Sunday, 22 April 2018

‘How much did you sell 4,000 Pakistanis for?’

‘How much did you sell 4,000 Pakistanis for?’
* Manzoor Pashteen seeks truth and reconciliation commission on the country's war against terrorism and its fall out in tribal regions
APRIL 23, 2018
LAHORE: “Tell us how much money did you get in return for the Pakistani citizens you sold to Americans. We will raise funds on our own and pay you so that our loved ones can be brought back. We don’t even demand that you release them. Present them before courts and punish them under the law if they are found involved in any crime,” 25-year-old Manzoor Pashteen, the founding leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, said on Sunday.
He was addressing a public gathering at Lahore’s Mochi Bagh that was packed to capacity. The gathering went ahead as planned despite attempts like detention of PTM leaders arrested on Saturday and harassment of workers convoys on their way to Lahore from other cities.
Earlier in his speech, Pashteen said that a high official had come to him and other PTM leaders for negotiations three weeks ago and asked them to withdraw the demand for recovery of those forcibly disappeared. “When we asked him why can’t the missing people be released, he dodged the question. A judge later told the nation that most of them had been sold to Americans.”
Pashteen began his speech by stating that because of the mainstream media’s blackout of the movement, it was the Pashtun community’s desire [to hold the jalsa] to tell their stories of injustices to the residents of Lahore.
“Our movement started with Rao Anwar’s arrest in the wake of Naqeebullah Mehsud’s killing. Anwar and his accomplices wanted the nation to believe that Naqeebullah was a terrorist and he was a hero. But the people’s power proved that it is the other way around,” he said, adding that the entire country saw the result of the PTM’s protest against Anwar.
Speaking about extrajudicial killing, he said under the Constitution of Pakistan, it was mandatory for security officials to produce a detainee before the courts within 24 hours detention, adding that the Constitution was clear that whoever abroagated it was guilty of treason. “You are traitors since you have violated the Constitution,” he said, addressing the authorities concerned.
Further, He told stories of Pashtuns from tribal areas who he said had been victims of atrocities meted out by security personnel. He narrated the story of two children from North Waziristan whose father had wanted them to become doctors. He identified the children as Wajah and Wajeeha and said that their house came under attack by military’s shelling. The two children died as a result. The next day, he said, the newspapers reported that terorrists were killed in military’s bombardment. The crowd chanted slogans of ‘shame’ in response.
“Anyone who wants to verify our claims about violence against the innocent Pashtun citizens can go to the villages and ask if it is a lie.”You are welcome to investigate our claims. We wil tell you names of the villages and the dates when these atrocities took place.”
He also told stories of youngsters from FATA who were allegedly arrested by security forces despite having no links with militants. “Should we side with the oppressor or with the oppressed”, he asked, adding that it was Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who taught us to side with the oppressed.
“When the Pashtun citizens speak of peace, they are shot,” he said, adding that traditional jirga were disbanded and their elders were killed. He said ‘fake’ mashairs were installed in their place.
Referring to the flooding of the jalsa venue earlier in the day with sewage water, Pashteen said, “The dirt you spread was cleaned by our youngsters. This is the difference between you and us. We have been cleaning the filth you have been spreading.”
Explaining the movement’s criticism of the military, he said, “we are only against those higher-ups in the military whose flawed decisions have brought us where we are today. The military dictators who violated the constitution are real traitors and they should be tried for their criminal acts.”
Pashteen announced that the PTM would hold a public meeting in Karachi on May 12. Before that, it would hold a gathering in Swat on April 29.
Before concluding his speech, he extended solidarity with students and an academic of Punjab Univeristy who had been threatened with dire consequences for their support for the movement. He thanked the leadership of the Awami Workers Party, Pashtun community and the residnets of Lahore for attending the rally.
After his speech, Pashteen was surrounded by young activists and supporters who wanted selfies with him. Once done with the selfies, he went to a side and offered Maghrib prayers on the stage. Earlier, he stopped in the middle of his speech in respect for the azaan.
Another PTM leader Ali Wazir, who lost several of his family members in military operations and could not attend their funerals because he was incarcerated under colonial-era FCR, said the youngsters born and raised in the shadows of war were leading the movement. He said the PTM stood with the peasant households in Okara who were being victimised by the authorities for demanding rights to the land their families had been tilling for generations.
Lawyer Hina Jillani also spoke at the jalsa. She said that safe return of those forcibly disapeared would not be enough. “We want to know who picks up our sons and daughters and makes them disappeared.”
Advocate Fazal, whose son died in the Army Public School (APS) attack in December 2014, lamented that no judicial commission had been formed to investigate the massacre. He said the APS was a consequence of flawed polcies of seucrity establishment. “I was in touch with my son during the attack. He was alive 20 minutes into the attack and could have been saved if there had been timely action.”
Published in Daily Times, April 23rd 2018.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Pakistan is a true friend of Kashmiris – Read below:

Pakistan is a true friend of Kashmiris – Read below:
Dr Shabir Choudhry  19 April 2018

A citizen of Jammu and Kashmir contacted me, and asked me to help him/her with his/her PhD research on Kashmir.

I asked this student to get the proposal approved and then contact me.

The student replied by giving details of the research and said:
‘You are great asset for Kashmiries and it is my pleasure to seek your guidance’.
‘Best regards’ 

I said to the student that in my experience and dealing with Azad Kashmiri students and Pakistani institutions, I don’t think they will allow you to research on this topic, as this will help and promote Kashmiri consciousness and nationalism.

Today I had the following reply:

Aslam o Alaikum.
‘Sir 'they' didn't allow me to carry on my work on that topic which I had mentioned previously’.
Best Regards

I have not given even gender of the student or any other information which can identify him/her.

This shows how friendly is Pakistan to people of JK. Message is clear,
a country which occupies us, bans books on Jammu and Kashmir, and bans newspapers WILL NOT allow people of Azad Kashmir to know about their case, our resources and nationalist trends.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

China’s shrewd bet on intercontinental rail, Jonathan Hillman

China’s shrewd bet on intercontinental rail
Trains will lose money but Beijing plans to profit politically
Jonathan Hillman  March 28, 2018

It is tempting to believe the old Silk Road is being revived by locomotives. The first rail service from Amsterdam to China began this month, expanding a network that China has made a signature feature of its Belt and Road Initiative. Such services, spanning continents and regions, have grown significantly in recent years, but recent research suggests that like other aspects of the BRI, their economic importance is less game-changing than advertised.

In his speech at the Belt and Road Forum last May, Chinese President Xi Jinping touted China-Europe rail services as an example of practical cooperation along the BRI routes. Chinese state-media heavily promote the announcement of a new service and rattle off impressive growth statistics.

Even countries that have been reluctant to endorse the BRI have embraced China-Europe railways. When a train from Yiwu, China, arrived in London in January 2017, The Telegraph newspaper called it "a new chapter in the history of the centuries-old trading route," and The Guardian said it "heralds the dawn of a new commercial era."

To be sure, China-Europe railways have improved significantly in recent years. Virtually non-existent a decade ago, regular services now connect roughly 35 cities in China with roughly 34 cities in Europe. In 2006, it took 36 days to ship a 40-foot container by rail from Shanghai to Hamburg in Germany. The same journey by rail now takes just 16 days.

Those gains have captured imaginations, but the China-Europe railways will not capture enough trade in the coming years to fundamentally change the broader economic picture. That suggests that China's primary motivation, particularly in the short term, may be political. Chinese officials have grasped that rail makes great headlines, with each new service strengthening the BRI's narrative about bringing China and the rest of the world closer together.

But the reality is that maritime trade is, and will remain, overwhelmingly dominant. During 2016, maritime shipping carried 94% of China-Europe trade by weight, and nearly two-thirds of trade by value. Air freight carried more than 13 times the value of goods than rail.

Standing in the way of greater success is the China-Europe trade imbalance. Roughly 60%-70% of railway shipments are westbound, leaving only 30%-40% of shipments eastbound. On eastbound trips, it is not uncommon for containers to be empty. Other containers are sent back by sea.

The future of rail subsidies is a critical factor. Chinese subsidies can range from $1,000 to $5,000 for each 40-foot container, accounting for up to half the total cost. Some logistics experts believe these subsidies could be phased out in 2018 or 2019, while others see President Xi's term in office as the primary determinant.

China may continue paying for quite some time. Our rough estimates suggest that if rail volumes double between 2017 and 2027, and China reduces its subsidies to $2,500 per 40-foot container, its annual subsidies tab could approach $927 million. Given the political importance China has attached to these routes, this spending could be justified as advertising for the BRI.

Further infrastructure investments will be required as well. There have been some improvements in recent years, including a relatively new dry port at Khorgos, on the China-Kazakh border, that processes trains 20 hours faster than an older terminal on the same frontier.

But as traffic increases, each terminal where rail gauges change is a potential bottleneck. Improvements are also needed in Europe, where rail systems are older than China's and projects often take longer to complete. In the meantime, delays remain a major risk for China-Europe trains, the main selling point for which is speed.

The biggest winners are likely those most closely involved with these new services. Railway manufacturers, owners, operators, logistics firms and freight forwarders all stand to gain. A set of businesses will benefit from lower inventory costs. Among cities, those located on the routes and inland, further away from the coastlines, are likely to see the most gains. China itself stands to benefit politically as well as commercially if these routes become sustainable.

But the overall impact of these changes will be modest. The vast majority of the geographic space the railways pass through will experience no difference. Despite the Silk Road's popular appeal, the emergence of China-Europe railways does not signal the return of a world in which overland trade dominates. The railways have found speed, but their scale remains limited.

Of course, rail is not the entirety of the BRI. The political-economic logic driving China's trains will not necessarily apply to its many other projects, including air, maritime, energy and telecommunications links. Some will be profitable, even in narrow financial terms. Others may be commercial white elephants. Only time will tell. But new China-Europe rail services suggest that for the BRI, financial considerations are far from decisive.

Jonathan Hillman is director of the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.