Thursday, February 28, 2019

PAKISTAN’S MAGNANIMOUS GESTURE: Indian pilot will be released

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday announced to release captured Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan today (Friday) as a ‘gesture of peace’. However, in the same breath he warned India that any ‘miscalculation’ may prove disastrous for the whole region.
“Do not misconstrue Pakistan’s desire for de-escalation as weakness,” the prime minister asserted while addressing a joint parliamentary session here at the Parliament House. “I address the Indian government: do not force us for retaliation. We are prepared for any eventuality and response. I beseech India not to force us down the path of war,” he said.
Presenting a tribute to the opposition and the entire nation for standing united during the difficult time, he again urged India not to go beyond this point of aggression as all issues should be resolved through dialogue. “Countries are ruined because of miscalculations. War is not a solution. If India takes any action, we will have to retaliate,” he vehemently said. “The only purpose of our strike was to demonstrate our capability and will. We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner. I had already said that if India did something, then we would definitely respond,” he said.
Referring to February 14 Pulwama attack, the prime minister regretted that Pakistan was blamed within 30 minutes of the incident. “I am not saying India is involved in Pulwama attack, but tell us how it can benefit Pakistan?” he questioned, while recalling series of important events scheduled in Pakistan during the same period of time. “We did ask India to give evidences and assured them of taking action, but rather than providing proofs, India started warmongering,” he lamented. “Despite our offers for dialogue on a number of occasions, India never responded positively,” he continued, while recounting his July 26 address and a letter to the United Nations inviting the Indian prime minister for peace talks.
“The invitation of dialogue was given in the view of rising poverty in the South Asian region,” Imran said. He maintained that the current Pak-India tension is because of Kashmir issue. “At one point, Kashmiri leaders did not want separation. But owing to Indian brutalities, today all they demand is independence,” he said. “For how long will Pakistan be blamed for everything in Kashmir?” he asked.
“I want to tell this House: Pakistan desires peace. Pakistan intends to work for poverty alleviation, investment, and job creation. Indians are terming recent attacks in Kashmir as Islamic radicalism. If you remember, most suicide attacks were carried out by Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka,” he said.
The prime minister also appreciated Pakistani media and noted that Indian media was busy creating war hysteria in their country. “However, our media showed solidarity and acted responsibly,” he said.
Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said India will have to give Kashmiris their right to self-determination. “Wars are no solution to any issue as after all you have to sit on the table in the end,” he said. “It is not the first time that Pakistan-India escalation has taken place … we have fought several wars in the past and wasted our resources,” he said, and stressed that the Kashmir conflict should be resolved according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Lauding the Pakistan Air Force for its robust response to the Indian aggression and its violation of the Line of Control (LoC), Shehbaz said the valour exhibited by the Pakistan’s armed forces has established that they are capable of protecting every nook and corner of the country. He said it is an open secret that Narendra Modi was a terrorist who had been involved in the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. “Several countries had even banned Modi’s entry in the past,” he recalled.
Former prime minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism. “War is itself a problem … it is not a solution to the problems,” he said, and added that more than 80,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives due to terrorism.
Ghaus Baksh Mehr of the Grand Democratic Alliance said all the political parties are united at this critical juncture and stand by the armed forces of Pakistan. He said India should act responsibly as war between two nuclear countries will have disastrous consequences for the region.
Leader of the Opposition in Senate Raja Zafarul Haq said Pakistan should forcefully raise the longstanding Kashmir dispute at all the international forums besides unmasking the maltreatment being meted out to the minorities including Muslims in India.
Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid said India has hegemonic designs in the region and is resorting to provocations to establish its hegemony. He commended the Pakistan Air Force for shooting down two Indian aircraft, saying the PAF is far superior to the Indian Air Force as it has indigenously developed JF-17 fighter jets.

Indian General Dhillon’s threat to Kashmiri mothers

Dr Syed Nazir Gilani
Pakistan is a nuclear state. It has cancelled out the threat of India’s size, military might and nuclear reach once for all. Unless Indian leaders decide to consign their cities and people to history books, there will be no war. The Indian Government is engaged in a war with the people of Indian administered Valley for the last 27 years. During these years these forces have killed a generation of Muslims who lived in Kashmir valley.
A UN report has estimated that there are 500,000 to 700,000 Indian soldiers in the Valley. The number is aided and assisted by special laws and now a ‘strong state doctrine’ has been put in place to use brute force and kill as many Kashmiris as possible. United Kingdom Expert on the Sub Commission of Human Rights in Geneva moved a resolution against violation of human rights in Indian administered Kashmir E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/L.21 on 15 August 1997, and reminded the world that United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had left in the sub-continent traditions of, imperialism towards people and their territories, harsh military suppression of dissent combined with sweeping special emergency powers, reactionary penal laws, double standards in human rights and the unwillingness and a degree of inability to undertake real reforms and exploitation.
All this is a manifestation of the arrogance with which the GOC 15 Corps, Lt Gen KJS Dhillon, threatened Kashmiri women on Tuesday 19 February 2019 saying, “Tell your sons to surrender or they will be killed”. It is an example of an imperialistic threat and a case of harsh military suppression of dissent. The Valley is not an Indian colony and Kashmiri mothers are not colonised people. General Dhillon is not the British colonial General Dyer that he would be allowed to stage a Jallianwala Bagh like massacre. Kashmir is not the Amritsar of April 1919. We live in 2019.
However, Indian politics and military have caught the communal virus and the target to kill are Kashmiri Muslims, in particular the youth. The bacchanalian behaviour of General Dhillon could manifest itself in a tragedy. Therefore, it is time to examine the merits of this threat and neutralise it.
If the so called ‘mainstream politicians’ wish to serve their oath and their voters in the Valley, they need to move swiftly against General Dhillon and the institution of the Indian army stationed in the Valley. The National Conference has a principal role to play. Every local Government needs to know that the Indian army has been granted a temporary admission to perform four duties in Kashmir. This force is a supplement and a subordinate force. Therefore, if the State Government has the welfare of the people at heart, it could terminate the permission granted to Indian army or bring it under a stricter code of conduct.
United Nations allowed this contingent of the Indian army on the assurance of good behaviour. The other convincing argument was that the UN Commission would be around to supervise these forces. United Nations, however, decided to put in place three more restraints on the behaviour, number and location of these forces in its resolution of 21 April 1948.
We need to highlight that there is no UN Commission in Kashmir, we have UNMOGIP personnel. We have the Kashmiri Government except at this point Delhi rules and interferes in Kashmir directly through Presidential Rule. In fact, this army is subordinate to State administration and unless NC, PDP, PC, CMI and other political parties are ignorant or have sold their soul to Lucifer, Indian soldiers can’t move against their writ.
General Dhillon’s threat has no merit. It constitutes a disobedience and warrants a serious action against him. The remedy to curtail the authority of these forces lies with the ‘mainstream’ political parties or a serious challenge could be made in a court of law. General Dhillon could be carefully packed by the State Government back to Delhi unless he desires to meet the fate of General Dyer – a cerebral haemorrhage and arteriosclerosis.
The Government of Azad Kashmir and the Government of Pakistan could alert the United Nations of this new situation and urge them to take immediate measures on the basis of a proposal made by Pakistan to send UN Forces to Kashmir. The proposal to induct UN force in Kashmir was debated at the 769th Meeting of the Security Council, held on 15 February 1957. The meeting was chaired by Sweden and attended by the representatives of Australia, China, Colombia, Cuba, France, Iraq, Philippines, Sweden, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America. A draft resolution for demilitarization was sponsored by Australia, Cuba, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America.
Sweden as Chairman of the security Council has pointed out that “The other course is this: if it should be found that the question cannot at the present time be solved through negotiations, it might be useful to have certain underlying problems of a legal character progressively clarified in order to create better conditions for an agreement. Para 40 – Now that nine years have elapsed without any progress being in sight for an agreement between the parties, we would have thought that the time had come to try the alternative. In the opinion of my Government, this could then best be done by referring to some of the legal aspects of the matter to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion…We are therefore fully prepared to accept the ideal behind the draft resolution which is before the Council”.
After the June 2018, UN report describing Kashmir as one of the most militarised zones in the world, surfacing of the ‘Strong State Doctrine’ to use brute force to kill as many Kashmiris as possible, the threat issued by General Dhillon to Kashmiri mothers and the helplessness of mainstream political parties or their acquiescence to Delhi’s policy, it is important that we move to UN Security Council or the ICJ on the status of Indian army in the Valley.
The writer is the President of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He is on UN Register as an Expert in Peace Keeping, Humanitarian Operations and Election Monitoring Missions. He has represented unrepresented peoples and nations at the Vienna UN World Conference on the Human Rights.

Israel is playing a big role in India’s escalating conflict with Pakistan

By Robert Fisk
When I heard the first news report, I assumed it was an Israeli air raid on Gaza. Or Syria. Airstrikes on a “terrorist camp” were the first words. A “command and control centre” destroyed, many “terrorists” killed. The military was retaliating for a “terrorist attack” on its troops, we were told.

An Islamist “jihadi” base had been eliminated. Then I heard the name Balakot and realised that it was neither in Gaza, nor in Syria – not even in Lebanon – but in Pakistan. Strange thing, that. How could anyone mix up Israel and India?

Well, don’t let the idea fade away. Two thousand five hundred miles separate the Israeli ministry of defence in Tel Aviv from the Indian ministry of defence in New Delhi, but there’s a reason why the usual cliche-stricken agency dispatches sound so similar.

For months, Israel has been assiduously lining itself up alongside India’s nationalist BJP government in an unspoken – and politically dangerous – “anti-Islamist” coalition, an unofficial, unacknowledged alliance, while India itself has now become the largest weapons market for the Israeli arms trade.

Not by chance, therefore, has the Indian press just trumpeted the fact that Israeli-made Rafael Spice-2000 “smart bombs” were used by the Indian air force in its strike against Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) “terrorists” inside Pakistan.
Like many Israeli boasts of hitting similar targets, the Indian adventure into Pakistan might owe more to the imagination than military success. The “300-400 terrorists” supposedly eliminated by the Israeli-manufactured and Israeli-supplied GPS-guided bombs may turn out to be little more than rocks and trees.

India was Israel’s largest arms client in 2017, paying £530m for Israeli air defence, radar systems and ammunition, including air-to-ground missiles – most of them tested during Israel’s military offensives against Palestinians and targets in Syria.

Israel itself is trying to explain away its continued sales of tanks, weapons and boats to the Myanmar military dictatorship – while western nations impose sanctions on the government which has attempted to destroy its minority and largely Muslim Rohingya people. But Israel’s arms trade with India is legal, above-board and much advertised by both sides.

The Israelis have filmed joint exercises between their own “special commando” units and those sent by India to be trained in the Negev desert, again with all the expertise supposedly learned by Israel in Gaza and other civilian-thronged battlefronts.

At least 16 Indian “Garud” commandos – part of a 45-strong Indian military delegation – were for a time based at the Nevatim and Palmachim air bases in Israel. In his first visit to India last year – preceded by a trip to Israel by nationalist Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu recalled the 2008 Islamist attacks on Mumbai in which almost 170 civilians were killed. “Indians and Israelis know too well the pain of terrorist attacks,” he told Modi. “We remember the horrific savagery of Mumbai. We grit our teeth, we fight back, we never give in.” This was also BJP-speak.

Several Indian commentators, however, have warned that right-wing Zionism and right-wing nationalism under Modi should not become the foundation stone of the relationship between the two countries, both of which – in rather different ways – fought the British empire.

Brussels researcher Shairee Malhotra, whose work has appeared in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has pointed out that India has the world’s third largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan – upward of 180 million people. “The India-Israel relationship is also commonly being framed in terms of a natural convergence of ideas between their ruling BJP and Likud parties,” she wrote last year.

Hindu nationalists had constructed “a narrative of Hindus as historically victims at the hands of Muslims”, an attractive idea to those Hindus who recall partition and the continuing turbulent relationship with Pakistan.

In fact, as Malhotra pointed out in Haaretz, “Israel’s biggest fans in India appear to be the ‘internet Hindus’ who primarily love Israel for how it deals with Palestine and fights Muslims.”
Malhotra has condemned Carleton University professor Vivek Dehejia for demanding a “tripartite” alliance between India, Israel and the US – since they have all suffered “from the scourge of Islamic terrorism”.
In fact, by the end of 2016, only 23 men from India had left to fight for Isis in the Arab world, although Belgium, with a population of only half a million Muslims, produced nearly 500 fighters.

Malhotra’s argument is that the Indian-Israeli relationship should be pragmatic rather than ideological.
But it is difficult to see how Zionist nationalism will not leach into Hindu nationalism when Israel is supplying so many weapons to India – the latest of which India, which has enjoyed diplomatic relations with Israel since 1992, has already used against Islamists inside Pakistan.
Signing up to the “war on terror” – especially “Islamist terror” – may seem natural for two states built on colonial partition whose security is threatened by Muslim neighbours.
In both cases, their struggle is over the right to own or occupy territory. Israel, India and Pakistan all possess nuclear weapons. Another good reason not to let Palestine and Kashmir get tangled up together. And to leave India’s 180 million Muslims alone.

Court filing links spy exposed by AP to Israel’s Black Cube

LONDON (AP) — A Canadian attorney says he appears to have been targeted by the same undercover operative unmasked by The Associated Press at a New York hotel last month , drawing a line between the man and the notorious Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube.
In a court filing made public last week, Toronto attorney Darryl Levitt says that the spy, whose real name is Aharon Almog-Assouline, “bears a striking similarity” to a man he identified as an alleged Black Cube operative.
Levitt says he was targeted because of his involvement in a long-running legal battle between two Canadian private equity firms, Catalyst Capital and West Face Capital. Previous media reports have hinted at a link between Almog-Assouline and Black Cube, but Levitt’s Feb. 21 claim before Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice is the first attempt to substantiate the connection by requesting receipts and surveillance footage.
Black Cube has previously acknowledged doing work on the Catalyst case, which centers on allegations of stock market manipulation. In an email, Black Cube’s Canadian lawyer, John Adair, said he had no comment on Levitt’s filing. Almog-Assouline also didn’t immediately return messages Wednesday.
Levitt made his claim after reading the AP’s account of how Almog-Assouline was caught trying to extract information from an employee of Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity research group, at the Peninsula Hotel in New York on Jan. 24. Levitt declined to comment for this article, but in his 115-page filing he said the photograph published by AP bore a powerful resemblance to a man he knew as Victor Petrov.
Petrov masqueraded as a London consultant and invited Levitt to Toronto’s Hazelton Hotel under false pretenses on Oct. 11, 2017. Levitt said in the court filing that he was asked “a series of increasingly suspicious questions which appeared designed to elicit confidential and/or embarrassing information.”
Almog-Assouline hasn’t answered any questions from the AP since last month’s ambush, when — while still masquerading as a French consultant named Michel Lambert — he denied working for Black Cube.
He was unmasked shortly after sitting down to lunch with Citizen Lab’s John Scott-Railton and asking pointed questions about his group’s role in documenting the use of Israeli hacking tools to spy on slain Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi’s inner circle.
The Lambert and Petrov aliases appeared to use some of the same cover stories during their undercover operations.
Levitt said Petrov boasted of his “enormous experience” in Africa; Lambert told Scott-Railton he knew the continent well. The names of their fictitious companies sounded similar: Petrov said he worked for KWE Consulting; Lambert said his employer was CPW Consulting. Neither company was found in corporate databases examined by the AP or at addresses visited by reporters.
Some of the small talk used by the Lambert and Petrov personas appears to be drawn from Almog-Assouline’s real life experiences. Lambert claimed Morocco as his native country; a former colleague said that’s where Almog-Assouline lived until his move to Israel as a teenager. Lambert had also claimed to be a fan of Punch cigars; on WhatsApp, the mobile messaging service, Almog-Assouline’s profile photo consisted of a Punch cigar logo which he deleted after reporters began sending him messages.
Almog-Assouline had served on the municipal council of the upscale Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Hasharon between 2013 and 2018, where former associates said it was an open secret that Almog-Assouline was a veteran of Israel’s intelligence services.
Fellow councilman Marc Mimouni said Almog-Assouline served in the Mossad, the Jewish state’s storied external espionage agency. The Israeli prime minister’s office, which oversees the Mossad, didn’t return a message seeking comment.
Mimouni said he didn’t think Almog-Assouline had it in him to be a dirty trickster, saying he was a good friend and a fun, friendly “team player.”
“The man I know gave the impression of a patriot who would not do anything bad for the country,” Mimouni said.
Others familiar with Almog-Assouline take a different view.
Ramat Hasharon’s former deputy mayor, Nurit Avner, said Almog-Assouline had ridden her coattails into local politics and then ditched her party after the pair were elected, a move she described as a cynical betrayal.
“I had a bad experience with the man,” she said. “Nothing connected to him would surprise me.”
Aron Heller reported from Ramat Hasharon, Israel.

Judge allows Abu Ghraib torture claims to go to trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — After 10 years of delay, a federal judge has ruled that three former inmates who say they were tortured at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison can go forward with their lawsuit against a military contractor.

Arlington-based CACI Premier Technology asked the judge Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit. The company, which supplied the Army with civilian interrogators, argued that the government's refusal to declassify key facts is making it impossible to defend itself.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema acknowledged CACI's frustration but said the lawsuit can move forward even though the government says certain facts like the identities of the interrogators are state secrets that can't be declassified.

The case is now slated to go to trial in April. While other pretrial matters remain unresolved, Brinkema told both sides that "you should expect if you don't settle this case, it'll go to trial."

The lawsuit, first filed in 2008, has previously been tossed out on multiple occasions, but each time the 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Richmond has revived the case and ordered the district court to take a closer look. Brinkema said she has interpreted her mandate from the 4th Circuit as one that generally requires her to get the case in front of a jury.

The judge did say, though, that she expects to toss one of the four Iraqi plaintiffs from the case because his allegations of abuse largely occurred before CACI interrogators arrived in Iraq in late September 2003.

The inmates say they were beaten and tortured by military police officers who were acting at the direction of civilian interrogators who wanted the inmates "softened up" for questioning.

Some of the inmates who filed the lawsuit, with assistance from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, say they suffered abuse mirroring some of the most well-documented incidents that shocked the world's conscience when photos from Abu Ghraib were publicized 15 years ago, including being stacked into naked human pyramids.
CACI says none of its interrogators are linked to the abuse suffered by the inmates who are suing. CACI's lawyers have expressed concern that they will be unfairly tarnished in front of the jury by the worst of what occurred at Abu Ghraib when they say it was military police who conducted the worst abuse.

The on-going Rohingya genocide

By Chris Scott, news producer

Since August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Thousands are still trying to escape every day, according to the United Nations.

If you ask the Rohingya men, women and children about why they fled, the accounts are similar; reports of the Myanmar army burning down their villages, raping women and killing their family and friends.

The chair of the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, described the situation as an "ongoing genocide".
"They came to the village shooting at us," said one female refugee.

"We hid our money and jewellery inside pockets in our dresses. They stripped us naked and stole everything. And this was in front of everyone.

"They came in groups and one or two stood guard while the rest went into the houses to violate the other women. One grabbed my hand and took me to a path between some trees and pushed me. I fell down and then he began raping me. I started to scream but then another soldier came and pointed a gun at me."

Another woman said she struggles to comprehend what happened: "A large number of soldiers came and they tortured and raped whoever they could catch. What they have done to us I can't even begin to tell you. I escaped to the forest. After our village was burnt down, they found me there."

Tensions between the Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority in Myanmar, and the Buddhist majority have been around for many years, as Sky correspondent Ashish Joshi, who won an International Emmy and BAFTA for his coverage of the Rohingya crisis, explains.

"The Rohingya are a group of people who live between Bangladesh and Burma, historically," says Joshi, speaking on the Behind the Headline podcast. "They were there when the British Empire existed. And this really goes to the heart of the Rohingya problem. It's a question of identity and geography and politics."

This stretch of land dividing Bangladesh and Burma was known as Arakan. And Joshi says the 2017 crisis can trace its roots back to the Second World War.

"A lot of people who are scholars, who study the history of that region will tell you this is bad blood going back decades," says Joshi. "Because the Rohingya, the settlers of the Arakan region, sided with the British in what was eventually a victorious triumph against the Japanese, whereas the Burmese sided with the Japanese.

"But eventually, what happened is that when the British left and the borders were formed, that area, the contentious area of Arakan which is part of the British Empire, became part of the wider Burma."

Ever since, the Myanmar government has refused to accept the Rohingya as genuine Burmese settlers.

"The Rohingya have no citizenship. They have no state. In other words, they are stateless. They don't belong to Myanmar. They have no identification papers. They are referred to as Bengali illegal immigrants," says Joshi.

"They are seen as treacherous traitors who are there to destabilise the country."

Violence between the two groups has been a constant theme for decades, but it reached its peak in 2017, when an estimated two-thirds of the Rohingya Muslims decided to flee the country in the face of Burmese security forces committing mass killings, arson and rape.

The United Nations has described what happened to the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as "a textbook case of ethnic cleansing."

In 2017, Zeid Raad al Hussein, who served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2014-2018, accused the Myanmar government of systematically stripping the Rohingya of civil and political rights for decades.

"It goes back before August [2017]," says Joshi.

"First of all, what do you do to dehumanise a group of people? You take away their identity. Let's stop calling them Rohingya, let's refer to them as Bengali immigrants.

"Then let's take away their citizenship, let's make them stateless. So, now they are nameless and stateless. And then let's deprive them of basic human rights. Let's take away education, health.

"And what are we going to do next? I know, we'll slaughter them in their thousands. So, there's this mass killing, this machine clicks in and they are being slaughtered and as they're being slaughtered, they're being told if you stay, we'll rape your women.

"So, they flee, and as they're fleeing, everything they own is razed to the ground; their homes, their mosques, their towns, their villages. And once they've gone, their land is taken over, their paddy fields, livestock are raided and sold and they have nothing.

"So, there's nothing there for them to identify with. That is textbook ethnic cleansing."

But even those who escaped the violence of the Myanmar authorities were not free from terror. To get over the border to Bangladesh, the Rohingya had to cross miles of monsoon-flooded land and over mud-slicked hills before they got to the treacherous Naf River that divides the two countries.

To evade the Myanmar authorities, a lot of those fleeing would attempt to cross at night, sailing in small wooden boats across the rough waters.

"I had my two children on my lap," said one woman.

"When I saw the wave coming I tried to pass one to my husband but we got separated. I was trying to swim holding onto my seven-year-old son. He told me he couldn't swim anymore and I had to let him go because my youngest boy was swallowing water. Then another wave hit us and that separated me from my youngest child. Another wave hit and we both went under.

"After we got separated, I began looking for him under the water. I came up for air and after a while his dead body floated up in front of me. I could hear my oldest boy calling out for me as he was being swept away by the current. Both my children died."

"My mum, dad, brother and sister all got separated in the water," Arafat, a child refugee told Sky News.

"Then my mother found me and grabbed onto me. But I told her you're going to die. And you'll drown as well. Then she let go. And she drowned."

So did the rest of Arafat's family.

Another child, Mohammed, survived by floating on top of a dead body that drifted into shore. He too hasn't seen his parents since trying to cross the river.

The survivors of the crossing congregated in Bangladesh, acres of vast forest soon replaced with sprawling makeshift camps.

"The scenes on the ground really defy all expectations," says Joshi.

"Everywhere you look there are women carrying babies who have just been born. There are men with bandaged legs and arms, clearly who have been hurt in some way.

"They'd been shot, they'd been burned, they'd been slashed with machetes. There were old people being carried on poles and it's a cacophony of sound. It's chaos. They have nowhere to go. Everyone is moving in a different direction trying to find a bit of land they can just sit on just to try and breathe."

The camps didn't exist when Joshi first arrived in Bangladesh. People were just scrabbling around in the mud and dirt for scraps of food. Local Bangladeshis tried to help where they could as international aid was yet to arrive. This sometimes led to further tragedy.

"Groups of friends would hire a truck or a minibus, load it up with food or clothing or blankets or scraps, drive along the highway, throwing these things out the back," Joshi says. "They would be chased by children mostly who had energy to chase after these trucks. And people would die. They would get under the wheels of these trucks. Because they were so desperate, they would get too close."

When Joshi returned, two weeks later, the camps had improved significantly with international aid organisations arriving from all over the world. But they still struggled to keep up with the demand for food, medicine and supplies.

"Everyone has a story of utter and sheer horror," says Joshi. "There are so many traumatised people here all trying to wake from their nightmares. They've seen their families drowned, or butchered, their villages razed to the ground and their women and girls preyed on by predators in uniform.

"These were people sitting in their tents, under tarpaulin sheets, who would tell me their story and I was very conscious of the fact that I was intruding on their grief and the torment. You could just see in their eyes and their expressions.

The trips would take an emotional toll on Joshi.

"For me as a father, every time I interviewed a child I would be reminded of my own children," he says. "The first trip I came home and I cried a lot. I was very emotional.

"Dealing with children who were the same age as my children again and again, orphans who have seen their families slaughtered.

"What made it really difficult was knowing that [the refugee camp] is it. This is this is where they're going to spend the rest of their lives. They will not be repatriated. They will not go to a school and have an education and be able to grow and learn as human beings.

"This is their life now and not just them for generations of Rohingya to follow as well."

There has been criticism from some that the media is not covering both sides of the Rohingya story, saying that there is violence committed by Rohingya Muslims on Buddhists as well.

"As a reporter, I can only report on what I see and what I hear," Joshi says in response.

"I would give anything to be allowed to go into Rakhine and talk to Buddhists and Hindus, who have allegedly been attacked by Muslim militants, by Rohingya militants. Any atrocity, I don't cover stories because I want to take sides. I cover what I see in front of me.

"The world needs to bear witness independently to what is happening inside Rakhine State. There's a reason the Myanmar authorities won't let anyone in there and that's because they don't want the world to see what is happening there."

Situation report by Special Envoy of the Secretary General on Myanmar

Christine Schraner Burgener is the Special Envoy on Myanmar. She roperted on the Situation in Myanmar at the  Security Council, 8477th Meeting
28 Feb 2019 -  Remarks by Christine Schraner Burgener, Special Envoy of the Secretary General on Myanmar, on the Situation in Myanmar.

Click the link here
to view her presentation.

Racism of Mark Meadows unmasked

After denying racism, videos of Meadows vowing to send Obama 'home to Kenya' resurface.
WASHINGTON – After Rep. Mark Meadows defended himself against allegations of racism during a House committee meeting Wednesday, critics resurfaced two 2012 videos of the North Carolina Republican in which he vowed to send then-President Barack Obama "home to Kenya." 
The videos were shared by Liberal commentators in response to an exchange between Meadows and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., during a hearing featuring President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen. Meadows invited Lynne Patton – a longtime Trump associate and current Housing and Urban Development official – to the hearing and referred to her while disputing Cohen's allegation that the president is a racist
"Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them, does not mean they aren't racist," Tlaib said. She added that the use of Patton as a political "prop" was "racism in itself." 
Meadows angrily denied the implication of racism and asked for Tlaib's comment's to be "stricken from the record." 
"There's nothing more personal to me than my relationship – my nieces and nephews are people of color. Not many people know that," Meadows said. He also denied bringing Patton to the hearing as a human "prop" and said, "It's racist to suggest that I asked her to come in here for that reason."
Patton also bristled at Tlaib's suggestion. In a statement Wednesday on Facebook, she listed a number of her accomplishments before adding, "That is not the resume of a prop."

Kashmir - a message from Sound Vision to reflect upon

In the last few days, India bombed Pakistan, and now Pakistan has struck back. Both countries have nuclear weapons.

While the media is focusing on the two countries, what is being ignored or underreported is the core of the issue: Kashmir, Kashmiris, their rights, and their aspirations for freedom and peace.

The latest conflict began after a Kashmiri freedom fighter attacked a convoy of Indian soldiers, killing at least 40. This came on the heels of 2018, when Kashmiris faced the worst year in a decade of human rights abuses by the Indian army, according to Human Rights Watch, which has called for international investigation. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, even asserted that in Kashmir Indians have “… almost total impunity for enforced disappearances….”

The horrific case of Asifa Bano, an eight-year-old girl gang-raped and strangled to death in a Hindu temple by eight men in Indian-occupied Kashmir, including four police officers is just one example of what Kashmiris face.These criminals were supported by two ministers from the ruling Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Now there is war hysteria in India against Kashmiris as well as against Pakistan. Kashmiris are being hunted throughout India. Thousands of Kashmiris are beaten on the streets or detained in India. Kashmir itself has been locked down and India has suspended internet service to the Kashmiris.  

A former chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, in his letter to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind asserts that there is “…unprecedented outbreak of harassment, mob violence, attacks, insults and abuse levelled at many Kashmiris across the country.”

A cycle of revenge, counter-revenge, attacks and counter-attacks have begun between the two nuclear powers, bringing them closer to war.

Talking Points
It is critical to respond to media reports and social media conversation which are essentially ignoring Kashmir and Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom and justice.

  • The UN must grant Kashmiris what the UN promised, and Indians and Pakistanis agreed to: A right to self-determination. Allow a vote to decide if they want to remain in India, join Pakistan, or become an independent nation
  • India should allow an international investigation of human rights violations in Kashmir as requested by Human Rights Watch
  • Here are some statistics from the last 20 years of India’s oppression in Kashmir:
    • Kashmiris Killed by the Indian army: 94,479
    • Custodial killings by Indian army: 7,048
    • Disappearances of Kashmiris at the hands of Indian police: 10,125
    • Gang rapes by Indians in Kashmir: 10,283
    • Kashmiris blinded by Indian firing: 188
    • Kashmiri children orphaned: 20,085
    • Kashmiri women widowed: 20,005
    • Kashmiri buildings destroyed: 106,071
  • Kashmiris must be part of all talks, not just Indians and Pakistanis
  • 70 years of Indian subjugation of Kashmiris has proven that no amount of force can quell their freedom movement
  • Kashmir, according to the Indian scholar Arundhati Roy, was never a part of India
  • The world must differentiate between terrorism and legitimate freedom movements by oppressed peoples
  • The rise of Hindu fascism called Hindutva is fueling the fire. As a February 2019 report by Human Rights Watch noted, “In 2018, the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) harassed and at times prosecuted activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, and journalists for criticizing authorities.
  • Indian law provides soldiers effective immunity from prosecution for serious human rights abuses in Kashmir
  • India has stripped the citizenship of 4 million Indian Muslims from the state of Assam which has the second highest concentration of Muslims in India. It has resulted in Washington based Genocide Watch to issue a genocide watch for India.
  • Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and Sikhs, all Indian minorities, are facing serious challenges in India at the hands of the Hindutva government, which many translate consider a form of Hindu fascism that attacks minorities with armed militias                                             
India bombing Pakistan and Pakistan bombing India in retaliation will not bring peace or help Kashmiris. It will only divert attention from the real issue: Their right to self-determination enshrined in human rights law and promised by the UN.

Thinking Points
  • Why does the world ignore India’s violence in Kashmir?
  • While there are many human rights issues, can some of you adopt the Kashmir issue for education and advocacy?

  • Struggling against oppression is a duty (Quran 4:135). Speaking the truth is an obligation. This is why we must not remain silent about this.
  • Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, always prayed and strived for peace and justice. In his last sermon, he assigned us the Prophetic mission of peace and justice.

So, let’s pray for peace.
Let’s strive for justice.

Latest Violence in Myanmar Confirms Worst Suspicions

Earlier this month, a new round of reports began surfacing suggesting that people were fleeing escalating violence in Myanmar’s southern Chin state and Rakhine state because of a deteriorating security situation. The reports once again spotlighted the ongoing worst suspicions about how peace and conflict issues are being addressed in Myanmar under the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Though Myanmar has long had a history of difficulties in forging peace among diverse ethnic groups and addressing deeply rooted issues of identity, in some cases the situation has deteriorated significantly. Of particular note is the tragic plight of the Rohingya issue, which continues in spite of years of international outrage.
The situation, if anything, appears to continue to be dire. The violence in north Rakhine state, from where 730,000 people have fled, continues. The army recently said 13 ethnic Rakhine fighters were killed in attacks last month, which were launched after deadly strikes on police posts blamed on the Arakan Army (AA), which is fighting for greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
More than 130 people were forced to flee across the border due to the deteriorating situation, prompting Bangladesh to summon Myanmar’s ambassador in protest over the latest arrivals, with a further 5,000 people displaced since early December in Rakhine and Chin states.
Recent missions to Cox’s Bazar – journalists, NGO staffers, and diplomats among them – have only confirmed the dire situation for the million-odd Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshis stranded in Cox’s Bazar.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has directly said that much more money is needed – around $920 million – to meet the needs of more than a million Rohingya refugees and vulnerable Bangladeshis. The clock is ticking: when the rainy season emerges, the prospects look still bleaker.
At the very least, the international outrage with respect to the situation is continuing. In addition to reporting provided by UN agencies and other humanitarian and rights groups, the United Nations also appears to continue to move forward on its investigations into the Rohingya crackdown, including its own role and presence in Myanmar.
But more than words is required. Aung San Suu Kyi and her government need to live up to their promises to provide a secure and dignified atmosphere for the Rohingyas’ return. Privately, many of those advocating safe passage and a secure home in Rakhine for the Rohingyas believe this improbable. As UN special envoy Angelina Jolie recently and bluntly said: “They have been denied their most basic human right: citizenship in their country of birth. And some still won’t even call the Rohingya by their rightful name.”
But Suu Kyi and her government continue to maintain an indignant self-righteousness. This was underscored by the latest violence and Suu Kyi’s chiding of investors and a world focused, as she put it, “narrowly on negative” aspects of her government, particularly in Rakhine state where several generals have already been cited for genocide by the United Nations.
To be sure, a solution will require more than just the Myanmar government. There needs to be a settlement with Bangladesh that is meaningful and sustainable, and third countries need to play a role in accepting them as well. In particular, ASEAN countries that are speaking out more, like Indonesia and Malaysia, ought to be acting more as well and taking a more aggressive role in seeking to resolve this.
But the buck ultimately stops with Suu Kyi. If there is to be any end to Myanmar’s violence, she needs to invest more in defending vulnerable populations, including the Rohingyas, rather than just defending herself and her government.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt.