Sunday, May 22, 2016

Afghanistan - The Return of a Peacemaker ... or a Trojan Horse?



By Wahab Raofi

Like a buzzing mosquito that just won’t go away, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is back in the news. He sent a video from his unknown hideout in Pakistan, asking for reconciliation with Afghanistan’s government and presenting himself as a peacemaker.
This is the same Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was branded a global terrorist by the United States, founded the militant Hezb-i-Islami group and is blamed for killing thousands of his fellow Afghan citizens with indiscriminate artillery shelling during the 1990’s civil war.
Hekmatyar also served briefly as Prime Minister of Afghanistan, a position he “earned” by virtue of a coup d’etat in Kabul. At age 68, after living in exile in Iran and Pakistan for decades, he is now trying to carve out a new position of power for himself with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
President Ghani has extended an olive branch of peace to various factions, including the Taliban, and Hekmatyar looks to exploit those soft sentiments for a ticket back into Afghanistan. He says he wants a “real and fair peace.”
Instead, I believe Hekmatyar covets a supreme-leader role for himself, like Kim Jong-Un in North Korea or Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei in Iran.
I have been familiar with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar since our college days together, when we both attended Kabul University in the early 1970’s. He was a freshman in the engineering department while I was in law school. I remember him as a very good orator. He was already assembling supporters, mostly rural young Pashtuns from the Ghilzai tribes.
One day he climbed a tree and delivered a long speech, railing against the Afghan government for not taking action against Maoist groups, such as the student Progressive Youth Organization (PYO). Hekmatyar’s supporters attacked the PYO students with rocks, and multiple sources say that Hekmatyar personally assassinated poet Saydal Sokhandan, a prominent PYO activist. It may have been his first murder, but it certainly wasn’t his last. To escape arrest, Hekmatyar fled to Pakistan.
Hekmatyar became a master at switching sides in Afghanistan’s never-ending wars. He fought Soviet Union forces during the 1980s, then engaged in infanticide during a civil war with the mujahideen. Although he took CIA funding to help fight the Soviets, his military wing repeatedly attacked Afghan and U.S. forces - including a 2013 car bombing that killed 16 persons, including six American advisers in Kabul.
In his book The Main Enemy, former CIA officer Milt Bearden wrote that “Hekmatyar thought nothing of ordering an execution for a slight breach of party discipline.”
He is well-known for being brutal, ruthless, ungrateful and a notorious warlord who would do anything to serve his own purposes. His latest move toward “peace” was triggered by a confluence of events.
Since taking office in 2014, President Ghani has been seeking a reconciliation with insurgents. The Taliban refused and intensified their attacks on Afghan security forces.
Equally desperate for tranquility is Afghanistan’s Peace High Council, established in 2010 by former president Hamid Karzai. It has failed to produce anything tangible. Under public pressure because of its bloated budget and staff and a marked lack of results, the Peace High Council is pushing to show some kind of progress, no matter what the price.
Hekmatyar is trying to seize this opportunity to make his next move. His Hezb-i-Islami party fragmented over the years, and most of his military wing defected and joined the Karzai government. He also lost support among Pashtuns who were once the backbone of his party.
Anyone who dreams of ruling Afghanistan must carry the support of the Pashtun-dominated south, from which Afghan kings and the Taliban hailed. The traditional south would rather be ruled by the Taliban, which doesn’t pose a threat to its lifestyle, than by someone who wants to impose a party platform.
Hekmatyar’s image in the south was further damaged when he reportedly took sides with Al Qaeda against the Taliban.
If anything is certain about Hekmatyar, it is that he has become predictable. He is an opportunist and will not miss a chance to quench his never-ending thirst for power. I believe that his peace overture with the embattled Ghani government is a gambit. He still has many of his ex-commanders and loyalists in high positions within the Afghan government and parliament.
If Hekmatyar were welcomed back into a position of influence in Afghanistan, I see three possible scenarios:
(1) Hekmatyar stirs trouble by demanding more power for his close associates. This further polarizes and widens the Afghan rivalries, especially between two large ethnic groups: the Pashtun, who are behind President Ghani, and the Tajik, who support Abdullah Abdulla, CEO of the unity government. In the resulting chaos, Hekmatyar tries to emerge as supreme leader.
(2) Hekmatyar finds himself unable to impose his will on a nation that has changed so much since 2001, in terms of expanded human rights, freedom of press and social liberties. His ambitions are squashed, and he flees back to Pakistan.
(3) Hekmatyar keeps his promise to live as a responsible citizen. This encourages other insurgents to lay down arms down and join the peace process.
We can hope against hope that the third option is the one that materializes - or we can avoid the terrible risk simply by ignoring the peace offering that is almost certainly a ruse by the notorious Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wahab-raofi/the-return-of-a-peacemake_b_10047032.html

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

#Bangladesh - Death designer Nizami hanged for war crimes

Leader of a ruthless militia that massacred innocent civilians during 1971, Motiur Rahman Nizami has been hanged for crimes committed against humanity during the Liberation War.
The 71-year-old Jamaat-e-Islami chief was hanged by the rope inside Dhaka Central Jail at 11:55pm, Jahangir Kabir, superintendent of the prison, said. The body was taken down from the noose at 12:10am.
District’s civil surgeon Abdul Malek Mridha checked his pulse to confirm the death.
Two ambulances, bearing the dead body of Nizami, have headed towards Pabna, his ancestral home, escorted by six vehicles of the law enforcement agencies.
The infamous war criminal will be laid to rest at his ancestral soil in Pabna, Ali Hossain, an inspector of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), told The Daily Star earlier.
Nizami masterminded the formation of the ruthless militia Al Badr that unleashed terror on peace-loving Bangalees, killed unarmed civilians, raped women and destroyed properties during the Liberation War.
Towards the end of the nine-month war, the infamous militia -- Al-Badr Bahini -- committed “crimes of serious gravity intending to demean the human civilisation”.


Sensing Pakistan's imminent defeat, the notorious force systematically rounded up, tortured and killed the nation's brightest luminaries to intellectually cripple the soon-to-be independent Bangladesh.
Convicted of committing war crimes, a special International Crimes Tribunal handed him the death penalty on October 29, 2014. Later, on January 6 this year, the Supreme Court upheld capital punishment for him.
After his review plea against death scrapped, Nizami did not seek presidential mercy. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, earlier this evening, told The Daily Star that the government had ordered for Nizami’s execution.
As per code, Nizami’s family had one last meeting with him. A total of 24 family members entered Dhaka jail around 7:50pm and stayed inside for about one-and-half hours. Later, they left without speaking to the media.
District Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Salahuddin, Executive Magistrate Tanveer Ahmed, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) deputy commissioner (north) of Detective Branch Sheikh Nazmul Alam and Additional police IGP Col Iqbal Hasan were present during the execution.


http://www.thedailystar.net/country/security-tightened-around-dhaka-jail-1221562

Pakistan - Ali Haider Gilani recovered from Afghanistan after three years in captivity

Former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son, Ali Haider Gilani, was recovered on Tuesday in a successful operation in Afghanistan.
Foreign Office in a statement said Ali Haider had been recovered “today in a joint operation carried out by the Afghan and US security forces”.
“Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar in a telephone call to prime minister’s senior aide Sartaj Aziz confirmed Gilani was recovered in a joint operation carried out by Afghan and US security forces in Ghazni, Afghanistan.”
Preparations are being made to return him to Pakistan following a medical check-up, the statement added.
The Afghan presidency said the raid had targeted an al-Qaeda cell, and Ali Haider had been sent to the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.
However, later in a statement, President Ashraf Ghani said Ali Haider was recovered from Giyan district of Paktika province.
The Pakistani embassy said Ali Haider was not yet handed over to them.
“There is possibility he will be handed over by tomorrow (Wednesday),” spokesperson Akhtar Munir told The Express Tribune from Kabul over telephone.
Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son kidnapped
According to sources, the embassy had sought access to Gilani, who is at the Bagram airbase with the American military.
Meanwhile, addressing a rally in Bagh, Kashmir, the former premier said, “I received news of my son’s recovery when I landed in Kashmir.”
“However, instead of going back home to receive my son, I felt it was my duty to come here first and address the rally,” Gilani said.

Former PM Yousuf Raza Gillani speaks to media in Islamabad. PHOTO: ONLINE
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also confirmed the former premier’s son’s recovery.
“PM Yousuf Raza Gilani received a call from ambassador of Afghanistan. His son Haider Gilani has been recovered in a successful operation,” the PPP chairman said on Twitter.
BilawalBhuttoZardari


‎@BBhuttoZardari
PM @YR_Gillani received call from ambassador of Afghanistan.His son @haidergilani has been recovered in a successful operation.Alhamdulillah


The brother of kidnapped Ali Haider, Abdul Qadir Gilani, told media he was “so happy today that I can’t explain it in words”.
“He is still in Afghanistan and soon he will be among us,” he said of his brother.
Afghan ambassador to Islamabad Dr Okmar Zakhilwal said “He [Gilani] is well and will be repatriated to his family soon.”
Delving into details regarding his telephonic conversation with the former premier, the envoy wrote on Facebook: “He was ecstatically delighted as expected and grateful of President Ashraf Ghani’s personal attention to his son’s safe release.”
The former premier also thanked the Afghan Security Forces for bringing a happy ending to a dreadful family saga for them, Zakhilwal added.


PM congratulates Gilani over recovery
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also congratulated Gilani over the recovery of his son, the PM’s office said.
“I am pleased at the news of the safe recovery of your son Ali Haider Gilani. I pray to Allah Almighty he may return home soon,” Nawaz Sharif said.
“I pay tributes to you and your whole family for spending three years with courage and patience,” the premier added.
In May 2013, armed assailants kidnapped the son of the former prime minister, while also killing two PPP workers in the attack.
Two years on…: Ex-premier Gilani’s abducted son ‘happy and safe’
The incident took place at a party corner meeting in Farrukhabad, near Matital Road in Multan, where Ali Haider was scheduled to address.
At the time of abduction, CPO Multan had said eight armed men riding a black Honda City car and two 125 cc motorcycles, opened fire at a corner meeting in Farrukh Town, an area falling in Ali Haider’s PP-200 constituency.
Witnesses said a bullet also hit Ali Haider and that he was bleeding when the kidnappers dragged him into the car.
Militants release video of Ali Haider Gilani
The attack killed Ali Haider’s secretary, Muhammad Muhiuddin, and his private guard, Amin Ahmed.
Earlier, a top government official had said Gilani was in custody of a militant group not part of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The official had also stated that the group had demanded Rs2 billion in ransom and warned that they would kill him if their demand was not met within a month.
Ali Haider’s recovery comes two months after Salmaan Taseer’s son Shahbaz Taseer was recovered five years after he was abducted.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/1100467/yousuf-raza-gilanis-son-recovered/

Sex Talk for Muslim Women

By Mona Eltahawy
After I gave a reading in Britain last year, a woman stood in line as I signed books. When it was her turn, the woman, who said she was from a British Muslim family of Arab origin, knelt down to speak so that we were at eye level.
“I, too, am fed up with waiting to have sex,” she said, referring to the experience I had related in the reading. “I’m 32 and there’s no one I want to marry. How do I get over the fear that God will hate me if I have sex before marriage?”
I hear this a lot. My email inbox is jammed with messages from women who, like me, are of Middle Eastern and Muslim descent. They write to vent about how to “get rid of this burden of virginity,” or to ask about hymen reconstruction surgery if they’re planning to marry someone who doesn’t know their sexual history, or just to share their thoughts about sex.
Countless articles have been written on the sexual frustration of men in the Middle East — from the jihadi supposedly drawn to armed militancy by the promise of virgins in the afterlife to ordinary Arab men unable to afford marriage. Far fewer stories have given voice to the sexual frustration of women in the region or to an honest account of women’s sexual experiences, either within or outside marriage.
I am not a cleric, and I am not here to argue over what religion says about sex. I am an Egyptian, Muslim woman who waited until she was 29 to have sex and has been making up for lost time. My upbringing and faith taught me that I should abstain until I married. I obeyed this until I could not find anyone I wanted to marry and grew impatient. I have come to regret that it took my younger self so long to rebel and experience something that gives me so much pleasure.
We barely acknowledge the sexual straitjacket we force upon women. When it comes to women, especially Muslim women in the Middle East, the story seems to begin and end with the debate about the veil. Always the veil. As if we don’t exist unless it’s to express a position on the veil.
So where are the stories on women’s sexual frustrations and experiences? I spent much of last year on a book tour that took me to 12 countries. Everywhere I went — from Europe and North America to India, Nigeria and Pakistan — women, including Muslim women, readily shared with me their stories of guilt, shame, denial and desire. They shared because I shared.
Many cultures and religions prescribe the abstinence that was indoctrinated in me. When I was teaching at the University of Oklahoma in 2010, one of my students told the class that she had signed a purity pledge with her father, vowing to wait until she married before she had sex. It was a useful reminder that a cult of virginity is specific neither to Egypt, my birthplace, nor to Islam, my religion. Remembering my struggles with abstinence and being alone with that, I determined to talk honestly about the sexual frustration of my 20s, how I overcame the initial guilt of disobedience, and how I made my way through that guilt to a positive attitude toward sex.
It has not been easy for my parents to hear their daughter talk so frankly about sex, but it has opened up a world of other women’s experiences. In many non-Western countries, speaking about such things is scorned as “white” or “Western” behavior. But when sex is surrounded by silence and taboo, it is the most vulnerable who are hurt, especially girls and sexual minorities.
In New York, a Christian Egyptian-American woman told me how hard it was for her to come out to her family. In Washington, a young Egyptian woman told the audience that her family didn’t know she was a lesbian. In Jaipur, a young Indian talked about the challenge of being gender nonconforming; and in Lahore, I met a young woman who shared what it was like to be queer in Pakistan.
My notebooks are full of stories like these. I tell friends I could write the manual on how to lose your virginity.
Many of the women who share them with me, I realize, enjoy some privilege, be it education or an independent income. It is striking that such privilege does not always translate into sexual freedom, nor protect women if they transgress cultural norms. But the issue of sex affects all women, not just those with money or a college degree. Sometimes, I hear the argument that women in the Middle East have enough to worry about simply struggling with literacy and employment. To which my response is: So because someone is poor or can’t read, she shouldn’t have consent and agency, the right to enjoy sex and her own body?
The answer to that question is already out there, in places like the blog Adventures From the Bedroom of African Women, founded by the Ghana-based writer Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah, and the Mumbai-based Agents of Ishq, a digital project on sex education and sexual life. These initiatives prove that sex-positive attitudes are not the province only of so-called white feminism. As the writer Mitali Saran put it, in an anthology of Indian women’s writing: “I am not ashamed of being a sexual being.”
My revolution has been to develop from a 29-year-old virgin to the 49-year-old woman who now declares, on any platform I get: It is I who own my body. Not the state, the mosque, the street or my family. And it is my right to have sex whenever, and with whomever, I choose. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/05/06/opinion/sex-talk-for-muslim-women.html?referer= b>

Pakistan criticised for censoring article about Muslim women and sex

A feminist writer has criticised Pakistan for censoring an article on Muslim women and sex, saying the ban exposed the extent of the country’s discrimination against women.
Mona Eltahawy, an award-winning Egyptian-American journalist and campaigner for women’s rights, wrote an opinion column, “Sex talk for Muslim women”, that was published by the International New York Times on Friday.
The case of Saba Qaiser and the film-maker determined to put an end to 'honour' killings.
The article was available online in Pakistan, but the newspaper version, which should have been published in the opinion section of the local Express Tribune, was replaced by a blank space.
Eltahawy told AFP that the decision to ban her article was an example of how Pakistan’s authorities think a woman “who claims ownership over her body is dangerous … and must be silenced”.
A senior source at the Express Tribune told AFP, on condition of anonymity, that the newspaper “can’t afford to publish such controversial articles about Islam”.
In the piece, Eltahawy discussed her decision to have sex before marriage – in defiance of her own upbringing and Muslim faith – and detailed many conversations with other women of Muslim and Arab descent suffering under the “sexual straitjacket” of virginity imposed on them by men.
“Where are the stories on women’s sexual frustrations and experiences?” she wrote. “My revolution has been to develop from a 29-year-old virgin to the 49-year-old woman who now declares, on any platform I get: it is I who own my body. Not the state, the mosque, the street or my family. And it is my right to have sex whenever, and with whomever, I choose.”
Women have fought for decades to establish equal rights in Pakistan, where so-called honour killings and acid attacks remain commonplace.
Last week a teenage girl in the north-west of the country was strangled to death and set alight after a village council ruled she must be killed for helping a friend to elope.
Eltahawy said the censorship showed “a woman who disobeys and who openly claims sexual liberation and pleasure is dangerous and must be silenced” and cited a similar backlash faced by the Pakistani director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy after her documentary about honour killings won an Academy Award.
“So many Pakistanis attacked her for making Pakistan ‘look bad’ and not enough attacked what is actually making Pakistan look bad: men who are ready to kill women for daring to believe they have the right to consent and agency over their bodies.”
Eltahawy said she was not aware of her article being censored in any other country and defended the right of Muslim women to openly talk about sex. “Sex is happening, but shrouded in taboo and shame … As women of colour and women of faith, we need to see women who look like us. Sex positivity isn’t the domain just of white feminism.”
She said a recent trip to Lahore for a literary festival introduced her to “wonderful young feminists” who “keep my tenacious optimism intact”. “The more feminists such as the ones I met push, the greater the space they’ll create for everyone.”
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/09/pakistan-criticised-muslim-women-sex-mona-eltahawy

#panamapapers - #Pakistan - Ordeal of democracy

By Afrasiab Khattak
The Panama leaks are expected to dominate the “national” political discourse in Pakistan in the foreseeable future like the charges of rigged election monopolized it in 2014. Along with numerous other Pakistanis I had vehemently supported a full investigation into the charges of rigging in elections at that time and today I am wholeheartedly in favor of credible investigation into the questions arising out of the contents of Panama Papers.
After putting the question of investigation out of the way I want to draw attention to a completely different dimension of the situation. We remember very well that the elected political government had narrowly escaped a putsch at the climax of the previous polarisation (although it had to cede a lot of space in policy and control to the khakis) and can face a similar threat in the coming few months when the situation heats up due to the current stand off. But have we not been here before? Remember Memogate and Prime Minister’s letter to Swiss banks? Many of these stories that made headlines in the past are completely forgotten now.
The aforementioned “crises situations” that seemed to spell disaster, and were supposed to be created by the civilian dispensations, were actually produced by the refusal of the deep state to reconcile with the system dominated by civilians. But the deep state, after strengthening its grip on the commanding heights of the system of governance and modern media, has developed political engineering into a fine art. For all practical purposes the Pakistani state system has become a hybrid of military rule and civilian dispensation with a permanent inner contradiction. The clash between de jure and de facto is not invisible anymore. This is the root cause of the “permanent crises” in Pakistan, but ironically this is a subject that is generally avoided in public debate.
It all started in 1971 after the political and military debacle in East Pakistan. Since the military junta had presided over the disintegration of the country the generals had to beat a political retreat from the power politics, at least for the time being.
It was during this interval that the elected political leadership put together a federal parliamentary Constitution of 1973. But the security establishment of the country has never fully reconciled with the system enunciated by the aforementioned Constitution. They felt “cheated” at the end of controlled democracy. The generals have in practice regarded it to be an aberration and have made efforts to “correct” it more than once.
The civilian government led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto faced three military coups.
The first two were unsuccessful but the third one resulted in the overthrow of civilian rule. General Zia’s military dictatorship did not hide its intention of overhauling the Constitution. After Zia’s death in a plane crash in 1988 the military was not in a position to continue a direct rule so it settled for indirect control. But in 1999 it intervened once again and had no hesitation in imposing distortions and deformations on the Constitution. Interestingly General Zia’s “Islamization” and General Musharraf’s “enlightened moderation” had remarkable similarities when it came to the adoption of a constitutional scheme of controlled democracy giving a veto power to the generals. In the process the Constitution lost its basic structure of a federal and parliamentary system and acquired the character of a quasi unitary and quasi presidential system. In 2010 the parliament was able to restore to a large extent the Constitution of 1973 to its original form through the 18th amendment, something that is hard to swallow for the proponents of controlled democracy.
Be that as it may, Pakistan can’t afford to live with this ever-deepening contradiction indefinitely. Terrorism fed by religious extremism, rampant corruption in all state institutions, environmental degradation and international isolation among so many other challenges are threatening the very existence of the federation.
A country at loggerheads with three out of its four immediate neighbours can’t be a country living in peace. No civilian government can focus on resolving these serious challenges when it is proven to be “ shallow” or weak in the face of political machinations of the deep state. Electronic media, largely controlled and manipulated by the deep state, is instrumental in creating artificial crises and hysterics. Here the purpose is not to whitewash the weaknesses of political elites arising out of corruption and incompetence. But that is something that can be overcome by continuity of democratic process where people can reject the old political teams and elect new ones. But the entrenched diarchy in the state system tilted against civilians will not allow even the best of political government to deliver. Fearing to lose power the sitting governments stick to the mantra of being at the same page with the security establishment and aspiring to come to power riding the crises most of the opposition political parties deny the existence of the problem.
All the while the said contradiction not only persists but it is also eating into the very vitals of state and society by blocking almost all avenues of development.
The problem of civil-military divide in the state system is too big and too deeply entrenched for any one party or one institution. Its resolution will require collective wisdom of the people of Pakistan.
As the main repository of the people’s will and wisdom it is the duty of elected parliament to address this issue and devise ways and means for its amicable resolution. It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. But the solution will definitely have to be with in the framework of the democratic vision of the founding fathers of the country. Will it be too much to expect from the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly and Honourable Chairman Senate of Pakistan to constitute a joint Parliamentary Committee (or Committee of Whole if the rules permit) with the approval of members of both the houses to tackle this problem over and above partisan politics with help from civil society? Otherwise we shall be waiting some thing on the pattern of Arab Spring. But as we have seen in Iraq, Libya and Syria it may kill the patient along with the disease.
http://nation.com.pk/columns/07-May-2016/ordeal-of-democracy

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar - د سامري محل ـ عبدالغني خان

Bilawal Bhutto lauds journalists’ struggle on Press Freedom Day

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman Pakistan People’s Party, has stated that his Party is the pioneer of introducing freedom of press in Pakistan and reiterated commitment to the freedom of press and freedom of expression without any compromise on its principles.
“Dictators always gagged the press. They even resorted to attacks on journalists and media houses but PPP always stood by the journalist community and fought together with them the dictatorial regimes and their draconian anti-press laws,” he said in his statement on the World Press Freedom Day being observed today across the globe.
He said that PPP leaders, workers and journalists waged a shoulder-to-shoulder struggle for democracy and press freedom ending up them in prisons and police lock-ups.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed concern over the lack of security to the media persons, especially in the terrorist-hit regions and asked the Federal and Provincial governments to ensure fool-proof security to the working journalists and also welfare of their community.
PPP Chairman said that PPP has proved to be the most tolerant political party in Pakistan, which always respected the honest and constructive criticism and never resorted to violence even when its top leadership was subjected to ruthless media trials and defamations. “We are harbingers of democratic values & we shall stick to it to promote freedom of press,” he added.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari assured the journalist fraternity that PPP will always lead from the front in any struggle against any move aimed at muzzling and gagging the press and media in Pakistan.
http://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/117203-Bilawal-lauds-journalists-struggle-on-Press-Freedom-Day#

Bilawal Bhutto irked by “our women” rhetoric

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Tuesday expressed annoyance over “our women” rhetoric being used by political leaders in the country.
“Dear fellow male politicians, pls (please) stop referring 2 women as our women,” Bilawal said, adding that they are not property to be owned. Dear fellow male politicians,pls stop referring 2 women as ‘our women’. Women arent property 2b owned.Its 2016 already stop embarrassing us. — BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) May 3, 2016
“Its 2016 already stop embarrassing us,” he wrote on his verified Twitter account.
Although, Bilawal has not singled out any political figure in his message, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan often refers to his female supporters as “our women” in his rallies.
http://www.samaa.tv/pakistan/2016/05/bilawal-irked-by-our-women-rhetoric/

@BBhuttoZardari - We are harbingers of democratic values & we shall stick to it to promote freedom of press

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has stated that his Party is the pioneer of introducing freedom of press in Pakistan and reiterated commitment to the freedom of press and freedom of expression without any compromise on its principles.
“Dictators always gagged the press. They even resorted to attacks on journalists and media houses but PPP always stood by the journalist community and fought together with them the dictatorial regimes and their draconian anti-press laws,” he said in his statement on the World Press Freedom Day being observed today across the globe.
He said that PPP leaders, workers and journalists waged a shoulder-to-shoulder struggle for democracy and press freedom ending up them in prisons and police lock-ups.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari expressed concern over the lack of security to the media persons, especially in the terrorist-hit regions and asked the Federal and Provincial government to ensure fool-proof security to the working journalists and also welfare of their community. PPP Chairman said that PPP has proved to be the most tolerant political party in Pakistan, which always respected the honest and constructive criticism and never resorted to violence even when its top leadership was subjected to ruthless media trials and defamations. “We are harbingers of democratic values & we shall stick to it to promote freedom of press,” he added.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari assured the journalist fraternity that PPP will always lead from the front in any struggle against any move aimed at muzzling and gagging the press and media in Pakistan.
https://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/author/mediacellppp/

Bilawal Bhutto lambasts discriminatory attitude of Nawaz Sharif govt towards thousands of school teachers of FATA

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has lambasted the discriminatory attitude of Nawaz Sharif government towards thousands of government school teachers of FATA who are being denied up-gradation of their posts like done in entire country. “This is the time that government should treat people of FATA equal to all the citizens of Pakistan and end its double-standard approach to the teachers of FATA,” Bilawal Bhutto said in statement issued here.
Expressing his solidarity with the protesting government teachers from FATA, the Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman assured them that his Party was fully committed to provision of all the required facilities, including the up-gradation of their posts for the improvement of education. He criticized the government for neglecting the demands of FATA teachers despite knowing that more than half a million school-age children in the FATA regions are out of school due to lack of education facilities.
Bilawal Bhutto asked the government to immediately accept all the genuine demands including upgradation of their posts, payment of arrears and provide universal facilities to the teaching community in the entire country.
https://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/bilawal-bhutto-lambasts-discriminatory-attitude-of-nawaz-sharif-govt-towards-thousands-of-school-teachers-of-fata/

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Panama Papers: When Will We Finally Do Something About Corruption and Theft?

By Wahab Raofi
The Panama Papers scandal triggered tsunami waves of shock throughout the world’s media, as if this were an unprecedented event. It is not. The concealment of fortunes, often acquired through illicit means by corrupt politicians, world leaders and powerful individuals, has long been commonplace.
But perhaps the light shined by the Panama Papers could lead to actual reform. We can only hope.
Within the 11.5 million leaked documents are implications that 12 current or former world leaders, as well as 128 other politicians and public officials, engaged in various potential financial crimes.
This information comes from an anonymous hack of a Panama law firm which apparently has been shielding secret fortunes for almost 40 years. But before Panama, the places to go for secret offshore accounts were Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. And long before that, everyone whispered about secret Swiss bank accounts.
Stealing and hiding money is almost as old as money itself. And those with the greatest ability to steal and conceal have always been the boldest and most powerful among us: our so-called heads of state.
Here’s just a sprinkling of contemporary “leaders” accused of siphoning off billions of dollars of their own citizens’ wealth and hoarding it for themselves in secret locations: Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), Pavlo Lazarenko, (Ukraine), Sheik Fahad Mohammed Al-Sabah (Kuwait), Moammar Gadhafi (Libya), Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier (Haiti), Augusto Pinochet (Chile), Sani Abacha (Nigeria), Mobutu Seko (Zaire), Saddam Hussein (Iraq), and of course Kim Jong-Un (North Korea).
What that, you say? Most of those are or were crude dictators of disheveled states?
Yes, but the Panama Papers do break new ground by revealing what many of us knew all along: It happens everywhere. Some have been just a little better at hiding it.
Named in the Panama Papers scandal are the father of Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, Iceland Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson (who resigned because of this), President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and relatives of President Xi Jinping of China.
Investigative journalists reviewing the Panama Papers also identified King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi (worth some $240 million). Officials from FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, and UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, were also singled out in the Panama Papers.
No names of U.S. leaders have surfaced in the investigation, but one reason may be that it’s easy to form the same kind of opaque shell companies to hide wealth in the United States. Americans “really don’t need to go to Panama,” said James Henry, an economist and senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network, as reported in the New York Times. “Basically, we have an onshore haven industry in the U.S. that is as secretive as anywhere.”
Just because you were identified in the Panama Papers doesn’t mean you have committed a crime, but it certainly does suggest that you are trying to hide money.
Ideally, it is the corruption of stealing and hiding money that we would like to stop.
A case in point is my native Afghanistan: Over the past 15 years, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars there, but according to findings by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, millions of those dollars cannot be accounted for.
In one astonishing 2009 incident, Afghanistan’s then-vice-president Ahmad Zia Massoud was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he landed there with $52 million in cash, according to WikiLeaks. Massoud was questioned by officials from the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates, but was allowed to go his way without even explaining where the money came from.
This was the same Ahmad Zia Moussoud who took an oath as the special envoy for “reform and good governance” under Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Sarah Chayes is a U.S. journalist who spent eight years in Afghanistan, and in her brilliant book “Thieves of State,” she warns of the dire consequences of corruption, which she sees as a principal threat to global security.
Why is the west turning a blind eye to this corruption? Perhaps because its banks and economies benefit. Much of this stolen money will be pumped into the western economies.
The world ought to take this wake-up call of the Panama Papers and enforce drastic measures to hinder world leaders and their cronies from the backward Robin Hood practice of stealing from the poor and giving to their own bloated, secret offshore accounts.
A consortium of nations could crack down on financial institutions that shield assets from the laws of their original lands. Full transparency could lead to enforced compliance with tax laws.
Theft and corruption crave secrecy. While the Panama Papers don’t reveal any new behaviors we haven’t seen for many generations, perhaps they can serve the function of shining a light on all the new cockroaches. Are we just going to let them scurry away, or are we going to do something about it?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Video - Hillary Clinton: 'Tomorrow, this campaign goes natio...

HILLARY CLINTON WINS BIG SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic South Carolina primary against Senator Bernie Sanders. The victory comes days before Super Tuesday on March 1, when eleven states will vote to select the Democratic presidential nominee.
South Carolina had an open primary, which meant that voters didn’t have to register as Democrats to have a say in the election. Polls were open from 7 am to 7 pm EST.

Clinton and Sanders had different approaches going into the primary, with Clinton more focused on this particular win, while Sanders took a broader outlook and focused on the March 1 races, giving a speech to about 10,000 people at a Formula One racetrack near Austin, Texas on Saturday. 

Clinton made a quick stop in Alabama on Saturday before returning to Columbia, South Carolina’s capital, for the victory party.

One of the voters explained why she chose Clinton over Sanders. “I don’t think Bernie has a shot in a national election, and this election is too important,” Alicia Newman told AP. “With all the debates, I think Bernie has helped prepare Hillary for November.”
The South Carolina primary holds some memories for Clinton. Eight years ago, then-Senator Barack Obama challenged then-Senator Hillary Clinton, the establishment-pick, and won big with the help of 78 percent of the black voters who cast their ballots. Clinton received only 19 percent of the black vote that day. Overall, Obama garnered twice as many votes as Clinton – 55.4 percent to 26.5 percent.
Today’s election is the fourth contest of the Democratic primaries. The first was a near-tie in Iowa, where neither Clinton nor Sanders managed to muster more than 50 percent of the vote. Sanders followed up with a smashing success in New Hampshire, capturing 60 percent of ballots, but then Clinton then went on to victory in Nevada, taking 52.6 percent to Sanders’s 47.3.
A win in South Carolina can easily influence states that are holding elections on Super Tuesday, including Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Clinton’s home state of Arkansas in the South, as well as Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Sanders’s home state of Vermont.
Clinton is looking to win big in Southern states with large black populations, while Sanders is likely to post victories in the Midwest and Northeast states.

https://www.rt.com/usa/333854-clinton-south-carolina-primary/

Video - U.S. military tests nuclear missile

US Vice President Joe Biden slams Trump's 'dangerous' anti-Mexico rhetoric

President Obama's Weekly Address: Degrading and Destroying ISIL

Urdu Music Video - Jo bacha tha woh lutane

Pakistan - Don't celebrate the Punjab women's violence bill just yet









ABIRA ASHFAQ 

The recently approved Punjab government's “Punjab Protection of Women Against Violence Act of 2016” appears at first glance to be a heroic effort to protect women victims of violence.
In a nutshell, it contains the following protection mechanisms:
  • a district protection committee
  • a helpline
  • women protection officers
  • protection centres and shelter homes
  • various remedies of orders of protection
  • residence and monetary support for victims
These are all commendable. More importantly, it signifies lawmakers’ alertness to the fact that most laws enacted to enhance women’s rights and their protection are not effectively implemented.
But on a closer reading, there are gaps that leave one wondering: what level of consultation did the bill undergo?
Many are celebrating the fact that the bill passed — despite resistance from some quarters — which is hardly a a viable defence. Because legislation acquires a degree of permanence (until future amendment and repeal), it must undergo rigorous review that is made open and transparent to all.
Some have already pointed out the positives and the flaws.

The act does not create a new crime of domestic violence

One can only wishfully think that the legislature had in mind a less penal and more rehabilitative society.
However, it may just be that the assembly did not have the political fortitude or commitment to explicitly label “domestic violence” for what it is — a crime.
The result: victims will have to seek justice in cases of domestic violence within the ambit of assault, wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation, and harassment provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code and other statutes.
It does, however, create new offences in case a defendant violates a monetary, residence, or protective order under the Act. Perhaps, unnecessarily — in light of how under-reported and condoned domestic violence is — it also criminalises false complaints.

Protecting all victims of violence?

Since the overwhelming majority of victims of domestic violence globally are women, it is unsurprising that the law purports to protect women only and, in fact, its preamble refers to the constitutional protection for women.
In contrast, the Domestic Violence Law in Sindh extends its protection to not just women, but also vulnerable men, the elderly and children in the context of a domestic relationship.
This makes it more in sync with the notion that violence is often rooted in socio-economic power imbalances within a family.
By not limiting the law and its protection to cases of domestic violence only (but to cases of vaguely defined “violence”), the assembly has been overly ambitious with the side effect of creating a watered down statute that undermines the seriousness that should be accorded to domestic violence and its prevalence in Punjab.
Violence is defined as any,

"Offence committed against the human body of the aggrieved person including…domestic violence, sexual violence, psychological abuse, economic abuse, stalking or a cybercrime."

The section further elaborates that,

“Psychological violence includes psychological deterioration…which may result in anorexia, suicide attempt or clinically proven depression resulting from defendant’s oppressive behavior.”

The act leaves terms “oppressive behavior” and “sexual violence” undefined. Besides being awkwardly worded, there is no rationale behind listing three specific conditions as opposed to referring to a whole range of psychological symptoms that battered women may suffer.
Its definition of “domestic violence” is also plain and does not list — as in the case of the Sindh statute — a whole pattern of behaviour that one can more precisely recognise as domestic violence including insults, possessiveness — the all too common threats of divorce, abandonment and accusations of immorality.

Shelters not jails

This is a significant step and deserves inspection. After all, most women are trapped in abusive situations because they are not financially independent and cannot find alternative accommodations that suit their standard of living.
Thus in empowering courts to grant “residence orders” where the defendant (abuser) would have to arrange for alternative housing (within his means) and pay rent is commendable.
Women can also be placed in shelters. But then, in a later section, the court is given authority to compel the defendant to pay for the cost of a woman’s shelter (rent and meals) in a shelter home.
Non-payment would mean that the defendant is in contempt of court and the justice system is continually embroiled in monitoring payment thus straining its time and resources — or it would have the effect of exhausting women victims and causing them to give up.
Moreover, nothing is said on whether a woman’s residence in a shelter would be impacted by the defendant’s non-payment.
State-run shelters (Dar-ul-Aman) have often been criticised as being jail-like, where women’s mobility is monitored, their character regarded as suspect and their entry and exit mandated by a court order.
Thus, it is discouraging to note that there hasn't been a more incisive attempt to re-imagine shelters as truly safe spaces for women, who should be free from the government’s judgemental glare.
A regressive provision that provides for “discipline” and regulation of visitation and timings reflect a parochial and paternalistic attitude and the state’s desire to control women who've left their home and their mobility.
Ironically, limiting a woman’s mobility is one of the things the ambivalent act seeks to curb.
Moreover, boys over 12 cannot be admitted to shelter homes with the mothers. One would expect a modern statute to forge creative ways to retain family unity and keep children, regardless of age and gender with a mother who has already become partially isolated.
Women are safeguarded from wrongful eviction from their home — which is why it is bewildering that the act also holds that wrongfully evicted women can only be reinstated to her previous status in the house if she has a “right, title or beneficial interest in the house”.
If the words are given a restrictive interpretation, then in case she does not have a proprietary interest in the house, that may affect her ability to re-enter her marital home.
The parameters of a protective order include that the defendant surrender any weapon or firearm which the defendant lawfully possesses.
Surely, it is poor drafting and not parliamentary intent to allow abusers to hold on to their illegally obtained weapons, but that won’t stop devious lawyer-ing around a lacuna.
Protective orders also allow courts, in some cases, to require that defendants wear GPS trackers and ankle bracelets.
This is also worrisome in light of the state’s heightened and over zealous enthusiasm towards surveilling and criminalising its ordinary citizens and carries potential for abuse.

Good laws, bad implementation

The law envisions the formation of a “District Women Protection Committee” in each district to ensure that the protection system is working. Committee tasks include arranging volunteers, training, referring cases from police to protection centers and reconciliation.
The cynical may say that other committees prescribed by law, such as District Committees on the Status of Women, are yet to be functional in most districts — and here, we have yet another law and yet another committee, and thus infinite allegations of non-implementation.
Moreover, by making membership in committees (envisioned to perform gargantuan tasks) volunteer-based, the state is setting the stage for compromised and inconsistent service delivery dependent upon the enthusiasm and time of the volunteers.
The act accounts for women protection officers and many of their tasks seem duplicative to those of the committees, then why can’t the government just have numerous such paid positions doing the work of the committee.
Women do need jobs, after all, and the system would be more accountable.
Even more problematic is the fact that these committees can accept donations to carry out their functions. Instead of the Punjab government allocating robust budgets, they expect members to be ambassadors of the official begging bowl, and to be tested on their fund-raising skills.
Of course this would also inevitably lead to problems implicit in handling and managing funds and lay the process of protecting women susceptible to the accusation that it represents donor agenda, rather than being a local priority and urgency.
Provincial and national legislatures, before further legislative activity, should review the entire process of consultation, make it thoroughly democratic and inclusive of all voices, review all provincial laws with a view towards inter-provincial consistency and coherence, take stock through concerted research on how institutional and attitudinal barriers can be conquered.
The last seven years have seen a good number of laws enhancing women’s rights and protection in Pakistan, and while this is highly commendable, the government needs to take stock of why implementation has failed every time.

Pakistan - The forgotten FATA





By Afrasiab Khattak

Mainstreaming FATA was one of the most important points in the twenty points program of National Action Plan (NAP) approved by an extra ordinary All Parties Conference (APC) on December 24, 2014, a week after the brutal massacre of young students by criminal terrorists in Peshawar Army Public School. Since Pakistan was well known for wasting long years first in denial of terrorism and later on just talking about curbing it so the APC decided to go for an Action Plan instead of squandering further precious time by busying ourselves into hairsplitting in abstract theoretical debates. But if the experience of the last one-yearis anything to go by it has become pretty clear that most of the twenty points program is not meant for implementation. No roadmap with any timeline exists for implementing NAP. FATA parliamentarians did introduce a bill in the National Assembly for the merger of FATA in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but the federal government scuttled that initiative by creating yet another committee for “ascertaining“ the opinion of the people of the area (interestingly enough there is no one from FATA in the aforementioned committee and most of the ministers who are members of the committee can’t speak Pashto and speak through interpreters). Again there is no timeframe for the work of the committee. So FATA Pashtuns who lived as subjects of British colonial order for around a century seems to be condemned to keep on living under exactly the same (or even worse) status in an independent Muslim country. There is no visible sign of their becoming citizens any time soon with access to fundamental rights. In this day and age they still have to live in the “black hole”, and “no go area” beyond the jurisdiction of courts and access of media and civil society.
After continuing for close to two years operation Zarb-e-Azb doesn’t seem to have fully cleared FATA from terrorism. Shawaland Datakhel are yet to be cleared even after intense aerial bombardment and droning, a position that has not changed for last so many years. Yet another drone attack in Khurram Agency last week shows that certain “assets” have relocated there after military operation in North Waziristan.Momand Agency saw murderous attacks by terrorists against security personnel during the last week killing at least nine khasadars. Curfew had to be imposed for forestalling terrorist onslaught. Schools and hospitals had to be closed. News about minor terror attacks and blowing up of schools do emerge from other agencies. Political or civilian oversight of military operation in FATA is almost non existent and the area is not open to media or civil society so there is not much in terms of even reporting about the challenges faced by non-combatants let alone provision of any relief to them.
Millions of Internally Displaced Persons (Pashtuns) are not any more on the political radar of either the government or political parties. Their ordeal that was supposed to last for few months doesn’t have any end in sight even after about two years (in case of North Waziristan). The country’s media has also put its back on their camps in Bannu and other places. Pakistani state doesn’t seem to be interested in winning the war for hearts and minds. You need that only if you want to take the people along. But if you have no plan to empower the people and include them in the decision-makingprocess, then why to bother yourself. For example around one hundred thousand IDPs had crossed over into Afghanistan’s province Khost in 2014 from North Waziristan. Afghan government was reported to have helped them in establishing camps and there were reports about some activity by UNHCR. But the government of Pakistan has not sent any formal official delegation even once to look into their situation or to discuss with them any plan for their possible return. Even those who live inside Pakistan have no focal person or institution to turn to for relief in case of violation of their rights. Their disempowerment knows no limits.
One hopes that the new Governor of Pakhunkhwa will make a place for his name in history by supporting reforms in FATA, although it is easier said than done. The entrenched vested interest of officialdom ruling the area has put up stiff resistance against any change. But they have overplayed their hand. Terrorists could run a virtual state in the area in the vacuum created by statelessness. The country can’t afford the status quo anymore. The Article 247 of the Constitution that bars the Pakistani Parliament from legislation for FATA and bars the Supreme Court of Pakistan from hearing cases must go. How can Pakistan call herself a Republic with such a monstrous anomaly? Refusal to hold local government elections in FATA is simply an affront. Every democrat in the country should raise his/her voice for the empowerment of FATA Pashtuns. It goes without saying that situation in Afghanistan is closely linked to situation in FATA . Our steps for filling the gaps in terms of the writ of the state in FATA will indicate our seriousness about stabilizing Afghanistan.

Bilawal Bhutto congratulates members of Punjab Assembly for passing Protection of Women against Violence Bill

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has congratulated members of the Punjab Assembly for the passage of Protection of Women against Violence Bill 2015 but regretted the fundamental loopholes in the Bill which makes it more ‘Showbaz’ than aimed at addressing the real issues.
In a press statement issued here, the PPP Chairman said that women need both prevention and protection against violence at domestic and workplaces and law should criminalize these forms of violence. Legislation for providing solace and justice to a woman already beaten up or abused is a good step but adding provisions to prevent women from being targeted through criminal intents were also fundamentally important for lawmaking, he stated.
He endorsed the anomaly in Bill pointed out by civil society and women activists that the Bill outlined punishment in case of a violation of interim orders but not for abuse women had been subjected to.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stressed that legislation should provide mechanism wherein the women should be given a form of protection to save them from falling victim to domestic violence besides the justice system to punish violations.
PPP Chairman urged that legislation also lacks a comprehensive definition of violence against women besides ensuring the proper protection of women complainants subjected to violence during pending investigations and afterwards without the mention of time-period for completion of such inquiries.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari further said that implementation of any bill for protection of women against violence needs women protection centers for housing victims during the course of inquiries. Otherwise, the whole bill will not be more than a cosmetic effort.

https://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/bilawal-bhutto-congratulates-members-of-punjab-assembly-for-passing-protection-of-women-against-violence-bill/

سعید غنی کی پشاور میں پرامن مظاہرین طالب علموں کے خلاف مقدمات درج اور گھروں پر چھاپوں کی مذمت

https://ppppunjab.wordpress.com

Friday, February 26, 2016

Urdu Music Video - NOOR JAHAN - KAVITA - Aaja mery pardesi

America's utter failure in Afghanistan, in one depressing statistic





by  

A new government report on Afghanistan reconstruction includes a startling fact: The US has spent more money — a lot more money — trying to rebuild Afghanistan than we did rebuilding Europe after World War II.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) submitted a statement to Congress on Wednesday in a hearing to review the fiscal year 2017 budget request and funding justification for the US Department of State. It included this line:
Since FY 2002, Congress has appropriated approximately $113.1 billion to rebuild Afghanistan. That is at least $10 billion more, adjusted for inflation, than the amount the United States committed in civilian assistance to help rebuild Western Europe after World War II.
This obviously depends on how you do the calculation. The method SIGAR says it usedgave them an adjusted total of $103.4 billion in 2014 dollars for the Marshall Plan. When I ran a simple comparison of 1952 spending versus 2016 spending, adjusting for inflation, I found that US spending on the Marshall Plan actually translates into $118 billion in today's dollars, so a bit more than we spent in Afghanistan.
But the point remains that our spending on Afghanistan today is pretty similar to what we spent to rebuild Western Europe after World War II. And despite spending a similar amount of money on a relatively narrower mission in Afghanistan, we have much, much less to show for it. It's staggering.
Between 1948 and 1952, the US gave approximately $13.3 billion to 16 Western European countries to help them recover and rebuild in the aftermath of World War II. And although economists still debate exactly what role the Marshall Plan funds played in Europe's economic recovery, the fact remains that the Western Europe that emerged from the Marshall Plan years was a much more stable, prosperous, peaceful place than it had been beforehand.
The political effects of the Marshall Plan were also profound. As Diane Kunz, a history professor at Yale University, explained in DW, "The Marshall Plan served as the economic and political foundation for the Western alliance that waged the Cold War."
So we spent the equivalent of more than $100 billion, and what we got for our money was a major continent-wide economic recovery and an alliance that defeated the Soviet Union. Not too shabby.
Now let's compare that with what we've gotten for our $113.1 billion investment in rebuilding Afghanistan:
  • The Taliban is resurgent. According to another SIGAR report from last month, "The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since 2001." Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, found as of October of 2015 that about one-fifth of Afghanistan was verifiably controlled or contested by the Taliban. In reality, he wrote then, "they probably either control or heavily influence about a half of the country."
  • ISIS has now established a foothold in Afghanistan. Though it is estimated to have only between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters in the country, it is launching attacks — including, most recently, bombing the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, killing seven people. And it is building what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called "little nests"in the country's east.
  • The Afghan security forces are a messIn August 2015, Afghanistan expert Gary Owen wrote, "Since the Afghans assumed control of the country’s security in 2014, more civilians have been killed, more soldiers have died, more Afghan troops have deserted than ever before, and security forces are still torturing one-third of their detainees."
  • Afghans are fleeing the country in droves. In just the third quarter of 2015 alone, some 56,700 Afghans filed applications seeking asylum in the EU, according toEurostat data. Afghan refugees are second only to the number of Syrians seeking asylum in the EU from the brutal civil war in Syria.
But while the US and other countries involved in Afghanistan haven't achieved anything quite like a Marshall Plan, there have been some positive developments.
In August 2015, Stephen Watts and Sean Mann of RAND noted that according to the World Bank's World Development Indicators, in Afghanistan "child mortality rates have fallen by over one-quarter, more than half of children attend school (compared to approximately 15 percent — none of them girls — under the Taliban), and income levels are roughly six times what they were before the US intervention."
Those positive developments are a reminder that while Afghanistan today sure doesn't look like Western Europe after the Marshall Plan, it also started at a much lower point.
But it's also a reminder that the country's increasingly unstable security situation and resurgence of the Taliban threaten to undo even those modest achievements.
The bottom line is that, unlike the brilliant success story that was Western Europe after the Marshall Plan, we have very little to show for the billions of dollars we have spent trying to rebuild Afghanistan.
This is a major financial blow for US taxpayers and, more importantly, a tragedy for the millions of Afghans who were promised the world and are still waiting for that promise to be fulfilled.