Thursday, October 30, 2014

China urges UN to focus on poverty reduction, promotion of development

Poverty reduction and promotion of development should be placed at the center of the UN development system's work, a Chinese envoy to the world body said Wednesday.
"There are still over 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty around the world, one third of whom are children," Wang Min, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN said at a UN General Assembly committee meeting.
"Poverty reduction remains one of the biggest global challenges," he said, stressing that the UN development system should continue to put poverty reduction and promotion of development at the center of its activities, strengthen management and coordination, improve efficiency, and effectively help developing countries and countries in special situation, among them least developed countries in particular, achieve sustainable development.
Wang added that the priority of development financing should continue to focus on honoring Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.
"At present, North-South Cooperation still serves as the main channel of international development cooperation, and ODA is still the main source of development financing that cannot be substituted," he said.
The Chinese envoy also called for more support for South-South cooperation.
"The United Nations development system and agencies should provide South-South cooperation with necessary policy and financial support while respecting the special features and principles of South-South cooperation," Wang said.

Saudi Arabia and its merciless judges

Sixty people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the start of 2014. Even religion-related crimes can carry the death penalty, because the kingdom sees itself as the protector of Sunni Islam.
The punishment was harsh, but for some it wasn't harsh enough. Writing on his website "Free Saudi Liberals," Raif Badawi had criticized leading Saudi scholars and the role of Islam in public life in Saudi Arabia. The judge called that "offending faith," and went on to accuse Badawi of ridiculing Islamic dignitaries and crossing "the boundaries of obedience." Later, a charge of apostasy was also added to the list, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. In July 2013, the sentence was passed - 600 lashes and seven years in jail. Badawi appealed, and in May this year the judge announced a new sentence: 1,000 lashes and ten years in jail, plus a fine equal to 195,000 euros ($250,000).
Badawi's fate is no isolated case. In Saudi Arabia, human rights activists and critics of the establishment are regularly sentenced to draconian punishments. In July this year, one court sentenced the activist Walid Abu al-Khair to 15 years in jail. According to an Amnesty International report, the judge found him guilty of "disobedience to the ruler," "attempted questioning of the legitimacy of the king," "damaging the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations," and the "preparation, possession, and passing on of information that endangered public order." Al-Khair is also a human rights activist who earns a living as a lawyer, and one of his most prominent clients is Raif Badawi.
Flexible law
In his ruling, al-Khair's judge also made use of a new anti-terrorism law, even though that was not in force when al-Khair was charged. The law, which came into force in February 2014, was meant to give the state a weapon against "terrorist crimes," a catch-all term that the legislature used to encapsulate the following crimes: attempts to "disturb public peace," to "destabilize the security of the population of the state," to "threaten national unity," or to "damage the reputation or the image of the state." The Saudi judges are now basing a number of their rulings on these flexible terms.
In the last two years in particular, several Saudi human rights activists and bloggers have been sentenced to long jail terms, which has led to a severe limitation of press freedom in the country. Saudi Arabia currently occupies number 164 out of 180 countries in the press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders.
Meanwhile, the country is close to the top of the table when it comes to capital punishment. According to Amnesty, at least 79 people were executed in the country in 2013, and 60 in 2014 so far.
Blasphemy
The death penalty is mainly imposed for murder and drug-dealing, but it can also be imposed for "crimes against religion." The Shia cleric Nimr Bakir al-Nimr was sentenced to death in mid-October for allegedly stirring up violence between faiths and organizing protests, as well as disobedience to the king.
The conviction sent out a signal, according to Menno Preuschaft, Islamic studies professor at the University of Münster in Germany. "It demonstrated that they are not willing to tolerate any formof, or tendencies toward, revolution or transition," he told DW.
Preuschaft said it was not surprising that so many rulings are based on religious laws. The ruling family in Saudi Arabia draws its political legitimacy from its role protecting Islam and its holy sites. That role justifies its theological leadership position within Sunni Islam both nationally and internationally. "From the monarchy's point of view, any criticism of religion is a criticism of its own leadership," said Preuschaft. "That's also how it defends its own monopoly on power."
Diplomatic challenge
The disastrous human rights situation in Saudi Arabia represents a diplomatic challenge for German foreign policy. Saudi Arabia is an important international player, both strategically and economically, explains parliamentarian Ralf Mützenich, who sits on committees on both foreign policy and human rights in the German Bundestag.
That leads to strains in the relationship, because of the human rights situation and the death penalties. "Of course, it raises difficult questions," said Mützenich. "But we can't ignore those. We have to address them openly."

U.S: The Secrets of New Jersey

By LAURA R. WALKEROCT. 26, 2014
IN his very first promise as governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie pledged on Inauguration Day in 2010 to shine daylight on the workings of his government. “Today a new era of accountability and transparency is here,” Mr. Christie said. “Today, I will sign executive orders that will make our finances, our budgeting and our processes more transparent for all citizens to see. Today, change has arrived.”
But that change never did arrive. The Christie administration has defended itself against at least 22 lawsuits from watchdog groups and news organizations seeking information under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act. One of those lawsuits was filed by WNYC. Our reporters have requested dozens of documents from Mr. Christie, and those requests have been met with silence, resistance or outright refusal.
For example, we’ve asked about taxpayer spending on Mr. Christie’s travel out of state. He has been away for some part of more than 100 days in 2014, often to raise money for Republican candidates. In the process, he has built name recognition and constructed a political operation that appears to be laying the base for his own presidential run. Most of these trips are paid for by campaign groups or the Republican Governors Association, which Mr. Christie chairs. But some are paid for by the state, and a security detail always travels with the governor. The public has a right to know how much taxpayers spend on this travel.
In response to an open records request for information about just two days of his travel, the Christie administration sent us a document so heavily redacted as to be all but meaningless.
During the New Jersey Legislature’s investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closures, it came to light that state employees at the governor’s office were engaged in political activities during Mr. Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign. They kept a list of potential mayors who might support him; they compiled information about those officials and visited them to ask for their endorsement. We filed an open records request to see that list of mayors.
The administration argued that this information is exempt from open records act disclosures, and denied our request.
One of our reporters also asked to see written notifications from the governor’s ethics officer to executive branch employees about participation in partisan political activities during his re-election campaign. After all, by law, election campaigns must be run separately from the offices of government.
That request was denied for similar reasons.
If Mr. Christie has politicized his office, he’s hardly the first elected official to do so. And no party has a lock on government secrecy. As WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein has reported, the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has persuaded the Federal Highway Administration not to release New York’s financing plan for a new Tappan Zee Bridge. Years after the plan was drawn up, it remains a secret.
Open records laws like New Jersey’s — called freedom of information laws in other jurisdictions — are key tools for reporters and citizens in learning whether laws are being violated, what officials are doing and what it is costing taxpayers.
When a request for public documents is denied in New Jersey, the only recourse is to appeal to a council appointed by the governor that has yet to rule against him, or file a lawsuit against the government. The Christie administration is losing many such cases and being told not only to release the documents, but also to pay the legal fees of the plaintiffs.
The open records law was explicitly designed to create incentives for elected leaders to act transparently, and to punish them for violations. But Mr. Christie is using the state attorney general’s office to fight the lawsuits, causing delays and running up costs that are ultimately borne by the taxpayer, not by the governor. From January 2012 through Aug. 7 of this year, the administration paid more than $440,000 to reimburse lawyers in open records cases.
The right to know is a pillar of democracy, and Mr. Christie may well be asking us to elect him president in two years. It’s time he stopped fighting the public’s requests for information and fulfilled his own promise to usher in “a new era of accountability and transparency.”

Hillary Clinton: Working Women Are Good for All Economies

http://news.gnom.es/
Former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the economic case for women’s participation in the economy Thursday at Georgetown University. An oft-rumored presidential candidate, Clinton said policymakers shouldn’t ignore any solution that might work when it comes to encouraging more women in the workforce.
After a staggering rise beginning in the middle of the 20th century, the labor force participation of working-age women in the U.S. has steadily fallen since the year 2000. At 56.7 percent, it’s still well behind the rate for men, which is 69.1 percent, according to the Labor Department. Though about 4 in 10 primary bread winners are now women, women in the U.S. make about 78.3 percent of what men do.
“It’s very clear that the more women we can get to participate fully and get paid equal pay for equal work, the faster our economy will recover and economies across the world likewise,” Clinton said. “The GDP projections that have been calculated if we could get women’s labor force participation to equal men’s are really staggering.”
In developed countries like the U.S., closing the participation gap would result in an 8 to 10 percent of an increase in gross domestic product over the next 15 to 20 years, Clinton said. In less developed countries, it could be 30 to 40 percent and around the world, GDP would grow by nearly 12 percent by 2030.
“It is true that if more women have the opportunity to participate fully in the formal economy, they, their families and their communities will prosper,” Clinton said.
She also pointed to lessons the U.S. could learn from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose national agenda is focused in part on encouraging more women into the labor market and with whom she met a few weeks ago at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York.
“He spoke about the obstacles discouraging Japanese women, educated women, in a highly developed country, from entering the workplace, and the cultural shifts that are needed to break down those barriers,” Clinton said. “Expanding flexibility in the workplace, access to child care and elder care, and would boost productivity and allow more parents – men as well as women – to work full days without stress and heartache.
When workers aren’t performing to their full potential, the economy on the whole can’t either, Clinton said. Basic workplace policies can address some of the barriers for women.
“A lack of flexible and predictable scheduling, affordable child care, paid sick leave and paid leave – we are one of the few countries without it – keep too many women on the sidelines.”
Clinton stressed the need to measure the role of women in what she referred to as the “informal economy,” performing unpaid labor like housework and child care, which underpins stability of the formal economy. At the same time, she said, access to capital, markets, skills training, capacity building and leadership – all undertaken by the council Clinton founded as secretary of state called the International Council on Women’s Business Leadership – would encourage more women to head their own businesses.
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, took to the same stage at Georgetown less than a month ago to voice a similar message.
“We have pushed the envelope on the negative effects of excessive inequality on growth, the fiscal implications of climate change and – something very close to my own heart – the role of women in the work force and their powerful potential to boost growth and incomes,” she said in an Oct. 2 speech.

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Turkey Finds Out 1 Is the Loneliest Number

By: Kadri Gursel
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) leaders who have ruled Turkey for the past 12 years generally ignore and sometimes deny the criticism that they have pushed Turkey into loneliness in the region and the world because of their foreign policies.
There is only a single reference of AKP officials accepting — with reservations and justifications of course — that they are the architects of Turkey’s loneliness. It is a 140-letter Turkish declaration in August 2013 in social media by Ibrahim Kalin, then-chief adviser to the prime minister. His tweet read: “The claim that Turkey is alone in the Middle East is not correct. But if this is a criticism then we must say. This is precious loneliness.”
The godfather of this so-called concept of “precious loneliness,” Kalin was appointed deputy secretary-general of the presidency after Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected president. But AKP circles did not adopt his concept, and the child was abandoned and hoped to be forgotten.
This so-called preciousness Kalin attributed to Turkey’s loneliness could at least have had some boast of "standing on the right side of history at the risk of isolation and adhering to ethical superiority."
But in international relations, loneliness means the inability to set up alliances and failure to persuade international organizations to take action. To assert that this loneliness is an asset for Turkey is nothing more than a futile attempt at spin-doctoring.
I noted in an international meeting in Bodrum on Oct. 17-19 that Kalin’s “precious loneliness” concept, which was received with cynical smiles by the world at the time, has not been forgotten despite the passage of time.
A senior Western security official who was attending the 10th “Bodrum Round Table,” organized by prestigious Istanbul-based think tank Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), when talking on the unwillingness of Turkey to join the anti-IS coalition, posed a question: “Is Turkey being dragged to a dangerous loneliness?” I later found out that this “dangerous loneliness” warning by this official who didn’t want to be identified was actually a predetermined message. It wasn’t spontaneous. If Turkey’s loneliness really needed a modifier, that would obviously be not “precious” but “dangerous.”
To be in danger is in the nature of Turkey’s loneliness. Turkey with its policies, until the eruption of the IS crisis at its southern border, had already sentenced itself to loneliness in the region and world. Ankara, by exaggerating its affinity to the Muslim Brotherhood in its reactions to the July 3, 2013, coup in Egypt, had already confronted the new administration in Cairo as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Ankara’s Gaza and Hamas-focused Middle East policy had become a factor blocking a satisfactory solution to efforts of normalizing relations with Israel that were severed after the 2010 flotilla incident. After 2011, Ankara’s Syria policy, which sought to topple the Damascus regime and replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, brought Turkey into confrontation with Damascus-Baghdad-Tehran. As a result, the only country in the Middle East that Turkey has an alliance with is Qatar.
The AKP government opted to distance Turkey from the EU perspective and in general terms from the West and orient it to the Middle East as a strategy compatible with Ankara’s internal and external politics. The outcome was loneliness also in Europe.
In the General Assembly vote for two-year UN Security Council membership on Oct. 17, Turkey’s resounding defeat with 60 votes (against 132 votes for Spain) was noted as a dramatic illustration of Turkey's loneliness in international organizations as well.
Before Ahmet Davutoglu became foreign minister in 2008, Turkey received 151 votes to become a Security Council member for a two-year term.

Grim Fate Awaits Women, Girls Captured by Islamic State

The Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has captured hundreds of women and girls over the last few months. The very few who have been able to escape tell stories of rape, forced marriage, and sexual slavery. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

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Former President Asif Ali Zardari paid rich tributes to martyred soldiers

http://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/
Co-Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party former President Asif Ali Zardari has paid rich tributes to soldiers for fighting menace of terrorism in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency.
During operation in Khyber Agency against militants 21 terrorists were killed and eight soldiers martyred in Qabar area of Bara Tehsil on Wednesday.
Former President in a message paid tributes to valiant forces for fighting militants “the savage and barbarians who want to impose their distorted ideology by force on the people”. He said the people of Pakistan will never succumb before these militants and fight them to the finish.
Former President Prayed to Almighty Allah for grant of eternal peace to the souls of martyred soldiers and courage and strength to members of bereaved family to bear this irreparable loss with equanimity. Our martyrs like these soldiers are heroes and the nation is indebted to them, he said.

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U.S. Watchdog Says 'No Unified Strategy' For Afghan Counternarcotics

The United States' watchdog for Afghanistan is warning that the country's lucrative opium economy is threatening reconstruction efforts, and the United States is not adequately addressing the problem.
The quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), released on October 30, says that counternarcotics has "largely fallen off the Afghan agenda" of the U.S. government and international community.
In an interview with RFE/RL on October 28, SIGAR head John Sopko said, "They don't have a unified strategy. I think you could also reach out to the Afghans and make certain they're part of this strategy."
Sopko criticized the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the counternarcotics unit of the State Department. "There is nothing that they have said to me or my staff that would indicate that there's any idea of how to improve the situation," he said.
Sopko said Washington has "wasted" over $7 billion on counternarcotics.
He told RFE/RL, "Has anyone had their job performance -- in the State Department, Department of Defense or [US]AID -- affected by the fact that they failed over the past 13 years to do anything on counternarcotics? No."
The report said that nearly $3 billion had been spent on law enforcement efforts for counternarcotics, despite Defense Intelligence Agency reports suggesting that the U.S. is seizing only about $12.7 million in heroin annually.
Using the U.S. State Department's $695.3 million 2004-2009 contract with the private defense contractor DynCorp as the basis for its calculations, the report also noted that the average cost for eradicating a hectare of poppy was $73,608
The report points out that opium provides up to 411,000 jobs -- more than the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) -- and is the country's most valuable cash crop. The UN estimated in November 2013 that cultivation had reached a record high.
"The sine qua non of narcotics trafficking is corruption," said Sopko. "You cannot have one without the other."
Sopko pointed to comments made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in 2003 when he was Finance Minister that, without international aid, Afghanistan risked becoming a "narco-mafia state" as evidence that Ghani is aware of the problem.
"If a narco-mafia starts running the countryside, they don't care about women's rights, they don't care about children's rights, they don't care about democracy, they don't care about feeding and helping the poor -- they just care about making a profit," said Sopko. He added that the narcotics trade has a "direct funding link" to the insurgency.
The report's findings did not stop at counternarcotics. It also noted that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had made the decision to classify data which allows the public to evaluate the "single most costly" feature of reconstruction -- the training, equipping, and sustaining of the Afghan National Security Forces.
"We are always concerned when out-of-the-blue, for no apparent reason, stuff is classified that for years and years and years has been unclassified," said Sopko. "The information we're asking for cannot be used by terrorists, it cannot be used by the Taliban because it's generic information."
Sopko also said that he was concerned over the U.S.military's refusal to exclude supporters of the insurgency from receiving government contracts.
"I remain troubled by the fact that our government can and does use classified information to arrest, detain, and even kill individuals linked to the insurgency in Afghanistan, but apparently refuses to use the same classified information to deny those same individuals their right to obtain contracts with the U.S. government," he wrote in the report.
Sopko said the corruption problem in Afghanistan was serious, and urged both the U.S. and Afghan governments to address it.
"We can't address these problems by ignoring them. I almost feel sometimes like I'm dealing with an alcoholic in AA. The first rule of Alcoholics Anonymous, the first rule of any addiction problem is: recognize that you have a problem," he said. "The narcotics problem is not going to going to go away. Corruption is not going to go away. If we don't address it, if we don't face the fact then it's going to overwhelm that poor little country."

The Capabilities of the Afghan Military Are Suddenly a Secret

time.com
Mark Thompson
Watchdog says U.S. taxpayers can’t know if investment is paying off.
For years, American taxpayers have been able to chart how well the Afghanistan security forces they’re funding are faring, because “capability assessments” detailing their progress have been routinely released.
As the U.S. military prepares to withdraw most of its 34,000 troops still in Afghanistan by the end of this year, the American-led command there has suddenly made such information secret.
Classifying the data “deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, says in Thursday’s quarterly report to Congress. “SIGAR and Congress can of course request classified briefings on this information, but its inexplicable classification now and its disappearance from public view does a disservice to the interest of informed national discussion.”
A U.S. Army spokesman says the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan decided to classify the capability ratings as part of its “responsibility to protect data that could jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners” as they assume “full security responsibility” for their country’s defense.
U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $50 billion training and outfitting Afghan security forces. In the prior quarterly report, issued in July, the IG used the then-available-but-now-classified data to report that 92% of Afghan army units, and 67% of Afghan national police units, were “capable” or “fully capable” of carrying out their missions.
“The Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF] capability assessments prepared by the [U.S. and NATO-led] International Security Assistance Force Joint Command have recently been classified, leaving the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction without a critical tool to publicly report on development of the ANSF,” the report says. “This is a significant change.”
The capabilities of Afghan forces become more important as the U.S. and its allies pull out, leaving local troops to battle the Taliban largely on their own. There are reports that Taliban forces are gaining ground in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, vacated earlier this week by U.S. Marines and British troops, and in the northern part of the country.
Past SIGAR reports have used summary data about major Afghan units’ readiness, sustainability and other measurements to trace their progress. More detailed reporting on smaller units has always been classified to keep the Taliban and other insurgents ignorant of Afghan military weaknesses. “It is not clear what security purpose is served by denying the American public even high-level information,” the report says.
“SIGAR has routinely reported on assessments of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police as indicators of the effectiveness of U.S. and Coalition efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF,” the report says. “These assessments provide both U.S. and Afghan stakeholders—including the American taxpayers who pay the costs of recruiting, training, feeding, housing, equipping, and supplying Afghan soldiers—with updates on the status of these forces as transition continues and Afghanistan assumes responsibility for its own security.”
ISAF made the change an after August review “to address potential concerns about operational security,” Army Lieut. Colonel Chris Belcher said in an email from Afghanistan. He said that such information “could provide adversaries critical intelligence that could be exploited, endangering the lives of our Afghan partners and the coalition forces serving alongside them.” He added that ISAF “will continue to provide SIGAR access to the information necessary to enable the organization to carry out its Congressionally mandated duties.”

Upset with delay, Kabul shelves request for arms aid from Delhi

by Praveen Swami |>
Frustrated with India’s failure to deliver long-promised military aid, new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has told New Delhi that he wishes to revisit his predecessor’s request for assistance, diplomatic sources have told The Indian Express. President Ghani’s decision to place Afghanistan’s arms-aid request on hold, the sources said, had been conveyed to negotiators from the Ministry of External Affairs earlier this month.
The freeze on the aid request, a government source in Kabul said, reflected President Ghani’s belief that the outreach to India would poison the country’s relationship with Pakistan, without yielding any dividends in return.
New Delhi was reported to have firmed up plans in February to pay Russian firms to supply Afghanistan’s armed forces with small arms, field mortar and air support platforms — much as it backed anti-Taliban warlord Ahmad Shah Masood in his battle against the Taliban before 9/11. No equipment has, however, been delivered so far. The Ministry of External Affairs did not respond to requests for comment from The Indian Express.
Sushant Sareen, an analyst at the New Delhi-based think tank Vivekananda International Foundation, said the Afghan move showed President Ghani “is doing the same his predecessor first did, and betting on appeasing Pakistan”. “This should also be a lesson to us that delayed decisions mean lost opportunities,” he said.
Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai had first requested Indian military aid in 2012, invoking a strategic partnership agreement, which commits New Delhi to assist in “the training, equipping and capacity building programmes for [the] Afghan National Security Forces”. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government, however, stalled Karzai’s request, fearing arms aid to Afghanistan would complicate peace talks with Pakistan. In February, the then External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had said that India would deliver helicopters desperately needed by the Afghan air force “very soon”. “We have also been giving them some logistical support and we hopefully will be able to upgrade and refurbish their transport aircraft,” he had said.
Karzai had sought helicopters for Afghanistan’s fledgling military, badly hit after the Pentagon terminated contracts of Russian-made Mi-17s, saying the contractor was in violation of sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. India agreed to supply two Cheetah light helicopters, which were to have been delivered in May 2014 but have not yet arrived.
New Delhi’s assistance was also sought to refit six ageing An-32 transport aircraft in Ukraine, where the Indian Air Force is now upgrading its own fleet. Afghanistan has received four modern C-130 transport aircraft from the US, but an earlier $500 million contract for the supply of 20 second-hand Italian-made C-27A aircraft had to be scrapped amidst problems with maintenance and spare parts. Finally, Afghanistan sought A2.A18 105-milimetre howitzers, light artillery that has served the Indian Army for decades in the mountains and is now in the process of being phased out. The Afghan army now has an estimated 84 second-hand A2.A18s — donated by Slovakia and Bosnia — but needs greater numbers for its expanding mountain counter-insurgency units.
International observers have become increasingly concerned about the ability of the Afghan army to hold in the face of Taliban attack in the coming years, a fear underlined by the collapse of similar multi-ethnic, US-trained forces in Iraq. Afghanistan’s government does not have the revenues to meet the costs of maintaining an army, estimated at $ 4.7 billion a year.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation donor states agreed in 2012 to meet the costs of the Afghan army until 2017, but also sought “gradual, managed force reduction” to about 2,28,500. Kabul fears the social consequences of putting over 100,000 trained soldiers out of jobs, and worries that recession in the West could lead to a further scaling back of support.
In addition, Afghanistan’s army is riven by the same ethnic tensions as the country. The army’s strength is 38 per cent ethnic Pashtuns, 25 per cent Tajik, 19 per cent Hazara and 12 per cent Uzbek. In the event international funding for the forces dries up after 2014, the army could start collapsing back into the warlord militia organisations from which it was initially drawn.

Pakistan: I Still Dream Of The Day Mother Was Tortured And Arrested Says Daughter Of Asia Bibi

The daughter of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman being held on death row in Pakistan, has spoken out about the alleged torture her mother experienced at the hands of enraged mob.
Esham Masih only 9 years old when the incident took place says, “My friends told me that people were torturing my mother at the fields where she used to work.” “I rushed to the spot and found that she was being abused and tortured by men,” she added.
“I still dream of the day she was tortured and arrested,” she said. “I could not sleep properly. They had torn her clothes. The angry men came back and started torturing us both and tore down her clothes again. They dragged her to the centre of the village. We both were crying but there was nobody to listen to us. After half an hour or so, the police came and my mother asked me to go and find my father, who was hiding at my uncle’s house. But he was too terrified to leave. I ran back and by that time police had taken my mother away.”

Cameron appalled at blasphemy convicts treatment in Pak

During a telephonic conversation, British Prime Minister David Cameron has pressed his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif over the case of a “mentally ill” Scottish man who was shot in a maximum security prison.
The British authorities want Asghar, from Edinburgh, to be returned to Britain. The British premier has described the treatment of Mohammad Asghar, currently on death row after being found guilty of blasphemy, as “appalling”.
Asghar, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to death in January after he wrote a number of letters in which he claimed to be the Prophet (PBUH).
The two leaders also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of UK troops this week after a 13-year mission in the country.

It’s not easy doing business in Pakistan, says WB report

Pakistan is ranked 128th out of the 189 countries surveyed for the latest World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ annual report, a drop of 18 places from last year.
It means it is not very easy, in fact hard, for entrepreneurs to open a business, get electric power and import a container in Pakistan.
The report, released the other day, for the first time included Lahore in addition to Karachi to collect labour market regulation data.
However, data from both cities with reference to difficulty of hiring, rigidity of hours, difficulty of redundancy, redundancy cost, unemployment protection scheme, health insurance for permanent employees and court sections specialising in labour disputes are the same.
According to summary of ‘Doing Business’ reforms in 2013-14, Pakistan has made trading across borders easier by introducing a fully automated, computerised system for the submission and processing of export and import documents.
The report, titled ‘Doing Business 2015: Going Beyond Efficiency’, also expands the data for three of the 10 topics covered, and there are plans to do so for five more topics next year.
The report finds that in the past year governments around the world continued to implement a broad range of reforms aimed at improving the regulatory environment for local entrepreneurs.
Singapore tops the rankings on ease of doing business. Others on the top 10 are: (from 2-10) New Zealand, Hong Kong, Denmark, South Korea, Norway, the US, Britain, Finland and Australia.
But the report, despite revisions to its methodology after upsetting China in past years, left emerging market giants far down the list, fast growth and success in drawing investment notwithstanding.
China ranked 90th, barely improved from 93 a year ago; Brazil is 120th, also up three places; and India was ranked at 142, two spots worse than before.
All three ranked lower than troubled economies and difficult investment environments like Russia and Greece. But that only underscored the admittedly narrow focus of the survey, in terms of assessing a country’s success.
“‘Doing Business’ measures a slender segment of the complex organism that any modern economy is,” admitted World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu in a foreword to the report.
“An economy can do poorly on ‘Doing Business’ indicators but do well in macroeconomic policy or social welfare interventions.”

Pakistan: Whisked away: Baloch nationalist leader Lal Jan goes missing

The Express Tribune
Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) leader Lal Jan Baloch went missing on Wednesday from the Uthal area of Lasbela district. Lal Jan had served as BNP-M’s deputy secretary general and had quit his political activities eight years ago.
“Lal Jan was present on his farmland in Uthal when security forces whisked him away along with two of his farm labourers,” BNP-M’s acting chief organiser Dr Janzeb Jamaldini alleged during a press conference at Quetta Press Club on Tuesday.
Condemning the incident, Jamaldini announced a series of protest demonstration across the province. He said the BNP-M would hold protest demonstration on November 3 and observe a shutter-down strike across Balochistan on November 7. “We will intensify our protests, if the missing BNP-M leader is not released.”
Jamaldini alleged that the security forces had picked up more than 200 activists of the BNP-M in the past one-and-half-year – right after National Party (NP) came into power.
“The local administration and government do not know about these raids as security forces do not consider provincial government an authority,” he said, adding that “Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has failed to solve the issue of missing persons and extra-judicial killings.”

Documentary - Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Documentary

Pakistan: People bribed by India tried to malign Kashmir cause

Former Interior Affairs minister Senator Rehman Malik has condemned the mistreatment Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto was subjected to when he went to London to express solidarity with Kashmiris on Sunday.
Talking to journalists at his residence in Karachi, Senator Rehman said that people bribed by India tried to put a dent to Kashmir cause and urged the government to probe the treachery. He said the United Nations (UN) was an international organisation and if referendum can take place in Scotland then why not in Kashmir.
He demanded of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take notice of the incident at the Kashmir rally in London and said that Bilawal Bhutto raised voice for Kashmiris and had visited London to express solidarity with them. "Workers of a party tried to harm Kashmir cause after taking money from India,” he said.
He said that cases should be launched against those who committed treason against Kashmir cause. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari's tweet said that hue and cry against Bilawal's speech failed; nevertheless the PPP chairman completed his speech. “Indian agents tried to stop my brother from speaking but Alhamdulillah they did not succeed,” she said.
“We stand by our Kashmiri brothers and sisters,” Aseefa said. Former federal minister and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Babar Ghauri conveyed grief over the incident, saying that Pakistanis, wherever they may be, must control their sentiments. “The dissents must develop the habit of tolerance,” he said. He also condemned the attack on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI's) office in Hyderabad.
Hasan Niazi, a nephew of PTI chairman Imran Khan, was taken into custody by London police from Kashmir Million March. According to reports, Niazi was released shortly after being detained in the wake of commotion caused by some participants of the march. “I simply used my right to protest, I did nothing wrong by doing so,” Niazi said while speaking to a TV channel.
The uproar was seen after the PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto arrived at the Trafalgar Square to deliver a speech at the rally but had to cut short his speech as some participants started chanting slogans against him.

BALOCHISTAN's Pampered killers

By Sajjad Hussain Changezi
“BALOCHISTAN is barren, it produces nothing”, said my non-Baloch university mates in a friendly discussion we had some years ago in Lahore. “Punjab feeds Pakistan its wheat, NWFP [now Khyber Pakhtun­khwa] energises Pakistan with electricity, Sindh fills our pockets with proceeds from its ports, Kashmir and the Northern Areas [now Gilgit-Baltistan] quench our thirst with their rivers; Balochistan gives us nothing, absolutely nothing.” Outnumbered by my eloquent friends, I said nothing about the natural gas siphoned out from my barren province.
However, now I want to go back to my friends and fight.
For Balochistan’s ‘infertility’ has ended. The province’s dry lands, from Quetta to Khuzdar, and from Kalat to Panjgur, have all begun to produce. They produce human beings overnight. You may well argue about their health, as they don’t breathe. Their nails are pulled out, their limbs slashed, their bodies exhibit burn marks, and in some cases, their eyes are drilled. The infertility is over and dead bodies continue to appear on the earth’s surface every other day. It’s almost magic.
Recorded history suggests that political campaigning has never been an easy task. Look at Hussain who rose up against the Umayyads, or Che Guevara who challenged the Cuban government or Martin Luther King who fought racial discrimination in the US. Why go so far? Even young children and women campaigning for universally acknowledged rights, such as Malala for education and lady health workers combating polio, have had to pay a price.
All deliberately avoid any mention of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.
Many states and societies resort to violent means to defend the status quo against campaigners who want to break the status quo. Hence, the tortured bodies which regularly appear across the Baloch belt in Balochistan are of people involved in a range of activities, from militancy to ‘Free Balochistan’ wall chalking, from anti-state blogging to disseminating secessionist literature, from delivering public speeches intolerable to the state to even accompanying friends or relatives who do so. That is the high cost they pay for campaigning against the state.
In the same Balochistan, however, there are ‘political’ groups who want the Constitution amended to declare Shias non-Muslims. Their militant wing, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), headed by Malik Ishaq who lives a normal life in Punjab, can kill 1,500 members of an ethno-sectarian minority, the Shia Hazaras, and have their ‘success story’ published in Pakistan’s major dailies without Pakistan’s media monitoring bodies noticing it. Their notorious target killers, Saifullah Kurd and Dawood Badini, can ‘disappear’ from within the high-security anti-terrorist jail within the ever-vigilant Quetta Cantonment.
Hazaras have often been targeted while travelling between their two neighbourhoods — actually two open-air prisons — Alamdar Road and Hazara Town, situated at either end of the small Quetta valley. Eyewitnesses have seen motorcyclists spray Hazara passengers with bullets, stand over their dead bodies, audaciously raising slogans and vowing to cleanse Pakistan of its Shias.
‘Notice’ taken by chief ministers, suo motu actions (which are anything but ‘action’) by chief justices, and condemnations by ever-condemning politicians, all deliberately and carefully avoid any mention of the notorious LJ. Only bureau chiefs take the name, because the group orders them to publish their statements claiming responsibility and pledging more attacks.
The ‘political’ group holds a massive jalsa in the heart of Quetta city, in the hockey ground on Zarghoon Road, minutes away from the governor and chief minister houses. Chowks across the city display colourful flags of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. As though this is another regular jalsa, the city walls are plastered with ‘Chalo chalo hockey ground chalo’ slogans and welcoming posters that local leaders Ramzan Mengal and Haji Rafiq want their president, Maulana Ludhianvi, to see and admire on his way to the venue. Then, when the jalsa is at its peak, they even go musical, singing ‘Jhangvi’ poems and celebrating the ‘double century’ they scored last year when 115 Hazara Shia were murdered on Jan 10, 2013 in twin blasts on Alamdar Road and another 116 were butchered on Feb 16, 2013 in Hazara Town.
After eight Hazara vegetable hawkers were shot dead by LJ last week, Dawn published an article by Mohammed Hanif which quotes the unofficial remarks of one of Quetta’s senior-most police officers. In this patriarchal society of ours where the traits of being weak and vulnerable are seen as feminine and hence worthy of ridicule, the officer is quoted as saying, “Hazaras, you know, are our ladla babies”. I can imagine the sarcastic smile on his face while attempting to act serious in front of a senior journalist.
Hanif Sahib, please tell that police officer from Quetta that all of Balochistan knows it is not the Hazaras who are the pampered babies, it is Lashkar-i-Jhangvi who are the pampered killers.

Pakistan - Radicalised guards

A MONTH ago, Mohammed Yousuf, a prison guard at Rawalpindi’s Adiyala Jail, shot and injured the elderly Mohammad Asghar, a blasphemy convict with a history of mental illness.
The internal inquiry into the shooting has brought to light findings that are deeply worrying. It seems that Mr Yousuf spent a little over a fortnight guarding Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. Within this brief span, Qadri succeeded in indoctrinating the guard with his extremist views on Islam.
Indeed, his powers of persuasion appear to have been such that two other prison guards were similarly radicalised and told to track down other blasphemy convicts jailed there, presumably with the intention of harming them.
What is also disturbing is that his influence, according to other prisoners, led guards to give Qadri special treatment and receive religious instruction from him.
A month before the attack on Mr Asghar, a prison guard had reportedly told a murder convict to kill those who had been jailed for blasphemy, promising him a weapon and telling him he could atone for his sins by doing so.
That such murderous instincts should now be apparent in those tasked with keeping a watchful eye on prisoners is hardly surprising in our milieu.
In fact, it is entirely possible that such a process of radicalisation is gaining traction in other places of incarceration in the country as well, although only a thorough investigation can ascertain this. But there is ample anecdotal evidence that extremist views are spreading in society, and certain incidents have supported allegations of radicalisation in institutions ranging from the military forces to the police.
No doubt, the idea of radical extremism — much of it drawn from societal trends — within the ranks of those whose job it is to serve the law and keep the peace is nothing short of frightening.
From the top tier downwards, Pakistan’s institutions need to undertake a serious exercise in introspection and start taking control of a narrative that shuns extremism.

Pakistan: Arab commander among 4 killed in US drone strike in South Waziristan

At least four suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan`s South Waziristan tribal region, Dunya News reported. According to sources, four missiles hit a house in Azam Warsak village in Tehsil Barmal area on Thursday morning. The house was completely destroyed and four people including al-Qaida affiliated Arab commander Adil and three Uzbek fighters were killed. South Waziristan is considered as a sanctuary for local and al-Qaida-linked insurgents. The Pakistani army has carried out a massive operation there but militants still have hideouts in some pockets. The latest U.S. drone strike is the 16th of its kind since the start of this year. To date, at least 117 people have reportedly been killed and 22 others injured in such strikes in Pakistan.

Pakistan: Khursheed Shah advises PTI to trust its members

http://www.thenews.com.pk/
Opposition leader in National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah on Wednesday advised Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to have trust in its members and to fulfill the legal requirements for getting their resignations accepted.
Talking to media representatives here, Khursheed Shah ruled out the possibility of mid-term elections as a result of the PTI’s resignations.
He said there has been a pressure on the government not to accept resignations of PTI members but it will make no difference at all even if they are approved.
The Opposition leader said no member of Election Commission of Pakistan could be removed and that they should voluntarily tender their resignations.

Pakistan: Do 15 PTI MNAs not want to resign?

The PTI’s appearance in the National Assembly (PTI) was only a mock exercise as majority of the PTI MNAs came to the assembly on the assurance of Shah Mehmood Qureshi that they would not appear before the speaker to confirm their resignations.
Up to 15 MNAs, including three from the Punjab, refused to resign and boycotted the party meeting held on Tuesday, The News has learnt. A well-placed source in the PTI informed The News that sooner or later the party members have to resign from the assembly; however, till the third week of November they would not resign at all.
“The PTI party meeting was held on Tuesday to finalise the strategy on confirmation of their resignations. However, the leadership has to face real tough time from the majority of MNAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and they left the meeting. Even three MNAs from the Punjab also refused to resign from the assembly after which the party’s vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave them an assurance that they would not appear before the speaker,” said the source who was present in the meeting.
He said majority of the MNAs once again raised their voice during the party meeting and refused to resign from the National Assembly until the PTI quit the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly as they have to face the people who gave them the mandate. Upon this, Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured them that the party leadership would take a decision by November 30, said the source. The source further confirmed that disgruntled MNAs then assured the party leadership that they too would postpone their resignations till the last week of November.
“The PTI now is entirely banking on its November 30th rally in Islamabad and if it succeeded to grab the maximum attention and held a mammoth gathering, then it could opt for the resignations,” said the source.
The source further said that almost 15 MNAs left the meeting and were leaving for their native towns when Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured them that they would not resign from the assembly on Wednesday as they would not appear before the speaker.
The same was conveyed to the ruling party as well as the speaker which is why instead of appearing before the speaker the PTI MNAs directly went to the deputy speaker’s chamber.
“If the PTI was sincere and ready to resign from the National Assembly, then why did they wait in the deputy speaker’s chamber? If the speaker was not giving them time to meet, then they should have repeated Makhdoom Javed Hashmi’s example and announced their resignations on the floor of the house,” said the source.
When contacted, PTI spokesperson Dr Shireen Mazari said none of the PTI MNAs had refused to resign from the assembly as 25 MNAs were present in the assembly. She said the PTI had taken the decision in principle that they had already resigned from the assembly and confirmed it in front of deputy speaker as well and now they would not appear before the speaker.
When asked whether 15 MNAs in the party, including three MNAs from the Punjab, refused to resign from the assembly on the party’s direction, Dr Mazari said this was not true as everyone had seen that 25 MNAs were present in the National Assembly with the party’s vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
To a question as to whether Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave them any assurance that their resignations would not be accepted as they would not appear before the speaker, she said Shah Mehmood Qureshi had given no such assurance to any party member.
When asked whether the party leadership had to face a tough time during Tuesday’s meeting as there was a heated debate in the meeting on the resignation issue, she said the debate was on the by-elections and nothing else.

Pakistan: Wattoo sees decline in Imran’s popularity

http://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/
PPP Punjab President Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo has predicted that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan will not be able to prolong his sit-in and his popularity graph will eventually go down.
“Like Dr Tahirul Qadri, Imran cannot manage to prolong his sit-in. His popularity graph will eventually plunge to the lowest level as people are getting frustrated with his style of politics,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting of the party provincial office-bearers here on Tuesday, Mr Wattoo said Imran Khan should not have put his political career at stake by insisting on the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif through the politics of sit-in. He argued as how the prime minister, having two-thirds majority in parliament and support of majority opposition parties, could tender his resignation.
He said the Nawaz government had made the lives of people miserable due to inflated bills and loadshedding. “A consumer who used to pay Rs5,000 electricity bill previously is now paying over Rs15,000 a month,” he said. He asked Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to tell the people as why the PML-N government had failed to control loadshedding.
Shahbaz pegged a tent at Minar-i-Pakistan during the PPP regime to protest against loadshedding, he said while pointing out that outages had worsened during the last one and-a-half years.
Mr Wattoo formed monitoring committees to evaluate the performance of the party office-bearers in Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Mandi Bahauddin, Faisalabad and Sheikhupura.

Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto keeps his promise to Chaudhry Aslam’s family

http://mediacellppp.wordpress.com/
Pakistan People Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari fulfilled his promise Tuesday by paying one-year tuition fee of the children of deceased SSP Chaudhry Aslam.
Aslam’s widow Noreen Chaudhry Aslam has said that Bilawal and his sister Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari met her children abroad and have paid the fees of their studies.
Noreen reportedly said that Bilawal had assured her that the education of her children was his responsibility and he would not forget the services of Aslam.
“We expect that Bilawal will solve our other problems and that terrorists will be eliminated soon,” the SSp’s widow reportedly said.

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Saudi Arabia is shooting itself in the foot by executing Shiite cleric

By Nile Bowie
The House of Saud’s plans to execute a revered Shiite cleric and protest leader reveal the extent to which the regime is vulnerable and desperate to perpetuate itself. Going ahead with the execution would be strategic miscalculation.
Significant political developments have unfolded in Saudi Arabia in recent weeks following a court decision to execute Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a polarizing Shiite cleric and political activist who has campaigned for civil equality, an inclusive socio-political system, women’s rights, minority rights, and the release of political prisoners. Prosecutors condemned the cleric to death by beheading as punishment for charges of sedition, though the execution date has not yet been set.
Sheikh Nimr has been the fiercest critic of the Kingdom’s absolute Sunni monarchy for the last decade, but gained a considerable public following after leading a series of protests in 2011 in opposition to the Saudi military’s violent intervention and suppression of the pro-democracy movement in neighboring Bahrain, a satellite state with a Shiite majority ruled by a heavy-handed Sunni dynasty. His sermons and political activism continually emphasized non-violent resistance.
The Kingdom’s decision to sentence Nimr to death has complex implications that will push sectarian tensions to fever pitch inside Saudi Arabia and throughout the region, dangerously sharpening tension with Iran. Prominent clerics in Iran and Bahrain, as well as Shiite militant groups such as Hezbollah of Lebanon and the Houthi movement of Yemen, have all condemned the verdict and warned the Kingdom not to proceed with the execution.
These developments are a symptom of the greater Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict raging throughout Iraq, Syria and other hotspots across the region, representing the most poignant challenge facing the Muslim world in contemporary times. Western governments and corporations have aided and abetted Saudi Arabia and other wildly repressive theocratic monarchies, which have been given carte blanche to shape and spread radical Sunni Islam. The United States has long tolerated the House of Saud exporting fanatic sectarianism throughout the Islamic world in the interest of furthering its own strategic foreign policy objectives.
Saudi Arabia, a key financier of jihadist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, has used its vast oil wealth to promote the ideology of ultra-conservative Wahhabism in missionaries throughout the Muslim world over the past three decades. It has sought to promote a puritanical and rigidly exclusionist Islam that declares non-Muslims – and Muslims of minority sects – as infidels. The Kingdom is governed by a feudalistic, decadent monarchy bent on entrenching its own power and the uncontested legitimacy of the King as the de facto leader of Sunni Islam.
The rise of the Islamic State organization is the result of reckless Western and Gulf policies that have destabilized both Iraq and Syria. Because this group and their fellow travelers do not recognize the legitimacy of the House of Saud, the Kingdom has constructed a massive fence around its borders, in addition to taking measures to prevent domestic sympathizers from becoming politically active inside the country. Saudi Arabia has recently agreed to an American request that the Kingdom provide a base to train so-called “moderate” Syrian rebel fighters, in the name of fighting extremism.
The execution of Sheikh Nimr, a revered Shiite religious scholar, will be widely read by fanatic Sunni militia groups as a Saudi endorsement of their campaign of sectarian cleansing and bloodletting of Shiites and minorities in Iraq and Syria, in the interest of crushing any political opposition to radical Wahhabism. The notion that a country so demonstrably sectarian and extremist can be entrusted with the task of training “moderates” is appalling.
The House of Saud has promoted the unsubstantiated narrative that Iran is actively plotting to undermine Sunni Islam, characterizing the country’s Shiite minority as co-conspirators. The two million strong Shiite minorities – who represent some 10 to 15 percent of the population – live in the oil-rich eastern province that is strategically vital to the Saudi economy. This blatant manipulation of the sectarianism is aimed at dividing the citizens of Saudi Arabia from forming a unified opposition to the monarchy.
Sheikh Nimr was shot four times by police and arrested in February 2012, fueling protests throughout the eastern province, mainly in Qatif and Awamiyah, but also wider unrest in Sunni areas such as Hejaz, Mecca, and the capital, Riyadh. Open dissent is rare in the Kingdom, but it is becoming increasingly common with the rise of the internet. More than half the country is under 18-years-old, while the heirs to the throne are rapidly ageing.
Open-minded sections of society are beginning to come to the realization that Saudi Arabia is a brutally theocratic, opulent gerontocracy utterly dependent on energy exports and Western patronage. The rise of the Islamic State group, whose leadership claims to represent all Muslims, has created a situation where Riyadh must demonstrate its Islamic credentials through its uncompromising implementation of Sharia law, which has led to a recent surge of executions by beheading.
Riyadh’s calculation is that executing Sheikh Nimr will help increase support for the monarchy from a society with strong anti-Shiite leanings. It will also polarize the Shiite minority and young cosmopolitan Sunnis, leading to wider unrest and more open displays of dissent against the monarchy. In death, the Saudis would immortalize Sheikh Nimr as a symbol of opposition, thereby shooting themselves in the foot. It would be a major strategic blunder for the House of Saud to give its opponents a martyr.
The Saudi ruling family feels increasingly vulnerable from both internal and external threats, and the pervasive stoking of sectarian tension and anti-Shiite sentiment are an attempt to deflect from other potential forms of dissent, such as the lack of political representation and the dire poverty that many in the Kingdom live under. Sheikh Nimr’s call for compassion, social justice and civil equality undeniably claim the moral high ground. The only move Riyadh can make to delegitimize this message is to fuel irrational, unthinking sectarianism.
In any case, the silence from Washington has been deafening. The US has not given any sign that it is opposed to Sheikh Nimr’s execution and would not be inclined to take the side of a Shiite cleric that Riyadh accuses of being an agent of Tehran. Washington’s missionary democracy promotion is left at the door when dealing with Saudi Arabia, which is far too strategic and beneficial to US military and economic interests to be cut loose as a liability. Sheikh Nimr’s only fault is opposing the wrong regime in the wrong country. If he campaigned with the same program against a government that the West regarded with hostility, the world would know his name.

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For Turkey and U.S., at odds over Syria, a 60-year alliance shows signs of crumbling

By Liz Sly
The increasingly hostile divergence of views between Turkey and the United States over Syria is testing the durability of their 60-year alliance, to the point where some are starting to question whether the two countries still can be considered allies at all.
Turkey’s refusal to allow the United States to use its bases to launch attacks against the Islamic State, quarrels over how to manage the battle raging in the Syrian border town of Kobane and the harsh tone of the anti-American rhetoric used by top Turkish officials to denounce U.S. policy have served to illuminate the vast gulf that divides the two nations as they scramble to address the menace posed by the extremists.
Whether the Islamic State even is the chief threat confronting the region is disputed, with Washington and Ankara publicly airing their differences through a fog of sniping, insults and recrimination over who is to blame for the mess the Middle East has become.
At stake is a six-decade-old relationship forged during the Cold War and now endowed with a different but equally vital strategic dimension. Turkey is positioned on the front line of the war against the Islamic State, controlling a 780-mile border with Iraq and Syria. Without Turkey’s cooperation, no U.S. policy to bring stability to the region can succeed, analysts and officials on both sides say.
“If Turkey is not an ally, then we and Turkey are in trouble,” said Francis Ricciardone, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Turkey until the summer. “It is probably the most important ally.”
The airdrop by U.S. warplanes last week of weapons to a Kurdish group Turkey regards as a terrorist organization crystallized the apparent parting of ways. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not disguised his anger at the way President Obama ordered the airdrop. The U.S. president informed him of the decision in a telephone call barely an hour after Erdogan had declared to journalists that Turkey would never allow such assistance to take place.
On a tour of the Baltic states last week, Erdogan blasted Obama at every stop. “Mr. Obama ordering three C-130s to airdrop weapons and supplies to Kobane right after our conversation cannot be approved of,” he said during a news conference in Latvia. “The U.S. did that despite Turkey,” he fumed on another leg of the journey.
U.S. officials have sought to reassure Turkey that the airdrop was a one-time action, and the two countries have agreed on a plan to reinforce the beleaguered Syrian Kurds with Iraqi peshmerga fighters, which Turkey does not object to, because it has friendly relations with Iraqi Kurds.
But the Kobane dispute masked more fundamental differences over a range of issues, some of which have been brewing for years and others that have been brought to light by the urgency of the U.S.-led air campaign, analysts say.
“The Syria crisis is exposing long-unspoken, unpleasant truths about the relationship that were put to one side,” said Bulent Aliriza, a Turkish analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We have this kabuki dance where Washington and Ankara say they agree, but they don’t.”
The tensions are not unprecedented, nor are the doubts about an alliance born in a different era, when fears of Soviet expansionism brought Muslim Turkey under NATO’S umbrella and extended the Western bloc’s reach into Asia.
The United State imposed an arms embargo on Turkey after Turkish troops invaded Cyprus in 1974. In 2003, there was fury in Washington when Turkey’s parliament refused to allow American troops to use Turkish soil as a staging ground for the invasion of Iraq, triggering a deep chill that took years to overcome.
The 2003 rupture may, however, have foreshadowed the beginning of a more fundamental shift in the relationship, with Erdogan embarking on a decade of transformation in Turkey that has perhaps forever changed his country, analysts say. Turkey has grown and prospered under his rule, but it has also begun to tilt toward a more authoritarian, Islamist brand of politics that is increasingly at odds with the model of secularism and pluralism that the United States has held up as a key component of Turkey’s importance to the alliance.
In 2003, as now, Turkey made it plain it did not want to be used as a launching pad for attacks against fellow Muslims in the Middle East, a sentiment Erdogan has repeatedly expressed in his many recent comments critical of U.S. policy. He has accused the United States of being more interested in oil than in helping the people of the region and has made it clear that he does not regard the Islamic State as a greater threat than the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, the organization affiliated with the Kurdish Syrians the United States has been helping in Kobane.
“There are growing doubts over whether the U.S. and Turkey share the same priorities and even whether they share the same goals,” Aliriza said. “Even when it comes to defining the enemy — there is no common enemy.”
Turkish officials bristle at suggestions that Turkey is in any way sympathetic to the Islamic State. It is Turkey that has to live with the jihadist group on its borders, not the United States, and Turkey that is most at risk of being targeted by the Islamic State in retaliation for waging war against it, the officials say.
Turks also do not mask their irritation with what they regard as a shortsighted and potentially dangerous U.S. strategy that they believe will not work and could backfire. Turkey believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is the root cause of the instability that gave rise to the Islamic State and that leaving him in place will serve only to prolong the war, a senior Turkish official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss policy on the record.
Turkey is hosting more than 1.5 million refugees, a huge social and financial burden that will continue to grow if the conflict in Syria is not resolved, the official said.
“They are across the Atlantic,” he said, referring to the United States. “We are a neighbor of Syria’s. We know that if Assad stays, the problem will continue for decades. The Americans have the luxury of cherry-picking the problems, but we need to see them as an entirety.”
Obama and other top U.S. officials have repeatedly said that Assad cannot be part of any long-term solution to the Syria problem. But, another Turkish official said, “saying it is one thing, and doing it is another.”
“Much, much more needs to be done,” the second official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity. “To fix this region, we have to think big. We have to think long-term and have a holistic strategy underpinned by values that don’t change according to the season.”
U.S. officials acknowledge that Washington policymakers do not always sufficiently take into account the concerns of allies. They also point to areas where Turkey is expanding its cooperation, including restricting the flow of foreign fighters across its borders and identifying the networks in Turkey that support them.
“We’ve seen some steps recently where they are more engaged on both of those issues,” said a senior administration official in Washington, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive diplomacy. “We’re definitely encouraged there.”
And in some ways, the Syria crisis has brought Turkey and the United States closer after a year of building tensions, officials on both sides say. Obama and Erdogan had not spoken since January until they met in Wales in September to discuss the formation of the anti-Islamic State coalition. Lower-level officials have since been talking multiple times a day, Turkish and U.S. officials say. Vice President Biden has announced plans to visit Turkey in November in an effort to smooth over the ruckus over comments he made suggesting that Turkey is responsible for the rise of the Islamic State.
It is hard, however, to avoid the impression that Turkey and the United States are moving on separate tracks — “parallel tracks that don’t converge,” said Gokhan Bacik, a dean at Ipek University in Ankara.
“From now on, this is only a relationship of necessity,” he said. “There is nothing ideologically that the United States and Turkey share. Turkey has changed.”

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Malala Donates $50,000 Toward Reconstruction of Gaza Schools

Eliana Dockterman
Donation will aid U.N. agency
Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen activist who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, received another honor Wednesday and said she is donating the $50,000 in prize money to a United Nations agency that is rebuilding schools in Gaza following the summer conflict with Israel.
“The needs are overwhelming — more than half of Gaza’s population is under 18 years of age,” Malala said while being honored with the World Children’s Prize in Stockholm, according to a statement released by the U.N. Reliefs and Works Agency. “They want and deserve quality education, hope and real opportunities to build a future.”
Malala, who at age 15 survived being shot by the Taliban, has amassed a global following for work in the fight for girls’ right to education. The 17-year-old is the first person to receive the Children’s Prize and the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year.

White House calls ‘chickenshit’ Netanyahu slur ‘inappropriate’

BY LAZAR BERMAN
Administration official says PM and Obama have forged an effective partnership, despite recent anonymous attacks.
The White House denounced on Wednesday comments from an anonymous US official published the previous day calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.”
“Certainly, that’s not the administration’s view, and we think such comments are inappropriate and counterproductive,” said National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey, according to The Hill. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and the president have a forged an effective partnership, and consult closely and frequently, including earlier this month when the president hosted the prime minister in the Oval Office.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Secretary of State John Kerry would personally make it clear to Netanyahu that the comments do not reflect the view of the administration.
The comments were published in a story by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic that portrayed the rift between the United States and Israel as a “full-blown crisis.” The report quoted one Obama administration official calling Netanyahu a “chickenshit” and “Asbergery,” and others saying they increasingly see the Israeli leader as acting out of a “near-pathological desire for career-preservation” and not much more.
Netanyahu said Wednesday in response to the report that he would not be deterred from “defending Israel” by personal attacks.
“I was personally attacked purely because I defend Israel, and despite all the attacks against me, I will continue to defend our country; I will continue to defend the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu told the Knesset.
The prime minister added that he remained confident that the current disagreements between the US and Israel would not affect the two countries’ “deep connection.”
“I respect and appreciate the deep ties with the United States we’ve had since the establishment of the state,” he said. “We’ve had arguments before, and we’ll have them again, but this will not come at the expense of the deep connection between our peoples and our countries.”
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu’s fellow Likud party-members came to his defense.
“The unrestrained criticism against Israel and its leader quoted today from ‘officials’ in the White House crossed all lines,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in his opening remarks to the parliament Wednesday. “You can have disagreements, but in diplomatic relations — certainly among close allies — it is appropriate to maintain a respectful dialogue.”
International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz charged that insulting the prime minister was tantamount to insulting the Israeli people.
“The prime minister of Israel is not a private [citizen] and he represents the position of the democratic and sovereign State of Israel and its constant fear for its existence and security,” Steinitz said in a statement. “Therefore offensive comments toward him are insults against the State of Israel and its citizens.”
Read more: White House calls 'chickenshit' Netanyahu slur 'inappropriate' | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/white-house-calls-chickenshit-netanyahu-slur-inappropriate/#ixzz3HYYiby57 Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

Fascist Regimes in Manama, Riyadh resort to brutality for survival: Analyst

Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have intensified brutality to maintain dictatorship in the countries, says a political commentator.
Lawrence Davidson, a professor in West Chester University, said in an interview with Press TV that the Al Khalifa dynasty and the House of Saud have resorted to “brutal display of violence” in order to stifle democracy and opposition.
The analyst went on to say that both Manama and Riyadh were facing the same challenges and “fighting the same battles.”
Commenting on a recent ban by the Bahraini regime against the country’s prominent opposition party, al-Wefaq, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections, the commentator said the move shows the authorities in Manama do not tolerate any sort of dissent or even the most “harmless” opposition group.
On Tuesday, the Manama administrative court imposed a three-month ban on al-Wefaq after it threatened to boycott the November 22 elections of the Council of Representatives.
Al-Wefaq branded the court ruling “irrational and irresponsible,” saying, “The tyrannical dictatorship in Bahrain is ruling with an iron fist and moving to destroy the political and social life by blocking the people out.”
The commentator concluded that the United States’ unconditional support for the Israeli regime and some Arab monarchies have encouraged them to engage in atrocities in the Middle East.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.
In March 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were called in to assist the Bahraini regime in its crackdown on the peaceful protests.
Saudi Arabia has also witnessed demonstrations calling for an end to discrimination against the Shia population mainly in Eastern Province over the past few years.

Crimes Against Humanity - ISIL Claims Virgins Separated From Captured Women, Given As Award To Fighters

ISIL terrorist group revealed that when they seized the Yazidi region of Sinjar in northern Iraq in early August, ISIL terrorist group separated virgin girls from the rest of the captured women for the sole purpose of designating them to be given away as sex prizes to ISIL fighters.
An unnamed ISIL security official stationed in Raqqa highlighted the terrorist group’s sex slave practices and revealed that Yazidi virgins were filtered out from Yazidi married women and mothers so that they could be awarded to ISIL fighters who contributed on the front lines for the militant group.
Once the ISIL militant had picked out his virgin, the girl would be forced to accept the ISIL Ieology so that she could marry the militant, the ISIL official said. However, after the militant was done with his “wife” he could also divorce the girl so that he could “pass” the girl on to another ISIS fighter.
“After marrying her [and using her for sex], he might decide to divorce her and pass her onto another fighter,” the ISIS official said. The ISIL official also said that many of the girls that weren’t claimed by fighters in Iraq were brought to Raqqa to be given as gifts to ISIS leaders there. However, ISIS leaders in Raqqa wanted to prevent the public and media from finding out about the militant group’s practices of awarding and selling sex slaves. The leaders were not pleased that the girls were brought to Raqqa and ordered their sex slaves to be kept in remote towns in the Syrian countryside.
“The inner circle of leaders and security officials, and were careful that this issue should not be known as much as possible to the civilians,” the report stated.
http://en.shiapost.com/2014/10/29/isil-claims-virgins-separated-from-captured-women-given-as-award-to-fighters/

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US will continue tracking China, Russia and Iran from Afghanistan

By: Mirwais Jalalzai
The remaining US forces in Afghanistan will follow and track the activities of neighbor countries of Afghanistan after 2014, Khalil Noori the president of a think tank focused on nonmilitary solutions for Afghanistan told Russian media. Noori further added that the United States will keep a small part of its forces in Afghanistan to have an opportunity to keep an eye on Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China.
According to the US department of state, US force will end their combat operation by the end of 2014 but a small number of US forces will remain in the country to train and support the Afghan national forces.
“Afghanistan used to be a ‘buffer state’ and will now be transformed into an “observation tower.” It is in a perfect strategic location for the United States to monitor nuclear Iran, nuclear Pakistan, Russia and China,” Khalil Nouri, President of the New World Strategies Coalition Inc., said on Thursday.
According to Noori, the United States will leave some forces for the “long haul” despite the plans to extract all troops from Afghanistan, amid fears that the total pullout leaves a security vacuum.
“Afghan security forces are still weak and may not be able to defend against the [Taliban] insurgency if all foreign troops leave prematurely,” he said.
Around 10,000 US soldiers will remain in Afghanistan for long term according to BSA which was signed by national security adviser of Afghanistan and approved by the afghan president Ashraf Ghani.
This comes as the US President Barack Obama announced back in May that the US forces would be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, putting an end to 13-year war aimed at dismantling the al Qaeda terrorist network. Obama had said a residual force of 9,800 would assist Afghan security forces at the beginning of 2015.