June 23, 2017

Bill tabled in US House to revoke Pakistan's ally status

By PTI | Updated: Jun 23, 2017, 02.03 PM IST

Last August, the then Secretary of Defence, Ash Carter, withheld USD 300 million in military reimbursements because he could not certify that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network.

WASHINGTON: A bipartisan bill seeking to revoke Pakistan's status as major non-NATO ally (MNNA) to the US has been introduced in the House of Representatives by two top lawmakers, saying the country failed to effectively fight terrorism

Introduced by Republican Congressman Ted Poe and Democratic lawmaker Rick Nolan, the legislation calls for revoking MNNA status of Pakistan, which was granted to it in 2004 by the then president, George Bush, in an effort to get the country to help the US fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban

"Pakistan must be held accountable for the American blood on its hands," said Poe, who is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade. 

"For years, Pakistan has acted as a Benedict Arnold ally of the United States. From harbouring Osama bin laden to backing the Taliban, Pakistan has stubbornly refused to go after, in any meaningful way, terrorists that actively seek to harm opposing ideologies," he said. 

'Benedict Arnold' is a byword in the US for treason or betrayal. Benedict Arnold was a general during the American Revolutionary War who originally fought for the American Continental Army but defected to the British Army. 

"We must make a clean break with Pakistan, but at the very least, we should stop providing them the eligibility to obtain our own sophisticated weaponry in an expedited process granting them a privileged status reserved for our closest allies," Poe said. 

Under MNNA, a country is eligible for priority delivery of defence materials, an expedited arms sale process and a US loan guarantee programme, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports. 

It can also stockpile US military hardware, participate in defence research and development programmes and be sold more sophisticated weaponry. 

Last August, the then Secretary of Defence,Ash Carter, withheld USD 300 million in military reimbursements because he could not certify that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network, as required by the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA). 

"Time and time again, Pakistan has taken advantage of America's goodwill and demonstrated that they are no friend and ally of the United States," Nolan said. 

"The fact is, the billions of dollars we have sent to Pakistan over the last 15 years has done nothing to effectively fight terrorism and make us safer. It is time to wake up to the fact that Pakistan has ties to the same terrorist organisations which they claim to be fighting," he said. 

The legislation will protect American taxpayer dollars and make the US and the world safer, Nolan said.

Samjhauta blast: UPA government let off prime accused Pakistani national despite evidence to float ‘Hindu Terror’ myth


 June 22, 2017 

Samjhauta Express blast: How officials connived to ensure prime accused Pakistani national was let off despite evidence to nail him

The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing was a terrorist attack that struck around midnight on February 18, 2007. Bombs were set off in two carriages, both filled with passengers, just after the train passed Diwana station near Panipat in Haryana.

Over a decade after the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast that claimed the lives of 68 passengers, mostly Pakistanis, comes a shocking revelation that once again puts the spotlight on the sinister ploy of the then political establishment to paint a religious cover over the entire incident.

Armed with power and intent on using the ghastly incident to push a political agenda, top officials gave an ugly twist to the incident just because the government of the day was bent on proving that the incident was a conspiracy of the so-called ‘Hindu militants’.

A retired officer involved in the investigating into the case has now laid bare how officials at that time not only twisted the entire case to give it a saffron touch but also let the main accused, arrested soon after the incident, go scot-free to just fulfill their agenda.

The whistleblower here is Gurdeep (now retired), who served as the Investigating Officer in the case. Gurdeep revealed before a court that a Pakistani national was arrested within a fortnight of the incident but was allowed to return to his country. This, despite the fact that he was the prime accused in the case.

The revelation by Gurdeep was made 12 days ago in a court. According to him, the arrested person, identified as Azmat Ali, was discharged in the case by top officials who were part of the probe team.

“I was summoned for cross examining on June 9. He (Ali) was discharged by the officials. The court had granted 14-day custody to police… police had visited all cities and places where he (Ali) had stayed. We had verified … the team which interrogated him comprised DIG RC Mishra, Additional DGP Haryana, SP Crime…. and others,” he said.

As per the documents submitted in the court by police, Ali was a Pakistani national. He was arrested near Attari border by Government Railway Police (GRP) on March 1, 2007 while he was exploring ways to return to Pakistan. During investigation, it was found that Ali was not carrying a passport, visa or any legal paper. He was later sent to the Amritsar Central Jail. During interrogation, Ali informed that he had arrived here on November 3, 2006 and that he was a Pakistani national. According to him, he was born to Mohammad Sharif and was a resident of Lahore. His residential address was: House no. 24, Gali no. 51, Hamam Street, Dist. Lahore (Pakistan).

After the blast, the description of the man who was believed to have planted the bomb in the ill-fated train was described by two eyewitnesses (Shaukat Ali and Rukhsana). Ali matched the description was and this was conveyed to the team which was probing the blast. Later, Ali was handed over to the team of police probing the incident. The probe team had on March 6, 2007, sought 14-day custody of Ali. In its affidavit, the police had clearly told the court that Ali was arrested by the GRP on the basis of a sketch developed by security forces following inputs provided by the eyewitnesses. Besides, Ali’s sketch was also extensively circulated in media. The court had at that time sent Ali to 14-day police custody.

During the investigation, Ali also revealed that after landing here, he undertook a recce of Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Kanpur, Allahabad, Shikohabad, Surat, Ajmer Sharif and other prominent cities. Each time, he produced fake identity cards to book hotels. Gurdeep claimed that police visited each of the hotels where Ali had stayed and spoke to people with whom he had met.

Shockingly though, on March 20, when Ali’s 14-day police custody ended, the court granted him bail because police told the court that investigation was over and no concrete evidence of Ali’s involvement was found in the blast.

In its bail order, the court noted the police’s version that ‘since the investigation was over and no proofs have been found against him (Ali), he should be discharged from the case’.

As per the documents available with India TV, the then UPA government had said that LeT was involved in the blast. But on July 21, 2010, top police officials had held a closed-door meeting. The noting of the meeting, accessed by India TV, says that the Haryana Police had failed to take the probe to a logical conclusion and thus the case should be handed over to the NIA. It was only during this meeting, when the officials decided to probe the role of Hindu groups in the blast.

This is a very serious issue. Arrested Pakistani  man was allowed to return to his country and people of our country were wrongly framed. This was done at the behest of then government. The government wanted to give the entire incident a political touch,” Haryana Minister Anil Vij said.

“…the Haryana Police wanted to grill the arrested man but he was allowed to return to Pakistan despite the fact the he was not carrying passport, documents… This is a clear betrayal… this can’t be possible without Sonia Gandhi’s intervention. This must be probed thoroughly,” BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said.

The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing was a terrorist attack that struck around midnight on February 18, 2007. Bombs were set off in two carriages, both filled with passengers, just after the train passed Diwana station near Panipat in Haryana. 68 people were killed in the incident. Of the 68 fatalities, most were Pakistani civilians.

Courtesy: India TV

Church backed activism fueled the Kudankulam protest: Republic TV report

 June 22, 2017 

Church backed activism fueled the Kudankulam protest: Republic TV report

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power situated in the state of Tamil Nadu was conceptualized as the largest Nuclear Power plant in India with a total capacity of 6000 MW. The construction of the plant began way back in 2002 but it was marred by constant protests.

This protest reached a boiling point in 2011 when the villagers reportedly feared that a Fukushima type disaster might befall the Nuclear plant. One of the prominent leaders of the anti-Kudankulam movement was SP Udayakumar, who led the People’s movement against Nuclear Energy.

Incidentally this whole protest had come under suspicion way back in 2012 when there were reports about the protest being allegedly backed by the Church and varies foreign parties. In 2014 there were further allegations after an alleged IB report had claimed that Udayakumar had been working on the behest of various American and German entities in order to subvert the development of India.

Now earlier today, this whole issue was again raked up, when Repubic TV came up with a sting operation on Udyakumar and various members of the Tamil Nadu Church, which seemed to further corraborate the ”foreign funded protest theory”.

The Republic TV reporters approached Udayakumar as foreign university students whose professor wished to make a donation to Udayakumar in order to aid him in his anti-nuclear protests. In the video, he was seen suggesting various indirect ways by which foreign funds could be routed to him without him coming under scrutiny from security agencies.

He suggested how the amount could be donated to his political party through their family or friends who are living in India or they simply send cash. Incidentally this donation was meant for another round of protests which he seems to starting in the future. This suggested that Udayakumar was very much willing to accept foreign funds for fueling his protests. Interestingly he later tried to take a u-turn on his willingness to accept money as according to the reporter he was warned by some of his associates not to deal with them.

The reporters then followed the Church backed protest angle and zeroed in on a Church in Idinthakarai which according to them was a hub of anti-nuclear protests. They reportedly stung a Parish priest named Jayakumar who managed the money used in the protest. He had apparently selected 70 people who were set up as a front while he and the Diocese controlled things from behind the curtains. Apparently he took care of all the protests in Idinthakarai and there were 13 other Fathers who similarly managed 13 other villages.

The report also claimed that this whole church involvement was orchestrated by a Bishop who had suggested that Jayakumar operate from the background. The Bishop was incidentally the person who was withstanding all the external ‘pressure’ like the cancellation of their FCRA license.

He also claimed that their Diocese which constitutes of 115 parishes, churches and more than 400 convents, sub stations used to receive support from people in Italy, France.

The reporters followed it up by stinging another priest named Jesuraj who claimed that the student movement named All India Catholic University Federation was heavily involved in the protest and used to spread ‘awareness’ against the whole nuclear project.

The reporters also interviewed a villager who claimed that all the NGOs were actually run by Bishops who paid money to Christian people if they took part in the protests.

Through these sting operations, it appeared that the main motivation for the whole protest was not an aversion to Nuclear Power but a desire to earn money. It remains to be seen if Indian security agencies now take a renewed interest in this matter in wake of these new findings by Republic TV.

Courtesy: OPINDIA.com

CPEC and the environment: good, bad or ugly?


A lack of transparency about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor raises economic and environmental questions in Pakistan, with sharply divided opinion on its possible impact

Graffiti celebrates CPEC on the walls of Pakistan [image by: Zofeen T Ebrahim]

Zofeen T. Ebrahim, June 23, 2017

Mohammad Saleem and Badar Din have never heard of CPEC but they see plenty of Chinese people around. Their boss is Chinese and they communicate with him through signing as they do not speak the same language. Both men, in their twenties, have travelled from a village in Sehwan in Sindh, to Gwadar to work as labourers at the port site under construction. Even after paying rent for accommodation, meals and transport, they save more than they ever earned in their own village. “There is work for everyone,” says Saleem, who has been able to buy a solar light and a fan for his family.

This is what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said all along, that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a vital part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, will open up vast employment opportunities for Pakistanis.

Slicing through the Himalayas, the 3,000 kilometre, USD 62 billion corridor from Kashgar in western China traverses disputed territories, plains and deserts to reach Gwadar in Pakistan on the shores of the Arabian sea.

On the way, China will fund and build a myriad infrastructure projects, including road and railway networks, and power plants. More than 30,000 Pakistanis are working on various corridor projects and the Planning Commission predicts that 700,000 to 800,000 jobs will be created between now and 2030.

The promise of jobs is being touted as a key benefit of CPEC to Pakistanis [image by: Zofeen T. Ebrahim]

Despite assurances by Pakistani and Chinese officials about the mega project’s powers to bring about an economic revolution, doubts continue to be raised.

“I have my concerns because of a complete lack of transparency,” Akbar Zaidi, one of Pakistan’s political economists, told thethirdpole.net. “If it’s so fabulous, tell us the terms of investments. Why not be upfront about it? I cannot definitively say whether CPEC is good, bad or a disaster for Pakistan.”

In a lecture Zaidi delivered in Kolkata earlier this month, he said that CPEC seemed more like a Chinese project; the benefits are heavily loaded towards China, with Pakistan benefiting because it happens to be “part of the geographical terrain”.

He also raised concerns over the massive loans involved, citing Sri Lanka and Tajikistan’s heavy borrowing from China. In 2011, Tajikistan had to cede 1% of its territory to China in exchange for unpaid loans. Sri Lanka will give away 80% of its share of the Hambantota deep sea port to China for the next 99 years, in exchange for USD 1.1 billion in debt relief.

Disrupting the flow

There are even sharper concerns about the environmental impact. Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for south Asia with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia Program, foresees a “wide variety of factors ranging from the use of emissions-belching technologies to the clearing or even destruction of agricultural farmland”. He is particularly concerned about the use of coal, environmentally-damaging technologies and the heavy consumption of water – a prerequisite for such intensive development and construction.

Along with the use of dirty fuel, Vaqar Zakaria, managing director of environmental consultancy firm Hagler Bailly Pakistan, is concerned about the lack of conversation around the impacts of hydropower projects on river ecosystems.

China has promised to finance and build the USD 50 billion five-dam Indus Cascade to generate more than 22,000 MW. The cascade could stop the flow of silt – the lifeline of agriculture downstream – as well as drastically reduce the flow of water in the Indus, especially affecting downstream areas like Pakistan’s Sindh province. Thousands of people will be displaced.

See: Indus Cascade: a Himalayan blunder

“It is possible that the flow of silt may be significantly affected, but what the actual impacts will be for agriculture are unknown,” says Hassaan F. Khan, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts studying the impacts of climate change on water resources in South Asia.

The original Tarbela dam, completed in 1977, submerged 120 villages, the Indus Cascade would expand on it massively [image: courtesy the Water and Power Development Authority, Pakistan]

Instead, Khan is certain that increased storage upstream on the Indus could have a “potentially huge benefit” for the water sector in Pakistan – “if built and operated properly”.

“Future changes in climate are expected to increase the variability of flow on the Indus and change the timing of the peak flow,” says Khan, adding that almost 80% of the flow in the Indus occurs between June and August, but is expected to shift to April and May. That could have a very disruptive impact on water use downstream, especially for farmers.

“The most effective way to limit the economic impacts of this increased variability and uncertainty in flow is to manage the river,” said Khan. “That means storing some of the water when it is available and releasing it later when farmers need it.”

Pakistan has relatively little ability to manage the flow. “More upstream storage can provide the ability to adapt to changes in the flow on the Indus, both now and in the future,” says Khan.

Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, country representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is worried that some CPEC projects passing through the mountainous terrain will disturb the fragile ecosystem.

“The need for wildlife corridors must be underscored [and attention must be paid to] the gradient when roads are being carved to minimize landslides.” Giving the example of the once-endangered Markhor and Ibex populations, Cheema says that a little foresight now will save the country from huge environmental losses later.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where the provincial government has started an afforestation campaign, more than 54,000 trees have already been chopped down to make way for the CPEC road network.

Unsustainable development?

So far, the government has not revealed whether any measures have been taken to ensure sustainable development, or if there is an enhanced environmental monitoring and reporting plan.

“Since the environment became a provincial matter, I have doubts about the technical capacity of environmental protection agencies to carry out sound EIAs,” says Cheema, adding that the ecological footprint of this project is unclear from the various reports he has seen.

IUCN has just started a dialogue with various stakeholders, including the government, on the environmental impact of CPEC. It is important that the government engages with organisations like IUCN to provide technical oversight on a continuous basis, he says. “While all EIAs should have been done before a project begins, it’s not too late.”

Academia and think tanks needed to come up with “robust environmental impact analyses on a project-by-project basis”, says Adil Najam, dean of the Fredrick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University.

Najam emphasises the need for the key regulators – including federal and provincial environmental protection agencies, and the climate ministry – to carry out independent EIAs, and for the government to then act on them at the design phase so that the best possible technology and standards are used for each project.

“If we do that, I think the overall impact can be economically and environmentally beneficial,” says Najam. If not “we will lament the mistakes of omission in ten and twenty years.”

While investment in infrastructure is not only important but necessary, Najam emphasised that it must be “sustainable” and helps the country “leapfrog to a higher standard”.

“Mass transport is a very important – so is rail and highway connectivity – but the question is ‘how is it done’,” says Najam. “If sustainability – economic as well as environmental – is a key element of the design then these can be excellent investments. If ignored, then it can be catastrophic.”

Cloak of opacity

Because everything linked to CPEC is shrouded under a cloak of opacity, both Cheema and Kugelman said it is difficult to know if there are sufficient environmental protective measures in place.

In addition, Zakaria is not sure whether the government has thought of the secondary impacts of development-related projects, which can be significant.

“The social and cultural impacts are likely to be of much higher significance, such as non-inclusive development in Gwadar and Thar, building the Karakoram Highway, and loss of environmental values in Gilgit-Baltistan region. Changes in access change the physical and social landscape,” he says.

CPEC should be thought of as a design exercise,” says Najam. “A series of decisions to be made, and each of these decisions needs to be evaluated – and then regulated – on the principles of environmental sustainability