Pakistan’s missing activists

“It speaks of an increasingly authoritarian state accountable to no one but itself and willing to go to any lengths to crush all dissent,” says an editorial in Pakistan’s Dawn to describe the string of disappearances of activists in Sindh in recent weeks. Journalists, writers, social activists are routinely being picked up allegedly by intelligence officials, not just in Sindh, but also Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In an ominous twist in strategy, the officials are not only abducting those who the state perceives as a threat, but also their families and those protesting against their disappearances.

While this month has seen a rise in abductions in Sindh, the use of enforced disappearances as a tool of state repression is not new to Pakistan. Considering that the country has sufficient legislation to arrest, investigate and prosecute for sedition, it is curious why it resorts to such “self-destructive tactics” and remains “blinded by its own powers”.

A magazine call to women for jihad

In other news in Pakistan, the Pakistan Taliban has started a magazine aimed at inspiring women to join them and practice jihad. An opening editorial in the 45-page magazine, called Sunnat-i-Khaula (The way of Khaula) says that the aim of the magazine is to encourage “women of Islam to come forward and join the ranks of mujahideen (holy warriors)”.  Secret gatherings (at home, of course), bringing together “like-minded jihadi sisters”, physical training classes and distributing relevant literature, are some of the ways to propagate the cause of jihad, the editorial suggests.

“This is a struggling organisation that is trying to re-establish networks and membership after being hit hard on the battlefield in recent years,” says a south Asia specialist, as he explains why the banned militant group is turning for support to a section of society it has always despised.

UK urged US to stage a coup in Iran in 1952

“British proposal to organise a coup d’état in Iran” is the explicit subject of one of the newly declassified documents which confirm that the British approached the US  to stage a coup to overthrow Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in late 1952. In an ostensible bid to “combat communism in Iran”, UK felt it was necessary to overthrow Mosaddeq, who it felt was highly unlikely to act firmly against the communists.

The US State Department had declined the proposal at the time since it was hoping to reach an oil deal with the Iranian prime minister. Moreover, the then US president Harry S. Truman believed that the West’s best bet was to work with Mosaddeq, and not against him. In fact, the documents also reveal that the US construed the UK’s action as “lack of cooperation in coming to an equitable oil agreement”.  While it has been known for years that UK was involved in planning the coup in Iran, the latest documents are by far the most explicit, officially declassified records to be released by any government on the subject.

Trump’s tit-for-tat approach to North Korea

Donald Trump, in all probability, thinks he’s got it right as far as North Korea’s unabated belligerence is concerned. There’s, however, a real chance he hasn’t. He has responded to North Korea’s incessant warnings with a warning. But make no mistake, for Trump has warned Pyongyang of “fire and fury” not if it tests another missile, but if it makes another threat – something which North Korea routinely does as part of its foreign policy.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” he said. However, it is nearly impossible for North Korea to not make such threats again. The fact that these threats and insults come with unlimited frequency has made them easy to dismiss for previous US administrations. Senator John McCain of Arizona echoed the criticism for Trump’s statement. “You’ve got to be sure that you can do what you say you’re going to do,” he said.

Respond vaguely to questions on Paris climate deal: US tells diplomats

When asked how the Trump administration intends to re-engage in the Paris Climate agreement, respond vaguely with answers such as, “We are considering a number of factors. I do not have any information to share on the nature or timing of the process” a diplomatic cable says.

It also anticipates questions that diplomats are likely to be asked in the wake of Trump’s announcement in June that the United States would withdraw from the accord. “Does the United States have a climate change policy?” and “Is the administration advocating the use of fossil fuels over renewable energy?” The cable, which was sent by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asked diplomats to emphasise the US’ willingness to help other countries use fossil fuels.


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