Posts Tagged ‘ United States ’

Indian Chronicles and the Fifth Generation Warfare

As reported By Nayab Fareed for Safety & Security Today Pakistan. WWW.SSToday.com.pk originally on 1/27/21

#Narendra #Modi, Prime Minister of #India

Is Pakistan grappling with the fifth generation warfare? The question has long been scoffed at by the who’s who of Pakistani intelligentsia. For the longest time, these warnings have been dubbed as fear and paranoia promulgated by the Pakistani militablishment to squash dissent.

The state’s efforts against the threats of an unprecedented kind have time and again been discredited with little to no heed paid. However, the recent investigation carried out by the EU DinsfoLab, an independent Europe based organization, has made some startling revelations about the threat Pakistan faces; thus, vindicating our decade long fears. Let’s first attempt to understand the nature of fifth generation warfare before scrutinizing the report’s findings.

As the US Army Major Shannon Beebe once put it “fifth generation is a vortex of violence, a free-for-all of surprise destruction motivated more by frustration than by any coherent plans for the future.” The strategy of fifth generation does not revolve around direct armed confrontation, it rather employs social, economic and psychological tactics to impose mayhem. It employs non-uniformed atypical warriors who exploit fault lines of a state using terrorism, propaganda, religion, and public grievances to wage wars against the state’s institutions. Waged from within and abetted from outside, Audreas Turunen elucidates fifth generation as a cultural and moral war, which distorts the perception of the masses to give a manipulated view of the world and politics.

Non-state actors, more importantly, media which in recent past has emerged as the most powerful medium with widespread influence, has a crucial role to play in shaping perceptions. Unfortunately for Pakistan, the media has shown extreme irresponsibility in identifying and acting as the first line of defense against the propaganda. To an extent, segments of Pakistani media have also played into the hands of the enemy.

While Pakistani media failed to acknowledge the brazen disinformation plastered all over media and shrugged off the warnings mockingly, the Indian media, often dubbed as an important pillar of the world’s largest democracy, incessantly reposted and amplified the odious anti-Pakistan propaganda from fake media outlets, abetting the Indian state in its massive disinformation campaign.

The executive director of EU DisinfoLab claims that it was by far the “largest network the organization had exposed”. Indian Chronicles investigation uncovered more than 700 fake media outlets covering 116 countries, operating under dubious news agencies called “Big News Network” and “World News Network” both showing opaque ties to the Indian based conglomerate Srivastava Group. It was found that some of the most prominent Indian media agencies, such as ANI, ABP group, Zee, Republic News and Yahoo India reproduced and recirculated anti-Pakistan and, in few cases, anti-China rhetoric initially posted on the sham news websites.

More than 400 domain names were bought through Mr. Srivastava’s private email to register these websites. The articles and op-eds posted on them were often exaggerated, reworded and mainly used for the purpose of discrediting and reproducing negative iterations about Pakistan which were then repackaged by the Indian media for the consumption of millions of Indians at home and abroad, while also attempting to give legitimacy and credibility to the disinformation network.

Considering this sly process of layering, recycling and republishing of fake news from one source to another, the term ‘Fake News Laundering’ to put it mildly won’t be too far off.

If these findings are not staggering enough, this is where it begins to get increasingly malicious. The investigation also found that the campaign used not only fake media outlets to grow influence and taint India’s adversaries’ image, but also revived more than 10 defunct NGOs accredited by the UN for the same purpose.

One such example that has stood out the most for a variety of reasons is the Commission to Study the Organization of Peace (CSOP) that had been an inactive organization since the 1970s and was suddenly revived in 2005.

Not only did the organization come alive, it turns out the former chairman of CSOP, Professor Louis B Sohn, miraculously participated at the UNHRC session “Friends of Gilgit” in 2007 and attended another event in 2011, all while being deceased since 2006. CSOP, like the rest of these Zombie organizations, led a very different life from the first one. Once revived, the original purpose of their genesis completely changed from the environment, peace, education & even canned foods to furthering Indian interests.

These UN accredited NGOs also work in coordination with the non-accredited think tanks and NGOs based in Brussels, Geneva that were repeatedly given the floor at the UN on behalf of accredited NGOs. Amsterdam based think-tank called the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) for instance, was given the floor at the UNHRC’s 40th session in 2019 on behalf of the hijacked UN accredited organization United schools international (USI) which was then used to attack Pakistan.

The investigation noted that several of these think-tanks and NGOs including Baluchistan house, European organization for Pakistani minorities, South Asian democratic forum, World Baloch Women’s Forum, Gilgit Baltistan Studies, Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC), Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) have been given the UN floor via the accredited NGOs that have shown direct links with the Srivastava group. These propaganda Think-tanks and NGOs also used Pakistani dissidents such as Mehran Marri and the SAATH forum led by Hussain Haqqani to undermine Pakistan at Geneva on several instances.

Not only were the accredited NGOs misappropriated, but many of the speakers at UN were also misrepresented by the Indian media, primarily ANI.

Identity theft is another modus operandi where several editors, journalists’ identities were made-up, non-existent addresses and fake phone numbers were used to register websites, media outlets were impersonated and former members of defunct NGOs appeared at events they had no knowledge about. Right-wing MEPs, including former diplomat Hussain Haqqani, were given space on fake media outlets such as the ‘EU Chronicles’ & ‘Time of Geneva’ for exclusive Op-eds against Pakistan.

This opportunity served as a honeypot for the MEPs as they were invited on free trips to Maldives, Bangladesh and more recently Kashmir which was falsely reported by the Indian media as the official EU delegation.

The purpose of this modus operandi was to fake or misappropriate the reputation and status enjoyed by the original source in order to avoid radar and gain credibility in the reader’s view.

The operation does seem to have been a success considering how easily it exploited and abused UN’s loopholes and hijacked its organizations for more than a decade going completely unnoticed.

This also raises many questions, most importantly; why has UN as an independent global entity overlooked the dubious activities of its own NGOs for so long? How was India capable of carrying out a pronounced campaign against its adversaries right under the UN’s nose for 15 years without raising any alarm? And why has India exhausted its resources and time to carry out a decade long disinformation campaign against its rivals rather than seeking dialogue through diplomatic channels? India’s Chanakyan schemes only reaffirm its position as a regional bully who can go to all lengths to bring devastation of colossal degrees in a nuclear zone.

Pakistan is evidently being targeted by its neighbor due to the decades old unresolved conflicts, mainly Kashmir, as well as the constantly evolving regional dynamics making it almost impossible for both nations to pursue common interests.

Indian quest for regional hegemony coupled with its conflict with China makes Pakistan all the more vulnerable to chaos, making its nuclear might the only deterrence for the enemy.

Despite these appalling findings, the EU DisinfoLab suggests there’s much more yet to be uncovered implying that the report is just the tip of the iceberg which makes one wonder how massive the scale of this network really is.

Today, the fifth generation warfare is a concrete threat that the states are finally beginning to acknowledge and understand.

It is in fact not a boogeyman created by the state to scare the dissidents into submission; on the contrary, it is a bitter reality capable of threatening our very existence.

Unfortunately, the genuine grievances of Pakistani minorities have been exploited for sinister purposes, enemy has utilized divisive politics and fault lines to plant and agitate subversive elements to cause discord. However, amid the unrest, an opportunity has presented itself for Pakistan to correct course.

The state must address the grievances of those aggrieved while also dealing with the miscreants who threaten the states sovereignty at the behest of enemy with an iron fist. It’s time to separate truth from falsehood and make matters more transparent in order to gain trust of the populace.

Additionally, Pakistan must focus on improving its soft power in order to dismantle bogus campaigns by its rivals; the present government seems to be making efforts in the right direction but a lot more needs to be done to counter propaganda with facts. The matter must be raised on international forums highlighting India’s nefarious designs which could lead to dangerous consequences if not addressed promptly.

Half-baked truths, manipulation and deception may serve a petty purpose temporarily but will result in devastating consequences in the long run.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, tricks and treachery are practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest.

Pakistan’s first Sheedi woman MPA talks about George Floyd and racism

By Zehra Husain for Cutacut.com

KARACHI: “The murder of George Floyd was a violation of human rights and I condemn it in the strongest words,” said Tanzeela Qambrani, member of the Sindh Assembly and Pakistan’s first female MPA from the Sheedi community.

Tanzeela Qambrani. PHOTO: Twitter/tanzilabari24

On May 25, 46-year-old George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Floyd’s neck and did not remove his knee for 8 minutes.

“People of African descent are being oppressed world over. They are being de-humanised but Black people are also humans and this cannot be stressed enough,” Qambrani said in an interview with Cutacut

Chuavin has been charged with second degree murder. The three other ex-cops assisting have also been arrested and are also facing criminal charges.

“Racist thinking and violent prejudice against people of African descent exists world over. If such acts of brutality can take place in developed, “civilized”, countries like the United States, one can only think what kind of mindset exists in developing nations.”

Qambrani added that she is looking to call a session in the Sindh Assembly to address the murder of George Floyd and collectively condemn it in the strongest possible words.

“George Floyd’s murder was one instance of police violence. Black people, including our communities who live in Pakistan, are being punished for an apparent sin we did not commit,” she said.

“We are being punished for our features, for the way we look, for the color of our skin. We are being punished for something we did not choose.”

Qambrani said that the United Nations had designated the period between 2015-2024 as The International Decade for People of African Descent.

“Designating a decade and giving it a name is not enough if violence exists on the ground. The United Nations needs to do much more work and take stern action against such criminal acts.”

When asked what can be done to combat racism and uplift her own Sheedicommunity in Pakistan she laid emphasis on education.

“Our community has been left far behind in education. The government should ensure that we get opportunities in education. Give us the net, we will catch the fish ourselves.”

She said that she has been lucky for being given the opportunity to be a representative of her community as she is a worker and member of a party that believes in female empowerment and does not tolerate racism.

#PakistanisforPeace supports #BLM and #BlackandBrownLivesMoment & #Equality & #JusticeForAll~ 🙏🏽🇺🇸🇵🇰☮️

John Brown’s Body 😢

Home

By Tabzy.Wordpress.com

My heart has been aching for the last 7 days.

As I unpack my suitcases on day 1. As I put the laundry away on day 3. As I pack lunch for my kids on day 5.It’s always there, that hollow throbbing ache, in the exact spot where I think my heart is supposed to be.

My 7 yr old daughter has asked me at least two dozen times in the last seven days, as she often does at least once a month since she started talking, “Why don’t we live in Pakistan?” Today my three-year old son told me; “Your house is boring Mama, I want to go to Pakistan.”

The questions don’t help, they only make me realize their little hearts ache too, for the country they were not born in but I guess the love for which runs through their veins.

The silence in my house reminds me of the constant sounds that my home in Lahore is abuzz with. The silence only makes the ache grow stronger. I decide to go to the mall to get away from the silence after sending the kids off to school. I turn on the CD player as I settle behind the steering wheel in my car. The song that starts blaring reminds me of my sister’s wedding, the endless dance practices, the clothes, the colors….I turn it off and force myself to concentrate on my driving. The ache is still there. I look around and try to be grateful for the big clean roads, the stop signs, and the fact that no one is driving towards me on a one way road. But I miss the frenzied state of panic that all the drivers seem to be consumed by on all the roads in Lahore. I miss blaring horns. I miss the elated feeling of having defied death simply by changing a lane without being hit by a car.

At the mall I just walk around purposelessly.Nothing catches my eye. I miss the obsessive trips to the mall in the weeks before leaving for Pakistan, in the quest to hunt good deals on gifts. I walk into an expensive store, deciding I will treat myself to a statement necklace that I had my eyes on before my trip,it surely must be on sale by now. I inquire with the sales lady about the necklace and she brings it to me, I got lucky she informs me in a chirpy voice, it is 30 percent off bringing the price down to around $150. I look at it and suddenly I feel a tug at my heart, the ache is there again, only stronger. I tell the lady I changed my mind and walk out of the store feeling miserable. I miss the 20 minute haggling session with the “choorion wala” in Liberty over Rs 300 bangles. I miss the random aunties who would strike up a conversation in bazaars and doctor’s offices and beauty salons, making you reveal your entire family history in a matter of 4 minutes. I miss the beggars praying for my happy married life in return for a few coins. I miss the fact that most “bazaars” don’t open till noon and everything is closed on Fridays for prayer.

I miss I miss I miss…

I miss the all night chat sessions with my sisters, I miss the halwa poori breakfasts, I miss the tea time which occurred every two hours, I miss the constant chaos and craziness at home which would sometimes make me fantasize about checking into a hotel for a few days just so I could hear myself think. I miss the non-stop parenting advice from everyone who has ever had a child; I miss never EVER being alone. I miss the phone ringing after every three minutes and the door bell ringing at least 60 times a day. I miss the un-announced family visits and hugging my aunts and uncles tight, as if I had not seen them in years even though they had been over the night before and left well after midnight.

I miss squeezing into one car with all the siblings and their kids and making the long drive to Upper Mall just for a “cup” of Chaman ice cream. I miss acting unbelievably silly, the way you can only be around your family, totally and completely free. I miss constantly bickering with my siblings. I miss screaming at all our kids for making so much noise but only adding to the noise by screaming so loud.I miss the uncontrollable fits of laughter even at the most serious of moments. I miss lugging my camera around everywhere. I miss the stray cats at my husband’s home who would not even blink as my son pulled their tails. I miss having to clean my kids’ hands 15 times a day. I miss driving through half of Lahore when I had to get from my kids’ “dadu’s” house to “nano’s”house, joyfully inhaling the sights and sounds of Lahore with my eyes every single time. I miss the sound of Azaan. I miss the joy rain brought to everyone. I miss wearing my sisters’ clothes every day. I miss having so many opinionated people to ask how I look or what I should wear. I miss complaining about the load shedding. I miss being annoyed there is not enough hot water to take a shower. I miss speaking Urdu with everyone.

I miss the aura of hope in the air, sometimes so palpable I could taste it.

I miss the impossible amount of love and attention my kids receive until they are spoilt rotten by the time I come back, how everyone believes they care for them the “mostest”, even more than I do, how the whole household will gather around like a flock of hens, three people will volunteer to go to the hospital with you at 5 in the morning if you or your child is sick. I miss the utter lack of privacy and independence. I miss the cheekiness of family listening in to your phone calls and then discussing your entire conversation over tea afterwards as if they were invited to listen in to an important conference call! I miss everyone that I managed to meet and those I could not…

I miss the things that drive me up the wall and I miss the things that I have never stopped missing in 10 years. My heart keeps on aching…

The thing about leaving home is; you never get over it. You make a new life, you make new friends, you live happily ever after… until you go back home again. And every time you say your goodbyes and turn your back as you walk through those glass doors at the airport, the ache starts all over again. And then from time to time, you feel it, at the most unexpected of moments. It’s almost like how an amputee must feel; as if your hand was torn off your arm and even though it is no longer on your body and you have embraced life without it, you still feel your phantom fingers press into your phantom palm every once in a while and the reality of what’s been torn away hits you all over again. And the heart aches, all over again.

I don’t know why exactly we leave our homes. To find a better life I guess. A life where our kids are safer, our roads are cleaner, our bank balances; higher. I can’t quite remember just this second. Because right now, still in the throes of nostalgia seven days after walking away from my family through those glass doors, all I know is, there is no place like home. And in my heart of hearts, “home” will always mean Pakistan.

Why Most Pakistanis Can’t See The Film Pakistan Is Submitting For An Oscar Nod

By Zuha Siddiqui and Diaa Hadid for NPR

With Oscar nominations just a day away, Pakistan is hoping its picture gets one of the slots for best foreign film. But it’s a film that most Pakistanis aren’t able to see.

The 2-hour, 15-minute long movie is called Zindagi Tamasha, or “Circus of Life.” Set in the hazy old quarter of the Pakistani city of Lahore, prostitutes, devout families, drug dealers and men hustling a living live side-by-side. It is the fictional story of a devout, middle-aged real estate agent and performer, Rahat Khwaja, whose life capsizes after a guest at a wedding films him sensually swaying to an old Pakistani song, “Zindagi Tamasha” (the film is named after the song) as he sings it for the audience.

The video goes viral and Khwaja, who is respected in his crowded quarter for his singing of devotional Islamic poems, is suddenly viewed by his community as vulgar.

Religious events where he once starred as an esteemed singer are now off limits – he is literally pushed out of one event by other performers who are enraged by his wedding performance. He finds his face plastered across tawdry memes on the internet. Children who once loved him for the sweets he handed out in their crowded alley call him a pig and a pimp. A cleric threatens to accuse him of blasphemy – which can be a deadly accusation in Pakistan. Worse, his beloved daughter turns against him.

The film was banned in Pakistan after an extremist religious group watched the trailer and became enraged at its portrayal of the cleric in the movie. Not only does he loosely hurl accusations of blasphemy against the protagonist, the cleric is painted as a sneering, arrogant man who turns a blind eye to child sex abuse in his seminary, even as he leads the charge to shame the protagonist. And the group rallied against the director.

“Who are you to talk against scholars?” demanded Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the then-leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan at a rally last February against the movie, which gathered thousands of angry, chanting protesters.

“The prophet did not delegate the faith to you!” he said, referring to the film’s director, Sarmad Khoosat.

So just like the protagonist of Zindagi Tamasha, Khoosat faced a whirlwind of hatred.

“I would be added to these WhatsApp groups where mysterious people would just send me messages with gross, horrifying images of beheaded people,” he tells NPR. “On social media, Twitter was on fire with ‘ban Zindagi Tamasha‘ and ‘kill this bastard.’ “

He says other users accused of him of blasphemy, which can trigger vigilante attacks and even lynchings in Pakistan.

Following the outcry by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, the Pakistani government postponed Zindagi Tamasha‘s release. They also asked the country’s Islamic advisory body to conduct a “critical review” — effectively shelving the film.

The shelving of the film reflects a decades-long trend of Pakistani authorities appeasing the religious right, says Raza Rumithe director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, and the editor of a liberal outlet called Naya Daur.

“This is a trend that has been there for a long time, and it’s been growing over the decades, with more and more pressure from the religious lobbies,” Rumi says. “Every government attempts to appease them, because it’s a risk to anger the mullahs.”

“The mullahs have street power in Pakistan,” he adds.

But critics argue that the current ruling coalition of the prime minister Imran Khan appears even more obsequious than previous governments. That’s because of a perception among some Pakistanis that it is indebted to the country’s powerful military establishment for being propelled to power.

“This government has the unique distinction that it is probably the weakest civilian government in a long time,” says Murtaza Solangi, a colleague of Rumi at Naya Daur. “It’s easier to blackmail them and put them under pressure.”

In response to a request from NPR for an interview about the shelving of Zindagi Tamasha, and the banning of other media products, the information minister Shibli Faraz denied the government was in the business of censorship. In a statement, he wrote: “The government neither believes nor practices any kind of censorship or press advice. What it does believe in is encouragement of self-regulation by all forms of media. Further, it strongly believes in the preservation of our cultural and moral values.” Faraz declined to answer specific questions.

In any case, the government is sensitive to the criticisms of turbaned preachers, conservative viewers – and even an influential newspaper editor, Ansar Abbasi. He successfully demanded a jaunty biscuit advertisement be banned for showing an actress performing folk dances.

“Wasn’t Pakistan built in the name of Islam?” demanded Abbasi, as he complained in October about a Gala Biscuit advertisement to his 1.7 million Twitter followers. “Will biscuits be sold through mujra dancing now?” he demanded, a pejorative that refers to sexualized dancing.

Within hours, Abbasi’s tweet was shared thousands of times, and the ad was taken down for review by Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Authority. “We received tons of complaints,” Muhammad Tahir, a regulatory authority official, tells NPR. “A certain segment of our society definitely thinks dances are vulgar.”

Zindagi Tamasha and the biscuit ad are among the flurry of items that were banned or prevented from circulation over the past year. They include books, social media apps, television shows and even video games.

As the triggers of offense appear to broaden, content makers have been left uncertain of how to work. The Gala Biscuit advertisement was a case in point: the director Asad ul Haq said it was meant to be family-friendly, celebrating local folk traditions. The actress who danced in the ad, “was fully layered up, there was no skin showing.”

The fear is that the country is creeping back to a repeat of its darkest days, under dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who tried to reshape Pakistan in his stern image after he seized power in the late 70s.

He stopped movies from being screened and effectively choked the local film industry. Actors stopped finding work. Movie houses shut down. Musicians who provided their scores packed away their instruments.

The military dictator Zia-ul-Haq died in 1988 in a plane crash, and it has taken years for the industry to recover. It was only in 2013 that Pakistan submitted a film for Oscar consideration: Zinda Bhaag, which followed the path of three young men who try smuggle themselves to Europe to start a new life. The committee responsible for picking the entry has submitted a film for consideration every year since.

One committee member, Hamza Bangash, told NPR that Zindagi Tamasha was selected in November because it “really kind of upends a lot of hypocrisy within our society,” he says. “It does so with humor and it’s so gentle.”

But Bangash says he doesn’t expect the nomination to change anything — in fact he calls Zindagi Tamasha “a cautionary tale, because it tells you you can pour your heart and soul into a film,” he says, “and you might face death threats at the end of that.”

Happy MLK Day 2021!

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#Trump is #impeached for a second time!!!

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is a Hero For All Americans

Reported by Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace  1/15/2018

Dr MLK Jr

Today, January 15 is Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday and it is also a federal holiday here in the United States. Understandably, this holiday has very special meaning for African-Americans throughout the United States and across the world. It is a holiday that should also be vigorously celebrated by all other Americans as well. Dr. King not only fought for the rights of African-Americans but he was fighting for the rights of all other minorities in the United States. The rights of white women, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, Arabs and Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, Atheists and Agnostics and all other minority groups that reside in the United States owe their freedoms to the legacy and sacrifice of Dr. King.

Can we imagine an America without Dr. King sacrifices? Would Korean-Americans in Southern California have the freedom and equality to own businesses and be successful in living the American dream or would they still have been relegated to second-class citizenship as was the case in the 1960’s? Would doctors from India and Pakistan be able to come to America and pursue such high standards of living while at the same time treating Americans of all races in their practices and making the quality of healthcare better for all Americans or would segregation and Jim Crow laws have prevented them from only seeing minority clients and drinking from Black only fountains? It would be foolish to think that only African Americans would be treated badly history shows that anyone who was not white did not have the privilege to access certain facilities.

Countless white Americans have intermarried with Asians blacks Latinos and other races and former beautiful families over the last several decades. What all these families be possible without the sacrifice and struggles of Dr. King in getting equality for all Americans?

A Barack Obama would not be possible if it was not for the sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Young children across America of various ethnic backgrounds now have a role model and a vision that they too can attain the highest office in the land now that the color barrier has been broken in the White House. Without Dr. King, President Obama is not possible and hope does not have a vision.

As a Pakistani-American, I do not take for granted the freedoms that I enjoy today in 2018 and that my children are able to take advantage of as well. I clearly understand that along with Dr. King and many other civil rights leaders of the 60s we would not have the freedoms that we now have and those that we take for granted.

Martin Luther King holiday is a holiday for all Americans of all races including white Americans. He has a legacy that has made this country great and what it is today. MLK Day is a day of celebration and a day for all Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds to reflect upon Dr. King’s legacy and to honor his memory and ultimate sacrifice for all of us to live in a better America and thus a better world today. As Americans, he belongs to us all and we all should celebrate his life and contributions in making us a great country and society.

Pakistan: US Participation a Must in Russia-initiated Afghan Talks

As Reported by Ayaz Gul for The Voice of America

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN —
Pakistan says that Russia-sponsored international talks on Afghanistan must involve the United States for bringing peace to the war-riven country, because Washington is the “biggest stakeholder” there.

Moscow plans to host this week (April 14) a new expanded round of multi-nation “consultations” it has recently launched with the stated goals of developing a “regional approach” for promoting Afghan security and a government-led national reconciliation with the Taliban.

But the U.S. administration has already refused to take part in the conference, questioning Russian intentions and motives.

Speaking to a local television station before the Moscow talks, the Pakistani prime minister’s foreign policy aide, Tariq Fatemi, stopped short of admitting the absence of Washington will not allow the multi-nation process to achieve its mission.

“They [U.S] have their troops present [in Afghanistan], they have invested one trillion dollars there, they are the biggest stakeholder, they have lost hundreds of their soldiers, so they have their interests there,” Fatemi explained.

While Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, China, India were represented in the last round of talks in Moscow earlier this year, former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited for the first time to attend the April 14 conference.

“We hope and desire that when any such peace initiative will enter into a next stage, America will have to be made part of it,” Fatemi told Aaj TV when asked whether the Russian-initiated process could bring peace to Afghanistan without Washington.

Pakistan believes Russia is “positively” using its influence with the Taliban to encourage them to join peace talks and Islamabad is supportive of any such efforts, Fatemi insisted.

“Russia has told us its major concerns are that if civil war conditions are there in Afghanistan, it can become a center for terrorist organizations like Islamic State, or Daesh, who will then try to infiltrate into bordering Central Asian states,” the Pakistani official explained.

The Taliban’s attacks on rival IS fighters in a bid to prevent them from establishing a foothold in the country apparently encouraged Russia to support the insurgent group. But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday again warned Moscow against maintaining contacts with the Taliban.

“Anyone who thinks they can help themselves by helping the enemy of their enemy is mistaken. Anyone who thinks that they can differentiate between good and bad terrorism is mistaken,” Ghani said.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, Ghani acknowledged Russia is also threatened by terrorism and sympathized with victims of recent terrorist attack in that country.

“We have an intense dialogue with all our interlocutors because a stable Afghanistan is to everybody’s benefit and unstable Afghanistan hurts everyone,” Ghani said when asked whether Kabul plans to attend Moscow talks on Friday. He added he wants Afghanistan “as a center of cooperation” in all efforts aimed at stabilizing his country.

The Russian foreign ministry, while regretting Washington’s refusal to attend the coming talks, had also underscored the United States is an “important player” in settling the Afghan conflict.

“So [the United States] joining the peacekeeping efforts of the countries of the region would help to reinforce the message to the Afghan armed opposition regarding the need to stop armed resistance and to start talks,” it maintained.

Meanwhile, Fatemi said Pakistan has also stepped up diplomatic efforts to ease tensions with Afghanistan and is seeking implementation of a proposed mechanism the two sides agreed to in talks last months that were mediated by Britain.

The mechanism, he explained, would allow establishment of a “channel of communication at different levels” between Islamabad and Kabul to help remove “any misunderstanding” and deal with any terrorist incident on either side of their shared border.

“Talks [between the two countries] at the Army level and at different other levels are currently underway, and at a final stage, if needed, foreign ministers of the two countries will also engage in frequent meetings,” Fatemi said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan each deny allegations they harbor and support anti-state militants engaged in terrorist attacks on their respective soils. Tensions have lately risen because of Islamabad’s unilateral border security measures to prevent terrorist infiltration.

Kabul disputes portions of the 2,600-kilometer border between the two countries and is opposed to fencing them, saying it will further add to problems facing divided families.

A Global Snapshot of Same-Sex Marriage

By  for The Pew Research Center

Image

Around the world and in the United States, the pace of same-sex marriage legalization has picked up in recent years. Of the 15 countries worldwide to permit gay men and lesbians to marry, eight have done so since 2010. In addition, same-sex marriage is legal in some parts of the United States and Mexico but not others; of the 12 U.S. states (plus the District of Columbia) where same-sex marriage is or soon will be permitted, nine have legalized it since 2010.

In the United States, the spread of same-sex marriage laws has coincided with rapidly shifting public attitudes toward homosexuality. Six-in-ten Americans now say homosexuality should be accepted by society, up from 49% in 2007; 33% say it should not be accepted, down from 41% six years ago. (Look here for details on Americans’ changing attitudes toward same-sex marriage itself.)

In most other countries, attitudes toward homosexuality have been fairly stable in recent years. Not surprisingly, same-sex marriage has advanced the most in countries and regions where acceptance of homosexuality is highest.

We’ve surveyed eight of the 17 nations that have legalized same-sex marriage in all or part of their territory; in all but one of them at least 60% of people say homosexuality should be accepted. (The exception is South Africa, where only 32% say it should be accepted versus 61% saying it should not be; still, that was the highest acceptance level among the six African countries surveyed.)

On the other hand, among all but one (Jordan) of the 13 countries in our survey where 80% or more of people said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, same-sex relations are illegal in all or part of their territory, according to a report from the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association.

 is a Senior Writer at the Pew Research Center.

 

Reflections On Pakistan From A Recent Visitor

By Alan Jones for The Huffington Post

Pakistan is in the news – not least because of the violence leading up to the elections. H.L Mencken told us that “for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” Sometimes something happens and we’re hit between the eyes not only with complexity but with a sense of both urgency and humility. Last month I traveled to Pakistan as part of a UPIC (US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium) delegation led by the Reverend Robert Chase who runs a remarkable project — Intersections International – which is part of the Collegiate Church of New York.

My involvement came through a sponsoring organization called Convergence, a bi-partisan group centered in Washington DC. Before I went to Pakistan, I thought I was reasonably informed. Now that I’ve had an absurdly short but intense five days there, I find that I know even less, except for two things: one, how intensely tribal human beings are, not least those who wouldn’t admit to belonging to a tribe at all; and two, there is no substitute for personal contact and one-on-one relationships.

Not very profound insights in themselves but significant nevertheless, because my sense of tribe was greatly extended through finding new friends. The intense tribalism on the planet is fed by the lust for power by means of violence and death. But there’s a countervailing “tribalism” which is convinced that if we are to survive and flourish we’d better realize that there really is only one tribe, one ethnic group and that’s all of us. That surviving and flourishing will involve more and more of us in the pursuit of justice and peace.

I found myself in Islamabad sitting next to the scariest looking Muslim in the room (given my prejudices and assumptions – surely modeled on Osama Bin Laden – white turban and dress — suitable for hiding a weapon?). He had a large beard and an intense presence. I found out he was born in Bolton in the UK and now lives in Maryland where he has a farm, a body shop and an Islamic center. We hit is off right away and have become good friends. He is spiritually grounded and intellectually critical and we found that our approach to the great mystery of our different (but not so different) traditions were, in crucial respects, not so much sympathetic as identical.

I came away with two basic insights – one discouraging, the other bright with promise. First, the discouraging part. In some ways Pakistan is a basket-case of a nation. Public opinion polls reveal much that is neurotic and paranoid (not unlike other nations we might mention nearer home). One of our hosts – a distinguished academic – outlined for us the perceptions many Pakistanis have of us. There is overwhelming anti-American feeling revealed in the polls in Pakistan (it wasn’t always so) Why? There are deep problems of perception that have been internalized.

Many are convinced that the War on Terror is really a War on Islam. Moreover this war is being encouraged by a deep conspiracy of Jews and Christians. The US government is not to be trusted because the US wants to break up Pakistan and take control of Pakistan’s assets (the nuclear issue). Finally, the US wants to impose India’s hegemony over Pakistanis. All of the Pakistani delegates agreed with the analysis but also insisted that the perception was distorted – a caricature.

The encouraging insight was our interaction with Pakistani university students and faculty both in Islamabad and Lahore – particularly the women, who were passionate, critical, articulate and energized. What was particularly striking was their clear and biting honesty both about their own country and their severe critique of the appalling ignorance of what is going on in the world and in our name on the part of the US populace.

Alasdair McIntyre some years ago in an essay “How to be a North American” wrote: “We become people one of whose aims is to make sure that we please others, so that they are pleased at being pleased by us. And this wanting to be liked is one of the great American vices that emerges from this refusal of particularity and conflict. Americans tend under the influence of this vice to turn into parodies of themselves – smiling, earnest, very kind, generous, nice people, who do terrible things quite inexplicably. We become people with no depth, no depth of understanding, masters of technique and technology, but not of ourselves.” Colonel Tuan of the Republic of Vietnam once called Americans well-disciplined and generous but a people without a culture. He was not referring to high culture McIntyre commented,, “He meant that he could not recognize what it was about them that made them Americans in the way that he was Vietnamese. And I think that is what happens to people with no story to tell themselves, people who do not confront their future as a narrative future. They, or rather we, become superficial people, people with surfaces, public relations people.”

It struck me that these young Pakistanis were speaking from the point of view of a culture – a culture to be sure that was being challenged by change but a culture nevertheless. Where to begin? It might seem rather thin simply to affirm that there are now strong ties and friendships between members of the two delegations. But these relationships are strengthened by a deep commitment to go on meeting both here and in Pakistan; and not only to meet but to work on projects which will build bridges between our two countries.

It isn’t as if we have to start from scratch. There is already a strong corps of Pakistani-Americans who are dedicated bridge-builders. What comes through when I reflect on my trip to Pakistan is my conviction of the urgency of a new vision for humanity. How can the best of religion be galvanized for the common good? One of my colleagues at the seminary where I taught for many years, often used this aphorism: “Don’t let the demons set the agenda.” It seems to me that this is a good injunction for our age both in our country and in our relations with others. It’s time to jump into the complexity of things with a sense of urgency, humility and humor and realize that there is, in the end, only one ethnic group, only one human race.

In Sign of Normalization, Pentagon to Reimburse Pakistan $688 Million

By ERIC SCHMITT and DAVID E. SANGER for The New York Times

Kerry Panetta

The Pentagon quietly notified Congress this month that it would reimburse Pakistan nearly $700 million for the cost of stationing 140,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan, an effort to normalize support for the Pakistani military after nearly two years of crises and mutual retaliation.

The biggest proponent of putting foreign aid and military reimbursements to Pakistan on a steady footing is the man President Barack Obama is leaning toward naming as secretary of state: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. Mr. Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has frequently served as an envoy to Pakistan, including after the killing of Osama bin Laden, and was a co-author of a law that authorized five years and about $7.5 billion of nonmilitary assistance to Pakistan.

The United States also provides about $2 billion in annual security assistance, roughly half of which goes to reimburse Pakistan for conducting military operations to fight terrorism.

Until now, many of these reimbursements, called coalition support funds, have been held up, in part because of disputes with Pakistan over the Bin Laden raid, the operations of the C.I.A., and its decision to block supply lines into Afghanistan last year.

The $688 million payment — the first since this summer, covering food, ammunition and other expenses from June through November 2011 — has caused barely a ripple of protest since it was sent to Capitol Hill on Dec. 7.

The absence of a reaction, American and Pakistani officials say, underscores how relations between the two countries have been gradually thawing since Pakistan reopened the NATO supply routes in July after an apology from the Obama administration for an errant American airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011.

Mr. Kerry’s nomination would be welcomed in Pakistan, where he is seen as perhaps the most sympathetic to Pakistani concerns of any senior lawmaker. He has nurtured relationships with top civilian and military officials, as well as the I.S.I., Pakistan’s most powerful intelligence agency.

But if he becomes secretary of state, Mr. Kerry will inherit one of the hardest diplomatic tasks in South Asia: helping Pakistan find a role in steering Afghanistan toward a political agreement with the Taliban. As the United States, which tried and failed to broker such an agreement, begins to step back, Pakistan’s role is increasing.

For a relationship rocked in the past two years by a C.I.A. contractor’s shooting of two Pakistanis, the Navy SEAL raid that killed Bin Laden and the accidental airstrike, perhaps the most remarkable event in recent months has been relative calm. A senior American official dealing with Pakistan said recently that “this is the longest we’ve gone in a while without a crisis.”

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said, “Pakistan-United States relations are settling down to a more stable trajectory.”

The interlude has allowed the United States to reduce the huge backlog of NATO supplies at the border — down to about 3,000 containers from 7,000 when the border crossings reopened — and to conduct dry runs for the tons of equipment that will flow out of Afghanistan to Pakistani ports when the American drawdown steps up early next year.

Moreover, the two sides have resumed a series of high-level meetings — capped by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meeting this month with top Pakistani officials in Brussels — on a range of topics including counterterrorism, economic cooperation, energy and the security of Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to Washington, concurred. “There’s greater convergence between the two countries than there has been in eight years,” she said. “It’s been a fairly quick kiss and make up, but it’s been driven by the approaching urgency of 2014, and by their shared desire for a stable outcome in the region.”

The one exception to the state of calm has been a tense set of discussions about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. United States officials have told their Pakistani colleagues that Islamabad’s move to smaller, more portable weapons creates a greater risk that one could be stolen or diverted. A delegation of American nuclear experts was in Pakistan last week, but found that the two countries had fundamentally divergent views about whether Pakistan’s changes to its arsenal pose a danger.

The greatest progress, officials say, has been in the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan, after years of mutual recrimination. A high-level Afghan delegation visited Pakistan in November, resulting in the release of several midlevel Taliban commanders from Pakistani jails as a sign of good will in restarting the peace process.

The United States, which was quietly in the background of those meetings, approved of the release of the prisoners, but has still held back on releasing five militants from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a key Taliban demand.

One American official said there was a “big push” to move the talks process forward during the current winter lull in fighting. The United States is quietly seeking to revive a peace channel in Qatar, which was frozen earlier this year after the Taliban refused to participate.

Despite the easing of tensions in recent months, there are still plenty of sore spots in the relationship.

Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, who heads the Pentagon agency responsible for combating roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.’s, told a Senate hearing last week that Pakistan’s efforts to stem the flow of a common agricultural fertilizer, calcium ammonium nitrate, that Taliban insurgents use to make roadside bombs had fallen woefully short.

“Our Pakistani partners can and must do more,” General Barbero told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing.

American officials have also all but given up on Pakistan’s carrying out a clearing operation in North Waziristan, a major militant safe haven.

“Pakistan’s continued acceptance of sanctuaries for Afghan-focused insurgents and failure to interdict I.E.D. materials and components continue to undermine the security of Afghanistan and pose an enduring threat to U.S., coalition and Afghan forces,” a Pentagon report, mandated by Congress, concluded last week.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Kerry for Secretary is a great choice now that Susan Rice did not work out. We love Hillary Clinton and as a Democrat and Liberal through and through, as much as we wish Secretary Clinton a speedy recovery and look forward to voting for her as the first woman President of the United States, it is high time to have a man in there as a Secretary working together with Secretary Panetta. John Kerry is a good and honorable soldier who is a patriot and will uphold American interests but will be a person who is very familiar with Pakistan and the need to have a dialogue with the men who man the barracks in Rawalpindi, regardless who happens to be the Prime Minister in Islamabad. We hope he has a speedy confirmation and no obstructionism by the Do Nothing GOP~

The Opposite of American

By E.J.Graff for The American Prospect

The Sikh temple shooting, which left seven dead including the shooter, has left me feeling more shaky than the shooting in Colorado, which seemed more random.

I write that even though the skeleton of these stories is roughly the same. One man with a grudge takes semi-automatic weapons and opens fire at a public or semi-public event where people are gathered for some socially acknowledged purpose—education, work, politics, entertainment, worship. Some people die. Others are wounded. The gunman may or may not have the presence of mind to execute himself. Or he may choose to be martyred, putting himself in line for police to kill him.

The gunman’s race and age vary, anywhere from 12 to 50. In the U.S., the majority of such gunmen are white, disproportionately (although just slightly) to their numbers in the population. They are overwhelmingly male. Sometimes the gunman has a personal motive for making others suffer: He lost his job, or girlfriend. Sometimes his motive is putatively political: Liberals are ruining Norway, or abortion clinics are killing babies. Sometimes he’s just crazy—psychotic, or with a deeply disturbing character disorder—but sane enough to follow the cultural script.

Even knowing that the story has a plot that I can strip down to familiar elements, this particular shooting upsets me more than most—because Wade Michael Page shot up a gathering of a religious minority, darker than white, in the bucolic Midwest, in what police are calling an act of domestic terrorism. The FBI has been called in. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Page was, as many of us suspected, a “frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.” (Okay, I didn’t guess the band part.) Dave Weigel goes into the background documents and offers up the relevant nuggets in an excellent post at Slate, including a link to one of Page’s hate songs.

Sikhs have been targeted and attacked in hate crimes since 9/11; CNN has a summary of some of the publicly reported attacks here. Many of the news reports quoting Sikhs about this attack emphasize that they’re mistaken for Muslims, as if attacking Muslims would be more understandable. But post-9/11 hatred focused on the “other” hasn’t been that specific; Sikhs are visibly south Asian and, with those turbans, non-Christian. That’s enough for a neo-Nazi or any xenophobe who nurses an irrational resentment.

Here’s why this one leaves me particularly shaky. I grew up in the only Jewish family in my southern Ohio township, and probably the county; for nearly a decade, as far as I knew, I was the only Jewish kid in my jam-packed grade school, junior high, and high school. (My graduating class had 675 people.) The area was so German-American white that my medium-brown hair (see picture to the right) counted as dark, and left me irrationally unwilling to date anyone blond, although I’ve known consciously that that’s ridiculous. Somehow, I never had the presence of mind to connect my feeling of exclusion to what my dear friends the Conchas, the township’s Hispanic family, might be feeling, much less how the handful of black kids might have felt; as a child, my focus was on trying to shut off that sense of exclusion. Not until adulthood did I learn, instead, to expand it into empathy.

It’s hard to express how or why this incised me with vulnerable outsiderness so profoundly. Was it the time my friend Patti chased me around at recess, telling me that the Jews killed Jesus, and the teacher made me sit in the corner for crying? Was it having to stand every day in fourth grade as everyone said the Lord’s Prayer, which I knew wasn’t mine? (Yes, that came after the Supreme Court ruling banning prayer in schools, but I wasn’t yet well-versed enough in the law to object.) Was it getting those little choose-Christ-or-go-to-hell pamphlets in our Halloween bags, which probably went into everyone’s bags but which I interpreted as specifically meant for my Jewish family? Or having my sixth-grade teacher call me into the hall at school, asking whether the class could have a Christmas tree?

Another child might not have felt all this so keenly, of course, but I did. And my friends who grew up in urban or suburban Jewish clusters—Los Angeles, Cleveland Heights, Long Island—had a vastly different experience as American Jews. After I left for college, a Hindu temple moved in, and I was happy that my little brother and sister would have some fellow outsiders to befriend. For me, being the Jewish kid in Beavercreek, Ohio, was a lot harder than coming out later as gay. Which is probably why I never write about this subject, and why it’s so easy, comparatively, for me to write about sexuality and gender.

And it’s why, after 9/11, I was so grateful to march with members of the tiny Cambridge, Massachusetts mosque, which sits one street over from the tiny Cambridge synagogue, as befits religions that are such close cousins. However much the 9/11 bombers resembled, say, Timothy McVeigh or Eric Rudolph (who bombed a lesbian club, an abortion clinic, and the Atlanta Olympic games, in that order) in their message of politically targeted hatred, I knew that after 9/11 all Muslims would be slandered as responsible in a way that all white Christians had not been. In fact, the one thing I thought George W. Bush got absolutely right was insisting that Americans should not blame a religion for its most extreme members’ unhinged actions.

Police may not have definitively determined Wade Michael Page’s motive. But I see a group of brown people gunned down in their temple, almost certainly for their religious outsiderness, out there in the hyperwhite Midwest. I grieve for every Sikh in the country, and for every Muslim and Hindu and South Asian and Middle Eastern American who knows the message was aimed at them as well.

Page may have been a shooter like all other shooters: just another grudge-holding male who decided to feel powerful by becoming the lord of death. And yet his bullets nevertheless delivered a specifically white message of “patriotic” hatred: You don’t belong here. You are not us. Go directly to hell.

Will someone—everyone, really—please stand up and say that what Page represents is the opposite of American?

Latest U.S. Drone Operation in Pakistan Should Be Judged a Success

An Editorial By The Globe and Mail

The use of a drone to kill al-Qaeda’s second-in-command in Pakistan, confirmed on Tuesday by U.S. officials, is good news that has nonetheless provoked a diplomatic protest by Pakistan. The country’s position is understandable, and doubtless its posturing is necessary for domestic consumption. But it does not alter the fact that Pakistan is either unable or unwilling to act against terrorists in its lawless tribal lands and, though they occur in a foreign country, that Washington’s actions are defensive in nature.

Abu Yahya al-Libi was a global jihadi figure who incited attacks on Western targets and served a critical propaganda role for al-Qaeda. His apparent death follows several similar drone strikes against senior al-Qaeda leaders, including Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, that have seriously diminished the terrorist group’s capability and, frankly, have made the world a safer place. What is more, the use of the unmanned stealth weapons has both preserved the lives of U.S. servicemen and women and resulted in limited civilian casualties.

Louise Arbour, the former war crimes prosecutor and Supreme Court of Canada justice, wrote recently in Foreign Policy that the use of drones “stretches legal boundaries to the breaking point and alienates people in Pakistan.” In calling for the rules for use of strike drones to be “clarified,” Ms. Arbour expressed concerns over the “very real risks to civilians.” There is indeed a need for a clarification of the rules. It would be folly to believe that the proliferation of the technology is without implications for international law and policy.

But any such debate must be built upon some pertinent facts. Strike drones are surgically targeted, and those killed are generally not good people (there is always the unfortunate risk of exceptions when terrorists hide among civilians).

In the case of the latest attack, American officials say Mr. Libi was the only person who died. Local tribesmen dispute this, saying others died, but they confirm no civilians were harmed. The same can hardly be said of the consequences of U.S. inaction in the face of al-Qaeda’s threat. This operation was then, by any reasonable measure, a success. Ms. Arbour and others concerned about drone wars need to reflect on the question of proportionality.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteUntil and unless Pakistan goes after the terrorists in its borders earnestly, the drone strikes and their often effectiveness in killing top wanted members of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban will most likely continue, despite the collateral damage to Pakistan’s sovereignty and loss of civilian lives.

Memorial Day Personal For All Generations

As Reported by Michael Beall for The Great Falls Tribune

It arrives when spring begins its slow transition to summer, as high school seniors prepare their next steps and, when the fickle Montana weather cooperates, it’s a day for barbecues, parades, picnics and remembrance — surrounded by loved ones, bouquets of flowers and American flags.

Memorial Day is a national holiday with a personal connotation that dates back to 1868 and the wake of the Civil War. It stems from contentious roots in a time when the North and South honored their dead on separate days, until the country united the holiday after World War I to remember all American soldiers from every war.

It was known as Decoration Day in the 19th century, when Americans from both battlefronts carried flowers to graves or makeshift monuments honoring the approximately 620,000 soldiers who died on American soil.

“The procession went on, and stopped here and there at the little graveyards on the farms, leaving their bright flags to flutter through summer and winter rains and snow. They sent flags to all the distant graves and proud were those households who claimed kinship with valor,” wrote Sarah Orne Jewett on Decoration Day 1892, remembered in the book “Race and Reunion: the Civil War in American Memory.”

Jewett’s words ring true today in the graveyards and cemeteries, memorial parks and main streets, and in homes and backyards. Memorial Day is as personal as an individual’s relationship with a war, a veteran, a living or fallen soldier.

Maureen Blake, a third-grader at Morningside Elementary, planned to celebrate the holiday with an annual barbecue to spend time with her mom, dad and sister.

“Memorial Day means to me and my family to celebrate soldiers and their hard work in the military, army, marines or whatever they do,” Blake said in a shy but excited voice. “I think it’s a day for remembering the soldiers.”

She said she remembers her dad, Ferrel, who is an Air Force sergeant, and her uncle, who passed away in a car wreck. When she grows up, she wants to follow her father into the military so she can help people.