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Taliban’s mini tet offensive in Afghanistan

Haroun Mir

The Taliban have skillfully surprised the Afghan government and NATO’s military commanders in Afghanistan by overrunning the city of Ghazni, a strategic population center on the main highway linking Kabul to the west and southwest of the country. This surprise attack, while Kabul and Washington were distracted by the prospect of another ceasefire for the Eid al-Adha holidays next Monday, amounted to a mini Tet Offensive by the Taliban.

According to media reports, the Taliban have destroyed all major government buildings inside the city of Ghazni and inflicted unprecedented casualties on government security forces. In addition, they have conducted military operations against vulnerable government outposts in a number of other provinces, which revealed the government’s paralysis in the face of major Taliban attacks.

Further, the Taliban have been able to contradict Washington’s narrative that the outcome of President Donald Trump’s South Asia Strategy will force the insurgents into political negotiations with Kabul. In addition, they have been able to break the military stalemate in their favor by making significant strides against government forces in the past several months.

In fact after the city of Farah, Ghazni is the second major population center to fall into the hands of the Taliban in less than three months, whose objective is not to control but overrun major population centers as a show of their strength. Now, we all wonder which city will be next. The Afghan government has lost the initiative and the momentum is now with the Taliban. In every single Taliban attack, government forces withdraw from the battlefield, and the leadership in Kabul is desperately looking for air support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In addition, Kabul has relied heavily on the elite Special Forces to rescue lost positions, which has already reduced the efficacy of this elite force.

Recently we have seen big losses among the Afghan commando forces because the Taliban have been able to adapt to their tactics and overcome their technical superiority. We Afghans who have known the Taliban since 1994 understand that they have not gained any particular military strength or had access to any game-changer weapons such as sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles.

Instead, their strength is due to a dysfunctional government in Kabul, a government run by an elite that has nothing to lose. In the best-case scenario, they will continue ruling and reaping the benefits of a stable Afghanistan, or in the worst case, they will skip the country and live a luxury life in their second residences, mainly in Western countries.

In addition, an uncontrolled military budget of close to US$6 billion in a poor country like Afghanistan has been one of the reasons behind growing corruption and nepotism in the security sector, which has provoked intense competition among senior military and civilian officials for personal enrichment. Many top Afghan generals are overweight and could not walk even a few kilometers in the difficult mountainous Afghan terrain, and the dust of the battlefield has never fallen on their shoulders.

Meanwhile, the civilian leadership in this vital sector are oblivious to war, and their closest experience of any battlefield is perhaps Hollywood movies.

When the fate of proud and courageous warriors who are falling by the dozens in major battlefields on a daily basis is the hands of such leadership, then we should not expect any major breakthrough. The heavy losses of young Afghans because of the mistakes of a few at the top political and military leadership is intolerable for their families and unacceptable for the Afghan people.

Just in the past few days, more than 200 families have been agonized by the loss of their loved ones, and this is the most conservative estimate – in reality the number could be doubled or even tripled.

The fact is the Taliban will continue their brutal attacks against government forces until they extract maximum advantages in the peace negotiations from the United States. Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani, who is worried about his legacy, has become oblivious to the sad realities on the ground. He is worried more about his image within the international community as a US citizen than about his standing in his own country.

His fake narrative of empowering the young generation and bringing good governance no longer impresses us Afghans or our international partners, and he has shown that the killing of young Afghans is just a number to him, because while many young soldiers were falling in defense of Ghazni, he was celebrating Youth Day in the presidential palace with big fanfare.We fear that a bigger coordinated attack by the Taliban in a number of cities could lead to the collapse of the government in Kabul and to unprecedented bloodshed throughout the country.

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Perspective and beyond

Hina Khan Palwasha

“If you wish to find yourself, you must first admit you are lost.”  Brian Rathbone

Indeed, we as an individual as well as a nation are lost!

They say exploring the world lets you explore yourself but the truth is a little indepth analysis is a good thing. It plays a more vital role in letting you discover other aspects of your identity besides just having a name or profession. But, what if you travel the world and seven seas and find nothing? And, what if you dive deep into yourself and still find nothing?

The question regarding who you are is the first part of the whole dilemma whose second part is why are you here? And if the former isn’t answered correctly, it can lead to a very horrible state of ignorance which unfortunately, has victimized 90pc of the mankind who only seek the second part but never ponder over the first. The other 9pc of them get so much entangled and confused in the first part that they hardly reach the second.

The problem with this population is that each and every individual paints his own canvas, never completes it and leaves the world without any contribution. The successor repeats the history and meets the same destiny. Trust me! this world is full of unfinished canvases.

In my journey as an art enthusiast I have tried to explore the reason behind these unfinished canvases. One of my mentors made a traditional remark while saying “free your thoughts from the societal, cultural or ethnic boundaries and you will be able to paint a complete and true self”.

In fact, all of us often see and hear around some powerful statements like “be yourself” or “let your inner self guide you” or “let the real you come out.” Yes! They make us positive for a moment. We like them; we share them and we feel a sense of freedom of letting out everything that we have been holding on without considering the fact for once that what it was and why it remained hidden so far. And then what?

To find the answer, let’s get to the base. What exactly is this “thought” which governs us and which needs to be freed. Oxford university defines a thought as: “a formation of a philosophy” whereas, it defines philosophy as:

“A theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behavior.” So, guiding principle means direction and direction means, Perspective and what we are is what our perspective towards life is.

Therefore, Quran states: And hold firmly to the rope of Allah SWT altogether and do not become divided (03:103) which means that let the rope of Allah SWT (Quran) be the single and strong perspective of your thoughts. Such an immortal and perfect horizon, broader than all the aspects of humankind will definitely develop a mature philosophy granting us true freedom of thought. The question is if undoubtedly Quran is the perfectionism that we must attain then why are Muslims still lost and confused?

Well, although we call ourselves Muslims, unfortunately we haven’t catched even glimpse of our Holy Book’s message (2:101). It is clear that sorrows, worries, insecurities, hardships and loved ones play the same role in leading the mankind astray as worldly desires and lust for money. And those who go astray are often ignorant about it themselves (2:9) and consider the righteous as fools (2:13).  Why do we forget for a second that we are custodians of our faith? Our religion is merely the trust of Allah towards us and we are continuously betraying Him by helping the culprits in robbing our religion. Indeed, we are deceiving none but ourselves (2:19) and we will be questioned for this betrayal (7:6). Is betraying a human greater sin than betraying Allah SWT? Are we afraid of humans more than Allah SWT? And is the punishment of death severer curse than having a dead soul? (2:18)

Oh we have a specially designed argument for it i.e. “it’s impossible in today’s world”. So, what is this today’s world? Definitely a mirage! In the name of globalization and technology our thoughts have been enslaved without our consent making us think, speak, dress and react the way we are told, making most of our time and energies useless. Every day we hear about thousands of people getting killed, injured, molested and enslaved around the world. We feel sad for a moment, fulfill our responsibility by expressing our condolences with trendy hashtags and then return to our busy lives naming it a twist of fate. Wow! what a freedom of expression. We have become no more than animals. We are on the verge of same ignorance which prevailed the Arab peninsula hundreds of years ago. About whom Caliph Umar Farooq R.A claimed that their heads were bowed to everything from a stone to an animal. They hadn’t any personal respect. Quran gave them dignity.” Even our Holy Prophet SAW, after so much revival had prophesized this time long ago when he said: “For whoever among you lives after me will see much discord. So hold fast to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs who will come after me. Adhere to them and hold fast to them. ” [Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi].

For all the said reasons, we are still in that 9pc who after a lot of struggle are unable to conclude anything or reach any destination due to baseless and countless perspectives of their own. And before the time comes that we also leave the world without any necessary contribution, we shouldn’t waste our time and energies on the things that we aren’t supposed to. Instead we should add up ourselves in the remaining 1pc who know the truth i.e. be it the universe of inside or outside, canvas has been made, colors have been selected and the picture has been painted. We have just been handed a simple and easy task and that is to explore and praise it.

We should adopt Quran as a single and strong perspective to see and understand ourselves and the world around us. Only then even a single individual out of a nation could bring back the same unity, grace, prosperity and dignity to whole civilization which prevailed 1400 years ago in minimum time frame of 25 years.

 

 

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We are under a great attack. They are openly threatening us… So what, are we going to surrender?

Ibrahim Karagul

They are openly threatening us. U.S. President Donald Trump is making threats, his helpers are making threats, his finance circles are making threats, his defense circles are making threats, and his foreign affairs circles are making threats. The U.S. administration has launched the fourth leg of the war it started with Russia, China and Iran with Turkey.
Everybody, every group, those secret headquarters that attacked this country on July 15, 2016, that crushed our people under tanks, sprayed bullets and brought this country to the brink of civil war and invasion have once again taken action today.
They are attacking Turkey all together. This is an economic war. This is an operation to make Turkey collapse, kneel and surrender in economy. But this is not a matter limited to Pastor Andrew Brunson. It is also not something limited to release the Fetullah Terror Organization (FETÖ) members, who are men of the U.S. intelligence inside the country.
The issue is not limited to Brunson, there is a great struggle happening…
This is also a political attack. It is also the entire U.S. administration and its close allies taking action to “stop Turkey.” This is the implementation of the agenda to complete the task they left undone on July 15.
This is an attempt to openly strike Turkey, which they could not make kneel, silence, isolate in the region and prevent from growing and strengthening.
This is an attempt to punish Turkey, which has turned its focus toward the rising powers of Asia, which refuses to be oppressed by the U.S. and EU, which started a new rising period after a century, and which has started playing in the league of the big guns in the global power shift.
The US has become a threat for the whole world
This is the attempt to take revenge from Turkey, which, after the Seljuks, the Ottomans and the Republican era, carried the continuity of states to a new age, which made history all over again and changed it.
This is the Turkey leg of the U.S., which has become isolated, and the more isolated it becomes the more aggressive it gets in global power shifts, which has become a threat not only for Turkey but the whole world, dragging the world to madness.
It is an attack by those who lost the license to rule the world unilaterally after four centuries, who can no longer reach the same power again, on those building power.
Economic war on Russia, economic war on Iran, economic war on China, economic war on Turkey. They will soon declare economic war on Germany, as well as other European countries, South American countries and Asian countries too.
A new world-scale pillaging plan has been put into action
A new and major global pillaging, plundering plan has been activated. What they are doing to Turkey today is to take over the wealth achieved in the last 15 years, to pillage it.
The U.S. and the West are in a period of regress. The economic order they control is in a deadlock and can no longer move. They are attacking like crazy to plunder the world’s resources and wealth. The entire world is under threat. For now, all we see is the economic leg. Soon, we will see the political and military legs too. Such a storm is approaching, that the world, all countries must take action against this new plundering and work together in solidarity.
The US is an out of balance state capable of anything
Because the U.S. is at war with the whole world. It has lost its credibility, reliability and friendships. A kind of U.S. uneasiness has started throughout the world, from Latin America to Far East Asia. It has become an out of balance country capable of anything.
Trade using local currencies, taking action for a new exchange rate or common currency against the dollar, questioning the global order led by the U.S., standing close to those who object the West’s hegemony is the reason behind the U.S.’s current anger. All these outbursts are challenges to the U.S. hegemony, its rejection and refusal to recognize it. But this trend has become a rising value throughout the world.
Nobody wants to be mentioned together with the U.S. and be seen side-by-side with it. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says, “What the U.S. is doing is the declaration of an economic war. Then, we will respond both politically and in areas other than the economy.” What does this mean? Military responses? This is the kind of dangerous point the world is at.
Should we surrender? This is suicide. It is destruction, being excluded from history…
So, what are we going to do? Are we going to surrender? Are we going to beg just because the U.S. is pressuring through the dollar, because the dollar has hit the roof, because tariffs on Turkish goods have been increased, because the U.S. is trying to collapse our economy? Are we going to abandon a history, a future plan, a nation’s great march?
If that is the case, why did we resist against the July 15 coup attempt, why did we resist against the Gezi Park terror, why did we resist against terrorism, why did we resist against their plans to siege us from Syria?
Turning back is suicide. It is destruction, being excluded from history, shrinking, losing the 21st century and the future. We will never do that. We are going to put up an economic struggle no different to our homeland struggle. We will not surrender to these hungry wolves, these jackals, these looters who are attacking everything that is national and local.
We have no other choice but to resist!
We really have no other choice. We have no choice but to resist, to put up the great struggle and join the showdown. Those who say “we do” are lying. Those who say “we do” do not understand the great showdown in the world or are acting as inside partners for these attacks.
This nation resisted against the Crusades. This nation ruled the whole region through Anatolia. This nation probed Europe’s doors. This nation has an extraordinary political wealth. This nation has been making history for a thousand years in this region alone. This should not be undermined or taken lightly by anyone. We are a nation that has successfully overcome the toughest times and revived at a moment they said “they are gone.”
We will do it again. We have already been walking on this path for the last 15 years anyway. We are going to continue.
We are going to continue in great solidarity, without ever hesitating, without our knees shaking. You cannot achieve victory without great showdowns. You cannot become a great state without paying a price; a region cannot be built, history cannot be written before becoming a great state.
Don’t panic, there is a great struggle. This is no futile claim, we will win
We will not fear or panic. We are not going to remain silent to these open threats, blackmail or the insults aimed at our nation and country. When doing this, we are never going to forgive those trying to beat us down on the inside on behalf of the U.S. We are never going to give a chance to those who take this as an opportunity and make certain sly plans on the inside.
We will win. This is no futile claim. We are not the only country that is in an economic war with the U.S. – almost the whole world is. This is a major geopolitical showdown. It is a massive power shift. This is not Turkey’s war alone. You cannot comprehend the situation by just taking Turkey into consideration.
The U.S. is the one that will lose. Humanity, the overwhelming majority of the world will take their revenge from the U.S. Now is the time for an all-out fight. Put all your schedules aside, postpone them and set off. It is time for an economic war of independence.

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Sarah Sanders will always stand with Trump

Imran Khalid

Not for a good reason, of course, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has made headlines once again. The extraordinary heated exchange between her and CNN’s Jim Acosta on her refusal to say the media is not the enemy of the people took an ugly turn when Acosta walked out of the customary weekly White House press briefing in disgust.

“I walked out of the end of that briefing because I am totally saddened by what just happened. Sanders was repeatedly given a chance to say the press is not the enemy and she wouldn’t do it. Shameful,” Acosta tweeted after this bitter episode.

The fiery exchange started when Acosta followed up on another reporter’s previous question about Ivanka Trump’s comments that she doesn’t agree with her father that the press is the country’s enemy. Acosta requested her to say that the press is not the enemy of the people, Sanders instead started reading a prepared statement that encompassed a long list of her personal grievances with the press including how she was cruelly made fun of by stand-up comedian Michelle Wolf’s at this year’s White House Correspondents’ Association’s Dinner. Without going into detail of the further exchange between the two, one thing is very much clear, Sanders had already anticipated that the press would surely ask questions about Trump’s views on the press at the weekly briefing and she came well prepared, obviously with the consent of President Trump himself, to launch a counter-attack by enlisting all her “sufferings” at the hands of the media.

Though Acosta tried his best to compel her to say something to disavow President Trump’s remarks, Sanders was in no mood to show any signs of backing down. In a way, she has made it loud and clear that she stands firmly with her boss.

The fact is that the Americans do not consider Sanders as just a White House press secretary; they perceive her as the main spokesperson and advocate of President Trump – a sort of devotee who can go to any extent to defend every deed of her boss, right or wrong. Indubitably, Sanders is the most illustrious White House press secretary of recent times. There has been a long list of White House press secretaries since Herbert Hoover’s presidency in 1929, who mostly kept a low profile, but none, with the exception of her predecessor Sean Spicer, have been able to grab the public and media attention as much as she does now. Eventually, due to his contentious relationship with the media and growing gaffes, Spicer had to vacate his seat for his then deputy, Sanders, who, courtesy her exceedingly egotistical and pugnacious style, has further chiseled the gap between the White House and the press. Her signature stony and stern facial expressions, during her interactions with the White House media corps, have certainly earned her an image of a robotic personality who has only a one-point agenda; no matter what, President Trump is always right and the media is always biased.

Sean Spicer was certainly a different kind of press secretary who never hesitated from indulging in personalized fights with the White House media correspondents.

This was a relatively new phenomenon but Sanders has definitely eclipsed Spicer in this domain. Spicer’s spell looks pale when viewed against the long list of controversies kicked off by Sanders.

Her harsh and often very derogatory remarks have touched a new low that was never seen at the press room podium of the White House. “Your mind is in the gutter” shouted Sanders in one of her press briefings while responding to a question about the resignation of former staff secretary Rob Porter, after two of his ex-wives accused him of abuse.

There is an unending list of such instances where Sanders resorted to such dismissive gestures and ready insults. She is perhaps the most known female face of the Trump administration – even more than Ivanka Trump and Melania Trump – and she does her best to truly reflect President Trump’s disdain for journalists and the media.

Interestingly, unlike most of the White House spokespersons of the past who were often journalists themselves or associated with the press, both Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders have no journalistic credentials and both have treated the media in similar contemptuous fashion. There are a lot of similarities between the styles of Sarah Sanders and Sean Spicer – giving false statements and facts, unnecessarily defending Donald Trump and bullying the White House press corps. But there is no match for her typical curled-lip sneers that she throws while tackling the pricking questions from the press gallery. The American media has not been merciful toward her either and she has been subjected to all kinds of abhorrent and despicable personal attacks in the media.

The relationship between any White House press secretary and any press corps assigned to cover the White House has always been tense and fractious but the intensity of the existing tension between Sanders and her audience in the briefing room has been unprecedented. A vast majority of Americans, who are mostly distrustful and critical of the press in general, are overwhelmingly siding with the journalists.

The problem with Sanders is that the prime point of her job description is to “unequivocally” defend Trump’s policies at any cost and she has only one way to do so – in an arrogant and belligerent way. Being the chief spokesperson for Donald Trump, she tries to personify the dictatorial style of her boss and, in the process, she goes overboard on most occasions, resulting in more controversies and more hullabaloos.

Recently, though she has categorically denied this through her tweets, rumors that have started making rounds in Washington that she is planning to leave the job. The detractors of Sanders will keep growing unless she tones down her cantankerous style. But, for the time being, she appears to be the least bothered about the hate element that has seeped into the anti-Trump media camp.

 

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EU dying silently as it plays in Trump’s court

Mohammad Ghaderi

The paradoxical approaches taken by the European authorities is definitely one of its kind! Over the past months, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has repeatedly emphasized that the EU can no longer rely on the United States to secure its interests. However, the German Chancellor held secret and hidden negotiations with the US government and Trump to resolve Europe’s economic and security problems and crises.

In other words, there is a significant difference between the speeches and actions of the European authorities regarding the EU’s independence from Washington. Here are some points that need to be taken into consideration: 1. US President Donald Trump is one of the main opponents of the existing structure in Europe! He has come to this conclusion that the collapse of the United Europe will provide the United States with great economic growth among its allies.

The White House therefore monitors the simultaneous destruction of the Eurozone and the European Union as essential goals. This is the main reason for Trump’s support for nationalist and anti-EU movements in Europe. Recently, Donald Trump has officially urged French President Emmanuel Macron to pull his country out of the EU to benefit from more US-France ties!

Also, the US president has asked Theresa May, the British prime minister, to sue the European Union for making barriers in Brexit talks. Trump has gone even further, and warned Theresa May that she should choose between integrating in the European Economic structure and having economic relations with the United States!

Together, these statements and stances show that Trump is working hard to achieve his main goal in Europe, which is the collapse of the European Union.

  1. Although some may think that confronting the United Europe is the secret target of the US President, Trump’s behavior suggest that he has no reluctance to declare his opposition to the EU and the Eurozone. Trump believes that the collapse of the European Union will lead to an increase in his power and would intensify his dominance on the European players.

Hence, the President of the United States is trying to manage the EU’s collapse from an economic and commercial perspective. It should not be forgotten that during the 2016 presidential campaigns, nationalist and anti-EU movements were Trump’s only supporters in Europe, and other politicians affiliated with the Social Democratic or Conservative movements in Europe (which currently hold the power) wished that the Democrats and Hillary Clinton could win the election.

Europe is now facing a phenomenon called “Trump”. In spite of this, the way European authorities try to deal with the White House is still based on a kind of deterrent idealism. Unlike countries such as China and Canada, which have given a strong response to imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, European authorities have not yet taken a determined decision against the United States and the Trump government. On the other hand, European leaders continue to resolve the differences between themselves and the Trump government on the through negotiation. It is as if the European leaders have not yet realized the deep opposition of Trump with the EU and the Eurozone.

They are still trying to reduce the US president’s “conflicts” with the EU to some sort of “superficial disagreement”, which is exactly what the president of the United States and his entourage want! Undoubtedly, the current retreat of the EU authorities before Trump and their failure to enter the phase of “confrontation with the White House” should be interpreted as “EU’s quiet suicide”.

The continuation of this process will lead to further pressures on the European Union, and subsequently, the position of nationalist and anti-EU groups within Europe will be strengthened. Besides, we should take this fact into account that with the advent of more than one hundred far-right representatives to the European Parliament during the 2014 parliamentary elections, the process of “collapse of the United Europe” has actually begun.

Right now in countries such as Austria, Italy, Sweden, and even France and Germany, nationalist groups have been able to politically strengthen their position, and even find way to the top of political equations of some of these countries. The most important factor that can save Europe from current crises is to strengthen the Europe’s independence in the international system.

The symbol and objective example of the strengthening of such an independence is “standing against the United States”. But that’s exactly what the European authorities have forgotten! It seems as if European officials hesitate to consider the significant presumption of “Trump’s opposition to the United Europe” in their behavioral and verbal calculations. They are still thinking and deciding in the phase of “interacting with the White House”, and they are even willing to give their NATO Ally some advantages. But if the EU doesn’t enter the phase of “confronting the US” and merely try to control Trump’s decisions and policies, its destiny will be nothing but collapse and destruction. This confrontation calls for putting an end to the Europeans’ play on the US ground; a precondition that has not yet been fulfilled by EU member states. Eventually, the Green Continent is at one of the most critical periods of its political, economic and security life. Indeed, how can we imagine that Europe, by continuing its current submission to the United States, can get out of the existing crises?!

 

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Stop funding new fossil fuel projects

Zarish Fatima

Sufficient amount of Electricity is essential for a country’s industrial growth, transport, development, agricultural improvements, research, healthcare and general well-being of its inhabitants. China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) surely has a promising future for all the electricity outages in Pakistan. But the downside is that multiple projects of the CPEC are fossil fuel driven, posing a major threat to the environment. Rahim Yar Khan Power Plant is one such coal driven plant based on imported coal, which gets transported from Karachi port.
Although burning of fossil fuels have saved unlimited time, labour cost and raised the standards of living. But it all comes at a huge cost of global warming, environmental pollution and causing detrimental health effects and disasters, affecting those who are least responsible for the pollution; the poor people. Rahim Yar Khan project should be stopped since its using coal which is damaging our environment and the coal is imported thus straining our economy too.
Pakistan is facing energy crises and its estimated that it must double its energy production in 5 to 7 years to meet the needs.
To cater the needs of a developing nation, China came up with several power generation projects which are a part of CPEC. Out of 21 urgent Power production plans: 9 are coal-fired power plants, 7 are wind Power plants, 3 are hydropower plants and the remaining 2 are High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Transmission Line projects. Rahim Yar Khan Project is basically not the required project in Punjab region, the geographical location is absurd.
The imported coal needs to be transported all the way from Karachi sea port to Rahim Yar Khan via railways, thus straining the railway and causing pollution on its way.
It should have been built near sources of coal like Thar or near the sea port and the generated electricity would have been supplied to other parts of Pakistan. This was an economical and environmental friendly option. On the other hand, importing coal is another burden on the economy of a striving nation which already has ample sources of coal available within the country. It is useless to blame any government here, it just needs prompt action of the current head of state so that the project can be stopped. Only 15% of the work is completed and the project is still in the feasibility stages, thus it can be ceased easily before it is initiated.
The current need of Pakistan is roughly about 11000 MW of power out of which almost 8000 MW (approximately 70%) of the produced energy will be derived from coal-a major source of Carbon release, also mercury, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, mercury, selenium and arsenic.
This leads to climate changes leading to floods in northern parts of Pakistan. Due to the recurring floods Pakistani people face economic losses and healthcare issues every year.
According to the data provided by Reuters, “almost half of Pakistan’s 5,000 glaciers, covering around 15,000 square kilometres, are in rapid retreat and the rate of melting glaciers has increased by 23 percent which is among the fastest in the world”.
When interviewed one of the residents of Gilgit, Saifulmalook told us that, “life was miserable as many houses submerged in water and new lakes formed due to floods and there was an outbreak of many diseases”. Imagine the results of these coal fired projects in Punjab province which is usually smog enveloped during winters.
It was very painful to witness children going to school wearing face masks last year. Moreover, there was a widespread occurrence of respiratory diseases in Punjab.
Our neighbours like China is already suffering a lot from the impacts of coal fired energy. Investing so much capital on such projects will be very damaging to the nation.
Urban cities of Pakistan are already water and air polluted. With initiation of so many coal powered projects and non-adherence to environmental precautions, the situations will worsen affecting our planet and next generations.
To reduce the energy imports and pollution, a major initiative for renewable energy may be launched which may benefit the people and help to eradicate pollution or cease it. There are many sources of renewable energy which needs to be explored by us.
They are a cheap alterative and a sustainable approach like geothermal power, hydropower, solar power and wind power. Pakistan is an agricultural country and utilization of agricultural waste should be made to produce energy like biogas.
I request the government officials to please consider all the facts mentioned above and cease the Rahim Yar Khan Project and several such Fossil Fuel Driven Projects for the sake of Our environment and people.

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Will Pakistan, Iran open new chapter in their ties?

Syed Zafar Mehdi

As Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan gets ready to take oath as the new prime minister of Pakistan, pundits are keen to see what his foreign policy will be. A populist leader, his election campaign focused majorly on domestic issues and the fight against institutional corruption.

But, in his televised victory speech, the cricketer-turned-politician outlined his vision for ‘Naya Pakistan’ (new Pakistan) and spoke in detail about his desire to improve Pakistan’s relations with neighboring countries, including Iran.

Pakistan, which has traditionally been an ally of Riyadh, is expected to open a new chapter in its relations with Iran under the new government in Islamabad. Khan, whose party had backed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, has been outspoken in his support for Tehran. More importantly, he has been scathing in his criticism of the US government’s regional policy and travel ban on the citizens of some Muslim-majority countries, including Iran.

It will be interesting to see how Khan, who has been a staunch votary of stronger Iran-Pakistan ties, balances the equation between Riyadh and Tehran, two formidable regional rivals. Also, how he will resist the pressure from Washington, considering Islamabad’s growing ties with Beijing.

On Saturday, Iranian envoy to Islamabad Mehdi Honardoost called on Khan to congratulate him on his thumping victory in general election and to discuss ways to bolster bilateral ties. The envoy reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to expand cooperation with Pakistan in areas of mutual interest, including trade. The two countries have signed many accords in recent years.

During the meeting, Honardoost spoke about Tehran’s desire to negotiate with Islamabad on the ambitious Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which he said can transform relations between the two neighbors. Pertinently, Pakistan is deficient in natural gas while Iran is home to second largest gas reserves in the world, which makes their economic well-being interlinked.

Experts are hoping that the implementation of China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC) project, which has replaced China as Islamabad’s top ally, will eventually pave the ground for the successful completion of Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project.

The envoy also expressed Tehran’s readiness to cooperate with Islamabad and other regional powers to ensure peace and stability in the region, at a time when the terror groups in Afghanistan-Pakistan region have upped the ante, launching indiscriminate attacks. Last month, Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran had agreed to launch integrated efforts to eliminate the threat of ISIS from Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

Khan told the envoy that Pakistan was ready to improve ties with its historical ally and even expressed his wish to visit Iran, the statement issued by his office said. He said Tehran’s role in protecting its integrity was commendable, in reference to Tehran’s resistance against the neo-imperialistic forces.

The statement is significant as the US government recently issued a diktat to all its allies to stop buying oil from Iran. While many observers believe that Imran Khan government in Islamabad will not bow before the US pressure, it remains to be seen how he deals with the issue of US sanctions.

The role of Pakistani army is also important in this context, as military’s word is often the final word in Pakistan’s foreign policy matters.

During the meeting, Khan said Islamabad was ready to play a constructive and positive role between Iran and Saudi Arabia, hinting that his government would try to balance ties between the two regional powerhouses. It is extremely significant since the previous governments in Islamabad, especially the PML-N government led by Nawaz Sharif, were seen heavily tilted towards Riyadh.

In Pakistan, as they say, the writ of military runs large. Late last year, Pakistan’s army chief Qamar Bajwa visited Iran, which was the first visit to Iran by a Pakistani army chief in more than two decades. Gen. Bajwa’s visit, which came at a propitious time, marked a new shift in Pakistani military’s relationship with Iran. Last month Iranian army chief Gen. Mohammad Baqeri visited Islamabad, which was the first visit by an Iranian army chief to Pakistan in 40 years.

As it appears, the script looks perfect for Iran-Pakistan ties but will the main protagonists perform their roles the way they should? That is the big question.

 

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Afghanistan between hope and despair

Iqbal Khan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has invited prospective Prime Minster Imran Khan to visit Kabul. He twittered that they had agreed to “overcome the past and to lay a new foundation for a prosperous political, social and economic future of both the countries”. Afghan President took a good initiative to create another opportunity to re-rail raucous Pak-Afghan relations. Imran Khan reciprocated by indicating his vision of open borders between the two countries. “We want to work in every possible way to ensure peace in Afghanistan. I would love an open border system like the European Union with Afghanistan,” Khan said. Promising to visit Afghanistan soon after forming government, he said that his party’s government will revitalise the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Earlier in his Victory speech on July 26, Imran Khan had announced to work for peace in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is that neighbour of ours that has seen the most human misery and damage in the name of wars. The people of Afghanistan need peace, and Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan,” he said. In the past also, there have been numerous efforts to streamline this relationship but it could never gather critical mass to sustain requisite traction. Hopefully, the two governments would once again put their heads together to find out ways and means to mitigate the effects of fault lines which stand in the way of normalization of relations. They also need to be watchful of spoilers.

In another development, Afghan and the US governments have stepped up efforts to end the war. Reuters reported on July 30 about a recent meeting between the US diplomat and Taliban representatives in a Doha to discuss a possible ceasefire; talks ended with “very positive signals” and a decision to hold more meetings. American side was led by Alice Wells, deputy assistant secretary in the State Department. A Taliban participant said, “You can’t call it peace talks…These are a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks”. Talks took place with the approval of Taliban leadership council. Talks were without the presence of Afghan government officials at the insistence of the Taliban. Both sides also discussed Taliban participation in the Afghan government.

The only demand the US side made was to allow their military bases in Afghanistan. As hopes of possible formal negotiations have risen, the US has agreed to participate directly in the talks, although it insists the process will remain under Afghan leadership. The meeting in Doha followed two earlier meetings between US officials and Taliban representatives in recent months. “We have held three meetings with the US and we reached a conclusion to continue talks for meaningful negotiations,” said a Taliban official. Concurrently, Afghan government is in contact with Taliban for another cease fire during coming Eid. During the talks, the US has also pressed the Taliban side to accept the ceasefire offer for Eid-ul Adha.

Taliban source divulged that they would first exchange prisoners and then discuss other issues that could restore peace to Afghanistan. “However, our delegation made it clear to them that peace can only be restored to Afghanistan when all foreign forces are withdrawn,” he said. Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper have reported on July 29 for New York Times, captioned “New US Tactic In Afghanistan Urges Retreat”, that:

“The Trump administration is urging American-backed Afghan troops to retreat from sparsely populated areas of the country”, officials said. It means that Taliban will remain in control of vast stretches of the country. This approach was outlined in a previously undisclosed part of the war strategy that President Trump announced last year. It is meant to protect military forces from attacks at isolated and vulnerable outposts, and focuses on protecting urban population centres.

This concept is not new; it was embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations. The strategy for retreat borrows heavily from Obama’s military blueprint in Afghanistan after he began withdrawing troops from front lines in 2014. After the declared end of combat operations in 2014, most American troops withdrew to major population areas in the country, leaving Afghan forces to defend remote outposts. Many of those bases fell in the following months. This strategy would mean that “the Taliban and other insurgent groups will hold on to territory that they have already seized”.

The retreat strategy is an acknowledgment that Afghan government is unable to lead and protect the country’s rural population. Afghan National Defence Forces and their international partners have slowly, but continuously “retrenched and ceded chunks of territory to the Taliban, cleaving Afghanistan into disparate parts and ensuring a conflict with no end in sight”. During a news conference in June in Brussels, General Nicholson had admitted that remote outposts were being overrun by the Taliban, which was seizing local forces’ vehicles and equipment.

“There is a tension there between what is the best tactic militarily and what are the needs of the society,” General Nicholson said.

Earlier Trump strategy had boasted that Taliban and Islamic State insurgents in Afghanistan “need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.” Most Afghans live and farm across vast rural areas; just over one-quarter of population lives in urban areas. “This might be the weakest point of the government that does not provide security and access to their people.” said Mohammad Karim Attal, a member of the Helmand Provincial Council. Patchy US strategies are not likely to yield anything concrete. There is a need for bold course correction by the American side, provided its objective is to achieve at least a semblance of peace in Afghanistan.

Writer is a freelance columnist; e-mail: Iqbal.khan9999@yahoo.com

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Despair of Trump against Iran’s power

Hanif Ghafari

US President Donald Trump and his Foreign Minister Mike Pumpo have recently called for talks with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Even Trump took a step further and spoke with Iran on “negotiated without preconditions”. Recent Trump positions and U.S. officials about Iran have been addressed by many international analysts. Many analysts believe that Trump does not have the power to confront “powerful Iran.”

Analysts rightly believe that Trump, though, can manage “White House behavior” over other international issues, he will not be able to handle the behavior of actors such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Regardless of what the approach and purpose behind the recent paradoxical behavior of American officials lies behind, there is a key word that can not be overlooked in analyzing the recent 40-year history of Iran and the United States: “A Powerful Iran.”

“Powerful Iran” is not an abstract concept, but the output and product of a full realistic calculation by most American strategists. Many analysts believe that the behavioral paradox of Trump and other U.S. officials towards Iran is due to their confusion in dealing with the “powerful Iran.”

In other words, Trump insists on opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran, and on the other hand, he is deeply concerned about the consequences and consequences of this confrontation.

In order to better understand the concept of “powerful Iran,” it is better to escape Brzezinski’s statements during his lifetime. Brzezinski warned the White House at the beginning of the third millennium, while former U.S. President George W. Bush was raging for Iran that United States will have to learn the rules of the game alongside our country while identifying Iran’s power.

We are currently in 2018. Trump now seems to be confused with Iran’s power any time. Undoubtedly, if Tramp continues to play its dangerous game against Iran, it will face the costs and consequences of this. It is not unreasonable that many American strategists and theorists warn Trump about the consequences and consequences of the conflict with Iran. This is happening again now. Undoubtedly, people like John Bolton and Mike Pumpo will become symbols of the failure and failure of the Trump government against Iran in the near future.

Undoubtedly, as much as the United States will delay in identifying the concept of a “mighty Iran”, the severity of Washington’s defeat against Iran will be greater. A topic that even the closest people to Trump can not deny.

 

 

 

 

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Historical Women’s Home in Italy at risk of closure

Ylenia Gostolii

At the end of a long corridor in a labyrinthine 17th century building in the heart of Rome, archivist Giovanna Olivieri is sorting through letters and documents, most of them handwritten and belonging to a certain Laura. Lombardo “Laura” Radice was a teacher and well-known anti-fascist activist during World War II, who later continued her political life with the women’s movement of the 60s and 70s.
The papers, donated by her family to the International Women’s Home, are among the hundreds of documents, photographs, magazines, posters and writings that make up the huge archive of feminist history collected there. Olivieri has been making sense of these documents, cataloguing and preserving them from these rooms, since 1985. But the International Women’s Home, which alongside the archive, is home to a consortium of around 30 women’s organisations – covering everything from psychological support for victims of domestic violence to career advice – is now at risk of closure.
“Every archive has its own history,” said Olivieri, the 70-year-old archivist in the library, which has become a national point of reference for anyone studying the Italian women’s movement. The archive features, among others, documents left by biologist Simonetta Tusi, who founded a collective in Rome in the early 70s to raise awareness of contraception, and organised abortion trips to London at a time when it was still prohibited in Italy.
The photographic archive of the magazine Noi Donne (We Women) is also stored there, and it documents the events and significant figures of those years. Copies of the black and white photographs also adorn the House’s corridors, capturing demonstrations, meetings, and theatre shows from those years. Those photographs were of great help when it came to organising the archive. With a “detective eye,” as she puts it, Olivieri would study the clothing, the shoes and the placards women held.
When she came to power two years ago, Rome’s mayor and the Five Star Movement’s Virginia Raggi inherited a debt for the city that was estimated at $15.7 billion (13.6 billion euro). Its scale was so enormous that the Wall Street Journal compared Rome to the US’s former motor city, Detroit, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Raggi campaigned on promises to stem the debt, as well as stomp out the mismanagement, wasteful policies, and corruption that led to it. Among her promises was to make the best of the city’s real estate assets. Italy as a whole is struggling with a debt that is 132 percent of its GDP.
Today, the House remains a hub of daily activity – aside from the organisations running services from here, there are film screenings, shows, and other cultural events. Well-known artists mobilised in support of the House after the municipality declared it bankrupt. Over twenty years, it has accrued a $ 926,918 (800,000 euro) debt of rent. It is one of the hundreds of organisations in the Italian capital that have received payment injunctions from the municipality as it attempts to optimise the use and financial return of the city’s public property.
A six-month tug-of-war between the consortium of associations that independently run the house and the municipality ended with the latter announcing last week that none of the proposals put on the table by the House were to be accepted. These included a resizing of the debt that would take into consideration the value of the services offered to the public – free of charge – estimated at $347,594 (300,000 euro) a year., as well as maintenance work carried out over the years. Many consider ironic that the move comes from an administration led by Raggi, who is the first female mayor in Rome’s history.
For her part, Raggi says she has no intention to close the House. The aim, she wrote on her Facebook page, is to “set up a working group to include a variety of voices, of different background and age, including the representatives of the Women’s House, which together with the administration, would plan a new project.” A call for tenders would then be published for organisations who wish to participate. In a press release last week, the municipality dismissed the House’s proposals but reiterated that “the administration is committed to safeguarding and revamping the project.”
Culture of legality- vs culture of rights-critics, including many artists and opposition figures ,say the municipality’s “business lens” ignores decades of work and the historical and cultural importance of the place. “You can’t put out a call for tenders for something that has authors,” said Oria Gargano, whose co-operative, Be Free, works to help victims of violence and trafficking and is part of the consortium. “You can’t call for tenders on something that we created.”
In the 17th century, the building had been a correctional facility for women who had committed “moral crimes” such as sex outside of marriage. One of its wings has preserved the original detention quarters, featuring cells lined over two floors of long corridors with high ceilings and light filtering through high, narrow windows, precluding any view of the outside world. Gargano was there when the women’s movement took over this highly symbolic space in 1985, following a deal with municipal authorities at the time, moving from another building they had occupied a decade earlier.
“There was nothing here when we came in, the place was falling apart,” Gargano recounts. “We always liked the fact that from a place of suffering, of punishment and denial of human rights, it became a place to propel human rights and women’s culture. What we’re trying to make this administration understand is that you can’t value everything in terms of money. You have to recognise the cultural, political, and social value of this place.” For thirty years, the House has been allowed to remain here and operate independently as costs were shared among members. However in the early 2000s, it was agreed that the house would pay $8,111 (7,000 euro) a month in rent to the municipality, which soon became unsustainable.
Realising they wouldn’t be able to comply with the deal, the consortium soon entered negotiations with the municipality about a reduction of the debt incurred. An agreement was eventually found but never officially approved, leaving the next administration free to scrap it. “It seems that the attitude of this administration is of closure and inflexibility towards all grassroots initiatives and social projects, which are penalised in the name of a superficial sense of legality,” said Francesca Koch, president of the council of the Women’s Home.
“They announce competitions for everything. For now, they are evicting and leaving spaces empty until they announce a call for tenders. The result is that the city is dying,” Koch added. Recently, a safe home and women’s anti-violence centre in the suburbs of Rome has also been served with an ultimatum to leave the premises, based on the fact they had been assigned to the organisation running it on a temporary basis. “The movements of 68 and 77 changed the power relations between men and women, they changed the culture profoundly,” Gargano said. “Not everything is positive, otherwise we wouldn’t have all this violence, all these femicides. But the way we talk about womanhood and manhood today has nothing to do with how it was in the 1950s and 60s. These are founding values of our society, which should be recognised. But making the municipality understand that has been difficult.”