The ugly truth behind Saudi Arabia’s love for Melania Trump

Anushay Hossain Anushay Hossain

CNN)Donald Trump’s first major trip overseas may be fraught with diplomatic land mines for the President, but the Trump administration can at least comfort itself with the clear hit that Melania Trump has been with the Saudi press.

The fact that Melania is communicating with the media and the public in Saudi Arabia — mainly through what Saudi news reports have deemed her “classy and conservative” fashion choices — works well in the notoriously anti-woman kingdom. Her intense appeal makes sense, considering the first lady represents so much that Saudi citizens find familiar and can relate to, especially visually. Melania walks behind her husband, is quiet and reserved, does not make obvious demands (at least not ones we can hear), and most importantly, she looks beautiful and polished.
All of that should come as no surprise, given whom Melania is married to. After all, how the Saudi government likes women to behave is similar to how Donald Trump has said he likes women to behave. And they both prefer women to look pretty in pictures, rather than hold actual positions of power.
Melania’s husband and the Saudi government also both know and understand the power and value of a good photo opportunity. In fact, fantastic photo opportunities are something the kingdom values and is hypersensitive about, especially ones that are going to be seen around the world.
For them, Melania Trump was perfectly poised in her black Stella McCartney jumpsuit and gilded gold belt. Melania projected a glamorous image for a country where women live under male guardianship, cannot drive, still do not have the full vote, and cannot travel or seek medical attention without male permission.
The Saudi press also appreciated Melania and first daughter Ivanka Trump’s championing of the kingdom’s feminism light, also known by some as “fake feminism” — the same brand of women’s rights Donald Trump likes to promote — which the two did by visiting companies run by women entrepreneurs. Those visits, which Ivanka and Melania made separately, project a false narrative of a government committed to advancing women’s rights.
Although much has been made about the first lady and first daughter not donning the headscarf, that choice really is not as big of a deal as people are making it out to be. Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Michelle Obama all skipped out on the headscarf while visiting Saudi Arabia, and Donald Trump even famously attacked Michelle Obama for insulting “Saudi culture” by showing her hair, something his wife and daughter both just did.
Image result for melania trump in saudi arabia
Even though a much stricter version of the Islamic covering is required by law for Saudi women, wives and female family members of foreign dignitaries do not have to abide by it. That was true when Donald Trump criticized Michelle Obama for not wearing one, and it is still true now that Melania and Ivanka have followed suit.
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The headscarf should be the least of the Trump family’s worries, because the Saudi press have embraced Melania (and to a related but lesser extent, Ivanka) for basically doing for the kingdom what they do for Donald Trump: Provide the perfect cover for misogyny and tyranny by being beautiful, poised and often silent.
In Melania, the Saudi press and the Saudi government found the perfect spokeswoman, who projects a glamorous image that glosses over one of world’s most autocratic and oppressive regimes.
What is not to love? Source

Appeal to CM Gilgit and Commander FCNA

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Gilgit-Baltistan Protests Over Neglecting in CPEC

At the cost of Gilgit-Baltistan where the largest part of the CPEC corridor  (One Road On Belt) is passing through none of the provinces of Pakistan should progress. 

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People of Gilgit-Baltistan protests over this negligence with both Pakistan and China and demand equal and rightful share in the development projects. 

West’s Fear of China – Equates Gilgit-Baltistan as Kashmir

It is very interesting to see how does the western think tanks, states, politicians and scholars forget naming Gilgit-Baltistan and unshamingly replace it with Kashmir i.e. the below article in Forbes Magazine by Address Corr. They are mistaken as people of Gilgit-Baltistan may prefer anything but never to be called Kashmiri. This is highly counterproductive to the Western objective to hindering the OBOR initiative of China as they will lose any support of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (if any exists against the OBOR). 

The modern Silk Road, also known as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) plan, was announced in 2013. It includes $46 billion of planned investments in Pakistan. Known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), it is under fire from India for running through the disputed territory of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. As part of the plan, China will also perturb India with its 40-year contract, including for military vessels, at the Port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea just west of India. Both Pakistan and increasingly China, are acting as geopolitical and military adversaries to democratic India.

But those are not the biggest risks to the CPEC project, according to China, which proffered and then retracted an offer to change the name to mollify India. The biggest risk to China’s CPEC investment, according to the Chinese government document, are security issues, diversity, and even multiparty democracy, as it were, in Pakistan. “There are various factors affecting Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” the document states. “The security situation is the worst in recent years”.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have committed trillions of dollars, and thousands of lives, in Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism and support democracy in those countries. So for China to associate “Western intervention” in the same breath with terrorism and “competing parties” is both bizarre and insulting. China has taken advantage of NATO-funded security in Afghanistan, while supporting the Taliban terrorists, for example, to enable their investment in highly-profitable copper mines that will destroy the ancient Buddhist temple complex at Mes Aynak. And now China calls Western intervention part of the problem? Western intervention helped take down the Soviet occupation, and singularly replaced the Taliban government in Kabul with a democracy. Western intervention removed Osama bin Laden from Pakistan. Now China calls Western intervention, democracy, and diversity the problem? The world needs to take a hard look at what China is doing in far-flung corners of the world. It isn’t good.

The leaked December 2015 document on Pakistan is 231 pages long, and titled “Long-Term Plan On China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.” A shorter 30-page document was provided to the Punjab provincial government, which has the dominant ethnicity in the country and where the map appears to place most of the planned industrial development. Neither the 231-page document, nor the 30-page document, were given to other provincial governments according to the Dawn article. I guess they were not central to the $46 billion planning process.

Not only does China call religious and tribal diversity a problem in Pakistan, it appears to give special treatment to Pakistan’s dominant ethnicity, the Punjabis. This is unacceptable in a world that should be promoting, rather than restricting, diversity. But China and Pakistan have the opposite strategy. They tend to suppress ethnic diversity, for example in the “tribal” areas near Peshawar, Pakistan, and in the Tibet and Xinjiang “autonomous” regions. Laws and policy in these areas favor dominant nationalities like the Punjabis and Han Chinese.

According to the document, China is pursuing a control system and electronic monitoring of the Khunjerab border, between Chinese territory and Kashmir. The ethnic minority in that region is the Burushaski, and the monitoring systems are no doubt part of an attempt to staunch the spread of Muslim insurgency from Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Xinjiang “autonomous” region of China, where the Muslim minority is severely repressed.

China is also planning to sponsor a project called “safe cities” in Pakistan that will install scanners and explosive detectors to “cover major roads, case-prone areas and crowded places [] in urban areas to conduct real-time monitoring and 24 hour video recording.” A command center, for which the nationality of staffing is unclear according to Dawn, will gather the resulting data and initiate a response. “There is a plan to build a pilot safe city in Peshawar, which faces a fairly severe security situation in northwestern Pakistan” according to the document. Peshawar is primarily populated by the Pashtun minority, and is a center of the Taliban insurgency. The safe cities program will then be rolled out in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, Lahore, the capital of the Punjab province, and Karachi, the main port city of Pakistan. These three cities are above all the three most important political and trade nodes to the government of Pakistan. They are the country’s center of economic and political gravity. The document hints that the data feeds from surveillance equipment in these cities will be shared and possibly recorded. If Chinese personnel occupy the command centers, one should assume that the data will be shared with Beijing as well.

The sanitized version of the Chinese government document is dated February 22, 2017. The full document appears to be focused on extracting agricultural and other raw resources from Pakistan, such as cotton and rice, and exporting Chinese technical capacity. Particular concern is paid to financial and security risks. Tucked into the final sentence in the agriculture chapter, is information that the Chinese government will “[s]trengthen the safety cooperation with key countries, regions and international organizations, [and] jointly prevent and crack down on terrorist acts that endanger the safety of Chinese overseas enterprises and their staff.” The italics are mine, to highlight the question as to whether China plans on enforcing law against terrorism in Pakistan and other countries, and whether this enforcement will primarily or solely be for the benefit of Chinese business. If so, what an admission. It would not be a surprise if the information were intentionally hidden by putting it in the last sentence of the agricultural chapter, of all places.

The document states that “The cooperation with Pakistan in the monetary and financial areas aims to serve China’s diplomatic strategy.” This means that China is offering elements of the Pakistani government monetary and financial incentives to cooperate with China’s diplomacy. And indeed we see that Pakistan is keeping up the pressure on India, a country that threatens China’s westward expansion. Pakistan is seeking membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is a security organization founded in 2001 by China and Russia that will likely be in increasingly adversarial relations with NATO in the future. Elements of the Pakistani security services, along with China and Russia, also support the Taliban terrorists, which are in direct conflict with NATO.

Pakistanis who care about their independence, security and democracy, erratic as it is, should seriously consider whether they want a large and powerful autocratic country like China so strongly determining their economic, political, and even security future. I wouldn’t. The rest of the world, especially India, which is in such a close and contentious embrace with Pakistan, and NATO countries along with land-bound Afghanistan, which depend on Pakistan for overland transport, should resist the China-Pakistan economic and political alliance. Elements in both countries support the Taliban terrorists. Neither country is a good influence on critical global values like democracy, diversity and human rights. International pressure should be brought to bear on both. Source

بروشسکی: دنیا کی ایک تنہا زبان

بابا جان پر مبینہ تشدد پر تشویش کا اظہار

پاکستان کے شمالی علاقے گلگت بلتستان میں عطا آباد جھیل کے متاثرین کے لیےآواز اٹھانے والے بائیں بازو کے رہنما بابا جان اور ان کے ساتھیوں پر قید کے دوران مبینہ تشدد کے الزامات سامنے آنے کے بعد ملکی اور غیر ملکی انسانی حقوق کی تنظیموں نے تشویش کا اظہار کیا ہے۔

دوسری جانب گلگت بلتستان کے وزیر احمد علی اختر نے بابا جان پر تشدد کے بارے میں لاعلمی کا اظہار کیا ہے۔

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انسداد دہشت گردی کے قانون کے تحت گلگت جیل میں کوئی نو ماہ سے قید بابا جان کی جماعت پاکستان لیبر پارٹی نے بھی ان کی اور ان کے چار ساتھیوں کی رہائی کے لیے انٹرنیٹ پر ایک پٹیشن جاری کی ہے، جس پر جماعت کے مطابق ممتاز امریکی مصنف اور دانشور پروفیسر نوم چومسکی اور پاکستانی نژاد برطانوی دانشور طارق علی سمیت لگ بھگ تین سو افراد اور تنظیموں نے اب تک دستخط کیے ہیں۔

دستخط کرنے والوں میں بھارت، امریکہ، برطانیہ اور آسٹریلیا کی بعض محنت کش اور انسانی حقوق کی تنظیموں کے علاوہ سیاسی و سماجی جماعتیں بھی ہیں۔

اس آن لائن پٹیشن میں الزام لگایا گیا ہے کہ’پاکستانی پولیس اور سکیورٹی فورسز نے بابا جان اور ان کے بعض ساتھیوں کو قید کے دوران اب تک دو مرتبہ تشدد کا نشانہ بنایا۔‘

پٹیشن میں کہا گیا ہے کہ تازہ ترین واقعہ گزشتہ ماہ اٹھائیس اپریل کو پیش آیا جس کے بعد ’بابا جان کی زندگی خطرے میں ہے۔‘

بابا جان پر تشدد

فرنٹیر کانسٹیبلری یعنی ایف سی اور پولیس نے انہیں جیل کی کوٹھری سے نکال کر کسی اور جگہ لے گئے جہاں چھ دن تک ان پر تشدد کیا گیا۔ ان کی انگلی ٹوٹی ہوئی ہے۔ان کے سارے جسم پر نشان ہیں۔ ان کے سر کے بال مونڈھ دیے گیے ہیں

فاروق طارق

لیبر پارٹی کے رہنما فاروق طارق نے اس واقعہ کی تفصیل بتاتے ہوئے کہا کہ ’فرنٹیر کانسٹیبلری یعنی ایف سی اور پولیس نے انہیں جیل کی کوٹھری سے نکال کر کسی اور جگہ لے گئے جہاں چھ دن تک ان پر تشدد کیا گیا۔ ان کی انگلی ٹوٹی ہوئی ہے۔ان کے سارے جسم پر نشان ہیں۔ ان کے سر کے بال مونڈھ دیے گیے ہیں۔‘

انھوں نے کہا کہ عدالت کی مداخلت پر بارہ دن بعد ان کا طعبی معائنہ کرایا گیا۔

حقوق انسانی کمیشن آف پاکستان نے بھی اپنے ایک بیان میں بابا جان اور ان کے ساتھیوں پر مبینہ تشدد پر تشویش کا اظہار کیا ہے۔

کمیشن کی سربراہ زہرہ یوسف کا کہنا ہے کہ’اس کی تحقیقات کرنی چاہیے کہ کس نے تشدد کیا ہے اور کیسے بابا جان کی انگلیاں بھی ٹوٹ گئی ہیں۔ جنہوں نے تشدد کیا ہے ان کے خلاف کارروائی کی جانی چاہیے۔‘

گلگت بلتستان کے وزیر احمد علی اختر نے بابا جان پر مبینہ تشدد پر لاعلمی کا اظہار کرتے ہوئے اس تاثر کو رد کیا کہ جیل میں بابا جان کی زندگی کو کسی قسم کا کوئی خطرہ لاحق ہے۔

’ایسی کوئی بات نہیں ہے۔ یہ تو درندگی ہے کہ انہیں ہلاک کیا جائے گا۔ بابا جان تو اس علاقے کے باشندے ہیں، وہ یہاں کے شہری ہیں۔ اگر کوئی فورسز ان پر تشدد کریں اور انہیں خطرہ محسوس ہو تو وہ ایسا کہہ سکتے ہیں کہ انہیں قتل کیا جائے گا، لیکن بابا جان کو دوران قید ہلاک کرنے کا سوچا بھی نہیں جا سکتا۔‘

واضح رہے کہ گزشتہ سال گیارہ اگست کو ہنزہ کے علاقے عطا آباد جھیل متاثرین کے مظاہرے پر مبینہ پولیس فائرنگ سے ایک بائیس سال کا نوجوان افضل بیگ اور ان کے والد ہلاک ہوگئے تھے جس کے بعد مظاہرین نے مقامی پولیس سٹیشن کو نذر آتش کردیا تھا۔

بابا جان اور ان کے ساتھی، جو اس وقت گلگت جیل میں قید ہیں، ان مظاہروں میں شریک تھے۔

ان مظاہروں کے کچھ دن بعد بابا جان سمیت کئی افراد کو انسداد دہشت گردی کے قانون کے تحت گرفتار کیا گیا لیکن بابا جان اور ان کے چار ساتھیوں کے علاوہ دیگر تمام افراد کو ضمانت پر رہا کر دیا گیا۔

جنوری دو ہزار نو میں ہنزہ کے علاقے عطا آباد میں پہاڑی تودہ گرنے کی وجہ سے دریائے ہنزہ کا بہاؤ رک گیا تھا جس کے نتیجے میں جھیل بن گئی تھی اور سینکڑوں خاندان بے گھر ہوگئے تھے۔

انٹرنیٹ پر پاکستان کی لیبر پارٹی کی اس پٹیشن میں کہا گیا ہے کہ بابا جان دہشت گرد نہیں بلکہ وہ گلگت بلتستان کے ایک قابل احترام سیاسی کارکن ہیں جنہیں مظلوموں کی حمایت کرنے پر قید کیا گیا ہے۔

اس پٹیشن میں حکومت پاکستان پر یہ زور دیا گیا ہے کہ وہ بابا جان اور ان کے ساتھیوں کو سیاسی قیدی تصور کرے اور ساتھ ہی ان کے خلاف مقدمات واپس لینے اور ان کی رہائی کا مطالبہ بھی کیا گیا ہے۔

لیکن گلگت بلستان کی حکومت کے وزیر احمد علی اختر حکومتی طرز عمل کا دفاع کرتے ہوئے کہتے ہیں کہ ان (بابا جان ) کی اشتعال انگیز تقریر سے دو افراد کی جانیں ضائع ہوئیں۔

TRAVEL: HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN

A guard standing at the 700-year-old Baltit Fort | Photos by the writer

Before 9/11, there used to be so many foreign tourists in Hunza throughout the year that there would be no room to accommodate local tourists. Then came a period of drought for the tourism industry.

However, two years ago someone posted pictures of their travel to Hunza on social media, and what followed was a landslide of thousands of tourists flocking to visit this piece of heaven on earth. Now Hunza is again humming with tourists, and the locals are delighted. They have had to convert private homes, schools and colleges to guesthouses to accommodate this influx and not turn away their guests.

According to local tour operators, there were 35,000 local tourists last year, mostly from Karachi and Lahore, breaking a 20-year record. This year, Hunza has already received more than 10,000 tourists.


Every season is a reason to visit Hunza


Part of Hunza’s charm, besides the locals who greet you warmly, is that every season holds some dramatic splendour — in spring there are the heavenly blossoms, in summer there is fruit and greenery, in autumn there is stunning fall foliage colour and in winter it is a wonderland of snow.

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We chose to experience the blossom season in April and May. There are many fruit trees in Hunza including apple, pear, walnut, cherry, peach, apricot and almond. Each fruit tree has its own blossom and flowering time, so there is an almost daily kaleidoscopic colour change of pinks, peaches and whites as the trees take their turn centre-stage for their 15 minutes of fame and glory, and then take a bow and make way for the next blossom to glow. On a separate note, the mountains are strewn with wildflowers, completing nature’s symphony of colour.

The mighty mountains in Hunza Valley put up a ringside show of muscle power, encircling the valley with peaks with heights of more than 7,000 metres: Rakaposhi, Ultar 1 and 2, Diran, Spantik (also known as  Golden Peak), Hunza Peak, Lady Finger and Dastgil Sir. Guides are ready, willing and able to take you up to any mountain range, glacier or meadow of your choice for hiking, trekking, camping and paragliding (weather and safety permitting). It is like a giant amphitheatre where the blossoms perform and the mountains look on as spectators.

The 1,000-year-old Ganesh settlement
The 1,000-year-old Ganesh settlement

 While you are in Hunza you can visit the 1,000-year-old Ganesh settlement which has received a Unesco Heritage Distinction Award; the 1,200-year-old Altit Fort and 700-year-old Baltit Fort; the small cobbled streets lined with old curiosity shops selling apricot, walnut and cherry wood handicrafts, rugs of every sort, Hunza’s famous needlepoint work and more; and Eagle’s Nest perched on Duikar Peak, from where you can see the sun shine gold on the snow-capped mountains when it rises and sets. Even if you do not stay at Eagle’s Nest, do take the enchanting drive up to it.

Ganesh is said to be the ‘mother’ of civilisation in Hunza Valley and the ‘mother’ of the Silk Route too — Chinese traders would arrive in this settlement, tie their mules in the stables here, and stay free of cost at the caravanserais. In return they would teach some skill to the locals, such as wood-carving. The carved beams in Ganesh are the handiwork of Chinese traders. Altit and Baltit Forts, the residences of the local ruling family, are well-maintained, earthquake-proof wood-and-stone buildings for which guided tours are available.

 Between the valleys of Hunza and Nagar, the emerald green Hunza River gushes through, unfazed by the towering Karakoram Range, and meets the muddy Nagar River which is full of silt from the melt-water of dirty glaciers. They converge and fall into the Indus River flowing down from Skardu. Rickety, daredevil suspension bridges — wood planks strung together by wires and linked to land by chains — hang over these green and muddy rivers at various points.

From Nagar the highway leads through dramatic landscape to the foothills of Spantik, from where the Hopper Glacier, black from the mud of the mountains, inches its way down.

There are many tour guides offering to drive you around in comfortable 4x4s, on single or sharing basis. From Hunza you can drive up the KKH to the very end of Pakistan, to its border with China at the Khunjerab Pass, crossing the immigration and customs check post of Sost on the way. The plateau here looks like an ice palace, with the snow shining like glass where the sun hits it. If you are lucky you can see the border guards opening the gates for incoming and outgoing traffic.

On the KKH, the mountains spill their load of landslides, glacier-melt floods and avalanches. The roads and railings have taken a pounding and are smashed where giant boulders from the mountains have crashed into them. In some sections there are roadblocks where massive glaciers have slid down from the mountains.  Drivers keep one eye on the road and one on the mountains for signs of impending landslides. They also stop on the sides for each other to pass, then wave to say hello and thank you. It is advisable to travel on this route in the early morning, before the sun rises high and starts melting the snow.

The Khunjerab National Park is home to a wide variety of birds and animals, including snow leopards, Marco Polo sheep, markhor, ibex, and yak.

Enroute Khunjerab is the famous greener-than-green, bluer-than-blue and colder-than-ice Attabad Lake. It was created in 2010 when a massive landslide engulfed a whole village and many parts of the KKH, blocking the path of Hunza River and forming a lake with a depth of more than 450 feet near the blockade. There is a point for boating on the lake, but the beauty of this point has been marred with boat fuel leaks and garbage thrown by tourists. How or why anyone can litter this piece of heaven is beyond comprehension. After parts of the KKH were submerged, a bypass route was built with Chinese assistance, including five tunnels carved inside the gigantic mountains, and these are marvels of human engineering and perseverance.

One of the signboards on KKH explaining the significance of various places
One of the signboards on KKH explaining the significance of various places

On the way to the distinctive Passu Cones or Cathedral Cones, there are many peaks and their meadows, glaciers and passes, including Passu, Minapin and Diran. Batura Glacier is the world’s fifth longest glacier at 57km. Here the river becomes muddy as it flows from glacier melts. There are many appealing lodges and restaurants for trekkers and climbers.

Close by, off the KKH and on a rough track is the ethereal and surreal turquoise-blue saltwater Borith Lake. It is an ideal and secluded picnic spot. Hopefully the guesthouse being built on its shore will not pollute this beauty. A short distance away is the hiking track to Passu Glacier with panoramic vantage views of the valley.

Hunza Valley itself is famous for its stone-lined terraces of lush green grass, dotted with trees with deep pink and the palest peach blossoms set off by dark brown trunks, and flanked by tall, stately poplars, gnarled junipers and full-bodied chinar. The colour palette is as delicate as a Japanese water colour depiction. In the terraces are also fields of crops such as wheat and Hunza’s special potatoes for local consumption and export. The icy melt-waters that feed this hinterland are rich in minerals.

 The crisp, glacier-chilled air blowing down from the mountains carries the sound of birdsong and the heady smell of rich, damp earth and fresh pine sap. Strains of stringed instruments float in the air.

Vultures, snowcocks, partridges and doves are just some of the birds that abound. Eagles soar and circle in the cradle of Rakaposhi. There are so many magpies that the valley can be renamed Magpieland.

 Loose gems are strewn amidst the rocks, and make you realise that these are actually huge mountains of gems: ruby, garnet, aquamarine, quartz, tourmaline and even gold. You can pick what you spot for a small collection of gleaming gemstones.

With all this to offer and much more, the highway to Hunza is simply a highway to heaven on earth.

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 14th, 2017

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