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Pakistan Press (14 Oct 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Let’s Not Settle For Crumbs: New Age Islam's Selection, 14 October 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

14 October 2016

Let’s Not Settle For Crumbs

By Dr Farzana Bari

Can Syria Save Obama’s Legacy?

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

The Show Begins Now

By Syed Kamran Hashmi

March On Islamabad…The Last Gamble

By Ayaz Amir

Weapons, Soldiers and Check-Posts for Sale

By Musa Khan Jalalzai

The Cheapening Of America

By Chris Cork

Changing Lives

By Zubeida Mustafa

Too Early To Wed

By Yoriko Yasukawa

Worthy Wars?

By Nicolas J S Davies

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Let’s Not Settle For Crumbs

By Dr Farzana Bari

October 13, 2016

Rape, sexual abuse and killing of women in the name of “honour” is rampant in Pakistan. While gender-based violence is a global phenomenon, what distinguishes Pakistan from other counties is the culture of impunity surrounding such crimes. There is less than one per cent conviction rate in cases of violence against women.

There are socio-cultural, economic and political structural basis that create conditions of vulnerability for women and subject them to gender-based violence. Most damaging is the law of the land that plays havoc with women’s lives. The Qisas and Diyat Law that was introduced as a part of General Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation, privatises crimes and allows pardon to perpetrators. The only exception at present exists in cases of terrorism where compoundability (forgiveness) provision cannot be invoked.

This legal provision has fundamentally distorted the justice system in the country by creating structural basis of discrimination against the poor and the marginalised. Only the rich and the influential can buy out the victims by offering compensation or through the use of influence and power.

Thousands of women across the country are killed on the pretext of “honour”. The killers go scot-free due to provision of forgiveness in the Qisas and Diyat Law. There is generally public silence on the massive misuse of these laws, especially in “honour killing” cases (with the exception of rights activists/organisations raising the issue). This collective apathy on the misuse of Qisas and Diyat Law was jolted when Reymond Davis, a CIA agent who shot dead two Pakistanis in Lahore and was pardoned by the families of victims after accepting financial compensation. Also, when the family of Shahzeb Khan pardoned his killer, Shahrukh Jatoi, son of an influential feudal lord, the entire nation was stunned by the level of injustice and impunity that the law provides to the criminals.

The culture of impunity inbuilt in the Qisas and Diyat Law has turned the country into killing field of women. There has been a long-standing demand from the women’s movement to delink “honour killing” from Qisas and Diyat Law and make it a crime against the state rather than against individual. The demand from the women’s movement was to make honour killing a non-compoundable offence and no option should be given to the family to forgive the criminals.

Decades of advocacy by the human rights community to bring anti-honour killing law fell on deaf ears of successive parliaments. However, the national embarrassment caused by an Oscar winning documentary on the issue A Girl in the River by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and the murder of media celebrity Qandeel Baloch impelled the government to move on passing the long-awaited bill on “honour killing”.

It is extremely distressing and disappointing that the Anti-Honour Killing law (Criminal Amendment Bill) makes no substantive changes that will reverse the tide of killing women in the name of “honour”. The text of the Law is clearly a political compromise to please religious lobby in the country.

The Anti-Honour Killing Law maintains compoundability. It allows families to pardon the murderer in case of death penalty. Moreover, the Law declares honour killing Fisad-Fil-Arz but leaves this to the discretion of the judge to decide whether the crime committed is “honour killing” or Qatl-e-Amd (pre-meditated murder).

This Law has several anomalies: how will the court decide if the motive behind a killing is honour, especially if the murderer denies that it was not? Who will provide the evidence for honour killing? How will the evidence be collected? This simply complicates the matter. It will extremely difficult in practice to prove that the crime was committed because of ‘honour’.

We are expected to celebrate because the amendment of section 311, Act XLV of 1980 says “… if the principle of fasad-fil-arz is attracted, the court may, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, punish an offender against whom the right of qisas has been waived or compounded with death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to fourteen years as ta’zir”.

It is clear that tazir will be applicable only when the judge is convinced that it was honour killing (something extremely difficult to establish). In case of death sentence, the family is still entitled to pardon. However, in this case tazir will be applicable and the offender will be imprisoned for up to 14 years (it could be six months or a year also).

So what is likely to happen? Unlike the past, those who now kill women will not claim ‘honour’ as the main motive for the killing. Therefore, they may be convicted (if at all) in qatl-e-amd and the families will forgive. Therefore, the culture of impunity will persist and the trend of killing of women will continue. However, the number of deaths reported under the category of honour killings will now shift to the category “murder”.

It is imperative to understand that notions of honour, izzat, ghairat are socially constructed to maintain patriarchal control over women’s lives and bodies. It has been demonstrated in many honour killing cases that killing had nothing to do with the moral conduct of women. They were killed for other reasons than so-called honour but perpetrators used the law to avoid punishment.

In the presence of Qisas and Diyat Law, the only way forward to protect women’s lives in the cultural context of Pakistan is to declare every murder of a woman by the family a crime against the state without any option given to the family to forgive. Anything less than that means that government has no will or commitment to provide protection and security to women. This legislation has been introduced due to political compulsion rather than a genuine concern to protect women’s lives.

It is a pity that inadequacies and legal lacunas of Anti-Honour-Killing Bill have overshadowed the Anti-Rape Law (Criminal Amendment Bill) that deserves much applause and gives us reason to celebrate. Despite the controversy created by the Council of Islamic Ideology on the admission of DNA test as an evidence in cases of rape, the Law accepts DNA as a primary evidence. It is a victim/survivor centred law. It comprehensively criminalises addresses social mindset, media reporting that infringes on victims’ rights to privacy, dignity and confidentiality and the tampering of evidence or creating hurdles in the way of investigation of rape cases by any police officials.

It is highly condemnable that the government tried to steel women’s struggle against honour killing by passing the Law that will make no difference to women’s lives. Let’s not settle for the crumbs that this Law throws to silence the women’s voices and demand legal protection against the killing of women in the name of honour.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1198524/lets-not-settle-crumbs/


Can Syria Save Obama’s Legacy?

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

October 14, 2016

For those of us who generally admire President Obama as a man of principle, it is wrenching to watch his paralysis. As I see it, Syria has been his worst mistake, a huge blot on his legacy, writes Nicholas Kristof of the          New York Times.    

Kristof comes from an increasingly rare breed of journalists, who view their calling as a trust and responsibility. As someone who has covered and written at length about the ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Balkans, Rwanda and Darfur, he is angry at the Obama administration’s response to the humanitarian catastrophe that is Syria.                                                         

“As a senator, Obama used to complain to me and others that President Bush was too passive about atrocities in Darfur. “I am strongly supportive of us doing what it takes to stop the slaughter that is taking place, and I think that no-fly zones have to be part of that formula”, Obama told me in 2006. He should listen to himself,” says the columnist.

For someone like me who once adored Obama, this frustration is totally relatable.   Indeed, Syria has been one of the twin disasters of his legacy, the other being Palestine of course.   

Even the much-hyped resolution of Iran’s nuclear knot seems to have helped Washington little. On the one hand, it has angered the US’ traditional allies in the region even as Iran has expanded its influence, from Iraq and Syria to Yemen where it’s engaged in a bitter proxy war with the Saudi-led Arab coalition.         On the other hand, it is the Russians, Washington’s European allies and even China and India who seem to have really benefited from the thaw with Iran and easing of international sanctions. The US’ sphere of influence has further contracted.  

Military cooperation between the the Ayatollahs and the Russians has grown manifold. For the first time in history, Russian jets have been flying from an Iranian airbase to hit Syrian targets, killing defenceless civilians like flies.              

All this has happened on the watch of a leader who began with immense promise and had been hailed as the first ‘global president’ for the love and support that he evoked around the world. He was feted with the Nobel Peace Prize in his first year in office for his resolve to bring peace to the Middle East.

Who could forget his sublime oratory in Cairo, reaching out to the Muslim world like no US president had ever done. “The Palestinian people have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. They endure the daily humiliations that come with occupation. Their situation is intolerable.”

After that initial burst of enthusiasm that saw him appoint a special envoy to the Middle East in his first week in office and seek a ‘new beginning’ with the Muslim world though, Obama has done little over the past seven years to change the ‘intolerable’ situation.  He gave up pretty quickly in the face of the characteristic Israeli intransigence and obfuscation.

Forget resolving the most vexing of Middle East conflicts; Israel has actually been rewarded for its continuing persecution of the Palestinians with an unprecedented $38 billion military aid package, the biggest Washington has ever gifted any country. This after all the flak and humiliation that Obama has received from Netanyahu and his powerful friends on Capitol Hill.

Thanks to the administration’s indifference not only has Israel expanded its criminal enterprise of settlements on what little remains of Palestinian land and killed hundreds of Palestinians in cold blood in the name of security, it has done away totally with the pretence of ‘peace talks’.   

Why would Israel talk peace with the Palestinians when it’s rewarded for ignoring and killing them?

But while the tale of betraying Palestinians is old and familiar, it is Syria that remains our hero’s single biggest failure. Obama’s crippling inaction has directly resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and displacement of more than 11 million Syrians. It has sparked the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis since the World War II, with thousands of them dying at high seas.     

Obama’s reluctance to use force and get bogged down in yet another military conflict in the Middle East may have been well meaning but it has turned out to be the undoing of a whole country. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.         

His dithering on Syria was virtually seen as an invitation to others to get involved. As Marwan Bishara argues, Obama’s aversion to getting involved in Middle East affairs has allowed others to do just that: Iran took advantage of the US withdrawal to enforce its own presence in Iraq; Russia took advantage of the US reluctance to intervene in Syria to deploy its military last year. And yes, this reluctance also created the monster called Isis, from the badlands of Iraq, thanks to the brutality of US occupation and sectarian militias.         

What hopeless, mindboggling mess! And nothing illustrates it more starkly than the wholesale destruction of Aleppo, one of the world’s oldest cities. The historical city has nearly been flattened as a punishment for hosting rebels.

Around 300,000 of its besieged residents, locked away in their ruins, are being starved to death. Jets have been relentlessly pounding the last bastion of resistance. These jets have even bombed a UN convoy that was bringing in much-needed humanitarian aid, killing around a dozen doctors and nurses, not to mention the vetoing of a UN resolution that called for ending air strikes.     

These are nothing short of war crimes, as France has rightly suggested.         Yet the international community, including Washington, has just stood around rubbing its hands. All that the US could come up with is the threat to suspend ‘bilateral engagement’ with Moscow over Syria, as if the Russians care. Russia and their friends in Damascus think they are finally winning. Why would they want to ‘engage’ Washington now?

Another brainy idea being thrown about by US diplomats as a ‘Plan B’ is a No Fly Zone over Syria, a la Iraq, to stop the relentless air attacks.

It is an idea whose time may have already passed. It is too little, too late.       It would have perhaps worked early in the conflict if the US had backed it up with the threat of use of force. As the top diplomat of the US, John Kerry reportedly told some Syrian groups privately that his diplomatic efforts have gone nowhere because they are not backed by military muscle. Besides, this is literally the fag end of this president’s tenure.      

Still, given the utter hopelessness of the situation, any proposal offering faintest hope of putting an end to the Syrian misery is worth trying. It is certainly better than doing nothing. The US remains the world’s reigning superpower and could certainly help end this nightmare if it indeed wants to, rescuing Obama’s legacy.

In the words of Kristof, if we don’t act after half a million deaths, will we after one million? After two million? When?



The Show Begins Now

By Syed Kamran Hashmi


Reported by a renowned journalist, Cyril Almeida, and published in a reputable newspaper, Dawn, the story tells us the insider account of a high level meeting held in Islamabad convened to discuss the international isolation faced by Pakistan today. Realising our lack of influence on our neighbours after we failed to host the 19th annual SAARC summit as the majority of members boycotted it the meeting was attended both by civilian and military leadership. At least, the administration realises that we are internationally isolated; a fact that has been denied in the past at every level, but it now seems to have broken some ice behind closed doors while the public refutation continues.

Except for the conspiracy theorists who live in their own imaginary world, everyone knows why Pakistan encounters global indifference; why our protests on Kashmir are not taken seriously; and why our legitimate national security concerns fall on deaf ears. It is an open secret.

Through our relentless policy of sponsoring and exporting ‘non-state actors’ as proxies, we stand where we stand now. To remove any confusion, let me say the term non-state actors is euphuism for state-sponsored international terrorism. And our heavy reliance on it has irked our friends, stirred international conflicts, and caused us global shame. It is as bad for us as was reliance on Saudi oil for the USA. Both the countries had to cut down their dependence on products whose outcome is almost always catastrophic. The US has already done that; can we say the same about ourselves?

Even China, our close ally, has raised concerns about our dangerous and self-destructive strategies. The Chinese do not understand why we have to resort to such means when our fears hold ground. What to talk about other countries and their governments, friendly or not, when it comes to foreign policy, we cannot satisfy our own people. More so, we lack the capability to describe the objectives in simple terms and justify them reasonably.

Coming back to the meeting: no one would have expected anything exciting from it, it was a routine exercise — the prime minister heading the meeting perturbed by upcoming protests in Islamabad, and the chief minister of Punjab occupied with the Orange Train line project in Lahore, the sword of Panama leaks hanging atop their heads. It was supposed to be a meeting brimmed with a long, dull and sleep-inducing presentation, peppered with unintelligent questions, mirrored by even more unintelligent explanations, and followed by of course tea and refreshments. To put it another way, the forum had only one objective: ascertain that no change in the fundamental policy takes place. Life, as usual, goes on, the double game remains untouched.

Even if we suppose the meeting had ignited some excitement, kept the prime minster involved, the chief minster interested, and even if the purpose of the meeting was to bring a fundamental change in policy, what we could not have imagined was that the civilian leadership would ever challenge the military and compel the military to adopt a defensive position. In our history, we have not seen many instances like that. Left without an exit strategy or counter-accusation, it seems the military agreed to support the provincial government in its crackdown against militants promising the administration no future interference.

Almost like a fairy tale, unrealistic and out of this world, based on the laws of a different universe where gravitation pull ceases to exist and the quantum mechanics fail, the story depicts the confidence and the determination of the Sharif brothers to eradicate religious extremism and terrorism from the country. But contrary to the popular belief, was Pakistan military found to be on the same page? The other question is: what kind of suspects captured by the police is later released by the intervention of the intelligence agencies? Why do we not talk about that on television? How has this interference crippled our ability to combat extremism?

Of course, we expected that the story would be denied, as it has been by the prime minister’s office. Indeed, the leak has been regarded as a breach in national security, an investigation has been launched to expose the culprit, and the journalist has put on the exit control list, as if he is the reason for our international isolation. We all know who is doing it and why.

Any incident in which the civilian government seems to have an upper hand can yield various consequences for everyone standing on the other side of the fence. It can lead to the dissolution of parliament and its constitutional structures, the annulment of the constitution including, but not limited to the removal of judges. For the prime minister, it can result in losing his job, his freedom, and his support. The question when playing with fire is not if you will get burnt, it is how extensively and how deep.

The show has just begun!

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/14-Oct-16/the-show-begins-now


March On Islamabad…The Last Gamble

By Ayaz Amir

October 14, 2016

Not the least of this season’s ironies: the threat to assault the capital and shut it down would not have come, indeed would not have been possible, without the impressive show at Raiwind, next to the Sharif Palace at Jati Umra, now maintained at public expense, because they’ve declared it PM’s camp office.

In a previous column I had said this wall, no doubt soon to be recognised as a national monument, had cost a modest 45 crores. I have since been corrected: true cost, 75 crores.

There’s no one to beat us when it comes to these ingenious swindles…living in official palaces and then declaring your private estate a camp office so that the state ends up paying for your posh lifestyle. This would count as brazen plunder anywhere else, matter for impeachment not the fairytale which is accountability. Islam indeed, why don’t we stop talking about Islam? If this was early Islam, a page out of the first caliphates, this money would be recovered from their pockets. Here everything goes and we bat not an eyelid and call it democracy.

Here’s a thought: if Islamabad could be shut down permanently no greater favour could be done the Islamic Republic. Of all the useless things we have created over the years the founding of this city takes the prize. It has done us no good and may have caused us harm in the sense that our Bengali brothers and sisters, whom we got rid of all those years ago, could never quite relate to it. In the alienation of East Pakistan, Islamabad has a chapter all to itself.

But these are empty musings. We face a real problem and that relates to Imran Khan’s threat, made at the Raiwind jalsa, that unless there was movement on the scandal engulfing the prime minister and his family – offshore accounts and Mayfair flats never disclosed to either the Election Commission or the tax authorities – he would be left with no recourse except to lead his followers to Islamabad on October 30.

Before Raiwind when there was no shortage of souls convinced it would be a flop and that Imran had it coming for him and would be deeply embarrassed, this would have been an empty threat and the ruling party’s regular trumpeters would have filled the airwaves with laughter and ridicule. But after the success of that show the buglers are strangely quiet, their bragging gone as if they now fear the worst.

Even the line much propagated by the PML-N that Imran was all alone with no other political party standing with him has lost its edge. I personally thought that without the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s ready force of committed workers, who had demonstrated more than once during the 2014 dharnas and marches their unrivalled ability to put the janissaries of the Punjab and Islamabad Police to headlong flight – spectacles worthy of any Hollywood action movie – Imran faced a serious problem. But sensing the challenge before him he got down to some hard work, pulling off the whole thing by himself, on the strength of his own party, with no help from any other quarter.

It was a valuable experience and now Imran needs no props to prepare for the march on Islamabad, the Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaf (PTI) finally learning, after all these years, that charisma and star appeal, while important if not crucial for a mass party, are still not enough substitutes for organisation and planning. There was no one more charismatic in the ring than the great Muhammad Ali but that never meant that he could take his training lightly.

Imran knows what is at stake. Having given the challenge he can’t afford to take it lightly. Ticket-holders, members of assemblies, key persons, are being given quotas to fulfil…workers and activists that they must bring to the capital. And workers are being asked to bring blankets and food with them. This attention to detail is a new thing for the PTI.

Previous to this the PTI was very good at organising jalsas…they would take care of the sound system (the DJ Butt phenomenon), the lighting and the stage preparations. But blankets and food and the digging of latrines which I read in an Urdu paper they are going to do this time are things that religious parties were good at. The Jamaat-e-Islami, the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s PAT, at their conventions which could go on for several days would do these things. This was never the PTI’s forte.

Its jalsas were sound-and-light shows. For the first time it is behaving like an army on the march, realising the importance of logistics – an army which must march on its stomach and which must also look to the digging of latrines, and the provision of clean drinking water, etc. The Sheikh-ul-Islam’s distancing may thus turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the hitherto disorganised PTI. When put to the necessity of cooking most of us, unless completely helpless with our hands, manage to turn out something or the other.

Organisation, in any event, comes not so much from theory as practice…the hard school of experience through which, of necessity, the PTI and its enthusiasts are passing.

The Sheikh-ul-Islam, for his part, may have missed a great opportunity. Begun with such fanfare his qisas movement has ended with a whimper. The likely outcome of his sudden eruptions and equally sudden departures is that when the final count is taken he will be remembered more as a preacher, a televangelist, than a man of action.

The world of Islam has never lacked for preachers – theologians and textbook professors, all endlessly explaining the hidden points of scripture. From the decline of the Islamic civilisation starting from the mid-thirteenth century when Halagu Khan’s army sacked Baghdad down to the present, these theologians have been explaining Islam, writing books on the meaning of the Quran. But as Marx said in a similar context, the point is not to explain the world but to change it.

More power to the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s preaching. Although I can’t help thinking that the commitment and dedication of his followers, mostly from the less privileged sections of society, by far outweigh the sound and import of his scholarly brilliance.

So what happens when the 30th     comes? It’s all up in the air. Various government quarters are threatening drastic action. But what do the Panama Leaguers have at their disposal? Nothing more than the dharna-tested and found-wanting lions of the Islamabad and Punjab police forces. And the police have seen how they were used in Model Town – pushed to mercilessly gun down the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s followers, and then largely left to their own devices. Model Town haunts the Sharifs. It also haunts the Punjab Police. And when PTI workers descend on Islamabad somewhere on the horizon will still linger the ghost of Model Town.

To make matters worse for the government, just when it needed the army’s support the most it could not curb its penchant for over-cleverness. The Almeida story, which Dawn is treating as its passport to heroic immortality – comparing it already, Lord help us, with the Pentagon Papers – was comprehensively leaked by someone in the PM’s office. Who dunnit? That’s the question and not anything to do with that pious humbug called ‘freedom of expression’. This was not the time for such a leak.

Anyway, I’ve already booked a room for the 29th…can’t wait to cover the excitement, unless this too, to my chagrin, ends with a whimper.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/157020-March-on-Islamabadthe-last-gamble


Weapons, Soldiers and Check-Posts for Sale

By Musa Khan Jalalzai


Last week, a number of Afghan parliamentarians from the Kunduz province accused the national unity government and its armed forces for supporting terrorist organisations like ISIS and Taliban. They alleged that military commanders were providing arms, financial assistance and sanctuaries to terrorists, and transported their suicide bombers to their destinations. These were some of the most disturbing accusations in the Afghan history at the floor of parliament.

The MPs also accused the Afghan National Army (ANA) commanders for handing over dozens of check posts along with sophisticated arms to the Taliban. An MP from the Kunduz province, Miss Fatima Aziz said that defence and interior affairs ministries failed to maintain security and law and order in the country. She also accused police commanders for facilitating Taliban against ANA positions. “All Afghan officials in the Kunduz province, including the ANA, police and local government officials in cooperation with the people from central government, handed the city to the Taliban,” said Miss Aziz.

The Afghan opposition perceives the persisting disagreement between the two heads of state, and poor leadership as the reason that the Kunduz city fell to the Taliban. Moreover, the prominent military analyst, Javed Kohistani, hammered the ANA for selling weapons to the Taliban. “We have evidence that prove there are people inside the security forces that sell weapons and checkpoints to the Taliban and let their fellow colleagues being arrested by insurgents. There is the type of betrayal that exists among the security forces, especially the local police,” said Mr Kohistani.

Other MPs also levelled the same accusations against ANA commanders and local administration. “Lack of a coherent strategy in the Kunduz province and corruption are the bigger challenges [there],” said Mirdad Nijrabi, head of internal security committee in parliament. The governor of the Kunduz province, Assadullah Omar Khel, slammed Vice Chief of Army Staff, General Murad Ali for the collapse of the city. “I asked that first, we should clear the entire city, but General Murad did not accept my suggestions and acted according to his own plan... In these attacks the people of Kunduz suffered a lot,” said the governor. However, the chief of the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, apologised for his failure to counter Taliban insurgents. Muhammad Masoom Stanekzai acknowledged that the government failed to intercept the Taliban outside the Kunduz city.

In 2016, amid this dirty warfare, the Taliban introduced new strategies of war by controlling districts and provinces without fighting against the Afghan security forces. They entered into negotiations for fixing bargains with ANA commanders on terms and conditions to purchase military check posts, including weapons and soldiers in various provinces. Before the Taliban entered the Kunduz and Helmand provinces, they bribed ANA commanders and local warlords, and allowed them to safely escape the city. The ANA officers are not paid their salaries regularly by the defence ministry, the reason why they sell check posts, weapons and military secrets to terrorist groups.

The Afghan security forces are reluctant to protect the interests of the ruling mafia groups and their American partners. Mismanagement, political interference, ghost soldiers, poor war capabilities and corruption are challenges that have made the forces more vulnerable. Perception of an ethnic war between President Ashraf Ghani and Mr Abdullah Abdullah has badly affected the conglomeration of the ethnic alliance. In August 2016, Mr Abdullah severely criticised President Ghani for his unilateralism. Differences over appointments of governors, military commanders and police officers reached the point of no return. President Ghani wants to take the war to the Northern provinces of the country, while Mr Abdullah does not agree with him, and accuses him of collaboration with the Taliban against ethnic minorities. The recent attacks by the Taliban in Kunduz further intensified their blame game as they failed to adopt a long-term military strategy against the Taliban and the Islamic State.

This way of kleptocratic governance does not benefit the poor and insecure people of Afghanistan, a country where public aspirations are not respected and national interests are not considered the top priority. Both the leaders are busy in sorting out their political issues but have failed to settle the key issues like appointments of governors and military commanders. Last week, the desertion of soldiers to the Taliban and ISIS became a complicated crisis. More than 44 ANA officers disappeared in the United States, and 60 police officers were sold to the Taliban in the Badghis province and 70 in the Helmand province.

The business of war and destruction is profitable in Afghanistan where American and Afghan warlords are dancing side by side. The current situation in the country is worse than at any time since 2001. Today, the Taliban control more than 70 percent of Afghanistan, and target not just the capital but also provinces across the country. As Afghanistan is a resources-rich country, much of the profit from lapis lazuli and gold goes into the pockets of American and Afghan warlords.

Almost 15 years into the war in the country, the US-fed Afghan war criminals, human rights violators and corrupt civil-military officials helped NATO and ISAF in occupying the country. On October 8, 2016, the Pentagon raised the issue of ghost soldiers within the ANA, and assured the Watchdog Agency that the US commanders were struggling to track Afghan active-duty security forces to save the US taxpayer money on those ghost soldiers. According to the report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the issue of ghost soldiers is too irksome. SIGAR also expressed concern about the war in the south and the north, and warned that the US money provided to the Afghan security forces could be pocketed by Afghan military commanders under the guise of paying soldiers who have deserted, died or never existed.

As violence grows, the business of destruction and killing expands, and more people die or are injured. Governments of two presidents have miserably failed to positively respond to the looming threat of state collapse as the nation lost trust over their way of governance. The unity government has divided the country in north and south where every president manages his own administration. In districts and municipalities, no election has yet been held for formal government offices at village level. Many of these villages are instead self-governed by a combination of village elders and local councils that act as intermediaries between the communities and governors. The state is now ultimately shrunken, defeated, humiliated and fractured due to the return of war criminals to the government.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/14-Oct-16/weapons-soldiers-and-check-posts-for-sale


The Cheapening Of America

By Chris Cork

October 13, 2016

It’s a sad little word ‘tawdry’. Dictionaries, my own old-fashioned print variety and the online version all concur — cheap shoddy and tasteless they say. I got 90 minutes of full-on tawdry last Monday morning when I grumped before the TV set with my cereal and the first cuppa of the day to watch the second debate of three that is a part of the endless American presidential process.

The previous weekend had seen assorted media platforms go into meltdown mode with the release of a tape that showed Donald Trump having his least-finest moment. No need to re-hash the details here, it was hashed over in the debate which was a thing of purest vitriol. Two people that detest the very sight of each other trapped in a cycle of endless confrontation. Trump prowled behind Clinton in a manner that even the most forgiving of his sympathisers could only see as predatory. Clinton had that faux-smile that she does so well and was as relaxed as a watchspring. Both of them tore bleeding chunks off each other. Trump did better than on his last outing, Clinton did no worse and some called it a draw when the gore and fragments of body parts had been hosed off the stage-set.

But what it was — was tawdry. It was a cheapening of Brand America. One of the people in front of the cameras is going to be the next President of the United States of America. Both are deeply flawed if in different ways. To the best of my knowledge Mrs Clinton has never been accused of unseemly behaviour — other than in the case of emails and Benghazi, that is — whereas Mr Trump has any number of women seemingly queuing up to have their 15 minutes of fame at his expense. There are Wikileaks tumbling out of the woodwork for Mrs Clinton and hints of more tapes to come for Mr Trump.

The Republican Party is in considerable disarray and at the time of writing. Mrs Clinton has a nine-point lead over Mr Trump which if the polls are correct — and recent times have demonstrated starkly just how unreliable polls can be — then she ought to be on her way to a landslide victory.

Meanwhile back in the White House the twilight days of the Obama administration play out. There has never been a hint of scandal in the eight years since the Obama family walked slightly amazed down Constitution Avenue. The Obama marriage has allegedly had its ups and downs in that period, but there were no accusations of infidelity by either party and their two children seem to have survived with their sanity relatively intact. Let’s leave it to history to be the judge of whether Obama was a good or bad President shall we?

The Obamas have brought grace and dignity to the Presidency, something even their sternest detractors would agree on. Neither Mr Trump nor Mrs Clinton is going to do either coming as they do with mountains of malodorous baggage that is in the public domain there to be picked over by the carrion-crows of the Fourth Estate. Make no mistake, the portable cesspits that both carry with them is going to be emptied in coming days and years with sickening regularity.

The Dirty Genie is well and truly out of the bottle and never likely to be put back. Brand America has taken a hammering, and will take further blows in the days before the poll on November 8th that are going to be remembered for time immemorial. Those memories of the campaign are going to play as the backdrop to however the winner — and loser — comports themselves in future. They will be exhumed on talk-shows, memorialised and serialised in print, become best-sellers and embedded forever as a part of the American narrative. Less than a generation down the line Hollywood will probably have a crack at them.

‘Stronger together’ says Mrs Clinton. ‘Let’s make America great again’ says Mr Trump. America is more divided than it ever was and the greatness — and it undoubtedly was — is forever tarnished by the tawdry mantle that this election has settled on its shoulders. Tawdry… such a little word.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1198418/the-cheapening-of-america/


Changing Lives

By Zubeida Mustafa

October 14th, 2016

WOULD you expect to see Qurratulain Hyder’s Aag ka Darya on the shelf of a public library in Glasgow? Probably not. But I actually found Annie Apa, as she was fondly called, in the Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL). The discovery was made more exciting by the fact that the library was a distinguished one as only a feminist library can be.

Set up in 1991, the GWL has grown and never looked back. In 2015, it celebrated the 25th year of its existence. Containing 30,000 books on women or by women (about 20,000 writers), the GWL is distinct from other libraries by the feminist ownership shown by those who manage it and those who use it.

When Donna Moore, the adult literacy and numeracy development worker, and Wendy Kirk, the librarian, met me to talk about the GWL, I was overwhelmed by their enthusiasm, pride and passion. They reminded me of one of our leading feminist intellectuals, Nighat Saeed Khan. In 2011, Nighat had taken me round the Institute of Women’s Studies, Lahore, speaking with the same passion about the wealth of hidden material she had carefully stored. She was looking for a donor to help her catalogue and archive her collection.

A Library In Scotland Is A Reminder Of Women’s Power.

The feminist spirit that Wendy and Donna displayed vis-à-vis the treasure trove of knowledge under their care is what bonds the global sisterhood of women. They use books for their feminist activism; as a speaker said in the film March, a GWL-RCS (Royal Conservatoire Scotland) production, “Freedom is born from wisdom”. And one may add, wisdom is born from knowledge. Without awareness, conscientisation and the involvement of a critical mass of women, a feminist movement cannot change the lives of women in any country.

And it is the love of books and the commitment to women’s rights that combine in the making of a successful women’s library. The basic goal of such a library is always the empowerment of women by using knowledge as the catalyst. The librarian must be a committed activist and teacher to inspire those she interacts with.

The GWL with its paid staff of 20, and 80-100 volunteers, is doing just that. It runs a lifelong learning and adult literacy programme to empower women. The library has a collection of books, archives, historical and contemporary artefacts that are related to women and commemorate their lives and achievements. Additional activities the GWL organises are not exactly book-related but their focus is on women. Thus its programme lists a number of events organised by the library such as talks and discussions on women, writing competitions and workshops, art exhibitions, film screenings, meetings of reading groups and heritage walks to create awareness of women’s histories in the city

The women’s library strives for self-sufficiency by raising donations from the public and through activities. All the books have been donated. Innovative ideas have been introduced such as getting people to sponsor a book, a shelf or even a library section for as little as 10 to 1,000 as a tribute to a living woman.

Having emerged as the hub of information in Scotland on women and a focal point for activities designed to empower and gel them into a vibrant integrated community, the GWL is a permanent reminder of women’s hidden power that deserves to be celebrated. It has a membership of 3,800 that can borrow books, and an estimated 15,000 guests visit it every year.

The GWL’s pronounced interest in the political dimension of women’s lives is remarkable. Suffr­agettes receive a lot of attention. Donna Moore was most vocal when showing me the suffragette memorabilia displayed with great pride in the library. Although the suffrage movement began in England, it received a boost from the Scottish suffragettes’ zeal. Even today when women have won the vote there are concerns about the political status of women and the GWL extends its support to movements such as the Women 50:50 campaigns that was launched to improve the representation of women in parliament, there being only 35 pc in the Scottish legislature at present.

That is what one expects libraries to be — institutions that empower people. A women’s library empowers women. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them around. Probably 300 or so all over the world but this is just a guess because there is no international organisation linking them together. Wendy attended a conference of librarians from women’s libraries in Mexico many years ago which was a chance event and no other meeting has taken place since.

The women’s library has been an agent of social change in many ways, as confirmed by Donna Moore from her experience of interacting with women she has taught. They gain confidence. That empowers them, she tells me. And we know what a lot of difference that makes.

Source: dawn.com/news/1289813/changing-lives


Too Early To Wed

By Yoriko Yasukawa

October 14th, 2016

REKHA (not her real name), who lives in the Rangpur division of Bangladesh, got married when she was just 13 years old — “just after my first menstruation”, as she recalls. A year later, the 14-year-old had a child of her own, joining the ranks of the thousands upon thousands of adolescent mothers in a country where child marriage remains widespread, even though the legal age of marriage is 18 for females and 21 for males.

Rekha’s story is far from unusual. Almost one in two girls in South Asia — in countries including Bangladesh, India and Nepal — will marry before turning 18, and one in six will marry before the age of 15, if current rates continue. While the practice of child marriage has declined in South Asia over time, falling from 63 per cent in 1990 to 45pc in 2010, and from 31pc in 1990 to 17pc in 2010 for girls under 15, it nevertheless remains far too high In Bangladesh where 59pc of girls are married before the age of 18.

In Nepal, the figure is 37pc. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, some 33pc of girls are married before age 18, and 21pc of girls in Pakistan. Child marriage is a practice that primarily affects girls but boys too. While a much smaller number of boys are married as children, there are also child grooms in the region, who marry even younger child brides.

Child Marriage Violates The Rights Of Millions Of Girls.

For literally millions of girls like Rekha, child marriage violates their human rights. It threatens their lives and health, as well as their future prospects, exposing them to early pregnancy, and increasing their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse. Child marriage, quite simply, robs them of their future.

As the evidence shows, girls who marry young often become pregnant while they are still adolescents, putting them at risk of complications in pregnancy or childbirth — complications that are a leading cause of death among older adolescents in developing countries.

They are also more likely to experience violence, including sexual violence, than girls who marry over the age of 18 years, and to be more exposed to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.

When they marry, girls are often forced to drop out of school so they can assume household responsibilities, denying them their right to complete their education. Child marriage limits their opportunities including their job prospects, and has long-term effects on their families.

It also has negative impacts on their children. A recent global study in five middle-income countries shows that children born to mothers 19 years or younger have a 20pc to 30pc increased risk of low birth weight and pre-term birth compared to mothers aged from 20 to 24 years. Moreover, they have a 30pc to 40pc increased risk of stunting and failing to complete their secondary-level schooling.

While many countries in South Asia have laws in place to prevent child marriage, the practice still persists. Often, at the state and community level, traditional and customary laws still allow girls younger than 18 years to marry with the consent of their parents and other authorities. Unequal power relations between men and women, women’s and girls’ restricted rights and opportunities, and norms which place a higher value on sons rather than daughters reinforce the practice.

And, not surprisingly, vulnerability to child marriage increases during crises when family and social structures are disrupted — for example when families are separated during natural disasters or conflicts, or when they are faced with economic hardships that prompt parents to marry off their underage daughters.

Countries around the world have committed to “eliminate all harmful practices such as child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation” in the Sustainable Development Goals that underpin the 2030 agenda whose central pledge is to leave no one behind.

UNFPA and UNICEF are working together to end child marriage through a multi-country initiative to prevent girls and boys, from marrying too young, and support those already married. In South Asia, Unicef and UNFPA, in partnership with governments, are implementing proven strategies for change: keeping children — especially girls — in school, increasing their access to healthcare, educating their parents and communities, increasing economic support to families, and putting in place and enforcing legislation.

Just some days ago, Unicef and UNFPA hosted a meeting of experts from South Asia and around the world to share and build the evidence base for change.

Strong partnerships at all levels are required to end child marriage. The scale of the problem requires all of us, governments, local actors, the global community and the United Nations to act together to end child marriage. All of us need to join hands to give back to children, particularly girls like Rekha, their choices, their dreams, their futures — and their childhoods.

Source: dawn.com/news/1289812/too-early-to-wed


Worthy Wars?

By Nicolas J S Davies

October 14, 2016

Fifteen years ago, on October 19th 2001, Donald Rumsfeld addressed B-2 bomber crews at Whiteman AFB in Missouri, as they prepared to fly halfway across the world to wreak misdirected vengeance on the people of Afghanistan and begin the longest war in US history.

15 years later, our wars have changed the way millions of people live and killed about 2 million people who had nothing to do with the crimes of September 11th. The most basic principle of justice, that only the guilty should be punished for a crime, was quickly lost and buried in America’s rush to war.

President Bush’s military spending set a post-WWII record, an average of $635 billion per year in 2016 dollars, compared with an average of $470 billion per year throughout the Cold War. Now President Obama has done what would have seemed impossible in 2008, outspending Bush by an average of $20 billion per year.

Clearly it has not enabled the US to win any wars. The only wars we have won since WWII were over the tiny neo-colonial outposts of Grenada, Panama, Kuwait and Kosovo. Hillary Clinton derided those operations as ‘splendid little wars’ in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2000, as she urged its members to support more ambitious uses of US military force. Clinton got what she asked for, but she seems to have learned nothing from the catastrophic results.

The danger of investing so much of our country’s wealth in military forces and weapons of war is that it gives our leaders the illusion that they can use war to advance our national interests or solve international problems.

Instead of making good on the ‘peace dividend’ Americans hoped for at the end of the Cold War, US leaders were seduced by the mirage of a ‘unipolar’ world in which the threat and use of US military force would be the final arbiter of international affairs. In pursuit of this mirage, we have used force in violation of the UN Charter against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and now Syria. Our military and civilian leaders have systematically violated the laws of war, ordering US troops to kill civilians,        torture prisoners, ‘dead-check’ or kill wounded enemy combatants, and to  misidentify murdered civilians as combatants killed in action, deliberately undermining the distinction between combatants and civilians that is the basis of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

President Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war has expanded US Special Forces operations from 60 countries when he took office to 150 countries today. Under President Obama, US Special Forces night raids in Afghanistan exploded from 20 raids per month when he took office to over 1,000 a month two years later. Senior officers have admitted to the Washington Post that at least half these raids target the wrong person or house, killing thousands of innocent people.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s expansion of Special Forces operations has not led to any reduction in US air strikes.

The world faces huge problems that must be addressed and resolved in the next few decades. We have depleted many of the natural resources that our present way of life has been built on, and now climate change is turning our use of fossil fuels into a slow form of mass suicide. The question facing us is this: will the allocation of increasingly scarce resources and the necessary transformations of the 21st century be directed by international cooperation for the benefit of all and the survival of human civilization? Our country’s current war policy offers only one answer to that question. We must find a different and an effective political strategy to impose it on our deluded leaders while there is still time.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/157024-Worthy-wars

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/let’s-not-settle-for-crumbs--new-age-islam-s-selection,-14-october-2016/d/108850


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