THERE IS A VIGIL FOR JAWAID BHUTTO

REMEMBER THOSE EYES?

They are the eyes of a critical thinker lost in self reflection. This philosopher has left a pair of eyes that are looking out on his behalf. The eyes of his life partner will ensure that his assailant and everyone in the DC metropolitan area who stole his life is brought to trial and punished.

JAWAID BHUTTO’S ATTACKER SEEKS `PRIVACY’ TO PROTECT HIS MURDEROUS PAST

DC SUPERIOR COURT ORDER IN JAWAID BHUTTO’S CASE

THE KILLER CAUGHT ON CCTV CAMERAS PACING THE GROUNDS, WAITING FOR BHUTTO TO COME HOME, NOW WANTS TO PLEAD INSANITY

The accused in Jawaid Bhutto’s case, Hilman Jordan, who killed his cousin two decades ago, and was seen on CCTV cameras pacing the grounds… waiting for Jawaid to finish his night shift and come home… seeks to plead insanity. It’s an old tactic that’s worked before. Some 22 years ago after Jordan killed his cousin and pleaded insanity, he was spared from prison.

On Sept 30, at 9:00 am, Judge Dana Dayson will hear his lawyers argue that Jordan’s mental health records be kept private. This “privacy” made it possible for Jordan, a schizophrenic killer, to live in a neighborhood where no one would know his demented criminal past.

Since the last hearing on August 25, the defense lawyers for the accused have tried to convince the judge not to allow Jordan to be examined by a psychiatrist. They also want to impose all types of conditions on the psychiatrist to freely evaluate his mental condition, including invoking the Fifth and Sixth amendment..

The defense goal in opposing the psychiatric evaluation of the criminal is an effort to “prove” that he acted in a fit of insanity when he attacked Jawaid Bhutto, as the latter returned home and began to unload groceries from the trunk of his car.

PUBLIC DEFENDER HAS WORKED HARD TO SAVE ACCUSED

DC SUPERIOR COURT WILL HOLD HEARING ON JAWAID BHUTTO’S CASE ON AUGUST 25

The Public Defender, Dana Page has worked hard to save the accused. During COVID, she tried to have her client sent to St. Elizabeth Psychiatric Hospital. Instead, he was hospitalized and has since recovered to face trial.

Currently, the defense has been on the attack by arguing that the government side has failed to provide them all the “discovery material” that could prove their argument beyond reasonable doubt. The prosecution has rejected their arguments.

HEARING WILL BE BEAMED LIVE ON WEBEX VIDEO

JB Giving Lecture on Sufi Poet Shah Latif Bhitai from Washington DC

People who gathered to hear Jawaid Bhutto (below) may not hear directly from him. But they will hear the circumstances under which the gentle, humane Bhutto…. who was blossoming as a deep thinker and an inspiration for thousands of people… was suddenly and cruelly snatched away from our midst.

The audience above waits to hear from Jawaid Bhutto, speaking above on Skype from his bedroom in Washington DC.

On September 30, they will be able to see and hear the proceedings on Jawaid’s case relayed on Webex video from DC Superior Court.

WATCH THIS SPACE

Pompeo, meeting Pakistan, calls on Taliban to negotiate

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Afghanistan’s Taliban to come to the table to end the long-running war as he called on Pakistan to play a supportive role, the State Department said Wednesday.

Pompeo met in Washington with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in the latest US outreach to the government of new Prime Minister Imran Khan, a longtime advocate of a negotiated settlement with Islamist insurgents.

The top US diplomat, who met Khan last month in Islamabad, “emphasized the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Pompeo “agreed that there was momentum to advance the Afghan peace process, and that the Afghan Taliban should seize the opportunity for dialogue,” Nauert said of the meeting, which took place Tuesday.

President Donald Trump has doubled down on the war effort in Afghanistan despite his past calls to end the longest-ever US war.

But diplomatic efforts have also intensified, with US officials meeting in July in Qatar with representatives of the Taliban, whose hardline regime was overthrown in a US-led operation in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The State Department notably did not say whether Pompeo addressed Pakistan’s position on extremism.

In August, Pompeo congratulated Khan in a telephone call on taking office, with the State Department saying that he asked Islamabad to “take decisive action against all terrorists operating in Pakistan.”

Pakistan denied the account, saying that the issue never came up.

The United States has pressed for years for Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban and Haqqani network as well as virulently anti-Indian groups that operate virtually openly in parts of the country.

Trump has suspended military assistance worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan, accusing the country in which Osama bin Laden was found hiding of duplicity.

© 2018 AFP

“If They Can, They Will”: The Ford-Kavanaugh Hearing and the Angry Politics of Now There are two Americas, growing more enraged by the minute, and they are not listening to each other

How could we have expected anything from Trump’s Washington other than the circus that unfolded on Capitol Hill on Thursday over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh? In the course of eight agonizing hours in a wood-panelled hearing room, tears were shed, tweets were sent, fists were pounded.

At the end of the day, as at the beginning, the polarized politics of Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court had hardly shifted. The hearing was not an effort to answer the perhaps unanswerable question of what happened between Kavanaugh and the woman who accused him of sexual assault in 1982, when he was a teen-ager, but a searing, infuriating reminder of what we already knew: there are two Americas, getting angrier by the minute, and they are not listening to each other. Truth was not the goal, nor will it be the outcome.

The day before the hearing, I spoke with Ron Klain, who, twenty-seven years ago, served as the chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas hearings. The panel’s handling of Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment by Thomas was widely seen as a debacle, if for nothing other than the embarrassing panel of white men from both parties who alternately berated and belittled Hill. However, Klain reminded me, in the immediate aftermath of those hearings, Thomas was viewed in public polls as more credible than Hill, and several wavering Democratic senators, much to their later regret, voted for him. For all those in recent days who said that American politics have changed fundamentally since 1991, Klain was not so sure.

His reading on Wednesday was that Republicans were determined to proceed with the Kavanaugh nomination, regardless of what was said by his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, at Thursday’s hearing. The only uncertainty was about the small handful of Republican moderates who had already been wavering on the Kavanaugh nomination before Ford’s allegations became public. The Republican strategy going into Thursday’s hearing was clear: attack the charges as a last-minute “smear” perpetuated by Democrats, and push forward. “This is their motto: If they can, they will,” Klain told me.

Midday on Thursday, when the Senate Judiciary panel broke for lunch in the midst of Ford’s powerful and at times wrenching testimony, I immediately thought of Klain’s prediction as the initial flood of reviews rolled in. Republicans were said to be stunned by Ford’s compelling presentation, and fearful that it had just blown up Kavanaugh’s chances. They were sure his nomination was doomed. Would Kavanaugh even last the day? some wondered. How soon, others asked, until Trump drops the nominee? “This is a disaster,” the journalist Chris Wallace said on the Trump-friendly Fox News. “Total disaster,” one senior Republican told Politico. “The writing is on the wall,” the CNBC commentator John Harwood said. On C-SPAN—staid, boring, C-SPAN—women were calling in to the live coverage to share their own stories of being sexually assaulted. A political earthquake was happening, or so it seemed.

Klain, however, was having none of it. At 12:15, he tweeted, “I felt the same way after Anita Hill testified. And yet the GOP persisted. Don’t underestimate their determin[ation] to get Kavanaugh on the court.” He was right, of course, and the next few hours would prove it.

This is such an angry time in Washington, and in our politics. Whatever else it was supposed to be, this was a Senate Judiciary hearing all about that anger. Rage at what politics has become. Rage from women who feel that their voices have been ignored for too long. Rage from Kavanaugh and his defenders. In the hallways of the Senate, there were protesters shouting at senators, and some senators pushing right back at them.

Just about the only person who didn’t sound angry was Ford, a professor and suburban mom who pronounced herself “terrified” at the outset of the hearing. She seemed genuinely so as she recounted, in a wavering voice, what she said was a sexual assault by Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge in the summer of 1982. She added no relevant new facts to what she had already disclosed, and offered no new corroboration, but she answered calmly, at times even clinically, as she discussed the lingering effects of the trauma and her own reluctance to come forward about it. Asked what she recalled best about an experience from which some memories were hazy or nonexistent, she replied, her voice wavering, “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter.” It was an extraordinary juxtaposition between Ford, the scientific researcher she has become, and Chrissy Blasey, the shaky fifteen-year-old she was at the time she says her encounter with Kavanaugh occurred.

Emotion does not win on Capitol Hill, though, where the majority rules. The Democrats supporting Ford and demanding a more thorough investigation of her charges before voting on Kavanaugh do not control the Senate, and they did not get to set the terms of the hearings. In Washington, process determines outcome, and in this case the outcome was very likely determined from the moment Republicans on the Judiciary Committee set up the process. The process was designed to give us the deadlock of he-said-she-said, and, in the end, that is exactly what it did. Ford said she was “a hundred per cent certain” that Kavanaugh had attacked her; Kavanaugh said he was “a hundred per cent” sure he had not. How could it have been any other way? There was no independent F.B.I. investigation; no other witnesses were called. Questions were limited to one five-minute round for each senator. Ford spoke first and Kavanaugh second; he would have the last word.

In the morning, Ford was given her due, and the eleven white, male Republican senators stayed resolutely and, it seemed for some of them, sullenly silent as she testified, each deferring his question time to a female prosecutor from Arizona who had been brought in to query Ford for them, so they did not repeat the mistake of the men who grilled Anita Hill.

But the afternoon was all about anger, and it turned out that it was not women’s anger that this Senate Judiciary hearing will be remembered for but that of men. Kavanaugh, in a long opening statement he wrote himself, was so angry he was practically shouting at times as he proclaimed his innocence and attacked Democrats for a “calculated and orchestrated political hit” that he suggested was somehow the product of “pent-up anger” about President Trump’s victory in the 2016 election and “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.”

The night before the hearing, President Trump had made clear this was exactly the kind of angry fight he wanted from his nominee. Trump said at a news conference that he would stick with Kavanaugh “if we win,” and for Trump winning invariably means attacking and never admitting wrongdoing. At least twenty women have accused the President himself of sexual misconduct, and he was quoted in Bob Woodward’s new book, “Fear,” as advising that the way to survive such allegations is to “deny, deny, deny.”

Kavanaugh and his Republican defenders got the message, and they amped it up to a level I have rarely seen on Capitol Hill in nearly three decades in Washington. On the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, it was Trump’s Republican Party that showed up; once Kavanaugh showed his fight, the Republican senators joined him in a parade of alpha-male outrage.

The first to get them going was Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who has perhaps become Trump’s closest confidant and adviser in the Senate, despite running against him in 2016 and calling him a “kook” unfit for office. Graham, in full dudgeon, thundered that this was “the most unethical sham since I’ve been in politics,” and practically shook with rage toward the Democrats he blamed for inflicting the Ford story on the committee at the eleventh hour. Graham’s conspiracy theory was riddled with exaggerations and half-truths, but it did not matter—an angry narrative had been found.

After that, it was all over but the shouting, and relieved Republicans who just hours earlier had been wondering if and when Trump would pull the nomination now praised Graham for saving the day. “A HERO,” a conservative Christian TV journalist, Dave Brody, who has interviewed Trump more than just about anyone else, tweeted. Around 4:50 P.M., a barrage of apparently coördinated tweets emerged from the White House: Trump’s counsellor Kellyanne Conway and the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, praised Graham’s fiery speech. “@LindseyGrahamSC has more decency and courage than every Democrat member of the committee combined,” Sanders tweeted. “God bless him.”

Immediately after the hearing adjourned, at 6:45 P.M., Trump tweeted a demand for a vote, and soon. “Judge Kavanaugh showed America exactly why I nominated him,” the President said in his message. In a way, it was one of the least arguable things Trump had said all week. Senator John Cornyn, a Judiciary Committee member who is also the Republican Whip, followed right up. “The plan is still to have a markup tomorrow morning,” he told reporters in the hallway outside the hearing room. “This has gone long enough.” Meanwhile, Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Joe Manchin—three key Republican swing votes, and a Democrat from the heavily pro-Trump state of West Virginia—huddled after the hearing. Manchin emerged to tell reporters that they were all still undecided.

The day looked to be ending exactly as it had started. The Republicans on Capitol Hill will push Kavanaugh through, or at least they will try. Soon after 8 P.M., the Judiciary Committee announced that its vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination will happen as scheduled, at nine-thirty on Friday morning. The Republican motto remains: If they can, they will.

Susan B. Glasser is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she writes a weekly column on life in Trump’s Washington.

Americans Were Among 22 Killed in Kabul Hotel Attack, U.S. Says

KABUL, Afghanistan — The State Department said on Tuesday that United States citizens were among the victims of the Taliban attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, over the weekend, which killed 22 people.

American officials said they were not yet able to publicly identify the citizens who were killed or injured, but Afghan officials said it appeared that at least three people with American citizenship — all of them either dual citizens or with family roots in Afghanistan — had lost their lives.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry identified one of the dead as Abdullah Waheed Poyan, an Afghan diplomat. Relatives said he had lived in the United States for at least a decade and held a United States passport.

“The attack on the hotel, once again, shows the depravity of terrorists who seek to sow chaos,” said Heather Nauert, the spokeswoman for the State Department. “Sadly, we can confirm that Americans are among the victims.”

Six Taliban militants barged into the highly guarded Intercontinental hotel on Saturday night, fighting until noon on Sunday. At least 14 of their victims were foreign citizens, nine of them pilots and flight crew members from Ukraine and Venezuela who worked for a private Afghan airline, Kam Air.

In the aftermath of the attack, there has been much confusion about the casualties, with many fearing the Afghan government was hiding the real toll.

Different officials have insisted the number is no more than 20 or 22 dead. On Monday, at least two new bodies were discovered at the hotel, which remains off limits to journalists.

Much of the hotel looks charred in photographs that have leaked out, and Afghan officials said many of the bodies were burned or in bad shape, making the identification process difficult.

Ahmad Shakib Mostaghni, a spokesman for the Afghan Foreign Ministry, said that paperwork for 10 of the foreign citizens was completed and that their bodies would be flown to their home countries soon.

“The four remaining are Americans and German,” Mr. Mostaghni said. “Their paperwork is not ready and no one has reached our ministry for assistance. All the bodies are at the morgue.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. The Afghan government has said it was the work of the Haqqani network, a brutal arm of the insurgency that operates out of Pakistan.

President Trump recently suspended nearly all American security aid to Pakistan for harboring militant groups such as the Haqqani network on its soil. The death of American citizens in an attack claimed by the group is likely to increase the tensions between the United States and Pakistan.

Gardiner Harris contributed reporting from Washington.

The C.I.A.’s Maddening Relationship with Pakistan

Thirteen years ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Pakistan with a list. He pulled it from his shirt pocket during a meeting with President Pervez Musharraf, and told the general how, during a recent Oval Office gathering, President George W. Bush had expressed bewilderment and annoyance that most of the terrorists on the list were suspected of hiding out in Pakistan—an ostensible American ally. Musharraf promised to look into the matter, according to a participant in the meeting.

And, less than a month later, Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or I.S.I., arrested one of the men atop the list. “Here’s the truth,” a former senior U.S. intelligence official told me. Pakistan has been “in many ways” America’s best counterterrorism partner, the official said. “Nobody had taken more bad guys off the battlefield than the Pakistanis.”

Yet there was, and remains, a maddening quality to their coöperation, the official said. Pakistan’s intelligence service went “all-in” against certain terrorists, like Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, while continuing to support the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqanis, and anti-India jihadis. On at least two occasions, the former acting C.I.A. director Michael Morell flew to Pakistan with a list of militants the United States hoped Pakistan would apprehend or confront.

Just last month, Defense Secretary James Mattis went there on a similar mission. “It’s frustrating. Our talking points have been identical for the last fifteen years: ‘You need to get tough on terrorism, and you need to close the sanctuaries,’ ” one former intelligence official told me.

Last week, Donald Trump became the third President to echo that frustration. “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years,” he tweeted. “They have given us nothing but lies & deceit.” Three days later, the Trump Administration went further than its predecessors when the State Department announced that it was suspending military-equipment deliveries and financial assistance to Pakistan until the country took, in the words of a senior Administration official, “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other groups that “threaten U.S. interests and U.S. personnel” in Afghanistan. The value of suspended funds totals approximately two billion dollars, and includes military equipment that Pakistan ordered in 2013 but has not yet received.

American officials have never been blind to the Pakistani agency’s duplicity. It was “baked into the stock price of U.S.-Pakistan relations,” said Joshua White, a former national-security council adviser in the Obama Administration. And, in general, Pakistani coöperation with America’s counterterrorism campaign has been strong: their government permitted the C.I.A. to fly armed drones over Pakistan’s remote tribal areas, where many militants hid. Initially, the agency even based its drones on Pakistani soil, working off a list jointly drawn up with its I.S.I. counterparts. As those on the “target deck” were killed, new names—most of them foreign Al Qaeda leaders—were added.

That close collaboration has eroded over the years. In 2010, the identity of the C.I.A.’s station chief, Jonathan Bank, appeared in the Pakistani press in what American officials suspected was a leak planted by the I.S.I. Bank’s replacement, Mark Kelton, arrived at an inopportune time: a day after he showed up, two Pakistani men died in an altercation in Lahore with a C.I.A. contractor, Raymond Davis, who claimed that the men had tried to rob him. And Kelton was still there when, in May, 2011, Navy SEALS helicoptered into Pakistan, stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound, and killed the Al Qaeda leader. At one point, the I.S.I. chief at the time, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, told the U.S. Ambassador, Cameron Munter, how Kelton, who could be dour, reminded him of a “walking cadaver.” Not long after, Kelton fell ill. He suspected that he had been poisoned.

Eventually, the C.I.A. stopped notifying the I.S.I. of drone strikes in advance. Pakistani officials, in turn, exaggerated the number of civilians killed in the American strikes, according to several former officials. The C.I.A. has been exacting in its efforts to avoid civilian casualties, officials told me. For instance, in May, 2013, according to two former intelligence officials, agency drones spotted Wali-ur-Rehman, the deputy emir of the Pakistani Taliban, on the roof of a compound where, in the summer months, it was cooler than sleeping inside. There was a clear shot from the drone circling overheard, but analysts at C.I.A. headquarters were wary that a direct strike would bring the whole house down, and kill numerous women and children inside. After studying the house for hours, they decided that they could fire the missile from an oblique angle, killing Rehman and his associates on the roof, while saving those below. The Predator dropped into a low orbit and fired several missiles, which skimmed the roof and killed Rehman. The officials said that no civilians died.

By 2015, the C.I.A. had begun to run out of Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan; there were ten drone strikes reported in Pakistan that year, compared to a hundred and twenty-two in 2010. “The center of gravity for Al Qaeda was in the process of a fundamental shift from Pakistan to Syria,” Joshua Geltzer, the former senior director for counterterrorism on Obama’s national-security council, told me. And though the Trump Administration has presented its new policy as a correction to America’s past failings in Pakistan, current and former national-security officials said it was the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism successes there, andAl Qaeda’s corresponding weakness in Pakistan, which have enabled Trump to take a harder line.

In short, Al Qaeda’s operation in Pakistan just does not represent the threat it once did. The former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden declined to comment on, or even acknowledge, the C.I.A.’s drone program, but he told me that he applauded Trump’s decision, and said, “He may be confident enough that we have sufficiently shaped the environment that the downsides are manageable.”

Al Qaeda, however, is not the only terrorist group in Pakistan. Militants based there, particularly the Haqqani network, continue to carry out deadly attacks on civilians and Afghan and American forces in Afghanistan. White, the former South Asia adviser, said, “The outstanding list of Al Qaeda-affiliated figures is small. But the Haqqani list is moving in the other direction.” And when American officials have asked the Pakistani military and intelligence officials to pressure the Haqqanis, White said, “They were at times minimally responsive, but we always hit a wall.”

Trump’s national-security adviser, H. R. McMaster, has endorsed a harder line against Pakistan as part of a plan to reinvigorate the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Last year, McMaster saw a report by Lisa Curtis, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and Husain Haqqani, the former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. (and of no relation to the Haqqani network in North Waziristan), titled “A New U.S. Approach to Pakistan.” In it, Curtis and Haqqani argue that the Trump Administration should “stop chasing the mirage” that Pakistan might change its approach to confronting certain terrorist groups without the threat of withholding aid. “Pakistan is not an American ally,” they write.

McMaster asked Curtis—an experienced Pakistan analyst who had worked at the C.I.A. and the State Department—to join the national-security council as the senior director for South and Central Asia. The paper she co-wrote with Haqqani has become the “blueprint” for Trump’s Pakistan policy, according to a source familiar with the Administration’s deliberations. After last week’s suspension of aid, the question is, what next? In their paper, Curtis and Haqqani propose that the U.S. might threaten to designate Pakistan a “state sponsor of terrorism,” which could cause a near-total rupture in relations between the two countries and, perhaps, even the sanctioning of current and former Pakistani officials.

Pentagon and State Department officials have resisted the new hard-line approach, citing the risk that Pakistan could cut off the land and air routes that the U.S. uses to supply American forces in Afghanistan. State Department officials were also reportedly blindsided by Trump’s tweets last week. (Defense Secretary Mattis has repeatedly discouraged other Administration officials from issuing ultimatums. A senior defense official told me, of Mattis, “He’s still making his case.”) The senior Administration official disputed claims that the Defense and State Departments were not part of developing the new approach, and the characterization of Curtis and Haqqani’s paper as the “blueprint” for the policy change. “There is a robust interagency process,” the official told me. “There are many people involved in the policy process. There is a deliberative process.”

More importantly, the official said, last week’s announcement reflected the Trump Administration’s “broader strategy” in Afghanistan: a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But, the official added, “We believe that so long as the Taliban and the Haqqani network feel they have a safe haven in Pakistan, they will be less motivated to come to the negotiating table.”

One of the former intelligence officials said that he sympathized with Trump’s stern position. But expecting the I.S.I. to dump the Haqqanis and the Taliban struck him as being as naïve and Pollyannaish as blaming America’s failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan. “Even if Pakistan becomes the most benign country in the world, Afghanistan is not going to be Switzerland,” he said.

Here we go again

When Nawaz Sharif and his cronies brandished photographs of Rockwood Estate — known in Pakistan as ‘Surrey Palace’ — back in 1995, Benazir Bhutto denied knowledge and ownership of the property.

But as more details emerged, it became clear that Asif Zardari had indeed bought the 350-acre (141 hectares) estate. He sold it in 2005 for £4 million, but must be kicking himself because it is now expected to fetch £10m.

I recall writing at the time that by being party to the purchase, Ms Bhutto had lost the moral authority to govern. I made it clear that this was not because of the corruption implicit in the deal, but because the prime minister of a poor country should not acquire property abroad for obscene sums.

Either way, one party is going to feel aggrieved.

Soon after that scandal, Benazir Bhutto’s PPP-led government was dismissed, leaving the door open for Nawaz Sharif to have a second crack at running the country. A couple of years later, he was toppled by Musharraf through a military coup. Now, it seems that his third innings may be coming to an end, even though his team may have another year to go.

But Nawaz Sharif is not known for sticking to high moral principles. He is a fighter, and I suspect he’ll hang on by his fingertips until they are prised open, and he’s dragged out of the prime minister’s house. Throughout his political career, he has shown no awareness of the concept of conflict of interest; as a result, his family’s business interests have flourished.

We have been aware of the Sharif family’s ownership of the Mayfair flats for over 20 years, so the JIT has told us nothing new about them. But the convoluted money trail continues to mystify with the Qatari sheikh’s account of handing over bags full of cash as return on business investments.

It is here that the JIT report is weakest: by not going the extra mile and interviewing Qatar’s ex-prime minister, members have opened themselves up to the charge of bias. While they were willing to talk to him in the Pakistani embassy, they refused to conduct the interview at his residence, or make a simple Skype call.

This glaring flaw in their investigation has given Nawaz Sharif’s supporters plenty of ammunition to strengthen their case. They argue that the Qatari’s role was central to the money trail, and by rejecting his claim of making large cash payments, the JIT had basically undermined the ruling family’s case.

For those expecting an early end to this drama, my advice is not to hold their breath: this will run and run. For starters, I’m sure the government’s legal team will question each accusation made in the JIT report. Then, if the Supreme Court bench reaches a negative verdict against Nawaz Sharif, he could appeal to the full bench.

All this will take time. Before we know it, we’ll be in full election mode, unless Nawaz Sharif calls early polls. And let’s not forget that he commands massive support in the key province of Punjab. Whether his many voters will abandon him because of the Panamagate case remains to be seen.

After years of seeing their mandate trampled under the military jackboot, the public is now getting used to the spectacle of the higher judiciary deposing elected leaders. Thus, many buy into conspiracy theories involving foreign powers and domestic cabals.

Another factor that goes in Nawaz Sharif’s favour is the common perception that all politicians make money. But people are concerned that these leaders should undertake development projects, and provide decent governance.

The Sharif brothers tick both boxes. They have spent billions on projects that, to many of us, make little economic sense. But — thanks to CPEC — there is a palpable sense among voters in Punjab that the country is progressing. And according to the British aid agency, DFID, Punjab has been highly effective in utilising foreign assistance to improve education and health standards.

What is clear is that the country has never been as polarised and divided as it is today. The vitriol and anger in both PML-N and PTI add up to a volatile mix that can blow up when the Supreme Court verdict arrives. Already, the ruling party has rejected the JIT findings. Imagine the reaction from the PTI if the Supreme Court were now to let off Nawaz Sharif with a slap on the wrist.

Either way, one party is going to feel aggrieved. Nawaz Sharif already nurses a grudge for the way he was treated by the army when Musharraf staged his coup. Now, he feels he has been cornered by the judiciary, and many of his inner circle have expressed their bitterness at the way only civilian politicians are subjected to accountability, while generals and judges go scot free.

I fear this poison will infect our body politic for years to come.

Is Dawn Leaks notification an attempt to cover up truth?

LAHORE: While it appears that the report of the inquiry committee on Dawn Leaks has been secured somewhere, the notification issued with the signature of Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad says the premier has approved the panel’s recommendations.

The ink on the notification had not even dried when the military’s top spokesman rejected it as ‘incomplete’. Both the government and the army had promised that the report will be made public.

On October 3 last year, the political and military leadership held a meeting at the PM House which discussed various issues. Three days later, Dawn published a story claiming the government wanted to take action against terrorists but could not do so because of intelligence agencies.

The security establishment reacted strongly to this story and civil-military relations grew tense. The PM House refuted the story three times and an official communiqué termed it contrary to national interests.
Then information minister Pervaiz Rashid was removed from the post and the name of reporter Cyril Almeida, who filed the story, was briefly placed on the ECL.

A seven-member inquiry committee led by Justice (retd) Amir Raza Khan was set up to probe the matter. It did so over a period of five months and presented its report to the interior minister on Tuesday. He in turn presented the report to the prime minister, who approved the recommendations it contained on Saturday.

The military establishment’s rejection aside, one can only tell what recommendations the premier approved and why the notification was incomplete when the report is made public.

According to the recommendations that are known, Tariq Fatemi has been removed from his office like Pervaiz Rashid before him and the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) has been asked to deal with Dawn editor Zafar Abbas and Cyril Almeida, meaning the issue will be sorted ‘in house’ by the media fraternity.

The recommendation that requires the most attention is the one which suggested action against Principal Information Officer Rao Tehsin Ali under Efficiency and Discipline (E&D) Rules 1973. This creates the impression that Tehsin was the real culprit behind the scandal and means the weakest player of the game is being painted as the main accused.

Two former information ministers, Sheikh Rashid and Sherry Rehman, have vouched for Tehsin’s professionalism, with the former even announcing he will go to court for the PIO. During the record period of time he has served as the PIO, Tehsin has established good relations with editors as well as reporters.

It is also beyond comprehension that a PIO is being held responsible for failing to prevent stories from appearing in newspapers. The PIO can request better display for pro-government stories but it is for the editor to decide whether to entertain him or not. It is impossible for him to ensure even that happens, let alone whether stories are stopped or not.

As tensions emerge in the civil-military relations once again, sources have said the army is considering its own independent inquiry. If this happens, all the effort being made to save the skin of some will go in vain.

The government should immediately make the report public. Otherwise it will be suspected that the main character of the story was someone else and the purpose of the whole drill was to save that person. A few goats are being sacrificed to save some powerful persons sitting in the corridors of power.

140 Soldiers Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Base, Official Says

KABUL, Afghanistan — A day after a lethal Taliban assault on an army base in northern Afghanistan, an official said on Saturday that at least 140 soldiers had been killed, making it the single deadliest known attack on an Afghan military base in the course of the long war.

“Today, there was even a shortage of coffins,” said the official, Ibrahim Khairandish, a member of the provincial council in Balkh Province, where the attack occurred. Citing information from army officials, Mr. Khairandish said 60 soldiers had also been wounded in the attack.

The soldiers, most of them unarmed, were shot while eating lunch or emerging from a Friday Prayer service at the headquarters of the Afghan Army’s 209th Corps in Balkh by assailants in military uniforms who entered after another attacker had detonated explosives at a check post. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault.

“Most of those killed were in the mosque; some of them were in the dining facility,” Mr. Khairandish said.
Details were still emerging on Saturday, but other officials said the death toll had been staggeringly high.

Another Balkh official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said 137 soldiers had been killed. A Western military official in Kabul, who insisted on anonymity because of a policy against commenting on Afghan security forces’ casualty figures, put the death toll at more than 100.

Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, said on Saturday that “more than a hundred soldiers were killed and wounded” in the attack, but he declined to discuss precise numbers.

“In continuing with their barbarism and criminality, the Taliban carried out a group attack in the 209th Corps mosque when our soldiers were standing for group prayers,” General Waziri said. “This was against all human and Islamic values.”

Among the dead was Qari Ahmad Khan, 22, who had joined the army after completing his studies at an Islamic school, where he specialized in memorizing the Quran, said his brother, Mohamed Khan, 43. Mr. Khan said he waited for hours near the base before army officials released his brother’s body.

“The army corps was not allowing anyone in — not even 100 meters close to the base,” Mr. Khan said. “Tens of people were waiting there, crying and wailing. Some were searching for the bodies of their martyrs, others didn’t know whether the person they were waiting for was dead or wounded.”

President Ashraf Ghani arrived in Balkh Province on Saturday to visit the army base.

The Taliban released the names and a picture of 10 men who they said had taken part in the assault. All were dressed in Afghan military uniforms, down to helmets and kneepads. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the assailants had been led inside the base by four soldiers who had long been working for the militants.

The attack came weeks after militants entered the Afghan Army’s main hospital in Kabul, the capital, and killed more than 50 people in a siege that lasted nearly seven hours. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, claimed responsibility for that assault. The militants had inside help in that attack, security officials said.
While the Islamic State has been getting attention in recent days because of the American military’s use of its largest conventional bomb against the group’s cave complex in eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban remain the biggest security threat to the country. The Taliban have expanded their territory over the past couple years and threaten several cities.

Such a major security breach in Balkh, even before the start of the insurgents’ spring offensive, is a major concern to Afghan forces who are already struggling in the fight against the Taliban.

In 2016, more than 6,700 Afghan service members were killed in battle. The repeated ability of a few militants to cause tremendous bloodshed in highly secure areas was an especially troubling sign.

Jawad Sukhanyar and Zahra Nader contributed reporting

Nakedly corrupt – Editorial (Express Tribune)

Corruption in public life and offices usually has the decency to find itself a fig leaf to hide behind as it goes about its dirty business, but no such modesty on display with the removal of the Inspector General of Police (IG), AD Khawaja. This man is by all accounts an exemplary police officer with a track record of being uncorrupt and refusing to bend to political pressures when it came to making appointments or investigating crimes. In those very virtues lay his downfall — although the twist in the tail of the tale may be yet to come.

The provincial government is held by the Pakistan People’s Party, and it is the PPP collectively and individually that stands as nakedly corrupt in this tawdry affair. For the second time since the start of the year the PPP government had unseated IG Khawaja making little attempt to disguise the fact that it was his refusal to take political direction that was the reason why he got his marching orders. For the second time he now finds himself reinstated courtesy of the independently-minded Sindh High Court (SHC) that on Monday 3rd April suspended the notification of his removal on the grounds that it had not been ratified by the federal government as required.
At the time of writing there is no on-the-record comment by the Sindh government as to this reversal of its fortunes, but the affair is unlikely to be buried.

The removal of Khawaja will directly impact on the ongoing ‘Karachi operation’ as he had the support and cooperation of all the law-enforcement agencies involved in this complex task — itself an unusual circumstance. The Sindh government was flying in the face of an existing SHC order by appointing a replacement for Khawaja — a move it was not mandated to take. It is for the PM himself to make appointments at grades 21 and 22, which he most certainly has not in this instance. It is the exemplary conduct of this upright man that brings us to the conclusion that a corrupt police force, corruptly led, is the only form of law-enforcement acceptable to the PPP establishment. They bring shame and disrepute on themselves and their governance, and IG Khawaja has our unwavering support.

China Learns How to Get Trump’s Ear: Through Jared Kushner

WASHINGTON — When President Trump welcomes President Xi Jinping of China to his palm-fringed Florida club for two days of meetings on Thursday, the studied informality of the gathering will bear the handiwork of two people: China’s ambassador to Washington and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The Chinese ambassador, Cui Tiankai, has established a busy back channel to Mr. Kushner, according to several officials briefed on the relationship. The two men agreed on the club, Mar-a-Lago, as the site for the meeting, and the ambassador even sent Mr. Kushner drafts of a joint statement that China and the United States could issue afterward.

Mr. Kushner’s central role reflects not only the peculiar nature of this first meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi, but also of the broader relationship between the United States and China in the early days of the Trump administration. It is at once highly personal and bluntly transactional — a strategy that carries significant risks, experts said, given the economic and security issues that already divide the countries.

While Chinese officials have found Mr. Trump a bewildering figure with a penchant for inflammatory statements, they have come to at least one clear judgment: In Mr. Trump’s Washington, his son-in-law is the man to know.
Mr. Kushner first made his influence felt in early February when he and Mr. Cui orchestrated a fence-mending phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi. During that exchange, Mr. Trump pledged to abide by the four-decade-old “One China” policy on Taiwan, despite his earlier suggestion that it was up for negotiation. ‘

Now, officials said, Mr. Trump wants something in return: He plans to press Mr. Xi to intensify economic sanctions against North Korea to pressure the country to shut down its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. He has also vowed to protest the chronic trade imbalance between the United States and China, which he railed against during his presidential campaign.

China’s courtship of Mr. Kushner, which has coincided with the marginalization of the State Department in the Trump administration, reflects a Chinese comfort with dynastic links. Mr. Xi is himself a “princeling”: His father was Xi Zhongxun, a major figure in the Communist revolution who was later purged by Mao Zedong.
Not only is Mr. Kushner married to the president’s daughter Ivanka, but he is also one of his most influential advisers — a 36-year-old with no previous government experience but an exceptionally broad portfolio under his father-in-law.

“Since Kissinger, the Chinese have been infatuated with gaining and maintaining access to the White House,” said Evan S. Medeiros, a senior director for Asia in the Obama administration. “Having access to the president’s family and somebody they see as a princeling is even better.”

Former American officials and China experts warned that the Chinese had prepared more carefully for this visit than the White House, which is still debating how harshly to confront Beijing, and which has yet to fill many important posts in the State Department. Several said that if Mr. Trump presented China with an ultimatum on North Korea, it could backfire.

Shortly after winning the election, Mr. Trump said he might use the “One China” policy, under which the United States recognizes a single Chinese government in Beijing and has severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, as a bargaining chip for greater Chinese cooperation on trade or North Korea.

Mr. Trump had thrown that policy into doubt after taking a congratulatory phone call from the president of Taiwan. That caused consternation in Beijing, and Mr. Xi refused to get on the phone with Mr. Trump until he reaffirmed the policy.

After the two leaders finally spoke, the White House said in a statement that the men had “discussed numerous topics, and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our One China policy.” Mr. Trump insisted on that wording, according to a person briefed on the process, because he wanted to make clear that he had made a concession to Mr. Xi.

Since that call, Mr. Cui has continued to cultivate the Kushner family. Later in February, he invited Ivanka and the couple’s daughter, Arabella, to a reception at the Chinese Embassy to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Inside the White House, the most visible sign of Mr. Kushner’s influence on China policy came in March at the beginning of a meeting of the National Security Council’s “principals committee” to discuss North Korea.

He was seated at the table in the Situation Room when Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, walked in. Seeing no chairs open, General Dunford headed for the backbenches, according to two people who were there. Mr. Kushner, they said, quickly offered his chair to General Dunford and took a seat along the wall.

While administration officials confirm that Mr. Kushner is deeply involved in China relations, they insist that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has taken the lead on policy and made many of the decisions on the choreography and agenda of the meeting at Mar-a-Lago.

In March, Mr. Tillerson made his first trip to Beijing as secretary of state, during which he and Mr. Xi discussed the planning in a 30-minute meeting. He was criticized afterward for repeating the phrases “mutual respect” and “win-win solutions,” which are drawn from the Chinese diplomatic lexicon and have been interpreted to assert a Chinese sphere of influence over the South China Sea and other disputed areas.

A senior American official said that Mr. Tillerson applied his own meaning to those phrases — “win-win,” he said, was originally an American expression — and was not accepting China’s definition. He said the secretary had adopted a significantly tougher tone in private, particularly about China’s role in curbing North Korea’s provocations.

Mr. Kushner has passed on proposals he got from Mr. Cui to Mr. Tillerson, who in turn has circulated them among his staff in the State Department, officials said. But the department’s influence has been reduced as many positions remain unfilled, including that of assistant secretary for East Asian affairs. Though Mr. Tillerson has kept a low profile, officials said he was trying to develop his own relationship with Mr. Trump at regular lunches and dinners.

Mr. Kushner’s involvement in China policy prompted questions after reports that his company was negotiating with a politically connected Chinese firm to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in his family’s flagship property, 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

On Wednesday, amid the glare of negative publicity, Mr. Kushner’s company ended negotiations with the firm, the Anbang Insurance Group.

Another question hanging over the meeting is whether the hard-liners in the White House will wield their influence. Mr. Trump ran for the presidency on a stridently anti-China platform, accusing the Chinese, wrongly, of continuing to depress the value of their currency, and threatening to impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports.

The architects of that policy — Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist, and Peter Navarro, the director of the National Trade Council — have said little publicly about China since entering the White House. But on Thursday, Mr. Trump predicted that the meeting would be “very difficult” because, as he said on Twitter, the United States would no longer tolerate “massive trade deficits.”

By inviting Mr. Xi to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s “Southern White House,” the president is conferring on him the same status as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, who spent two days in Florida, playing golf with the president and responding to a crisis after North Korea tested a ballistic missile. Such a gesture is particularly valuable, experts said, given that China is not an ally like Japan.

Mr. Xi does not play golf — as part of his anti-corruption campaign, he cracked down on Communist Party officials’ playing the sport — so he and Mr. Trump will have to find other ways to fill the 25 hours that the Chinese president will be at the club. On Thursday evening, Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, will host Mr. Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, for dinner.

There are obvious parallels between the Mar-a-Lago meeting and the 2013 summit meeting at Sunnylands in California, Walter Annenberg’s 200-acre estate, where President Barack Obama and Mr. Xi got acquainted over long walks in the desert landscape and a dinner of grilled porterhouse steaks and cherry pie. But there are important differences, too.

By the time Mr. Obama met with Mr. Xi in California, they had already met once before, when Mr. Xi was vice president. Mr. Xi held extensive meetings with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., traveling with him around the United States. Some former officials said the Mar-a-Lago meeting might reveal the disparity in experience between the two leaders and their teams.

“Sunnylands was difficult because Xi was new, while Obama had his sea legs,” said Mr. Medeiros, the former Obama administration official. “What’s interesting is that the polarity here is reversed. Xi has his sea legs; Trump does not.”

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.