Thursday, January 16, 2020

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Video - Kremlin reshuffle: Will Putin reforms guarantee grip on power?

Video - #ImpeachmentTrial - Chuck Schumer: I saw senators 'visibly gulp'

Video Report - GAO: #Trump administration broke the law

For Third Time in History, a President Goes on Trial - Senate Opens Trump Impeachment Trial as New Ukraine Revelations Emerge

 By Michael D. Shear
The chief justice was sworn in as the presiding officer and senators swore to do “impartial justice,” as the Senate opened the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.
The Senate formally opened the impeachment trial of President Trump on Thursday, as senators accepted the promise to deliver “impartial justice” and installed Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. as the presiding officer.
In a somber ceremony that has happened only twice before in the nation’s history, Chief Justice Roberts vowed to conduct Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial “according to the Constitution and the laws.” He then administered the same, 222-year-old oath of impartiality and adherence to the Constitution to the senators, setting in motion the final step in a bitter and divisive effort by the president’s adversaries to remove him from office.
Even as the antiquated ritual unfolded, with senators signing their names one by one in an oath book near the marble Senate rostrum, new evidence was trickling out about Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine that is at the heart of the charges against him.
A trove of newly released texts, voice mail messages, calendar entries and other records handed over by Lev Parnas, an associate of the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, offered new details about the scheme. And the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan federal watchdog, found that Mr. Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid from Ukraine was an illegal breach of a law that limits a president’s power to block the spending of money allocated by Congress.
Two hours before the oath-taking on the Senate floor, seven House members made a solemn march to the chamber to read aloud the charges against Mr. Trump. His words echoing from the well of the Senate, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California accused the president of abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress by trying to cover up his actions.
“President Trump,” Mr. Schiff said, “warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”
The charges detailed the case against the president: that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine for investigations into his political rivals, withholding $391 million in military aid as leverage, and that he obstructed Congress by blocking the inquiry into his conduct. The evidence provided by Mr. Parnas adds significant new detail to the public record about how the pressure campaign played out. On Wednesday, Mr. Parnas told The New York Times that he believed Mr. Trump knew about the efforts to dig up dirt on his political rivals.Just hours before the formal start of the trial, the Government Accountability Office said the decision by the White House Office of Management and Budget to withhold the aid violated the Impoundment Control Act, concluding that “faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” Mr. Trump directed the freeze on the Ukraine aid, and administration officials testified during the course of the impeachment inquiry that they had repeatedly warned that doing so could violate the law, but their concerns were not heeded.
Aides said Mr. Trump was not watching the ceremonial events on television as the trial got underway. But Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said the White House expected Mr. Trump’s formal response to the impeachment charges would prove he did nothing wrong, and she dismissed the stream of new details emerging about the Ukraine pressure campaign.
“We’re not too concerned about it,” Ms. Grisham told Fox News on Thursday. “Once again, we know that everything in the Senate is going to be fair.”

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Pakistan continues subjugation of minorities, Multan Bar Association bars non-Muslim lawyers from contesting bar elections

The resolution presented by the lawyers of District Bar Association also stated that those willing to contest elections must also submit an affidavit to prove their faith in Islam.
In yet another attack on the religious minorities in Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Multan Bar Association has passed a resolution which prohibits non-Muslim lawyers including Ahmadis, sect of Islam whom Pakistan state has declared ‘non-Muslims’, from participating in the Bar Council elections. As per reports, the resolution presented by the lawyers of District Bar Association also stated that those willing to contest elections and vote must also submit an affidavit to prove their faith in Islam.
Such news from Pakistan comes at a time when Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is giving tips to India on how to protect the minorities in India in the backdrop of passage of Citizenship Amendment Act which ironically looks at providing Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities in neighbouring Islamic countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Earlier this month, Muslim mob had surrounded Nankana Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan, which is the holy site where Guru Nanak was born, and had pelted stones at the holy shrine while shouting that they won’t let Sikhs live in Pakistan. Shockingly, two days after the attack, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, instead of condemning the attack on Sikhs in Pakistan, had blamed PM Modi and RSS on attacks on India.

#Pakistan - Banning books - manifestation of a culture that is afraid to face the truth

Zahid Hussain

BANNING and burning books is a manifestation of a culture that is afraid to face the truth. It is ignorance of the book’s message or the fear of the latter that is often the reason for someone trying to ban a book. We have a long history of suppressing dissenting views perceived as posing a threat to the prevailing order. Not only have books been banned, writers too have been persecuted. The space for reason and freedom of expression is further shrinking thanks to growing authoritarianism and rising bigotry in society.
The reported confiscation of copies of the Urdu translation of Mohammed Hanif’s book A Case of Exploding Mangoes and the recommendation by a Punjab Assembly panel to ban three seminal books on Islam are the latest examples of the growing intolerance towards critical thinking. The books include Lesley Hazleton’s The First Muslim and After the Prophet.
Where Exploding Mangoes is concerned, some personnel allegedly belonging to an intelligence agency were said to have raided the office of the publisher in Karachi and taken away copies of the translated book that came out last year. Interestingly, the original English edition of the book — a satirical take on Gen Ziaul Haq’s plane crash — was published in 2008, and the work has been internationally acclaimed.
It seems that certain elements have suddenly discovered something in the Urdu version that they feel threatens our ‘national security’. It says a lot about their lack of understanding of a literary work. The raid itself could, perhaps, be a plot for a new bestseller satire by the author. Apparently, the government has not banned the book, so who ordered the raid on the publisher?

Confident societies face criticism rather than silence the messenger.

More insidious is the suggestion to ban the books authored by Lesley Hazleton, an American journalist and scholar. Both books have been impeccably researched. “The First Muslim illuminates not only an immensely significant figure but his lastingly relevant legacy.”
I have read the two books by Hazleton and found them to be extremely instructive, more than any other work on the subject. The books have been a bestseller in this country for more than a decade, and suddenly some unscrupulous lawmakers want these books to be banned just because of their own narrow-mindedness and prejudices.
Rising bigotry has been the main reason for the decline of sound scholarship regarding religious matters in this country. Some genuine scholars like Javed Ghamdi have had to leave the country because of the threat to their lives. Many enlightened clerics have been killed by extremists, with the result that the interpretation of religion is left to semi-educated mullahs. It will be a tragedy if these books are banned in this country. One hopes that the government has the sense to ignore such mindless recommendations.
How paranoid certain sections of our establishment have become with any critical narration of this country’s history is apparent in their reaction to a recently published book, The Battle for Pakistan: The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighbourhood. It is a remarkable work by Shuja Nawaz, an acclaimed writer on Pakistan’s military. Although the book is not banned, its launch in Pakistan was blocked allegedly by certain quarters said to be unhappy with the objective study of the rocky relationship between the Pakistani military and the US in the past decade.
But the reality is that this is a well-researched book and the arguments are substantiated by facts and based on interviews with senior Pakistani and US military officials directly involved in policymaking during that period. Nawaz previously wrote an authoritative history of the Pakistani military: Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within.
Despite the attempt to block the launch, the book has already drawn a large number of readers. Instead of learning from their mistakes and accepting the reality, the powers that be are attempting to restrict the freedom of views. It is such a narrow-minded approach that turns a country into an intellectual desert.
Lies and deception have often been used to cover up blunders, conspiracies, and military misadventures spanning Pakistan’s seven-decade history. Over the years, great pains have been taken to hide facts from the nation, even if these are generally known. Failure is celebrated as victory. This situation has led to a widening trust deficit between the public and the authorities.
Unsurprisingly, the people tend to believe foreign publications on the issue, however unrealistic they may be. So sensitive have the concerned authorities become that even a public debate on such issues is seen as breaching national security. As a result, we can never learn from our mistakes and wrongdoings. It’s all in the name of ‘national security’ — a handy term when it comes to suppressing saner voices. Such strong-arm actions are actually a sign of weakness. Confident societies face criticism rather than silence the messenger. People want to live in a society where they enjoy freedom of thought and action and can freely exercise their right to speak. Liberal democracies thrive on the freedom of expression. Unfortunately, the past few years have seen an attempt to roll back democratic values.Freedom of expression is the principal target of authoritarianism. In fact, one of its symptoms is the creeping expansion of ‘deep state’ power. The raid on the office of a publication house in Karachi and the attempt to stop the launch of an important book on Pakistan-US relations is a grim reminder of a country adrift.
Equally alarming is the rise of bigotry in society and the growing confluence of religious extremism and politics. The call by some lawmakers for banning seminal works on Islam is troubling. The strengthening of right-wing religious extremism threatens not only to weaken democratic institutions but also to divide the country.
Repression, achieved either through direct censorship or other forms of pressure, will turn the country away from the path of progress and enlightenment. The weakening of democratic institutions gives non-government forces greater opportunity to get involved in manipulating politics as they attempt to thwart fundamental rights. More worrisome is that all this is happening under a democratically elected government.

‘Twitter General’ Asif Ghafoor is no longer #Pakistan military’s spokesperson


Asif Ghafoor has been sent to Infantry Division. Major Gen. Babar Iftikhar will be new director general of Inter-Services Public Relations, Pakistan military’s publicity wing.

Pakistan’s chief propaganda officer Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the Director General of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) who is equally loved and hated by people in the subcontinent, has been replaced by Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar.
ISPR is the Pakistan military’s publicity wing. 
Ghafoor has now been posted as the general officer commanding (GOC) of the Pakistan Army’s 40th Infantry Division based out of Okara in Punjab province.
“Alhamdulillah. Thanks to everyone I have remained associated with during the tenure. My very special thanks to Media all across. Can’t thank enough fellow Pakistanis for their love and support. Best wishes to new DG ISPR for his success,” Ghafoor tweeted from the ISPR director-general’s official handle.
Thanks to everyone I have remained associated with during the tenure. My very special thanks to Media all across. Can’t thank enough fellow Pakistanis for their love and support.
Best wishes to new DG ISPR for his success.

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Ghafoor also tweeted from his personal account, expressing gratitude to the people of Pakistan for their love and support during his tenure.
Thanks for your love & support. Stay strong, continue doing your bit for Pakistan.Stay blessed
آپکی محبت اورحمایت کاشکریہ۔ مضبوط رہتے ہوۓ پاکستان کے لئے اپنا کام جاری رکھیں۔ Stay blessed.

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Major General Iftikhar was the former GOC 1 at Armoured Division.
Known for Twitter gaffes
The news of Ghafoor’s removal comes as Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed met Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday.
Contrary to popular belief that Ghafoor has been removed because of his late-night tweets, his exit as the ISPR DG was expected as he had completed his tenure. Ghafoor is also due for promotion and he is one of the youngest major generals in the Pakistan Army.
Ghafoor, who became the ISPR chief in December 2016, was commissioned into the Pakistan Army in 1988 and holds a Master’s degree in strategic studies.
Called the Twitter General on social media, Ghafoor is known for deleting his tweets and getting trolled for his gaffes.
How he gave Balakot strikes a twist
Military sources in India said while Ghafoor or ‘Ghafoora’, as he is known on social media, did embarrass the Pakistan Army with his allegedly drunk tweets, he did prove to be a big asset.
Aditya Raj Kaul ✔ @AdityaRajKaul Ghafoor deleted his tweet but in real sense meant that Pakistan Army had already butchered Pashtun, Baloch, Ahmediyas and even Kashmiris over years successfully. Drunk tweet at midnight for his paid trolls to get moving. Deleted after he woke up at noon and thought of Parmosan. View image on Twitter 2,330 5:54 AM - Jan 13, 2020 Twitter Ads info and privacy 839 people are talking about this
One of his biggest achievements is the fact that ISPR was able to create doubts about the February 2019 Balakot airstrikes even before India woke up to its information warfare.Exactly 87 minutes after India struck Balakot, the ISPR broke the news on Twitter, albeit with a twist.Ghafoor tweeted at 0512 hours on 26 February 2019: “Indian Air Force violated Line of Control. Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled. Indian aircrafts gone back. Details to follow.”
DG ISPR ✔ @OfficialDGISPR Indian Air Force violated Line of Control. Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled. Indian aircrafts gone back. Details to follow. 43.2K 6:42 PM - Feb 25, 2019 Twitter Ads info and privacy 17.8K people are talking about this
By the time India issued a formal press statement through Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale just before noon, social media was already abuzz with many Pakistani handles tweeting pictures and information about the attack to showcase that the strike was a failure.
Such was the power of the Pakistani propaganda that the Indian military was left giving clarification even when it was one of the most daring attacks carried out by it after Operation Meghdoot, which led to the capture of the Siachen glacier.

U.S. indicts 5 men suspected of aiding #Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program

Five men are accused of conspiring to smuggle aircraft parts, electronic components and other technical equipment from the U.S. to Pakistan to support that country’s nuclear program, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday in federal court in New Hampshire.
The men were indicted by a federal grand jury in October. The document said that, between September 2014 and October 2019, the group operated an international network of front companies that existed to acquire goods for a Pakistani group called the Advanced Engineering Research Organization and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.
The goods were exported from the United States without export licenses, in violation of federal law, the indictment said. Both organizations were on a Commerce Department list that imposes export license requirements for groups whose activities are found to be contrary to U.S. security or foreign policy interests.
The men are accused of attempting to conceal the true destinations in Pakistan of the goods by using the front companies as the supposed purchasers and end-users of them, and as the apparent source of payments. Several were listed as being in New Hampshire.
The defendants live in Pakistan, Canada, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom. It wasn’t immediately known if they had lawyers.