American Resistance To Empire

Nawaz Sharif Plays “Pious” Card, Goes For Full Wahhabization of Pakistan

[EXCLUSIVE: Pakistan sends combat troops to Saudi southern border]








ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday ordered  ministry of interior to take measures for immediate blockage of blasphemous content on social media.

The premier in his statement categorically remarked that any kind of insult to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was unforgivable.

Nawaz Sharif said the feelings of Muslims, when it comes to the honour of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), must be respected.

‘The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the benefactor of entire humanity,’ the PM added.

He directed that international organizations relating to social media should be approached for blockade of blasphemous contents and Foreign Office should play its role in this regard.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the issue is before the court and all steps should be taken in line with the guidance of the court, radio Pakistan reported.

It may be mentioned here that the Islamabad High Court had already ordered to block blasphemous pages on social media.

Obama’s “Democrat” Disguise Slowly Crumbles, Revealing the Hardcore Republican Underneath source

The Original Lie About Obamacare

President Obama signing the health insurance reform bill at the White House in 2010. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

You hear it from Republicans, pundits and even some Democrats. It’s often said in a tone of regret: I wish Obama had done health reform in a bipartisan way, rather than jamming through a partisan bill.

The lament seems to have the ring of truth, given that not a single Republican in Congress voted for Obamacare. Yet it is false —demonstrably so.

That it’s nonetheless stuck helps explain how the Republicans have landed in such a mess on health care. The Congressional Budget Office released a jaw-dropping report Monday estimating that the Republican health plan would take insurance from 24 million people, many of them Republican voters, and raise medical costs for others. The bill effectively rescinds benefits for the elderly, poor, sick and middle class, and funnels the money to the rich, via tax cuts.

The AARP doesn’t like the bill, nor do groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, the disabled and people with cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, it’s a great bill.

To understand why that description is wrong, it helps to recall some history. Democratic attempts to cover the uninsured stretch back almost a century. But opposition to universal government-provided insurance was always too strong. Even Lyndon Johnson, with big congressional majorities, could pass programs only for the elderly and the poor — over intense opposition that equated Medicare with the death of capitalism.

So Democrats slowly moved their proposals to the right, relying more on private insurance rather than government programs. As they shifted, though, Republicans shifted even farther right. Bill Clinton’s plan was quite moderate but still couldn’t pass.

When Barack Obama ran for president, he faced a choice. He could continue moving the party to the center or tack back to the left. The second option would have focused on government programs, like expanding Medicare to start at age 55. But Obama and his team thought a plan that mixed government and markets — farther to the right of Clinton’s — could cover millions of people and had a realistic chance of passing.

They embarked on a bipartisan approach. They borrowed from Mitt Romney’s plan in Massachusetts, gave a big role to a bipartisan Senate working group, incorporated conservative ideas and won initial support from some Republicans. The bill also won over groups that had long blocked reform, like the American Medical Association.

But congressional Republicans ultimately decided that opposing any bill, regardless of its substance, was in their political interest. The consultant Frank Luntz wrote an influential memo in 2009 advising Republicans to talk positively about “reform” while also opposing actual solutions. McConnell, the Senate leader, persuaded his colleagues that they could make Obama look bad by denying him bipartisan cover.

At that point, Obama faced a second choice – between forging ahead with a substantively bipartisan bill and forgetting about covering the uninsured. The kumbaya plan for which pundits now wax nostalgic was not an option.

The reason is simple enough: Obamacare is the bipartisan version of health reform. It accomplishes a liberal end through conservative means and is much closer to the plan conservatives favored a few decades ago than the one liberals did. “It was the ultimate troll,” as Michael Anne Kyle of Harvard Business School put it, “for Obama to pass Republican health reform.”

Today’s Republican Party has moved so far to the right that it no longer supports any plan that covers the uninsured. Of course, Republican leaders are not willing to say as much, because they know how unpopular that position is. Having run out of political ground, Ryan, McConnell and Trump have had to invent the notion of a socialistic Obamacare that they will repeal and replace with … something great! This morning they were also left to pretend that the Budget Office report was something less than a disaster.

Their approach to Obamacare has worked quite nicely for them, until now. Lying can be an effective political tactic. Believing your own alternative facts, however, is usually not so smart.

Pakistan Army and Modi

[Despite the fact that the writer is a BBC correspondent and an anti-Pakistani Baloch, and worse still, the article was the Qatar state mouthpiece, AlJazeera, I felt the writer had a lot of good points to present us in the following interview.  The more that Modi agitates Balochistan the more power and leeway to act transfers to the Pak Army.  Mr. Modi has always been a dangerous man (SEE: Gujarat riots: Indian SC orders inquiry against Modi ; The Gujarat Pogrom of 2002).]

‘Modi is God’s gift to Pakistan security establishment’

Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif talks about shrinking freedoms, liberal voices and human rights in Balochistan.

Pakistani journalist and writer Mohammed Hanif [Eefa Khalid/Al Jazeera]

By Hafsa Adil is a freelance multimedia journalist. She tweets @Hafsa_Adil

In January, five Pakistani activists disappeared. Some were picked up from their homes, others from their place of work. One man went missing while searching for a house to rent for his family.

Their crimes remain unclear. Roughly three weeks later, four of them were released, but not charged with an offence. Some have spoken of being tortured by Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence agencies. Others have chosen not to speak at all, bound to silence by those who abducted them.

For those who have spoken out, the reason for their abduction appears to be that they were linked to Facebook pages or social media accounts that were criticising the military’s policies and the religious right, or for espousing the cause of persecuted minorities.

Mohammed Hanif is a Pakistani journalist and writer who has been nominated for several awards, including the prestigious Man Booker prize for his debut novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, in 2008.

He has reported extensively on minority rights, as well as enforced disappearances in Pakistan’s campaign against separatist fighters in the country’s southwestern Balochistan province.

In an interview with Al Jazeera on the sidelines of the recently held Karachi Literature Festival, he talked about the shrinking freedoms in mainstream and social media in Pakistan, the role of liberal voices and the state of human rights in Balochistan.

Al Jazeera: Social media, at least when it started off, allowed a lot more democratic space for dissidents and those with a liberal or minority point of view. However, it is increasingly making them vulnerable to state surveillance and reprisals. How do you see the transformation of social media and what lessons have you drawn from the goings-on in Pakistan and other countries?

Mohammed Hanif: I think social media has thrown many of our lazy assumptions into question.

After all, what is a dissident? Someone sitting with a gun on a mountain or someone tweeting bad poetry?

What is a liberal? Someone who wants to be saved from both but wants all the freedom to tell us what is really wrong with this world?

And aren’t social media users in Pakistan actually a minority as compared with the ones who can’t afford smartphones or can’t read or write? Social media in Pakistan is a love-fest and a lynch mob.

I think the state realises its potential and it tried to send a message by kidnapping some activists in Pakistan.

The perverse thing about social media is that nobody really knew these guys who were picked up, but after they were picked up, we all knew about them.

They were either our potential liberators or certified traitors. When luvvies and lynch mob collide on the internet, who needs facts?

It’s all very entertaining and also reassuring that something very new can confirm our oldest prejudices.

Al Jazeera:India is seen as a land of opportunity for Pakistani film artists and musicians. Why have Pakistani writers – novelists, essayists, commentators in English, Urdu, Punjabi etc – not been able to exploit the opportunity in the same fashion? Or do we not hear about it as much?

Hanif: Every Pakistani writer I know has been published in India, translated into Indian languages and has done the festival circuit.

There’s lots more money at stake when singers or actors get banished, so we hear more about it.

Once or twice Indian right-wingers have tried to force the bookshops to stop selling books by Pakistani authors, but that reeked of desperation.

Go and burn albums of Pakistani musicians if you want to make an impact. Who cares about books anyway?

Al Jazeera: You have written in The New York Times deploring the way India-Pakistan issues are handled by jingoistic Indian TV channels and their Pakistani counterparts. Do you think this trend has to do with authentic ultra-nationalistic passion or is it a symptom of failing media business models on both sides of the border?

Hanif: I think passions are real. You don’t kill over a million people as we did during the partition or fight four and a half wars without passion.

Every few years comes a time when it seems we are getting a bit less passionate.

We can trade tomatoes and onions and cheaper heart bypasses across the border. But then someone rekindles our murderous passions.

I don’t think media businesses on both sides are failing; they are transforming into more intelligent monsters. Is there more money in peace or is there more money in war?

Al Jazeera: What can the writers and intellectuals of Pakistan and India do to wrest back public discourse from the ultranationalists and hardline politicians in order to inject good sense, goodwill and a spirit of unity among the peoples of common rich heritage?

Hanif: I think maybe they can start by going on about common rich heritage.

We kind of lived together and killed each other for centuries.

Our common rich heritage is very contested and we should continue to contest that.

Writers and intellectuals from both sides have been hugging each other at festivals and conferences and in music collaborations.

They should continue doing that but let’s not live in the illusion that they can erase an inch of barbed wire on our borders.

Al Jazeera: Do you think Pakistan’s liberal-secular forces are strong enough to confront the new set of challenges they are facing from illiberal elements of the state? Leaving the country for a haven abroad may be necessary for some people, but does it really advance their cause?

Hanif: I think the first cause is to stay alive. So if someone is lucky enough that they can leave the country, let’s not grudge them.

Let’s not say they have betrayed some cause. Let’s not get into definitions. But I tend to believe Pakistan liberals have had a lot of power, still do.

I think instead of doing a hard day’s liberal work, they like to point out the illiberal elements in the state. I do feel that the illiberal elements you blame provide more of a sense of community here.

Liberals just sit by themselves and fume over “these people”, but where did they come from? Oh, OK, let’s blame General Zia-ul-Haq.

Al Jazeera: Do you think the advent of a Hindu nationalist government in India and the Indian security crackdown in Kashmir have, in an indirect way, influenced the political and security climate in Pakistan?

Hanif: Modi is God’s gift to the Pakistani security establishment. And what you call a crackdown in Kashmir is a campaign of mass blinding of a population, as Kashmiri writer Mirza Waheed has written.

It has never happened in human history.

Al Jazeera: Your second novel revolves around the life of a person from Pakistan’s minorities. What have your observations and experiences been with the minority communities that prompted you to pick this subject? How drastically do you think the space and voice for minorities has shrunk in Pakistan?

Hanif: My experiences are quite limited. I have this Christian property-dealer friend who has written essays and books about Pakistani Christian heroes.

In order to prove his community’s patriotism, he has to write these glorious stories about Christian officers and men who fought in our wars against India.

I don’t know why Azam Miraj should have to prove his patriotism when his forefathers and my forefathers have lived on the same land and spoken the same language for centuries.

He now has to worry about what bits of newspaper he can throw into the trash can because, you know, sometimes newspapers have bits of sacred texts.

Al Jazeera: Do you think the recent spate of arrests of activists shows a growing intolerance towards any criticism of the state, the establishment and their policies towards religious extremism? What role, if any, does mainstream media play in vilifying these liberal voices?

Hanif: I feel that the state is tired and jaded. Mainstream media and social media are not that different: a bit of a love fest, a bit of a lynch mob. It’s the same old game.

A businessman playing a politician, politicians playing the media, an intelligence-agency type trying to tell everyone what to do.

In social media, small voices sometimes get amplified, and whenever that happens we are back to the old-fashioned games where we have to figure out who can kidnap someone, or who can kill and never be held accountable.

Al Jazeera: Pakistan regularly makes the list of the most dangerous places for journalists, and Balochistan in particular has been termed the graveyard for journalists. Can you share what your interactions with people in Balochistan, particularly journalists, writers and activists, revealed about the province’s place in the media? Do you see any hope for improvement in the environment for journalists in Balochistan and Pakistan?

Hanif: The grand old man of Balochi literature, Ghani Parwaz, said it about why we don’t hear more Baloch voices: fear of the state and prejudice from the people outside of Balochistan who seem to believe that it’s a land of gold and copper and gas.

Journalists in Balochistan have been killed for simply reporting that someone else has been killed.

I have seen parents worry if their kids have done high school and picked up any politics. If you are a literate and political Baloch, your life expectancy automatically comes down drastically.

But I am told things are getting better. If you are a journalist in Pakistan, you should thank your stars that you are not Baloch.

Source: Al Jazeera News

ISIS Forming New Caliphate On Turkish Border?

Former captive of an al-Qaida affiliated group warns, “Something very dangerous is occurring in northwestern Syria”


Malaysia Sun Sunday 12th March, 2017

former captive of an al-qaida affiliated group warns, “something very dangerous is occurring in northwestern syria”• American journalist Peter Theo Curtis was held captive for two years by the al-Qaida affiliated group al-Nusra Front

• Theo warns that a number of dangerous groups, including “hardcore Islamists” are going unnoticed in Syria

• As coalition forces continue to reclaim ISIS territories, the terror group is facing a defeat in the region

PARIS, France – As coalition forces in Syria continue to defeat the Islamic State and reclaim territories that were once strongholds of the world’s most dreaded terrorist group – now claims made by a former captive have shocked the world.

In October 2012, American journalist Peter Theo Curtis – who also goes by the name Theo Padnos, sneaked into the rebel-controlled Syrian territory to write an article about an abducted journalist Austin Rice.

He was kidnapped by the al-Qaida affiliated group al-Nusra Front in Syria – a group that had announced their formation earlier the same year.

The group initially praised ISIS attacks on the West – but is now said to be pursuing its own take on Sharia law.

He was held in the war-torn region for two years, during which period, his family reportedly received several calls for a ransom from the group and after a tough period, he was finally freed in 2014 with the help of the Qatari secret service.

Theo has now issued a grave warning – one that has shocked the world – as he claims that a new, more dangerous terror group is on the rise near Europe.

According to Theo, rebels from across Syria have formed a new terror group, to replace terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s outfit, described as a “second Islamic State.”

Theo has claimed, “Something very dangerous and alarming is occurring in northwestern Syria, and this is the emergence of the second Islamic State there. It’s right on the Turkish border.”

He claimed that the Syrian government is winning the war in Syria, but the victory is coming with a cost.

“[The Syrian Army] is dispersing the rebels. The rebels have been concentrating in certain urban neighborhoods, and now they’re going off into the countryside. They’re occupying villages. And when the U.S. Army or the Kurds or some combination finally arrives in Raqqa [the capital of the Islamic State], all those ISIS fighters — they will have been gone for weeks. They’re out of town now.”

He said that a number of dangerous groups, including “hardcore Islamists”, are going unnoticed in Syria – warning in an interview, “We will know it when they turn up in Paris or London with Kalashnikovs.”

Recalling his two years of torture, Theo said that while he was abducted, he was able to witness a number of armed factions emerging in northwestern Syria. This, he said, led him to believe there will be rise of a “second Islamic State” near Europe and the Turkish border.

He said, “I think that the Western understanding of what is happening in Syria is inadequate. They [The West] don’t know what’s happening on the ground, they either don’t understand the language, or they can’t make sense of the videos, or their informants are, perhaps, biased,”

He even noted that the rising rebel group possesses “tonnes of weapons” and could be more dangerous than ISIS.

What, he said was even more worrisome was that, “To get to this second Islamic State from any European country, it’s a couple of days on the bus. Young kids are going every day, that’s what the guys on the ground in Syria are telling me: ‘Oh yes, we have new French people, new English people every day.’”

Adding, “I know because I’m in touch with some of these people, and they’re making videos all the time. We just haven’t connected the dots.”

The warnings come at a time that the coalition forces continue their offensive against ISIS and reports from the region indicate that the terror leader al-Baghdadi has admitted defeat.

Theo said, “We must develop a strategy that is more powerful than their ‘fade into the hills’ strategy. Otherwise, it will be whack-a-mole forever … If it sounds like I’m advocating for peace with ISIS, well I am. There’s too many of them to kill.”

Trump’s Pentagon Declares Whole World As Its Stage of Operations

White House is asked to designate ‘temporary areas of active hostility’, giving commanders same latitude to launch actions as in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria

Women walk past graffiti in Yemen, parts of which are the first ‘temporary’ battlefield designations. Under Obama, the president and his counter-terrorism adviser played a big role in authorizing attacks on suspected terrorists.
Women walk past graffiti in Yemen, parts of which have been designated ‘temporary’ battlefields. Under Obama, the president played a big role in authorizing attacks on suspected terrorists. Photograph: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

Donald Trump’s administration is considering a military proposal that would designate various undeclared battlefields worldwide to be “temporary areas of active hostility”, the Guardian has learned.

If approved, the Pentagon-proposed measure would give military commanders the same latitude to launch strikes, raids and campaigns against enemy forces for up to six months that they possess in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

The proposal would in effect unravel a highly controversial bureaucratic structure for launching lethal assaults, such as drone strikes and counter-terrorism raids, set up by Barack Obama’s White House.

Under Obama’s structure, known as the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG), the president and his counter-terrorism adviser at the National Security Council played a substantial role in approving life-or-death strikes on suspected terrorists on undeclared battlefields such as Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.

The Pentagon’s proposal would push those authorities down to military commanders during the 180-day lifespan of the temporary designations, according to an administration official familiar with the proposals, who described Obama’s PPG as, functionally, a dead letter.

Accordingly, the proposal would lower a threshold for ensuring the safety of civilians in such strikes, from a “near certainty” that civilians would not be harmed to “reasonable certainty”, similar to the standard on official battlefields.

It is unclear from the proposal, described by an administration official, how many countries would be designated temporary zones of active hostility. It is similarly uncertain how such designation would square with the War Powers Resolution, a much-eroded 1973 law that permits presidents to launch military hostilities for 60 days before needing congressional approval.

“It’s completely disregarding the War Powers Resolution,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, an international law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

“This takes Trump out of approving [operations] mission by mission.”

Similarly, unraveling the PPG and loosening its standards for launching strikes and avoiding civilian casualties is likely to be difficult in practice, said Micah Zenko, who studies counter-terrorism at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It’s embedded in the bureaucracy and in targeting practices” by the US air force, Zenko said, though “there are lots of ways to change policy without formal guidance”.

The New York Times, which first reported elements of this story, found that areas within Yemen and soon Somalia were the first such designations of the “temporary” battlefield designations.

The Pentagon, which did not reply to a request for comment, is said to be seeking the change in order to gain greater operational flexibility over the sprawling battlefield worldwide.

In February, the Guardian reported a debate within senior levels of the military about designating Yemen an active battlefield, with the attendant devolution of responsibilities to ground commanders and a swifter operational pace to combat the local al-Qaida affiliate.

As the Times reported, nearly 40 former national security officials, most of whom served in the Obama administration, have urged the Trump administration to retain its predecessor’s procedures for limiting civilian casualties. Human rights groups sharply criticized the Obama administration for allowing untold numbers of civilian deaths in drone strikes and called its figures for civilian casualties, delivered after those procedures were in place, too low to be credible.

The Trump administration should “use lethal force only when there is a near certainty – or a similarly high standard – that no civilian harm will occur”, the ex-officials wrote in a 10 March letter to the Pentagon chief, James Mattis, as well as urging the requirement of a “near-certainty – or a similarly high standard – that [a counter-terrorism] target has been accurately identified and is present”.

Even before adoption of any of the new aggressive proposals, Trump has shown a willingness to escalate the sprawling US wars against al-Qaida and Isis, despite occasionally positioning himself during the campaign as a peace candidate.

In Syria, approximately 400 US marines armed with heavy artillery have arrived to support an assault on Isis’s capital, Raqqa, that is expected in the coming weeks. In Afghanistan, commanders have signaled a desire for a troop augmentation totaling in the low thousands.

In Iraq, with the final Isis stronghold in western Mosul expected to fall soon, the US and Iraqi governments have “expressed an interest” in an enduring US troop presence in Iraq, the war’s commander, army Lt Gen Stephen Townsend, told reporters on 1 March.

And in Yemen, in addition to a fateful raid that left several children and a Navy Seal dead, Trump has sharply accelerated drone-launched bombings.

O’Connell, the Notre Dame professor, noted that temporarily designating a battlefield to be an active combat zone carried a host of second-order effects for US troops operating there, from expanding authorities to capture detainees to creating combat-pay claims for service members.

Should the temporary designations proposal win Trump’s approval, O’Connell said, it was unlikely Trump would seek a new Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), a controversial wellspring of legal authority for US military operations. Congress passed the current AUMF days after 9/11. Its critics in and outside of Congress have long argued that its powers are stretched beyond their limits to confront a now obsolete version of the terrorist threat.