Thursday, July 24, 2014

N. Waziristan operation silences militant propaganda

http://centralasiaonline.com/
By Zahir Shah
Militants used Miranshah internet cafés to spread propaganda and to co-ordinate terror attacks, but troops have shut down many of the outlets as they work to eradicate the militancy in North Waziristan, officials say.
The on-going military operation in North Waziristan has dealt militant propaganda efforts a serious blow.
Militants have long taken advantage of email and social media sites to claim responsibility for their terror attacks and to spread other propaganda messages, but such conversation has come to an abrupt halt in the wake of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which was launched in June.
Troops have shut down scores of public call offices (PCOs) and internet cafés that were once part of the militants' communications network and have confiscated a slew of communications devices that the Taliban used in their efforts.
Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif visited Miranshah, the front line of the operation, July 8 and saw the militants' former operation centres.
He toured shuttered internet cafés that militants had used to post propaganda on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and blogs. They also served as production houses for jihadist audio-visual materials and as a communications network.
The Sherinzada Jihadyar PCO and internet café in Miranshah's main bazaar was one of the main communications points for militants and it has been shuttered, officials said, adding that the Taliban also used the café to communicate with their families and to extort money.
Foreign militants among those using the sites
Uzbek visitors sat for hours in the local internet cafés, Khan Wazir, a local shopkeeper, said.
"I don't know what they were doing there, but they were regular visitors," he said. "They had huge phones with large screens, laptops and some strange boxes and tapes when they used to come here in the bazaar."
An array of militants from different ethnic backgrounds – speaking Punjabi, various Pashtun dialects and foreign tongues like Uzbek, Tajik and Arabic – frequented the cafés, one PCO operator in Miranshah said, speaking on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.
"I can't say to which group they might have been linked, but all of them called themselves mujahideen, and we never questioned them," he said.
Miranshah: headquarters for violence
Miranshah, more than just an outlet for spreading propaganda, has been called the epicentre for local and foreign operators who were doing everything from planning to carrying out attacks, Maj. Gen. Zafarullah Khan, General Officer Commanding of North Waziristan Agency and commander in charge of the operation, said.
Miranshah's main bazaar had an "al-Qaeda shop" run by al-Qaeda militants that sold information on how to build improvised explosive devices (IEDs), as well as technology to enhance the effectiveness of IEDs and the range of communications devices.
Troops have seized a large quantity of printed materials, walkie-talkies, computers and colour printers, he said.

Pakistani Christians moving to foreign countries out of fear

While no official figures are available on how many Christians and their families have moved from Pakistan, many of them hail from either Karachi or Lahore, Express Tribune newspaper reported.
From Karachi, many Christian families have fled silently, from Dastagir, Pahar Ganj, Mianwali Colony, Akhtar Colony and Essa Nagri. A majority of them opted for Thailand, which offers cheap airfare and easy access to tourist visas.
Noel Alfonce who worked at the National Commission for Peace and Justice in Karachi was involved in assisting victims of forced conversions and their families and visiting the burned down and bullet-riddled churches after they were attacked. He moved to Thailand after getting death threats from unknown callers who threatened to harm his 10-year old daughter.
"I wouldn't have been bothered had they threatened me, but when it comes to your children, you sometimes have to take harsh decisions," Aflonce was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
"Apart from personal attacks and threats, the Badami Bagh incident in Lahore and the church bombing in Peshawar have led to an increase in migration of Christians. Unemployment and lack of security are making them leave," former parliamentarian Michael Javed said.
The report said 40-year-old Aslam Masih, a sweeper at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation is another Christian who has moved to Thailand.
"Last December, when a PMT crashed down near his house in Taiser Town, plunging the Christian colony into darkness, his decision was made.
"We had no light, no gas, no water. We had no better jobs. We were living like animals," he said speaking from Thailand over the phone.
A pastor, Moazzam, who had helped several Christians move to Thailand, was contacted and paid Rs 100,000 to arrange for the travel of six family members of Aslam, for their visas, their tickets and their documentations, the report said.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Zohra Yusuf said that the state has failed to stand up for minorities.
"It is unfortunate and sad that the minorities are leaving the country as they are being persecuted." On the other hand, former parliamentarian and minority representative Michael Javed feels that incidents of Christians leaving the country are not being given importance.
"When Hindu families were leaving Pakistan, everyone was raising the issue. But why are they silent over our migration? Are we not also citizens of the country?", he said.

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: ASWJ Terrorists Kill Five More Shias In Pakistan

http://en.shiapost.com/
Pro-Taliban takfiri terrorists of Ahl-e-Sunnat-Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ) famous as banned outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) have killed five more Shia Muslims including a woman on deadly Wednesday during the holy month of Ramdan.
Takfiri terrorists of ASWJ-SSP shot martyred a Shia lawyer Mubarak Raza Kazmi in Karachi, who was son-in-law of renowned Shia Scholar Allama Talib Johari. Mubarak Raza Kazmi, a Shia lawyer was on his way to house from office when Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba made him target in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Block 13-D. He was martyred on the spot. Marty’s body was first taken to Jinnah Hospital for postmortem and then shifted to Imam Bargah Shohda-e-Karbala.
A Shia security guard was martyred and two persons were injured on Wednesday during an armed attack on a cash van in Karachi. According to police, the incident took place in Jahangirabad near Rizvia Society where four armed robbers on two motorbikes intercepted cash van of a private security company. They were believed to be notorious takfiri terrorists. Officials said the gunmen fired shots on the van in an attempt to stop it. However, they failed to loot the cash after the security guards returned fire. One of the guards received bullets in his abdomen and died on the spot whereas a brief crossfire between guards and bandits left two passersby injured. The martyr was identified as Hasnain Abbas.
Takfiri terrorists of outlawed Sipah-e-Sahaba shot martyred a Shia woman and injured his husband in another incident of ongoing Shia genocide in Karachi Huma Hussain, aged-37, embraced martyrdom and Bilal Hussain was seriously injured after takfiri terrorists of banned SSP opened fire upon them in Karimabad. Reports had it that their son Zeeshan and daughter were also injured.
A Shia tailor master Ghulam Sakhi was shot martyred in Manghopir area of Karachi, after the terrorists of banned Sipah-e-Sahaba attacked in his shop.
A Shia Muslim Syed Akhtar Abbas Kazmi Shah was shot martyred by pro-Taliban terrorists of Sipah-e-Sahaba in Dera Ismail Khan Martyr Akhtar Hussain was attacked at Darban Road area. Martyr belongs to Syed family of Kotla Syedan area, who have already 26 martyrs in a family relatives.

Pakistan: Load Shedding issue is critical for PML N Government

http://abbtakk.tv/
Former premier Yousuf Raza Gillani has said that loadshedding crisis has damaged our government and now it would drown Pakistan Muslim League N government as well.
Talking to media in Multan on death anniversary of former governor Punjab Sajjad Hussain Qureshi, he said that Imran Khan has democratic right to protest. However it would not be milestone to bring people on the road that are already engulfed in many problems.
Yousuf Raza Gillani said that the party participation in PTI’s Independence March will be decided by Pakistan People Party PPP Co Chairman Asif Ali Zardari .
Former premier further added that we have to win the hearts of the Internally Displaced People, adding that his government had resettled IDP’s in their homes in just 90 days.
He urged Federal Government to help Kyber Pakhtunkhwa KPK provincial government for the rehabilitation of IDPs.
He condemned Israeli aggression on Palestinians and stressed Muslim World should be united to help Palestinians and end the Israelis atrocities.

Pakistan's Prime Minister 10-day long vacation in Saudi Arabia - 'Critically Absent'

Is the Prime Minister deliberately trying to be bad at his job? Or does he actually believe that this is an appropriate time to leave the country for a 10-day long vacation in Saudi Arabia? Pakistan is fighting a war. The armed forces are currently engaged in battle with militants holed up in North Waziristan. A mass exodus of people from the tribal agency into Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and elsewhere is proving to be too difficult of a challenge. The atmosphere in the political arena is anything but peaceful. Load shedding is making a strong comeback along with familiar circular debt. And at this critical juncture, the elected leader of the country is off to the kingdom to perform an ‘Umrah’. If only he worried a little more about the welfare of the people, he’d be far less concerned about his fate in the afterlife.
Can the PML-N government tell us exactly how the people will benefit from Nawaz Sharif’s visit? Is there any agenda which can be shared or is it strictly and purely a private trip? Since coming to power a little more than a year back, the government has gained quite a reputation for making unforced errors. Its dictatorial style of governance is simply incompatible with a democratic system. The parliament’s role has been reduced to nothing. There is no meaningful debate on policies or decision-making which we can see taking place in either Houses. The PM has preferred to remain absent throughout the year despite several complaints from political opponents as well as the media. The show is being run by a handful of people. It may have been tolerable if the family and friends were capable, but clearly, they’re not. Still, several posts remain occupied by ad hoc appointees. The dearth of eligible candidates and the government’s disinterest are both to blame on this account. Look at the government’s overall performance and approach towards matters, and it starts to make sense why ordinary citizens tire so quickly and easily of democracy.
Governance issues aside, the PML-N hasn’t been doing so well on the political front either. It has refused to pay heed to the concerns of the opposition, especially PTI, and helped create a hostile political environment. It has neither introduced any reforms to address concerns nor showed any inclination to do so in the near future. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will have to change his ways if he is to successfully lead this nation for another four years.

Pakistan Load Shedding: Outages-stricken consumers ransack LESCO office

Mob blocks GT Road in Daroghawala, burns tyres, damages equipment*Helpless staffers take to their heels to save lives
Stricken by unannounced and prolonged outages of electricity, consumers blocked GT Road in Daroghawala and threw traffic out of gear for quite some time by burning used tyres besides attacking a complaint office of the Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) on Wednesday.
Chanting anti-government slogans, a large number of Batapur residents formed a mob that stormed LESCO complaint office and wrecked computers and other devices as helpless LESCO officials took to their heels in order to save their lives. The protestors blocked the road completely by burning used tyres, disrupting vehicular traffic for quite some time. A police contingent called out by the administration tried to pacify the protesters but in vain. Later, police reinforcements were sent in to control the situation.
Citizens are already enduring massive electricity outages in the holy month of Ramazan. With increase in use of air-conditioners in humid and muggy weather, complaints of overloading and tripping of transformers have also increased.
Last week, a transformer of 220 KV Bund Road Grid Station was damaged due to overloading that landed the residents in huge trouble. Electricity was though supplied to the area through alternative transformer, the installation of new transformer of 250 MVA capacity took nine days to complete.
With the installation of new transformer by NTDC engineers, electricity supply to 132/11 KV grid stations of Gulshan Ravi, Qartaba, Saidpur, Alama Iqbal Town and Johar Town started with full capacity. The capacity of 220 Kv grid station will also meet the future needs of the said area. It will reduce line losses, improve voltage profile and help in un-interrupted supply of electricity to the consumers.
Separately, Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) delivered 31.084 billion units of hydel electricity to the National Grid during 2013-14 fiscal as compared to 29.560 billion units in 2012-13, registering an increase of 1.524 billion units. The increased hydel contribution was made possible due to efficient operation and maintenance of hydel power stations, availability of more water in reservoirs and generation from recently completed projects, including the raised Mangla Dam in particular.
Wapda spokesman Rana Abid said in a statement that this additional contribution of cheap hydel electricity by WAPDA helped the government save Rs 24.38 billion of the national exchequer, which otherwise would have been incurred on generating equivalent quantum of electricity from expensive imported oil.
He said that WAPDA billed Central Power Purchasing Agency (CCPA) for its hydel generation during 2013-14 at an average cost of Rs 1.50 per unit whereas per unit average generation cost from imported furnace oil was Rs 16. The government charges consumers at Rs 11.50 per unit on average.
According to generation data for 2013-14, Tarbela Dam, the largest hydel power station in the country, generated 15.138 billion units during 2013-14 as compared to 14.755 billion units in 2012-13 and Mangla, after completion of raised component, generated 5.725 billion units against 4.576 billion units produced in 2012-13. The remaining quantum of electricity was generated by other hydel power stations during 2013-14.
It is pertinent to mention that hydel power generation capacity of WAPDA stands at about 7,000 MW of electricity – about one-thirds of the total installed capacity in the country. Hydel is the cheapest, cleanest and environment-friendly source of power generation. Pakistan’s energy mix is heavily tilted in favour of expensive sources of power generation. The phased induction of low-cost hydel electricity will not only improve its ratio in the energy mix but would also lower tariff and provide relief to the consumers.

Pakistan: The state’s inertia

Fundamentalist vigilantes have once again taken to their old practice of forcing women to stay at home and remind them that if they ever have to venture out, it should not be without a male relative. This group of psychopaths typically hibernates throughout the year and suddenly becomes active when Eid arrives, using it as a convenient occasion. It is horrific that a religious decree, if one exists, that women cannot step out of their homes without a male relative, could be enforced through the use of criminal force. Four masked men at Sariab Road, Quetta threw acid on four women who were shopping on Monday. In another such incident on Tuesday, another group (or the same?) threw acid on two more women in Mastung.
The apparent lack of security in the markets on the occasion of Eid shopping made the task of these criminal misogynists easy, as was their escape. The message is loud and clear: The authorities are not even awake to the need for handling a phenomenon that is not new and has a recurring pattern. Fortunately the targeted women’s injuries seem minor, but such incidents leave a lasting effect on the victims and society at large. We have by now thousands of women in this country whose lives have been made hell by this heinous crime of acid throwing. Parliament in 2011 unanimously passed The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill 2010, which recommends 14 years to life imprisonment and fines of up to Rs one million for such crimes. Though we do find the odd case where the perpetrators have been caught and incarcerated, this does not by any stretch of the imagination make for a dedicated effort to bring such crimes to an end, especially when they are perpetrated by the extremists or religious fanatics. Balochistan, inflicted by a nationalist insurgency on the one hand, is increasingly in the throes of extremist and sectarian violence too. Incidents of throwing acid on women have been happening for the last three years and not even a single person responsible has been caught. This reduces the law referred to above to not even worth the paper it is written on.
There is a dire need to overcome our myriad security lapses. Allowing opportunities to the culprits to carry on their nefarious activities with impunity is sending the wrong message about the state being in deep inertia when it comes to protecting citizens in general from terrorism, and women in particular from these fanatical misogynist forces dedicated to reducing them to faceless (literally) non-entities.

Baloch National Voice Condemns acid attacks on women in Balochistan

The Baloch National Voice (BNV) in a statement on Wednesday strongly condemned the ‘cowardice act of’ acid attacks on women in Quetta and Mastung areas of Balochistan.
The BNV said that Baloch are a tolerant nation but their enemy [Pakistan] is uncivilised and it is breaking all international war convents and laws. “Pakistan is using the name of Islam to counter Baloch freedom struggle through its criminal death squads. These military death squads and Pakistani intelligence agencies are involved in abduction and kill & dump of innocent Baloch civilian,” the BNV said.
The BNV said that Pakistan used similar tactics to counter the independence movement of Bangladeshi people in 70s; they brutally killed thousands of Bengali women and children. The BNV said: “Today Pakistan is using similar mediums to counter Baloch independence movement because due to growing popularity of Baloch freedom movement Pakistan has realised its defeat.”
According to the BNV statement, the participation of Baloch women in struggle for independence of Balochistan has psychologically defeated Pakistan that is why the state has now started acid attacks on Baloch women in an effort to stop them from taking active part in freedom struggle.
The BNV made to make it clear to Pakistani army and state that after its defeat against Bangladesh in 70s; today pro-Pakistani religious fanatics are being punished for collaborating with Pakistan. “In an independent Balochistan also the Pakistani military criminals and their death squads will be brought in justice for their crimes against humanity in Balochistan,” BNV said.
The Baloch national Voice demanded from the international community to morally and legally support the Baloch freedom struggle because today Baloch are facing Pakistan’s religious extremists. They said in future Pakistan will use its religious assets to destroy world peace.
The BNV said: “Pakistan extremist radical groups are threatening and attacking educated Baloch women and girls and if the international community ignored such crimes of state and did not support Baloch, tomorrow they will regret on their silence because Pakistan plans to expand its fanatical intentions in every country of world.”

Acid attacks on women in Balochistan

The restive province of Balochistan is always in the news for the wrong reasons. This time it’s the acid attacks on women by masked savages. Last Monday, miscreants sprayed acid on the faces of four women outside a shopping center in outskirts of Quetta. Less than 24 hours had passed and two more girls were attacked with Acid in Mastung district of Balochistan. Both the incidents of barbarity took place outside shopping centers. These brutal acts are condemnable in strongest possible words and the perpetrators can’t be called humans.
No organization has claimed responsibility so far for the acid attacks but it’s obvious that who is behind them. The same forces of darkness that forced the closure of girl’s schools in Panjgur are behind acid throwing attacks. The sinister minds behind these attacks want to terrify Baloch women so that they don’t dare coming out of their homes for education, protests and for anything that threatens the status quo in Balochistan. Since the inception of Pakistan, Religious extremism has been used to oppress the people of smaller provinces and this acid throwing episode is mere extension of that policy.
It must be noted that attacking women is a concept alien to Baloch society. Even in the most violent tribal feuds women are untouched. It means that those behind the acid attacks on women in Balochistan are indoctrinated by an ideology that has found its way from another region. In 2010, two women were attacked with acid in Dalbandin town of Balochistan. No headway was made in that case and the culprits are at large. If any meaningful action had been taken against them than at least there could have been some hope that the perpetrators of recent acid attacks would also be apprehended.
Human rights organizations and liberal society at large is indifferent to the plight of women in Balochistan, in the wake of acid attacks. Human rights organization justifiably supported the cause of Malala and vehemently condemned the flogging of innocent women at the hands of Taliban of Swat in 2009. However the issue of acid throwing on women in Balochistan is equally important if not more than the two aforementioned issues. Still no significant voice has been raised by any human rights organization so far. Tehmina Durrani has been vocal against Acid attacks on women in Balochistan in recent years. Similarly, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy made an Academy award winning documentary on acid attack victims. Sadly nothing is heard from them on serial acid attacks in Balochistan so far. When it comes to Balochistan even the biggest champions of human rights, democracy and social welfare go into hibernation. It’s futile to hope anything from such people and organization their human rights activism is for their vested interests only.
Balochistan government is synonymous with failure these days. Dr. Malik Baloch, the chief Minister of Balochistan, is the epitome of a failed political leader. Notwithstanding his several claims that schools will be opened in Panjgur, nothing changed on the ground. Dr. Malik has issued a customary statement of condemnation against acid attacks and that’s it. One should not hope anything more than that from him and his incompetent cabinet. The women in Balochistan are thus at the mercy of savages who will stoop low to any depths to pursue their sinister agenda. There is no light at the end of the tunnel and Balochistan as a society is gradually being plunged into an abyss by the some people who are supposed to protect it.

Pakistan:BNP demonstrates against acid attacks

Workers and supporters of the Balochistan National Party staged a demonstration in the Bolan Medical College Hospital on Wednesday to protest against recent incidents of acid attacks on women in Quetta and Mastung.
Six victims of the incidents, two teenage sisters among them, are under treatment in the burns ward of the hospital.
A large number of BNP activists gathered in the hospital and staged a demonstration outside the burns ward, raising slogans against religious extremists believed to be responsible for the attacks.
The party’s Information Secretary, Agha Hasan, said such incidents had never happened in Balochistan in the past and that the “barbarian” act was against Baloch traditions and norms.
He said that extremist groups were free to implement their agenda (in the province) and no action had ever been taken against them.
The BNP leader criticised the government for its failure to protect the life and dignity of people, and urged it to ensure arrest of the perpetrators of the “inhuman” crime.

Pakistan: Acid attacks on Baloch women

The right to public space for women in many parts of Pakistan is a tenuous one, fraught with insecurity, and constantly under pressure from conservative elements.
On Monday and Tuesday, two incidents in Balochistan have served to once again underscore this reality. In the first one, masked men entered a jewellery shop in Quetta and sprayed acid from syringes on four women patrons.
In the second incident, two teenage sisters shopping at a bazaar in Mastung were attacked in an identical manner. Although mercifully it appears that the injuries sustained by those targeted are not of a very severe nature, the message that has been sent out is loud, clear and terrifying: women, if they choose to venture independently into the public domain, are fair game.
Cases of acid attack
There have been three earlier attacks employing the same modus operandi in the province in the last few years, in Dalbandin, Kalat and Quetta.
The targets in all of them were women — sometimes no more than girls — out in public, without a male chaperone. Those attacked in Kalat, significantly, were a group of teachers and students.
The perpetrators are not difficult to gauge; in fact, after the Dalbandin attack an obscure religious group had claimed responsibility, warning women to stay away from public places if they were not accompanied by male members of the family.
However, no one has been held to account, a fact that has undoubtedly emboldened regressive elements who feel no fear in carrying out brazen attacks on women in broad daylight even in a small town like Mastung where, if the state did its duty by its citizens, it would be difficult for the assailants to slip away.
Balochistan has been steadily radicalised over the years, and a plethora of shadowy, extremist religious groups increasingly exercise their malign influence over society, diligently seeking to restrict women’s agency, and deprive them of their rights.
By turning a blind eye to their activities, the state imperils the hard-won rights of women elsewhere in Pakistan as well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kerry wraps up Israel visit, no sign of breakthrough

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel late Wednesday after a day-long visit in the country in which he tried to broker a ceasefire agreement to end the ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas.
There have been no official reports regarding a possible breakthrough in the ceasefire efforts as Kerry left Wednesday night and no comments were made by Israeli officials regarding the status of the talks.
Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who arrived in Israel the preceding day, trying to bring an end to Israel's 16-day campaign in Gaza.
Kerry said earlier on Wednesday, prior to his meeting with the UN chief and following his meeting with Palestinian President Abbas, that some progress was made, but that there's still work that needs to be done to reach an agreement.
"We have certainly made some steps forward and there is still work to be done," Kerry told the UN chief in Jerusalem Wednesday morning. Kerry thanked Ban for his efforts to advance "not just a ceasefire but a sustainable process going forward."
The secretary of state did not give any details regarding the so-called progress and made no further statements to the press throughout the visit.
Senior Israeli officials were quoted by the Ha'aretz daily as saying that at this point, the conditions are not ripe for a ceasefire.
Following Kerry's meeting with Netanyahu Wednesday evening, the Israeli prime minister convened his security cabinet in Tel Aviv in order to discuss the Gaza Operation and the ongoing mediation efforts.
The cabinet is scheduled to conduct an unusual session in the Knesset (parliament) on Thursday, the Ha'aretz daily reported, to discuss Operation Protective Edge, which Israel commenced on July 8. Netanyahu is expected to give a statement during the session.
Kerry arrived in Tel Aviv on Wednesday morning, after making an earlier stop in Cairo where he met with Egyptian officials. His arrival comes amid a ban announced by the United States Federal Aviation Authority on flights to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, due to the rockets threat from the Gaza Strip.
Kerry arrived in Ramallah in the afternoon, where he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has also been shuttling back and forth between Arab nations in order to get a ceasefire agreement.

Russia Offers Help to Negotiate Gaza Truce

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday offered help to mediate a truce between the armed Palestinian group Hamas and Israel, which has expanded its military campaign in the Gaza Strip by launching a ground offensive.
Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed in a phone call the ongoing Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip that so far has killed more than 600 Palestinians, including at least 152 children and 82 women.
“The Russian president stressed that continued military action in the Gaza Strip is leading to a dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situation, to deaths and suffering of civilians,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
“He reaffirmed Russia’s readiness to assist in mediation efforts and the implementation of peaceful initiatives, including in the framework of the United Nations,” the statement said.
Putin said Russia is ready to assist in mediation of the escalating crisis in the Middle East as the continuing violent clashes between the Israeli army and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip could lead to a dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the enclave.
The phone conversation was held on the initiative of the Israeli leader. Earlier, a local Red Cross spokesman said the relief agency was preparing to pull the dead and wounded from two devastated towns and the al-Shijaya area in eastern Gaza Strip.
Israel launched its Operation Protective Edge on July 8, with the alleged objective to prevent Hamas militants from firing rockets from Gaza. At least 31 Israelis have been killed in the past 15 days of the Israeli ground offensive. On Tuesday, a number of major Russian, US and European airlines said they suspended flights to Israel after a missile landed close to Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv.

Has Britain become Bahrain’s lapdog?

Alastair Sloan
Bahraini human rights activists are speaking out about increasing persecution at the hands of the British authorities
Could it be possible that the British government is now acting as Bahrain's political policeman? Yes, according to Bahraini exiles living in London - most of whom have fled persecution in their homeland and now claim the British government is giving them a hard time for it.
Suspicions were first raised to me earlier this year, when two fleeing activists were detained and nearly deported back by suspiciously over-zealous UKBA officials at Heathrow airport. Both had strong asylum cases, but the seeming prejudice against them may well point to a wider pattern of discrimination.
Mohammed Ahmed, a prominent blogger and media fixer had been arrested and tortured in August 2013. He had previously been arrested and beaten in April 2012, whilst working with a journalist from the Sunday Telegraph, and because of his pro-democracy activism had a history of nasty run-ins with Bahraini security services. In February of this year, he decided he’d had enough and ran for London.
His travelling companion, Hussain Jawad was chairman of the prominent rights group the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights. He too was arrest by Bahraini security agents in November 2013, shortly after he lodged a formal complaint against the government, claiming that they were harassing human rights defenders. Over 50 bloggers across the world demanded Hassan’s release during his arbitrary detention in Bahrain where he spent 46 days in prison before being bailed. Upon his release, Jawad too decided he’d been left no other option but to flee.
Amnesty International declared Jawad a prisoner of conscience, even setting up a publically available website to detail his case, as did Frontline Defenders, an international charity which supports the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders across the globe. Yet, on arriving at Heathrow in February, both men were taken aside by UKBA officials. They were taken to separate detention centres outside London and found themselves in a medium security prisons, operated by UKBA for detaining and deporting illegal immigrants.
It quickly emerged that the pair had been placed on a special programme called DFT (Detained Fast Track), a process designed for uncomplicated cases where the applicant clearly has no right to asylum and needs to be returned as soon as possible. They were denied legal aid and had their case labelled all but hopeless, despite the fact they knew they had strong grounds for asylum and would face likely persecution, incarceration and the threat of torture upon their return.
Were it not for an 11th hour intervention by specialist solicitors, Jawad and Ahmed would have faced almost certain deportation. As it is, they were released a few days later and are currently proceeding forward with their applications.
Speaking to Bahraini leaders and activists living in London (there are perhaps five hundred exiles who have fled here), they clearly believe that the UKBA detention was politically motivated, and that the Bahraini community is being “systematically targeted,” by, they suspect, the British government acting on behalf of the Bahrainis.
The detention of Ahmed and Jawad, one exile told me, was a display by the UK and Bahraini governments to show the democracy movement who was in charge.
These are strong allegations, but when asked, the spin doctors in the Home Office dismissed the allegations, explaining that they couldn't comment on individual cases.
This is odd as the Home Office is often very vocal about terrorists like Abu Hamza or Abu Qatada, or indeed hunger-striking Isa Muazu last year, leading one to conclude that they only respond when it suits them. When you highlight this little discrepancy though, the Home Office does have an answer. It seems that they merely don’t comment routinely on cases – so a case of one rule for terrorists and another for human rights defenders. In May, more evidence emerged that the British could be doing the bidding of the Bahrainis, and that what had happened to Ahmed and Jawad may well be routine.
On 30 April, two Bahraini exiles living in London were raided by a counter-terrorism unit from the Metropolitan Police. It was 6:00 am. Their families were also detained. Both were charged with terrorism-related offences, which, according to the human rights activists, were most likely fabricated by the Bahraini authorities. Given the sensitive nature of the raid, it is suspicious that a Twitter account in Bahrain tweeted about the men's arrest at 4:00 am, two full hours before Metropolitan Police kicked down their doors in London.
"Urgent: British authorities arrest Iranian agents (Safawi) and Karim Almahroos and Abdul Rauf Alshayeb is now being handed over to Bahrain," tweeted @mnarfezhom.
The @mnarfezhom account is, according to the research and advocacy group, Bahrain Watch, most likely operated by a member of the ruling al-Khalifa family, and functions as a cyber-vigilante, mobilising die-hard royalists.
There have also been other signs that the relationship between Bahraini human rights defenders and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office have in their words become “hostile”.
Desk officers in the FCO are regularly briefed by global human rights defenders. Nearly all of these meetings invite a participatory mood in which organisations large and small can air their concerns in a receptive environment.
This vital lobbying opportunity has increasingly been choked off to Bahrainis. In a conversation with an official in May, an activist swears that UK authorities parroted Bahraini regime propaganda. When asked why the regime was tear-gassing so excessively each night, the UK officials allegedly said that “the attacks by the Bahraini police are just self-defence against the Molotov cocktail throwing youth.” This line is all too familiar to those reading the Bahraini state press.
When the activist retorted by saying that the youth throw Molotov cocktails because of the harsh police tactics that on occasion prove fatal, the officer allegedly replied: “Well, it's always someone else's fault isn't it?”
But could it really be true that the British government is aiding and abetting the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy to perpetuate its oppression? This is incredibly hard to prove but it would not be the first time that British officials have got their hands dirty to keep the al-Khalifas in power.
Colonel Ian Henderson, a colonial era British policeman who worked for the al-Khalifa family for nearly thirty years, was investigated in 2000 by the Home Office for his alleged complicity in torture while in Manama. Eventually, no charges were filed, but UK journalist Robert Fisk wrote a scathing expose that unearthed widespread instances of abuse.
If this kind of behaviour has and is happening, it is likely a case of “I scratch yours, you scratch mine.” Bahrain itself is small and not that energy-rich, but it is a key part of the GCC which all but controls OPEC. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and to a lesser extent Kuwait, have sunk vast resources – from money and fuel to soldier and weapons - to prop up the al-Khalifas who they see as a bulwark against Iranian and Shia expansion in the region.
There are also large geo-political gains to be made by keeping the Khalifas on the throne. Bahrain is conveniently positioned in the Gulf and is seen as a vital base for protecting key shipping lanes. The British and American presence in the Middle East is generally based in and coordinated out of Manama harbour, and billions in expensive defence equipment is stationed there. While these are underlying factors for the possible collusion between the British and the Bahrainis, a new large-scale defence contract was thrown into the mix at the start of the year, which could explain why we have seen this more hostile attitude. Negotiations about the highly-prized British BAE Systems £4bn deal to supply Saudi Arabia with 72 Eurofighter Typhoons, had been unusually tense. There have already been suggestions that this tension may have led to unusual and secretive government “favours” being introduced to buttress the deal. Defence sales by British companies are assisted by UK government operatives from the highest levels. Speculation on what these “sweeteners” could have been, has so far centred on the Muslim Brotherhood investigation announced by No.10 shortly after the Saudi arms deal went through. The timing played nicely into the political aims of Saudi Arabia's rulers, and there was subsequent outrage from ambassadors, newspaper columnists and MPs, who all denounced this as and shameful “favour” for the Saudis.
But the Muslim Brotherhood investigation might not have been the only unusual favour discussed and the timing of the first reports of Bahrain persecution would also help to explain the growing mistrust, bad blood, and of host of allegations that have started flying around.
- See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/has-britain-become-bahrain-s-lapdog-495593691#sthash.U7NKlBVT.dpuf

How Saudi Arabia helped ISIS take over the north of Iraq

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world?
Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them."
The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria.
Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.
In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as "spoils of war".
Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.
There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa'ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar's words, saying that they constituted "a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed".
He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq./blockquote>
He said: "Such things simply do not happen spontaneously." This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.
Dearlove's explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6's view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention.
Coverage of Dearlove's speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from Isis to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden's al-Qa'ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that "is essentially Muslim on Muslim".
Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa'ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.
The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them.
"The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq," said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.
Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge.
But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there "can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam's holiest shrines". But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be "deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom".
Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.
The difference between al-Qa'ida and Isis can be overstated: when Bin Laden was killed by United States forces in 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogising him, and Isis pledged to launch 100 attacks in revenge for his death.
But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa'ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar's approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.
He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence "literally shouting at me across his office: '9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.'" In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.
Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia "militancy" is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that "Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups."
She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia did act against al-Qa'ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.
The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa'ida and its clones have failed.
By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist. The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011.
Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.
An alibi used by the US and Britain is that the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in Bahrain is pursuing dialogue and reform. But this excuse looked thin last week as Bahrain expelled a top US diplomat, the assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowksi, for meeting leaders of the main Shia opposition party al-Wifaq. Mr Malinowski tweeted that the Bahrain government's action was "not about me but about undermining dialogue".
Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq. Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the Isis-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. Maliki did enough to enrage the Sunni, partly because he wanted to frighten Shia voters into supporting him in the 30 April election by claiming to be the Shia community's protector against Sunni counter-revolution.
But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki's failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. "I guess they just didn't believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad," said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.
Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue.
The chief beneficiary is Isis which over the last two weeks has been mopping up the last opposition to its rule in eastern Syria. The Kurds in the north and the official al-Qa'ida representative, Jabhat al-Nusra, are faltering under the impact of Isis forces high in morale and using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is also, without the rest of the world taking notice, taking over many of the Syrian oil wells that it did not already control.
Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein's monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence, and one deeply ungrateful for past favours from the Turkish intelligence service.
As for Saudi Arabia, it may come to regret its support for the Sunni revolts in Syria and Iraq as jihadi social media begins to speak of the House of Saud as its next target. It is the unnamed head of Saudi General Intelligence quoted by Dearlove after 9/11 who is turning out to have analysed the potential threat to Saudi Arabia correctly and not Prince Bandar, which may explain why the latter was sacked earlier this year.
Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of Isis is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.
The Sunni caliphate rules a large, impoverished and isolated area from which people are fleeing. Several million Sunni in and around Baghdad are vulnerable to attack and 255 Sunni prisoners have already been massacred. In the long term, Isis cannot win, but its mix of fanaticism and good organisation makes it difficult to dislodge.
"God help the Shia," said Prince Bandar, but, partly thanks to him, the shattered Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may need divine help even more than the Shia.
https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6906155786122195046#editor/target=post;postID=8838248456147133061;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=link

Music: Lily Allen - URL Badman

Pakistan Government Accused Of Tolerating Persecution Of Minorities

Government of Pakistan accused of tolerating persecution of minorities in Pakistan.
According to an international news agency the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif’s government goes on with committing and tolerate the persecution of Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and Shiites. They assert that the government’s imposition of the oppressive blasphemy laws has privileged the religious fanatics.
The news agency claims that under these blasphemy laws 40 Pakistanis are currently jailed — predominantly anti-Ahmadi laws also seriously animate dangers to the religious-freedom abuses while providing opportunities to the religious extremists. They continue to criticise the Pakistani Government of giving a free hand to the murderer Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian and former Pakistani minister for interfaith harmony whereas the government has failed to bring his killers to justice.
They went on to say that the United States should go on to raise concerns about these killing of the religious minorities. The administration should also follow recommendations provided in the House-passed fiscal-year 2015 budget to prioritize any necessary foreign-aid reductions to target those countries that abuse religious freedoms.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) – an independent government organization that supervises religious freedom abroad. USCIRF and members of the House of Representatives have recommended that all three of these countries — China, Iran, and Pakistan — be listed by the U.S. State Department as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom because of these and other atrocities. The State Department has answered our calls on China and Iran in the past; it is time that Secretary John Kerry does the same regarding Pakistan. Secretary Kerry must press for Pakistani government leaders to protect religious freedom to stem its frightening spiral toward extremist violence and instability. USCIRF has recommended this designation, and congressional leaders have requested it. The Obama administration must improve and make protection religious freedom a pillar of its foreign policy. As the United States turns a blind eye, so too does the world. We must open our eyes now, act accordingly and show these governments and the world that these acts will not stand.
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/pakistan-government-accused-of-tolerating-persecution-of-minorities/#sthash.jW7x9NKL.dpuf

Pakistan: Five Christian Families Rescued From Slavery Of A Muslim Brick-Kiln Owner

Five Christian families rescued from the slavery of a Muslim brick kiln owner.
According to details, five Christian families have been set free after being served as slaves for more than two decades in a Muslim-run brick kiln in Wazirabad in Punjab province of Pakistan. A Pakistani NGO Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement was involved in this rescue operation. The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement said it provided two vehicles for the May 6 raids at the brick. The Director of this advocacy group told,” a total of eight Christians were found working as slaves in the area, representing five families. Some were detained around the brick kiln itself; others at a nearby location linked to the kiln’s owner, Gul Nawaz Cheema. Our staff accompanied the bailiffs to two separate locations, after petitioning the Lahore High Court.”
He further stated that, there were no reports of arrests of the kiln owner so far, as it seems that the police are disinclined to further investigate into this case. The Christians who have been set free from the bonded labour said they had been “in bonded labour for more than 25 years”. One of the slave women was Safia Bibi who said she started working at the brick kiln along with her husband Anwar Masih, soon after her marriage. She further told that their nine children were all born at the brick kiln where they grew up and soon started working at the brick kiln. Adding to the inhuman behaviour of the kiln owners she reveals that, in 2013 her husband Anwar Masih died in the slavery because of sickness and weakness as he was forced to work without food. The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement revealed that,”He was prevented from visiting a doctor, but would not have been able to afford treatment even if allowed. His children were not allowed to attend his funeral and were forced to work on the day.”
The rescued Christian families went on to reveal that they were kept in a house at the brick kiln with no basic facilities such as a bathroom or toilet. They told that they would sometimes have to go for days without food and when they demanded money, were forced to work more. The brick kiln owner often made these families work without wages and whenever they tried to leave, he severely tortured them. They were Christians, they were not allowed to attend prayer meetings or celebrate Christmas and other religious festivals, according to investigators.
The Director of Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement says they are committed to provide free legal aid to slaves. He said:
“It is sad that even in the 21st century, slavery still continues in Pakistan, a heavily Islamic nation.”
He said,”Although it is illegal to take employees into bonded labour, brick kiln owners are rich and influential, and therefore they are hardly questioned and brought to the justice. Even if they are raided they get away with offering bribes and drawing on their local influence. The government is aware of the situation, but unfortunately has never taken concentrated steps for the welfare of these people, and therefore slavery continues. Many Christians are forced to work in brick kilns to pay off family debts.” He also explains that, “Most of the money they earn goes towards paying their existing debt. As a kiln owner charges them heavy interest, their debts are never paid and they run to the next generation,” adding, “People are sometimes sold from one brick kiln owner to another.”
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/five-christian-families-rescued-from-slavery-of-a-mulsim-brick-kiln-owner/#sthash.4GUWyVQN.dpuf

Terrorists attack police during search operation in Peshawar

http://dunyanews.tv/

Dunya News - Terrorists attack police during... by dunyanews
Terrorists attacked police during a search operation injuring DSP Officer Abdul Rehman in Peshawar on Wednesday, Dunya News reported. The terrorists successfully escaped as the police responded with retaliatory firing.
During an ongoing search operation led by DSP Abdul Rehman on Frontier Road near Barah Sheikhan, terrorists riding motorcycles and a car opened fire on the police which resulted in injuring DSP Abdul Rehman. The police force responded with retaliatory firing, however, the terrorists were successful in escaping from the scene and fled towards an unknown location. The police surrounded the location while the injured DSP was shifted to Lady Reading Hospital. According to the hospital crew, the DSP was shot in the leg and is completely out of danger.
In the last one week, 7 police officials have been killed in Peshawar.

Pakistan's Prime Minister: A part-time leader

By Zahid Hussain
“The most important quality in a leader is that of being acknowledged as such.” — André Maurois
UNFORTUNATELY, our third-time prime minister does not fit this criterion. While our troops are engaged in the most critical battle against militants and hundreds and thousands of people have been displaced from their homes in North Waziristan and are facing severe hardship, our leader is off to Saudi Arabia for his annual spiritual retreat for 10 days.
There cannot be any objection to his religious zeal. But as a leader he is also expected to focus on the job for which he has been elected. It is certainly no ordinary situation for a country in the midst of a conflict and looming humanitarian crisis.
Being away from the country for so long at this critical time and on a private trip illustrates how low governance is on his priority list. Should our leader not be dealing with the vital issues of national security at home rather than seeking his own salvation?
In any other country, a leader would have preferred to stay with one’s own people in times of tribulation. But this is not the case with Nawaz Sharif who is best described as a part-time leader with minimal interest in running the affairs of the state. Not surprisingly, the approval rating for his party has plummeted in a short period.
Surely, it is hard for any incumbent to maintain the same level of popular appeal that brings one to power. Yet the plunge in Nawaz Sharif’s approval ratings within the first year of his third term in office is astonishing even by Pakistani standards, if opinion polls are to be trusted.
Trailing far behind the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the party has now fallen behind even the PPP in public approval ratings. According to the latest Herald/SDPI opinion poll, only 17pc of respondents said they would vote for the PML-N if elections were held today compared to 33pc for the PTI and 19pc for the PPP which was routed in the last election.
Such a low popular standing does not come as a surprise given Sharif’s dismal performance and style of governance. His is more of a family limited company than a functional institutional democracy. All power is concentrated in the hands of a few members of the family. And now the ‘gifted’ daughter is being groomed as heir apparent. There is no party organisation and all decisions are made by Sharif alone. The exclusion of others has created serious misgivings among senior party members.
For once, Asif Ali Zardari was right when he said the people had voted for Sharif to be prime minister, not a monarch. And that monarchy is run from Lahore where Sharif mostly stays when not out of the country. The rest of the country does not seem to exist for him.
A frequently asked question is how different is the current Sharif government from the prime minister’s previous ones. The answer is simple: it is far worse. Sharif is more indecisive and as one political leader said “he has no fire in the belly”.
Yet there is no deficit of hubris of power. The Model Town carnage and police brutality is the hallmark of Sharif’s rule. The panicky reaction of the administration on the arrival of Tahirul Qadri is a manifestation of the increasing political alienation of the Sharif administration.
It has been a disappointing first year in power. There have been fewer examples of such a lacklustre leadership devoid of any foresight. His disdain for parliament is demonstrated by his rare appearances in the house in the past 14 months. Not surprisingly, parliament has been reduced to a dormant forum with little debate on substantive policy issues.
Sharif returned to power with a promise to take Pakistan to the path of economic revival and improved governance. But his vision of progress has been limited to metro buses and motorways. Certainly, his government has achieved short-term economic stability, but in the absence of fundamental structural reforms the long-term scenario does not look so encouraging.
The health of the economy is interpreted through the narrow prism of foreign exchange reserves and appreciation in the value of the rupee. It is scandalous the way the finance ministry apparently manipulated the economic growth rate to portray a positive picture of the economy. The distortion was exposed when the real figure was provided to the IMF.
A major reason for the erosion in the approval rating of the PML-N is the utter failure of the government to deal with the power crisis. There has not been any respite from load-shedding despite the government’s claim of substantial increase in power generation. The unresolved problem of circular debt is said to be the major reason for the widening shortfall in power supply. The government has done little to improve the working of the distribution companies or to collect outstanding bills.
After much dithering, Sharif has finally given the go-ahead for the military operation in North Waziristan. But he is still not willing to take complete ownership of the critical campaign. Even the responsibility for displaced persons has been handed over to the military. What is most alarming is the government’s decision to call in the army to guard important public installations in major cities. There is also a plan to give wider power to the armed forces under Section 245 of the Constitution. It is tantamount to a complete abdication of the civilian government’s responsibility.
Getting the army involved in maintaining law and order in the cities can mean a gradual military take­over. It is almost a repeat of 1998 when the Sharif government used the troops for everything starting with electricity meter readings. It is apparent that no lessons have been learnt from the past. A part-time leadership cannot deal with the grave situation confronted by the country.

Pakistan: 18 TTP Terrorists Disguised As IDPs Arrested From Larkana

shiapost.com

18 TTP terrorists disguised as IDPs arrested... by videosfever
At least 18 terrorists belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) have been arrested from Larkana, after they were disguised as Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs). DIG Police Larkana disclosed to media yesterday regrinding the arrest of 18 TTP terrorists who disguised themselves as IDPs while entering in Sindh province of Pakistan. Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah said on Tuesday that terrorists from North Waziristan Agency can enter Sindh province in the form of IDPs.

Health Policy for Balochistan…?

By Safiullah Shahwani
Whereas the Provincial Health Minister Rehmat Saleh Baloch talks of a health policy for the province in his speeches at five star hotels with bottled water and air conditioned culture, the facilities of health still remain a dream for common citizens in Balochistan. During a recent visit of mine to the Civil Hospital Quetta, I witnessed pathetic conditions of the Hospital’s emergency centre. As the corridor opened, a strong stinking smell, ruthlessly ripping through my nostrils and flooding my senses, welcomed me inside where doctors, well aware of hygienic principles, were encircled in an unhygienic environment by a crowd of people. It seemed as if these people were some displaced persons of a war and had gathered at a makeshift camp to win a survival. Few steps ahead, a queue of beds were lined on the left side with patients lying on them resigned, encircled by as many attendants as could possibly have found time and opportunity to accompany the poor patients.
Drawing further into corridor led me to the Operation Theater (OT) where broken heads, fractured limbs and bleeding muscles were being stitched. Patients seemed surrounded by trainees who kept on suggesting attendants of the patients, every now and then, to fetch certain medicines from medical shops located in front of Civil Hospital Quetta, as if funds had never been allocated for purchase of medicines for decades. White tiles of the OT were blackened at some places, yellowish or reddish at other places—perhaps bearing the brunt of some strikes of sweepers or cruelty of some robber-cum-doctor-cum-administrators?—(so-called). Foams of the some beds were peeping outside the sheets to show their sympathy with patients. The corridor also had an X-ray room which was occupied by two officials responsible for making X-rays. One of them was perhaps in ecstasy of being the owner of the hospital. He yelled wildly at the patients who were mostly aged, children, and indigent sections. At one instance, he rudely rebuked a patients’ attendant, “Why don’t you people demolish this hospital and emancipate us?” I wondered if he was asking emancipation for himself from patients or for patients from himself and from his other accomplices—yes accomplices who were quite apt at thievery of many sort. Coordination is an essential component of service delivery but it seemed nowhere existent. Ethical values, civility, and good behavior were totally words of a different planet for the species of Hospital. Yelling, shouting, and insulting were, it seemed, part of their capacity building trainings—if there were any. Communication skills, load management, service delivery, maintenance of hygienic conditions within premises of the hospital were irrelevant objects. The corridor of the emergency ward literally presented a look of flocks of animals running, wandering, bleeding, shouting and crying in a state of confusion after being battered by some catastrophe. Few emergency patients arrived, bleeding but no stretchers were available to carry them to the OT. Two attendants of patients entered into a brawl for winning a stretcher for their patients, luckily found at some corner.
This all reminded of how proudly health policies are talked of with least regard for ground realities. Bravo Mr. Health Minister, the health policy is indeed unmatchable you talk of! Bravo Mr. Chief Minister your special focus has indeed improved the health sector to unimaginable degrees! Bravo our sincere doctors, you are all sincere with your Hippocrates oath to the core! My honoured rulers, doctors, paramedics—looters and all—your commitment to this soil, to the people of this deprived province—deprived, plundered and looted by colonist forces only? Your commitment to this soil is so high that perhaps a conspiracy of Punjab can only deter you to serve your—yes your own—people.

Pakistan: Hundreds protest load-shedding in Lahore

The Express Tribune
Hundreds of demonstrators armed with sticks staged a protest against load-shedding outside the Lahore Electric Supply Corporation (Lesco) office in the Batapur area of the city, Express News reported on Wednesday. According to reports, the protesters were facing around 16 hours of load-shedding on a daily basis. The protest turned violent when demonstrators smashed the glass doors of the Lesco office and proceeded to break the windows of a car as well. Three of car’s passengers were injured as a result of the violence.

Hundreds protest load-shedding outside Lesco... by ExpressNewsHD
A few policemen attempted to snatch the sticks from the protesters, however, they failed to disarm them. More cops were later called in to control the angry mob. Tyres were seen burning near the protesters, who were wielding sticks and chanting slogans.

Pakistan: Nawaz's Saudi Arabia tour

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Punjab Secretary General Tanvir Ashraf Kaira has said that Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia shows his non-seriousness on internal national issues, especially the ongoing Zarb-e-Azb military operation in North Waziristan Agency.
In a statement on Tuesday, the PPP leader said that Prime Minister Nawaz was away on a foreign tour for about two weeks suggesting that pressing problems facing the country at present do not deserve his constant attention and physical presence in the country. He said that Pakistan was fighting the war of its survival and its PM’s absence from the country for a longer period of time could not be condoned by any measure. “This cannot be justified when the country is in a state of war because the scourge of terrorism and extremism is a grave threat to the security of the country,” he added.
He said that the performance of religious rituals was important but the PM should return to the country after a couple of days and give direction to deal with the emerging situation as the country was fighting a war that needed his presence to take immediate important decisions regarding the ongoing military operation.
Kaira opined that the PM’s departure reportedly for two weeks to a foreign country also gives the impression of his abdication of responsibilities to very important national issues with deep-rooted implications for the security of the country. He suggested that the PM should cut short his visit and come back to assume the leading role of taking decisions because he was the elected chief executive of the country and accountable to the people and the Parliament.
Kaira said that issues of internally displaced persons, electricity outages, poverty and non-availability of civic amenities to the people had made their lives miserable and the PM was required to assure them with full seriousness that he was cognisant of their plight and was taking concrete steps to mitigate their sufferings.
Kaira also observed that Prime Minister Nawaz’s absence from the country would not bode well for the people whose hopes of better days during this government were dwindling fast.

Pakistan: Opp issues ‘white paper’ on PML-N govt’s performance

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/
Punjab Assembly (PA) Opposition Leader Mian Mahmoodur Rashid has issued what he called a “white paper” on the financial mismanagement and bad governance of the PML-N government, which has now been in power in Punjab Province for over six years.
Sharing details of the paper with the press in his chamber on Tuesday, the opposition leader said that the Punjab government was taking $350 million fresh loan from the Asian Development Bank and $35 million from the International Fund for Agricultural Development but that its massive financial mismanagement and bad governance had taken the province back to a position where it was 10 years ago.
He said that the province was under a heavy burden of Rs 452 billion loans and to top that burden, the government has further applied for loans amounting to $385 million.
The existing loans and the new ones would add to the miseries of the province while paying off the principal amount of these loans as well as mark-up, he said.
Rashid said that from 2008, Punjab was getting an additional Rs 100 billion apart from what it was getting under the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award. He said that the additional Rs 100 billion had not helped the province at all and the financial condition of the province was rather getting worse with every passing day.
The government kept on taking loans, he said, adding that each year a deficit budget was presented that proved that the financial conditions of the province were getting from bad to worse.
The PTI leader said that if the government could generate Rs 100 billon funds on its own for Metro Bus Projects in three cities of the province then why could it not generate funds from its own resources to improve the declining living standard of the people.
He said that Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had promised while assuming charge of the province six years ago that he would not rely on foreign loans and would not leave a legacy of loans for the next generations but the amount of loans his government had taken and continues to take had mortgaged the income of our several next generations. “No matter how soft the terms of repaying the loans are and does not matter how long the duration period of repaying the loans is but the fact is that several next generation will have to live under heavy burden of loans and the responsibility of these loans will be on the shoulders of the present government,” he added.
He said that the provincial government was following in the footsteps of the federal government, which was also taking massive loans and that the whole nation would have to suffer for their blunders.
He said that the provincial government does not want to learn from the blunders it has committed in the past and continues to invest and waste money on useless and failed projects like Yellow Cab scheme, Ashiyana housing scheme, sasti roti, food support programme, laptop scheme, green tractor scheme, mobile health units, solar lamp and Daanish schools etc when it has already wasted over Rs 100 billion on such useless projects.
“How have these projects improved the living standard of the people and how have education and health sectors improved due to these projects?” he asked.
“How much has the inflation been lowered and how many employment chances have these projects created?” he further asked.
“Had these funds been used to improve the agriculture sector, industrial growth and power generation the province would have registered improvement in the living standard of the people,” he said, adding that we would not have been compelled to import potatoes, fruits and other vegetables had the provincial funds been utilised in a better and sane manner. The opposition leader went on to say that the provincial government has failed to introduce reforms for the betterment of the people and that corruption and tax evasion has been flourishing and there are no checks and balances in place to put the lid on all these social ills.

Pakistan: Governance problems

Talk about a political counter-narrative against terrorism remains just talk as the political leadership has taken a back seat to the military with regard to the conduct of operations against terrorism and the security paradigm. The government appears out of its depth and beleaguered in the face of the multiple challenges it faces, from the energy shortage to Imran Khan’s proposed ‘Azadi (independence) March’ on August 14. This has been compounded by a lack of strong leadership and an inability to prioritise correctly. From mega-transport projects to roads and Metro Bus systems, the ruling party’s focus has drifted away from solving the power crisis — crucial for the economy — despite its election promises. In the wake of the operation in North Waziristan it seems at sixes and sevens about what its priorities should be. The security paradigm is now effectively out of its hands with reports saying the military is fully in charge of Operation Zarb-e-Azb and its consequences, including the care of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). This is unsurprising given the government’s negotiations strategy was a failure and that it waffled on tackling terrorism, but the inability to tackle even those problems that it is equipped to deal with has left it severely weakened by an increasing chorus of criticism. In this environment, Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif is counting on military support to help deal with the political challenge being posed by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, who the military fears may cause even more instability at a time when security is paramount and the threat of terrorists attacking public processions is higher than ever. Reports say that the PM wants the military to help persuade Imran Khan to change his plans in the greater interests of the country, since he has been unable to do so himself. Whether the military will be able to do so remains to be seen, but given that security is paramount, it may be that Imran will be prevailed upon.
The change in government-military relations comes on the heels of seeming resolution of several bones of contention between them. The first was the trial of former president Pervez Musharraf, who was charged with treason under Article six of the Constitution for imposing an emergency in 2007. Reportedly the last two meetings between the PM and the military establishment have been focused on the issue. The precedent such a case could set is a matter of concern for the military as were the angry statements of ministers Khwaja Asif and Khwaja Saad Rafique who insisted earlier this year that the trial would continue, until the PM himself cut them down to size when rumours of military displeasure began circulating. Now there are signs that Musharraf will be allowed to leave the country after Eid. Again, however, the sense of priorities was misplaced since the trial was a distraction from the serious issues the government needed to resolve that are now crippling it — particularly true for Khwaja Asif who also holds the Water and Power portfolio in addition to Defence. He should have focused on the possible, and moved swiftly on tackling the power crisis that was developing after the relatively easy winter months passed. Subsequently, bad governance has arisen as another concern. From the military’s point of view, internal chaos is a militant force-multiplier and threatens to undermine the gains made by the operation. The military may be willing to mediate in the current political conflict but has reservations about becoming openly involved in the political process. Constitutionality has become the mantra of both the military and civilian leaderships, hence the PM’s fence mending with the military is important, but not as important as proving to the country that he deserves to remain in power. He must move to correct the imbalances in policy making that have left him vulnerable. Leadership is required that only he can provide. The first step is to move on solving the power crisis and ensure that his ministers are administering their portfolios properly.

Of forgotten poets: The elegist of Peshawar fights a lonely battle for his life

The writer of hundreds of Pukhtun anthems, Fazal Subhan Abid, is fighting for his life at a hospital in his hometown of Dargai, Malakand. The well-known poet and lyricist, who has composed some of the best beloved Pashto songs of our time, is suffering from Hepatitis C and other health complications.
The 58-year-old Abid Jan, as he is lovingly called by his fans, has spent the past 14 years in Dubai earning a living. He had to return home, however, as his health deteriorated. Due to a lack of proper treatment, Abid’s other organs have also been damaged.
To make matters worse, his ability to pay for his treatment has diminished as well. It has been a long and expensive trial over the last seven years and doctors have now advised operations which could set him back by about Rs8 million. Although the provincial culture minister has announced Rs100,000 for Abid, it is nowhere near the amount he really needs.
Abid’s all-time hits include anthems such as ‘Pekhawar kho Pekhawar day kana’ (Peshawar is Peshawar after all) first sung by Gulzar Alam in 1998 and ‘Pa Pekhawar ke parhar ma jorawai’ (Stop ripping Peshawar apart) sung by Hashmat Sahar. It is an irony that the songs are so well-known but their maker is largely forgotten. “My songs have given me recognition among Pukhtuns in Pakistan, Afghanistan and our diaspora around the world,” said the writer while speaking to The Express Tribune. “The importance of this music among the Pukhtuns is undeniable because of their love for their homeland.”
Some of Abid’s earlier works replaced long-standing favourites such as ‘Mung yu da Khyber zalmi’ (We are the youth of Khyber), which was performed by venerated Pashto ghazal singer Khyal Muhammad. His ‘Lewanai mausam’ (Seasons of madness) has been sung by artists such as Haroon Bacha, Kifayat Shah Bacha and Nazia Iqbal among others.
Others classics include ‘Da Karachai da ranragano khar ke wraka yara’ (Oh lover, you are lost to the lights of Karachi) and ‘Taswir de sanga jorh kram’ (How do I paint your picture), among hundreds of ghazals, which have been complied in a two-volume anthology titled ‘Lewanai mausam’. Another poetry collection is awaiting publication.
“I have always tried to write poetry according to the conditions of my province,” says Abid. “War and militancy have affected every fibre of society, and so, it was inevitable that our poetry and literature would eventually incorporate these elements.”
Abid says a major chunk of his work has focused on paying tribute to Peshawar. “It is a city for the common man,” he says. “It is the centre of all hope for the Pukhtuns and every one of us yearns for the day we will see peace spread in this city of flowers again.”
He believes that good art always leaves an impact on people. “They will hum these tunes for years to come and the words will continue to resound in their hearts long after I am gone,” Abid said from his bed. “It is unfortunate that the work is always remembered, but not the people who are responsible for creating it.”
Some of Abid Jan’s songs have never been performed. One of them carries more than just a message for Peshawar: ‘Sumra lawaris shway Pekhawara sok de nishta’ or ‘How abandoned you are Peshawar, with no one left to care for you’.

North Waziristan: Pak military jets pound militant hideouts, 13 killed

http://dunyanews.tv/
At least 13 militants were killed as military jets bombed several hideouts of militants in North Waziristan in an ongoing offensive against the Taliban.
The airstrikes were carried out in Shawal Tehsil of North Waziristan.
According to sources, eight hideouts were destroyed and at least 13 terrorists were killed in the Wednesday morning airstrikes.
Two days ago, 28 terrorists were killed while six hideouts were destroyed in the same Tehsil as Pakistan army continues the Zarb-e-Azb operation in North Waziristan.
Last month Pakistan's military launched a long-awaited offensive in North Waziristan, aimed at wiping out longstanding militant strongholds in the area, which borders Afghanistan.
More than 400 militants and 20 soldiers have been killed in the offensive so far, according to the military. The area is off-limits to journalists and the number and identity of the dead is impossible to verify.
Earlier, Pakistani jets and artillery pounded militant hideouts in Miranshah, killing 18 foreign and local insurgents.
The air strikes came a day after militants crossed from the Afghan province of Kunar to launch a pre-dawn ambush on a check post in Bajaur tribal district, killing three Pakistani soldiers.
"Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Afghan side in Islamabad and Kabul on Saturday and reiterated that Afghanistan should eliminate the terrorist sanctuaries and not allow its territory to be used against Pakistan," the foreign ministry said in a statement

Pakistan: NW operation not fulfilled US expectations: Gen Joseph

US Force Commander Gen Joseph F. Dunford in Afghanistan has said that Pakistan Armed Forces offensive in North Waziristan have not fulfilled the US expectations adding that the offensive could not show its effect on Haqqani Network. Talking to US Congress, Gen Joseph Dunford stated that NW offensive has gained success at some extent against banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Uzbik militants but it is not successful against Haqqani Network as expected by US. However US General has admitted that the NW offensive has hindered the Haqqani Network and compelled it to flee from its hide outs in Miran Shah.