Tuesday, September 16, 2014

President Obama travels to Tampa to visit CENTCOM

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U.S. - Poverty dropped but household incomes didn’t rise, Census Bureau says

By Carol Morello
The nation’s poverty rate dipped slightly last year as more Americans shifted from part-time work to full-time jobs, but wages barely kept up with inflation so there was no significant change to incomes, according to Census Bureau statistics released Tuesday.
The poverty rate in 2013 was 14.5 percent, down from 15 percent in 2012. That was the first decline in the rate since 2006, a year before the recession began. However, the number of people living at or below the poverty line, about 45 million, did not budge. The decline in the rate at a time of unchanging raw numbers was attributed to population growth.
One in five children in the country are living in poverty, the census said. The 20 percent poverty rate for children represented a drop of 2 percentage points from 2012.
Mississippi registered the highest level of poverty in the country, at 22.5 percent.
Census economists said median household income in the U.S. last year was just under $52,000, roughly where it was in 2012 when the figures are adjusted for inflation. That figure is 8 percent lower than it was in 2007, the last full year of pre-recession economic well-being, and 11 percent below what it was in 2000.
Overall, the Census Bureau said, about 2.8 million more people had full-time, year-round jobs in 2013. Since 2010, the census has detected a gradual shift from part-time to full-time jobs, but the trend seemed to accelerate last year, economists said.
“The good news is that more people are working full time,” said Sheldon Danziger, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, a New York-based social research group. “The bad news is, for the typical worker, wages are just keeping up with inflation.”

There Are A Disturbing Number Of ISIS Recruits From NATO Partner Turkey

A startling number of recruits for ISIS come from neighboring Turkey, according to a report by Ceylan Yengisu of The New York Times. "As many as 1,000 Turks have joined ISIS, according to Turkish news media reports and government officials here," Yengisu writes.
Turkey, a secular Muslim country led by a moderate Islamist party, faces a problem of disgruntled Islamists hoping for a more purely Islamic society.
"Recruits cite the group’s ideological appeal to disaffected youths as well as the money it pays fighters from its flush coffers," Yengisu notes.
ISIS pays its members $150 a day, a potentially significant financial incentive to join the radical organization. Unemployment in Turkey was an estimated 9.3% in 2013, and almost 17% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2010, according to the CIA World Factbook.
By fighting for ISIS, youth with limited opportunities would be able to earn more than three times Turkey's average per capita GDP. Turkey is a NATO member, but it's allegedly turned a blind-eye towards jihadist recruitment in its own territory. The Republic's policy of regime change within Syria, supported by what could generously be called a lax attitude towards anti-Assad Islamist extremists recruiting and operating inside of Turkish territory, has largely been credited with facilitating the rise of ISIS. Rebel fighters could retreat into Turkish territory and sneak recruits and supplies into and out of Syria.
“There are clearly recruitment centers being set up in Ankara and elsewhere in Turkey, but the government doesn’t seem to care,” Aaron Stein, a fellow at the Lond-based Royal United Services Institute think tank, told The New York Times. “It seems their hatred for Bashar al-Assad and their overly nuanced view of what radical Islam is has led to a very short- and narrow-sighted policy that has serious implications.”
This estimate of about 1,000 Turks fighting alongside ISIS disagrees with other attempts at determining the number of foreign fighters in Syria. AFP, citing numbers from the London-based Centre for the Study of Radicalization, placed 400 Turks fighting in Syria for ISIS.
So far the Turkish government has resisted calls for it to join a US-led coalition against ISIS, and it has failed to fully secure its border with Iraq and Syria. But Turkey also has its hands tied: ISIS is holding 49 Turks hostage.
The hostages include diplomats, along with their wives and children. ISIS's recent spate of beheading Western hostages could be a message for Turkey not to become involved, lest the 49 Turks face a similar fate.

Video Report - General Martin Dempsey says U.S. strikes in Syria won't be "shock and awe

U.S. General to Seek Combat Troops if Airstrikes Can’t Stop ISIS

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress on Tuesday that he would recommend deploying United States combat forces against Islamic extremists in specific operations if the current strategy of airstrikes was not successful, raising the possibility of the kind of escalation that President Obama has flatly ruled out.
General Dempsey said that the ground forces would likely be Special Operations commands who could call in airstrikes from the ground.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, he said that while he was confident in the ability of the coalition of American, European and Middle Eastern governments to stop the Islamic State, he could not completely close the door to eventually asking Mr. Obama to commit ground troops to fight the group, known as ISIS or ISIL.
“My view at this point is that this coalition is the appropriate way forward. I believe that will prove true,” he said. “But if it fails to be true, and if there are threats to the United States, then I of course would go back to the president and make a recommendation that may include the use of U.S. military ground forces.”
Gen. Dempsey acknowledged the awkward position he was in. His remarks put him at odds with the president, who has repeatedly insisted that no American ground troops would engage in the fight to thwart ISIS.
“His stated policy is that we will not have U.S. forces in ground combat,” General Dempsey said, adding, “He has told me as well to come back to him on a case-by-case basis.”

Dr. Markus Ederer called on former President Asif Ali Zardari here at Bilawal House

Karachi, Sept 16, 2014: State Secretary of Federal Foreign Office Germany Dr. Markus Ederer called on former President Asif Ali Zardari here at Bilawal House. PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Sherry Rehman were also present in the meeting.

Balochistan: a Forgotten Frontier

Haji Mohammad Barrech
Two weeks ago, National Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution for strengthening the democratic process, on account of prevailing political turmoil in the country. The sit-in the heart of Islamabad by PTI Chairman Imran and PAT Chairman an eminent Islamic Clergyman Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadiri have disrupted official business in capital of Pakistan. In this ongoing political crisis Electronic and print Media are highlighting non-stop coverage and neglect the other serious issues such as the security crisis in Balochistan. In the same framework, it seems that, the great concern among the marginalized masses of restive Balochistan also enlarged the matter of great concern is that, media cannot catch up their grievances in front of the responsible stakeholders.
In last, two days, at least three indigent people were indiscriminately killed, after the remote control bombs ripped through the Balochistan capital Quetta, no special coverage was given to the brutal, pernicious attack by the corporate media and merely covering the Central news rather than emanating heart touching news from peripheral areas. In the same way, killings of three journalists in Capital City of Balochistan were not given too much media coverage the way it was given to Islamabad, When Punjab and federal police wounded the media persons in front of federal Minster of railway Khawaja Saad Rafique.
Why is Balochistan forgotten frontier of Pakistan? The answer is very concise and stunning; Balochistan is one of the provinces of Pakistan, which is replete with tapped and untapped natural resources, including (Gold, Silver, and Gas). While, Balochistan is supplying 37% gas total demand of country, more importantly its strategic significance attracts not only regional powers (Iran, Afghanistan, India) but also supers powers (America- China) influence also count in this regards. Ironically, countless mystery in this murky circumstance has not only grappled the situation more egregiously it is now well uncontrollable for the ruling government.
In 21th century, the mountainous people of Balochistan simultaneously facing a numbers of issues either traditional or non-traditional threats. It is matter of great concern how to protect their precious life in-front of imminent implicit or explicit pitfalls? Surprisingly deprived people of Balochistan are seeing latest development in the name of emergence of Lashkar-e Khurasan (LK) an outlawed extremist organization which had not only burnt down the Girls English schools in Turbet, but also extended and wrote their ideological slogan on the wall boundary of streets and emphasized to study Islamic education rather than following the Western education approach. Is emerging extremist group undermining the liberal and civilized approach of Baloch Society?
Indeed, the extremist groups pose a new set of challenges for the Baloch society to intimidate people through different tactics to proliferate, inject their ideological motto in the mind of liberal and tolerant people of Balochistan. Why can’t the alarming news from densely land of Makran division catch up the room in media’s discourse? Especially, when non-state actors are easily accomplishing their task for the willingness of Almighty Allah.
Similarly, civil society and human rights organizations neither issued a comprehensive statement about the duress activities of Post colonial state nor did they make fully aware of excruciating situation of province, eventually it seems that no one is ready to highlight voice of depressed people. Coincidentally, as federal government passed the federal budget 2014-15 in June, Rs. 3.936 Trillion estimated in the budget for Development programme, Armed forces and cheap and rapid transportation project for the people of Punjab and Karachi. Unfortunately, no mega project for Balochistan includes in the federal budget, except the future proposal of controversial Gawadar Kashgar trade route which is named China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). This route was ray of hope for the people of Balochistan particularly; the route had to go through Northern part of Balochistan. But it has now diverted to Sindh and Punjab, hope of hapless people of the province has been dashed to the ground. Central Government shows less interest to the development of Balochistan in many social fields either education, Health, agricultural or fisheries sector. It is presumed, only 45 billion rupees is going to be spent on luxuries metro-mega project from Rawalpindi to Islamabad route. According to one statically estimate, instead of such a mega- project Federal Government could have established at least 200 primary schools and 100 elementary colleges in less developed province of Pakistan. Education department could easily enhance the capacity building and standard of Education in Balochistan. Ironically, the literacy rate of Pakistan is 57% whereas Balochistan literacy rate is 39% respectively. Central government and provincial government are deliberately not interested in decreasing the darkness of education for their own vested interest. Our political leaders either Baloch or Pasthuns can raise their voice for the promotion of democracy, then why don’t they bring a single Overseas Pakistan foundation college (OPF College) in their ignorant constituency? As article 38 says that, it is fundamental obligation of state to provide basic necessities such as food, education, shelter, and job opportunities etc.
Last but not least, still 90% areas of Balochistan don’t have gas for their daily usage, approximately 75% areas lack the utility of electricity, and even more astonishing fact is that, they are not having access of sanitation drinking water. Then, how can we claim that, there would be a prosperous future for the people of Balochistan if they don’t have basic social needs in their life? The answer is very simply that; actions speak louder than words.

Pakistan - IMRAN - Falling From Grace

The revolution will not be televised because there is none. Instead, the people are witnessing on their television screens a man falling from grace; a symbol of change changing for the worse, promising true democracy while shredding his garb piece by piece, speech by speech, revealing the autocrat beneath. Is this a new Imran, a frustrated, disgruntled man shrinking in stature and mind as mischievous plans fall apart and opponents come together?
Someone who openly orders his supporters – or “tigers” as he aptly describes them considering the job they must perform – to “attack” Police if confronted at checkposts or elsewhere. Someone who gets on top of a container and threatens senior Police officials by name, warning them of dire consequences for actions he deems unfavourable or unfair. Someone becoming his enemy, engaging in forcible ‘liberation’ of arrested party workers, transforming into everything he left home to crusade against. His opponents despise him. His well-wishers – they are many and most of them are not present at the sit-in – pity him. Imran is falling from grace, and no one from within or outside or himself, seems to be able to break this seemingly perpetual fall. The journey of an aspiring reformist is tough one, riddled with hardships and losses which threaten to stop and push back or worse, push off the track. Many a reformists become anarchists, and their fate, more often than not, is defined aptly as a bewildered run into the abyss, with their excellent and idealistic manifestos clenched in their fists, never to be reconciled with the persons holding on to them so dearly. If Imran wants to be Che Guevara, he must declare so. If he claims to be following Gandhi’s or Mandela’s path, his actions must demonstrate such. But what the last thirty days have shown everyone is that he’s neither Che nor Mandela, only Imran. He’s still something, which means he’s not nothing. If he self-destructs, the people will suffer. If he succeeds in what he’s attempting to accomplish by hook or by crook, the people will still ultimately suffer.
Much responsibility rests on saner elements within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to rescue their leader and their party from the disastrous path it is on. The PTI has promise and potential, seeing which so many flocked towards it hoping for meaningful change. It would be extremely unfortunate if it all goes to waste owing to self-serving and shortsighted politics. More responsibility lies on the Government to engage with the PTI and to sincerely address its issues. It would be the height of naiveté and foolishness if it tries to anatgonise, obliterate or unreasonably reject what’s only fair. Both the Government and the PTI will have to find a way to co-exist and compete within the system. That is, after all, what the people’s mandate suggests.

Pakistan: Zarb-e-Azb: 31 militants killed

Pakistan army prevented a cross-border militant attack from Afghanistan, killing 11 militants and eliminated 20 others in fresh airstrikes in North Waziristan Agency today.
At least 11 terrorists and three Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers were killed as a militant attack from across the border was thwarted by Pakistani security forces in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) today.
The Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed that a group of terrorists from the Afghan side of the border attacked Dandi Kuch in the Spinwam area of NWA. Pakistani troops repulsed the attack, killing 11 terrorists while arresting one. Security forces also recovered bodies of three terrorists. During the gun-battle, at least three FC soldiers lost their lives. A militant was apprehended by army, officials said. During the military’s Zarb-e-Azb operation in North Waziristan region, ISPR said, at least 20 more terrorists were killed in today’s airstrikes that were carried out in Khyber Agency early morning. Three hideouts and two ammunition dumps were also destroyed in Tordara and Koki Khel areas of Khyber Agency bordering Afghanistan. Nearly 1100 terrorists have been killed since the operation begun on June 15.

Pakistan: Raped by PMLN's MNA's Sons : A gang rape most foul

In a case of extreme abuse, torture and injustice, a young girl has been silenced and forced to drop charges against the men who have stolen her dignity and violated her in the worst possible way. This young girl was gang raped in Faisalabad on Friday and her first reaction was to register a complaint with the police against her rapists. The named accused turned out to be the three sons of a PML-N Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Mian Farooq. The girl said that they were accompanied by five other accomplices in this act of extreme degradation. She even submitted herself to medical tests and it was proved that she had, indeed, been gang raped. In a sudden turn of events, the girl retracted her statement the very next day, refusing to give a blood sample and denying the need for a DNA sample from the accused. In effect, there is now no first information report (FIR) against the accused who would, no doubt, be gloating at this victory against a defenceless, tortured girl. MNA Mian Muhammad Farooq has said that his sons are innocent of this crime and this has been proved by the girl’s retraction of the allegation.
This is a textbook example of how injustice is the staple diet of the weak, poor and marginalised in our society. If you are a woman on top of all this, you may never expect to see any kind of fair play. One does not need to look long and hard at this case to understand what is going on. This girl was raped; her medical examination says so. She was made to take back her statement to the police by the very men who demeaned her. The victim is usually abused and violated again and again in the land of the pure because the aggressor is almost always more powerful and influential. Mian Farooq and his sons have pulled their weight and exercised their brute strength in overpowering this woman physically and emotionally. No doubt they have threatened and intimidated her and her family with dire consequences if she goes ahead with her accusation. Her trauma has been compounded: she mustered the courage to go public with her ordeal by registering a case in a society that stigmatises rape victims and now she will never get justice because she has been silenced into submission.
Where is the government of Punjab? How can it allow this blatant disregard for the law by a member of its own party and parliament? No civilised society can ever tolerate this kind of heinous crime but here we have the progeny of political leaders accused of not just rape but gang rape. Shame on us and shame on the PML-N for tolerating this kind of violation of human rights.

Pakistan left behind as Asia forges ahead

India has just inked a set of agreements with Vietnam. /blockquote> Earlier this month, Shinzo Abe of Japan became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Bangladesh, a tour that included a stop in Sri Lanka.
He brought along with him an entourage of 22 Japanese businessmen looking to do business in both countries.
And this weekend, China’s president Xi Jinping concluded a visit to the Maldives, where amongst other engagements, he contributed a written piece to a local newspaper that talked of a 21st-century “maritime silk road”, and said, “China welcomes Maldives to get actively involved” in building this trade corridor.
He then headed for Sri Lanka, where the maritime silk road is already in substantial evidence, with a Chinese deep sea port as a key factor in a sea lane that connects Southeast Asia with the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Japan this past Saturday, meeting Shinzo Abe and giving him his own message of “come, build in India”.
Both sides agreed to set up a dialogue process involving their foreign and defence ministers to create a long-term, sustained process of cooperation on strategic and economic concerns.
Soon the Chinese president will sit down with Modi in discussions that will touch on the sources of tension between these two giant economies, as well as the wellsprings of opportunity that exist.
A Sri Lankan diplomat, observing the whole round of meetings and summits and state visits taking place around Asia all month, described it as a “complex tapestry of relations” that is being woven in the region ever since India’s new prime minister was elected.
Asia has been abuzz with activity throughout the month so far, weaving itself together, talking, building and positioning its assets and relationships in a complex multi-player game that is all but set to emerge as the dominant theatre of Great Power rivalry. There is much tension across the region. A festering border dispute and suspicion of each other’s motives animates much of India’s relationship with China.
In the rest of Asia too, rising China inspires as much trepidation as it does awe.
Now consider what Pakistan has been busy doing since last month: indulging in political bickering, listening to scathing speeches with little purpose, and making hardly any attempt at a solution.
For decades now, we have remained mired in conspiring against each other as a globalising world has raced ahead.
Now, as globalisation draws to a close and a new world dominated by regional trading blocs begins to take shape before our eyes, we still remain busy in scuffles and speeches and point-scoring.
At some point this behaviour must end. At some point we must learn to respect the rules we have laid down for ourselves, learn to demarcate our interests into strategic, political and economic domains, and pursue each separately.

India slams Pakistan for saying Hafiz Saeed free to roam, demands his arrest

India on Monday hit out at Pakistan for its remarks that Hafiz Saeed had no case against him and he was free to roam, saying the designated terrorist was the "evil" mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks and it is Pakistan's responsibility to bring the chief of terror outfit JuD to book and deliver justice.
"Our views on Hafiz Saeed are very clear. To us, he is the evil mastermind of the attacks on Mumbai and one of the accused in an Indian court for killings on streets of Mumbai. We have repeatedly asked Pakistan that he should be apprehended and taken through normal judicial process.
"Alas! He has never been arrested on account of 26/11. Therefore.... he is only free because he is a Pakistani citizen," external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said here.
The sharp reaction by India came within hours of Pakistan high commission Abdul Basit's remarks that "Hafiz Saeed is a Pakistani national so he is free to roam around. So what is the problem...he is a free citizen so there is no issue as far as Pakistan is concerned. Courts have already exonerated him. There is no case pending against him."
Asked about Pakistan's stand that there was not enough evidence to prove his involvement, the MEA spokesperson said, "99 per cent evidence in this case is in Pakistan. That is because the entire conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan. The planning for this dastardly act was done in Pakistan.
"The financing for this act was undertaken in Pakistan and people involved who were involved in this were from Pakistan. Therefore, it has always been our view that it devolves on Pakistan that it ensures that criminals like Hafiz Saeed were brought to book and justice was delivered in the instance of crime in Mumbai."
166 people were killed in the terror strike in Mumbai in 2008. New Delhi has also protested the delay in the on-going trial of the case in Pakistan.
Recently, Saeed, known for his anti-India tirade and designated as a terrorist by the US, has also accused India of indulging in "water-terrorism".

China’s WMD cooperation with Pakistan looms over Xi-Modi talks

By C. Uday Bhaskar
The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to India and his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week has elicited considerable positive interest in both countries. It has the potential to recast the uneasy Asian strategic framework, and by extension the relations of emerging global powers that are currently clouded by acrimony and mutual mistrust.
India and China are two civilizational states with a quantitative contour and complex pedigree that is both ancient and yet recent. The two Asian giants have a population in excess of one billion and unbroken histories that go back by a few thousand years. Yet their bilateral relations are of very recent origin – when they became independent nation states in the 1940s.
Opting for two very different political systems – one a diverse and federal democracy nurtured by Jawaharlal Nehru and the other a near homogeneous authoritarian communist regime consolidated by Mao Zedong – the received wisdom is that the two neighbours are both committed to ‘peaceful coexistence’ enshrined in the 1954 Panchsheel principles, whose 60th anniversary was marked in Beijing in June. However, the brief Sino-Indian war of October 1962 over contested territoriality reflected the fragility of peaceful coexistence and relations have since been uneasy. The border dispute remains unresolved 52 years after that war and progress, if any, has been glacial.
Over the last few decades, there is a strongly held view in New Delhi that while espousing peaceful relations, Beijing has assiduously sought to ‘contain’ India in the South Asian box by entering into a deep and covert strategic relationship with Pakistan.
Thus, it was encouraging to note that on the eve of Xi’s visit to India, a senior official in Beijing tried to assuage Indian anxieties. Assistant Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Jianchao asserted that the leaders of China and India had pledged to work together to manage and control their differences and highlighted their shared common interests as large developing nations.
He said: “India is a country with which China has been friendly for thousands of years. China has never, and will not, use so-called military or other means to try and hem in India.” And to further reiterate Beijing’s benign intent, he concluded: “There is no strategic competition between China and India in our relationship and there is certainly no such word as ‘surround’.”
Given the political definitiveness that both Xi and Modi bring to the table, it is likely that they will be able to review the complex and tangled territorial and border dispute to some degree of minimum acceptable mutuality. There is reason for cautious optimism and if both sides revisit their inherited and emotionally embedded national narratives, a modus vivendi is a possibility. Not in the first summit, but clear political directions to the zealous officials who are guardians of territoriality cum sovereignty and a concurrent effort to infuse in their respective citizens a new narrative that accepts the omissions of the past by leaders on both sides – Mao and Nehru – would be very propitious.
But the more nettlesome issue that lies at the core of the current anxiety and suspicion in India about China’s true intent is the opaque Sino-Pakistan nuclear weapon and missile cooperation. Shrouded in secrecy, this WMD (weapons of mass destruction) cooperation goes back to the late 1980’s and most domain experts are familiar with the empirical facts of the issue.
For reasons best known to Beijing at the time, China decided to enable the Pakistan military to acquire nuclear weapon capability and missiles to deliver them. Consequently, Pakistan carried out a secret nuclear weapon test in May 1990 and the strategic reality was that India was ‘hemmed’. For a few years, India was in an asymmetrical WMD position in relation to both its neighbours and finally took the decision to demonstrate its own nuclear weapon capability in May 1998.
The greater anxiety for India is not the fact that it has two nuclear weapon neighbours with whom it has had an adversarial (Pakistan) or uneasy (China) relationship. It is the malignant reality that Rawalpindi – the general headquarters of the Pakistan Army that controls its nuclear weapons – chose to use this apocalyptic capability to enhance its ability to unleash terror attacks against India.
Thus, well before the misplaced U.S. certitude about Iraq as a deviant state that was likely to use WMD as a shield to engage in terrorism, Pakistan had refined the new global security challenge – NWET (nuclear weapon enabled terrorism). The Mumbai attacks of November 2008, or India’s 26/11, are a case in point and China is indirectly culpable.
For years, Beijing and its interlocutors refused to enter into any dialogue on this subject and steadfastly obfuscated the reality. Tenacious amnesia is the leitmotif. However warm the Xi-Modi handshake and embrace this week, unless this core issue is satisfactorily addressed – the vast potential being enthusiastically anticipated for Sino-Indian relations to bloom under two new and pragmatic leaders will, alas, be short-lived.

Fears of unrest cloud Afghanistan as election dispute drags on

As Afghanistan’s disputed presidential vote nears an uncertain conclusion, fears are mounting that post-election unrest could threaten the fragile political order that the United States has struggled for 13 years to help build.
Recent developments have raised questions about the ability of Abdullah Abdullah -- the one-time front-runner who has alleged a conspiracy to rig the results against him -- to pacify supporters if he, as expected, is declared the runner-up.
The concerns have increased as he has clashed with rival Ashraf Ghani over the details of a power-sharing proposal, brokered by the Obama administration, in which the new president would cede some decision-making authority to a chief executive from the opposing camp.
Last week, at an event commemorating the slain Afghan resistance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, Abdullah had to calm angry supporters heckling a 92-year-old former president who endorsed Ghani. At a busy Kabul intersection named for Massoud, a crowd of protesters chanted, “Death to Ghani!”
Two days later, a group massed outside the United Nations offices carrying signs disparaging the chief U.N. diplomat in Afghanistan, who has overseen a controversial election recount. The protest has prompted outrage from the world body.
One of Abdullah’s running mates, Mohammed Mohaqeq, said over the weekend that if a power-sharing deal isn’t reached, or is seen as being too favorable to Ghani, the Abdullah campaign might not be able to restrain dissatisfied backers.
“We will try our best to manage and control the people not to go the wrong way,” he said at his home in western Kabul. But he added: “What the people’s reaction will be is unpredictable at this point.”
The candidates met Monday with outgoing President Hamid Karzai for the latest round of talks, still reportedly at odds over the authority to be held by a chief executive. Abdullah envisions the holder of the newly created post as having the power to appoint cabinet ministers, including those responsible for security forces, while Ghani believes it should be an advisory position reporting to the president.
As talks have dragged on since Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced the plan in July, many Afghans express fear that tensions could explode into the streets.
“Of course there will be violence,” said Solaiman, a 26-year-old tailor in Kabul, who goes by a single name.
Abdullah said last week that he would not accept the results of the U.N.-supervised audit, which he contended has not eliminated fraudulent votes cast in favor of Ghani in a June runoff election between the finalists. U.N. officials said Sunday that the audit was completed, and Afghan election authorities are expected to announce the results within days.
Zabihullah Jaffari, a painter, said Afghans have waited too long for the candidates to reach an equitable agreement, while unemployment and other economic problems have worsened. “If they don’t come to an agreement, the poor people who have been out of work for months will have no choice but to take to the streets,” said Jaffari, 46.
The election has taken on an ethnic dimension because Ghani, like Karzai, is a member of the Pashtun community, Afghanistan’s largest, and his running mate, Abdul Rashid Dostum, is a former Uzbek militia leader. Abdullah is more closely identified with the Tajik minority and also enjoys support from the Hazara community.
Some analysts believe that even if ethnic divisions worsen, the rival camps will try to avert major violence –if only to protect their considerable economic interests.
“The potential for a violent rupture between the rival camps poses an enormous risk, but it still seems unlikely to escalate out of control,” said Graeme Smith, Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group. “The powerful men who are now negotiating their places in the next government are very wealthy. Many of them own large parts of Kabul, and I doubt they want to see the capital burn.”
Earlier this month, Atta Mohammad Noor, a key Abdullah ally who is governor of the northern province of Balkh, warned of sweeping street protests if the talks failed to produce a satisfactory outcome. On Monday, Juma Khan Hamdard, governor of Paktia province in the east, who supports Ghani, warned against attempts at destabilizing the country.
“We want to clarify that we are not pro-crisis but if some people intend not to accept the final results and attempt to push Afghanistan towards crisis, we are ready to defend our votes at any cost,” Hamdard said in a statement. Scattered violence attended last week’s events in memory of the 2001 death of Massoud.
Abdullah, a former spokesman for the Tajik militia commander during the war against Soviet occupation, urged supporters to refrain from violence But a demonstration in Kabul’s Massoud Circle, near the U.S. Embassy, quickly turned angry.
Officials announced later that gunfire in Kabul celebrating Massoud’s memory had killed a 21-year-old man and injured five others. Last Friday, after pro-Abdullah demonstrators chanted slogans against the head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, the mission tweeted that it had “grave concerns related to direct threats and verbal attacks against the U.N.” Mohaqeq, the Abdullah running mate, denied that the campaign was involved in the protest, saying he learned of it later from Facebook. “What people do,” Mohaqeq said, “is up to them.”

NATO troops killed in Afghanistan

By Sayed Salahuddin and Tim Craig
A suicide bomber killed three coalition soldiers near the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Tuesday morning, and a fourth soldier died late Monday when an Afghan soldier opened fire on NATO forces.
The violence, the deadliest aimed at NATO troops in more than two months, highlights the continued vulnerability of American troops serving in Afghanistan.
The suicide attack jolted Kabul about 8:15 a.m. when a car packed with explosives detonated next to convoy of armored vehicles. The blast occurred as the convoy left a heavily fortified area near the U.S. embassy and other government buildings, witnesses and Afghan officials said.
“It was a very powerful blast and happened just as the vehicles sped out of the embassy,” Taj Mohammad an eye witness who works as civil servant said.
Television footage in the aftermath of the attack showed mangled vehicles and coalition troops providing first aid to two soldiers whose bodies were lying next the road. At least 13 Afghan civilians were also wounded, according to spokesman for Kabul police Hashmat Stanekzai.
The Afghan Taliban took credit for the attack, saying the suicide bomber had waiting in his vehicle “a long time” in search of coalition forces.
The attack resulted in the greatest coalition loss of life in a single attack since July 8, when five soldiers from Czechoslovakia were killed during a Taliban assault on Bagram air base on the outskirts of Kabul, according to Icasualities.org, which tracks coalition casualities.
Though there has been a rapid drawdown of coalition forces this year, about 41,000 foreign troops from 44 countries remain in the country. About three-fourths of them are Americans, and President Obama announced this summer he plans to keep up to 10,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan into 2015.
The international coalition declined to identify the nationalities of the soldiers who were killed.
The blast, which could be heard for miles and sent a large plume of smoke towering over downtown Kabul during rush hour, occurred less than 24-hours after a coalition soldier died in an apparent “insider attack” in western Afghanistan.
Coalition officials said the soldier died Monday after a man wearing an Afghan Army uniform shot him. It’s believed to be first such attack since Aug. 5, when an Afghan soldier shot and killed a two-star American general.
In that incident, Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene was shot by an Afghan soldier during a joint training exercise. Greene was the highest-ranking U.S. service member to be killed in the Afghan war. About a dozen other coalition soldiers, including at least five Americans, were wounded in that attack.
According to Long War Journal, an online publication focused on counterterrorism, there have been 88 insider attacks since 2008, resulting in 142 coalition fatalities. Such attacks — referred to “green on blue” assaults — peaked in 2012 but have slowed dramatically over the past two years.
In a recent interview, Afghan army spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said combatting the threat has been a chief priority of the country’s military.
“We are deeply concerned about this because it affects the mutual trust between soldiers,” Azimi said.
The violence targeting coalition troops this week comes as Afghans are eagerly awaiting the conclusion of the country’s election to replace outgoing President Hamid Karzai.
Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and former foreign secretary Abdullah Abdullah have been locked in a heated dispute over the validity of the results of the runoff election in June. Ghani easily prevailed, but Abdullah has alleged the election was corrupted by widespread fraud.
In recent days, however, Ghani and Abdullah have made significant progress in the formation of a national unity government, according to a Karzai spokesman and campaign officials.
Once finalized, the deal calls for the top vote-getter to serve as president and the second-place finisher to serve in newly created chief executive position. The inauguration of the new president could be held as early as next week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#YesScotland - We can protect free university education with independence

#YesScotland - Older people should vote Yes for the younger generation

Video Report : President Obama Awards the Medal of Honor

Bilawal announces Rs.100mn for Azad Kashmir flood victims

Chairman Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has announced to give Rs. 100 million for the flood victims of Azad Kashmir. He also announced to send 50 trucks of goods for the flood affected areas of Punjab.
Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto said that he and his party are with the people of Pakistan in this crucial time and can not leave them alone. While addressing to a ceremony, PPP Punjab President Mian Manzoor Wattoo said that flood has affected 15 districts of Punjab. He said that we are thankful to party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto for sending fifty trucks of relief goods.
Meanwhile, Faryal Talpur said that the basic infrastructure is destroyed in Punjab and Azad Kashmir due to floods. She claimed that workers of PPP are also presented to rescue the people and working in relief operation.
While addressing to a ceremony, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah said that Sindh Government is with the people of Azad Kashmir in this crucial time and our workers and Parliamentarians also presented at ground for relief operation.
Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto also gave the cheque of Rs. 100 million to the speaker Kashmir Assembly for the help of flood affected people.

Pakistan: ‘Resignation or not’: Hashmi claims ‘Nawaz Sharif is politically dead’

The Express Tribune
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) President Makhdoom Javed Hashmi on Sunday said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ‘politically dead’ due to his family’s ‘dynastic’ ideology.
“Whether he [Prime Minister Nawaz] resigns or not, it does not matter now,” Hashmi told reporters at a news conference held at his Multan residence. “He is politically dead.”
“Nawaz has lost the war for Pakistan’s history… not because of political immaturity, but due to the Sharif family’s dynastic ideology,” he said. The PTI leader added that Nawaz and his family had manoeuvred themselves into a position where they can no longer appear in public without security. “People don’t want to try the Sharifs in courts. They want him tried in public.”
Hashmi said he was still the president of PTI and claimed he had a major support base within the party. “This is the only reason the PTI leadership has sent me a show cause notice,” he told reporters, adding that he would reply to the notice ‘on merit’.
“I will not step back … I will not let PTI become a dynasty like PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz],” he said, adding, “If the PTI leadership is so brave, they should talk to me publicly and address my grievances.”
According to Hashmi, “people’s patience has been tested beyond limit.”
“They can no longer bear dynasties like PML-N and puppets like Imran and [Tahirul] Qadri,” he said. “They want leaders who bring progress, not pose for photo shoots during floods.”
Talking about his strained ties with Imran Khan, Hashmi said he was ‘deeply grieved’ by the PTI chief’s statements against him. He claimed Imran was being exploited by PTI leaders Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen for their own vested interest.
“Only Qureshi and Tareen want to see Imran become the prime minister, of Pakistan,” he said. “No one else wants Imran as a prime minister because of his emotional outbursts and U-turns.”
The PTI president also hit out at Sheikh Rashid, accusing him of using Imran for vested interests as well. He said because of Sheikh Rashid, Imran had crossed a ‘point of no return’.
Hashmi criticised Imran’s political approach, saying “he considers politics to be a game of cricket, where every ball will lead to a different decision.” He added that the PTI chief provided only ‘on-stage entertainment’ and was not a rational leader with political acumen.

Video Report : 'ISIS a repeat of Afghanistan, much worse and much more extensive'

Dozens of Christians 'including women and children' are arrested in Saudi Arabia

Islamist police in Saudi Arabia have stormed a Christian prayer meeting and arrested its entire congregation, including women and children, and confiscated their bibles, it has been reported.
The raid was the latest incident of a swingeing crackdown on religious minorities in Saudi Arabia by the country's hard-line Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.
The 28 Christians were said to be worshipping at the home of an Indian national in the eastern city of Khafji, when the police entered the building and took them into custody. They have not been seen or heard from since, raising concerns among human rights groups as to their whereabouts.
Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, told FoxNews.com: 'Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy.
'It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches.
'This is enforced even though there are over two million Christian foreign workers in that country. Those victimized are typically poor, from Asian and African countries with weak governments.'
Activists are now calling on the U.S. to use its considerable influence in the region to help secure the release of the incarcerated Christians.
A spokesperson for the Saudi government claimed to have no knowledge of the arrests, according to Fox News.
But the English-language newspaper, The Saudi Gazette, as well as several Saudi Arabic-language news outlets, have reported on the arrests.
Arabic-language news channel, Akhbar 24, said the arrests came after the Kingdom's religious police got a tip about a home-based church.
The report also reported that 'distorted writings of the Bible were found and musical instruments, noting their referral to the jurisdictional institutions.'
At least 3.5 million Christians live in the Gulf Arab region, mostly Catholic workers from India and the Philippines.
In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, it is against the law for Muslims to abandon their faith, a practice known as apostasy. Proselytising for other religions or practising them openly is also illegal.
Judges have considerable leeway in how to interpret the kingdom's Sharia code of Islamic law and are not bound by sentencing guidelines or a system of precedent. Both capital and corporal punishment are legal.
Last year King Abdullah, who has promoted limited reforms since coming to the throne in 2005, opened a centre for religious dialogue in Vienna that drew criticism because of Saudi Arabia's own lack of religious freedom. In 2008 he sponsored an inter-faith conference in Spain.

Turkey moving from reluctant partner to embarrassed ally

Cengiz Çandar
Turkey is gradually moving from a reluctant NATO ally toward an embarrassing or embarrassed partner in the fight against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS). As The Daily Beast reported, “With [IS] on its doorstep, the Turkish government balks at support for Obama’s strategy.
"A diplomatic crisis looms. Turkey, a key US ally and the only NATO member that borders areas controlled by [IS] jihadists in Syria and Iraq, is in a prime location to hit the extremists next door. But it prefers not to.
“Instead, Ankara is seeking a low-profile role — so low as to be almost invisible — in the international alliance that Washington is building up against the so-called caliphate, and that fact is undermining the American strategy to strike back against the terrorists President Barack Obama deems ‘unique in their brutality.’”
Turkey's stance in the joint struggle against IS is indeed low-profile, but perhaps this is an understatement. If the recent discourse of its decision-makers is scrutinized closely, one may reach the conclusion that the ruling Islamist government of Turkey is more distanced from its NATO allies than from IS.
The 49 Turkish hostages taken by IS when it stormed the Turkish Consulate in Mosul, including the consul general, serves as a good excuse not only for Turkey’s reluctance to take part in joint action against IS, but also as a cover for the inherently and increasingly anti-Western Turkish government not to follow the lead of the “new crusaders” in their actions in the Muslim lands, targeting mainly Sunnis. It is not easy to substantiate such an argument, yet it deserves to be considered.
It is not by chance that some keen observers and political personalities reacted along these lines when Turkey refrained from signing the Jeddah Declaration on Sept. 11 along with Kerry and 10 Arab countries. Turkey’s foreign minister was the only official present who did not sign the document.
Parliamentarian Aysel Tugluk, the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish party in Turkey, tweeted, ”Turkey did not sign the [IS] communiqué because [IS] is the name of the proxy force fielded by Sunni actors led by Turkey.”
Actually, it was already clear in an article in Yeni Safak, a publication known to be very close to the government, before Obama explained his new IS strategy that the AKP government would not contribute substantially to Obama’s strategy and saw it as a trap. The news report, headlined “Turkey will not be trapped” and attributed to government sources, bluntly stated that Turkey would not take any operational role against IS.
The most critical passage of this report read, “Prime Minister Davutoglu, who gathered top commanders of the Turkish Armed Forces at his office a day before, yesterday held a security summit with larger participation. … The topic was the IS operations and the status of 49 Turkish hostages.
“The meeting did not consider favorably the 'core coalition' issue that foresees Turkey’s support for a ground operation against IS but emphasized the complications that have arisen in Iraq and Syria. That IS was an outcome of the [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad regime was heavily underlined in the meeting, which adopted the policy of a passive role in the coalition. The summit decided that at this phase, Turkey could not participate in any military operation. It was stressed that active support by Ankara for the operation could risk the lives of the hostages.”
Even more interesting, Ibrahim Karagul, the editor-in-chief of Yeni Safak and a Davutoglu disciple, penned a column, “ISIS Trap to Turkey,” in which he crafted an outlandish conspiracy theory and claimed that the real target of the new anti-IS joint action is actually Turkey. His argument is significant and interesting in that it more or less reflects the mindset of Turkey’s decision-makers. He wrote, “There is a plot being hatched, but all its elements are in the open. Turkey is aware of the plot and no matter what others say it will follow its own course. They did not take note of any of Turkey’s warnings about the key issues of the region. Now with the pretext of IS, they are trying to throw Turkey into the fire.
“The mentality that punished Sunnis during the invasion of Iraq and in the status quo that evolved is the key creator of the [IS] issue today. Even more bizarre, the countries that are preparing for a new operation don’t have any projects for the future of Sunnis.
“Turkey is, of course, a NATO member and partner of international institutions. Of course, it will do its part in global operations. But for some reason, the priorities of these international institutions always work against us.
“We are truly fed up with paying the costs of the destruction these countries have caused in our region, and of their mistakes.
“To take action for US and European interests and priorities, to play a central role in that operation and to send soldiers are issues that Turkey has to assess carefully and avoid. Let them go and solve their own problems. Before [IS] there was the Syrian issue. They did nothing there. They didn’t keep any of their promises.
“The [IS] problem cannot be solved before the Syria problem is solved. Shouldn’t they know at least this much? Their problem is not [IS] but Turkey. … Everyone knows this now.”
It is not surprising that Turkey did not sign the Jeddah communique, while the Arab nations vowed to “do their share” to confront and ultimately destroy IS. Their promise came after the nations’ foreign ministers met in Saudi Arabia behind closed doors with Kerry.
The New York Times reported on the dramatic development, “Turkey also took part in the meetings here, but it did not sign the communique. A senior State Department official sought to minimize the significance of that development, saying the United States would continue to consult with Turkish officials on how to respond to the threat posed by [IS], which has captured 49 Turkish diplomats in Iraq and held them hostage. 'We understand the challenging situation Turkey is in given their detained diplomats, and they will make the decision on what role they can play moving forward,' the official said.” On the day Kerry reached Ankara, The New York Times reported an unnamed Turkish official’s statement. “Speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, an official advised not to expect public support for the American effort.”
An Agence France-Presse dispatch from Ankara confirmed, “Turkey will refuse to allow a US-led coalition to attack jihadists in neighboring Iraq and Syria from its air bases, nor will it take part in combat operations against militants.”
The two main Turkish dailies, Hurriyet and Milliyet, came out with similar headlines on the day Kerry came to Ankara. Hurriyet’s was “Difficult guest” while Milliyet's read “Ankara draws the line.” Milliyet wrote that Turkey’s contribution to Obama’s plan to destroy IS will have a "humanitarian focus," meaning Turkey will not participate any armed action against IS and will not assist those taking part in such an activity.
In his strategy speech, Obama said that “America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners." Kerry added during his joint statement with the Saudi foreign minister, “We believe we will beat back the evil” of IS. Kerry also asserted that the international coalition against IS was growing.
Turkey is the only NATO country bordering IS' areas of control. But when it comes to the fight against it, a reluctant ally is gradually transforming itself into an embarrassing partner for the Western nations and an embarrassed regional actor in front of IS.
We have yet to see how such Turkey's stance will bear on Obama’s strategy and how it might affect its success. Nonetheless, this start does not bode well for the coming fight.
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/09/turkey-usa-western-ally-nato-isis-syria-iraq.html#ixzz3DPfBnxVC

Video Report: US Touts Coalition to Fight Islamic State Group

The Obama administration is expressing confidence in the formation of an international coalition to combat Islamic State radicals who control swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where congressional action in support of the effort is a matter of growing debate.

Sergey Lavrov - 'No good terrorists': Lavrov urges anti-ISIS coalition not to put political interests first

There is no such thing as a ‘good’ terrorist, and we call on other nations not to show their political ambitions while fighting with terrorism, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a Paris conference on Iraq.
The participants have agreed to offer Iraq “appropriate military aid,” according to the final conference statement.
Participants have agreed to offer Iraq “appropriate military aid,” according to the final conference statement. It wasn’t immediately clear what kind of military aid was meant.
The statement added that dealing with the IS is “a matter of urgency."
Around 30 countries took part in the event.
Lavrov has criticized the move not to invite Syria and Iran to the meeting.
“Syria and Iran are our natural allies in the fight against IS, and their participation in today’s meeting could significantly enrich our work. Moral standards on which the anti-terrorism battle is based shouldn’t become vague,” he stated.
Lavrov also stated that the IS is evidently planning to “edge the whole region of the Middle East into the abyss of religious wars,” enlisting their crimes.
He spoke out harshly against all the activities of IS which “threaten the future of Iraq,” with “death and destruction” spilling into Syria as well.
Aggressive actions by the terrorist organization which calls itself ‘Islamic State’ threaten the future of Iraq. Extremists bring death and destruction to the neighboring Syria as well.
Lavrov also stated that the IS is evidently planning to “edge the whole region of the Middle East into the abyss of religious wars,” by listing their crimes.
“They murdered and humiliate Christians, stage horrific executions of journalists. They try to impose on Muslims an unacceptable attitude to other confessions and to the entire world,” Lavrov said.
The minister expressed a strong point of view regarding the IS ambitions for independence.
“The IS commanders should have no illusions: they do not represent Islam and they would never be allowed to create their state,” he said.
He also expressed the Russian position in favor of “the continued independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq,” as well as “the advancement of inclusive political process.”
Finally, Lavrov expressed Russia’s readiness to participate in the development of additional measures for fighting terrorism.
“We already provide significant military and other necessary help to strengthen the anti-terrorism potential of Iraq, Syria and other states in the region which are on the frontline in their fight against the IS,” he said.

Pakistan: Journalists - A Deadly Assignment

By Shahzada Zulfiqar
The killing of Irshad Mastoi, a trade unionist and a professional journalist, along with a trainee reporter Abdur Rasool and his office accountant Mohammad Younus on August 28 has further shaken the media in Balochistan.
According to eye witnesses, a person armed with 9mm pistol stormed into the office of the bureau chief of Online News and opened fire at Mastoi at point-blank range and then shot others, probably to destroy the evidence.
Both Mastoi and his accountant were killed on the spot while the trainee reporter succumbed to his injuries on his way to hospital after 45 minutes.
“Call data recovered from the reporter’s mobile shows he called someone at 8:10 or 8:20, roughly 40 minutes after the crime was committed,” says a police official on condition of anonymity.
Mastoi’s close friends, colleagues and family knew that he had been receiving threats from sectarian organisations, banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Baloch militant groups and security agencies over his reportage.
“He had been receiving life threats from unknown callers, who used abusive language and warned him of dire consequences,” one of his friends told The News on Sunday. “Irshad [Mastoi] told me a couple of days before his murder that someone is threatening him on phone for the last few days but did not mention the details,” he says.
Twenty four journalists, three of their family members and a media worker have been killed during the last six years. Baloch militant organisations have claimed the responsibility for the killings of six media men, dubbing them as agents of spy agencies. No one, so far, has claimed the rest of the murders, including that of Irshad Mastoi and his colleagues.
Irshad-mastoi3Some of his colleagues think that Irshad Mastoi’s recent article on the eve of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti’s 8th death anniversary became the cause of his murder. He wrote about the life and politics of Baloch leaders and policies of the military establishment in Balochistan besides the military action in which Nawab Bugti was killed. However, some of his close friends suspect the involvement of a politico-sectarian party in his killing for not running the party’s press releases/statements on Online.
Irshad Mastoi, 35, a literary person, father of three children all under four years of age, was the general secretary of Balochistan Union of Journalists, and raised voice for the plight of media people, particularly those murdered or killed in bomb blasts. He maintained the list of targeted journalists and would often jokingly say that he may one day be mentioned among them – today, he ranks 23rd on that list.
Mastoi had a hair-breadth escape five years back in an accident in Gwadar.
He was in a hotel room in Gwadar in December 2009 to cover the signing ceremony of the 7th NFC award. He received severe electric shock when his hand came close to a live high tension wire running close to the window while throwing cigarette outside the window.
He survived but his right hand was amputated in a Karachi hospital. He remained depressed for a couple of months, but with great effort he started writing and typing with left hand. He wished to get a bionic arm that costs over Rs3 million and made huge effort to get aid from any international or national organisation but could not succeed. “It is my great desire that I get a bionic arm so that my useless (amputated) hand can become useful,” he often said to his friends.
The journalist community, which is in protest against the murder of their fellow journalist, does not have any expectation from the police that has failed to nab the killers of their own 22 police officers who fell prey to sectarian violence in the province. FIRs of murders of media people are hardly ever registered and not a single culprit has been arrested.
The compensation for the bereaved families in most cases is pending for years.
There is no freedom of press in Balochistan. The banned organisations whether Baloch or Islamic/sectarian militants, politico-sectarian groups and intelligence agencies want to take over the media. These organisations get space on front page in the local newspapers for their routine press statements and air time in TV channels.
Similarly, the restive districts including Kohlu, Kechh, Khuzdar and Dera Bugti are in control of security forces which also do not allow objective reporting to journalists. Khuzdar Press Club was closed down two months back and it is the third time that the local journalists in the wake of threats by a tribal notable stopped reporting for their TV channels/newspapers after closing down their press club.

Bilawal Bhutto to contest elections in 2018 from NA 207

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday announced his decision to contest the next elections from the Larkana-Ratodero NA-207 seat.
Bilawal will contest the 2018 elections from the NA-207 seat, which is the home constituency of his mother, former prime minister Benzair Bhutto. The PPP patron-in-chief made this announcement while addressing the media at Bilawal House.
In the May 2013 elections, Faryal Talpur, sister of former president Asif Ali Zardari was allotted this seat.
Ruling out the possibility of contesting by-elections, Bilawal said, “I will start my parliamentary politics from my family seat during the next general elections.”
The patron-in-chief, who had organised lunch in honour of journalists, also lashed out at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek, who are currently staging a sit-in at the federal capital to overthrow the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government.
“Lives and properties of people are at stake in the country owing to floods, but Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are unwilling to give up their sit-ins.”
“Politics of dharnas should come to an end and we should all support the flood victims and those displaced owing to Operation Zarb-e-Azb,” he added.

PAT workers' killing: Islamabad court orders to book PM, CM Punjab, federal ministers

A local court in the federal capital on Monday accepted Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) petition and ordered police to register case against killings of PAT workers, Dunya News reported.
PAT had submitted a petition in in District and Session Judge Raja Jawad Abbas s court under section 22-A, seeking case registration against high government officials including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over killings of protesting workers in Islamabad’s Red Zone on August 31.
During case proceedings, Secretariat Police submitted a report before court, stating that PAT protestors intended to occupy sensitive buildings in the Red Zone. Names of those injured or killed were not mentioned in the complaint submitted by the PAT. The case was already registered on behalf of the state authorities and Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s complaint was received after four days of the incident.
Police further stated that SSP operations Asmatullah Junejo was badly injured in protestors attack.
Defence lawyer Chaudhry Abdul Aziz stated that administration did not issue NOC for entrance in the Red Zone. No objection certificate was only issued for Aabpara location, however, PTI and PAT violated it.
He further stated that protestors pelted stones at police and broke parliament’s gate and fences.
Petitioner Umar Riaz Abbasi’s lawyer Ibrar Raza told court that defence lawyer is trying to divert everyone’s attention with his ‘filmi stories.’
He said protestors were peaceful but police opened fire, killing two PAT workers and injuring dozens on the orders of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar.
“We submitted a request in the Secretariat Police Station for registration of case, however, police did not take any action” he added.
After hearing arguments, the court ordered police to register case.
PAT has nominated Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, Railway Minister Saad Rafique, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, IG Islamabad, IG Railway, Commissioner Islamabad and other high officials.

Pakistan: PML-N government - Tunnel vision

After more than one year of the PML-N government there appears to be hardly any improvement in investment climate of the country. There is hardly any doubt about the fact that investment is key to bringing the economy out of the doldrums, but options are profoundly limited while a plethora of issues still remains unresolved. The superior judiciary; regulators (Nepra and Ogra); National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Executive Branch are cumulatively responsible for this dismal state of affairs. The country's economy is adrift as the decision makers are distracted by the sit-ins in the capital city (Islamabad). And, the allegations of rampant corruption in the shape of commissions and kickbacks are being repeated ad nausum every evening by the leadership of both the Tehrik-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehrik. The mud-slinging is sticking since the leadership of PML-N, ie, the Sharif family, has miserably failed in correctly answering about the assets they hold abroad specially their luxurious Park Lane apartments in London.
The question that needs to be answered is why do the politicians in this country have the need to hold wealth abroad? Is it due to lack of faith in this country's stability or for providing the need to have insurance cover? Prior to nationalisation of business, black wealth was invested back into this country. Pakistan's foremost economist Dr Mehboobul Haq realising his folly about the 22 families holding majority of wealth of the country reversed himself and came up with whitener bonds as well as national bearer bonds to encourage this wealth to be ploughed back into the economy. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1992 liberalised foreign exchange regulation and General Musharraf in 2000 perforce had to continue with foreign exchange regulations Act 1992, provided the money was remitted through banking channel and converted into Pak rupee. This is the cost that the nation is paying for the wrong policy of nationalisation of businesses. Now the investors want a higher return to cover the country-risk which has further deteriorated due to cancellation of signed contracts en masse by the courts as well as the fear of NAB investigation reopening of signed and concluded agreements.
Not all rental power agreements had an element of kickbacks. But all these contracts were cancelled by the Supreme Court which further exacerbated the supply-demand gap for electricity. Now the present government is being accused of raising the tariff for coal powered plants as well as for conversion of existing furnace oil-based generation converting to coal. The question that needs to be answered is why the investors have the need to convert when fuel is a pass-through item. The answer appears to be to lower their financial cost because the government managed distribution companies (Discos) do not pay on time and also the sovereign has reneged on its rupee guarantees. The new investor - probably the Chinese - see this dismal state of affairs. They will definitely raise the country risk. Even in joint ventures with big Pak businesses the foreigners are now requiring guarantees from parent companies of the Pakistani partners in addition to sovereign guarantees. Chinese enthusiasm to invest in Gadani will wane if we do not have the capacity to transmit electricity from the South to load centres in the North ie Punjab through the national grid which also needs to be revamped.
The real problem in Pakistan is the dependency of the politicians on bureaucrats. Politicians want things to be done but lack knowledge. The civil servants know how to do it on fast track bypassing the rules and regulations. Only does not lead to accusations of misuse of authority when challenged in the courts but it also catches those in authority with their pants down; because the process laid down in rules and regulation has not been followed. This has happened repeatedly. The latest example being the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC). It was challenged when it was levied under the PPP regime. Despite High Courts adverse ruling being in the field; GIDC collection of Rs 148 billion was included in the budget and committed to the IMF. Now that Supreme Court has declared null and void as this is not a tax but a 'fee' and cannot be part of the Money Bill; it has left the government panting between a rock and a hard place. The government is said to be contemplating filing a review petition. Politicians in this country are people who do not have knowledge to run the system. They greatly depend on civil servants to do it. Unfortunately, however, our civil servants have still not learnt to live under the 18th Amendment and operate in a truly federal set-up and are more conversant with a unitary form under a colonial rule or a military regime. Until the civil servants are re-trained on how to work in a federation, the country will move from one crisis to another.
Last but not least, Imran Khan's sit-in effort is not aimed at creating a 'New Pakistan', nor is Qadri the spectre of a struggle for delivering a 'Green Revolution' in the country. These two identical developments, as they play out in Islamabad's Red Zone, are flowering of Pakistan's past.

Rape By PMLN MAN's Son : Blackmailed Into Silence

The girl sexually assaulted by the three sons of a PMLN MNA and five other suspects in Faisalabad has decided to drop the case. The victim changed her original statement on Friday from being raped, to exchanging ‘harsh words’ with the accused. The sudden retraction blatantly points to manipulation on part of the sons of Mian Farooq; Muazzam, Saad and Qasim Farooq got to her before justice could run its course. The police have dropped investigations after refusal on part of the victim to give her blood sample and sanction DNA tests.
The accused and their father, MNA Mian Farooq, have said that this was an attempt to malign their reputation. Vehemently denying the accusations and calling the victim a liar is beyond abominable, but not unexpected. The victim’s decision to retract the FIR does not prove their innocence. When it comes to blackmail, the person being blackmailed is the one that strives to divert public attention away from the entire episode. Common sense dictates that the girl is the one who is being blackmailed, while it is in the interest of Mian Farooq and his sons to keep this under wraps.
Are we really going to look the other way? Pretend that it never happened? Pretend that the medical examination of the victim did not confirm that she was gang-raped and tortured? The sons of PMLN’s Mian Farooq were identified, and now that she’s mysteriously retracted her statement, are we really not considering that she might have been forced to do so? Blackmailed, threatened or paid-off to stay quiet and let her attackers walk free, to repeat their crimes with impunity. Anyone with influence can do whatever they want to those who lack it.
The subjugation of women is also allowed to propagate itself after incidents such as this. Rape victims never receive justice, and a major reason is for this is the way their cases are dismissed in police departments all over the country. Never mind whether those accused are ever punished, the fact that most cases do not even make it to court is just as big a problem as the trials themselves. Fear of making things worse holds more than half the victims back from ever seeking justice. With regards to sexual assault, the government fails on all counts; first, in its inability to prevent such incidents from taking place. Secondly, from making the victims feel like they are the ones at fault, and lastly, allowing those that speak up to be blackmailed and denied justice, to make them feel like they have no hope for their attackers to be punished.

Pakistan: The protesters should count themselves lucky

Approaching the one month mark, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s (PAT’s) sit-in in the capital seems to have taken a turn for the worse as far as resolving the crisis is concerned. Having reached this month long milestone, where participant fatigue and general freezing of the workings of the capital city are now making their presence felt, the PTI and PAT should have taken note of the fact that any avenue open for dialogue or a civilised way out of this imbroglio was to be welcomed. On Saturday, the government directed law enforcement agencies to arrest PTI and PAT workers after Chairman PTI Imran Khan announced a One Nation Day, basically a clarion call to gather more numbers and pressurise the government of the PML-N to give in to its undemocratic demands. The police arrested as many as 300 workers belonging to both parties on Saturday, identified as being the ones who had stormed into and attacked the office of Pakistan Television (PTV), and also those hooligans who were caught trying to break into waterlines and indulging in electricity theft. This has resulted in the PTI and PAT breaking off all dialogue with the government. Almost all of those arrested have now been granted bail and released in accordance with due process. While the leaders of the PTI and PAT, Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri respectively, can be seen hollering out loud to their waning supporters in the crowds about the injustice of these arrests, one must pause and take stock.
It has been a whole month since these dharnas (sit-ins) commenced and it has not all been singing and dancing on the streets of the capital. The everyday working of the government and the economic activity on which we so depend have come to a grinding halt, resulting in the loss of billions of rupees, money we can ill afford to just flush down the gutter. The sit-ins have resulted in the cancelling of the Chinese president’s visit to Islamabad and all sorts of business activity has shut down because of the unpredictable and possibly volatile nature of the events in the capital. With this kind of havoc being played with the very heart of our economy and international standing, the fact that the government of the PML-N has not done more to stem the situation is what should boggle the mind. Imran Khan’s and Tahirul Qadri’s allegations have yet to be proved. There may very well have been some form of electoral rigging at the local constituency level, but the charge of a wholesale systematic plan remains without foundation or convincing evidence. On that unproved and dubious basis to descend upon the capital with a few thousand supporters and demand that a sitting prime minister who enjoys a clear majority in parliament and the support of all other parties except one to simply step down would be setting a dangerous precedent if this nonsense is allowed to continue for much longer. There are rules that must be followed in the political system and all such grievances must be brought to parliament. All the gripes and issues that Khan and Qadri have are not new to the game of politics as electoral reforms have been an issue before. However, a correct course must be followed or anarchy will set in.
The government’s incredible (and not without criticism) restraint can be attributed to the disastrous handling of the Model Town Lahore incident in which 14 innocent people lost their lives due to excessive police brutality. The government knows that if anything like that happens again, it would be political suicide. This is a psychological apprehension and the government must overcome its fears and handle the issue and the Punjab police properly. In the interest of clearing Constitution Avenue, a step ordered by no less than the Supreme Court, the government imposed Section 144, which prohibits a gathering of more than five people. Despite that the crowds did not disperse. The PTI and PAT workers should count themselves lucky that the government is fighting its own demons at the moment.
It is simply not okay to hold the government and country hostage at gunpoint. While peaceful protest is a democratic right, violent and never ending agitation that challenges the writ of the state is not. The government must now firmly and wisely crack down on all law breakers and violators of the principle of peaceful protest in the interests of getting the business of the state and government back on track. Being elected also imposes the responsibility of safeguarding state and society (the millions) against the conspiratorial intrigues of the few and their suspected backers in the establishment.

Pakistan: Bakhtawar Bhutto unveils well-coordinated relief operations across Sindh

Flood and Disaster Victims Organization (FDVO) led by Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari has unveiled a well-coordinated relief operation across the districts of Sindh province threatened by the floods to provide timely relief to those possibly hit by the floods.
Co-chairing a meeting of FDVO with MNA Faryal Talpur, Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari took cognizance of media reports and weathermen predictions that some of the districts of Sindh will be facing the flooding in the wake of upcountry flood-water gushing toward the ocean through Indus from tomorrow.
Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari told the meeting that FDVO will establish Tent Cities and provide free ration directly from Utility Stores to the people affected by unruly waters. Medical Camps shall also be arranged at different places. FDVO will provide the relief to them from its own resources and contributions from philanthropists.
The meeting was attended by Senator Saeed Ghani, Shagufta Jumani, Senator Aajiz Dhamrah, Zia Lanjhar and Maqbool Memon.It was decided at the meeting that Shagufta Jumani and Senator Aajiz Dhamrah will visit the districts possibly facing the danger of floods so that advance arrangement could be made for adequate relief operations to mitigate the people sufferings.

Afghanistan reacts on Punjabi Taliban’s declaration of war

The government of Afghanistan reacted towards declaration of war by Punjabi Taliban militants, saying that the government of Afghanistan would not be surprised by such announcements as Afghanistan has been victim of terrorist groups supported by Pakistani intelligence agencies.
The national security council of Afghanistan (NSC) following a statement said the government is aware that Punjabi Taliban have announced for the second time to boost their insurgency activities in Afghanistan while continuing to peaceful campaign in Pakistan.
The statement further added that the latest stance by Punjabi Taliban does not express any new approach in the policies of Punjabi Taliban and Pakistani intelligence agencies.
The national security council (NSC) said Afghanistan has long been suffering from terrorist groups funded, trained and equipped by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan.
Several Pakistani Taliban militants were killed or arrested following coordinated attacks in various parts of Afghanistan, the statement, said adding that the latest declarations by Punjabi Taliban shows a clear interference of Pakistani intelligence agencies in Afghanistan and to kill innocent civilians.
The statement also added that the government of Afghanistan and national security council will precisely follow the declaration by Pubjabi Taliban and insist that use of terrorism as a destructive tool is not favor of any nation.
NSC warned of crisis and worsening situation both in Afghanistan and Pakistan with persistence of such imaginations to have dominance on specific targets by arming terrorist groups.
The statement by NSC also added that the government of Afghanistan is expecting that the decision makers in Pakistan review the calls by Afghan government to prevent use of terrorism and jointly work to improve stability in both nations.

Pakistan's Punjabi Taliban : Dangerous possibilities

In certain national security circles, the renunciation of violence inside Pakistan by the leader of the TTP Punjab aka the Punjabi Taliban, Asmatullah Muawiya, will be greeted with satisfaction, even glee.
Luring the Punjabi Taliban back towards the mainstream of society and politics has been a long-term goal of a section of the Pakistani security establishment; the thinking being that the former allies of the security establishment are merely misguided and can be persuaded to lay down their arms and lead peaceful existences again.
From here, it would hardly be a surprise to see Muawiya being propped up for a political role, the route of former jihadis into politics being a well-trodden one now, including the likes of Fazlur Rehman Khalil, Hafiz Saeed, Malik Ishaq and Masood Azhar.
At the very least, the next Difa-i-Pakistan Council agglomeration can look forward to recruiting Muawiya to whatever cause is deemed worthy of agitation next.
Whether or not Muawiya and his companions do end up making the journey from violent militants to respectable citizens, it is really the thinking of the Pakistani security establishment that needs to be scrutinised.
The Punjabi Taliban are essentially Kashmir-centric and sectarian militants who turned their ire on Pakistan itself after then-Gen Pervez Musharraf put the security establishment’s jihad policy into cold storage and even banned many of the groups that the Pakistani state had long patronised.
Some of the worst attacks against sectarian targets and the security apparatus have been carried out by the Punjabi Taliban over the years.
The Punjabi Taliban are a very different breed of militants as compared to, say, the Fata TTP, whose origins and, arguably, even present motivations are largely tied to the army’s presence in the tribal areas.
The Punjabi Taliban are ideologically committed militants who believe in a global jihad complex, which is why their announcement of ending their so-called armed struggle inside Pakistan has left the door open to armed struggle being waged outside Pakistan.
Satisfaction then at the latest development in the world of militancy here can only mean one thing: the policy of good militant/bad militant continues and the security establishment continues to see some kind of a significant role for the religious right and good militants in the national discourse.
That is deeply troubling because it suggests that no lessons have been learned, and it sets the stage for even greater problems down the road.
By seeking to mainstream rabid ideologues wedded to violence and the overthrow of the Pakistani state, the security establishment is creating a pincer in which the state and society will eventually be caught: on the one side the armed militants who refuse to give up violence; on the other the political militant handed a ticket to mainstream society and politics.
Surely, that is a pincer that no state or society can survive for very long.
Everything that Muawiya and his ilk stand for is in direct opposition to what Pakistan ought to be. It is a ruinous strategy that seeks to empower them further.

Polio monitoring board meeting may put Pakistan in trouble

By Ikram Junaidi
Although, at the moment, the government has been giving most of its attention to issues of sit-ins in the federal capital and the floods which have affected a vast area of the country, the real danger has started looming as a meeting of the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Polio has been scheduled for September 30.
IMB is the board which suggested international travel restrictions on Pakistan and World Health Organisation (WHO) implemented it. Most alarmingly, Pakistani government has failed to implement the recommendations of IMB. However, the National Coordinator for Polio Eradication Ayesha Raza Farooq claims that recommendations of IMB will be implemented before the meeting and she is prepared to defend Pakistan’s case there.
It is pertinent to mention that IMB works on behalf of the international donor agencies and it issues reports regarding performance of the countries after every six months. In November 2012, IMB recommended that travel restrictions should be imposed on Pakistan and finally those recommendations were implemented on May 5.
On June 2, IMB released its recommendations for Pakistan, in which Prime Minister’s Polio Cell was declared a ‘shadow boxing entity’. IMB recommended establishing a new entity named ‘Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) for Polio’ before July 1, 2014. It was recommended that a new entity should be dealt by both the president and the prime minister.
IMB, in its report, further stated that, in 2011, the Pakistani government had promised that by December 2014, the country would become polio-free, but that promise was not kept. IMB report further stated that Pakistan infected Syria, Iraq, West Bank and Gaza with polio virus.A Ministry of National Health Services official said unfortunately polio was not among the priorities of the government.
“In the season of dengue, not only isolation wards are established in hospitals but emergency is declared in all provinces, especially Punjab. Teachers are called in schools, even during summer vacations, to see if there is stagnant water in which mosquitoes breed,” he said.
“However, I have never heard about any meeting chaired by the prime minister on polio. I remember that, during the tenure of PPP, at least the government was serious about the health sector and used to have meetings regarding polio twice a week. Special Adviser to Prime Minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali and Azra Fazal Pechuho used to participate in those meetings,” he said.
“I feel that there is no leadership and nobody is ready to take the responsibility regarding polio cases, which were only 58 in 2012 and reached to 146 within just eight months of 2014. There will be a low transmission season for polio from November to March, which will be the best time to eradicate the virus,” the official said.
“I fear that in the two-day meeting with IMB in London, it will become difficult to defend the case of Pakistan. It seems that only international pressure can force our rulers to take steps for the eradication of this virus,” he added.
“IMB recommended that EOCs should be established before July, but the government has not bothered to implement the recommendations, due to which Pakistan will face embarrassment in the meeting,” he said.
“It seems that travel restrictions will be lifted from Syria and Cameroon, and Pakistan will be the only country with travel restrictions, because around 90 per cent of the cases, reported from all over the world, belong to Pakistan,” he said.
Technical Coordinator of Provincial Polio Cell Sindh Shahnaz Wazir Ali, who was also the focal person for the prime minister during the PPP-led government, told Dawn that issue of polio should be taken very seriously.
“Although Taliban imposed a ban on polio campaign in Waziristan, we tried to vaccinate children through religious scholars and private persons. I and Azra Fazal used to travel all over the country to ensure massive polio campaigns, due to which polio cases reduced and reached to only 58 in 2012,” she said.
“During PPP’s tenure, President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also took interest in eradication of polio. Although it was our idea to get loan from Islamic Development Bank (IDB), PC-I for loan could not be approved for many months in the tenure of PML-N,” she said.
Ms Shahnaz said the government should raise problems of IDPs and military operation in Waziristan in the IMB meeting because the number of reported polio cases will further increase in the coming days.
National Coordinator for Polio Eradication Ayesha Raza Farooq told Dawn that she defended Pakistan’s case in the last IMB meeting and was planning to do it again.
“We could not hold polio campaigns in Waziristan for two and half years. Moreover, rains and IDPs have further increased the problem. I will tell the members of the IMB that the military operation has brought a new hope for Pakistan, because 80 per cent cases of polio are reported from Fata. Now it will be possible to hold polio campaigns there,” she said.
Ms Farooq said although IMB recommended that EOCs should be established before July, it is not easy to take that sort of steps.
“Notifications for the establishment of EOCs have been issued by the provinces, however, the notification at the federal level could not be issued because of the situation in Islamabad. It has been decided that EOCs will be established before IMB’s meeting,” she claimed.