Sunday, July 15, 2012

Obama Campaign Continues Attacks on Romney

President Obama barnstormed through this swing state on Saturday as his campaign relentlessly hammered at Mitt Romney’s business record, releasing a mocking new ad that shows Mr. Romney singing “America the Beautiful” as it accuses his former firm of shipping American jobs overseas. Mr. Obama, speaking first to a drenched crowd during a downpour in the Richmond suburb of Glen Allen, and then at Centreville High School in Fairfax County, accused Mr. Romney of investing in “companies that have been called pioneers in outsourcing.” He ignored Mr. Romney’s demands for an apology about the campaign’s tone, which the Republican candidate had called for in interviews on Friday. “My opponent and his allies in Congress, they believe in top-down economics,” Mr. Obama said. “If you cut through all the stuff, what they are really saying is tax cuts for the wealthy, roll back regulations. That is essentially their plan.” The president’s campaign has spent more than a week harping on Mr. Romney’s personal wealth and calling on him to disclose information about his personal finances by releasing more years of his tax returns. It has also raised questions about Mr. Romney’s offshore investments and accounts. The new ad reminds viewers of those issues as it shows a clip of Mr. Romney singing at a campaign event in Florida this year. It says Mr. Romney shipped jobs to Mexico, China and India — accusations that Mr. Romney’s campaign vehemently denies. And it says Mr. Romney had “millions” in a Swiss bank account and “tax havens” in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. “Mitt Romney’s not the solution,” the ad states. “He’s the problem.” On Saturday, the Republican campaign repeated Mr. Romney’s angry comments about what it said are untrue allegations surrounding Mr. Romney’s personal finances. “As the failures of his presidency become more evident, Barack Obama has resorted to the tactics of a typical politician: dishonest and totally unsubstantiated attacks meant to distract from his own record by smearing the reputation of his opponent,” said Amanda Hennenberg, a Romney campaign spokeswoman. Mr. Romney’s campaign has repeatedly defended the offshore accounts, saying that he paid all the taxes legally required. On Friday, Mr. Romney again refused to release multiple years of his tax returns. He has released a return for 2010, and an estimate for 2011. He characterized the Obama campaign’s allegations as “reckless” and “absurd.” But if Mr. Romney’s campaign hoped that his rival’s campaign would back off its aggressive tone, they were disappointed. Traveling with the president on Air Force One, Mr. Obama’s top aides went out of their way Saturday morning to highlight their continued attacks. In addition to the television ad, Mr. Obama’s campaign released a Web video compilation of attacks that Mr. Romney has made in the past. The point, aides said, is that Mr. Romney is equally responsible for the campaign’s tone. “Mitt Romney, I just want to remind you, is the same candidate who questioned whether the president understood America, questioned whether he understood freedom,” said Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign. “He spends a lot of time attacking.” The video, titled “Asking for Apologies While Launching Attacks,” shows Mr. Romney raising the issue of Mr. Obama’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. and shows him accusing the president of “appeasement” in his foreign policy. “This president spends a lot of time apologizing for America,” the video shows Mr. Romney saying. “He should be apologizing to America.” The video concludes by saying: “Mitt Romney. He sure asks for a lot of apologies. When he’s not busy launching attacks.” . Throughout most of his speech on Saturday, his second day in Virginia, Mr. Obama avoided the down-and-dirty political combat that has consumed much of the campaign coverage. “Even though the crisis put us through some very tough times, the American people are tougher,” Mr. Obama said. “Folks may have gotten knocked down some, but they got back up.” But the second half of Mr. Obama’s stump speech is tougher. He accused Republicans of giving tax breaks to companies that send work overseas. And he quoted Mr. Romney as “saying let Detroit go bankrupt,” the headline on an article he wrote in The New York Times arguing for a managed bankruptcy for the auto industry. He concluded with a fiery defense of his health care bill. “The Supreme Court has spoken. It is the law of the land. We are going to implement it,” he said. “It was the right thing to do. We’re not going backwards, we are going forward.”

Arabs read an average of 6 pages a year, study reveals

There are some readers for whom obtaining a first edition copy of their favorite book or author is of great import and this is evidenced by people standing in long lines to get their hands on new books. While this may be a common site in the West, many believe this is not the case in the Arab world. There is a common perception too about the number of Arabs that frequent libraries. That number mirrors the nature of a reading culture and can be used to evaluate reading habits among its generations. Earlier this year, a debate on how to foster reading habits among Arab youth was prompted after the Arab Thought Foundation’s Fikr released its fourth annual cultural development report in January, saying that the average Arab child reads “six minutes” a year in comparison to 12,000 minutes its Western counterpart spends. It also reported that an Arab individual on average reads a quarter of a page a year compared to the 11 books read by an American and seven books by a British person. “If we adopt the minimum average time that youth is on the Internet, that gives us 365 hours a year, and if we compare that with the average time an individual Arab spends reading, which is six minutes a year, then the difference between the two becomes clear, and the importance of the Internet in youths’ lives becomes apparent,” the report said. Soon after these statistics were released, both skeptical and furious debates took place on social media forums like Twitter, with people highlighting the number of challenges facing their society. Some comments suggested more active usage of e-books to encourage reading habits among the youth at a university level. Others attributed the decline in reading to inappropriate educational environments across the Arab region and families rarely visiting public libraries together. Family trips to libraries are considered rare across the Arab world. Hind Saud, a student tweeted that TV has become the focal gathering point for families. “We never had a chance to read or discuss a book together as a family.” Ghader al-Shehabi, a medical student at Riyadh College of dentistry told Al Arabiya that her reading habits only developed after attending university. “We are required to do in-depth research and I’m enjoying it. We used to rely on one text book at school but the more you read, the better you become. I encourage everyone to bring change to their lives by reading.” Another survey on reading habits in the Middle East in April 2011 made for a depressing read. Only one in five read on a regular basis and among those under 25 ─ nearly 65 per cent of the 3,667 questioned by Yahoo! Maktoob Research ─ about one in three seldom or never read a book for pleasure. The survey’s results shows similar reading habits across countries. In an Arab League table of readers by nations, the United Arab Emirates placed fifth behind Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Iraq. In the UAE, just 22 per cent of people described themselves as regular readers. A general lack of educational opportunities in poor Arab countries can also add to these facts. Research for the Arab League region estimates that about 100 million people ─ almost one in three - struggle to read and write. A 2011 UNESCO report found that in the UAE, one in 10 people is illiterate. Other factors to consider in the decline of reading can be attributed to people shunning the Arabic language in favor of English. Noura Farouq, a teacher based in the UAE, told The National in April that she has seen a decline in appreciation of Arabic in her 20 year career. “Students do not see the importance of learning their mother tongue. Their parents put a lot of emphasis on English as they think it will further their careers, so they tend to develop an indifferent attitude towards Arabic.” Despite the benefits of implementing an English language teaching curricula in elementary schools, it has created a language of culturally deprived children. Most of these children are not linked to the narrative perspective of their mother tongue novels, which have created a parallel gap between them and the book. Bringing children to the habit of choosing their favorite novels, adding to develop reading sessions, or a frequent individual reading classes at schools propose a reading support techniques for young generations.

Saudi jail :2 killed as anti- and pro-govt. prisoners clash

Press TV
Clashes between pro- and anti-government inmates in a prison on the outskirts of Riyadh have killed two people. The confrontations reportedly erupted at the al-Hayer political prison on Saturday. The severity of the ensuring violence reportedly prompted authorities to send in security forces. On Friday, families of political prisoners held a rally to demand the release of the thousands of inmates held in the prison. The rally turned violent when security forces tried to disperse the protesters. At least ten women were arrested. Since February 2011, Saudi protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the Eastern Province, mainly in the Qatif region and the town of Awamiyah, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. The demonstrations turned into protests against the regime of the House of Saud, especially after November 2011 when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in the province. The Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement on March 5, 2011, prohibiting “all forms of demonstrations, marches or protests, and calls for them...” In June, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ordered the country’s security forces to go on a state of high alert due to, what he called, a “turbulent situation” in the region.

Pakistan PM to announce polls roadmap on August 14

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf will announce the roadmap for the next general elections on August 14, a private TV channel reported on Sunday. According to Dawn News sources, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) held a meeting yesterday to discuss the upcoming general elections. The channel’s sources said that the general elections are expected in the first week of November, however, the prime minister will formally announce the road-map on August 14. Seven-member team of the PML-N, which included Chaudhry Nisar, Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, Khawaja Asif, Ishaq Dar and Pervez Rasheed, and five-member team of the PPP, which included Khursheed Shah, Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani, Farhatullah Babar and Jehangir Badar attended the meeting, the channel’s sources said. It was agreed in the meeting that the prime minister, chief ministers, and other federal and state ministers in the caretaker setup will be residents of Pakistan. The caretaker prime minister will neither be from the PPP or the PML-N, nor one who has been a member or leader of any other political party, the sources added. Both the PML-N and the PPP, in consultation with other political parties, will also formulate code of conduct for the general election. The meeting also decided that NAB references will not be filed against any political leader till the next elections. The sources also said that the negotiations between the PML-N and the PPP on the care-taker setup were supported by a few ally countries who wanted politics of reconciliation in the country. Some media outlets reported that names two candidates are being discussed for the post of caretaker prime minister: Abdullah Hussain Haroon, currently Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations and Asma Jahangir, the former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Karachi violence claims 18 lives in 24 hours

As the fresh wave of target killing is continued in the provincial metropolis, at least 18 people including political activists have been killed within 24 hours due to firing and other incidences of violence in Karachi. In the today’s violence incidents, two activists of PPP and PTI were killed in drive-by attacks in the city. First one was shot dead by some unidentified armed men in the New Karachi area, while a body of another activist was found in the Shirin Jinnah Colony. Two others, also belonging to a political party, were injured in Korangi Town. An activist of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was killed at Safora Goth within the limits of Gulistan-e-Jauhar Police Station. Police officials said the deceased identified as Shakeel aka Mamu, was sitting in front his house when two men riding on a motorcycle targeted him. He was taken to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre where he succumbed to his injuries. Meanwhile, personnel of the Pakistan Navy succumbed to his injuries during treatment at JPMC. He was injured near Natha Khan Goth within Shah Faisal Colony police station on Saturday night. He was identified as Kamran Ali. Police officials said that the incident took place when a group of criminals opened fire at the police mobile near Natha Khan Goth in which a police head constable, namely Ghulam Raza was killed while a Navy personnel who was passing from there was injured. One person was shot to death in Malir whereas the body of one woman was recovered from Sohrab Goth. Two men were killed in the Baloch Para area of Orangi Town whereas a gagged and bound body was recovered from Memon Goth. Unknown assailants killed Jaman Shah and his wife in Khokarapar No 4 after forcibly entering their residence. In Orangi Town No 12, Syed Faisal Jamal, a Sindh High Court (SHC) employee, and Jamil Baloch of Baldia town were killed in separate incidents of firing. Two tortured bodies were recovered from ditches in the Aaso Goth area of Malir and al Asif Square in Sohrab Goth. A truck driver, Fatehullah in the Korangi Industrial Area and a man identified as Shiraz Memon were killed on Jamshed Road, both in incidents of firing. Police and rangers arrested one robber in a search operation in the Hazara Chowk area of Natha Khan and a wanted criminal, Dada Baskar, was arrested from the Bakra Peeri area of Lyari.

Nawaz must apologise over deal with dictator

Rehman Malik has said Nawaz Sharif should apologise to the nation for making a deal with Musharraf. Advisor to the PM on Interior Rehman Malik on Sunday said that PML-N President Nawaz Sharif should apologise to the nation for a making a deal with former dictator Pervez Musharraf. Talking to the journalists at Estate Guest House, he strongly criticised the PML-N leadership and its political hypocrisy. He said that Sharif Brothers should record their statements in the case of attack on the Supreme Court of Pakistan. They should abandon the politics of hypocrisy and petitions, and wait for the forthcoming elections. The PPP government would complete its tenure and moreover it would clean-sweep the upcoming elections as well, Malik claimed. Speaking about the law and order situation Malik said that the situation of law and order in Punjab was not satisfactory and government should be vigilant over the deteriorating law and order situation. He said Punjab government should take action against the banned outfits in the province. Malik said that external elements are always behind the deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi. To a question, he said that there was possibility of attacks in the holy month of Ramazan ul Mubarak; therefore, all law enforcing agencies should be vigilant and alert to avoid any untoward situation. “I always condemned and spoke against the drone attacks, therefore, the US Ambassador in Pakistan did not declare me as US supporter as he declared Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif as the US supporters”, he said. “Dual nationality bill was not brought and drafted because of me, those who are saying this, are hatching conspiracy and propagating against me. That is why I resigned from my Senate seat.”

Unrest in eastern Saudi Arabia continues

A gunman was killed during an assault against a police station while four policemen were injured in a separate attack against their patrol in eastern Saudi Arabia, home to the Shiite majority, it was reported Saturday. "Four masked men entered with their motorcycles to the police station in al-Awamiya where one of them threw a Molotov cocktail while the others opened fire on the building," said the spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Mansour al-Turki, who was quoted by the official SPA news agency. "The guards returned fire, killing one assailant while his companions were able to flee," he said. The attack, which occurred in the Shiite city of al-Awamiya, occurred Friday night, less than a week after the death of two Shiite demonstrators in clashes with police in the district of Qatif (east of the kingdom), following the arrest of a Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqer Al-Nimr, known for his harsh criticism of the Sunni authorities. Mr. Turki warned that police would not tolerate "the rioters, especially those who are armed," and would act against those who support them. For their part, 37 Shiite clerics issued a statement in which they attributed the tensions in the east to "the policy of religious discrimination that the government and official religious authorities have implemented for decades." At the same time, they urged the youth to "stay away from violence" and "not respond to those trying to provoke you and drive you to violence to label your movement as a terrorist." They also called on the authorities to "release political activists (...) including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr." In a separate statement released by SPA, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry said that on Friday night "two patrols of the security forces came under fire from gunmen on motorcycles in the city of Saihat ", noting four members of law enforcement were wounded. The eastern of Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich region where the majority of residents include two million Shiites, has been rocked by sporadic unrest since March 2011. The unrest turned violent from the fall of 2011, as nine people have been killed since. The demonstrators were protesting against the military assistance by Saudi Arabia to the ruling Sunni dynasty in Bahrain for the repression of Shiite demonstrations there. Saudi Shiites also feel discriminated and have been demanding equal treatment in employment and social benefits compared to the Sunni majority in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia arrests 10 women protesters in Buraydah

Saudi Arabia’s security forces have arrested at least 10 women protesters in the city of Buraydah amid ongoing anti-government rallies in the country. The women were detained during a protest in a mall in Buraydah, about 380 kilometers (236 miles) northwest of the capital, on Friday.
The detainees were family members of Saudi political prisoner Saleh al-Moteq. The protesters were calling for the release of political prisoners in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia has been the scene of demonstrations against Al Saud family since February 2011. Protesters demand the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the eastern region. The demonstrations, however, have turned into calls for the downfall of the Al Saud regime. The calls were further fueled by the November 2011 killing of peaceful protesters in the Eastern Province. In March 2011, the Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement prohibiting "all forms of demonstrations, marches or protests, and calls for them." The Human Rights Watch says the Saudi regime "routinely represses expression critical of the government."

Sorry brother Pakistan, your wheat’s bad quality

While citing reservations over Pakistani’s wheat quality, Iran has finally rebuffed to import one million tonnes wheat from Pakistan under a barter trade deal, said reliable sources. According to sources familiar with the development told that Iran has conveyed to Pakistani authorities that it can only buy wheat with zero per cent karnal bunt content while Pakistani wheat is of 3 per cent content which is not acceptable for Iran. “Iran has not officially conveyed Pakistani authorities so far about its refusal to import one million tonnes wheat under barter trade arrangements,” said an official working in Ministry of National Food Security and Research. “Ministry of National Food Security and Research has been regularly contacting the Iranian authorities to finalise the modalities for exporting one million tonnes of wheat to Iran,” said an official, adding that Pakistan has not received any response from Iranian side so far to complete the deal which was earlier agreed to be finalized till May 14, 2014. Finalisation of Pakistan and Iran barter trade deal had already been facing delay as Iranian authorities showed disinterest in importing wheat from Pakistan. Earlier the matter could not be resolved in meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet because Pakistan Agriculture Storage Supplies Corporation (PASSCO) wanted to export wheat at the price of $315 per tonne then the ECC had constituted a sub- committee under the chair of then Federal Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar to resolve the issue. In the sub-committee meeting held on May 5, 2012 the committee was of the view that wheat should be exported according to the international price. But later, the committee agreed to export the wheat at the price of $275 per tonne. In the meeting of sub-committee Naveed Qamar had asked PASSCO to finalise the deal on the basis of talks held at Tehran between Pakistani and Iranian authorities in April this year. In the meeting it had been decided in principle that one million tonnes of surplus wheat from PASSCO stocks and rice will be exported to Iran on barter trade arrangement. At that time Iran has expressed its desire to import both the items from Pakistan and in exchange urea will be imported from there. Counsul general offers increasing trade to $ 10b Pak-Iran relations are deeply rooted in the history and heritage, common culture and shared traditions. Geographical proximity linking their security interests, gives added depth and meaning to bilateral ties stated by Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), President, Haji Fazal Kadir Khan Sherani while talking to visiting Iranian Consul General at Federation House Karachi. Iran, Consul General, Mr. Abbas Ali Abdollahi visited FPCCI to share bilateral relations between the two countries. Haji Fazal Kadir Khan Sherani said that Pakistan and Iran have always maintained a close cooperative relationship. Both countries are amongst the founding members of ECO & OIC, he said. “The Iranian Government has pledge $ 330 million through the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) Initiative. Pakistan and Iran have implemented PTA in 2006; however, the current volume of bilateral trade between the two countries is not reflective of the true potentials of the two countries. Current volume of bilateral trade is US $ 265 million approximately during 2011. Pakistan’s exports to Iran during the same period are US $ 136 million while imports are $ 129 million. New items in present PTA should be included and increase extent of concession on some items already in the PTA. Both countries should enhance trade promotion activities under the existing Preferential Trade Agreement”, he said. Sherani also emphasized the harmonisation between the rules and regulations of the two countries required to determine the balanced strategies regarding trade cooperation. He further added that Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline between energy deficient Pakistan and energy rich Iran is a feasible and doable project. Visa for businessmen on the recommendation of Chambers should be issued immediately and also establishment of separate counters for business visa also proposed by the President FPCCI. Iran, Consul General, Mr. Abbas Ali Abdollahi said that Iran and Pakistan can increase trade up to 10 billion dollar.

Arabians pay heavy price for Arab Spring

Political transition in Syria is a Pandora’s Box, leading to far more losses than gains. This situation is not unique to Syria. Political transition in Arab states such as Yemen and Libya, where the transfer of power is determined by military force, is usually accompanied by enormous turmoil and tribulations. After a cost–benefit analysis of the Arab Spring, certain media outlets found that instead of truly improving the lives of the Arab people, the wave of uprisings for “freedom” resulted in immeasurable losses to the Arab world, including heavy casualties, economic losses, and humanitarian crisis. One of the main causes of such a result is the unique socio-political structure in the Arab world. The Arab people have strong tribal consciousness, and adopt a “concentric-circle model” of political identity. They are most loyal to their families, after that come their tribes, tribal unions, and finally countries. Such sectarianism and tribalism can easily lead to family politics and crony capitalism. Furthermore, the people in power are mostly hostile to and distrustful of other tribes and religious sects, and show no mercy in suppressing the revolts by other tribes or religious sects. It is because of this unique socio-political structure that normal political protests and transfer of power in certain Arab countries have quickly turned into deadly violence and repression.In some sense, Arab states and Third World countries face similar problems concerning political transition. It teaches us to strike a balance between reform and stability. On the one hand, the disorderly political transition in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and other Arab states and the heavy price they paid for it fully show the interdependence of stability and reform. Without social or political stability, even the best blueprint for reform would be just a piece of scrap paper. On the other hand, long-term stability can only be achieved through reform and development.

Self-immolating protester "tragedy": Israeli PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday characterized as "a personal tragedy" an incident in which a man set himself on fire at a social welfare protest in Tel Aviv the night before. Haifa resident Moshe Silman, 57, distributed copies of a suicide letter to people around him at the demonstration, before pouring flammable material on his body and setting himself ablaze. The event took place at a demonstration commemorating the one- year anniversary since social welfare and housing movement activists sparked a series of national protests, including tent cities scattered throughout the country. Silman is currently hospitalized in critical condition, suffering burns over 94 percent of his body, Tel Hashomer medical center officials said Sunday. "We are speaking of a great personal tragedy and I wish the victim a full recovery," Netanyahu said at a Likud party faction meeting at the Knesset (parliament). "I've guided the Housing and Welfare ministers to look into this matter," he said. Silman's friends and family told reporters that he had waged a failing struggle to economically survive, when he lost his ability to work after suffering a stroke several years ago. Associates charged that authorities did not provide appropriate housing and welfare assistance, adding that Silman was on the verge of becoming homeless. "The state of Israel has robbed me," Silman wrote, listing his economic woes as the reason for his attempted suicide. "Two Housing and Constructions (Ministry) committees rejected my pleas for assistance following my stroke. No one would help me, " his letter read, according to versions published in local media. Silman specifically blamed Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz' economic policies for his dire situation. "They take from the poor and give to the rich. I don't intend to become homeless," he added. Moshe's nephew, Ofer, told the Ha'aretz daily on Sunday that it was not the first time his uncle tried to take his own life. "His medical situation was deteriorated and he wasn't able to work anymore, after working his entire life. Social Security made his life a living hell. He didn't get any of the assistance he deserved, they've pushed him over the edge," he added. Housing activist Ofer Barkan said "Moshe is an example of a citizen the country neglected, who fell through the cracks. The country is made for us but in fact serves a rich minority." "He was desperate. He had nothing else to do," said Barkan, who knew Silman. Housing protest co-founder Stav Shafir said Silman's act was a "sad incident," and a "sign of great distress. I was afraid that something like this was going to happen." "I wish Moshe all the best and hope we won't see any more victims like him any more," Shafir said. Social welfare protesters said they plan to hold demonstrations on Sunday evening, both in Jerusalem across from the prime minister's residence, as well as in Haifa, where activists said they will march his house to the city's main square.

Israeli protester sets himself on fire at rally

An Israeli protester set himself alight during a rally on Saturday night marking the anniversary of a wave of demonstrations that swept the country to protest against the high cost of living and other social issues.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the man in his 40s poured flammable liquid over himself at a protest in Tel Aviv and set himself on fire. He was later rushed to a hospital where he is being treated for serious burns. Israel's Channel 10 TV showed footage of the man on fire. People crowded around, trying to put out the flames with shirts and water. People could be heard shouting "medic" and "bring water quickly". Cases of self-immolation as a form of protest are rare in Israel, and it was not immediately clear what prompted the man to set himself alight. In 2005, a woman died of burns sustained after she set herself on fire to protest Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Outside of Israel, the most famous recent case of self-immolation took place in Tunisia, where fruit-seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, helping set off the country's uprising – and with it, the Arab spring. Saturday's rally in Tel Aviv took place at the same time as one in Jerusalem. Some of the few thousand people who turned out carried signs reading "social justice for everybody" and "stop exploiting us." The demonstrations were part of an effort to reenergise a protest movement which began last July with complaints about housing prices but quickly shifted to a wide range of social economic issues like high food costs, low wages and better education. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in the demonstrations last year, and protest camps sprouted up in city centres across the country. About half a million Israelis took to the streets when the protest movement peaked last year. Demonstrations dwindled out soon after the government set up a committee it said would provide solutions to the wide array of social issues plaguing Israelis. Protest leader Daphni Leef said that little has changed since then.

Afghan Minister Survives Attack

Afghan authorities say a government minister has survived a bomb attack on his motorcade in northern Afghanistan, the third attack on a high-profile official in three days. Authorities say Higher Education Minister Obaidullah Obaid was traveling Sunday between Baghlan and Kunduz provinces when his car hit a roadside bomb, similar to those used by the Taliban. Obaid escaped unhurt, but two of his bodyguards were wounded in the blast. On Saturday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a wedding reception, killing a top Afghan official and more than 20 other people in northern Samangan province. An explosion killed a female official of the Afghan Ministry of Women's Affairs Friday in eastern Afghanistan.

Moscow warns repressive Riyadh of interfaith conflicts

Russia has expressed concern over the repression of popular protests in Saudi Arabia, calling on Riyadh to prevent a possible outbreak of sectarian conflict in the kingdom, Press TV reports.
Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, on Thursday cited reports of July 9 police attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Qatif, a Shia majority city in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province. Two people were killed and scores were injured in the incident, Dolgov said, noting that among the injured was prominent Shia leader Sheikh Nemr al-Nemr, who was arrested by police. "We hope that the authorities of the kingdom will take all the necessary measures to normalize the situation in its eastern regions of the kingdom,” he added. The Russian diplomat also called on Saudi rulers to prevent any confrontation, including interfaith clashes, in the restive region and “guarantee the observance of generally accepted human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, peaceful demonstrations and freedom of assembly as permitted by the law." Saudi Arabia has been the scene of anti-regime demonstrations on almost regular basis since February 2011, mainly in Qatif and the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province. Saudi protesters are calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. The demonstrations, however, turned into calls for the downfall of the Al Saud regime. The calls were further fueled by the November 2011 killing of peaceful protesters in the troubled region. Anti-regime protests continue in the ultra-conservative monarchy, where any demonstrations or political gatherings are strongly prohibited and met with repressive force.

Saudi Arabia: Protester shot dead in Qatif
Saudi police shot dead a protester in the country's fractious Eastern Province on Saturday, the latest attack on an uprising against the country's autocratic rulers. The opposition Rasid website identified the dead man as 18-year-old Abdallah Jaafr al-Ajami and said local social media websites had published pictures of him covered in blood. The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said the man had hurled a fire-bomb at a police station in the oil-rich province, but provided no evidence for the claim. An unverified photo allegedly shows Abdallah Jaafr al-Ajami's body was widely circulated on social media (Photo: Twitter) The SPA quoted Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki as saying four men attacked the police station in Awamiya at around 9:30 pm on Friday. "The security at the position dealt with them in accordance with what the situation requires, which resulted in one being killed while the others fled," SPA quoted Turki as saying. But Rasid quoted residents casting doubt on the official version of events, saying the police compound was well protected with concrete barriers and fences. The Eastern Province has been rocked by pro-democracy protests for months, but state media has often ignored them or reported only the government's version of events. Two men were killed last week during protests after the arrest of a prominent Shia cleric. Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world, and the Shia minority often complain of discrimination in the mainly Sunni conservative kingdom.

Balochistan unrest

SEPARATISTS and nationalists, secular political party workers, settlers, Hazaras, policemen, civilians killed by landmines and IEDs — is anyone safe in Balochistan anymore? The last few days and weeks have seen the front pages of newspapers filled with stories of all shades of violence in the province, whether sectarian, Islamist, political or ethnic. The Awami National Party has been the latest victim, but the day before the Kuchlak blast saw the discovery of the dead bodies of six miners — likely settlers from Swat — and dozens of Hazaras have been killed this year. Alongside these stories have been running reports of the Supreme Court’s persistent efforts to get security forces to produce missing people in court and restore law and order. But the SC has done about as much as it can, and its limited success so far points to the real roadblocks standing in the way of peace in Balochistan: the issue of missing persons requires a political solution spearheaded by a committed federal government and accompanied by a change in the mindset of security agencies. Underpinning all of this will have to be a genuine resolve to address the concerns of Baloch nationalists and even separatists; measures like Aghaz-i-Huqooq-i-Balochistan are important, but will not be enough. Prime Minister Gilani’s government had made feeble attempts to bring Baloch leaders to the negotiating table, and the new prime minister has made a similar effort through his call for talks in Quetta yesterday. But nothing has come out of such rhetoric in the past, and there will be no movement until capable interlocutors with contacts and respect among Baloch leaders are given a concrete mandate to launch talks in a meaningful way, through back channels if necessary. That would also provide a basis to ask security agencies to rein in their zeal to ‘disappear’ people with real and imagined links to separatist activities. When it comes to the broader law and order problem, however, the provincial government has a larger role to play, and is failing miserably. It is true that the Raisani government has limited room to manoeuvre; despite, for example, repeated declarations that the Frontier Corps should report to the provincial administration, most recently at the end of May, the organisation is widely perceived to operate outside civilian control. But policing is also inadequate, failing to prevent the kidnappings and killings of settlers and Hazaras, and provincial lawmakers are perceived as being corrupt and more concerned with personal feuds than the province’s law-and-order and development problems. Along with the federal government, they continue to let the people of Balochistan down.

Pakistan NAB: Reopening of three references against Nawaz Sharif’s family.

The Express Tribune
Nationality Accountability Bureau Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari has ordered the reopening of three references against Nawaz Sharif’s family. Officials told The Express Tribune on Friday that Bokhari – on the recommendations of a special committee – has decided to reopen cases against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief’s family, involving an alleged case of money laundering worth more than $32 million. The special committee headed by NAB Prosecutor General KK Agha has recommended the reopening of cases against politicians after the committee decided to scrutinise cases against all politicians, particularly against the Sharif brothers. “NAB’s chairman has signed an application requesting the accountability court to reopen three references against the Sharif brothers to contest a petition which was filed by the Sharif brothers in [the] Lahore High Court in October 2011,” said an official statement. “These cases include Hudaibia Paper Mills, assets beyond known sources of income and Ittefaq foundry (wilful loan default).” On May 17, the bureau had formally announced that the decision to initiate inquiries against Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif came after President Asif Ali Zardari’s order to scrutinise all politicians. “The president directed NAB’s chairman to make sure that there should be no political victimisation in such cases,” said a top official. The special committee will revisit all the cases pending against politicians, the official revealed while adding that “we are in the process of scrutinising the remaining cases relating to politicians and the findings/recommendations would be shared with the media accordingly”. Sharif brothers on February 15, 1995 provided a guarantee to pay on demand the Leasing Company any such due against the Hudabiya Paper Mills up to a maximum of $12.046 million together with all profits and charges, stated the reference as quoted by investigators. However, the paper mill failed to make the payment on the first due date or any date thereafter. Then interior minister Rehman Malik had claimed on April 28, 2012 that he had documented evidence of corruption against the PML-N leadership and would file a reference against them to NAB. The federal government is the complainant in this reference, which also includes cases related to defaulting on loans worth Rs4.9 billion taken from nine different banks in the early 90s. The official statement further stated that the proceedings on cases against the Sharif brothers were adjourned sine-die (without assigning a day for a further hearing) by the accountability court in 2001 when they were in exile. After their return, NAB filed an application for the reopening of these cases in 2007 which was granted. But later on, these cases were adjourned sine-die in 2010 by the accountability court with the direction that the trial could be commenced if an application signed by the bureau’s chairman is submitted before the court. PML-N Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan rejected the allegations saying: “We are ready to face inquiries… These are totally politically motivated inquiries. “The bureau should become a mouthpiece of the Supreme Court rather than the president,” he told The Express Tribune. Published in The Express Tribune


During the current week, two major terror attacks were carried out in the Central Punjab targeting the security forces. At least eight soldiers, including a policeman, were killed in an attack on a military camp over River Chanab near Wazirabad Industrial city. It was a training camp of the Pakistan Army and a unit is deployed to search body of the missing pilot who helicopter crashed recently. The terrorists targeted the military camp and used deadly weapons in shooting down seven soldiers and a police in the neighbourhood, also on security duty close to a bus terminal. According to preliminary reports, the terrorists were four in number and came on motorcycles early in the morning and fired indiscriminately on the troops killing seven soldiers at the spot and while flee from the scene, they also shot dead a policeman on security duty close to a bus terminal. After killing the soldiers, the terrorists fled from the scene. Later on, Tehrik Taliban Pakistan had claimed the responsibility for attacking the Army camp on River Chanab near Wazirabad. After long, it was the first terrorist attack on the Army position that is too in central Punjab which was rela5tively calm and peaceful. The selection and killing the troops is considered as an extension of the terrorist attacks from KPK to the Central Punjab. In another terrorist attack, nine police personnel were killed and 10 others injured when a group of armed people barged into the sleeping complex of the policemen in training in Achra Lahore, a densely populated area of the city. The terrorists were six or seven in number and they came on motorcycles and a car and they barged into the rooms where the policemen were sleeping in the early hours of the day. They first fired and killed people on the first floor and later entered the second floor their continued their killing spree before fleeing from the scene. The policemen were from Prison Department of the KPK and they were under training in the Federal Institute for training policemen in Lahore. Unfortunately, such a large number of trainee policemen were not provided security by the Punjab police. The terrorists easily entered the complex and killed 9 policemen and injured 10 others and fled. The police investigators were found blank on the motive or the group involved in the terror attack on the policemen in Achra residential complex. The IGP Punjab claimed that the terrorist groups coordinate their operation and help each other in carrying out killings. He cited many examples in support of this argument. Later in the day, the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan claimed the responsibility of killing the KPK prison staff in training. The Tehrik did not give reason why they choose the trainee policemen from KPK. Was it a revenge killing? They did not say anything. In any case, in both the major terror attacks, the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan had brought the war to Central Punjab from KPK and FATA where it is fighting the security forces and the Amn Lashkars of the local tribesmen in some tribal agencies. It is a red signal for the security establishment to contain the spreading violence of the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Central Punjab or in other areas of the country as it will have deadly effect on the national economy. The foreign investment had already stopped coming to Pakistan. Even foreigners are reluctant to visit Pakistan for the security environment. Now the investment from other countries will flee if the security environment for investment is not improved and security of life of the people is guaranteed. The Punjab Government should contain their friendly Taliban with whom they had very good relations and the Punjab Government refused to wipe out the terrorist camps and ammunition dumps established by the extremist elements on religious and sectarian groups.

Pakistan: Anti-polio drive held hostage

Daily Times
Preventing children from receiving a vaccine that saves them from paralysis and deformities, i.e. the anti-polio vaccine, exemplifies extreme inhumanity. The Taliban have been campaigning against polio vaccinations since 2007, painting it as a conspiracy hatched by the west against Islam in its bid to render Muslims infertile. Mullah Fazalullah was the originator of this theory. Anti-US sentiment was fuelled further when Dr Afridi helped the CIA hunt and get Osama bin Laden through a fake vaccination campaign in May 2011. Taking their cue from this incident, prominent Taliban leaders like commander Mullah Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur have decided to ban polio vaccinations in their areas as well. They are convinced that the vaccinators do not only vaccinate their children but also supply their DNA to the western spy agencies so that they could attack them with precision using drones. The North Taliban Shura or Supreme Council has also ordered people to stay away from polio vaccination campaigns. This ban will put the lives of 241,000 children under the age of five in two of the seven Agencies of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) at stake. Since early this year, out of 22 polio cases reported in Pakistan, 11 were found in FATA, with nine in Khyber Agency alone. Beside Afghanistan and Nigeria, Pakistan is the only country still suffering from the scourge of polio. The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned about the situation since it is not only Pakistan that is at risk, the fear of the virus spreading beyond the country’s borders is equally worrisome. Pakistan launched its first initiative against polio in 1994 and by 2005 Pakistan only had 28 reported cases of polio, down from 1,155 in 1999. The downturn in the polio drive is mostly attributed to Talibanisation in the tribal areas, but the situation in other parts of the country is equally grim. This year, out of 22 cases, 11 were found in different parts of Pakistan. Lately, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab have started prosecuting parents for denying polio vaccination to their children. Afghan refugees will be deported if they resist the vaccinators. The government is trying to engage tribal elders in Khyber Agency along with religious scholars to do away with the misconceptions of parents that polio vaccination is a western conspiracy. Now that pressures are mounting on Pakistan to eradicate the menace that has the potential of a spillover to other parts of the world, the government is belatedly gearing up its efforts, which have been dismal in the past, leading to the re-emergence of polio with a vengeance.

4 people killed in mortar attack in Peshawar

Four people killed in mortar attack in Sheehan area of Bara in Peshawar. Militants fired four mortar shells on police check post in Sheehan area of Bara in Peshawar late night. The check post remained untouched while one mortar hit the house of a local named Dolat Mir that killed his wife, two daughters and a son.Meanwhile, Dolat Mir was injured in the attack.Soon after the incident, the police cordoned off the area and started search operation.