricades, fingers on trigger. A church had been bombed in Lahore a few days earlier, nearly leading to the cancellation of the festival. But now Shahbaz Sharif’s Punjab government was determined to protect it.
The barbed concertina wire is now ubiquitous, circling schools, colleges, government offices, army installations, homes of prominent people-which is the reason we said Pakistan’s intellectual elites now live in quarantine. The barbed wire fence is the starkest new Writing on the Pakistani Wall. And the tragedy is, you have to know neither English nor even Urdu to read it and understand the meaning of a National Security State which suspects all, most of all its own.

State Department Reprimanded Pakistan for Misusing F-16s, Document Shows

By Paul D. Shinkman

A State Department letter details American concerns about how Pakistan fielded fighter jets after a skirmish with India over Kashmir.

Twenty Years Ago, Nuclear-Armed India and Pakistan Fought a Chilly, High-Altitude War in the Himalayas

Was a nuclear war possible?

For years, there was a conceit that no two states with nuclear weapons have ever directly fought each other. That conceit has at times been thin. For example, during the Korean War, Soviet air force regiments battled U.S. jet fighters in support of North Korea. But Washington as much as Moscow refrained from pointing out that thinly-veiled fact, lest it escalates tensions.
But when thousands of Pakistani troops infiltrated across the Line of Control in 1999, separating the Indian and Pakistani-controlled territories, disguised as local insurgents, the pretense proved impossible to maintain before the prying eyes of global media. Just a year earlier on May 28, 1998, Pakistan conducted a series of underground nuclear tests known as Chagai-I. Islamabad’s ascension as nuclear power was met with jubilation in Pakistani streets and condemnations and sanctions across the globe. Though Pakistan’s rival India had conducted its Smiling Buddha nuclear test in 1974, Chagai came in response to a second India test held just two weeks later.
Still, in February 1999 both countries signed the Lahore Declaration expressing a desire to peacefully resolve the long-standing conflict over the mountainous region of Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority and Hindu minority.
However, the Pakistani military’s Joint Staff Headquarters, under General (and soon-to-be prime minister) Pervez Musharraf saw an opportunity to pick off salient Indian territory called the Siachen glacier. As the glacier lay 20,000 feet above sea level, Indian border outposts in the sector were sparsely manned or abandoned. And positions near the town of Kargil could be used to interdict National Highway 1 connecting the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar to the Ladakh provincial capital of Leh.
Thus, even as Islamabad and New Delhi celebrated their apparent peace accord, four battalions of Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry regiment (5th, 6th, 12th and 13th) and two of the Sind Regiment (24th and 27th), as well as commandos from the elite Special Services Group, were infiltrating into the abandoned outposts at the very peaks of the Himalayas, without initially being detected.
The subterfuge could not last forever. Local shepherds first reported seeing the Pakistani infiltrators on May 3. On May 15, a six-man Indian patrol under Lt. Saurabh Kalia sent to investigate the Ladakh mountains was ambushed, captured and apparently tortured before being shot dead.
Within days, the Indian Army discovered that Pakistani forces had seized control of roughly 65 square miles of territory on the Indian side of the Line of Control, with troops dispersed over 132 strongpoints. New Delhi mobilized 200,000 troops to evict the infiltrators, but the bulk of the fighting was undertaken by the 20,000 soldiers in the 8th Mountain and 3rd Infantry Divisions, supported by nineteen (battalion-sized) artillery regiments.
They faced only 5,000 Pakistani soldiers—but these were dug into fortified hilltops between 8,000 and 18,000 feet above sea level, and armed with infantry support weapons including mortars, machine guns, bazooka-like recoilless rifles, and Stinger and Anza man-portable surface-to-air missiles.
Because the Line of Control limited the ability of Indian troops to maneuver around Pakistani positions, many of these positions had to be assaulted head-on. Exhaustion, cold, and high-altitude sickness also posed a formidable—and often lethal—obstacle to Indian infantry.
The Indian Army deployed heavy Bofors FH77 155-millimeter field howitzers to the mountainous terrain. Designed for indirect fire support, the mountainous terrain allowed the heavy howitzers to level their gun barrels to deliver rapid direct fire with deadly results. Meanwhile, Pakistani forward observers profited from mountain tops to spy on Indian forces moving along the NH1 Highway and call down accurate artillery from batteries across the Line of Control.
Over six weeks, protracted battles at places like Tololing and Tiger Hill. The latter’s summit lay 16,700 feet above sea level and could only be attained by scaling up on a climbing rope.
Starting May 20, the Indian Navy also began massive redeployment, with ships, amphibious forces, and reconnaissance aircraft departing on patrols pressuring the Pakistani port of Karachi. In response, the Pakistani Navy disbursed from Karachi and began escorting valuable tanker convoys. Though neither navy saw combat, it was clear they were ready for a lethal struggle—and that India might impose a suffocating blockade if tensions escalated further.Meanwhile, New Delhi initially remained reluctant to commit offensive airpower for fear of escalation. Instead, Indian Air Force aircraft based at Srinagar flew transport, reconnaissance and electronic warfare missions. This was not without it risks, as a heat-seeking missile struck photo-recon Canberra on May 21, though the pilot managed to return to base.On May 25, New Delhi authorized limited airstrikes. But initially, attempts to provide air support with unguided bombs dropped by dated MiG-21 fighters and Jaguar and MiG-27 attack jets struggled to land effective strikes. One MiG-27 crashed after an engine flameout; a MiG-21 was downed by a Stinger missile and its pilot apparently executed. Then a Mi-17 helicopter gunship was downed by a barrage of Stingers on May 28.
The air campaign (codenamed Safed Sager) turned a corner on May 30 when India deployed No. 1 and No. 7 squadrons equipped with fourth-generation Mirage 2000 jets into the war. These not only exhibited superior high-altitude performance but had been hastily modified to employ Paveway II laser-guided bomb imported from the United States and Lightening laser targeting pods acquired from Israel. Moreover, the Paveway IIs could be launched outside the effective range of portable anti-aircraft missiles.
These were first precision-guided munitions to be used in combat by the Indian Air Force. Throughout June and early July, Mirages knocked out nine supply depots and command bunkers in a succession of deadly precision strikes, particularly targeting Tiger Hill. The Pakistani Air Force was never authorized to enter the conflict, but F-16 jets from No. 9 and No. 11 squadron did shadow Indian air operations from across the Line of Control in an effort to unnerve their counterparts. Washington had condemned and sanctioned both India and Pakistan’s recent nuclear tests, and its policy was then in a state of flux. During the Cold War, India had maintained cordial relations with the Soviet Union, while the United States overtly supported Pakistan and eventually its close ally China. The end of the Cold War removed much of the rationale for these alignments.
As early as May, Pakistan warned that it might resort to “any weapon” should the Kargil War continue to escalate. That warning assumed ominous dimensions when U.S. intelligence reported deployment of Pakistani nuclear weapons to prepare for a possible escalation of the war.
Globally, few believed Islamabad’s denials that the heavily-armed troops in Kargil were merely local insurgents. President Bill Clinton first urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to withdraw his forces in phone conservation on June 15. As Pakistani positions near Kargil began to collapse, Sharif flew to Washington on July 4 and agreed to order the withdrawal of Pakistani troops. This was largely accomplished, but some refused to return and continued fighting for three more weeks alongside local jihadists.
The Kargil conflict cost the lives of 527 Indian soldiers. After years of denial, Pakistan admitted its armed forces had suffered 453 dead in the border conflict.
Clinton’s negotiations also set the stage for a dramatic turnaround in U.S.-India relations, with New Delhi becoming an increasingly important international partner of Washington in the next two decades while relations suffered from Pakistan due to its involvement in the War in Afghanistan.
Certainly, the Kargil War was far from the bloodiest ever fought—but it marked a frightening new chapter in the international system as for the first time states with nuclear weapons faced off on a (fortunately limited) battlefield. India and Pakistan could easily have escalated into a wider conflict with cross-border attacks and more air and sea power in play; a scenario in which the risk of using nuclear weapons would have increased substantially.
Twenty years later in 2019, Pakistani and Indian forces again clashed on land and air. Tensions remain acute and both states deployed dozens of more nuclear weapons than they did in 1999.