Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pakistan Playing Double game n Terror?

Bahrain accused of torturing detained protesters

Some members of the Bahrain opposition have gone on trial three months after unrest broke out in the Gulf state, as rights groups raise fears protesters are being tortured in prison.

More than 20 opposition members are accused of terrorism and plotting to overthrow the monarchy.

Human rights organisations describe the trials as unfair and are calling for international observers to be allowed in when the hearings resume next week.

Joe Stork from Human Rights Watch says there is also growing evidence that many of the protesters who have been arrested have also been tortured.

"One of the things that is most disturbing about the situation in Bahrain is that we've seen about 1,000 people arrested, more than 600 of them still in detention, many weeks after their arrest," he said.

"We don't know where they are. Their lawyers don't know where they are, their families don't know where they are.

"They have essentially been held incommunicado, exactly the kind of conditions when torture is most likely to occur."

Mr Stork says detainees show physical signs of "serious abuse".

"We saw one of our Bahraini colleagues brought before the court earlier this week bearing unmistakable evidence of abuse," he said.

"We've seen bodies prepared for funerals, people who have died in detention, again showing unmistakable signs of serious abuse."

Sheik Abdulaziz bin Mubarak, the director of media relations at the Bahrain Information Authority, denies any systemic abuse of human rights, saying any instances would be isolated.

"The government policy is of zero tolerance to any abuse of human rights," he said.

"On May 11, the Ministry of Interior has demonstrated its willingness to see investigations through in a timely manner and have announced that the arrests of five prison guards alleged to be responsible for [torturing] one of the detainees while in police custody.

"Therefore any isolated incidents come without official sanction and all allegations are really treated seriously."

He says the protesters were arrested because the government's patience was exhausted.

"It was only at the end of that one-month period did we see total anarchy in Bahrain and unfortunately we had to restore stability and security and that was unavoidable," he said.

But Mr Stork says the problem "goes back way before March".

"It is much more widespread than the Sheikh seems willing to acknowledge," he said.

"For many years there was no torture in Bahrain or where you could at least say, yes, it was really an isolated incident. But those days are unfortunately in the past. We'd like to see them come again."

The United Nations has criticised Bahrain over its military trials and its human rights office is demanding an independent investigation into the alleged abuses.

The Bahraini government is promising to lift martial law by next month.

Did Saudis, Libyans pay dollars to JUI-F?

Osama bin Laden’s lover Maulana Attaur Rehman, the younger brother of Fazlur Rehman, became speechless on Friday when stunning information was revealed in the in-camera session of parliament that his party had been receiving dollars from Libya and Saudi Arabia.

Upon this information, the entire hall echoed with the thumping of desks, which was the only moment when the house cheered irrespective of party affiliation and association, the sources told The News.

In reply to Maulana’s question whether the Army considered them Muslims and yet the Army conducted operations in his constituency and against the OBL, who was first a Mujahid of Islam and now was an enemy, and whether the Army had turned to parliament because the big boss US was angry, the ISI director general requested him not to get involved in such discussions of history of Mujahids. “If we will discuss it, then things will go very far and everyone will come to know who has been receiving dollars from Saudi Arabia and Libya,” the DG ISI said in response to Maulana’s insistence.

All parliamentarians started thumping their desks and the Maulana in sheer embarrassment staged a walkout from the hall. However, he came back on his own after 10 minutes, the sources maintained.

The sources said General Ahmad Shuja Pasha’s tone was submissive with mild protest that it was a tough time for Pakistan and nations united after such incidents, but Pakistan’s Army was being criticised and parliamentarians were not paying attention to the Army bashing by the foreign media.

The sources said nothing new which the media had not reported had bee n said to the parliamentarians. The sources said the tone of a few PML-N parliamentarians was harsh, while Pasha was confident while replying to the questions.

“Outsiders want a wedge between the Army and the nation, and a few leaders had also bashed the Army,” sources quoted the DG ISI as saying. The sources said the DG ISI told parliament that if the Army was maligned, then there would be an irreparable loss to the country.

US senator Kerry in Afghanistan

Influential US Senator John Kerry arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday, the embassy in Kabul said, ahead of a visit to neighbouring Pakistan following the death of Osama bin Laden.
The White House said it was endorsing the trip by Kerry to Pakistan to shore up badly strained ties over the killing of the Al-Qaeda chief in Abbottabad, just 40 miles (65 kilometres) from Islamabad on May 2.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, will be the highest profile US figure to visit Islamabad since elite US troops killed bin Laden.
The covert raid has plunged Pakistani politics into turmoil with both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani facing calls to resign amid growing anti-American sentiment.
The US embassy in Kabul declined to release Kerry's Afghan itinerary for security reasons.

U.S.-Pakistani relations may suffer after brutal suicide attack

The twin bombings that killed 80 paramilitary recruits in Pakistan's northwest could deepen anti-U.S. sentiments in the country.

Twin suicide bombings Friday that killed at least 80 paramilitary recruits in northwest Pakistan, in an attack that Taliban militants said was to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandos, could trigger new doubts among Pakistanis about the value of Islamabad's already rocky relationship with Washington.

The bombers targeted Frontier Constabulary recruits who had just completed six months of training and were boarding vans outside the training center's main gate to go on a 10-day leave, police and survivors said. The base is located in Shabqadar, a town near the edge of Mohmand, a tribal area in the northwest where Pakistani troops have struggled for years to rein in Pakistani Taliban militants.

The attack is Pakistan's deadliest yet this year, and the first major terrorist strike in the country since Bin Laden's killing.

Pakistanis have grown increasingly worried that they will bear the brunt of retaliatory attacks by militants angered by the May 2 killing of the Al Qaeda leader. U.S. Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden at the compound in the garrison city of Abbottabad where he had hidden for five years. Washington's decision to carry out the mission without Islamabad's knowledge or authorization angered many Pakistanis who saw the raid as a gross violation of their country's sovereignty.

Reacting to news of the suicide bombings, Bashir Bilour, a senior minister for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, questioned whether, despite the billions of dollars that Pakistan receives from Washington in civilian and military aid, the country was paying too heavy a price for its role as a U.S. ally.

"I don't care if someone is giving us money; we are not a purchasable commodity," Bilour told reporters in Peshawar. "We cannot be bought. We can live in hunger, but we won't compromise our national interests."

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was the first of a wave of planned strikes meant to avenge Bin Laden's killing, according to news agencies and Pakistani news media. The Pakistani Taliban, the country's homegrown insurgency, is closely allied with Al Qaeda and is one of several militant groups that have provided the terrorist network sanctuary in the volatile tribal region along the border with Afghanistan.

The bombers struck at a time when recruits appeared to be particularly vulnerable, just as they were leaving the training center in large groups.

Tahir Ali, a Frontier Constabulary soldier assigned to the center, said 62 paramilitary troops were providing security as recruits left about 6 a.m. But though a nearby market was closed, the recruits were exposed to pedestrians and morning traffic. More than 800 recruits were streaming out of the base, bags in hand.

"People shouldn't have gathered in big numbers in such a place," said Bilour, the senior minister.

As the recruits loaded their luggage onto the vans, a man on a motorcycle drove up near the main gate and detonated his explosives. Moments later, a second bomber on foot detonated a larger explosion as onlookers rushed to help recruits wounded in the first blast.

Most of the dead were recruits, police said. More than 100 people were injured.

"I was just four yards from the gate when the first blast threw me to the ground," recruit Ajsam Ali, 20, said from his hospital bed in Peshawar, where he was recovering from wounds to his head, left arm and left foot. "The air was black with smoke and I couldn't see. It was chaos. People were screaming. There were dead and maimed people lying all over the street."

Maroof Khan, a 20-year-old paramilitary recruit, said he was loading his baggage onto a van when the first blast knocked everyone to the ground.

"I was hit in my leg, but I managed to hobble to a nearby mosque," he said. "Everyone was in a panic. Suddenly, there was a second, much larger explosion. I looked around and saw many of my friends dead on the ground."

Poorly paid and poorly equipped, the Frontier Constabulary paramilitary force provides security in Pakistan's volatile northwest where several militant groups maintain strongholds. The average soldier makes $137 a month. The force's recruits are men in their early 20s from tribal regions in the northwest.

"This is so cruel, attacking young recruits like this," Shafiq ur-Rehman, a 21-year-old recruit with a bandaged ankle, said from his Peshawar hospital bed, in a ward filled with recruits in bloodied tunics, some of them wailing in pain. "We're just innocent kids. We've never harmed anyone. These are young boys that they've killed today."

Six Pakistanis charged in US for aiding Taliban

The News PK
US officials arrested three Pakistani Americans on Saturday and charged them and three others with providing or conspiring to provide "material support" to the Pakistani Taliban, the US Justice Department said.

"All six defendants are charged with conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap persons overseas, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, specifically, the Pakistani Taliban," the department said in a statement.

Hafiz Sher Ali, 76-year-old man and his two his two sons, Irfan Khan and Izhar Khan were arrested from different parts of the country, the Justice Department said.

FBI arrested Hafiz Sher Ali and Izhar Khan from South Florida while Irfan Khan was rounded up from Los Angeles.

The US Justice Department further said three others including Ali Rehman alias Faisal Ali Rehman, Alam Zaib and Amina Bibi (daughter of Hafiz Sher Ali) had also been charged but, added that they were at large in Pakistan.

Pakistan After Bin Laden


Like most Americans, we have long despaired at the cynicism of Pakistan’s leaders, who accept American “counterterrorist” aid while also sheltering and enabling some of the worst anti-American extremists. But we never imagined that Osama bin Laden would be found hiding in plain sight, a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s leading military academy and an hour’s drive from Islamabad. Pakistan’s behavior since then has only added to the outrage.

Instead of vowing to find out which officials were behind the scheme, Pakistan’s leaders — military and civilian — have tried to deflect all blame and stoke more anti-Americanism. Some members of Congress are asking why the United States should continue to provide billions of dollars in aid to such a faithless ally. For now, at least, an aid cutoff would be self-defeating.

There should be no illusions. We see no sign that Pakistan is ready to stop playing all sides, or will ever figure out that the fight against extremists isn’t a favor to the United States but essential to its own survival.

The equally hard truth is that the United States never would have gotten Bin Laden if it did not have the large military and Central Intelligence Agency presence on the ground that Pakistan has permitted — and American aid has paid for — since 9/11.

There are many more extremists hiding in Pakistan. While Pakistani leaders publicly rail against American drone strikes, they privately tolerate them. Washington needs Islamabad’s cooperation to supply troops in Afghanistan. The best hope for getting out of Afghanistan is some political deal with the Taliban. Pakistan can help facilitate such a deal or undermine it.

There is one other chilling point to consider: the stability of Pakistan’s government — and its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan’s Army might be able to stave off a militant takeover, without American military backing, but we wouldn’t want to bet on it.

President Obama needs to leverage this moment. Many Pakistanis are furious about the raid on their territory. Parliament held an unusual session on Friday, demanding answers from the spy chief who accused Washington of conducting a “sting operation on us.” But many are also outraged by the fact that Bin Laden managed to hide in their country for so long. “Could the self-appointed custodians of the national interest themselves be the greatest threat to national security?” wrote Cyril Almeida of the Dawn newspaper. The television journalist Kamran Khan declared, “We have become the biggest haven of terrorism in the world.”

Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the unilateral attack on Bin Laden as a violation of sovereignty and threatened to close American military supply routes to Afghanistan if drone strikes are not halted. It was not a helpful gesture.

Pakistani leaders are nervous about what more may come out. The trove of computer files seized by the Americans may provide some welcome bargaining power.

The Obama administration also needs to take a harder look at military aid to Pakistan to determine what is vital for counterterrorism and what might be tied to specific benchmarks, like apprehending the Taliban chief, Mullah Muhammad Omar, and members of the Haqqani network.

In its fury, this country should also not lose sight of the fact Pakistan has the potential to be a far greater nightmare than Afghanistan under the Taliban. Economic aid is the best long-term hope of changing the country’s political culture. The five-year, $7.5 billion package for schools, energy and other projects hasn’t gotten off the ground. Congress must approve trade legislation, which is the best way to develop an outward-looking middle class.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should go ahead with her visit to Pakistan. President Obama should delay setting a date for his trip. Pakistan’s leaders have very tough decisions to make. They need to realize that the days of Washington’s unconditional support are over.

Pakistan Cyber friends’ group launches ‘war’ on political parties

Inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian mass movements through an Internet campaign, a Pakistani group of 150 Internet-connected friends have become the first to launch a crusade against all existing political parties and rulers challenging the current system and demanding a socio-political and economic change.

More then two-dozen Internet-connected friends, including female members of the group staged a protest against high inflation, unemployment, poor economic policies, load shedding and the domestic and foreign policies of the existing and previous governments in front of the Lahore Press Club on Friday.

The protesters, led by group leaders Syed Haseeb Akhtar Rizvi, Ghazal Naeem and Abdur Rehman, were carrying banners and placards against the Pak-US alliance in the war against terror, Pakistani officials’ silence on the issues of Raymond Davis, drone attacks, price hike, unemployment, the recent Abbottabad attack, etc.

They demanded the rulers to go in the right direction immediately on the public issues, control the price hike and reduce unemployment in the country. The asked them to be patriotic and show commitment to the people of Pakistan.

Talking about the campaign, Rizvi informed Daily Times, “Seeing the current deteriorating situation of the country, I took the initiative to launch a campaign named ‘Protest by students against corrupt politicians’ on Facebook last Monday.” He said that he had gathered more than 150 like-minded friends on the Internet and they fully agreed with his initiative and endorsed the demonstration to bring about a change at the mass level.

Ghazal Naeem and Abdur Rehman while talking to this scribe said that if an Egyptian man could cause a big mass movement against their rulers for their wrongdoings using Facebook and organise the common man of his country, then why could they not take a revolutionary step to take the Pakistani society out from current crisis using the same tactics.

They said that at the initial stage, more than 150 Internet-connected friends, mostly university going students of the upper class, have joined in for the cause while they had no affiliation with any political party or NGO. The protesters also announced that their campaign would continue until Pakistan was changed into a developed society, and hoped that more people would join their cause in the upcoming days.

'Saudi Women Revolution' makes a stand for equal rights

As election centers across Saudi Arabia opened on April 23 for voters to register for forthcoming municipal elections, groups of women turned up asking to take part.
As expected, they were turned away -- women will not be able to stand or vote in September's municipal elections -- but just by showing up they had made their point.
This was one of the first public acts of the newly-formed "Saudi Women Revolution," a movement set up to campaign for the end of Saudi Arabia's discriminatory laws.
Their chief aim is ending male guardianship, which means Saudi women often need permission from their husband, father, brother or even son to work, travel, study, marry, or access health care, according to Human Rights Watch.They also want to be allowed to drive, which is forbidden for women in the Kingdom.The Saudi Women Revolution was started as a Facebook page and a discussion topic, or hash tag, on Twitter in February, by Nuha Al Sulaiman.
Al Sulaiman, 28, said: "I started the Twitter hash tag to allow women to write whatever they are suffering from.
"It wasn't easy to do, particularly using the word 'revolution,' but I reached a point where I just had to do something about our daily suffering.
"In the past I couldn't meet people who have the same ideas as I have, but social media has made that possible."
The Facebook group now has more than 3,000 "likes" and a core of the women have met in person to discuss their campaign.
Al Sulaiman said: "We will do whatever it takes. We will go to the king himself. We will never stop fighting for our rights because it's time for change.
"Women should be able to take responsibility for everything they do themselves. It makes my blood drive high that nothing is changing."
Al Sulaiman said she and 11 other women had tried to register to vote at an election center in Riyadh, while other groups of women went to centers in Jeddah, Dammam and Khobar.
Municipal elections in Saudi Arabia will be held in September for only the second time in more than 40 years. The Saudi electoral commission was reported to have said that women cannot vote because preparations had not been made to keep them separate.
Rasha Al Duwaisi, a 30-year-old mother of two who took part in the protest, said: "The elections are a sham and many men are boycotting them. However, we still want the opportunity to be involved.
"The most important thing is we want women to be recognized as adults.
She added: "The first time I was interviewed in the media I was so nervous I was shaking. I'd never done anything like this before and I didn't know if I had antagonized the government.
"People are saying I'm immodest and against religion, but that isn't true."
Those involved are mostly young university-educated women. They said it took some time before they trusted each other enough to give their real names and to arrange to meet in person.
Not all Saudi women want to end male guardianship. In 2009, a group of Saudi women launched a campaign called "My Guardian Knows What's Best for Me," which attracted thousands of supporters.
But for Saudi Women Revolution, it's a matter of ending discrimination. Another member, Khuloud al Fahad, a 33-year-old mother of two and businesswoman, said: "We are trying to do this in a safe and correct way. We don't want problems with the government, we just want to send a message that we will not keep silent about this discrimination anymore.
"Our freedom is very restricted. I can't move without permission, I can't travel without permission, I can't have surgery without permission, I can't rent a flat without permission.
"When my daughter was in hospital, I wasn't even allowed to sign the papers for her to come home. We are not half human beings, we are human beings."
Wajeha al Huwaider, 49, a veteran Saudi women's rights campaigner who has long campaigned for the end of male guardianship, said the protests at the election centers were the right way to get the campaign noticed.
And the campaign has attracted support from outside the country. Mona Kareem, a journalist and blogger in Kuwait, supported Saudi Women Revolution by collating the most common demands from the group's Twitter topic into a statement to be sent to human rights organizations. She published it on her blog translated into seven languages.
Saudi Women Revolution is planning to publish its own formal statement of demands this week and will then be asking women to sign their names to it.
Even signing their names to the statement will take courage.
Al Huwaider said: "Women in this country don't even have control over their own names. Their husbands or fathers are angry with them if they put their name to something, which is why many are not willing to stand up for their rights.
"Women are just like property, owned by the men in their family."