IN THE NEWS: TEHRAN WON’T ALLOW INDIA TO USE CHABAHAR PORT TO UNDERMINE PAKISTAN, SAY IRANIAN DIPLOMATS (DECEMBER 11, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, December 11th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Tehran won’t allow India to use Chabahar port to undermine Pakistan, say Iranian diplomats
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, December 11, 2017
By KAMRAN YOUSAF

ISLAMABAD: On December 3, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of Chabahar port. Pakistan is not part of the project, yet its minister for ports and shipping was standing next to the Iranian President during the ceremony. This was no coincidence, as Hasil Bizenjo was asked to stand next to Rowhani in a carefully choreographed move.

Days before Iran started preparations for the inauguration ceremony, it invited Pakistan to send a ministerial-level delegation for the event.

Tehran followed up with not only the formal invitation but used all available diplomatic channels to make sure that the Pakistani delegation attends the ceremony.

The objective behind this move was clear – Iran wanted to send a message that it would not allow India or any other country to use Chabahar against Pakistan, said a senior Iranian diplomat, who requested not to be named so that he could speak freely on the subject.

Such a first-hand account of close cooperation between Pakistan and Iran is unusual and represents a significant shift in the two neighbours’ ties, which have often been marred by a trust deficit and mutual suspicion.

The turnaround is also important when seen alongside Pakistan’s participation in the Saudi-led counterterrorism coalition. Iran, which is not part of the grouping, considers the initiative an attempt to further Saudi Arabia’s agenda in the region. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: OPPORTUNISM GALORE (DECEMBER 11, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, December 11th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Opportunism Galore
SOURCE: The Nation
Monday, December 11, 2017

An unlikely coalition is forming; a newly minted faction of Karachi based party; a party led and sustained by a cleric who resides abroad for the vast majority of the time; several smaller political splinters that have hung around the political process for years; and the two big fish – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan People’ Party (PPP) – both of whom are at each other’s throats in every political gathering.

The purpose of this political Frankenstein’s monster is to put pressure on Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz’s (PML-N) and try to take down its provincial leadership for their role in the Model Town incident; namely Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah.

While political machinations, unlikely bedfellows and horse-trading are the norm before any general election, the means chosen by the parties involved, especially the national ones, are both disappointing and troubling.

The formula has been established and this new coalition seems intent to follow it to the tee; make stringent demands, and siege the capital until the destabilisation forces the government to comply. We saw this strategy work in the Faizabad protests, where a handful of clerics held the government hostage, now the combined might of several national parties is preparing to repeat that terrible spectacle on a larger scale. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: IF THE MMA IS REVIVED (DECEMBER 10, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

If the MMA is revived
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, December 10, 2017
By RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

*The religio-political parties are desperate to revive the MMA as they want to consolidate their votes and offer an Islamic option to the electorate

Though efforts were being made since long to revive the six-party religio-political alliance, Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), expectations were raised that the wish would finally materialise when the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) head Sirajul Haq announced last month that decision had been taken in principle to formally restore the erstwhile Islamic coalition by mid-December 2017.

However, those aware of the views and working of the six religious-cum-political parties knew that the revival of the MMA won’t be a smooth affair. These parties have been operating separately since the break-up of the MMA in 2008 and even working at cross-purposes. Also, the two biggest Islamic parties are now part of rival alliances with the JUI-F aligned to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and part of the federal government and the JI content to serve as a junior partner of the PTI in the coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As the PML-N and PTI are bitterly opposed to each other, their allies too are sometimes drawn into their rivalry against each other.

There are reasons that could put obstacles in reviving the MMA and making it work. One is the divergent position taken by the JUI-F and JI on the future status of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Certain recent decisions and contentious issues continue to pose hurdles in reviving the MMA. One such decision was the understanding reached in early November between the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Samiul Haq (JUI-S) chief Maulana Samiul Haq and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan to form an electoral alliance for contesting the 2018 general election. The move was surprising as such an alliance would largely benefit the JUI-S, a small party with no representation in any assembly in the country and inconsequential vote-bank. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN GOVT. ASKED TO SUSPEND RELATIONS WITH US (DECEMBER 10, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan Govt. Asked to Suspend Relations with US
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Sunday, December 10, 2017

KABUL – Members of Afghan parliament on Saturday asked the Kabul government to suspend all its relations with the US following President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem.

The lawmakers said Trump’s decision on Jerusalem is a move against peace.

“In reaction to this anti-Islamic and anti-humanity decree, the diplomatic and trade ties should be suspended until the decision is canceled,” MP Abdul Qayyum Sajjadi said.

“The Islamic nations’ presidents and officials are slaves and you (MPs) should take a stance,” MP Abdul Sattar Khawasi said.

The MPs said recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is against democratic values and that asked the government to stop all its ties with the US.

“This decision highlights the crisis at international level and it is an act of aggression,” said Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of Parliament.

“I ask (Trump) to withdraw his signature and to never underestimate Muslims,” MP Lailuma Hakimi said.

According to the MPs, the inability to make decisions and the lack of solidarity and cooperation between the Muslim nations, are the reasons that Trump was encouraged to make such decision.

“If you think the powerful (countries) will be stopped by shouting, it will never happen,” MP Abdul Rauf Anami said.

“America is a hypocrite, America is a bully, American is the big devil,” MP Mohammad Sarwar Osmani Farahi said.

Trump on Thursday night announced that he officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. His decision was denounced by many of countries.

IN THE NEWS: JUDGES PUT SCANDAL OF PAKISTAN’S TOXIC WATER UNDER MICROSCOPE (DECEMBER 9, 2017)

Written by admin on Saturday, December 9th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Judges put scandal of Pakistan’s toxic water under microscope
SOURCE: Asia Times
Saturday, December 9, 2017
By F.M. SHAKIL

*The Supreme Court has taken up an issue of life and death that the political establishment has shown no interest in addressing

Where Pakistan’s elected government has failed to check the alarming contamination of drinking water and exposure of millions to pollution-related disease, it has fallen to the country’s Supreme Court to step in.

The apex court this week summoned Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh, to express deep concern over his government’s indifference to water pollution in the province, including human refuse being found in channels supplying drinking water.

During proceedings, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nasir commented: “This is a matter of people’s lives which cannot be ignored. As the government failed to fulfill its responsibility, the judiciary has to intervene.”

Advocate Shahab Usto, who was among the petitioners, told Asia Times that 29 districts in Sindh alone were affected by contaminated water, adding that “80% of water in Karachi, 85% in Hyderabad, 88% in Larkana and 78% in Shikarpur is polluted, containing highly toxic ingredients which are injurious to public health.”

He said that half of all educational institutions in Sindh were devoid of potable water facilities, while the rest are supplied with unfiltered, untreated water. He revealed that waste from hospitals, factories, and municipal buildings in the province is commonly disposed of in water sources. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S BALOCHISTAN CONFLICT REVEBERATES IN EUROPE (DECEMBER 8, 2017)

Written by admin on Friday, December 8th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s Balochistan Conflict Reverberates In Europe
SOURCE: Gandhara
Friday, December 8, 2017 (Posted)
By ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE

For years, Baluch separatist leaders have launched media campaigns, organized protests, and lobbied international organizations and governments across Europe to bring attention to what they describe as Pakistani atrocities in their beleaguered homeland.

But Islamabad is now retaliating by reaching out to European authorities about the separatists’ alleged involvement in violence.

The development reflects an uneasy stalemate in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan. Years of government crackdowns and political manoeuvring have prevented a fragmented Baluch nationalist insurgency from taking hold. But Islamabad’s tough handling has added to the grievances in a region reeling from underdevelopment, poverty, and neglect.

Mehran Baluch is one of the latest victims of Islamabad’s efforts to stop Baluch separatists from campaigning in Europe. Last month, authorities in Switzerland prevented the young Baluch leader from entering the country at Zurich airport.

After a 12-hour detention, Mehran Baluch was forced to leave. He is now debating legally challenging a lifetime ban on entering Switzerland.

Mehran Baluch, now in his mid-40s, travels between European cities to lobby officials, diplomats, and lawmakers. He has addressed open sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council and held demonstrations outside the global body’s offices in Geneva.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: ELIMINATING ENGLISH (DECEMBER 8, 2017)

Written by admin on Friday, December 8th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Eliminating English
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Friday, December 8, 2017

*LACK OF EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES IS AT THE ROOT OF PAKISTAN’S LOCAL LANGUAGE CRISIS

It is becoming difficult to defend the teaching of English in Pakistan.

The language, accepted as lingua franca in much of the world, is equated with residual “slavery” of the mind pining for the British Raj and considered a hindrance to the proper learning of Urdu and regional languages.

On one day, Dec. 8, two interesting opinions were expressed in local newspapers:

The first view was against English: “English is not only destroying our indigenous languages which stand in danger of becoming extinct, it is also undermining our education system and intensifying the class divide in our society.” Given the dominance of Urdu in Pakistan, the writer should have corrected himself: the regional languages are being thwarted by Urdu rather than English.

The next opinion was expressed by Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Quetta: “More religious seminaries have been established in Balochistan compared to modern and quality schools for local students during the past four decades. Only religious education is being imparted to the students at all these seminaries and thus the students are left behind in the race for development. Most of them are just teaching theology. There are not enough mosques to give them livelihood.”

Politicians like Imran Khan pledge the uprooting of the current hybrid system of education without realizing the consequences for the country in the global market, pursuit of new knowledge, and transfer of technology to Pakistan.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN ‘TO FORM JOINT WORKING GROUPS’ (DECEMBER 7, 2017)

Written by admin on Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghanistan, Pakistan ‘To Form Joint Working Groups’
SOURCE: TOLO News
Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Pakistan government has formally shared proposals with Afghanistan for establishing joint working groups that will allow both countries to address each other’s concerns on all key issues, Pakistan’s Daily Times reported.

A Pakistani official said senior Pakistani and Afghan military officials also held their first meeting last week in Rawalpindi on security issues.
The countries agreed to the formation of the groups during the talks between Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on October 1, according to the report.

The groups are to discuss diplomatic, military, intelligence, economic and refugee issues, said an official who did not wish to be identified.

“Chiefs of the military operations have held talks under the same arrangements and other groups will also start meetings on a regular basis to address each other’s concerns,” he said.

The Pakistani and Afghan military officials held two-day talks on Thursday and Friday. No side issued any statement and officials from both sides avoided giving comments.

Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, however, told TV channels that the Pakistani side had raised with the Afghan delegation last Friday’s terrorist attack on an agriculture center in Peshawar, which killed nine people, including seven students, and injured 35 others.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: OUR LARGEST MINORITY (DECEMBER 7, 2017)

Written by admin on Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Our largest minority
SOURCE: Dawn
Thursday, December 7, 2017

DELAYED, then rushed, the 2017 census was bound to betray some statistical anomalies, but perhaps the most glaring discrepancy is that of the disabled population at 0.48pc of the total population. The figure beggars belief considering that WHO estimates 10-15pc of the global population has some form of disability – and that this number skews higher in developing countries marred by disease, poverty and conflict.

In fact, according to a recent report in this paper, a survey conducted along international standards in Attock district in 2015 found that 15.5pc of the population had a disability.

That the census exercise was an opportunity missed is a huge understatement. The truth is, people with disabilities are likely our largest and most inclusive social group — all ages, genders, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic levels are represented; and anyone can join this group at any time; at birth, or through injury, illness or old age.

It stands to reason then that any government that claims to be people-centric must factor in disability as a major development priority.

Yet, Balochistan is so far the only province to have passed comprehensive legislation based on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Pakistan ratified in 2011. And although the other provinces have passed legislation based on the antiquated Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981, since the 18th Amendment, virtually no progress has been made in practice.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: SINO-AFGHAN ECONOMIC COMMISSION MEETS; 3 ACCORDS INKED (DECEMBER 6, 2017)

Written by admin on Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Sino-Afghan Economic Commission Meets; 3 Accords Inked
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

KABUL – Encouraging investment by Chinese entrepreneurs and companies in Afghanistan’s infrastructure and development projects, creation of an air and boosting Afghan exports were also discussed.

The Afghanistan-China Economic and Trade Commission discussed greater cooperation between the two countries at its third meeting in Beijing, the Ministry of Finance said on Tuesday.

Monday’s meeting was co-chaired by Minister of Finance Eklil Hakimi and Gao Yan, China’s vice-minister of commerce, the ministry said in a statement.

Strengthening economic and transit cooperation, Afghanistan’s membership of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and its position in the Silk Road Economic Belt came under discussion.

Encouraging investment by Chinese entrepreneurs and companies in Afghanistan’s infrastructure and development projects, creation of an air and boosting Afghan exports were also discussed.

The two sides deliberated on reducing customs tariffs on Afghan exports to China and the exchange of customs information and railway line among five Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and China.

China’s cooperation in renewable energy sectors, transport and water resource management, visa problems of Afghan traders, Kabul’s participation in next year’s Chinese export exhibition also figured at the meeting.
(more…)