IN THE NEWS: CONSTRUCTING FALSE NARRATIVES (NOVEMBER 13, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, November 13th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Constructing false ‘narratives’
SOURCE: Daily Times
Monday, November 13, 2017
By KAHAR ZALMAY

*People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around… — Terry Pratchett

While I wrote these lines, Islamabad continued to beheld hostage for the last few days by a gang of Mullahs. Meanwhile our nuclear-power State meekly looked the other way unable to protect its people and ensure a fundamental right… free movement. A couple of weeks back, another group from the same religious organisation was given free hand to seize the capital for several days. Today the beautiful town of Islamabad presents the look of a war zone with all major roads blocked by containers.

This situation brought to mind a speech by Jinnah to the students of Islamia College Peshawar in 1946. He said “We do not demand Pakistan simply to have a piece of land but we want a laboratory where we could experiment on Islamic principles.” But only five years after the death of Jinnah, the Justice Munir report on anti-Ahmadia riots in Punjab stated “If there is one thing which has been conclusively demonstrated in this inquiry, it is that provided you can persuade the masses to believe that something they are asked to do is religiously right or enjoined by religion, you can set them to any course of action, regardless of all considerations of discipline, loyalty, decency, morality or civic sense.”

In a short span of 70 years, we made sure that the vision of the founding father stands materialised making Pakistan truly a laboratory for experimenting on Islamic principles. Today Pakistan is home to countless religious groups with different orientations in addition to more than 70 proscribed organisations. As the famous Pashto saying goes; “Among many butchers an animal dies unattended.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: U.S. WANTS TO BUILD ‘TSUNAMI OF AIR POWER’ IN AFGHANISTAN, BUT IMPACT IS YEARS AWAY (NOVEMBER 12, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

U.S. wants to build ‘tsunami of air power’ in Afghanistan, but impact is years away
SOURCE: The Washington Post
Sunday, November 12, 2017
By PAMELA CONSTABLE

*The full fleet of 159 Black Hawk helicopters will not be in place and manned until 2022

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Just over one month ago, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan declared at a ceremony here that a new fleet of 159 Black Hawk helicopters, flown by Afghan pilots, would help create a “tsunami of air power” to turn around the stalemated conflict with Taliban insurgents.

But the UH-60s won’t have an impact for at least several years on an intense war that has already cost at least $700 billion since 2001 — and is showing no signs of letting up.

The versatile, hardy U.S. Army aircraft, each costing more than $7 million to refurbish and deliver, are intended to gradually replace the Afghan fleet of Soviet-era Mi-17 choppers to carry out military cargo drops, troop transport and medical evacuations. But they are already coming late to the game, a drawback aggravated by the slow pace of UH-60 deliveries, the limit of six Afghan pilots in each three-month training course, and the need to keep the Mi-17 choppers in action in the meantime.

President Trump’s new military strategy in Afghanistan has made beefing up the Afghan air force a top priority, and U.S. military officials said the Black Hawk program is being accelerated, amid the press of war and the broader agenda of building a professional air force.

Yet officials of the U.S. air training, advising and assistance mission here said they expect to have only four Afghan flight crews ready for conflict missions by the next spring’s fighting season and 32 teams and Black Hawks ready by spring 2019. The full fleet of 159 choppers will not be in place and manned until 2022, and only 58 will be equipped with attack weapons. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: BARELVI’S POLITICAL AGENDA (NOVEMBER 12, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Barelvis’ political agenda
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, November 12, 2017
By ABDUL SATTAR

*The sit-ins in the capital by an extreme Barelvi group hint at the possibility of Barelvis trying to reclaim political space. Analysts believe this is being engineered to weaken the vote bank of PML-N

The specter of another sit-in haunted the federal capital again on November 8 and 9. But this time it was not the middle classes from posh areas but a Barelvi group called Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah that threw its blanket support behind Mumtaz Qadri. The group’s political wing Tehreek Labaik Pakistan stunned the world by securing more votes (7130) than the PPP and Jamaat-e Islami in Lahore’s NA-120 by polls besides making its presence felt by obtaining 9935 votes in the recently held by polls in Peshawar’s NA-4.

The group is known for employing incendiary language to muster political support. Its leaders have been accused of hurling abuses at ex-army chief General Raheel Sharif and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a demonstration in March last year in front of the parliament house.

The leader of the group, Khadim Hussain Rizvi may be considered a demagogue by many liberals but for his supporters he is a charismatic leader. The group was established more than a year ago. Rizvi, originally from Rawalpindi district, is based in Lahore. He openly defends Qadri and is known for spreading religious hatred against minorities. He even hurled abuses at Abdus Sattar Edhi, accusing him of “taking care of illegitimate children”.

For Mufti Waqar of Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Al Alami the biggest fear is what he calls “the onslaught of liberal and secular-minded people who are against the Islamic character of the Pakistani constitution. If we don’t stop them by entering into electoral politics, they will destroy the country.”

The sit-in followed another protest by a pro-Qadri group – Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Al Alami – in Islamabad that ended on November 3. This group parted ways with Rizvi last year but subscribes to the same ideology. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: IN AFGHANISTAN, MILITANT GROUS UNITE AGAINST A COMMON ENEMY: JOURNALISTS (NOVEMBER 11, 2017)

Written by admin on Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

In Afghanistan, Militant Groups Unite Against A Common Enemy: Journalists
November 11, 2017
SOURCE: Gandhara
Saturday, November 11, 2017
By FRUD BEZHAN

The Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) militant group might be foes on the battlefield in Afghanistan, but off it they are united against a common enemy: the Afghan media.

Both extremist groups have threatened and deliberately targeted major TV and radio stations and their staff members recently across Afghanistan, carrying out deadly attacks that have killed dozens of journalists and media employees.

The attacks have made Afghanistan one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists and forced media companies to adopt new security measures, although it is unclear if the violence has had a chilling effect on news coverage.

“They want to create fear among journalists so the media does not report their atrocities,” says Najib Sharifi, head of the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC), a local media watchdog. “They also want to capture headlines and assert their power and visibility. They want to silence the media because they see the media as a threat to their propaganda strategies.”

‘Serving Infidels’

In what was arguably the most high-profile attack of its kind on a media organization in Afghanistan, a suicide bomber in January 2016 attacked a minibus and killed seven employees of Tolo TV, the country’s largest private television network.

Those killings came months after the Taliban said it no longer recognized Tolo TV and another major TV network, 1TV, as media outlets and considered them “military objectives.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ANOTHER PAKISTAN FIASCO: PUNJAB’S ‘PARALLEL PUBLIC SECTOR’ (NOVEMBER 11, 2017)

Written by admin on Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Another Pakistan fiasco: Punjab’s ‘parallel public sector’
SOURCE: Asia Times
Saturday, November 11, 2017
By F M SHAKIL

*Unaudited accounts. Missing records. Dodgy appointments. Punjab province has been running a parallel municipality that has devoured public funds

Shahbaz – inspired by the Turkish model of governance – set up six public sector companies to provide civic amenities some nine years ago. By 2016, that number had increased to 63, with capital costs running to US$ 1.5 billion and operating expenses around US$2.5 billion. These public sector companies, established with huge amounts of public funds, have been costly to the exchequer without producing measurable improvements in governance, or to the quality of services and amenities provided.

With pressure mounting on the government over the experiment’s failure, Punjab’s Finance Minister, Dr Ayesha Ghous Pasha, hurriedly called a press conference in Lahore at the end of last month to explain that the provincial government had decided to shut down 10 out of the 63 companies. The remaining 53 concerns, she said, would be scrutinized to detect any financial irregularities.

Ghous had no answer as to why the government had previously failed to conduct annual audits of all the companies. Only 17 companies, she admitted, had been audited. Moreover their audited accounts have not been made public.

“The procedure requires of the public limited company to share its financial affairs with the ministry of finance and the Security & Exchange Commission of Pakistan, which in this case was not fulfilled”.

Earlier last month multiple petitions were filed in Lahore High Court against alleged irregularities and financial bungling in the administration of Punjab’s public sector companies. Among other infractions, they question why two Turkish companies – namely Al-Bayraq and Azbaq – were awarded contracts by the provincial government in violation of established procedures and rules. The Turkish consultants were also inducted into various companies on fat salaries, with generous perks. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: KEEPING OUT OF THE MIDDLE EAST QUAGMIRE (NOVEMBER 10, 2017)

Written by admin on Friday, November 10th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Keeping out of ME quagmire
SOURCE: Dawn
Friday, November 10, 2017 (Posted)
By KHURRAM HUSAIN

THIS is one of my worst nightmares, and it is getting perilously close.

Now that the young prince of Saudi Arabia has decided to settle all family business, to borrow a phrase, and his government has formally accused Iran of an “act of war” against his kingdom on account of the missile fired from Yemen intercepted above Riyadh, the tensions that were bubbling beneath the surface are now boiling up.

Start with the fact that Pakistan has a history of getting sucked into other people’s wars, usually in return for a pittance of help with our chronic balance of payments deficit. At the moment though, Pakistan has managed to walk the fine line and stay out of the conflicts growing in the Middle East, and the latest visit of the current army chief to Tehran appears to be cementing the country’s neutrality in the whole affair. But the forces pushing and pulling Pakistan into the regional conflicts there are powerful, and should be carefully considered.

Ever since Pakistan accepted that ‘gift’ of $1.5 billion from “a friendly country that does not want to be named”, but was later identified as Saudi Arabia, there has been a lurking danger that we are being courted to join the multi-front conflicts that are sweeping across the Middle East.

The obvious question that was raised when we learned of this ‘gift’ was: what is the quid pro quo? What are we expected to give in return? There were grounds to be incredulous when we were told that nothing was expected in return. That is not how things work in this world, and surely the bill will become due at some point.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: GENERAL BAJWA GOES TO IRAN (NOVEMBER 10, 2017)

Written by admin on Friday, November 10th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

GENERAL BAJWA GOES TO IRAN
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Friday, November 10, 2017

*THE PAKISTAN ARMY CHIEF’S VISIT TO TEHRAN WAS AN ATTEMPT AT ENDING THE COUNTRY’S REGIONAL ISOLATION

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Iran earlier this week and met its civil and military leadership to receive tributes for the war waged by the Pakistan Army against terrorism. He brought up “geostrategic environment, defense and security, and economic cooperation at bilateral and regional level” with the Iranian leadership.

It was not a routine visit because it was clearly meant to break Pakistan’s isolation westward and because Iran is deeply involved in infrastructural projects with China and India.

The routine in Pakistan is to witness military leadership visiting Saudi Arabia. Former Army chief Raheel Sharif is actually heading a Saudi-organized international force against the “rebels” in Yemen allegedly backed by Iran.

Tehran is careful with Islamabad despite a clash of policy in Afghanistan because of the Afghan Taliban during whose regime Iran had nearly gone to war with Afghanistan. Today, it is in a relationship of cooperation with Kabul while Pakistan is not.

With China and India investing in Iran, we can get a measure of how Iran has avoided regional isolation while Pakistan has embraced it. It is for this reason that General Bajwa’s visit should be considered crucial.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: CPEC AND THE ENVIRONMENT (NOVEMBER 9, 2017)

Written by admin on Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

CPEC and the environment
SOURCE: Daily Times
Thursday, November 9, 2017

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been underway for almost two years but the political leadership has yet to take into consideration its societal and environmental impact.

While the physical infrastructure and energy generation projects to be completed under the CPEC have the potential to boost economic activity, they will also result in degradation of the environment.

Not too long ago, the Karakoram Highway had supported only a handful of trucks that traversed its narrow route to move goods between markets in Pakistan and China. The highway is expected to carry up to 100 trucks a day when CPEC reaches its full swing.

The highest paved surface in the world already has more than a dozen diesel powered semi-trailer trucks chugging along it every day. The ugly dark fumes released by these trucks stand out in striking contrast to the pristine landscape alongside the highway. These dark fumes will eventually settle on glaciers, causing them to melt and form lakes.

Installing catalytic converters in the trucks that use the highway can serve as a quick-fix and economical solution to reduce emissions.

This is just one of the cases where the environmental impact of CPEC-related projects needs to be tackled. A comprehensive assessment is needed for damage likely to be done to the environment. Some of the projects will need corrective measures but others might have to be abandoned for more sustainable initiatives.

The authorities must realise that blind faith in CPEC’s ability to turn around the economy can bring more harm than good. These projects need to be reviewed for sustainability and equity to ensure that benefits outweigh costs and that the benefits reach marginalised areas and population groups.
(more…)

IN THE NEWS: U.S. EXPERT WARNS OF DRONE STRIKES IN KP, BALOCHISTAN SETTLED AREAS (NOVEMBER 9, 2017)

Written by admin on Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

US expert warns of drone strikes in KP, Balochistan settled areas
SOURCE: The News International
Thursday, November 9, 2017
By WASEEM ABBASI

ISLAMABAD: The Trump administration may expand drone strikes inside the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan in coming months, as Pakistan is unlikely to change its course as per the desires of the United States, a top US expert has warned.

“The US-Pakistan relationship has reached a critical point and in the coming month if the US feels Pakistan has not responded to its demands, there could be new unprecedented types of pressures used by the administration,” says Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center Washington.

The most likely new US action would be geographic expansion of drone strikes mainly in Balochistan and KP on regular basis, Kugelman, who is in Islamabad for fourth round of US-Pakistan Track-II dialogue, said in an exclusive interview with The News.

Historically, he said, America had made threats to Pakistan but the country has always stepped back but this time with the Trump administration it could be different and this could create new tensions.

He said in past there was only one drone strike in Balochistan when Taliban leader Mulla Mansoor was killed in US attack near Pakistan’s border with Iran. “I imagine US could also do the same (expand drone strikes) in KP. It would not do it in Lahore or Islamabad where theoretically more civilians are present,” Kugelman said.
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IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN, IRAN VOW NOT TO LET ‘THIRD PARTY’ USE SOILS AGAINST EACH OTHER (NOVEMBER 8, 2017)

Written by admin on Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan, Iran vow not to let ‘third party’ use soils against each other
SOURCE: Daily Times
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

* Agree on hotline communication, border fencing by Iran, coordinated border patrolling and intelligence sharing

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Iran on Tuesday decided to ensure that their soil will not be used by any ‘third party’ against any of the two neighbouring countries as both agreed to enhance bilateral security cooperation and intelligence sharing following a meeting between Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Iran’s Defence Minister Brigadier Amir Hatami, the military’s media wing said.

The two leaders agreed over establishment of hotline communication between the field commanders along Pak-Iran border, fencing by Iran on their side of the border, coordinated border patrolling, intelligence sharing and more frequent interactions between the two countries.

“In this regard, various steps will be taken which include establishing a communication hotline between the field commanders, fencing by Iran on their side of the border, coordinated border patrolling, intelligence sharing and more frequent interactions [between the forces of the two countries],” according to the ISPR.

The Iranian defence minister thanked Gen Bajwa for his trip as he acknowledged achievements of Pakistan Army in war against terrorism and expressed his country’s willingness to enhance defence cooperation, said the ISPR statement.

“Our policy is to develop relations with our neighbours and Pakistan has a special place in the Iranian foreign policy,” he maintained.

The COAS highlighted that with improved special measures by Islamabad on Pak-Afghan border, terrorists were likely to exploit Pak-Iran friendly border and both countries need to put in efforts to deny its use by them.
(more…)