Monday, May 9, 2011

Bahrain detain Shiite schoolgirls, teachers

Empowered by a 6-week-old state of emergency, the Sunni minority government of Bahrain has arrested scores of Shiite women teachers and schoolgirls, held them for days in prison and subjected them to physical and verbal abuse, according to victims, human-rights advocates and a former member of parliament.
In the fast-expanding systematic mistreatment of Shiites here, some observers say the red line will be sexual abuse, a step that if taken could provoke violence between the Muslim sects..

At least 150 women have been arrested, and at least 17 remain in custody, according to al-Wefaq, the moderate Shiite political organization. Nabeel Rajab, president of the independent Bahrain Center for Human Rights, thinks the number is much higher.

Yasmeen, 16 — McClatchy is withholding her real name to protect her from retribution — was ordered from her school April 26 and held three days with four other teenage girls. She said that on the drive to police headquarters, police threatened to rape them and said they were not true Muslims.

She said a police interrogator accused her of being a "muta," or "temporary wife" and of walking on a picture of Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Sunni king of this small Gulf island state.

The king Sunday announced he would lift emergency rule two weeks early on June 1, hours after the start of a closed-door trial of activists, in what appeared to be a bid to display confidence that authorities have smothered an uprising similar to those in Tunisia and Egypt that have swept the Arab world.

The political turmoil forced Bahrain to call off the March 13 Bahrain Grand Prix auto race. Last week, Formula One's governing body gave Bahrain until June 3 to decide if a new date could be set for this year.

Pakistan's PM to address nation on bin Laden death

Political rivals took aim at Pakistan's leaders on Monday over the killing of Osama bin Laden, compounding U.S. pressure over the al Qaeda leader's hideout, as the prime minister prepared to address parliament on the crisis for the first time.

Pakistan's main opposition party is stepping up calls for the prime minister and president to resign over the breach of sovereignty by U.S. special forces who slipped in from Afghanistan to storm the compound where bin Laden was holed up.

"We want resignations, not half-baked explanations," an official of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League told the News daily.

Pakistan welcomed the death of bin Laden, who plotted the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks on the United States, as a step in the fight against militancy but also complained that the U.S. helicopter raid to kill him was a violation of its sovereignty.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who will make his statement when parliament sits at 1200 GMT, is expected to deliver a stern warning against further military missions inside Pakistan by foreign forces.

The incident has added to strains in ties between Islamabad and Washington, which are crucial to combating Islamist militants and the war in Afghanistan.


Relations were already fragile after a string of diplomatic disputes over issues including a big attack by a U.S. drone aircraft in March and Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore in January.

Potentially stirring tension further, a Pakistani TV channel and a newspaper published what they said was the name of the undercover CIA station chief in Islamabad.

The U.S. embassy declined to comment, but said no one of that name worked at the mission in Pakistan.

Last year, after the chief of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was named in a U.S. civil case over attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai, the then-head of the CIA's Islamabad station was named by Pakistani media and he was forced to leave the country.

Islamabad has been embarrassed by the discovery of the world's most-wanted man in a high-walled compound in Abbottabad town, just 50 km (30 miles) north of the capital and a short distance from Pakistan's main military academy. It has led to accusations of either incompetence on the part of its intelligence service, or complicity in sheltering him.

"If he was really living in that compound for five years ... then why didn't our agencies discover him?" former foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told reporters. "This has given anti-Pakistani elements a chance to ridicule us."

Gilani has blamed bin Laden's evasion of capture for nearly a decade since the September 11 attacks on a "global intelligence failure," and the United States has stopped short of accusing Pakistan of providing shelter to bin Laden.


U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that bin Laden likely had "some sort" of a support network inside Pakistan, but added it would take investigations by Pakistan and the United States to find out just what the nature of that support was.

"We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don't know who or what that support network was," Obama said. [nN08167915]

"We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate," he added.

The government's opponents at home are incensed more about the humiliation of an unannounced swoop by helicopter-borne foreign forces in Pakistan than they are about the possibility that establishment insiders knew where bin Laden was hiding.

"I think it is a big blow to Pakistan's sovereignty, Pakistan's independence and Pakistan's self-respect," former prime minister Sharif told reporters in Lahore. "Pakistan is in a grave crisis and is surrounded by big danger."

Suspicion has deepened that the pervasive ISI, which has a long history of contacts with militant groups, may have had ties with the al Qaeda leader -- or that some of its agents did.

Talat Masood, a retired general and defense analyst, said that if there was official collusion to keep bin Laden secure it was most likely provided at a local level.

"I feel definitely there were influential people who were protecting him," he told Reuters. "I believe there was real ignorance at the highest level but there was collusion at the local level."


Pakistani security officials reacted with skepticism to a U.S. assertion that bin Laden was actively engaged in directing his far-flung network from his Abbottabad compound.

Washington has said that, based on a trove of information that would fill a small college library seized in the raid, the hide-out was an "active command and control center" for al Qaeda where he was involved in plotting attacks on the United States.

Pakistani officials said the fact that there was no Internet connection or even telephone line into the compound where he was hiding raised doubts about his centrality to al Qaeda.

"It sounds ridiculous," said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. "It doesn't sound like he was running a terror network."

Analysts have long maintained that, years before bin Laden's death, al Qaeda had fragmented into a decentralized group that operated tactically without him.

Barack Obama queries Pakistan's role in hiding bin Laden

President Barack Obama has suggested for the first time that “people inside of government” in Pakistan could have helped to harbour Osama bin Laden. he comments, the strongest about Pakistan made by Mr Obama so far, came as his administration ramped up pressure on Islamabad for a full investigation into who gave him sanctuary so close to Islamabad

He said: “We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don’t know who or what that support network was.”

“We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”

In an interview with CBS News, Mr Obama confirmed that the US would not be releasing the photographs of bin Laden’s body.

He said: “Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain this was him. We’ve done DNA sampling and testing. And so there is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden. It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence. As a propaganda tool. You know, that’s not who we are. You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies. Mr Obama said: “There’s no doubt that Bin Laden is dead. Certainly there’s no doubt among al-Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference.”

On Friday al-Qaeda released a statement confirming bin Laden’s death and promising to release his last tape. On Sunday an Islamist website claimed to have a copy of the audio recording, which was addressed to President Barack Obama.

In it bin Laden said: “America will not be able to dream of security until we live in security in Palestine. It is unfair that you live in peace while our brothers in Gaza live in insecurity.”

“Accordingly, and with the will of God, our attacks will continue against you as long as your support for Israel continues.”

Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, demanded that Pakistan allow the CIA to question the three widows of bin Laden left behind in his compound after last Sunday’s raid.

He told NBC that the US hadn’t “seen evidence” of Pakistani collusion, hinting that the White House was far from convinced on the issue.

“And they need to provide us with intelligence, by the way, from the compound that they’ve gathered, including access to Osama bin Laden’s three wives who they have in custody.”

Pakistan had been holding three of Osama bin Laden’s widows and eight of his children since the American raid that killed the Saudi jihadist, an adult son, a woman and two brothers who owned the compound.

Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah, 27, his fifth and youngest wife was shot in the leg as she attempted to protect her husband. The Yemeni woman is said to have told her Pakistani interrogators that she had lived in the Abbottabad compound for six years.

On Saturday the US released five video clips, one of which showed bin Laden in his Pakistan compound watching news coverage of himself on a small television. He was wrapped in a blanket and sporting an unkempt grey-white beard in an image very different to those on the tapes he recorded for his al-Qadea followers.

The footage was part of a large haul of intelligence discovered at the compound. Mr Donilon said yesterday: “This is the largest cache of intelligence derived from the scene of any single terrorist. It’s about the size, the CIA tells us, of a small college library.”

The Pentagon said that the evidence showed bin Laden was running a “command and control” centre from the compound and was still a central part of masterminding al-Qaeda plots.

Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, said on Sunday that bin Laden’s death was no cause for complacency. “Clearly what it says is al-Qaeda is still alive and well and still poses a threat not only to the UK but to all free countries in the world.

“We do need to maintain our guard and we have to watch countries like the Yemen, which is slowly declining and possibly falling into a failed state, which of course would give a boost to al-Qaeda. We have to keep up our guard in a lot of places and it is not an option for us.”

He said he would be visiting the US for discussions on the al-Qaeda threat in two weeks.

Pakistan to examine bin Laden raid

Osama responsible for spreading terrorism

Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour on Sunday said Osama bin Ladin was enemy of peace and was responsible for spreading militancy and terrorism in the world.Talking to media at the residence of Provincial Minister for Agriculture Arbab Ayub Jan, after a blast out side the house of agriculture minister, Bashir Bilour condemned the blast and termed it a cowardly act on the part of militants.He said Osama was responsible for the spreading militancy in Pakistan which has deteriorated the law and order situation in the country over the years. Today we were fighting a third world war on our land. But the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were totally supporting the government which helped in defeating terrorists and bringing peace in most of the province, he added.Speaking about the attack on the house of Agriculture Minister Arbab Ayub Jan, Bashir Bilour said ANP since the day it had come into power was facing a lot of such incidents and had sacrificed more than any other party in the war against terror. He said the incident another cowardly act in which three innocent people received injuries.Meanwhile Minster for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain said after the death of Osama one of the main chapters of terrorism was closed. Terming Osama’s death as a good news for the whole world Iftikhar said it was due to Osama that large number of innocent people died in Pakistan and Afghanistan.He said the presence of Osama in Pakistan was a grave question and the government should to give its answer. ANP was giving sacrifices in the war against terrorism not only to achieve peace in the country but also for the sovereignty of Pakistan.He demanded the federal government to called explanation from America about the Abbottabad operation.He said the government wanted to root out terrorism from Pakistan but for this purpose, the Pakistani government must to make a straight and clear cut policy.

Pakistan's `Banned` groups
IN Pakistan, supposedly `proscribed` organisations not only kill in cold blood and repeatedly get away with it, they also appear to be free to hold rallies and organise meetings — even in the country`s largest city — where their leaders can express their views. Two events that occurred on Friday amply back up this claim. The first was an early morning attack in Quetta in which some members of the Shia Hazara community were killed and a large number injured. A spokesman for the shadowy sectarian terror outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the attack. The other event was a rally taken out in Karachi after Friday prayers. Organised to eulogise Osama bin Laden and to “show solidarity with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”, the rally made news when it was disrupted by gunfire. The gathering, organised by Jamaatud Dawa, considered a front for the banned Lashkar-i-Taiba, was attended by leaders and supporters of a number of sectarian and jihadi outfits, including the Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat, the working title of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan which is also blacklisted.

The above are among the most recent examples of the ease with which banned outfits can function in the country with their leaders operating freely. The problems religious militancy has caused in this country have been enumerated countless times. Yet the bans and the action taken by the state against these concerns have been cosmetic and ineffective. Action is taken by the authorities only when there is external or internal pressure, usually following a major act of terrorism. Despite the bans, which date back to the Musharraf regime, the organisations resurface with new names and carry on as usual; this exercise fools no one.

If the state — specifi-cally the security establishment — is interested in rooting out militancy, it must do several things. The camps where extre-mists are trained must be dismantled while the militants` sources of funding, whether foreign or local, must be identified so that their access to funds can be cut off. The government must also plug legal loopholes to bring militant leaders to justice; at present, cases are either not registered or the state shows little motivation in pursuing them. Though tracking down each and every member of a sectarian or jihadi outfit is not possible, we feel that successfully prosecuting militant leaders and ideologues may go a long way towards compromising their ability to spread havoc. The twin ogres of sectarianism and jihadi militancy have done enough harm to Pakistan. It is time the state took serious steps to put these violent concerns permanently out of business, instead of merely `banning` them on paper.