Sunday, June 30, 2013

EGYPT: Protesters call for Morsi’s resignation

Anti-government protesters have flooded the streets across Egypt, calling for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi. Mass rallies on Sunday come a year after Morsi was elected as Egypt's president following the 2011 revolution that toppled the Western-backed regime of Hosni Mubarak.
“The people want the ouster of the regime,” the protesters chanted in the capital Cairo's iconic Liberation Square. The demonstrators are angry at Morsi's handling of the economy and failure to fulfill his electoral promises. The organizers of the major demonstration for Sunday claim that more than 22 million people have signed petition for the resignation of the president and a snap election. Anti-government protests were also staged in the coastal city of Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities of Mansura, Menuf, Tanta and Mahalla, the canal cities of Suez and Port Said as well as Zagazig. Meanwhile, pro-Morsi demonstrators have held rival rallies in support of the president as they say he needs time to implement the changes demanded by the Egyptians. “… We support President Mohamed Morsi. We would like to tell him not to be affected by the opponents’ protests and not to give up his rights. We are here to support and protect him,” said one of the Egyptian president’s supporters. At least four people have been killed in clashes in the cities of Assiut and Beni Suef. Many others were also injured. Reports say clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of Morsi after protesters marched to the office of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. Dozens also attacked the Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo with petrol bombs, birdshot and stones, according to Gehad al-Haddad, a spokesman for the movement. Two people have been reportedly killed and 35 others injured in clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo. “It is the biggest protest in Egypt's history,” a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity, noting that “millions” of people have packed the streets across Egypt. Morsi's spokesman Ehab Fahmy has highlighted the need for a national dialogue in the country, saying, “Dialogue is the only way through which we can reach an understanding... The presidency is open to a real and serious national dialogue.” However, the opposition has urged the demonstrators to hold their ground until Morsi resigns. Hundreds of Egyptians have also staged anti-Morsi demonstrations in other countries including the UK and Australia.

Obama Outlines Vision of US-Africa Cooperation during South Africa Visit

Pakistan bombings kill at least 49

At least 28 die in deadliest attack, near Shia Muslim mosque in Quetta, capital of south-west Baluchistan province
Bombings killed at least 49 people in three different areas of Pakistan on Sunday, just as Britain's prime minister David Cameron was in the capital pledging to help fight extremism. In the deadliest of the attacks, twin blasts near a Shia Muslim mosque in Quetta, the capital of south-west Baluchistan province, killed at least 28 people, including two women and several children, and wounded 65 others, according to senior police officer Ishtiaq Ahmed. Initial reports indicated a hand grenade was involved in the first blast, forcing people to run in the direction of the mosque, where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives. Radical Sunni Muslims have stepped up attacks in the past two years against minority Shia, whom they consider to be heretics. Local TV video showed ambulances rushing victims to the hospital and wheeling them inside on stretchers. Some of the bodies were covered with white sheets. Relatives of the victims frantically entered the emergency room to inquire about their loved ones. Security forces cordoned off the area of the attack. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Suspicion will likely fall on the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has carried out many of the attacks against Shia in Baluchistan in recent years. In the north-west, a car bomb exploded as a convoy of paramilitary troops passed through the outskirts of the city of Peshawar, killing at least 17 people and wounding dozens of others, police said. Elsewhere in the north-west, a roadside bomb struck an army convoy and killed four soldiers in the North Waziristan tribal area, the main sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the country, said intelligence officials. The blast also wounded 20 soldiers, the officials said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks in the north-west, but suspicion will fall on the Pakistani Taliban. The group has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years that has killed thousands of security personnel and civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting to death 10 foreign mountain climbers and a Pakistani guide in northern Pakistan a week ago, an attack the group said was retaliation for a US drone strike that killed the Taliban's deputy leader. The Taliban withdrew their offer of peace talks with the Pakistani government following the drone strike. The government continues to stick by its stance that negotiating with the group is the only way to bring peace.

Egypt: Seven Killed As Protests Turn Violent

At least seven people have been killed in Egypt and more than 600 wounded in clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi. Five of the dead were shot in towns south of Cairo, one each in Beni Suef and Fayoum and three others in Assiut. Two more people were killed by gunfire during an attack on the national headquarters of Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. The attack came amid mass protests across Egypt calling for the Islamist president to resign. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets as part of the demonstrations. The protests are being held exactly a year since Mr Morsi came to power. Some 500,000 people descended on Cairo's Tahrir Square, the heart of the 2011 uprising against Mr Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak. Other demonstrations have been held outside the presidential palace several miles away, which was under heavy guard. Police and troops have deployed to protect key buildings around the country, security officials said. The health ministry said hospitals have been placed on high alert. On Friday an American student, 21-year-old Andrew Pochter, was killed during clashes in the city of Alexandria. A senior security official said the Suez Canal, the vital waterway that connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, has been placed under "maximum security". Liberal leaders say nearly half the voting population - 22 million people - have signed a petition calling for change. Mr Morsi's opponents have promised a "second revolution". But the president's Muslim Brotherhood and militant allies pledge to defend what they say is the legitimate order. Mr Morsi has called his opponents bad losers backed by "thugs" from the rule of deposed Mr Mubarak. He is banking on the "Tamarud - Rebel!" coalition fizzling out, as other challenges in the streets have done since he took power. US President Barack Obama has called on Egyptians to focus on dialogue. His ambassador to Egypt has angered the opposition by suggesting protests are not helping the economy. Liberal leaders, fractious and defeated in a series of ballots last year, hope that by putting millions on the streets they can force Mr Morsi to relent.

Anti-Morsi protests sweep Egypt

Hundreds of thousands rally in Cairo and elsewhere seeking president's ouster on first anniversary of his inauguration.
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Cairo and other cities across Egypt, demanding the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi amid sporadic violence that left several people dead. The rallies started early on Sunday morning in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the cradle of the Egyptian revolution where Morsi had addressed a jubilant crowd exactly a year ago after being inaugurated as the country's first democratically-elected president.The demonstrations swelled in the evening, as marches from various Cairo neighbourhoods reached the square. Tens of thousands of people also gathered around the presidential palace to press the same demands, chanting “irhal” - “leave” - and waving red cards to symbolically urge Morsi’s ouster. "It's the same politics as Mubarak but we are in a worse situation," said Sameh al-Masri, one of the organisers on the main stage in Tahrir Square. "Poverty is increasing, inflation is increasing. It's much worse than Mubarak." As anger against Morsi swept the streets, at least seven people were killed and more than 600 wounded in clashes between pro and anti-Morsi supporters, Reuters reported. Five of the dead were shot in towns south of Cairo, one each in Beni Suef and Fayoum and three in Assiut. Two more were killed by gunfire during an attack on the national headquarters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood in a suburb of the capital, medical sources said.
‘Who’s going to pay?’
A few kilometres away from the presidential palace, thousands of Morsi supporters also staged their own sit-in to defend what they called the president’s “legitimacy”. "If we are saying that we have a majority, and the opposition are saying that they have a majority, how can they decide," asked Nader Omran, a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of Muslim Brotherhood. "What is the other solution for this dilemma, except the ballot box?" Presidential spokesman Omar Amer said Morsi was serious in his repeated calls for national dialogue. "(Morsi) announced to all of Egypt's people he made mistakes and that he is in the process of fixing these mistakes," Amer told a late-night news conference. The duelling rallies on Sunday only further highlighted the deepening political polarisation in Egypt. Morsi supporters are full of praise for his first year in office, insisting that the president has strengthened civilian rule in Egypt and done his best to manage a flailing economy. Many of them dismissed Sunday’s protests as the work of ex-regime figures and “thugs”, fuelled by a hostile media and Western governments. Anti-government protesters, on the other hand, dismissed Morsi’s first term as a failure and described him as a dictatorial leader. Many accused him of backing Hamas and other militant groups; one well-dressed man in Tahrir insisted that Morsi planned to cede the Sinai peninsula to Hamas. But their main complaint was the worsening economy, which has been in free-fall since Morsi took office, with the Egyptian pound losing nearly 20 percent of its value and industry crippled by fuel and electricity shortages. "He's borrowed money from everyone in the world," said Said Ahmed, referring to $11bn in loans Egypt has received from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to prop up the central bank. "Who's going to pay for that? Our children."
‘Hoping’ for a coup
Sunday’s anti-Morsi protests were organised by a grassroots campaign called Tamarod or “rebellion”, which claims to have collected 22 million signatures calling for the president’s ouster. "We gave him the confidence to ... correct what Mubarak had done to Egypt, but he didn't. So we have the right to withdraw the confidence that the Egyptian people gave him," said Eman el-Mahdy, a spokesperson for Tamarod. Some police officers could be seen on the streets of Cairo waving red cards and chanting against Morsi. Rising political tensions have reignited fears of military intervention in the country. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the defence minister, warned last week that it was the military's duty to "prevent Egypt from slipping into a dark tunnel of civil unrest". “They’re adamantly opposed to the Brotherhood and this government, and there are in the officer corps those who have more hardline views on the Brotherhood,” said Michael Hanna, an analyst with the New York-based Century Foundation. “But this is a cautious military leadership. They’re not going to make a decision unless they have to.” Many protesters nonetheless seemed to be hoping for another military intervention, believing that would be the only means of removing Morsi from office. “We are hoping for a military coup. It’s the only thing that we can hope for, because they are armed and they can help the people,” said Umm Mohamed, an elderly woman sitting in the square with her husband. “Otherwise we will be in civil war.”

China Communist Party Membership Hits 85 Mln
China’s ruling Communist Party membership has exceeded 85 million, according to the CPC Central Committee, Xinhua reported on Sunday.
Last year, 3.23 million people joined the CPC, the world's largest political party, which will mark the 92nd anniversary of its founding on Monday, the committee said. Of the total party members, 20.27 million, or 23.8 percent, are women and 5.80 million, or 6.8 percent, are from ethnic minority groups, according to a CPC statement. More than a quarter of members are 35 years or younger and about 34 million hold university degrees. The CPC had 4.2 million grassroots party bodies across the country at the end of 2012, up 4.3 percent from a year earlier, the agency said.

Protests raging across Egypt governorates
Protests are raging right across Egypt with protesters calling on President Mohamed Morsy to step down after one year in power. In Alexandria, hundreds of protesters flocked to al-Qaed Ibrahim Square, interrupting the flow of traffic at the Corniche. Protesters chanted "Leave!" Mohamed Hassan, one of the protesters, said he and his family had come to join demonstrations against the policies of the Muslim Brotherhood and to call on Morsy to hold early presidential elections.
Hassan added that the country is "on the verge of devastation," blaming the current deterioration on the policies of the Brotherhood, which he said have torn Egyptian society apart. Meanwhile, the streets seemed empty with car owners using public transport in order to keep their cars parked at home due to the ongoing fuel shortage crisis in the city.In the Nile Delta governorate of Kafr al-Sheikh, dozens of protesters closed government institutions with chains and prevented employees from entering the buildings.They were also calling for early presidential elections.
In Desouq city, Kafr al-Sheikh, demonstrators closed the city council building and the government complex which has several government institutions such as the Desouq Media Centre, Tax Authority and cotton ginning companies. The protesters said they will continue to close these buildings until the regime stands down and local departments are formed to run provincial authorities following consultations with political groups in Desouq. In Sidi Salem, Kafr al-Sheikh, a car toured the region while its drivers urged citizens to take to the streets to protest Morsy's rule, stage a sit-in outside the Grand Mosque, and block the road outside the townhall. Protesters managed to close down the town hall after intimidating employees with clubs. Workers, unable to enter the building, left. However, the rest of government agencies in the governorate operated normally.Hundreds of protesters at Rahabin village, Gharbiya , besieged the residence of Mostafa al-Ghoneimy, a member at the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau and chanted for early elections. Within two hours, some village seniors convinced the protesters to end their demonstrations. They went on a march across the village. In Monufiya, protesters closed the municipal; councils in Quwesna, Shohahaa, Tela, Monuf, Shebin al-Kom and Berket al-Saba.Demonstrators took similar actions in Beheira, shutting down the local councils in Mahmoudiya and Itay al-Baroud, as well as other municipalities in Damanhour before erecting tents outside all of the buildings.

Suicide blast in Quetta’s Hazara town kills at least 28

At least 28 people were killed and over 70 injured in a suicide blast near an Imambargah on Kirani road of Quetta’s Hazara town. Capital City Police Officer, Mir Zubair Mehmood confirmed to that at least 28 people were killed and over 70 were injured as a suicide bomber riding a bicycle blew himself up in a crowded area 40 to 50 metres away from an Imambargah. Mehmood said the dead included nine women as well as a minor girl. He admitted that despite strict security measures, the bomber struck a highly sensitive and guarded area of Quetta. He stated that the dead bodies would be handed over to their heirs after identification. Para-military troops and police were dispatched in the area to control the situation. The injured were taken to CMH hospital in Quetta for treatment. The Jafaria Alliance and Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen announced mourning for three days following the attack. Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch as well as the Hazara Democratic Party have condemned the blast.

Loud explosion in Quetta’s Hazara town,20 dead,

At least 20 people have been killed and several more casualties are feared in a powerful explosion near an Imambargah on Kirani road of Quetta’s Hazara town. A police official who requested not to be named told on the telephone that 20 people were killed and at least 60 were injured in the blast. He said that the blast occurred in a crowded area. “We fear an increase in the number of casualties,” he said. Babul Baloch, a rescue worker told that aid workers were not being allowed to reach the explosion site. He said that most of the aid workers were stranded on different streets leading to Hazara Town and Kirani road. “The blast seems to be a suicide attack,” Baloch said while quoting eye witnesses. Para-military troops and police were dispatched in the area to control the situation. The initially injured were being taken to civil hospital Quetta for medical treatment.

HRW slams Saudi Arabia after 7 ‘tortured’ men jailed for ‘inciting protests’ on Facebook

Human Rights Watch has slated Saudi Arabia for violating international human rights obligations after it jailed seven people for up to 10 years for ‘inciting protests’ via Facebook. The indicted denied charges and said they were tortured into confession. The sentencing after a two-month long trial took place on June 24, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which it has obtained the court judgment, and revealed the procedure “violates international human rights principles.” The seven men were arrested between September 23 and 26, 2011. They have been kept in the General Investigations Prison in the capital of Saudi’s Eastern Province, Damman for a year-and-a-half without being charged. They have been tried by Specialized Criminal Court, set up in 2008 to deal with terrorism-related cases. The trial began on April 29. The charges against the seven vary. However, they all have been accused of joining Facebook pages aiming to “incite protests, illegal gathering, and breaking allegiance with the king” and “of assisting and encouraging these calls are corresponding with the Facebook pages’ followers and concealing them,” the HRW cited the court judgment. They have been also convicted of violating Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law, which bans producing, sending, or storing any material via an information network that “harms public order.” “Breaking allegiance [with the king] comes by way of arms and it comes by way of protests, marches, and writing articles and publications … the behavior of the [second] course … is sometimes the more dangerous and more malicious method,” the presiding judge concluded in the judgment. None of the seven was accused of directly participating in protests, nor of using or advocating violence. Abd al-Hamid al-Amer has got harshest sentence – 10 years in prison for founding two Facebook groups in early 2011 which supported of a prominent Shia sheikh and religious leader Tawfiq al-Amer, arrested for publicly calling for a constitutional monarchy. Prosecutors said that those pages were used to call for followers “to join the movements” and “gave them ideas and guidance on the important sites in which to protest and set the timing [of the protests].” All seven accused have admitted they participated in Facebook pages titled “al-Ahsa March 4 Youth Movement” and “The Free Men of al-Ahsa”, but did not know that was unlawful. Therefore, they denied accusations of having intentions to break allegiance with the king or harm public order, but the prosecution produced signed confessions. During the trial, the accused reported to the court that confessions were signed under torture by the intelligence officers, but the judge overruled the claim as “not acceptable,” due especially to “their inability to prove the allegations of coercion and torture.” According to one of the seven convicts’ family members, the men had not lawyers as they could not afford them. Under Saudi Arabia’s Criminal Procedure Law, unlike in many countries, there is no provision for a public defender for those who cannot afford a lawyer, HRW reported. Moreover, as Saudi Arabia has no written penal code, prosecutors and judges tend to criminalize acts based on their own interpretation of Islamic law. HRW insists the whole procedure lacks clearness and violates “international human rights principles, such as those that prohibit arbitrary arrest and guarantee fair trials.” The men intend to appeal their sentences. The HRW has stressed that the trial also comes against Article 15 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Saudi Arabia ratified in 2009. “No crime and no penalty can be established without a prior provision of the law. In all circumstances, the law most favorable to the defendant shall be applied,” the article states. The HRW has called on the European Union’s High Representative Catherine Ashton and EU member states’ representatives, who are meeting with their Gulf region counterparts in Bahrain on June 30, to condemn the convictions and publicly “press Saudi Arabia to stop jailing human rights activists and peaceful dissidents.” “Sending people off to years in prison for peaceful Facebook posts sends a strong message that there’s no safe way to speak out in Saudi Arabia, even on online social networks,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If the EU doesn’t raise these cases with Saudi officials this weekend, its silence will look like craven compliance with the rights abuses of an authoritarian state.” The latest conviction of the seven followed a wave of similar cases of convictions of peaceful dissidents and human rights activists in June, according to HRW.

Massive protests in Egypt begin

Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's Islamist president began massing in city squares in competing rallies Sunday, gearing up for a day of massive nationwide protests that many fear could turn deadly as the opposition seeks to push out Mohammed Morsi. Waving Egyptian flags, crowds descended on Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo, one of multiple sites in the capital and around the country where they plan rallies. Chants of "erhal!" or "leave!," rang out in the square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. On the other side of Cairo, thousands of the Islamist leader's backers gathered not far from the presidential palace in a show of support. Some wore homemade body armor and construction hats and carried shields and clubs — precautions, they said, against possible violence. There is a sense among opponents and supporters of Morsi that Sunday's rally is a make-or-break day, hiking worries that the two camps will come to blows despite vows by each to remain peaceful. Already at least seven people, including an American, have been killed in clashes the past week, mainly in Nile Delta cities and the coastal city of Alexandria. The demonstrations on Sunday, the anniversary of Morsi's inauguration as Egypt's first freely elected leader, are the culmination of growing polarization since he took office.In one camp are the president and his Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line groups. They have vowed to defend Morsi, saying street demonstrations cannot be allowed to remove a freely elected leader. The other is an array of secular and liberal Egyptians as well as moderate Muslims and Christians — and what the opposition says is a broad sector of the general public that has turned against the Islamists. They say the Islamists have overstepped their election mandate, accusing them of trying to monopolize power and woefully mismanaging the country. The opposition believes that with sheer numbers in the street, it can pressure Morsi to step down — perhaps with the added weight of the powerful military if it signals the president should go. "Today, the people will triumph over fascism," prominent pro-democracy campaigner and bestselling novelist Alaa al-Aswany wrote on his Twitter account. Underlining the potential for deadly violence, a flurry of police reports on Sunday spoke of the seizure of firearms, explosives and even artillery shells in various locations of the country, including Alexandria and the outskirts of Cairo. In an interview published Sunday in The Guardian, Morsi — who has three years left in his term — said he had no plans to meet the protesters' demand for an early presidential election. "If we changed someone in office who (was elected) according to constitutional legitimacy — well, there will (be) people or opponents opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later, they will ask him to step down," Morsi told the British daily. "There is no room for any talk against this constitutional legitimacy," he said. As the crowds swelled in Tahrir, traffic in the capital's normally clogged streets was light at midday as many residents chose to stay home for fear of violence or a wave of crime similar to the one that swept Egypt during the 18-day, anti-Mubarak uprising. Banks were closing early and most government departments were either closed for the day or were thinly staffed. Most schools and colleges are already closed for the summer holidays. Thousands of Morsi's supporters have staged a sit-in since Friday in front of the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque near the Ittihadiya presidential palace. In the evening, anti-Morsi crowds plan to march on the palace, and Morsi supporters have vowed to defend it if it is attacked. The opposition protests emerge from a petition campaign by a youth activist group known as Tamarod, Arabic for "rebel." For several months, the group has been collecting signatures on a call for Morsi to step down. On Saturday the group announced it had more than 22 million signatures — proof, it claims, that a broad sector of the public no longer wants Morsi in office. It was not possible to verify the claim. Morsi's supporters have questioned the authenticity and validity of the signatures, but have produced no evidence of fraud. Morsi, who has three years left in his presidential term, claims that Mubarak loyalists are behind the planned protests. His supporters say Tamarod is a cover for thugs loyal to Mubarak. The 22 million signatures, while they have no legal weight, deal a symbolic blow to Morsi at a time when he is widely seen by Egyptians to have failed to tackle the country's most pressing problems, from surging crime rates and high unemployment to fuel shortages and power outages. If verified, the number of people who signed the petition calling on Morsi to step down would be nearly twice the number who voted for him a year ago in a run-off that he won with around 52 percent of the vote. Tamarod organizers said they discarded about 100,000 signed forms because they were duplicates. Adding to his troubles, eight lawmakers from the country's interim legislature announced their resignation Saturday to protest Morsi's policies. The 270-seat chamber was elected early last year by less than 10 percent of Egypt's eligible voters, and is dominated by Islamists. A legal adviser to Morsi also announced his resignation late Saturday in protest of what he said was Morsi's insult of judges in his latest speech on Wednesday. With a sense of doom hanging over the country, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last week gave the president and his opponents a week to reach a compromise and warned that the military would intervene to prevent the nation from entering a "dark tunnel." The weeklong ultimatum expires on Sunday. Army troops backed by armored vehicles were deployed Sunday in some of Cairo's suburbs, with soldiers, some in combat gear, stood at traffic lights and major intersections. Morsi had called for national reconciliation talks in a Wednesday speech but offered no specifics. Opposition leaders dismissed the call as cosmetics. Asked by The Guardian whether he was confident that the army would not intervene if the country becomes ungovernable, Morsi replied, "Very." The Egyptian leader, however, said he did not know in advance of el-Sissi's comments last week.

Peshawar blast death toll reaches 17

At least 17 people including a child were killed and 32 others sustained injuries in a powerful blast near Badaber police station, Geo News reported. Police said militants targeted security forces convoy in the attack. The dead and injured have been rushed to Lady Reading Hospital. Condition of six injured is said to be critical. Police and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) have cordoned off the area. Deputy Commissioner Peshawar Javed Marwat has confirmed that 15 people have been killed and 30 wounded in the attack. Hospital sources said 16 bodies and 32 injured were present in the hospital. Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) said that at least 40 kg explosive material was used in the attack. Ten nearby shops and vehicles were badly damaged. Security forces have launched search operation in the area, Marwat added. AFP adds: "The car bomb was parked in a market packed with the general public. When the FC convoy comprising of three vehicles passed by, the bomb exploded and hit a vehicle in the convoy," police official Shafiullah Khan told AFP. "But many civilians were killed and wounded in the attack because there was a big rush in the market at the time," he added. "So far, we have reports that two Frontier Corps soldiers have been injured. We don't know about any other losses," a military official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Obamas tour Robben Island
President Barack Obama is paying tribute to the man who inspired his political activism by taking his family on a tour of the island prison where anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela spent 18 years confined to a tiny cell.Obama's visit to Robben Island comes as Mandela is hospitalised for a third week in critical condition. Obama was near Mandela's Pretoria hospital Saturday, but did not see him due to the family's wishes and instead met privately with Mandela's relatives. His schedule Sunday begins with a flight to Cape Town, near Africa's southernmost tip and then a helicopter ride to the museum on Robben Island. Obama visited when he was a senator but this time is bringing his family. He said he's eager to teach them about Mandela's role in overcoming white racist rule, first as an activist and later as a president who forged a unity government with his former captors. He told reporters Saturday he wants to "help them to understand not only how those lessons apply to their own lives but also to their responsibilities in the future as citizens of the world, that's a great privilege and a great honour." Obama, who has spoken movingly about Mandela throughout his trip to Africa, praised the former South African president's "moral courage" during remarks from the grand Union Buildings where Mandela was inaugurated as his nation's first black president. "We as leaders occupy these spaces temporarily and we don't get so deluded that we think the fate of our country doesn't depend on how long we stay in office," Obama said during a news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma. Obama's ascent to the White House has drawn inevitable comparisons to Mandela. Both are their nations' first black presidents, symbols of racial barrier breaking and winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. And Obama attended his first political rally while a 19-year-old college student protesting apartheid. Zuma said Obama and Mandela "both carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed." Mandela's legacy also will be a prominent theme throughout Obama's speech later Sunday at the University of Cape Town, said White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. The president will emphasis "the ability for societies to change," Rhodes said, along with the need for democratic development and empowering young people. Rhodes said Mandela's vision was always going to feature prominently in the speech given that the address will follow Obama's visit to Robben Island, the prison where Mandela was confined for 18 years. But the former South African leader's deteriorating health "certainly puts a finer point on just how much we can't take for granted what Nelson Mandela did." Obama is also expected to emphasise how Mandela's democratic vision is hardly complete. While there has been progress here that "nobody could have possibly imagined," Rhodes said, millions of people on the continent still live in poverty and governments still struggle with corruption. Harkening back to a prominent theme from his speech in Ghana in 2009, Obama will emphasise that Africans must take much of the responsibility for finishing the work started by Mandela and his contemporaries. "The progress that Africa has made opens new doors, but frankly, it's up to the leaders in Africa and particularly young people to make sure that they're walking through those doors of opportunity," Rhodes said. Obama will speak at the University of Cape Town nearly 50 years after Robert F. Kennedy delivered his famous "Ripple of Hope" speech from the school. Kennedy spoke in Cape Town two years after Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.

Kurdish protester's killing fuels anti-government march in Istanbul

Thousands of protesters have gathered in Istanbul in an anti-government rally to denounce government use of force against the demonstrators and to show solidarity with the Kurds after a Kurdish protester was killed in southeastern Turkey on Friday. Saturday’s Taksim Square protest was dispersed after a couple of hours following a police warning, as law enforcement used shields to push the crowd away from the square. Water cannon trucks were also present but no water was fired. "Murderer police, get out of Kurdistan!" some protesters chanted as they approached the cordoned area. "This is only the beginning, the struggle continues. The murderer state will pay!" Around 1,000 people have remained after the warning and were pursued by police on to the side streets where ten people were detained according to the Hürriyet Daily. The June 29 protest had been planned as part of larger unrelated anti-government demonstrations but then turned out to voice solidarity with the Kurdish community following an incident on Friday when government forces killed an 18-year-old Kurd, Medeni Yildirim, and wounded at least 10 protesters as they fired on a group of some 250 people that was protesting the construction of a gendarmerie in the Lice district of Diyarbakir province.
The crowd around Taksim Square shouted in both Turkish and Kurdish, "Long live the brotherhood of the people!" Earlier on Saturday, hundreds gathered to pay respect at the funeral of Yildirim. Chanting anti-government slogans the crowd questioned the peace process. The killing follows March’s ceasefire declaration by Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. Prime Minister Erdogan on Friday tried to assure the public that the anti-government protests would not harm the peace process. "The peace process was not affected ... and our brotherhood grew stronger thanks to our people's common sense," he said. In response to the killing two state and two gendarmerie inspectors have been assigned to investigate Friday’s clashes in Diyarbakir. In a statement, the ministry also said that prior to the demonstration at the construction site, activists set fire to tents and a container. The crowd also allegedly used stones and sticks against the law enforcement. "After that, the security forces at the gendarmerie post warned the group and asked them to disperse. However, the group continued its attack despite all warnings. Tear gas was used and [officers] fired into the air after they entered the facility through the wire fences," the statement said. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) denounced the incident saying that the new facility is being constructed to replace the old one. Meanwhile, Turkey's main pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) called for marches around the country on Sunday. The tensions in Turkey’s Kurdish region also coincides with mass anti-government protests across the nation in which four people died and thousands more were wounded.

Thousands gather in streets on 30 June, FJP offices torched
Thousands of protesters gathered across Egypt’s squares on Sunday in solidarity to opposition groups' call for protests to mark one year since President Mohamed Morsy's inauguration and to demand early presidential elections. A number of offices of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, were torched early Sunday by protesters indignant towards the ruling regime. This continues a cycle of violence over the past weeks between the president's Islamist supporters and liberal opponents as both camps geared up for the 30 June protests. Protester security groups were stationed around the Defense Ministry in Abbasseya, where they erected barbed wire fences near al-Khalifa al-Maamoun Street. In Alexandria, tens of protesters stormed the FJP's bureau in the district of Hadara and tossed its contents outside. A number of citizens managed to force the protesters out of the office. The FJP's media secretary in the province, Atef Abul Eid, said in a statement that the attack only resulted in the burning of the party's banner. He accused the Tamarod campaign and the National Salvation Front, both opposition groups, of "using thugs" to attack Muslim Brotherhood headquarters. In Beni Suef, in Upper Egypt, demonstrators set fire to the party's office in Abasiri and Mermaha. That followed violent attacks using bird shot between Brotherhood members and opponents. Clashes at Abasiri left 35 injured on Saturday. In Gharbiya, thousands of the president's opponents at al-Shoan Square in Mahalla hoisted banners demanding the ouster of the president and the Brotherhood. In Damietta, three opposition demonstrators were injured at al-Saa Square following clashes with unknown individuals who fired their guns in the air and stabbed several protesters with bladed weapons. The attackers attempted to set fire to protesters’ tents but were thwarted by demonstrators who caught one of the assailants and beat him.

Peshawar attack: Bomb kills 14

A powerful blast has killed at least 14 people in the north-western city of Peshawar in Pakistan, officials say. The bomb attack was aimed at a convoy of security forces, they said. At least 25 people were wounded, and vehicles and shops damaged. Peshawar is on the edge of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region - the main militant haven from which attacks are often launched. It has been hit by dozens of bombings and killings over recent years. Last Monday, a senior police and his driver were shot dead in the city. No-one has claimed responsibility for that attack or Sunday's bombing, but suspicion will probably fall on the Taliban, which has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government. The attack comes during a two-day visit to Pakistan by the British Prime Minister David Cameron. Although the blast apparently targeted security forces, many of the dead and injured appeared to be civilians, reports AP news agency.

3 children among 11 killed in explosion near Peshawar

The Express Tribune News
Eleven people – including three children – were killed while 18 others sustained injuries in an explosion in the Badaber area near Peshawar, Express News reported on Sunday. According to the initial details, the blast targeted an FC convoy. The injured were taken to the Lady Reading hospital and Combined Military Hospital. The injured include security officers, women and children. The explosion was followed by an exchange of fire between FC officers and armed assailants. Police have cordoned off the area and started a search operation. The exact nature of the blast is not known as yet.

Pakistan: Govt approves hike in POL prices

Government on Saturday approved the price increase in petroleum products as advised by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA). The summary dispatched to the finance ministry was approved on Saturday, elevating the price of petrol by Rs 2.66 to Rs 102.42 per liter, while the price of diesel increased by Rs 3.66 to reach Rs 108.36 per liter. The price of light diesel has been raised by Rs 3.04 per liter, while price of kerosene oil has been increased by Rs 2.50 to Rs 96.68 per liter. OGRA will issue the notification of price increases today (Sunday). The new prices would be implemented from July 1, 2013. - See more at:

PPP had understanding with PML-N that CJ would go on leave after restoration

Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Khursheed Shah has revealed that there was an understanding with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that the chief justice would go on leave if he was restored. Speaking to reporters after meeting Finance Minister Ishaq Dar here on Friday, Khursheed Shah said that the PPP had no objection to judges’ restoration. He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should not have formed a committee on Swiss cases. “The matter is before the court. We will face it there. The judiciary should deliver justice indiscriminately.” “It seems that the chief justice is waiting for his retirement as there is no progress in Bhutto murder case.” Muhammad Mian Soomro, if made the NAB chief, could be controversial, he opined. To a question, he said that trying Pervez Musharraf for Nov 3 emergency instead of October 12 martial law was like pardoning someone on murder and giving punishment for baton charge.

Pakistan: The missing PM

ANYONE seen him around? Sixty-plus, portly, formerly bald? Won an unexpectedly solid mandate a few weeks ago? Sharif? Nawaz? Where is he? The prime minister has pulled a disappearing act. And left behind is a stuttering, directionless government that, like many before it, seems to think talk is action. It began with the budget. Forget sand, this was a line drawn in water — the government believing it could invent whatever numbers it wanted because the IMF wouldn’t push very hard in the end. And as if to reinforce the belief that the IMF wouldn’t push very hard in the end, the Taliban got their office in Doha and the boys here broke out the halal champagne to celebrate their triumph. Five, ten, fifteen billion to prop up an ailing Pakistani economy in return for bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table? Surely, yes. So Dar gave us the ridiculous exercise of a budget of made-up numbers — and it took just 36 hours for the first fiction to manifest itself. Good idea/bad idea, smart move, dumb move, once Dar decided against giving federal employees an increment, he needed to stand his ground. That, after all, was the only way to demonstrate the government is serious about the business of putting its fiscal house in order. But to cave so early on a measure so small in the larger scheme of things — the sharks circling instantly knew what it meant: there is no will for reform. And if the will is lacking, so is the vision: Dar opted to spur growth by pumping money into the usual project-oriented development budget instead of getting the state out of the state of over-regulation it has found itself in. Budget, fail. And through it all, Sharif was missing. (When your multi-million-dollar watch is a bigger talking point than anything you’ve said during your first budget cycle, you know something’s not right, and probably very wrong.) India was supposed to be the big foreign-policy breakthrough Sharif would work on — and work on soon. And that meant dealing with the boys too. The Indians have long wanted two gestures to help them move on from Mumbai: wrap up the trial in the Pindi ATC of those implicated in the Mumbai attacks, and muzzle Hafiz Saeed and ilk a bit. Sharif bought into that idea and suggested speeding up the trial. Sorry, that currently isn’t possible, the boys demurred. And that was that. On the US, the Sharif camp is selling the line that the PM is taking personal interest in sustaining the relationship. Swell idea. But let’s see how that’s working out. SRAP Dobbins visits Pakistan and he’s told he’ll only be seeing Sartaj. Then Sharif decides to join the meeting — something the N-League is bandying as a sign of a hands-on PM. In the world of diplomacy, though, it’s just a sign of no coordination and little preparation. But the real kicker is what happened next: Gen K also decided to join. And it was the government that had to relay to the Americans the second addition to a meeting the government had earlier insisted it wanted to keep one-on-one. Egg, face. Real embarrassment, though, had already been delivered. In the wake of Doha, the Foreign Office put out a smug, self-congratulatory statement that made the eyes water. Why was Sharif’s Foreign Office claiming credit for a long-running process that he couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with all these years while sitting in the opposition? Why not just ask the boys to use the ISPR to put out their smug, self-congratulatory message? So much for the PM-as-FM-and-DefMin idea getting off to a good start. Epitomising Sharif not putting a foot wrong between the election and government-formation and not putting a foot right since government-formation is Balochistan. The de facto PM Nisar has been busy snarling and growling about all manner of security and intelligence failures in the province. But where’s the action? Why not sack the IGFC Balochistan or the ISI sector in-charge, the principal operational drivers of security policy in the province? On and on, and on, the list goes. Are we talking to the TTP or preparing to fight them? Is the power sector being fixed at the cost of creating a new class of super rich? How will the country’s drift towards international isolation be slowed, let alone reversed? The one question that Sharif has attempted a half-hearted answer to is Musharraf. But he had little choice: the budget session was ending and the Supreme Court had asked the government what it intends to do with Musharraf. Sharif had to speak. So what has happened to Sharif? When on the rare occasion he has been seen and on the even rarer occasion he has been heard, he looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Never a great orator or particularly animated to begin with, Sharif appears listless and enervated. His own party is worried — and even more worried that they have no real answers to why he’s disappeared on them. Could this be the beginning of a replay of May 2008 to Oct 2011, when the PML-N slept through the first three years of the last assemblies before Khan jolted Sharif into action?Maybe, maybe not. But it’s another reason to want Khan back to his nagging and taunting best — and soon. Khan appears to be only man on earth who can goad Sharif and the PML-N into action.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bahrain: High School Student Sentenced to One Year Imprisonment for a Tweet
On 25 June 2013, the lower criminal court headed by a member of the ruling family, Shaikh Rashid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, sentenced child Ali Faisal Alshofa (17 years old), a high school student, to 1 year in prison for insulting the king, Hamad Al-Khalifa, on Twitter. Ali Al Shofa was arrested in a house raid at dawn on 12 March 2013. He was kept in detention for two months pending investigation, until he was released on bail of BHD 100 on 8 May 2013 while still on trial. Ali was accused of posting an insulting tweeting using the account @alkawarahnews, which he denied relation with, and his lawyer Merfat Janahi submitted evidence that the account is still running by other persons. The BCHR again points to the blatant absence of any form of independent or fair judiciary system according to international standards; as the judge presiding in the case stems from the same family as the king, the subject of the lawsuit. Last month, on 15 May 2013, the court sentenced five other twitter users to one year imprisonment each, also on the charge of insulting the king on twitter. (Details on In total, more than 106 months of imprisonment were collectively delivered since June 2012 against twelve online users for charges related to freedom of expression on social network websites. Said Yousif AlMuhafdha, Head of Documentation and Monitoring at the BCHR and acting Vice President, has a case pending in court for disseminating false news on Twitter. He was acquitted by the court, but the public prosecution appealed the acquittal, and the trial will resume on 1 July 2013. Earlier this month, the BCHR reported the abduction and incommunicado detention of online user Jaffar Al-Demstani on 20 June 2013 for tweeting about the torture of his father, Ebrahim Al-Demstani. (Read more on The ongoing crackdown on online users and the use of the judicial system to limit their freedom of speech is in direct violation with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Based on the above information, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands that the Government of Bahrain: Immediately release all persons sentenced to prison for their online activities, as well as all other political detainees who are being held for practicing their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are guaranteed by international law. Guarantee the basis of free trials and independence of the judicial system according to international standards. Drop all charges related to freedom of expression in cases that are currently ongoing in court. Withdraw all national and local laws that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information.

In South Africa, Obama continues his focus on youth

President Obama speaks at the University of Johannesburg, his latest pitch to young people during his tour of Africa.
President Obama's first audience of South Africans assembled Saturday in Soweto, and he recalled the protests that tore through the neighborhoods here in 1976, galvanizing the anti-apartheid movement. The 51-year-old president was among the few in the room old enough to remember. The town hall, packed with young people at the University of Johannesburg, was the latest in a series of international youth outreach efforts staged by the president. Obama's foreign travel schedule these days can sometimes look like a globe-trotting college tour. Nearly every presidential stopover includes a speech at a university auditorium, or if logistics demand, an off-campus venue filled with young faces. His weeklong tour through sub-Saharan Africa includes two events at South African universities; Obama will deliver another speech Sunday, at the University of Cape Town, where in the 1960s U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy dramatically declared that world challenges require the "qualities of youth." "Don't lose those qualities of youth," Obama told the group of 650 young people at the Soweto forum. "Your imagination, your optimism, your idealism. The future of this continent is in your hands." For all the looking forward, Obama also spent a considerable amount of time looking back, as the nation's iconic elder statesman Nelson Mandela lay critically ill in a Pretoria hospital. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are not scheduled to visit the man who served as South Africa's first black president, the White House said, but the Obamas spoke Saturday by phone to his wife, Graca Machel, who has maintained a vigil at his bedside. Obama later met with other family members at the Nelson Mandela Foundation headquarters. "I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones, and also expressed my heartfelt support for the entire family as they work through this difficult time," Obama said later, using Mandela's clan name, as South Africans often do with affection. "I also reaffirmed the profound impact that his legacy has had in building a free South Africa, and in inspiring people around the world, including me." Obama's outreach to the under-35 set serves a distinct purpose for a president trying to maintain his youthful image abroad and working to define his foreign policy legacy. The speeches often allow Obama to keep some distance from conflicts or sticky relationships with problematic national leaders. Instead, he offers brighter, but vaguer, notions of hope, calls for political engagement and investment in the future. Obama also uses such events to send indirect messages to the leaders in question. Obama met Saturday morning with South African President Jacob Zuma, whose African National Congress — the party of Mandela — many observers say has lost its way. Zuma's government is widely viewed as riddled with corruption and is under pressure to engage or lose the support of the next generation of South Africans. Obama made no references to such issues at a news conference after their meeting. But a couple of hours later, he pointedly urged young people to "hold leaders accountable." Obama's focus on the future is crucial to his strategy in Africa, where 1 in 3 people are between the ages of 10 and 24, and an estimated 60% of the continent's population is younger than 35. Many live in dire poverty with poor nutrition, housing and schooling, conditions ripe for the political instability that has beset the continent. The White House said Obama was working to nurture the next generation of African political leaders. It announced on Saturday a new fellowship program that it said would bring 500 young Africans to the United States each year for leadership training and mentoring. The effort is an extension of the Young African Leaders Initiative that Obama launched shortly after taking office. It is far from clear whether such efforts, or eloquent speeches, will cement the president's legacy with the next generation here. Other foreign powers, including China, are pouring private investment into Africa, and U.S. influence has been waning. The young people in Soweto on Saturday appeared enamored of Obama's image, although not his policies. While the young people waiting for Obama at the town hall clapped and sang apartheid-era songs — changing the lyrics of one traditional Zulu song to "Obama is coming!" — the president also was asked detailed questions about his trade, foreign aid and counter-terrorism policies. A group of young people who participated by videoconference from Nairobi, Kenya, questioned the president's decision to skip their country — a longtime U.S. ally and homeland of Obama's father — on his Africa tour in part because its democratically elected leaders are facing charges before the International Criminal Court. Obama, they said, appeared to be breaking a promise to visit Kenya during his presidency. At one point in the proceedings, Obama appeared to acknowledge that the fruits of his public relations push would take years to appear. "You guys are all going to do great things," Obama said. "I'll be retired by the time you do them."

Workers and BDP members march in Istanbul to protest Lice clashes

Turkish public sector workers joined members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in a peaceful march through Istanbul's İstiklal Avenue to protest the killing of a demonstrator by the security forces in the southeastern Diyarbakır province yesterday. Clashes had broke out in Diyarbakır's Lice district between soldiers and demonstrating villagers who were denouncing the construction of a gendarmerie outpost. The group held banners reading, "We don't want outposts but peace" and "Resist Lice, resist Gezi Park." BDP deputies Sırrı Süreyya Önder, who was also very active during the early Gezi Park protests, and Sabahat Tuncel also participated in the march. Protestors also held posters of Medeni Yıldırım, the 18-year-old victim of the Lice clashes. Peace won’t come this way Önder said that the government was showing a lack of determination in the peace process. “Someone who wants peace does not waste time building outposts. Civilians expressing their outcry in a peaceful way were fired upon. All their wounds were on their back. Peace won’t come this way,” Önder said. He also said that there were many parallelisms between the social demands of Gezi Park protesters and Kurdish people. The government should use this brutal incident as a reason to review its policies,” he added. Tuncel also slammed the attempt of building outposts, saying that it reminded the Kurdish people of torture and death. "The ruling Justice and Development party should remove the commander of the gendarmerie station and do what's right. You didn't understand Gezi Park, and if you don't understand Lice you will be unable to cope with the [peace] process," Tuncel said. “All those who don’t come out into the streets will be accomplice of the massacre,” she added. Turkish security forces had opened fire killing 18-year-old Medeni Yıldırım and wounding ten others during a demonstration against the construction of a new gendarmerie outpost in the Kayacik village. The incident had raised huge outcry and fear that it could derail the ongoin peace process as the Interior Ministry commissioned four inspectors to investigate into the incident.

Egypt protest: Crowds gather for big anti-Morsi rally

Crowds are gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square ahead of a mass rally to demand the resignation of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Thousands of people could be seen overnight milling in the square, focus of the protests which brought down his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Sunday is the first anniversary of Mr Morsi's inauguration as president. Tensions has been high ahead of the rally. At least three people, including a US citizen, died in unrest on Friday. Washington has warned Americans not to travel to Egypt. The UK urged its citizens to "avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings" while France said citizens should "limit movements to those strictly necessary". Protesters are unhappy with the policies of the Islamist president and his Muslim Brotherhood allies. Thousands of supporters of Mr Morsi, who was elected by a small margin, rallied in the capital on Saturday. US President Barack Obama has said America is "looking with concern" at the situation.
Obama appeal
Opposition activists say more than 22 million people have signed a petition seeking a snap election. They have urged the signatories to come out on Tahrir on Sunday. Flags and tents form a base camp on the square from where protesters plan to march President Morsi's office. Amr Riad, 26, told Reuters news agency: "We're peaceful but if those who come at us are violent we'll defend ourselves." Speaking in South Africa, Mr Obama urged "all parties to make sure they are not engaging in violence and that police and military are showing appropriate restraint". "We would like to see the opposition and President Morsi engage in a more constructive conversation about [how] to move their country forward," he said. Reports say that Cairo International Airport has been unusually busy as both expatriates and Egyptians leave the country.
On Friday, US national Andrew Pochter and another man were killed in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria as protesters stormed an office of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Pochter, who was in the country to teach English to children and improve his own Arabic, was killed apparently while using a mobile phone to take pictures. His family said in a statement that he had been stabbed by a protester while observing demonstrations. The other fatality in Alexandria on Friday was an Egyptian man who was shot dead, according to medical sources. Another man, said to be a journalist, was killed by an explosion in Port Said and five other people were injured. President Morsi earlier this week offered a dialogue - a move rejected by his opponents. Mr Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt's first Islamist president on 30 June 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair. His first year as president has been marred by constant political unrest and a sinking economy.

Obama: Mandela Beacon for the Power of Principle

Video: ''Best Arab Song 2013''

Obama: US Working to Protect Embassy in Cairo

Middle-class rage sparks protest movements in Turkey, Brazil, Bulgaria and beyond

By Anthony Faiola and Paula Moura
As protests raged in Turkey and were set to explode in distant Brazil, Asen Genov sat in his office in Bulgaria’s capital on the cloudy morning of June 14, about to strike the computer key that would spark a Bulgarian Spring. Only months earlier, public outrage over high electricity bills in the country had brought down a previous government, but Genov saw more reason for anger when the new administration tapped a shadowy media mogul to head the national security service. Furious, Genov posted a Facebook event calling for a protest in Sofia, the nation’s capital, though he was dubious about turnout for a demonstration focused not on pocketbooks but on corruption and cronyism in government. “We made bets on how many would come. I thought maybe 500,” said Genov, a 44-year-old who helps run a fact-checking Web site. But as he arrived in Sofia’s Independence Square, people were streaming in by the thousands, as they have every day since, with the snowballing protests aiming to topple the government. “We are all linked together, Bulgaria, Turkey, Brazil. We are tweeting in English so we can understand each other, and supporting each other on other social media,” said Iveta Cherneva, a 29-year-old author in Sofia, who was one of the many people protesting for the first time. “We are fighting for different reasons, but we all want our governments to finally work for us. We are inspiring each other.” Around the globe, this is the summer of middle-class discontent, particularly in the developing world. From Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro, from Bulgaria to Bosnia, the pent-up frustrations of an engaged citizenry are being triggered by a series of seemingly disparate events. Government development of a park in Turkey has erupted into broad unrest over freedom of expression in a society that, under a devout and increasingly authoritarian leader, is witnessing the encroaching power of Islam. A hike in bus fares in Brazil, meanwhile, has touched off an uproar over official waste, corruption and police brutality. But what do they have in common? One small incident has ignited the fuse in societies that, linked by social media and years of improved living standards across the developing world, are now demanding more from their democracies and governments. In the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, thousands of furious residents across ethnic lines united on the streets this month, at one point blockading lawmakers inside parliament for 14 hours to protest government ineptitude in clearing a massive backlog of unregistered newborns. Public anger erupted after a Facebook posting — about a 3-month-old baby whose trip to Germany for a lifesaving transplant had been delayed by the backlog — went viral. Thousands of protesters, including an outpouring of middle-class citizens, are expected Sunday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. They return to the touchstone plaza of the Arab Spring in a nation that exchanged a dictator for what many Egyptians now see as a new government unwilling or unable to fix a corrupt bureaucracy and inefficient economy. Indeed, on the heels of the Arab Spring, Spain’s “indignados” and the U.S. Occupy movement, some observers see a new class of protest emerging among the global citizenry. If the 1960s were about breaking cultural norms and protesting foreign wars, and the 1990s about railing against globalization, then the 2010s are about a clamor for responsive government, as well as social and economic freedom. “These are a group of people who are better educated and more connected through technology,” said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, the London-based think tank. “In parts of the developing world, this is a new middle class, where the definition of success is not survival. It’s about quality of life, about future opportunity and freedom of expression.” Solidarity in Brazil Cecilia Siqueira de Oliveira, a 33-year-old design student living in the teeming Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo, had never seen herself as a street protester. Yet she found herself gripped by news this month of the uprising in Turkey. She was especially touched by a photo she’d seen from faraway Istanbul, of a man calmly playing the piano amid a huge throng of agitated demonstrators. Posting the photo on her Facebook page, she wrote, “Wouldn’t it be good if Brazilians did that?” A few days later, Brazil was on its feet. A series of protests were playing out on Paulista Avenue, one block from her two-bedroom apartment. What was originally a movement against high bus fares was morphing into mass demonstrations against ingrained corruption, shoddy public services, high taxes and rising inflation. Like other Brazilians, Oliveira had been disgusted by recurring political corruption scandals, a lackluster transit system and poor public services. She also thought the current and past governments had exaggerated the improvements in Brazilian lifestyles during a now-ebbing era of high growth. What burned her most, though, were the images of violence she was witnessing on television, with riot police firing rubber bullets and gas canisters at the crowds — a response that brought only more demonstrators out. Finally, on June 17, she decided to join the hordes that were filling the streets. “There were all kinds of people — the suits, the elderly, young people, families with children,” Oliveira said. As she marched, she recalled how emotional she felt watching people throwing shredded paper from their windows and turning their lights on and off as a sign of solidarity with the protesters below. Three days later, more than 1 million Brazilians were on the streets of cities across the country. In the past, she and her friends had commiserated about how the only things that brought Brazilians together were soccer and Carnival. That had clearly changed. “People realized it was worth going into the streets,” Oliveira said. “It’s incredible that in a country mad about soccer, that will host the World Cup, people are not talking about matches on social media. They are discussing politics and economics.” Empowerment in Turkey Serkan Zihli, a 32-year-old public relations consultant for an array of glamorous Istanbul art galleries and fashion designers, had just landed from a Mediterranean vacation when his smartphone lit up. “Get to Gezi Park,” said the text from a friend. “They’re coming.” For months, Zihli had been part of a group of activists seeking to block a government plan to mow down the park and build a shopping mall in the only green space left in Taksim, a nightlife district in the glittering metropolis that literally straddles East and West. But this was not just about protecting trees. Turkey had seen years of surging economic growth, but a growing number of middle-class Turkish citizens thought it had produced willy-nilly construction that came with zero thought to urban planning, as well as backroom deals with untold levels of graft. Taking a cue from the Occupy movements, protesters entered Gezi Park with tents, intent on blocking the bulldozers. The fight was already emerging as a bigger symbol for secular Turks who felt increasingly boxed in by the ruling party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The government-backed plan called for building a shopping mall inside a reconstruction of a long-demolished army barracks remembered by progressive Turks as a place where, in 1909, religious conservatives sought to stage a coup against reformers. The plan followed what Zihli and others called a pattern of Erdogan’s Islam-tinged and ever-more authoritarian government. Erdogan had railed against birth control while his ruling party floated curbs on legal abortions. Journalists critical of the government have been arrested. Just last month, Turkey’s parliament passed sweeping new restrictions on alcohol, banning night sales and liquor advertising. In a country that once prided itself on its secular identity, Erdogan suggested ayran, a salty yogurt, replace raki, an anise-flavored alcoholic beverage, as Turkey’s national drink. As security forces moved in to clear Gezi Park, Zihli — more used to gallery receptions in fashionable Istanbul circles — suddenly found himself engaging in running battles with police. The government response went ignored or underplayed by cowed segments of the Turkish media, leaving word to spread through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, with rage against official repression drawing massive new support for the still-ongoing civil unrest. Shot by a rubber bullet and doused by water cannons, Zihli kept coming back, feeling more and more empowered. Protesters grew more enraged as Erdogan took to national television, denouncing them as foreign-sponsored rabble-rousers. “I’m not a very political person, but for the first time in my life, I felt I could understand what was lacking in our democracy,” Zihli said. “Democracy isn’t just about having elections. It’s about respecting the points of view of all your citizens; it’s about freedom and not forcing your will.” Repeatedly, Erdogan, addressing his faithful, sought to paint the protesters as debauched and morally bankrupt, claiming they had entered a mosque near the protest site and drank alcohol there. The allegations were quickly denied by a mosque official, who was then promptly hauled in for six hours of questioning by Istanbul’s antiterrorism police. “All Erdogan does every day is prove our point with his actions,” Zihli said. “This is about our love for our country and our love for freedom, and no, we’re not going to stop.”

Tear gas is a symptom of Turkey’s weak democracy

I live blocks from Taksim Square and Gezi Park in Istanbul. I never imagined that Gezi Park would bring what academics call Turkey’s “democratic deficits” to worldwide attention. But I never doubted that something would. My proximity to Taksim ensures that even when I’d rather ignore my journalistic instincts and get an early night’s sleep, I have no choice but to follow the story wherever it leads – because it leads to my apartment. When police attack, the crowds run up my street trailed by cops and tear gas. Like everyone in my neighbourhood, I’m now able to tell exactly what lachrymatory agent they’re using. The tear gas, however, is the symptom. The “democratic deficits” are the disease. The conventional wisdom is that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not understand the full meaning of “democracy,” believing that having won several elections, he is now a monarch. Partly correct. But the problems are deeper still, and even Mr. Erdogan’s megalomania is just a symptom of this disease. Consider this: In what kind of democracy does the prime minister decide where to build a shopping mall, particularly when the courts have already halted the project? To grasp the explosion over Gezi Park, you need to understand the details of Turkey’s “democratic deficits.” The most economical way to explain them is how Cem Toker, the secretary of Turkey’s very-minority Liberal Democratic Party, put it to me: “Democracy doesn’t exist in any shape or form here, so there are no problems with democracy in Turkey – kinda like no car, no engine problems.” He is exaggerating only slightly. Yes, Turkey holds regular elections. But the rest of the institutions we associate with “democracy” are so weak that everyone living here knew this car was going to crash. Aengus Collins, a thoughtful observer of Turkey, suggests a deeper way to consider this. He uses Larry Diamond and Leonardo Morlino’s markers of “high quality” democracy: rule of law, participation, competition, vertical accountability, horizontal accountability, freedom, equality and responsiveness. These phrases may sound academic, but to people who daily experience their absence, the path from these terms to tear gas is a straight line. Behind these protests are bitter grievances. Among the most bitter is the dysfunctional Turkish legal system – in particular, the government’s use of it against opponents. Mr. Erdogan has introduced constitutional referendums enabling him to pack the courts with his supporters, and used the courts to shut down hostile media on technical grounds or through punitive taxation. The courts have imprisoned dissenters. Potentially dangerous challengers have fled the country to evade arrest. As for “participation,” this too has been gravely undermined, particularly for the generation that grew up in the wake of the 1980 coup. In Turkey’s very recent past, forms of organization, assembly and protest that healthy participatory democracies require have not only been discouraged, but met with consequences so terrible that parents teach their children that they cannot win, so don’t even try. Anyone who thinks this has changed since Mr. Erdogan came to power is gravely mistaken: Consider the case (one among thousands) of students Ferhat Tüzer and Berna Yılmaz, arrested for holding up a banner that read, “We want free education and we will get it.” They were sentenced to 81/2 years. “Competition” may be the most challenging problem of all. Turkey’s 10-per-cent election threshold ensures that a party with 9.9 per cent of the popular vote receives no representation in the National Assembly. The d’Hondt method, which favours large parties, is used to distribute the seats among the remainder. Finally, Turkey uses a closed-list system: Voters choose a party rather than an individual candidate. This keeps power in the hands of party elites; individual voters can’t choose – or hold to account – the person who represents them. As for freedom, the imprisonment and harassment of journalists is so ubiquitous that they scarcely need the state to censor them any more; they do it themselves. When these protests began, Turkish stations broadcast anything but news about them: They showed documentaries about penguins. “Vertical accountability” describes the way elected leaders are held accountable for decisions by voters; “horizontal accountability” describes the way they are held accountable by legal and constitutional authorities. Again, don’t look for either here. Without press freedom, voters have scant information by which to judge their elected officials. This has led to such deep distrust of journalists that as a friend put to me, “We don’t mind when they put them in jail. We’d mind if they locked up the streetwalkers, though. At least they perform a useful service.” The penultimate refuge of horizontal accountability, flawed though it was, disappeared in a 2010 referendum that changed the composition of the nation’s highest courts, giving Mr. Erdogan the power to handpick loyal jurists. The very last limit on his power was the military. Its senior figures are now in prison, convicted on the basis of evidence that would have been thrown out of anything but a handpicked court. While no proper democracy is mediated by military coup, the electorate had become conditioned to the idea that in extremis, the military would protect them from their mistakes. This promoted the growth of an immature electorate unaccustomed to thinking rigorously about voting and its consequences. It should now be clear why there’s no way to bring Turkey’s corruption under control. Politicians have no motivation to do so. On paper, Turkey’s Law on Political Parties requires political parties to maintain records of all income and expenditure, but it doesn’t require them to publish records. So no one has any idea where the money is coming from or going – although everyone knows it is coming from places it shouldn’t and going to people it oughtn’t. Turkey was no democratic paradise before the rise of the Justice and Development Party (known as the AKP). But the AKP has cynically reduced the idea of democracy to the proposition that democracy is elections and nothing more. Unsurprisingly, many are unsatisfied, particularly because rising incomes have permitted them, for the first time, to consider problems less urgent than merely putting food on the table. Unfortunately, it’s too late. So thoroughly has Mr. Erdogan consolidated his power that the most likely outcome of these protests will be yet another unwanted construction project – the building of new prisons. Waves of arrests are taking place now, even as the world assures itself that the protests are “dying down.” Yes, they are dying down, but in a more literal way than you might realize.
Claire Berlinski is a freelance writer who lives in Istanbul. She is the author of There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.

Egypt braces for day of rival protests

Egypt was bracing for a day of violence and protest as supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi prepared for mass rallies following a night of clashes that left three people dead. Rival demonstrators pitched tents and began sit-ins on Saturday to prepare for Sunday's rallies, a year to the day of Morsi's election. The demonstrations were planned after opponents called for Morsi's resignation and snap elections, which prompted pre-emptive demonstrations on Friday by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. Morsi met the interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, and defence minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi Saturday to discuss plans to secure strategic locations, the state new agency Mena said. Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Cairo, said the anxiety was palpable. "This country has been galvanised, focused on June 30. Listening to both sides, you can expect there to be some trouble. Both sides look at this as a matter of survival - the end game. "They feel that whoever has the upper hand will be able to lead the country, even though there is no proof that will happen, that is the mindset at the moment. There is a lot of anxiety among Egyptians."
No backdown
She added that while Sunday's protests were the focus, others feared about what will come afterwards "Everything is uncertain in this country. Many people are not so much worried about tomorrow but what happens next if president Morsi does stay in power - and every indication says that he will. "There is no sign the opposition is willing to sit down with the president and there is no sign that the president has any concessions. No one is backing off," our correspondent said. She said it remained to be seen what role the military would take in any trouble. The army has said it would not sit idle and watch Egypt slip into chaos. Now we don't know what threshold the military has, where it will say enough is enough," she added. The military has not directly intervened despite fatal attacks on Friday. The offices of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood from which Morsi hails, were set on fire in Alexandria and at Aga in Daqahliya. Its offices were stormed in Beheira. Two people were killed in Alexandria, including an American student who was stabbed to death while taking pictures of the clashes, and an Egyptian journalist was killed in Suez Canal city. Morsi's opponents, a collection of leftists, liberals, Christians and also deeply religious Muslims, accuse him of hijacking the revolution and concentrating power in the hands of Islamist groups.
Supporters galvinised
Morsi supporters spent the night outside the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City neighbourhood, where tens of thousands gathered on Friday to defend the legitimacy of Egypt's first freely elected president. "It's not just about Morsi, it's about legitimacy and the state. We can't go backwards," said protester Kamal Ahmed Kamel.

Zuma hopeful Mandela will be out of hospital soon

Cameron, Zardari talk bilateral ties, Afghanistan

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Pakistan on Saturday evening to kick off a two day tour, Radio Pakistan reported. As a first order of business, Cameron met with President Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidency. According to a briefing from the President’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar, the two discussed bilateral cooperation in different fields with a focus on economic ties and the regional situation. With Cameron arriving in Pakistan on the back of a trip to Afghanistan, the two discussed Afghan-led peace process and the scenario in the backdrop of withdrawal of NATO-led ISAF mission from Afghanistan was also discussed. Zardari said that Pakistan is a staunch supporter of peace and stability in Afghanistan and it would continue to support every effort aimed at restoring sustainable and long-term peace to the war-torn country. The President emphasised that Pakistan all along has maintained a constructive approach and believes that dialogue and reconciliation was the only way forward towards ensuring durable peace in Afghanistan and hoped that efforts made would also take into account legitimate concerns of all the stakeholders. He welcomed efforts being made for finding a peaceful solution to the long drawn conflict in Afghanistan. Bilateral ties Zardari reiterated Pakistan’s desire to have a multifaceted and deep engagement with the United Kingdom on various issues based on sovereign equality and mutual trust. He called for expanding the scope of UK Foreign Direct Investment in the fields of energy‚ infrastructure development‚ agriculture‚ agro-based industry and mining. Cameron assured that England would continue cooperation with Pakistan in curbing militancy, trade access to European Union markets and assistance in the fields of investment and education.

Welcome to Canada, Rimsha Masih!

By Tahir Gora
It's not just the breaking news; it's also the big news now that a persecuted teen girl, Rimsha Masih from Pakistan, has arrived in Canada. Welcome to Canada, Rimsha Masih! A family member of mine spotted her in our neighbourhood and brought it to my attention. I immediately contacted The International Christian Voice Canada, the organization that was working for her safe exit from Pakistan. The organization confirmed her arrival in Canada. She arrived here couple weeks ago, I learnt further. Maybe the organization was not releasing the news in the wake of security issues. But this poor girl made worldwide headlines last August when she got arrested by Islamabad police on accusations of burning pages from Koran. A Pakistani court evidence later that Imam Mosque, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, had allegedly desecrated Koran pages himself and who trapped little Rimsha in blasphemy law. Pakistan's newspaper Dawn reported, "Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahmed, said they had urged Chishti (Imam) not to interfere with the papers but he told them it was the only way to expel the Christians from the area." He was subsequently released on bail. Khalid Jadoon Chishti is free in Pakistan now. Other Imams -- and their aggressive mobsters -- are still unleashed in Pakistan as well.
The attack on Joseph Colony in city of Lahore Pakistan last March is another brutal example of religious intolerance in the country. More than 3,000 aggressive mobsters burnt down about 200 houses in Joseph Colony. "It has been the same way since I was born," said Masih, 61, a resident of the 100 Quarters Christian colony in Sector F-6/2. "The only reward for us in this country is either the Muslims call us "kafir" (infidel) and burn our homes, or call us a "choora" (dirty) when we clean their filth," quoted in The Express Tribune Newspaper. In the same report, Rehana Hashmi of the Sister's Trust Pakistan is quoted saying, "If the government had done anything to punish the murderers of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, we wouldn't be seeing this Lahore incident." Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan over criticizing blasphemy law that has made lives of millions Ahmadies, Shias, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and even dissident Muslims miserable in the nation. Unfortunately, new Pakistani government has abolished ministry of National Harmony and merged it into religious affairs ministry. Chairman All Pakistan Minorities Association (APMA) and former Minister National Harmony, Dr. Paul Bhatti has shown his serious concern over merger of ministry of national harmony into religious affairs "With the merger, the ministry of national harmony would lose the purpose of its creation--to ensure protection of minorities' rights," said Dr. Paul Bhatti in a news conference. Meanwhile, there is another sad report from Pakistan that says, "three Christian women were attacked and paraded naked by a mob with the support of the ruling party, said a press released issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)." International Christians Voice Canada has reacted to this report, stating in a press release: "Attacks on Christians and other religious minorities of Pakistan are increasing day by day more than ever before. We demand President & Prime Minister of Pakistan and Chief Minister Punjab to take concrete steps to protect the Christians and other religious minorities of Pakistan," said Chairman ICV, Peter Bhatti in Toronto. "In the wake of such situation in Pakistan, we welcome Rimsha Masih and her family's safe arrival in Canada and we thank Canadian Government and Minister Jason Kenny for facilitating their safe journey to Canada," said Asma Mahmood, Secretary General Progressive Muslims Institute Canada.

Obama urges House to pass immigration reform by August

President Barack Obama on Saturday urged the House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate and pass a bill by August to reform the U.S. immigration system. Speaking during a press conference in South Africa, Obama said there was more than enough time for lawmakers to finish work on the issue before their summer recess. Immigration reform is one of the president's top domestic issues. The Senate recently passed a bill that would strengthen border security and provide a way for undocumented immigrants in the United States to obtain citizenship. Obama welcomed the passage of that bill.

Saudi Arabia: No woman in women's talks! Twitter pic amazes the world

It could seem to be the world's biggest act of hypocrisy. A room full of men supposedly gathering to speak about women in society with not a single woman present on the occasion. Location: Saudi Arabia. The picture of such an event has gone viral on Twitter, with men and women across the globe laughing at its absurdity and extent of a country where rights to drive, vote or get elected are far off and even if a woman is stoned to death for trying to leave their husband, it is considered a fair deal. Maybe, the dominant males of the Saudi Arabian society gathered to decide what to do with the country's women, particularly those coming up fast, post the Arab Spring. It might not be 'how to help the women' but 'what to do with their rise'. Or may be that these males are having a talk on business or politics, but even then the complete absence of women is not a happy sight.