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The fact that the US is still entangled in Afghanistan has all but left the news media in the United States.  I certainly hope that powers involved here can keep their agenda focus and actually produce some results.  The status quo quagmire needs to end.

From the Asia Times

“The Afghan state minister for peace affairs, Abdul Salam Rahimi, announced on Saturday that the Afghan government was preparing for direct talks with the Taliban. “The government will be represented by a 15-member delegation. We are working will all sides and hope that in the next two weeks the first meeting will take place in a European country,” Rahimi said.

Oslo has been mentioned as the venue for the crucial meeting. The Taliban have not yet budged from their longstanding demand that a deal must be forged with the US first. Possibly, a deal will be announced after the ninth round of US-Taliban talks in Doha in the coming week.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani inspects a guard of honor during the first day of the Loya Jirga in Kabul on April 29. Photo: Rahmat Gul / AFP

Indeed, we are witnessing an utterly fascinating spectacle of diplomatic pirouette being played out between and among five main protagonists – Trump, who is demanding an expeditious US withdrawal from Afghanistan, assuming Imran Khan will deliver on his promises; Khan, in turn, going through the motions of persuading the Taliban to be reasonable while expecting generous US reciprocal moves to accommodate Pakistani interests; Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, seeing the writing on the wall that US withdrawal is unstoppable, while still hoping to secure a second term in office; Khalilzad pushing the reluctant Afghan government to fall in line with a Taliban deal, while also negotiating with the Taliban for an orderly US withdrawal, albeit with a weak hand; and the Taliban on a roll, sensing victory.

There are caveats galore. But the compass has been set.

Well the grinding millstone of female misery that is Patriarchy claimed another victim as the CBC reports:

“Qandeel Baloch, a social media star whose exploits divided opinion in conservative Pakistan, was strangled, allegedly by her brother, in what appears to be a so-called “honour killing,” police and her family said on Saturday.

Baloch’s racy social media photos challenged social norms in Pakistan, a deeply traditional Muslim country where women are often repressed by their family or the community. Her killing shocked the South Asian country.

Baloch received multiple death threats and suffered frequent misogynist abuse, but continued posting provocative pictures and videos.”

QuandeelBaloch

Woo – racy stuff her going here. Not by Western standards, but enough to get her murdered by her brother in Pakistan.

Yeah.  This happened.

“Baloch’s body was discovered on Saturday and her father Muhammad Azeem told the police that his son Waseem had strangled her, Ghazanfar said.

“Apparently, it is an honour killing, but further investigations will reveal the real motives behind this murder,” Ghazanfar said.

“Honour killings” are normally murders committed because of patriarchal concepts of honour and shame. They’re considered gender-based crimes, since girls and women are usually the victims.”

Let’s break down this Honour Killing malarky.

  1.  Conservative Dude gets angry because she isn’t following the rules that make her a virtual slave.
  2. Dude cajoles and threatens woman, to no effect.

C.  To preserve the families honour (read male strictures to keep females subservient) Dude kills her.

That, ladies and gentlemen is some pretty fucked up shit.  This is the same patriarchal overlay that women face the world over.  In places like Pakistan though, ‘uppity’ women are murdered by men for daring to demand full human being status.

“Oh but Arbourist,” my liberal dude commenters say, “That is a cultural practice and it certainly can’t happen here!”

Liberal friends – the Feminists organized and demanded that domestic violence be recognized and dealt with legally – beating your wife till the late 60’s and was pretty much swept under the rug.  It is 2016 and Women continue to struggle against male violence in marriage to this day with societal norms that silence them, police that do not listen, and a legal/court system that is rigged against them.

When one of the pillars of your society is the Patriarchy – these sorts of horrible behaviours (honour killing, domestic violence, rape et cetera) are the implicit norm.

So take heed and listen to women when they say that society is still in need of serious reform, because men (and dudes) just because it works for you, doesn’t mean it works for women.

[Source:cbc.ca]

 

 

Getting stuck on the US election race?  Tired of hearing about how the authoritarian left is, yet again, stifling free speech?  How about some Nuclear Armageddon to cleanse the palate?  Dilip Hiro takes us to South East Asia and the conflict between India and Pakistan.

“Undoubtedly, for nearly two decades, the most dangerous place on Earth has been the Indian-Pakistani border in Kashmir. It’s possible that a small spark from artillery and rocket exchanges across that border might — given the known military doctrines of the two nuclear-armed neighbors — lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration.  In that case the result would be catastrophic. Besides causing the deaths of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, such a war might bring on “nuclear winter” on a planetary scale, leading to levels of suffering and death that would be beyond our comprehension.

Alarmingly, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan has now entered a spine-chilling phase. That danger stems from Islamabad’s decision to deploy low-yield tactical nuclear arms at its forward operating military bases along its entire frontier with India to deter possible aggression by tank-led invading forces. Most ominously, the decision to fire such a nuclear-armed missile with a range of 35 to 60 miles is to rest with local commanders. This is a perilous departure from the universal practice of investing such authority in the highest official of the nation. Such a situation has no parallel in the Washington-Moscow nuclear arms race of the Cold War era.
When it comes to Pakistan’s strategic nuclear weapons, their parts are stored in different locations to be assembled only upon an order from the country’s leader. By contrast, tactical nukes are pre-assembled at a nuclear facility and shipped to a forward base for instant use. In addition to the perils inherent in this policy, such weapons would be vulnerable to misuse by a rogue base commander or theft by one of the many militant groups in the country.”

Catch the rest of this sunny story at Tom’s Dispatch, I highly recommend you subscribe to their newsletter.

 

 

Watch what happens when you mix broken foreign policy with religion…

“One of Pakistan’s most influential clerics has renounced his support for polio immunisation, claiming that the programme is a cover for American spies.”

Pakistan needs less of this particular brand of religious stupidity.   The stupid is compounded by the bullshite American cloak and dagger games being played in Pakistan.

“But now he says he cannot back the policy after it emerged that the CIA had used a fake hepatitis drive to hunt for Osama bin Laden last year.

Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who organised the vaccination campaign, has been sentenced to 33 years in prison and his actions caused a wave of paranoia about foreign aid workers.”

Thank you America your botched war is screwing up yet another county in your drive to be the imperial power of this century as well.  Newsflash – China isn’t going to let you; get over yourself and stop killing brown people for not agreeing to be vassals.

“Pakistan is one of three countries where the disease remains endemic. Only 22 cases have been reported this year – compared with 59 in the same period in 2011 – and hopes were high that it could soon be declared polio free.

However, hard-line clerics have long opposed what they suspect is a Western conspiracy against Muslims. As a result health workers carefully cultivated moderate leaders, who issued fatwas – or religious rulings – declaring vaccination to be in line with Islamic teaching.”

There is just so much wrong going on here.  Vaccinations to eradicate polio are a fundamentally good idea.  This fundamentally good idea is trumped though when Western spy agencies use them to further their foreign policy goals.  Then you get backlash like this:

But Haq said that it made no sense for foreign agencies to keep children free from disease while bombing Pakistan.

“If you people are that much curious about the health of people living over there, it means that you are keeping these people alive just to kill them by drones,” he said.

The sad fatalism of marginalized people.  Wrong, but understandable given the circumstances.  Never forget that we are categorically *not* the good guys for much of the world.  If we’d taken the time and effort simply not to perpetuate misery and destruction on poor coloured folk we might actually have some respect in the world.

Al Jazeera: “Hundreds of prisoners are believed to have escaped from a jail in northwest Pakistan after it was attacked by anti-government fighters armed with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Some of those who escaped from the facility in the town of Bannu, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, early on Sunday morning were “militants”, an intelligence official told the Reuters news agency.

“Dozens of militants attacked Bannu’s Central Jail in the early hours of the morning, and more 300 prisoners have escaped,” Mir Sahib Jan, the official, said.

    Not our problem?  Or is it?  The hawks on security and protecting America abroad should be concerned about this recent development.  The Taliban, or groups loosely affiliated with them are busting their buddies out of jail using rocket propelled grenades as their calling card. 

“There was intense gunfire, and rocket-propelled grenades were also used.”

Many of those who escaped following the raid were convicted Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters, Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reported from Lahore.

A prison official in Bannu confirmed that “384 prisoners have escaped”.

A police official identified one of the inmates who escaped as a “dangerous prisoner”, who took part in one of the attempts to kill the former president, Pervez Musharraf.

The TTP, an umbrella organisation for anti-government groups that are loosely allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, took responsibility for the attack.

I predict that incidents such of these will become more common as the US army withdraws from the area.  This prison break shows the capacities of the forces facing the American’s and their allies in the region.  This is the sort of scenario where projecting power via drone raids/artillery strikes is ineffective.  Preventing prison raids and other such low-level activities would require human intelligence assets that are simply too costly/inefficient to deploy in the region.

The planning of the raid was extremely KISS, blow up door, suppress prison guards, let bad guys out.  More importantly though, it shows that this fringe group knows the lay of the land, knows its enemy well enough and of course knows how to use the element of surprise to its fullest.  Tactically speaking, they could have been watching the the prison for weeks biding their time waiting for the best opportunity.  It is extremely difficult to counter an enemy that exists safely within the population and has better intelligence then what you possess.

“Another Taliban spokesman told Reuters: “We have freed hundreds of our comrades in Bannu in this attack. Several of our people have reached their destinations, others are on their way.”.

 

Our correspondent said the attack took place in the early morning and had resulted in an exchange of fire that had left several people wounded.

“After the attack the paramilitary and regular military forces came to that location and tried to surround the area,” he said.

“They have arrested up to a dozen men, but most of the people have indeed escaped.”

The injured were rushed to a local hospital in Bannu.

Sources told Al Jazeera that as many as 150 fighters were involved in the attack.

After blowing up the gates of the main prison at around 1:30am local time (20:30 GMT on Saturday), they entered the compound and freed the inmates, the sources said.

The attackers had arranged for the transportation of the inmates from the facility.

Well planned, well organized, well executed; an example Guerrilla warfare that the West simply does not have the capacity to deal with.

One needs to just to watch the frenzy in the North American media whenever Israel is negatively portrayed.  Our institutional blindspots are sacrosanct and should be above reproach.  When other countries do this we are understandably peeved, but do we appreciate the irony of the situation?  China certainly does.

“When a US delegate once confronted a Chinese diplomat about Beijing’s uncompromising support for Pakistan, the Chinese reportedly responded with a heavily-loaded sarcastic remark: “Pakistan is our Israel”.

But judging by China’s unrelenting support for some of its allies, including North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe and Sudan, its protective arm around these countries is no different from the US and Western political embrace of Israel – right or wrong.”

Ouch.  It really sucks when other people start playing by our rules.

The New York Times newspaper said on Tuesday that the US administration is facing a “confrontational relationship” with an assertive China and is trying to respond to “a surge of Chinese triumphalism” by strengthening Washington’s relationship with Japan and South Korea.

US President Barack Obama is planning to visit four Asian countries next month – Japan, Indonesia, India and South Korea – while bypassing China.”

China is flexing its international muscle and attempting to use international institutions to do so.

China sees value in promoting its image as the Security Council member defending the rights of the developing world, and China sees value in relying on the UN to counter US power,” said Linda Jakobson, director of the programme on China and Global Security at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Jakobson, an in-house China expert at SIPRI, points out that Beijing also sees value in participating in UN peacekeeping operations “both because this enhances the image of China as a responsible power but also because it gives Chinese military experience”.

I wonder when the sudden rush back to the ‘rule of law’ will happen?  I imagine when the same unlawful implements/policies the West has been using for decades start getting pointed in the opposite direction.

The crisis in Pakistan is getting worse according to the CBC as new flood waters are displacing even more people.

New flooding in Pakistan sent 150,000 people to higher ground Saturday as aid agencies struggled to help the millions of people already affected by the disaster.  The evacuation of homes was carried out in southern Sindh province as the latest surge approached. Already, 600,000 people are in relief camps set up in Sindh province because of flooding over the past month.”

The unspoken question is why is the relief effort have such a low international profile?  Admittedly, this state is starting to change, but if we look at the Haiti Earthquake and the magnitude and intensity of the aid response what is different?  Conditions in Pakistan are certainly as dire or even more so considering the larger scale of the devastation.

“Howard Arfin, spokesman for the Canadian Red Cross, is in one of the worst affected areas.

“We’re seeing first-hand the massive destruction from a river that is five times its normal size. Homes are washed out all around us. We’re still seeing people up to their chests in water,” he told CBC News. […]

According to Arfin, six million people are already homeless, and there are upwards of 20 million people whose lives have been impacted.”

Six million homeless?  That like 1/5 of the population of Canada.  The scale of destruction is really hard to imagine.

“About one-fifth of the country — a chunk of land about the size of Italy — has been affected.  The floodwaters now covering roughly 6.8 million hectares are blamed for killing about 1,600 people.”

There is some good news though:

“On Friday, the United Nations said it has raised about 70 per cent of the $460 million US it called for in its emergency appeal.”

So, the aid money is slowly being gathered, at least that is something.  Distance is a part of the equation of why there has been a lethargic response to the floods in Pakistan the other variables are still clouded.   Some of the more pessimistic ideas could be the negative associations Pakistan has with the Taliban and the War on Terror, I would like to think though that we could separate the need for aid out from our misguided imperial policies and prejudices.

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