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Pakistan’s Largest City Karachi elects Prisoner Waseem Akhtar as New Mayor

Politicians can govern from prison under Pakistani law, although it is still unclear how Akhtar would run the city behind bars

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(Representational Image) Pakistan. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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Karachi, August 28, 2016: Pakistan’s largest city Karachi has elected as mayor a politician who is currently in jail on sedition and terrorism charges on August 24.

A former minister and lawmaker from the powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Waseem Akhtar, won the poll with 196 of the 294 votes cast by the city’s municipal authorities.

Akhtar was arrested in July and accused of ordering a bloody crackdown on riots in 2007 when he was serving as provincial home minister. He was later arrested on sedition and terrorism charges.

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Politicians can govern from prison under Pakistani law, although it is still unclear how Akhtar would run the city behind bars. He is not expected to be released by the courts before he takes his oath of office, which is likely to be on August 30.

Speaking at a press conference on August 25, Akhtar said he would ask the chief minister of Sindh Province to “give me an office” in prison. He said he would “look after the local affairs via video link.”

His lawyer, Mahfooz Yar Khan, told reporters Akhtar would run Karachi via video link for the whole five-year term of office if necessary.

Akhtar’s poll victory on August 24 came a day after authorities charged Altaf Hussain, the self-exiled leader of the MQM, with treason for inciting violence.

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Crowds of MQM workers attacked the ARY News television office on August 22, firing shots and smashing the premises after a speech by Hussain. The workers later clashed with police outside, leaving one person dead.

Law enforcement agencies accuse MQM of racketeering, abduction, torture, and murder in its bid to maintain power.

The party denies any link to crime. (BBG Direct)

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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump’s Tough stand on Pak

The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) issued a statement Monday welcoming Donald Trump's stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump's Tough stand on Pak
American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump's Tough stand on Pak. wikimedia commons

Washington, D.C.– The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) Executive Committee issued a statement Monday welcoming the President’s stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

The AFB said President Donald J. Trump has called out Pakistan’s constant bluffs with the US and pointed out a big chunk of American assistance was used against people of Balochistan in a secret, dirty war instead of the Taliban.

Khwaja Wali Kirani in Balochistan. Wikimedia Commons

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!,” President Trump first tweet of 2018 reads.

The tweet was loved by nearly quarter-million Americans and retweeted 83,000 times in less than 24 hours.

The AFB executive committee said the US remains Pakistan’s top foreign aid donor, in addition to the money paid in expectation of cooperation in the Global War on Terror. Yet, for many years now, serving officers in the US Armed Forces have repeatedly spoken out about Pakistan’s perfidy in Afghanistan, which has cost the US lives, money and strategic credibility in the world’s eyes. Pakistan also remains a training ground for terrorism and a prime proliferator of nuclear weapons technology.

No country’s development and democracy have suffered more from Pakistan’s interference via state-sponsored terrorism than Afghanistan. US efforts to help the Afghans rebuild their nation are constantly sabotaged by reeling instability. India is another well-known target.

The AFB said Balochistan is a region rich in natural gas. It that has seen several bloody cycles of insurgency ever since Pakistan forcibly annexed the autonomous Baloch state of Kalat in 1948 in violation of a Standstill Agreement. A portion of historical Balochistan also sits on the other side of Pakistan’s border with Iran. Further, it borders Afghanistan to the north-west. Pakistan’s brutal record in this strategically located province that forms the northern lip of the key Straits of Hormuz has spiked in recent years.

“People of Balochistan tried their very best to work with Pakistan’s false promises of integration after forceful accession, but instead gave genocide to Balochs,” said the statement.

The AFB monitors the situation in Balochistan closely and is in touch with freedom and democracy activists on the ground. The AFB reiterated their call to the Pakistani government to cease violating the physical security of Baloch people, their freedom of expression, and end the policy of economic exploitation and genocidal violence.

A slow-motion genocide in Balochistan has claimed the lives of 35,000 Baloch people, 6,000 of whom were buried in mass graves while 21,000 are Victims of Enforced Disappearances, according to the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. “The enforced disappearances situation in Balochistan is no different than what it used to be in Chile and Argentine in the 1970s and 1980s,” the AFB executive committee noted.

The AFB executive committee chimed in with similar sentiments expressed by policy experts in academe, veteran politicians, diplomats, intelligence chiefs, and human rights activists. Among them were former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leading South Asia expert and former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani, several Baloch freedom and human rights activists cutting across party lines, former head of Afghanistan’s Directorate of Security Amrullah Saleh, and even normally fierce critics of President Trump’s administration such as Prof. Christine Fair, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

The AFB executive committee consists of Jane Eastwood Weisner, Najeeb Khan, Krishna Gudipati, Soumya Chowdhury and Habiba Ashna. The organization was founded by veteran Baloch journalist Ahmar Mustikhan, who is the president.

Hope and doubt have been expressed on whether the US president’s tweet and words will translate into actionable legislation. Mustikhan published a survey of some of these thoughts in an article titled “Wave of joy sweeps across Afghanistan, Balochistan & India over Trump’s first tweet of 2018”.