Imran Khan bats for the army in Pakistan

Whatever the eventual outcome, the shaky constitutional and electoral system will be badly, perhaps permanently, damaged. Electoral democracy and the federal bicameral structure are the only factors that help people maintain some amount of faith in the possibility of a change for the better.

Crucially, this structure also helps protect, to some extent, the interests of smaller and deprived provinces such as Sindh and Balochistan. In the case of a change imposed through extra-parliamentary methods and under the army’s arbitration, the crisis of the Pakistani state is likely to become worse, not better. All the actors involved in the current drama are based in the Punjab, the country’s most populous province, which will deepen the principal fault line of Pakistan. Neither confessional nor sectarian in nature, this fault line is driven by the deprivation of the smaller provinces under the domination of the Punjab.

A blatant disregard for the parliament and the electoral process by the army — an institution comprised of 80 per cent Punjabis — is unlikely to sit well with the rest of Pakistan’s provinces. If this is indeed the case, dismissing Sharif is a small issue. A bigger concern is that the army would not be able to hold on to power without suppression of political forces in provinces outside of the Punjab.

By playing into the hands of the army to fuel their petty ambitions for power, Khan and Qadri are further undermining the viability of Pakistan as a country. Sindhis, Baloch and the people of the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan’s north have already demanded secession from a country dominated by the Punjab. The return of the army to government, in one form or another, will do little for their confidence in Pakistan’s political system.

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The untold story of how a culture of shame perpetuates abuse. I know, I was a victim

The Rotherham report cites a home affairs select committee finding that cases of Asian men grooming Asian girls did not come to light in Rotherham because victims “are often alienated and ostracised by their own families and by the whole community, if they go public with allegations of abuse”.

This was our experience exactly – and the experience of everyone I’ve since spoken to. In each situation, victims and their families faced tremendous pressure to drop their cases.

During our investigation it became clear that for three decades many other women had suffered at the hands of our abuser, but they had refused to testify against him because of the indelible stigma it would bring. I learned that the parents of at least one of the victims had known their child had been abused but had done nothing. We also discovered that the larger community had long been aware of rumours of abuse by my neighbour but had chosen to ignore them – even when Sohail had attempted to come forward several years earlier.

This refusal to condemn perpetrators persists even after their conviction. Soon after our case, another convicted sex offender was released back into our community and was accepted as if nothing had happened. It was clear that the same would happen with our abuser.

Much has been made about the religious background of the offenders in the Rotherham report. But this problem isn’t about religion or race: it’s about a culture where notions of shame result in the blaming of victims rather than perpetrators.

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IS back in business

At root, IS simply fills a void. It occupies northeast Syria because the Syrian regime has by and large abandoned it, and the opposition that might have replaced it has failed to secure a genuine sponsor, in particular the US. And, in Iraq, IS has surged into cities such as Fallujah and Mosul because the central power in Baghdad has largely neglected them: the Iraqi state maintained a presence there that was simultaneously corrupt, repressive and flimsy. IS’s rapid expansion into zones in northern Iraq controlled by Kurdish forces, but inhabited by Christian and Yezidi minorities, is unsurprising, given the lack of real interest shown in the victims by their ostensible protectors, the Kurds, who were quick to withdraw to their own territory.

IS also fills a void on a more abstract level. Simply put, the Sunni world has trouble coming to terms with its past and imagining its future. A fragmented 20th-century history, following a long period of Ottoman occupation which was seen as a period of decline, ended with a succession of failures: anti-imperialism, pan-Arabism, nationalist movements, socialism, various forms of Islamism, capitalism — all led only to bitter or ambiguous experiences. Thus far, with the exception of Tunisia, the hopes born of the 2011 uprisings have turned to ashes. So where can Sunnis turn to find inspiration, self-confidence and pride? The reactionaries in the Gulf and Egypt? The Muslim Brothers, who are on the ropes? Palestinian Hamas, locked in a perpetual impasse in its resistance to Israel?

During the same period, the Shia world has scored notable, if qualified, successes: Iran has established itself as a country the West cannot avoid dealing with and has ambitions to play an ever greater role in the Arab world; Hizbullah is calling the shots in Lebanon and there is an ever-stronger Shia axis linking Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran. This has created a new and troubling phenomenon: a Sunni majority with a minority complex — a powerful though confused feeling of marginalisation, dispossession and humiliation. More and more Sunnis throughout the region experience and express the feeling that they have been deprived of their fundamental rights and are suffering persecution.

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These are very sad days for Pakistan. The coup has taken place de facto. But the removal of Nawaz Sharif is not the biggest issue. The issue is the future of the parliamentary system in Pakistan. The other issue is that the army can’t control the situation without latent repression of all the political parties outside Punjab because nobody is willing to accept the army’s actions. The way the media, except for Dawn News, is towing the army line also shows the fear. The army’s secret services will not leave untouched those who oppose the coup.

What makes me sad, frustrated and angry is not the lack of money and living on an extremely tight budget. Depriving myself of food every now and then is bearable as well. What kills me is seeing myself in limbo, not know where to go. Seeing myself wasting my time and potential, throwing it all away. I’m stagnating. I can’t take it anymore. 

L’expérience urbaine du monde

Enfin, on assiste à la création de milieux, c’est-à-dire à des émergences singulières qui rendent possible le passage du virtuel au réel en favorisant le surgissement de lieux. Ainsi les réseaux sociaux peuvent être les déclencheurs de rassemblements physiques sur les places publiques. Le lieu emblématique de ces milieux est la place Tahrir. L’occupation de la place Tahrir au Caire a surgi du monde virtuel, des échanges engendrés par les réseaux sociaux, grâce à des acteurs immergés dans la toile numérique. Cette place vide du pouvoir est devenue le milieu du rassemblement des révolutionnaires du 24 janvier 2011. Le 3 juillet 2013, deux millions de personnes occupent la place Tahrir pour saluer la destitution du président Morsi, mais les révolutionnaires doivent se plier au joug de ce qu’il faut appeler un coup d’État militaire. Agora par intermittence, la place Tahrir n’est pas devenue un milieu par hasard : ce n’est pas une place du centre-ville historique et colonial. C’est un assemblage du pays en miniature avec le Musée égyptien, le siège du parti dissous de Hosni Moubarak, le ministère de l’intérieur, de grands hôtels, l’ambassade américaine, un immeubles de style soviétique, des connexions routières invraisemblables, le siège de la ligue arabe, une gigantesque gare d’autobus. La place Tahrir, c’est le symbole d’une manière d’occuper les lieux et de résister aux flux.

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Last time Tahir Ul Qadri staged his street theatre, he compared himself to Imam Hussain. He was standing behind a bullet proof screen when he gave that speech.

The current political drama in Pakistan is basically an intra-Punjab conflict between the army and a petty vassal like Nawaz Sharif. Power-hungry fools from other province such as Imran Khan are simply being manipulated by the army for its own ends. Once the Punjab settles its fratricidal feud, the Punjabi elite will put Imran Khan in his right place––which will be outside of the Punjab and thus outside the real power centre of Pakistan. If Imran Khan thinks that he can just walk into the Punjab and demand to be made the king, he clearly does not know Pakistan’s history: every time a non-Punjabi takes power in that country, he/she either ends up in exile or in the gallows.

Noam Chomsky to become new X-Factor judge

In his first outing as judge, Chomsky quickly made his mark. ‘Your act is part of a propaganda state promoting a culture-ideology of comforting illusion’, he told one hopeful young girl, before adding, ‘I’m saying yes.’

Not satisfied with attacking the acts, Professor Chomsky then turned his critique on The X Factor audience. ‘You are all complicit in a hegemonic construct designed primarily to keep you from questioning what is really going on in the world,’ he told them, ‘You must learn to think critically and reject the pernicious cult of celebrity.’ It was at this point that the audience went wild, whooping, cheering and chanting his name. ‘We love you Chomsky!’ they screamed as the 81 year-old professor sat at the table with his head in his hands.

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Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a woman of Arab background, is the new head of the Ministry of Education in France. Giving space in the corridors of power to the upper-classes of the marginalized normally means co-optation. But by French standards, this is progress nonetheless.