On the detention of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman

On the 12th of March, Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, a media mogul, businessman, and journalist from Pakistan was detained and arrested ostensibly on the basis of having broken property law back in 1986. 

Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau, an anti-corruption watchdog, alleges that Mr. Rehmen illegally leased government land 34 years ago and then managed to have the ownership rights transferred to him permanently in 2016 when ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was in power. 

These charges being levied against a less prominent member of Pakistan’s society would be cause for less concern, but in view of two notable trends, the apprehension of Mir Shakhil-ur-Rehman takes on a more sinister light.

The first is that since 2018, Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the public face and owner of the country’s largest media group, has found himself in the bad books of Prime Minister Imran Khan. In that year, Mr. Khan defeated incumbent Nawaz Sharif in a general election, but accused Mr. Rehman’s Jang Media Group of having backed Sharif. In the years since, Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman’s Geo TV channel has also drawn Khan’s ire for refusing censorship, giving a platform to members of the opposition, and criticizing the government’s policies, especially the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

So while certainly the most audacious, the arrest of Mr. Shakil-ur-Rehman is not the first time PM Imran Khan has attempted to frighten or otherwise silence the voice of the Jang Group. The Government has pulled advertisements in order to cut off a valuable source of revenue and sent Geo TV reporters, producers, and editors threats of shutdown in response to efforts of investigative journalism. It has both shut off Jang Group Media channels completely, or forced cable operators to alter and demote their channel listings so as to make ‘tuning in’ a more difficult task. 

And while this first trend is troubling, it is in light of the second trend — the extension of such hostile treatment to other occupants of the media space — that it becomes more necessary to call into into question the political integrity of Prime Minister Imran. 

Crucially, the Government demonstrates antagonism and aggression towards forms of media that host figures or politicians from the political and ideological opposition. In 2019, three other Pakistan TV news channels, AbbTakk TV, 24 News, and Capital TV, were taken off  the air for days following live interviews with Maryam Sharif, the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. After a May 2018 interview (also) with Nawaz Sharif in the run up to elections, the distribution of the leading daily newspaper, Dawn, was stifled both legally, through an injunction from the Press Council of Pakistan, and on the ground, physically, as vans and hawkers distributing its copies were denied entry to a number of cities and towns by Government and military officials. The same technique of cutting advertising in order to stop up a financial life-flow was also extended to Dawn, especially in July of 2019, after the paper published remarks made by Prime Minister Imran Khan in which he admitted the usage of Pakistan’s soil by terrorists to launch attacks into Iran, a claim that Pakistan’s military had vehemently denied.

It bears mentioning that the concern expressed on this forum at the plight of Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman is by no means unique or singular. In fact it is at the root of the statements of more than seventy-four media and human rights organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, and the World Editors Forum, who have all written to PM Imran Khan to ask for the journalist’s release. 

When members of the media are unfairly forced to bear the burden of partisanship and are made suffer for doing no more than their job, it is worth speaking out against. The voices of journalists oftentimes convey no more than the feelings, anxieties, and emotions of their readers, of a given country’s citizens. It may be easy for the Government of Imran Khan to try to silence those who most vocally give voice to his nation’s simmering discontent, but it is not right. For that reason we earnestly call on Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to release Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, so that his life may not suffer for the sake of the nation’s politics.

 

المواطنون المحاصرون بين الحرب و covid-19: ليبيا

حديث الساعه الذي لا تخلو الاجتماعات العائلية ومحادثات الاصدقاء منه، بل انه يكاد ألا يكون إلا حديث النفس، اقل ما يفكر به الواحد منا هو مدى تأثيره على كل ما يحيط بنا في حياتنا الاجتماعية، وعلى صحتنا النفسية، وبالتأكيد الأوضاع الاقتصادية.

انه موضوع للتأمل بالنسبة لبعض الاشخاص، من منا لم يفكر في كيف لهذا الشي الصغير الذي لا يرى بالعين المجردة أن يجعل العالم يقف على اصبع واحد، بل أن يجعل العالم يقف. “اجازة مرضية للبيئة” التي تعمل ليل نهار منذ الاف السنين لكي نحضى نحن بالحياة التي نطمح لها. لا انكر الجوانب السلبيه ولكن من المهم ايضا ان لا نستثني الجانب المضيئ من وجود هذا الوباء.

من الاشياء التي لم تغيب عن تفكيري، لا سيما بعد ما رأينا كيف كانت استجابة الدول المتقدمه لهذا المرض، والتي لم تلقى رضى الكثير من المواطنين خصوصا مع هذا العدد الهائل من الاصابات والموتى التي تزداد بنسبه كبيرة يوميا، هو كيف ستستطيع الدول النامية ،وبالاخص تلك التي تواجه العديد من المشاكل والصراعات داخلها، مواجهة هذا الوباء.

سنسلط قليل من الضوء على ليبيا والتي بعد أن قامت بها ثورة ضد النظام السائد المتسلط والدكتاتوري، ضمن سلسة من ما يطلق عليه “ثورات الربيع العربي” التي بدأت في الدولة الشقيقه لليبيا، تونس في عام 2011،  والتي لم تأخد من اسمها شي؛ فقد دخلت تلك الدول من بعد هذه الثورات في خريف لم تظهر له نهاية، خريف اوراقه المتساقطه تتمثل في العديد من الخسائر البشرية. ليبيا التي تمر خلال حروب اهلية استهدفت كل مدنها نهاية في عاصمتها طرابلس.

طرابلس الان تواجه مرحلة من الصراع دامت اكثر من عام، مما ادى الى تكدس للسكان في مركزها؛ حيث ان الكثير من المواطنين القانطين في ضواحيها اضطروا إلى أن يتركو منازلهم بحثا عن الامن وسط المدينة، بالاضافه إلي وجود سابق للعديد من المهجرين من مدن اخرى ايضا كانوا قد قدموا اليها بحثا عن الامن في العاصمة.

في يوم 14 مارس 2020 خرج رئيس المجلس الرئاسي السيد فايز السراج ليعلن حالة الطوارئ بعد تفشي المرض في العالم و خصوصا في البلدان المجاورة، واتخدت العديد من الاجراءات منها اغلاق الحدود والمطارات، وتعليق الدراسة في المدارس والجامعات، واغلاق كافة المطاعم والمحلات التجارية، وفرض بعض الاجراءات على محلات المواد الغدائة والمخابز للحد من انتشار المرض. وكان هناك اقبال للعديد من الناس على الالتزام بالقوانين والالتزام بالمسافات الاجتماعية، والتي كان من ضمنها عدم التجمع في المساجد واقامة الصلوات في المنزل، ولكن لم يكن هناك استعداد طبي (من ناحية الكادر الطبي وفرق الطوارئ وفرق التعقيم وتوفر معددات الحماية الشخصية) لاستقبال الحالات. في يوم 24 مارس 2020 سجلت اول حالة في مدينة طرابلس، وكان هناك ارتباك ملحوظ للطاقم الطبي بعد ماتوافقت اعراض وتاريخ السفر للمريض مع تشخيص عدوى فيروس كورونا، استمر هذا الارتباك والذي زاد من سوءه الوضع الامني وحالة الحرب التي تمر بها المدينه والتي كان من ضمنها استهداف مستشفى الهضبة الخضراء العام والذي كان من المقرر انشاء مركز عزل صحي داخله.

بعد مايقارب اسبوعين من تسجيل اول حالة، تم تكوين لجنة طبية وفريق تعقيم، وتحويل احد المراكز الصحية الى مركز للكشف عن الحالات المشبوهة، واقامة مركز عزل صحي لاستقبال الحالات الحرجة في احد مستشفيات طرابلس، وتوفير كادر طبي للعناية بالحالات المعتدلة وغير الحرجة في منازلهم، وتوفير كافة المعدات الطبية ومعدات الحماية الشخصية. كما اقيمت ايضا برامج توعيه استهدفت كل وسائل الاعلام ووسائل التواصل الاجتماعي، ودورات تدريب للكوادر الطبية والمتطوعين، جميعها تحت اشراف مركز مكافحة الامراض في طرابلس.

واهتمت السفارات الليبية في اغلب الدول بالجالية الليبية بالخارج، ومن الاجراءات المتبعة هو اخد عينة من الاشخاص الراغبين بالعودة، وفي حال ان العينة كانت موجبة يتم عزل المريض في فنادق مدفوعة التكاليف من الحكومة الليبية، اما اذا كانت سالبة فيسمح لهم بالعودة، ولكن يجب عليهم عزل انفسهم في منازلهم والامتناع عن الاختلاط بعائلاتهم وذويهم لمدة اسبوعين.

كل هذه الاجراءات حافظت على نسب منخفضه من الاصابات وايضا نسب قليلة جدا من الوفيات، حيث وصلت عدد الاصابات 70 اصابة وعدد حالات الوفاة 3 حالات خلال شهرين، وكانت سبب وفاة الحالات الثلاثه هو وجود مشاكل صحية مسبقة بالاضافه للاصابة بعدوى فايروس الكورونا، وكانت نسبة الحالات المتماثله للشفاء مرتفعة جدا، ويرجح السبب وراء ذلك الى العامل الجيني للمرضى و كذلك السلالة التي اصابت هذه المنطقة والتي يمكن ان تكون مختلفة عن السلالات التي اصابت اسيا واوروبا وامريكا. من وجهة نظري ان ما كان سبب رئيسي وراء هذه الارقام هو الاجراءات التي اطلقتها الدولة والتزام الناس بها. حيث أن ما إن حصل القليل من التسيب من الدولة ومن المواطنين، خصوصا  منذ رجوع الجالية الليبية من الخارج، ودخول المسافرين باشكال قانونية وغير قانوينه، وعدم التزامهم بالحجر المنزلي المفروض عليهم، حتى وصل عدد الاصابات في الاسبوع الاخير فقط من شهر مايو الى 90 حالة. يضل السؤال الان: هل هذا بسبب تقصير من الدولة وفسادها او تسيب واستهتار من الناس؟ اريد وضع اللوم على المواطنين، ولكن هل يمكن وضع اللوم عليهم في هذا الوضع الامني السيء للغاية الذي تعتبر فيه المنازل ليست امنة تماما، حيث نسبة وفاة الناس جراء قذائف تتساقط على منازلهم اعلى بكثير من نسبة الوفاة نتيجة الكورونا ؟

What do Israelis Think of President Trump’s “Deal of the Century”?

The excellent “Peace Index” is back again but its name has now changed to the “Israeli Voice Index” which is perhaps of itself a sign of the times. In this incarnation it is now published by the Israel Democracy Institute rather than Tel Aviv University. The original can be accessed on this link.  Below, edited slightly for clarity, are their conclusions about the view of Israelis on the Trump Plan:

A Palestinian state – yes or no? Just before the full plan was published the Israeli Voice Index asked: “The peace plan that President Trump will soon present will apparently include recognition of a Palestinian state. In your opinion, should Israel agree to any plan that includes such recognition?” The rates who approve of such recognition in the context of the Trump plan among the Jews and the Arabs were very similar (45.5% and 44% respectively). The finding about the Jewish sample conforms to previous studies about support for the two-state idea. However, the rate of support among Arabs is much lower than in previous surveys. The reason is apparently the mention of President Trump in the body of the question, given the widespread perception that the U.S. president is not a fair arbitrator on the issue of the conflict and is biased toward the Israeli side.

Does the publication of the “deal of the century” constitute American interference in the Israeli elections?

Among the Arabs a clear majority (68%) sees the publication of the “deal of the century” as interference in the Israeli electoral process, while among the Jews slightly less than half (46%) view it that way. Israel is to have yet another general election in April.

Who would better manage negotiations with the Palestinians? If negotiations with the Palestinians were to begin, who, in the Israeli public’s opinion, would manage them better – Netanyahu? Gantz? Both equally well? In Israel’s public as a whole, the largest proportion (44.5%) think Netanyahu would be a better negotiator.

 

There is not enough darkness in the world to put out the light of one small candle

Iran and the USA – the pressure mounts

NCF: The Broadcasts

In a series of five broadcasts William Morris, the NCF Secretary General, addresses the ongoing confrontation between Iran and the USA.

The first in the series is titled “Understanding Trump”. It sets the scene.

The second in the series is on “known unknowns” and the war-by-accident scenario. These messages appeared on Hala London radio. www.halalondon.com

The third in a series of broadcasts is on solutions to the problem.

And here is the forth. Stating the obvious this is on reasons we don’t want war.

And fifth and last – Will it happen?

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Breaking the Cycle of Shame in Iraq | MERI

An interesting report from Meri in Iraq: With Iraq’s displacement crisis, violence against women and girls has reached new levels of cruelty. However, with a forthcoming transition into stabilisation and the signed commitment to implement UNSCR 1325 for Women, Peace, and Security, both Iraq and Kurdistan Region now have the momentum to pave a new route to safeguarding and promoting women.

Source: Breaking the Cycle of Shame in Iraq | MERI

Afghanistan – Is it too late to save the country?

This comes in from a very senior NCF member in Afghanistan. We share many of his views. We have withheld his name:

The U.S.A. are making fools of themselves by trying to strike a so called peace deal with the Taliban. Initially, President Trump boldly announced a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and he made this announcement without even consulting NATO. He did not even consult his allies in London. Trump’s announcement was welcomed by the regional powers (Russia, China, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan), and that was why the peace talks were giving boost by convening gatherings in Moscow. This even though Trump sacked his Defense Secretary, James Mattis, because he disagreed with Trump’s complete withdrawal plan for Afghanistan. But recently, most senior leaders of Trump’s administration began to issue statements that totally reversed Trump’s position and which clearly indicated a 180 degree shift of mind set from that which Trump initially promoted in regard to “completely withdrawing from Afghanistan”.

The regional powers were always aware of US intentions for a prolonged military presence in Afghanistan which proved that the Trump’s withdrawal announcement was a bluff. And all these regional countries (Russia, China, Iran & Pakistan) see the US prolonged presence in Afghanistan as a threat to their futuristic regional economic and military expansions. Afghanistan is the backyard of China and I think we are all aware that everyone works hard to keep their backyards tidy and clean!

The Peace talks of Doha between the US and the Taliban leadership have dragged on for a long time now and throughout these talks the US has changed their position and wishes over and over while the Taliban stands firm on one thing and that is the complete withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan. The Taliban refuses to talk with the Kabul government which they call a puppet regime installed by the US.

While the talks are continuing in Doha, the Taliban are carrying out deadly attacks and killing civilians. The Taliban also refused the ceasefire plea made by Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani. The recent Loya Jirga put on by President Ghani was another stage show without any fruitful results.

The Kabul government under President Ghani has proved a disaster, they simply cannot even maintain the law and order situation inside the Kabul Green Zone. And most districts of Kabul province which are not more than 20 kilometers from Ghani’s palace are under the Taliban rule. You can now imagine what would be happening in the other provinces.

The trigger for war and peace is not in the hands of those few hundreds so called Taliban leaders sitting in Doha, in fact the trigger is in the hands of Russia and China. This has proven to be the case over and over and if the US and London are not accepting this fact than they are blind.

There are solid propositions as to how to gain control of the country and second and most importantly how to win the support of the majority of the population. These two factors are the main ingredients to win stability, but as all are well aware all proposals for a more secure future have been turned down and those backing such propositions were instead labeled “the bad guys”!

Anyone who stands back and views the current situation dispassionately and measures it through the eye of the “Great Game”, can see that the US is in for a little bumpy ride. This is a journey which others have gone through too in the past!

Most credible observers still believe the power to turn around and then win this disastrous campaign lies with tribes.

‘East of Suez’ – Theresa May re-opens Harold Wilson’s imperial closure

History@Kingston

A special guest blog by Dr. Neil Partrick  www.neilpartrick

Fifty years ago the British Government was struggling with austerity at home and exploring an uncertain international future. Nostalgia for what remained of Britain’s imperialism was not part of the ‘world power’ role that Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson ambiguously advocated when first elected in 1964. He wanted Britain to join the European Economic Community but prioritised the US relationship. Although he refused to send British troops to Vietnam, Wilson was targeted by the left, angry that he had not severed US-UK relations over the war.

Harold Wilson

This combination of financial and political factors made cancelling UK military commitments ‘East of Suez’ a seemingly easy option despite Washington’s blandishments for the UK to maintain its old imperial placement. Arab allies were not happy either. Feeling the decision would make them potentially vulnerable to Iran’s imperial ambitions, they begged and covertly offered…

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