With China, for China – As China arrives, Pakistan cleans house

By Wajahat S. Khan

The Sino-Pak axis has matured. The decades old ‘Cheen-Pak Bhai Bhai’ narrative is fast moving beyond pan-Karakoram fraternal rhetoric complemented by scenically exotic highways, shared rocket designs and muted nuclear deals to morph into optically sound, fundamentally critical, even mutually loud and proud policy, infrastructure and defense initiatives on the ground. China – and not just its submarines – is coming to Pakistan, and Pakistan is getting ready to receive the People’s Republic. The ‘Bhai’ in Beijing, as the mood in Islamabad indicates, is now a BFF – Best Friend Forever – even a Friend With Benefits.

The comprehensive Chinese assistance package – hinged on the 3000 kilometer-long China-Pak Economic Corridor, an aggressive energy build-up and military modernization – is the largest planned foreign investment program for any country, ever, touching almost crossing over $100 billion in the next decade and a half, and is being seen as the next, and perhaps the last, big thing that war-weary Pakistan must grab on to, at any cost.

The Peking Promise

The plan is simple: The deep-sea port of Gwadar is going to drive Chinese imports, largely oil and gas, into western China, which is relatively underdeveloped versus the rest of the PRC and prone to militancy. The levies, infrastructure and traffic will tone up the CPEC network to create jobs, roads and even entire towns along the way from Pakistani Balochistan, through all of the Islamic Republic’s other provinces, to Chinese Kashgar in Xinjiang. Add the potential of Chinese naval presence in Gwadar that will let it over see Hormuz and neighboring ports and the reality of Pakistan’s newly formed and purpose-built 34th Infantry Division to protect Chinese assets and personnel, and there is a single-minded confidence that the corridor must be secured and will be secured. After all, the Pakistanis have given their word to Beijing.

“China is Pakistan’s only strategic friend…not even the Saudis get to have that privilege any longer” said a senior intelligence officer last month when China’s deputy intelligence chief, Dong Haizhou was promised “no hurdles for CPEC” by army chief General Raheel Sharif during a visit to GHQ, according to the military spokesperson’s office.

So, fuelled by the blank political cheque presented to the civilian and military security apparatus by popular support after the terrible Peshawar Army Public School massacre last December – which has granted the military, police and federal investigators unprecedented constitutional powers to clean house – whoever gets in the way of a CPEC-oriented Pakistan must move aside, or be pushed out. The purge is here, and the reasoning is to satisfy China.

Housekeeping

But this isn’t just the regular arrests and assassinations purge, the type that Pakistanis are used to. It’s more of a wide-ranging political rethink, a housekeeping exercise that runs from the south to the north, just like the corridor it is meant to pave. In Karachi and Sindh, the drive against ‘corrupt’ political parties like former president Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party has begun, which has forced him to take some respite and exit the country; also, that’s where the ‘violent’ wings of Karachi’s all-powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement are being clipped, with some help from the BBC (which claims that India’s Research and Analysis Wing funded and trained the party’s militants) and British authorities (who are investigating the MQM’s leadership in London for murder and money laundering). Karachi, too violent and complicated to tackle alone, needed a pincer move to control it, and the Pakistanis have managed to find a partner here in the UK.

Continue reading With China, for China – As China arrives, Pakistan cleans house

How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about

Sen. Marco Rubio is one of the biggest beneficiaries.

By Michael Cohen

Several industries have become notorious for the millions they spend on influencing legislation and getting friendly candidates into office: Big Oil, Big Pharma and the gun lobby among them. But one has managed to quickly build influence with comparatively little scrutiny: Private prisons. The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO andCorrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar. They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute. Private companies house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, compared to about 25 percent a decade ago, a Huffington Post report found. In total, there are now about 130 private prisons in the country with about 157,000 beds.

Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)

The Justice Policy Institute identified the private-prison industry’s three-pronged approach to increase profits through political influence: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and building relationships and networks. On its website, CCA states that the company doesn’t lobby on policies that affect “the basis for or duration of an individual’s incarceration or detention.” Still, several reports have documented instances when private-prison companies have indirectly supported policies that put more Americans and immigrants behind bars – such as California’s three-strikes rule and Arizona’s highly controversial anti-illegal immigration law – by donating to politicians who support them, attending meetings with officials who back them, and lobbying for funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Showing just how important these policies are to the private prison industry, both GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America have warned shareholders that changes in these policies would hurt their bottom lines.

In its 2014 annual report, CCA wrote:

The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. … Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior.

Continue reading How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about

The Good Doctor

How one doctor’s inspirational leadership has made free, top-class public healthcare a reality in Pakistan.

The public healthcare system in Pakistan, as in many developing countries, struggles with a lack of resources. The result is that specialist medical treatment, such as organ transplant, is out of reach for many of the poorest and the most in need.

And yet here at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), one man’s passion means that today, more than a million patients a year receive top-class medical treatment, at no cost.

Kidney disease is a huge health issue in Pakistan compounded by poor diets and sanitation.

In 1972, Dr Adib Rizvi set up a small urology unit in Karachi, the capital of the southern Sindh province, to deal with the issue.

Inspired by the National Health Service of the UK, his goal from the beginning was to offer this treatment absolutely free to everybody. Many patients also come from Afghanistan to seek treatment.

SIUT has grown from just eight beds to over 650 beds at nine separate centres across Pakistan and today is the largest health organisation in the country.

Join The Cure presenter Dr Javid Abdelmoneim in Karachi as he meets the doctor who has spent the last 40 years providing free healthcare to those who need it most.

Read more » Aljazeera
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