Sunday, June 5, 2011

Saudi actress arrested for driving in Jeddah

Wajnat Rahbini, the Saudi actress who was held on Saturday for driving a car in the Red Sea resort of Jeddah, said that her late husband had been her driving instructor.
"I had to drive him to hospital whenever he needed treatment, especially when he fainted," Wajnat said. "I had to look after him because nobody else was willing to do it," she said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz.

Wajnat said that she drove the car, registered in her name, on Saturday after her driver went home for holidays.
"I went to an office to complete some paper work related to my company," she said.
The actress was held after a man reported her to the local police and her car was impounded.
"The police were courteous. I have driven before and the traffic policemen I encountered were very respectful," she said.
Wajnat was released without paying bail, the daily said.
Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a tense debate over the merit of women driving vehicles.
The discussions were fuelled by the arrest for some days of Manal Al Shareef, a Saudi woman who drove in Al Khobar, in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.
Campaigns for and against women driving were launched in social networks.
Wajnat achieved fame throughout the Arab world for her role in Tash Ma Tash (No big deal), a popular Saudi Arabian satirical comedy that has been running exclusively in Ramadan since 1992

Nawaz setting up turncoats factory

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is trying to set up another ‘turncoat factory’ at Islamabad after Punjab in a bid to grab power at centre through undemocratic means, accuses Senator Kamil Ali Agha, central secretary PML-Q.
He expressed these views on Saturday while giving party reaction on a meeting between PML-N chief and PML-Q Senator Tariq Azeem.
Alleging PML-N chief for setting up what he called another turncoat factory at the federal capital, he said that Nawaz Sharif should remember that he and his party could no longer befool the masses. He also accused that PML-N was following its past examples of ruining the national institutions in a bid to grab power at any cost.
Coming hard on party Senator, he said that Tariq Azeem was earlier convincing the people to join the Musharraf League and it seems that he took over the command of PML-N’s turncoat factory.
Kamil alleged that Azeem to cover his malpractices in Sukh Chain Housing Society got the help of Punjab government and such people are neither sincere to the masses nor to the country.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government asks Karzai to rein in Taliban

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has demanded the Afghan president stop Taliban from attacking Upper Dir district while criticising the NATO for ignoring terrorists’ cross over from Afghanistan.

“We have demand President Hamid Karzai to take steps against attacks from Afghanistan by Taliban in Upper Dir district,” said the provincial government’s spokesman Mian Iftikhar Hussain while briefing media on a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Ameer Haider Hoti. The meeting discussed Wednesday’s cross-border attack launched from the territory of Afghanistan. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police chief Fayaz Toro briefed the cabinet on the situation in Upper Dir where security forces suffered casualties in clashes with the Afghan Taliban last week.

The provincial cabinet also questioned the NATO’s ability to stop such attacks, according to the government’s spokesman. “The NATO could have stopped these attacks, if it had liked doing so,” he maintained. and said, “We may conclude that the NATO, by not stopping these attacks, was, actually, supporting the Taliban.”

This was the first time when Hussain was seen using strong words against the NATO.

In the attacks, the Taliban torched schools and damaged other infrastructure while overrunning security checkposts and killing over two dozens security officials. The provincial government also demanded the federal government that all Frontier Constabulary officials serving outside the province should be called back to beef up security in the northern districts which are under the threat of further offensives by the Afghan Taliban.

Hussain said that the meeting was of the view that the frontiers should be guarded by the army instead of the Levy. “Police and paramilitary forces cannot guard the borders. The FC is a provincial force and it should not be used by the federal government in Islamabad and Karachi,” said the spokesman, adding that “without wasting any more time, Islamabad should send all FC personnel back to Balochsitan.”

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government also expressed anger over the delay in giving teeth to anti-terrorism laws as detained terrorists were freed on bail due to “toothless laws”. “We need strong laws to deal with terrorism.” He said the provincial government would encourage lashkars in Dir and Chitral to check attacks by the Taliban.

Saudi Women's Rights Activists Press Hillary Clinton To Endorse Their Right To Drive

A consortium of Saudi Arabian women's rights activists have written an open letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to publicly press the Saudi government to allow women to drive.

Penned by the organization Saudi Women for Driving, the letter has been endorsed by over 10,000 people from all 50 US states on An almost identical letter has been addressed to Catherine Ashton, Secretary Clinton's counterpart in the E.U.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bars women from getting behind the wheel of a vehicle -– bicycles included. The movement gained traction after 32-year-old computer-security consultant Manal al-Sherif, now dubbed the "Saudi Rosa Parks," was detained after she posted a video of herself driving in the conservative kingdom, urging others women to take her lead.

Al-Sherif has since been released, on the condition that she will not participate in a Saudi protest of the driving restrictions set for June 17. The campaign, which has a 26,000 member Facebook group, does not have country-wide support. YouTube videos have circulated of a young boy making fun of the movement, and a counter-Facebook page with 6,000 fans has been created inciting men to beat women found driving. (It has since been removed for encouraging violent behavior.)

The activists write:
As Saudi women our lack of freedom of movement places an extreme burden on our lives. We lack a public transportation system and the most basic errands and medical appointments are missed due to the difficulty and expenses of arranging transportation, notwithstanding educational and work opportunities. Many from our religious establishment openly state that the reason they prohibit women from driving is to keep women at home and in need of men. Our lack of this basic right to drive our own cars has been repeatedly exploited by abusive fathers, brothers, husbands and even hired drivers. Just this week a Saudi woman reported she was raped by her driver…
Secretary Clinton, you are a friend. Indeed, some of us have met you personally during your decades-long journey as a champion of women’s rights all over the world. Now, as we build the largest Saudi women's protest movement in decades, we need your help.
According to, Saudi Women for Driving promoted a similar campaign on the website calling upon al-Sherif's release from prison. Over 60,000 people in 156 countries signed the letter, making it the world's fastest growing advocacy campaign.

"As long as people are campaigning for good, we want to provide a platform," said Weldon Kennedy, Director of Organizing for "[Saudi Women for Driving has] got a very well-designed plan of action. I wouldn't be surprised to see more from them."

Protesters celebrate departure of Yemen's leader

Protesters danced, sang and slaughtered cows in the central square of Yemen's capital Sunday to celebrate the departure of the country's authoritarian leader for medical treatment after he was wounded in a rocket attack on his compound.
There was no official announcement on who was acting as head of state. But under Yemen's constitution, the vice president takes over for up to 60 days when the head of state is absent. Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi met Sunday with U.S. Ambassador Gerald Michael Feierstein, the strongest indication yet that he is in charge.
Yemen's conflict began as a peaceful uprising that the government at times used brutal force to suppress. It transformed in recent weeks to a more violent struggle for power when formal tribal allies of President Ali Abdullah Saleh turned against him and transformed the streets of the capital Sanaa into a war zone.
Other forces rose against Saleh at the same time. There were high-level defections within his military, and Islamist fighters took over at least one town in the south in the past two weeks. Saleh blamed the tribal rivals for the attack on his compound Friday that killed 11 bodyguards and wounded at least five senior government officials in addition to the president.
The protesters celebrated Sunday at Sanaa's Change Square, the epicenter of a nationwide protest movement since mid-February calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down immediately after nearly 33 years. Some uniformed soldiers joined those dancing and singing patriotic songs and were hoisted on the shoulders of the crowd. Many in the jubilant crowd waved Yemeni flags, joyfully whistling and flashing the "V" for victory signs.
Women in black veils joined demonstrators carrying banners that hailed Saleh's departure. One read: "The oppressor is gone, but the people stay."
Activist and rights lawyer Khaled al-Ansi said families and children were arriving in the square in party clothes.
"People have trickled in since dawn to the square. Some have not slept yet. It is like a holiday," he said.
In Taiz, Yemen's second largest city, dozens of gunmen attacked the presidential palace on Sunday, killing four soldiers in an attempt to storm the compound, according to military officials and witnesses. They said one of the attackers was also killed in the violence. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The attackers belong to a group set up recently to avenge the killing of anti-regime protesters at the hands of Saleh's security forces.
Saleh has been under intense pressure to step down from his powerful Gulf neighbors, who control a large share of the world's oil resources, and from longtime ally Washington. They all fear Yemen could be headed toward a failed state that will become a fertile ground for al-Qaida's most active franchise to operate and launch attacks abroad.
Saleh's injuries provided him with what could turn out to be a face-saving solution to exit power.
A Yemeni official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information, said Saleh left with his two wives and some of his children. The official said he and others learned about Saleh's plans only after the president left. A Saudi medical official said his condition was "not good."
Saleh did not issue a decree putting his vice president in charge while he is away in Saudi Arabia. A terse statement from his office only said he had arrived in Saudi Arabia for medical tests and that he was in good health.
The president's departure was shrouded in extreme secrecy and many in the government did not know of his early Sunday departure until he had actually arrived in Saudi Arabia.
Significantly, military officials said Hadi met late Saturday night in Sanaa with several members of Saleh's family, including his son and one-time heir apparent Ahmed, who commands the powerful presidential guard. Others who attended the meeting included two of the president's nephews and two half brothers. All four head well-equipped and highly trained units that constitute the president's main power base in the military.
That such powerful members of Saleh's family have been left behind in Sanaa suggests that the president's departure will not necessarily end the crisis in Yemen.
For one thing, fighting could continue between the tribal forces and pro-regime units led by loyal members of Saleh's inner circle. In his more than three decades in power, Saleh administered an elaborate patronage system to ensure the loyalty of military officers and some of those beneficiaries would be tempted to continue the fight in the hope of keeping the perks they had enjoyed under the president.
If Saleh's departure causes the regime to collapse, tribal chieftains would want to take credit for the ouster of the regime and get a dominant role in the country's future. Given the conservative politics of tribal leaders, that could well place them on a collision course with the youth groups that have for months staged peaceful demonstrations in Sanaa and across much of the country to demand Saleh's ouster and political reforms.

No risks to be taken in troop drawdown from Afghanistan: Gates

The gradual withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan set to begin next month will be done responsibly and will not expose other coalition and Afghan forces to undue risks, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday.

General David Petraeus, commander of the 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, will soon make recommendations to President Barack Obama about how many should be withdrawn, following Obama's pledge last year to start bringing U.S. combat troops home.

The commitment followed Obama's December 2009 decision to send 30,000 extra U.S. troops in a bid to arrest a growing Taliban-led insurgency. Fighting increased dramatically, particularly in the Taliban heartland in the south, since the last of those extra troops arrived last summer.

U.S. commanders say significant gains have been made in halting the Taliban's momentum in the south since then, but violence has flared elsewhere in Afghanistan, particularly in the east and with complex attacks in major cities.

Pentagon and White House officials are tight-lipped about the size of the initial withdrawal. Obama is expected to announce his decision sometime in mid-July.

Gates said great strides had been made in training enough Afghan police and soldiers adequately to allow for the gradual withdrawal that will end with all foreign combat troops leaving by the end of 2014, according to an agreement reached at a NATO summit last December.

"And so the question then becomes, what can you take out and what is the risk associated with that," Gates said at a forward operating base in southern Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban.

"And I think General Petraeus will come in with a range of options. And I have every confidence that the decision that's made will be a responsible one," he told troops at the base just outside Kandahar city.


At the start of this year, with violence raging across Afghanistan after nearly a decade of war, an initial pullout of around 5,000 troops had been anticipated.

With U.S. commanders now trumpeting the success of their offensives in the south, some current and former officials say Obama could announce a pullout of at least 10,000.

Some U.S. lawmakers and analysts, however, have questioned the wisdom of bringing out any troops at all so soon after security gains were made and with doubts lingering about poorly equipped and minimally trained Afghan security forces.

Asked about the drawdown by a soldier at the Kandahar base, Gates said discussions would likely begin when he returned from his current trip, his 12th and final visit to Afghanistan as head of the Pentagon.

While he said there had been progress in "degrading the Taliban," the size and scope of the drawdown would be determined by conditions on the ground. Gates also hinted that he would prefer frontline troops to remain.

"If it were up to me, I'd leave the shooters to last," said Gates, who steps down at the end of June. He arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday on what is primarily a trip to bid farewell to U.S. troops.

The troop drawdown coincides with a growing recognition of the need for a political settlement, which would include negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgents prepared to renounce violence and ties with al Qaeda.

Slow-moving attempts at establishing communications with the Taliban, leading eventually to more substantive talks, have been under way for well over a year.

Plot to assassinate President Asif Ali Zardari uncovered

Intelligence officials have arrested eight men believed to have been involved in a plot to assassinate the President.
According to intelligence sources, intelligence officials had been conducting raids for the past three weeks and had managed to arrest four people from Islamabad and four people from Punjab, who had been plotting to kill President Asif Ali Zardari.
Sources said that intelligence officials had been monitoring the trail of the plotters by tapping their mobile phone lines.The suspects have been moved to an undisclosed location.