Friday, July 29, 2011

Pakistan restricts movement of American diplomats

Pakistani government has imposed restrictions on the movement of US diplomats and other embassy officials in the country, media reports said on Friday.

All US diplomats will now require to get special no objection certificate for travelling to other cities, Geo television reported.

Pakistani authorities have imposed travel curbs on US diplomats few days ago. The same curbs would also apply on other diplomats, Geo reported quoted an unspecified sources as saying.

The US has also slapped similar curbs on Pakistani diplomats and embassy staffers in the US, the report said.

There was no official word and reaction from the US embassy.

The reports came days after Pakistan has repeatedly denied US Embassy employees entry into Peshawar city in the country's volatile northwest region, police said.

Two groups of US diplomats were sent back from areas in the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, this month, according to local media.

All foreigners are required to have special permission to enter the northwest and southwestern Balochistan province, officials say.

The reports came at a time when relations between the US and Pakistan have deteriorated after the this month blockade of USD 800 military aid. The decision was aimed at mounting pressure on Islamabad to take more steps against the Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Saudi actress paves way for women artists

People are shocked that a Saudi father would allow his 18-year-old daughter to pursue her dream of moving to New York City to become a lowly actress and dancer.
Four years later Dina Shihabi has proved her naysayers wrong. The former Dubai resident has secured a place at one of the world's most prestigious performing arts schools, The Juilliard School, and New York University's graduate acting programme.
Dina was born in Riyadh, grew up in Dubai and moved to New York City in 2007. She will now pursue acting on a full-time basis and wants to encourage Arab girls with similar professional aspirations in the Middle East to seize available opportunities.
Dina's decision to pursue a career in the performing arts and move to New York was not well received initially.
A group performs in a theatre production. Dina wants to encourage Arab girls with similar professional aspirations in the Middle East to seize available opportunities.

"My father is an Arab and he is very cultured, intellectual and successful in what he does — he took a bit more time accepting me as an artist and I think it was my unwavering commitment to what I loved, and my mothers unrelenting support for me, that won him over," she says.
Knowing that she had found her life's passion won him over and it convinced him to accept her career choice. "I am aware that it isn't easy for an Arab father to have an artist daughter, but he makes sure I know that he is very proud of me."
She still struggles with people's ignorance and perceptions about her career. "So many people — friends, parents' friends, teachers — have not taken me seriously and some saw me lacking intelligence because I was a dancer and an actress. I think this view is so close minded."
Dina says the arts bring people and communities together and that women who choose this line of work should be respected in the Middle East.
"People have been shocked that my dad lets me do what I do as if I am doing something wrong. I don't get it!"
She adds that she has met a vibrant community of New York-based Middle East actors who inspire her and more Arabs are going into the arts. Growing up in Dubai, Dina attended Al Mawakeb School, Emirates International School and Dubai American Academy. She started dancing at the age of 13 when she took lessons from the UAE's "dancing queen" Sharmila Kamte who teaches dance classes at the Chaloub Studio in the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac). Kamte is known for having exacting standards and being a bit of a slave driver, which is why it's no surprise Dina describes herself as a terrible dancer when she started ballet, street jazz, jazz and hip hop classes. "Sharmila changed my life. I would not be doing what I love without her and my parents trusted her as a role model for me."
Dina also participated in school plays and auditioned for whatever was going on at the time.
It was at the Dubai American Academy that her drama teacher Mrs Mock who encouraged her to take up acting in addition to dancing, which she was already winning awards for. "Never underestimate a good teacher, and their words of encouragement."
The young performer says she always knew she wanted to live in New York City and applied to several musical theatre programmes and faced rejection at every turn until she was accepted at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for a two-year programme while dancing in her spare time.
"I still get rejected every day but I also get awesome acceptances and that makes it all worth it."
Some of these opportunities include working with well-known choreographers and performances on Saturday Night Live — with stars Justin Timberlake, Andy Samberg, and Emma Stone — and The Daily Show with John Stewart.
She has performed extensively in theatre productions such as a documentary theatre production Neither Heaven Nor Earth, a piece based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
She has had some exposure to film and her most recent part was in a Joel Fendelman film, David, which tells the story of Daud, an 11-year-old Muslim boy growing up in Brooklyn, New York. Dina plays Daud's sister, Aisha, who is coming to terms with her identity as a modern Muslim.
Making an ambitious move to fulfil her dreams
Dina was born in Riyadh and grew up in Dubai. At the age of 13 she took lessons from the UAE's "dancing queen" Sharmila Kamte who teaches dance at the Chaloub Studio in the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac).
In 2007, Dina moved to New York to work as a lowly actress and dancer when she was 18. She became a student of The Juilliard School of performing arts at the age of 22. In 2010, she pursued acting a full-time.
Dina is the first woman from the Arab world to be accepted into both Juilliard's Drama Division and New York University's Graduate Acting Programme.
Dina has performed on Saturday Night Live with stars Justin Timberlake, Andy Samberg, and Emma Stone and has also worked extensively in New York City with Oscar nominee directors such as Josh Fox.

Rahat Fateh Ali rocks Lahore!

What a night Wednesday’s was! Such a memory of the singing maestro Rahat Fateh Ali Khan cannot be erased. Lahoris were blessed indeed to be even an inch’s space away from Ustaad Rahat. J&S arranged Rahat Fateh Ali’s ‘Ishq Ka Safar’ was indeed an event to be attended. Attended by the Pakistani fashion and music industry’s who’s who, J&S managed to organise a success event presenting Rahat Fateh Ali’s greatest hits.

The event commenced with Ustaad Rahat singing ‘Aas Paas Hai Khuda’, and was applauded immensely by everyone present. Not to mention, Rahat’s son joined in with the legend’s crooning, with the crowd wowed and spellbound by the performance.

A source of pride for Pakistan, Rahat Fateh Ali has accomplished what the regulars dream of. It is just what Natasha ‘Natty’ Hussain said in her closing speech, “No Indian Bollywood music album is complete without Rahat’s songs, and no Indian or Pakistani enjoy a music album without Rahat’s songs being a part of it.”

Ending the show with Nusrat Fateh Ali’s ‘Mast Qalander Mast’ the event was a sure shot success story.

Kabul: the best of times, the worst of times
The economy of Afghanistan, and its capital in particular, faces collapse when foreign forces and money leave. Words by Ben Doherty and photographs by Kate Geraghty, in Kabul.
It's a metaphor for this city, and its two-speed, ephemeral economy.
Looming over the dusty, noisy alley of metalworkers' lane in Kabul is a gleaming skyscraper.
Daily, the building's shadow sweeps over the metalworkers' wooden workshops. And then it is gone.
'We work 100 metres from these buildings,'' metalworker Kazem says, pointing, ''and less than a kilometre from the Presidential Palace but we have no electricity.''
He reaches into one side of the open waistcoat he wears over his shalwar kamiz, taking an imaginary wad of cash from the pocket and transferring it to the other side of the same garment.
''There is money in Kabul but they don't use [it] to help people. They make just like this. Take the money from one pocket to the other.''
Afghanistan's capital has boomed with the influx of overseas money during the war years of the past decade but many Afghans say they have seen little of the benefit, and they worry about what will happen to the economy, and their security, when the foreign forces, and their foreign money, leave.
There is no domestic economy in Afghanistan.
The World Bank has found that 97 per cent of the country's gross domestic product is linked to spending by the international military and donor communities.
And a report from the US Senate foreign relations committee last month warned: ''Afghanistan could suffer a severe economic depression when foreign troops leave in 2014 unless the proper planning begins now.''
The US spends about $US320 million ($290 million) a month in non-military aid in the country, and has poured in about $US18.8 billion over the past decade.
Today, there are two Kabuls. One flourishes on the back of Western attention and money. The other languishes, mired in a war-torn country benighted by corruption and violence.
The city has grown from about 1.5 million to more than 5 million in the past decade, as Afghans, seeking work and simple safety, flood the capital.
Gleaming new malls and apartment complexes have sprung up in the city centre for the rich, countered by swelling, crowded shantytowns at its outskirts for the poor.
Property prices now rival those of Western capitals. In 2009, house prices in parts of the city rose an astronomical 75 per cent. Rents went with them, forcing thousands further out.
Wages, too, have skyrocketed. But only for the few. Afghans who win contracts with embassies, international NGOs or foreign contractors, can earn $US1500 a month.
Public sector worker wages remain between $US50 and $US250 a month.
Kazem, 31, with three young children, earns far less again. He says ''ordinary Afghans'' have seen little benefit.
''In the early days, we used to get some contracts from NGOs for construction but now we don't see any of that money at all.''
The most lasting change he's seen is a near-trebling of the rent for the workshop he shares, from 3000 afghanis ($58) a month, to more than 8000.
Kazem says foreign money won't help Afghanistan in the long term, only a peaceful country will.
''We don't need aid, we don't need food, we need security. When security is good, business is good. We can make a strong country; we want to work to provide for our families.''
The co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, Thomas Ruttig, sees security and economy as intrinsically linked. One cannot be developed without the other.
The collapse of one imperils the other. The money that has flooded Afghanistan in the past decade has created an economic bubble, as well as a false sense of security, in the capital.
''I quote here an Afghan friend of mine, 'the day the West stops paying for the Afghan Army and the Afghan police, the next day there is no Afghan Army or Afghan police any more','' Mr Ruttig said.
''That's a very tough thing to say, very dramatic and probably a little bit exaggerated, but I think only a little bit exaggerated. There is a dependency on Western money.'' Without the international dollars flowing in, Afghanistan's economy will founder, Mr Ruttig said.
The country has almost no industry. Manufacturing barely exists and efforts to create a mining sector from the land's mineral wealth have so far amounted to little. The government is weak.
The Finance Ministry has admitted it is unable to collect taxes outside Kabul because it is unsafe and because its bureaucracy has essentially collapsed.
''The biggest part of the economy that is left is drugs … somewhere around 11 per cent of the Afghan population is involved in the drug economy,'' Mr Ruttig says.
Despite a fall in production, Afghanistan still accounts for 77 per cent of the world's opium, and the narco-palaces which dot the country are testament to the drug trade's continuing profitability.
Now, with an end date set for Western troops to pull out of the country, Afghans are looking beyond 2014.
''Most of the governments say, some say it on the record, most say it off the record, 'when the soldiers leave, the money will also leave','' Mr Ruttig says. ''So, you now have this stealing-and-putting-it-in-Dubai-accounts spree.
''A lot of money is now going out of the country because people need insurance for post-2014 and that includes the government.
''The Kabul Bank case [where it's alleged up to $US900 million in fraudulent loans were made to bank insiders] is a classic self-service instance … people put their money into the bank and they just steal it from them.''
In central Kabul, 23-year-old Parwiz Chakari manages his family's chic fashion house, Tolo Shopping.
Western styles are particularly popular with the capital's young and newly rich here; the ubiquitous Che Guevara is a T-shirt favourite.
Parwiz says that while the influx of money into Kabul means there are more people with money in their pockets, they are still only a small fraction of the population, and many of them are not spending it in the country. Business has been bruised, too, by a bombing six months ago a couple of hundred metres up the road.
''After an attack in the city, there is a few months bad for business. But it will come back to normal, as long as there are no more bombs. When the people feel safe, business comes back.''
The impending pull-out of US troops, and everything that comes with them, is a concern in Kabul's busiest business district. ''People worry. If the Americans do leave in 2014, the security might go bad, civil wars might start again.
''That is a fear people have, and that would affect the economy. But I am not sure the Americans will definitely leave,'' Parwiz says. Afghanistan has never been allowed to develop a peacetime economy, he said.
For all of his life his country has been occupied, or at war with itself. The conversation is interrupted by a woman in a burqa, who comes into the shop, hand out, begging for money.
''This is the real economy in Afghanistan,'' Parwiz says, shaking his head, ''people are still just trying to survive.''

Nawaz Sharif:The N in PML(N)

Everyone knows how the party election cookie crumbles in Pakistan. That

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif won his party’s top slot in the elections the other day sprung no surprises. Even though there isn’t much party democracy in any of Pakistan’s mainstream political parties, it is the PML(N) that wears its lack of it on its sleeve. Consider: the Bhutto family is firmly in control of the PPP but for purposes of appearances, its co-chairman could argue that even an ordinary activist could challenge him and take his place; and there were, recently, some small voices of dissent. In contrast, imagine how silly, how surreal, would an anti-Nawaz faction look vying for control of the PML-Nawaz. Considering changing the name?

Having said that, it has to be admitted this shortcoming within the parties is vastly overplayed by the anti-politician narrative. The line – slapstick, really - that every military dictator uses after coming into power: since there aren’t any elections within the parties, there won’t be any elections in the country either!

No one holds a gun to the head of leaders within the political parties to stick with their party leadership. Within democracies, nascent ones specially, the more important aspect is who the end voters themselves approve of.

The concept of political dynasty has been turned into some sort of evil that cannot be negotiated with. In reality, it is these very dynasties that serve as points of focus and have enough of magnetism that keeps activists and voters enthralled during the dark days of military rule. It would not be unreasonable to posit that without the dynasties, the embers of democracy wouldn’t have been hot enough to revive every time this tinpot or that leaves. Given enough time, the pressures of an uninterrupted democratic process would force the current party leaders to cede way to activists.

On the “new” PML(N) leadership: they have their work cut out for them. With the PPP having cut a deal with the Q and the Chaudhrys having more realpolitik constituency-to-constituency skills than most of the N League put together, there is much to be done before the next elections.

As Makhdoom Javed Hashmi’s explained in his meandering drawl after being elected to the executive council, it’d take more than mere “principled politics” to match Asif Zardari’s skills.

US House passes Republican debt plan

The US House of Representatives has approved a Republican plan to cut the budget deficit, setting up a Senate vote within hours to set aside the bill and begin crafting a compromise acceptable to Democrats.

Republicans pushed their deficit-cutting plan through by a vote of 218-to-210 after the leadership reworked the bill to win over anti-tax conservatives in their ranks.

The revised Republican plan passed on Friday includes tougher requirements on Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification, a long-time core demand of conservative Republicans who say it is the only way to control spending.

The two-step plan would cut spending initially by about by about $900 billion and lift the debt ceiling only enough to last a few months.

The Republican legislation, sharply criticised by President Barack Obama, faces certain death in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where all Democrats have vowed to vote against it later on Friday.

Working on compromise formula

Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid has said a short-term solution is unacceptable and is pushing his own bill that would cut $2.2 trillion in spending over 10 years.

Reid's plan is expected to be amended to make it more palatable to moderate Republicans in the House, and with Democratic votes offset the inevitable loss of support from anti-tax Tea Party-aligned Republicans.

But the passage of the bill breaks weeks of political inertia and opens the door to talks on a compromise that could pass Congress before Tuesday, after which the government says it will be unable to pay all of its bills without a deal.

If a compromise is worked out, a final vote in the Senate could take place as early as Monday or by midday on Tuesday, a Senate Democratic aide told Reuters.

The delays make it impossible for Congress to strike a deal and send it Obama's desk until the 11th hour, injecting a dangerous level of uncertainty into already rattled financial markets. A late deal also raises the prospect that the United States will lose its top-notch AAA credit rating.

Administration officials say Congress must find a compromise to raise the debt ceiling by Tuesday or the government will run out of cash to pay its bills. That could prompt an unprecedented federal default, which could rattle the economy.

Is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan going to disintegrate?

By:Shahid Ilyas
Daily Times

The republic is currently represented by a few Punjabi generals, religious fundamentalists, feudal lords and Syeds. This clique has to decide between two options. Either the Islamic Republic is allowed to disintegrate, or it has to fashion itself according to its ground realities

The disintegration of Pakistan is taken for granted everywhere, both in Pakistan and abroad. Much has been written about how it will look like in 2015. People like Salmaan Taseer being eliminated one by one, a central government controlling the Punjabi heartland and Karachi only while the rest ruled by thugs and terrorists. Today the state has lost control of large areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. In southern Punjab and rural Sindh it is either the dacoits or the Islamist fundamentalists — in alliance with feudal-cum-politicians — who control public opinion. So the prospect in 2015 is not difficult to fathom.

What is it that ails the Islamic Republic?

To begin with, the foundation of the state — which is fundamentally a secular and nationalist entity emanating from western political philosophy — was based on religion. Strangely, Iqbal and Jinnah — well-aware of the western political thought — uttered it on numerous occasions that Islam was what necessitated Pakistan. And Maududi — the prophet of pan-Islamism fundamentalism — and others took it from there. The generals — unfortunately for the people inhabiting the areas that constitute Pakistan — bought into this ideology and have since propagated the same with earnest. They put forward Islam as raison d’être for the creation and perpetuation of Pakistan.

This is precisely the reason that Pakistan could not emerge as a successful state. Starting from Jinnah, all the successive governments said no to diversity. They talked against ‘provincialism’ and stressed unity on the basis of their faith. They imposed on them Urdu as the ‘national language’. A language spoken by a handful of immigrants from India could not be accepted as such by great leaders of the various nationalities inhabiting Pakistan including the Sindhis, Baloch and Pashtuns. They simply could not digest the idea of abandoning their own national languages for a foreign language. Upon that the political and economic exploitation of the smaller nationalities by a clique of generals, mainly composed of Punjabis and immigrants from India, further convinced the different nationalities of the dysfunctional character of the Islamic Republic. This resulted in the declaration of independence by the Bengalis and the emergence of the sovereign state of Bangladesh in 1971.

Since then the Islamic Republic is surviving on borrowed time. The generals consume most of the country’s resources on fighting wars against the Baloch and Pashtuns, apart from keeping alive their mythical threat from India. It tried — largely in vain — to divest the Pashtuns of their secularism and nationalism by introducing Islamist fundamentalism into them. They were successful to some extent, but it soon started to hit the Islamic Republic itself more strongly than anyone else. Moreover, when free elections were held, the Pashtuns — even after the military’s brainwashing efforts — overwhelmingly voted for the secular and nationalist parties of the great Badshah Khan, the Awami National Party (ANP). Secularism is the part and parcel of Pashtun, Baloch and Sindhi nationalism.

Without going into proving what has already been proved many times over, the Islamic Republic can survive as a state only if it collects enough courage to accept the ground realities. The republic is currently represented by a few Punjabi generals, religious fundamentalists, feudal lords and Syeds. This clique has to decide between two options. Either the Islamic Republic is allowed to disintegrate, or it has to fashion itself according to its ground realities.

If the clique goes for seeing the writing on the wall, the languages of all the nationalities will be declared as national languages. It will release its hold on all subjects except foreign affairs, currency and defence — subjects that will be looked after by a committee of equal number of members from the four nationalities. The appointment of governors and federal bureaucrats to the provinces will be stopped forthwith. The smaller nationalities will be allocated more seats in the National Assembly than their numerical strength requires. Senate will be made powerful and will be brought on an equal footing with the National Assembly. All nationalities will be given an equal chance of holding the highest federal posts (not Ghulam Ishaques), including the prime minister, president, chiefs of the armed forces and subordinate officers, judges of the central courts, heads and employees of federal bodies, heads and employees of semi-autonomous and autonomous bodies, heads and employees of foreign missions and so on and so forth.

Or it can continue on the present course, in which case it continues losing its authority and ultimately ends up defending itself in their castles in the cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Karachi. But for how long can they afford to stay in these dreamlands? Where will the money come from? Who and for how long will recognise it as a viable state? Ultimately, it will complete its journey to a complete chaos and eventual disintegration.

The mullahs, military, Syed and bureaucrats have to make a choice. Ironically, they stand as losers in each choice!

Balochistan: the horror continues


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has recently released a 132-page report on Balochistan titled, ‘We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years’: Enforced Disappearances by Pakistan Security Forces in Balochistan’. “Pakistan’s security forces are engaging in an abusive free-for-all in Balochistan as Baloch nationalists and suspected militants ‘disappear,’ and in many cases are executed,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. The issue of the ‘disappeared’ Baloch, more commonly known as ‘missing persons’, is not something unknown. The Supreme Court took up the issue of missing persons but unfortunately the apex court did not pursue it in the manner that was demanded. For the past few years, the number of missing persons has increased alarmingly. Tortured, bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch nationalists are often found dumped randomly in Balochistan. According to HRW’s report, “The inability of law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system to tackle the problem of disappearances is exacerbated by the continuing failure of Pakistani authorities at the national and provincial level to exert the political will to address the issue of disappearances in Balochistan. The authorities have failed so far to send a strong message to the security forces and intelligence agencies and to implement a set of concrete measures that would put an end to the practice of enforced disappearances.” This is exactly what the Baloch have been saying for years now. No one is willing to take action against the army and its intelligence agencies for the abuses being carried out in the name of ‘national interest’. It is appalling to see the government, the military, the ISI and the Frontier Corps (FC) denying such allegations when independent sources, both internal and external, are pointing towards grave human rights abuses in Balochistan. Their denials are sounding more and more hollow in the face of piling evidence.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP’s) report, ‘Balochistan: blinkered slide into chaos’, was released last month. According to the HRCP, “In the cases of enforced disappearance brought before it, the mission found that there were credible allegations of the involvement of state security forces.” Both the HRCP and HRW are well-respected and reliable sources. The situation in Balochistan is getting worse with each passing day. If the state of Pakistan does not end the ongoing military operation in Balochistan, it will become an international issue and Pakistani authorities can be hauled over international courts. Under the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (RtoP or R2P), endorsed by the UN General Assembly, the international community can “take timely and decisive action to prevent and halt mass atrocities when a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations”. The Baloch can go to the UN if the genocide is not stopped in Balochistan. Not only are Baloch nationalists abducted and killed by our security forces, sectarian outfits unleashed by our intelligence agencies are involved in killing Shia Muslims in the province. Just yesterday, unidentified gunmen killed seven Shia Muslims in Quetta; they were pilgrims going to Iran to visit sacred places.

The military and the government must take stock of the situation in Balochistan and stop harassment of dissident Baloch voices. Extrajudicial killings have become a norm. The state of Pakistan has been warned countless times that it cannot stop the disintegration of our country if some big power gets interested in resource-rich Balochistan because of its geo-strategic position. The government keeps pointing fingers at India for funding Baloch insurgents without an iota of proof. It is not India that is pushing the Baloch towards separation; Pakistan itself is responsible for alienating the Baloch to an extent that they are now asking for azaadi (freedom).

Groups quit Egypt rally saying hijacked by Islamists

More than 30 political parties and movements withdrew from a rally on Friday that was organized to send a united message to the ruling army about reform, saying the event was hijacked by Islamist groups.
"Islamic law above the constitution," read banners in Cairo's Tahrir Square that was packed with tens of thousands of people. Protesters who fear Islamists will seek to dominate plans to rewrite the constitution demanded they be taken down.
"Islamic, Islamic, we don't want secular," they chanted in the square filled with many followers of the strict Salafist interpretation of Islam.
"There are so many (Islamic) beards. We certainly feel imposed upon," said student Samy Ali, 23. He said Salafists had tried to separate women and men camping there.
Islamists and more liberal groups have diverged on how hard to press the ruling generals for change. They have also been divided over the fate of the constitution, which is to be re-written after parliament is elected later this year.
Liberal groups fear the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best organized group, and other Islamists will dominate the vote.
A joint statement by more than 30 groups said Islamists and other groups had agreed on demands to make on Friday "to thwart attempts by the military council to divide the revolutionaries and distort their image." But the groups said "some Islamic currents" violated this agreement.
Abdelrahman al Barr, a senior Brotherhood member, said of the decision by other groups to quit Friday's rally: "Salafist slogans shouldn't be a cause for other political forces to withdraw. Everyone is free to say what they feel like."
But the Brotherhood is home to a broad range of views and some agreed Salafist actions were divisive. "There are certainly some Brotherhood members who are upset over the way Salafist groups have taken over the square," Brotherhood youth member Amr Salah said in Tahrir.
Friday's protests in Cairo and other cities had been called to deliver a unified message to the ruling army council, which took over when Hosni Mubarak was ousted on February 11. Many protesters now say it is not delivering on promises to change.
"We agreed on uniting our call for swift elections, resignation of the public prosecutor and the demands of the families of martyrs," said Mohamed Adel, spokesman of the April 6 movement, one of those which withdrew.
Those killed in the uprising to oust Mubarak are referred to as "martyrs."
Several groups, including the liberal Wafd party, also said they were withdrawing from a rally in Suez, east of Cairo, because Salafists were using it for their own ends.
In the Sinai Peninsula, where many people own weapons, about 150 people rallied in the town of Al-Arish. Some had banners with Islamic slogans. They fired shots in the air. Security sources said one youth and a policeman were wounded.
Alongside the Islamic slogans, there were other chants in Tahrir on Friday, such as "People and army, hand in hand."
Some protesters have accused the Brotherhood, which was banned under Mubarak but now enjoys unprecedented freedom, of making a pact with the army. The group denies this although differences over how hard to push the army remain.
Echoing the view held by many Islamists, preacher Mazhar Shaheen said in a sermon in Tahrir: "Our army will remain a red line, because it protected the great revolution ... No one can divide us and the army."
He said the army should provide a timetable for handing power to civilians. The generals say they are moving as fast as possible to do this and deny dragging their feet.
While the army is expected to hand day-to-day government to civilians after elections, some protesters expect it to keep a hand on power, partly because of its vast business interests. The army has also provided Egypt's rulers for six decades.
However, the Brotherhood has sought to heal some divisions with other groups. It made a statement of support for the April 6 movement, which in a rare move by the army, was singled out for trying to divide the people and the military. April 6 has been at the forefront of criticism of the military.
"The Brotherhood rejects discrediting and distorting any revolutionary force that chooses to rally peacefully," Mohamed Beltagy, a member of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said.
One of the persistent protester demands has been for a swifter trial for Mubarak, now set for August 3. Protesters say the army wants to drag it out to protect its former commander-in-chief and the army from public humiliation.
Mubarak has been in hospital in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh since April. He has not been transferred to a prison, as his two sons and other officials have, due to illness.
An official in the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh said on Friday Mubarak's condition was "almost stable" but he continued to suffer from severe depression, the official news agency MENA reported. Earlier this week, hospital officials told MENA the former president was weak and refusing to eat solid food.
A source close to Mubarak said on Thursday his lawyer would tell the court in Cairo he was too sick to attend. His two sons, the former interior minister and other officials being tried alongside him are expected to be present.

Explosion, firing in football stadium in SW Pakistan, casualties feared

An explosion and firing incident Friday evening outside a football stadium in southwestern Pakistani district killed and wounded several, said police.
The explosion took place as the inter-city final football match was being played inside a football stadium in Mastung district of the province and the chief guest was leaving after inauguration.
Local media reported that a bomb exploded as Sheraz Raisani, the younger brother of Chief Minister of Baluchistan, was getting in his car. It was not yet known whether he was hurt or not.
Firing erupted after the explosion, which was still continuing. Several people were feared killed and wounded but exact figures were not yet known.
Police and paramilitary force has cordoned off the site and rescue operation was underway.

Bahrain opposition slams dialogue report

Bahrain's main Shiite opposition formation slammed the national dialogue's recommendations submitted to King Hamad on Thursday, saying they do not represent its demands or the will of the people.
The conclusions of the dialogue carried "none of our demands" and "the dialogue does not represent the will of the people," the Islamic National Accord Association (Al-Wefaq) said in a statement posted on its page on social networking website Facebook.
Al-Wefaq reiterated its demands for an "elected government," an "elected parliament which has full legislative powers," and a "fair and independent judicial system" in the Shiite-majority Gulf nation.
The national dialogue, which began early this month, was aimed at discussing reforms in the Sunni-ruled kingdom which was rocked by Shiite-led protests from mid-February to mid-March.
But the dialogue "might contribute in complicating the political crisis," Al-Wefaq said.
King Hamad on Thursday said the report on the dialogue "reflects the determination (of the participants) to rise above the latest incidents," referring to the month of deadly pro-democracy protests crushed by the authorities.
The king expressed his "support" for the recommendations that, he said, notably included "reinforcing the independence of the judicial branch and the consolidation of human rights" in Bahrain.
Al-Wefaq had decided only at the last minute to join the dialogue, encouraged by the international community including the United States whose Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain.
But the group, which won 18 out of 40 seats in the lower house of parliament in the last elections, had only five representatives out of some 300 delegates invited to the talks.
On July 17 the Shiite grouping announced it was pulling out of the dialogue, saying it was not aimed at achieving serious results.
Khalil al-Marzooq, who led the bloc's delegation to the talks, said in a statement "we are still demanding a serious dialogue between the people and a representative of the king, which would lead to clear constitutional provisions."
Authorities say 24 people were killed in the unrest that rocked the tiny kingdom.

JORDAN: Pro-democracy demonstrators show little sign of letup

After six months of Egypt- and Tunisia-inspired protests, Jordanian pro-democracy demonstrators calling for reforms and a wider public say in politics remain persistent and show little sign of ceding their demands.

Though demonstrations in Jordan have failed to generate the large numbers seen in other Arab countries such as Egypt and Yemen, hundreds and perhaps thousands continue to take to the streets of the Jordanian capital, Amman, in weekly anti-government rallies after Friday prayers to demand reforms.

"It is a consistent peaceful protest that is very stubborn," 29-year old Khaled Kamhawi, a member of the activist group March 24 Youth Movement, told Babylon and Beyond. "There is no compromise. Jordan is a small country suffering from big problems -- all due to political, administrative and financial fraud. The status quo is unsustainable."

Jordan is a monarchy ruled by the Hashemite King Abdullah II, who technically wields absolute control over political life. Though civil liberties are not nearly as curtailed as in Tunisia before the uprising or Syria under Bashar Assad, activists complain of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and prison abuse, as well as widespread corruption practiced by elites close to the king.

The opposition is a diverse pool that includes youth activists, leftists, Islamists and political independents.

Protests have been largely peaceful, but things turned ugly on July 15 when groups of club- and baton-swinging riot police and pro-government enforcers violently dispersed pro-democracy demonstrators when they tried to set up a protest camp in an Amman square, reportedly clubbing demonstrators as the crowds chanted "the people want to reform the regime."

The clampdown, in which scores of people were injured, came only a few days after Jordan's prime minister sternly warned against the pitching of a sit-in protest camp in Jordan mirroring those in Egypt and Yemen.

The incident appears to have backfired and upped tensions in the Hashemite kingdom, with scores of angry demonstrators arriving at a protest Friday with signs reading "No to government thugs" and calling for the prime minister's ouster and denouncing government corruption.

Mohammed Masri, a political analyst at Jordan University's Center for Strategic Studies, told Babylon & Beyond that the crackdown will only ratchet up popular pressure on the government and make demonstrations gain more sway in Jordanian society.

"What happened on that Friday is what is creating the crisis for the government," he said. "Every time they attack demonstrations with thugs or the police there will be a larger segment of Jordanians that are sympathetic with the protesters. What is creating the tension in Jordan and what is creating the crisis is the management of the crisis itself."

King Abdullah pledged to move forward with political and economic reform programs in January after weeks of large protests, but many complain that meaningful change in the kingdom appears to be coming too slowly at a time when the region is going through extraordinary changes.

"Things must move fast. What happened in Tunisia and Egypt ... are all indicators that a historical moment has come. We have to bring history with us, we have to catch up with the rest of the world," said Kamhawi, adding that his vision is for Jordan to become a democracy through a series of constitutional reforms.Earlier this month, King Abdullah endorsed a cabinet reshuffle in which the country's Interior Minister Saad Hayel Srour, whom protesters accused of ordering the police to crack down violently on protests, was replaced by a more moderate politician. But the move doesn't appear to have mollified the opposition.

"They didn't have confidence in the previous [government], now the new one is at the same point. They feel there is an unbalance between state institutions and that the government should be accountable to the parliament. Their demands are still very similar," said Masri.

On Friday, activists plan to hold a march to Amman's City Hall and protests are also expected in surrounding areas and provinces -- indicators, according to Kamhawi, that the pro-democracy movement is gaining ground.

"I believe the momentum is rising and that more people are getting involved -- not only in numbers but also in different geographic locations," said Kamhawi. "Many barriers have been broken in the past three months. The people have become one voice."

Islamist student group said to terrorize Pakistan campuses

In Pakistan's Punjab province, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, the student wing of a powerful hard-line religious party, seeks to enforce its fundamentalist agenda, intimidating and sometimes attacking students and teachers alike.

After philosophy students and faculty members rallied to denounce heavy-handed efforts to separate male and female students, Islamists on campus struck back: In the dead of night, witnesses say, the radicals showed up at a men's dormitory armed with wooden sticks and bicycle chains.

They burst into dorm rooms, attacking philosophy students. One was pistol-whipped and hit on the head with a brick. Gunfire rang out, although no one was injured. Police were called, but nearly a month after the attack, no arrests have been made.

Few on Punjab University's leafy campus, including top administrators, dare to challenge the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, or the IJT, the student wing of one of Pakistan's most powerful hard-line Islamist parties.

At another Lahore campus, the principal disdainfully refers to the Islamists as "a parallel administration."

The organization's clout illustrates the deep roots of Islamist extremism in Pakistani society, an influence that extends beyond radical religious schools and militant strongholds in the volatile tribal belt along the Afghan border.

University administrators fear that the IJT's influence on many campuses will lead to an increase in extremism among the middle class, from which the next generation of Pakistan's leaders will rise.

"These people have connections with jihadi groups, and they are taking hostage our campuses," said Sajid Ali, chairman of Punjab University's philosophy department. "This is a real danger for the future of our country."

Fellow students and teachers regard them as Islamist vigilantes. In addition to trying to separate the sexes, they order shopkeepers not to sell Coca-Cola or Pepsi because they are American brands. When they overhear a cluster of fellow students debating topics, from capitalism to religion, they demand that the discussion stop and threaten violence if it continues.

The recent trouble here at Punjab University started when a posse of IJT members slapped a male philosophy student for talking with a female classmate. Students and faculty members organized a protest rally, which led to the dorm attack on June 26. Shahrukh Rashid, 22, who was among those attacked, said the police have been of little help.

"One of the police inspectors told us, 'Whatever is done is done,' " he said.

University officials say that government leaders in Punjab, the country's wealthiest and most populous province, have allowed the IJT to flourish rather than jeopardize their political alliances with hard-line clerics at the helm of religious parties. Even when students, teachers or university administrators seek criminal charges against IJT members, the police rarely respond.

"If the government wanted to solve the problem here, they could do it overnight," said Asif Mahmood Qureshi, principal of the Government Islamia College, a state university in Lahore, the provincial capital.

IJT members don't allow him access to their dormitory, and physically force students and teachers to join their protests. With support from a bloc of teachers sympathetic to the IJT's cause, they have managed to control the school's teachers union, Qureshi said.

"They don't want the principal to do anything without their consent," said Qureshi, the administrator who referred to the organization as running a parallel administration.

At Punjab University, IJT sympathizers include some teachers and even some of the security guards, teachers and students say.

Ali, the chairman of the philosophy department, said students and teachers in most of the university's academic departments do not resist. The IJT won't allow music classes on campus, Ali said, so the music department's teachers meet their students at a concert hall off campus.

Standing up to the IJT can trigger severe consequences. Last year, an environmental sciences professor, as head of the school's disciplinary committee, expelled several IJT members for unruly behavior. A group of IJT students stormed into his office, beat him with metal rods and smashed a flowerpot over his head. He survived the attack.

When IJT members attacked the philosophy department dorm late last month, the students fought back, chasing the fundamentalists. Within 15 minutes, the IJT youths had fled.

"We've never been cowed by them," Ali said. "So we're on an island at this university."

The IJT's campus leader, Zubair Safdar, acknowledged that some student members went to the philosophy department's dormitory to confront students there, and that fights broke out. The IJT members involved later apologized to the department's students and teachers, Safdar said.

"It was a miscommunication between the IJT students and the philosophy students," he said.

Safdar, however, denied that the IJT relies on violence to get its message across. Seated at his desk in a small office at a dormitory dominated by IJT members, the 27-year-old sociology student said his organization is opposed to male and female students sitting together because "the university is not a date point, it's a place of education."

He also denied that IJT members rough up male students who resist. "We just talk to them," he said. "We are trying to create an environment that puts students on the right path. We don't forcibly push students onto that path."

At Government Islamia College, Qureshi paints a portrait of a school under siege. Last year, IJT members staged 33 protests in six months, often threatening to beat students and teachers if they didn't join the rallies. The demonstrations created major disruptions in the college's routine; many students refused to show up to classes for two or three days after a protest because they feared that the IJT would instigate more violence.

Qureshi says he lacks the means to fight back. The power to suspend or expel students lies with the college's board of governors, which hasn't convened since January because of a pending lawsuit filed by IJT students challenging the board's authority. His attempts to get Punjab provincial education officials to clamp down on IJT behavior have been ignored.

In January, IJT members smashed the windshield and windows of Qureshi's 1990 Nissan and broke down the front door of his office. He met with Punjab province's education secretary and asked him to intervene.

"I explained what happened, but all I got from him was silence," Qureshi said.

The IJT's logo, a blue shield with a star and crescent moon, is plastered all over campus: on walls, lampposts and the school's main gate. On the perimeter walls, IJT graffiti declare that "Martyrdom is our desire, and jihad is our way. Islam revolution is our destination. So join us."

Qureshi can't keep the group's images out of even his own office. Affixed to a file cabinet behind his desk and a nearby bookshelf are IJT stickers. Asked why he doesn't peel them off, Qureshi laughs nervously. "I have control, but not so much."

Obama dismisses House debt plan, urges Senate compromise

President Barack Obama urged Senate Democrats and Republicans to take the lead in the congressional debt ceiling talks Friday morning -- one day after House GOP leaders temporarily pulled their plan back from consideration due to a lack of support.
The House plan "has no chance of becoming law," Obama said at the White House. "The time for putting party first is over. The time for compromise on behalf of the American people is now. ... It's important for everybody to step up and show the leadership that the American people expect."
"This is not a situation where the two parties are miles apart," the president insisted. But "we are almost out of time."
Obama urged Americans to contact their members of Congress "to keep the pressure on Washington."

Reconstruction of Bamyan Bhuddas by Afghanistan and International Community

Taliban regime,an Islamist militia group that ruled large parts of Afghanistan from September 1996 till late 2001. The regime was fanatical about eliminating everything they considered un-Islamic.

Under the Taliban regime, Sharia law was interpreted to forbid a wide variety of previously lawful activities in Afghanistan. One Taliban list of prohibitions included: pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, and equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computers, VCRs, television, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards.[105] They also got rid of employment, education, and sports for all women, dancing, clapping during sports events, kite flying, and characterizations of living things, no matter if they were drawings, paintings, photographs, stuffed animals, or dolls. Men had to have a fist size beard at the bottom of their chin. Conversely, they had to wear their head hair short. Men had to wear a head covering.

Among the Afghanistan’s historical remains, Taliban’s biggest targets, literally and figuratively, were the two monumental Buddha statues carved out of the sandstone cliffs in central Afghanistan. One stood nearly 180 feet tall and the other about 120 feet high, and together they had watched over the dusty Bamiyan Valley since the sixth century, several centuries before Islam reached the region.

The Buddhas of Bamiyan were two 6th century monumental statues of standing buddhas carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamyan valley in the Hazarajat region of central Afghanistan, situated 230 km (143 miles) northwest of Kabul at an altitude of 2,500 meters (8,202 ft). Built in 507 CE, the larger in 554 CE, the statues represented the classic blended style of Gandhara art.

The statues which were the largest Buddha carvings in the world were destroyed by Taliban using massive explosions in 2001, despite international opposition.

After almost a decade, teams from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, along with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, are engaged in the painstaking process of putting the broken Buddhas back together.

According a German art historian, Bert Praxenthaler, up to half of the Buddha pieces can be recovered.

Bert Praxenthaler has been working at the site for the past eight years together with his crew and have shifted through 400 tons of rubble and have recovered many parts of the statues along with shrapnel, land mines and explosives that were used in their demolition.

But the question which has remained unanswer is that how would it be possible to rebuilt the Buddhas from the rubble?

Mr. Praxenthaler said, “The archaeological term is ‘anastylosis,’ but most people think it’s some kind of strange disease.”

“Anastylosis” is a familiar term for those in the archaeology world. The process includes combining the monument’s original pieces with modern material, which was used to restore the Parthenon of Athens in the past.

The workers are still busy removing scaffolding after months spent reinforcing the wall where the Buddha’s head once was.
The reconstruction project of Buddhas and Afghans views

Bamyan Province is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the centre of the country and is an extremely poor and remote land in one of the world’s most underdeveloped countries.

The Buddha statues once used to play an important role in the economy of Bamyan province by attracting major tourists from around the world, but Afghanistan has been at war virtually nonstop for more than three decades. The fighting drove away the tourists years before the Taliban blew up the statues.

It is expected to bring back the tourist and rebuild the historic site with the implementation of reconstruction project of Bamyan Buddhas.

The project is also supported by Habiba Sarabi, the popular provincial governor. Bamiyan is now considered one of the less dangerous places in Afghanistan.

In the meantime, human rights activists like Abdullah Hamadi says, the empty niches where the Buddhas stood are a reminder of the Taliban’s fanaticism, and should be left as they are.

Hamadi said, “the Buddha was destroyed, if you made it, rebuilt it, that is not the history. The history is the broken Buddha.”

Abdullah Hamadi belongs to Yakawlang district of Bamyan province. More than 300 members of a minority group, called the Hazaras were massacred by Taliban in 2001, just two months before the Taliban blew up the Buddha statues.

Bamyan province is considered as one of the safest regions in Afghanistan but Taliban can still strike as they did recently by kidnapping and beheading Jawad Zahak, the head of the Bamiyan provincial council, while he was driving his family toward Kabul, about 150 miles to the southeast.

On the other hand, a number of Bamyan residents say they would rather see the money for the restoration project go toward services like electricity and housing, which are in desperately short supply.
Caves used as shelters by homeless Bamyan residents

In the meanwhile, a number of Bamyan residents use the caves at the site of the Buddha statues as their only shelter they can find.

Homeless villagers like Marzia and her six children are living in one of the caves, while the family’s goats bleat nearby. Marzia, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said she has no use for the statues.

“We don’t have a house, so where else can we live?” she said.

On the other hand, a few enterprising villagers have found ways to make money off the story surrounding the Buddhas. One is Said Merza Husain, known around town as the man who was forced to help the Taliban blow up the statues.

Mr. Said Merza said, had no choice but to obey the Taliban a decade ago. If he had resisted, they would have killed him. One of his friends refused to take part, and the Taliban shot him.

The reconstruction team headed by Bert Praxenthaler have halted their work temporarily during the scorching Afghan summer.

According to Mr. Praxenthaler, piecing together Bamiyan’s Buddhas will take many more years. After a summer break, Praxenthaler’s team plans to resume their work in the fall.

Hepatitis Day: Patients relate tales of woe in North Waziristan Agency

As the World Hepatitis Day was observed on Thursday, there has been no concern at the government level about more than 10,000 patients of hepatitis B and C in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) where only 1,500 patients could so far be registered.

Official sources at the Agency Headquarters Hospital told this correspondent on condition of anonymity that among the large number of patients in the area, only 26 were provided with the required medication. Many others were being kept waiting by the hospital administration as the government did not provide medicines to the healthcare centres in the area.

Several patients of the hepatitis C, including Syed Ayub, Zainullah Khan, Abdullah and Abdul Matin, said that because of the limited resources they could not afford to buy expensive medicines. Syed Ayub said his whole family was hepatitis positive and as there was lack of facilities, the disease was spreading at an alarming speed. He said that blood PCR, SGPT and ultrasound tests were beyond the means of the poor patients as the government-run hospital in Miramshah lacked all these facilities to provide free treatment to them.

When Agency Surgeon Dr Abdur Rauf was contacted, he said the HBC infected people were in large numbers in North Waziristan. However, he said the government was not providing any vaccine or medicines to the local hospital.

Tablighi Jamaat centre breeding ground for extremists

Tablighi missionary centre in Raiwaind is the breeding ground of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan as the centre has a major role in brainwashing the extremists.

Senator Rehman Malik told the audience at the security think-tank International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) while speaking on the topic of “Countering Extremism in South Asia”.

Rehman Malik said that all the terrorists arrested in Pakistan had three elements in common: they have visited the missionary Tablighi centre in Lahore’s Raiwind; their close family members have taken part in Afghan war of the Soviet era and they have been to one of the more than 25,000 madrassahs which have mushroomed in Pakistan following the USA and Pakistan’s joint war against the Communist USSR.

Malik spoke at length about the rise of religious and ethnic extremism in Pakistan and India, nexus of Al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliben and sectarian groups such as Lashkare-e-jehangvi and Lashkar-e-Jehnagvi from the mainland Pakistan and how Al-Qaeda couldn’t operate in Pakistan without the help of Pakistani originated groups.

He said the terrorism inside Pakistan was being financed from outside and named both India and Afghanistan as the sponsors of terrorist mayhem in Pakistan but claimed that relations with Afghanistan had improved a lot in the last few months and that Afghanistan had listened to the concern of Pakistan - and some international friends - and asked Baloch leader Bharmdagh Bugti to leave its soil.

“We have signatures. We know that it’s coming from outside because a mullah cannot use laser guided missiles, internet and other sophisticated weapons. There is a support and this support was identified to us during our probe into Bombay blasts. The entire IT work telephonic emails were used from the outside in Afghanistan,” Malik said in reference to the anti-Pakistan elements, especially the Indian factor, were involved in proxy war inside Pakistan.

He appealed to the world to help Pakistan in this fight and don’t hurt Pakistan by refusing to acknowledge its role in the war on terror and instead express doubts on Pakistan’s commitment.

Rehman Malik said that he will not meet with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain as the leadership had not asked him to hold talks. “I have no such plan as I I am here to attend my son’s bar-at-law ceremony and this is my private visit,” Rehman said, indicating that some kind of tension still exists between the two sides as this would be rare of Mr malik not to have held talks with the UK based leadership of the MQM. He chose to send good

wishes to the MQM leader through the media. “Altaf Hussain is my friend and brother and I convey my best wishes to him through you (media). He has played a great role in the restoration of normalcy in Pakistan and was very helpful in urging his workers to stay peaceful,” said Malik but also added that foreign elements had a hand in Karachi disturbances.

He said that the problem of Karachi needs a political solution and the capacity of the policy should be strengthened to curb violence but also the Sindh provincial government should take the responsibility. He hoped that the committee formed by the government to look into the Karachi matters will make its findings public.

He said the weapons recovered from Karachi didn’t have anything to do with Israel beyond the fact that they were made in Israel but then he claimed that weapons from many countries are being used in Pakistan and nationals of countries such as China and Maldivers, as well as from many Muslim countries, were found to be training Pakistani extremists.

He asserted that Pakistan should not be left alone to deal with this menace as extremism is a problem spreading around the world so a united strategy must be evolved.

In response to a question asked by The News, Malik said that Lahskar-e-Jahangvi leader Malik Ishaq is a terrorist and was given life imprisonment which he has already completed but after being released from the court he “is under observation.

Answering a question about PML-N’s recent convention in Islamabad which saw the PML-N leadership calling names to the president of Pakistan, Malik said it looked like the Muslim League (N) leadership doesn’t have control over its workers. “We should tolerate each and respect the mandate of the Pakistan People’s Party,” Malik said, also reminding the PML-N of the times when they were all in exile in London. Malik alleged that the since separating from the federal government, the PML-N leaders were busy full time creating problems for the PPP government.

Anti-Government Protesters Rally in Yemen

Massive rallies are unfolding across Yemen on Friday as anti-government activists renew calls for change.
Demonstrators are seeking an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule.
Mr. Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia where he is recovering from injuries sustained in a June attack on his presidential compound.
On Thursday, heavy clashes between Yemeni forces and armed tribesmen who attacked a Republican Guard training facility killed dozens of people 40 kilometers north of the capital, Sana'a.
Yemeni officials said the elite unit, backed by government warplanes, shelled and bombed hundreds of tribesmen who had seized part of the al-Samaa military camp.
The Defense Ministry said loyalist troops suffered “heavy losses” and the attackers sought to gain control of Sana'a International Airport. Tribal sources confirmed casualties, saying “dozens were killed and wounded” from both sides.
The government accused the Islamist opposition Al-Islah party militia of involvement in the raid on the training camp.
Separately, at least one soldier was killed and another wounded in the southern city of Taiz near a square where anti-government protesters have been camped for months.

Egyptians stage 'Friday of Unity' rallies

Egyptians have taken to the streets across the North African country to press for their unmet demands in another million-man march on the "Friday of Unity and Popular Demand."

Protesters have flocked to Liberation Square in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, to join others who have set up camps to renew their calls for the trial of officials from the former regime.

The demonstrators are urging the ruling military council to put an end to the trial of civilians in military courts and to hand over power to a civilian rule.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has joined the Friday protests which come after political parties and groups of various views agreed on key demands for the rally.

The protests take place a day after Egypt's Deputy Justice Minister Mohammed Munie announced that the trial of former ruler Hosni Mubarak, his two sons, and seven associates, including former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, will begin in Cairo on August 3.

Earlier, Egypt's Health Minister Amr Helmy had made it clear that Mubarak is well enough to face trial after reports claimed the dictator had refused to eat solid food for several days and that his health was deteriorating.

The trial will take place in a convention center in the Egyptian capital, with hundreds of seats for the audience.

Mubarak is accused of corruption and ordering the killing of hundreds of protesters during the revolution that led to his downfall.

Hina Rabbani Khar unhappy over her depiction as ‘fashion icon’

She might have captured the fancy of Indian media with her precious South Sea pearls, Roberto Cavalli shades and Birkin bag, but Pakistan’s youngest Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar is not pleased by her depiction as a “fashion icon”.

Ms. Khar, Pakistan’s first woman Foreign Minister who returned to Pakistan last evening after a visit to India for talks with her counterpart S.M. Krishna, reacted angrily to questions pertaining to coverage of her fashion style in leading Indian dailies.

“You see paparazzi are every where. Besides, you (referring to media) should not do such acts,” Ms. Khar said, replying to a question at the Lahore airport on her arrival from India.

So irked was she at the question that she refused to take any more questions and left for Islamabad.

During her visit to New Delhi, she was the talk of the town, with the media closely following her fashion accessories.

Such was the focus that even the Wall Street Journal too carried a story on the Indian media’s reporting of Ms. Khar’s fashion style.

“From her blue tunic pants ensemble to her Roberto Cavalli shades, everything grabbed Indian eyeballs, with media coverage of her accessories practically overshadowing the India-Pakistan dialogue...,” the WSJ said.

'Pakistan desires good relations with all regional countries'

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Friday reiterated that Pakistan desires to have good neighbourly relations with all regional countries, including India, in the larger interest of the welfare of the people of South Asia.
Gilani, who met Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar at the Prime Minister Secretariat, said the continuation of dialogue process would help both countries facilitate discussions on all issues of concern.
The foreign minister briefed the prime minister on her visit to India and outcome of the talks.
The prime minister said that it was an encouraging sign that talks between the two countries were helping develop better understanding of each other’s point of view on all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
He was also pleased to learn that the Indian Prime Minister would be visiting Pakistan at his earliest convenience.
Earlier, Khar had briefed the Prime Minister about the outcome of official talks with the Indian delegation.
She also briefed him about her meetings with the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, leader of the opposition and the Kashmiri leaders.
Khar calls on President Zardari
Hina Rabbani Khar also called on President Asif Ali Zardari here at Aiwan-e-Sadr.
The minister briefed the President about her visit to India and her discussions with the Indian leadership.
Expressing satisfaction over the progress made during her visit, President Zardari said, “Pakistan welcomes commitment of the two sides to work together in seeking early and amicable solutions to all issues between the two countries”.