http://www.asianews.it/In September, the head of the family, Boota Masih, a 58-yeaer-old goldsmith, was killed, falsely accused of blasphemy. In fact, a business rival was behind the murder, and he is still free and unpunished. Meanwhile, armed men have threatened the victim's family, telling them to convert to Islam or face death. Police however have arrested these men. A Pakistani court has indicted three people for proffering death threats against the family of Boota Masih, 58, a Christian man killed in mid-September in an incident involving accusations of blasphemy. Siding with the dead man's family, activists with Life for All and the Masihi Foundation, along with Church and civil society leaders, have called on the authorities to arrest the murderer and do something to stop the persecution of the Masihs' who are only guilty of being Christian. Unfortunately, they are up against the usual reticence (if not the connivance) of police and prosecutors in such cases. Everything began for the Masih family on 16 September when Muhammad Asif killed their main breadwinner after accusing him of blasphemy. The Muslim businessman attacked his victim at the Liaqatabad Gold Market in Karachi in broad daylight. Using a knife, he cut his throat, finishing him off with a dozen stabs, all this in the plain view of other workers and some police officers, who did not intervene and left the murderer all the time he needed to escape unmolested. The next day, a member of the Liaqatabad Jewellers Association belatedly came to the dead man's defence, saying that he "had never seen or heard him speaking against anyone, ever." The victim had worked at the market for 30 years. For his family, the accusation of blasphemy was but an excuse to kill him, a way to remove a business rival. When they reported the murder, police initially refused to start an investigation. The story took a turn for the worse when, on 24 October, a group of armed men broke into the Masih home, threatening to kill its members if they did not withdraw their complaint and convert to Islam. Instead of complying with the threats, the Masihs went to police the next day to file another complaint. Last Sunday, law enforcement authorities took into custody Muhammad Nadeem and two accomplices, for carrying out the punitive raid against the bereaved family. Yesterday, their case went before a judge. Still, the murderer Muhammad Asif is still a fugitive. Fr Arshad Gill, a priest in Karachi, spoke to AsiaNews about this "sad story" in which the victim is "an innocent man" and his family is told to convert to Islam or die. For him, the case epitomises the situation of Pakistan's minorities, forced to live "in conditions of profound insecurity" in which events such as this one tend to exacerbate the situation. This is all due to the "black law". For years, Pakistan's Catholic and Protestant Churches have called for its repeal because, among other things, it is increasingly used in personal vendettas. Found in Article 295, B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code, the "law" punishes with death or life in prison anyone who desecrates the Qur'an or defames the name of the Prophet Muhammad. However, no political party or government has had the courage to change it. Those who have proposed amendments - Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, and Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic - have been murdered. According to data collected by the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace of Pakistan (NCJP), at least 964 people have been charged under the law from 1986 to August 2009. They include 479 Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindus and 10 of unknown religion. Since the law was adopted, more than 40 extra-judicial killings have been carried out in individual attacks or by mobs, against innocent people, all in its name. Last year for example, a person suffering from mental disorders was burnt to death on false charges, with his killers going scot-free. Another case involves Rimsha Masih, a Christian teenager who was saved from false charges after an international campaign led to her release from prison. Even entire groups have not been spared. In fact, one community was attacked in Lahore in March 2013 with another suffering the same fate in Gojra in the summer of 2009.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Daily TimesIran will probably abandon a multi-billion-dollar contract to supply gas to Pakistan, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Iran’s oil minister as saying on Wednesday. “The contract for supplying gas to Pakistan is likely to be annulled,” Fars quoted Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh as saying on the sidelines of a gas forum in Tehran on Wednesday. He gave no other details, Fars said. Under the contract, Iran is supposed to export 21.5 million cubic metres of gas per day to Pakistan from next year. Dubbed the “peace pipeline”, the $7.5 billion project has faced repeated delays since it was conceived in the 1990s to connect Iran’s giant South Pars gas field to Pakistan and India. Iran has already spent hundreds of million or dollars and nearly completed the 900 km pipeline to the Pakistan border. Pakistan, although suffering from severe gas shortages, has made little progress on its part of the line due to a lack of funds and warnings it could be in violation of US sanctions on Iran. Zanganeh’s comments came two days after his Pakistani counterpart, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, was quoted by local media as saying that Pakistan risked being punished by sanctions on Iran if it goes ahead with the much-maligned project. Until now Iranian officials have insisted that the project to supply Islamabad will be completed. Exasperated by the lack of work across the border, Iran has even offered to build Pakistan’s 780-kilometre section and provide multi-million dollar loans to help pay for it, according to Iranian media reports. India quit the project in 2009, citing costs and security issues, a year after it signed a nuclear deal with Washington.
A US drone strike targeting a house Thursday in Miranshah area of North Waziristan killed three people and injured three more. An official in the city of Peshawar confirmed the attack, saying the identities of the people were immediately unclear.The Pakistani defence ministry Wednesday said 317 US drone strikes in the country's tribal areas had killed 67 civilians and 2,160 militants in Pakistan since 2008.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Police detained 12 women in various parts of the Kingdom for violating traffic regulations and instructions that prevent women from driving in Saudi Arabia, a local daily reported.
Saudi authorities have detained a columnist who supported ending his country's ban on women driving, activists said Wednesday. The activists, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, said Tariq al-Mubarak was called by investigators in the capital Riyadh concerning a stolen car over the weekend. When he arrived at the Interior Ministry's Criminal Investigation Department on Sunday, he was interrogated instead about his role in a campaign launched by reformers seeking the right of women to drive in the kingdom. When his friends were informed they could pick him up at the investigator's office, they too were detained for several hours and questioned over the campaign's activities, activists said. Human Rights Watch and activists who know al-Mubarak say he remains in detention with no access to a lawyer. The New York-based organization called for al-Mubarak's immediate release and on authorities "to stop harassing and trying to intimidate activists and women who defied the driving ban." The spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Mansour al-Turki, could not be reached for comment. In a column published in the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat the day of his arrest, al-Mubarak said extremists are intimidating people from exercising their rights. He said the courts in Saudi Arabia do not have sufficient provisions to deter those who threaten and terrorize others from exercising their freedoms because "rights and freedoms ... are not instilled in our culture, nor our interpretation of religion." Al-Mubarak, who also works as a schoolteacher, was among a core group of active young Saudis calling for women's right to drive. Around 60 women claimed they got behind the wheel Saturday to oppose the ban. The campaign sparked protest by the kingdom's ultraconservative religious establishment. The reformers behind the Oct. 26 driving campaign say their efforts are ongoing and that they continue to receive videos by women filming themselves flouting the driving ban. The activists told The Associated Press that they have been followed for the past several days and are anticipating arrest. They have put in place contingency plans and emergency numbers for journalists and rights organizations to call in case they are detained. At least two women have been fined recently by police for driving, the activists said. Samia El-Moslimany said she was given a nearly $135 fine for driving in the kingdom, though she has a U.S. driver's license.
Saudi Arabia is angry with Washington.In Riyadh's view, the U.S. government isn't doing enough to support tyranny and war in the Middle East.The Obama administration should tell America's foreign "friends" that Washington acts in the interests of the American people, not corrupt dictators. Riyadh long has been an embarrassment for the U.S.Cooperation on issues of mutual interest is a reasonable approach in a region where there are distressingly few genuine "good guys."However, U.S. officials have gone much further, lavishing support and attention on their Saudi counterparts.Indeed, Washington treats the Saudi royals-who oppress and mulct their own people-as, well, royalty.Riyadh's former ambassador to America, Bandar bin-Sultan, became one of Washington's most celebrated and renowned political operators. Some Americans justify Washington's sycophancy as necessary to protect access to Saudi oil, but energy is an international market in which the sellers want to sell as much as buyers want to buy.Indeed, the Saudi royals need petroleum revenue to subsidize their lavish lifestyles, maintain state institutions of repression, and purchase public support. If the money stopped flowing, members of today's pampered elite might find themselves hanging from lamp posts.So Riyadh is going to ship oil to Americans even if Washington acts in America's rather than Saudi Arabia's interests.(Never mind new energy discoveries elsewhere in the world, including in the U.S., are steadily diminishing Riyadh's relative energy role.) Nevertheless, Washington has begun to resist Riyadh's demands, leading to reports that the King Abdullah is "angry."One former U.S. official toldWashington Postcolumnist David Ignatius that "Somebody needs to get on an airplane right now and go see the king," since the latter is "very tribal" and believes that "your word is your bond." More dramatically, the Saudi government successfully campaigned for one of the ten elected term seats on the Security Council, only to then ostentatiously announce that the kingdom would not take its seat."This was a message for the U.S., not the UN," said Bandar. Riyadh's apparent bill of particulars against the U.S. is impressive for its irresponsibility.As one unnamed U.S. officials said of Bandar:"Obviously he wants us to do more."Obviously. The Saudis are upset because Washington did not bomb Syrian government forces after the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons.Saudi officials attacked the U.S.-Russia agreement to eliminate Damascus' weapons as a "capitulation."UN Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi complained that "Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people by the chemical weapons, while the world stands by idly" demonstrated the Security Council's incapacity.Turki al-Faisal, Riyadh's ambassador to America, argued that international oversight of Syrian chemical weapons "would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious, and designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down, but also to help Assad butcher his own people." Yet the very same royal regime subsidized Saddam Hussein's Iraq in its aggressive war, which included use of chemical weapons, against Iran.Riyadh said nothing then about the killing and burning of Iranians in a conflict that cost perhaps a million lives.But mass butchery by Riyadh's de facto ally mattered less to the Sunni Saudi royals than defeating a Shia Islamic regime. Similarly, today Saudis actively oppose human rights in next door Bahrain, where Riyadh has offered military backing for the repressive Sunni royal family against the Shia popular majority.With American ships stationed at a naval base there U.S. policy has been conflicted, torn between democracy and stability.Washington has said little about Manama's brutality, but even so apparently has irritated the Saudis by offering less than fulsome praise for the Bahraini royals' willing to shoot and imprison demonstrators and dissidents alike. Nor do the Saudis worry about the poor and oppressed in Egypt.To the contrary, Riyadh is firmly on the side of Egypt's murderous military, which shot down as many civilians in Cairo as the Chinese military killed in Beijing's Tiananmen Square a quarter century ago.Argued Foreign Policy blogger Kori Schake:the Saudis want "the return to power of the deep state in Egypt (a model they would perpetuate throughout the region)."Thus, the Saudi royals are upset because Washington has cut much of its funding for a politicized military long subsidized and equipped by America. Finally, the Saudi government is appalled that Washington is negotiating with rather than bombing Iran.Riyadh also wanted the Obama administration to put more ships into the Gulf to protect the regime if the Iranians chose to retaliate, given Saudis' none-too-secret support for U.S. military action against Tehran. Apparently Riyadh isn't only worried about the prospect of an Iranian nuke.TheWall Street Journal'sKaren Elliott House noted that the royals were concerned that a deal would boost "Iran's prestige and influence at the expense of Saudi Arabia."Riyadh even complained that the Iranians-shock!-were working against Saudi Arabia as the latter opposed Iran in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain, and Iraq.Said Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud, until recently in charge of Saudi intelligence:"You can't deal with us and then go and support somebody who wants to overturn us."Indeed, explained theJournal, the Saudis denounced Tehran for trying to "exploit Shiite populations in Arab countries across the region to try to undermine Sunni Muslim governments and their interests." Actually, it would be more accurate to state that Saudi Arabia and, even more so, Saudi ally Bahrain, are exploiting their Shia populations to remain wealthy and in power.Iran is merely backing the natural desire of subject Shia populations-a minority in Saudi Arabia but majority in Bahrain-not to be exploited by repressive Sunni monarchs. While Washington shouldn't be concerned about maintaining Saudi influence, the U.S. understandably prefers that Tehran not get a nuke.However, the costs of yet another war against another Muslim nation in the Middle East almost certainly would greatly exceed the benefits.Not that the Saudis care about how many Americans (and Iranians) might die and how much American wealth might be squandered.Even if the cost likely would be low, however, Washington shouldn't hire out its military personnel and materiel to the Saudis or anyone else. However, hypocrisy comes easily for licentious libertines living off of their subject peoples.America's pampered allies are unhappy and issuing threats.For instance, bin-Sultan, who now heads Saudi intelligence, reportedly has downgraded ties with the CIA in training and arming Syrian rebels and threatened a "major shift" in dealing with America.Ignatius noted that Saudi officials were expounding on their frustration even two years ago, and said "they increasingly regarded the U.S. as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security."Moreover, the Saudis apparently announced they no longer will favor U.S. munitions makers, after spending $33.4 billion on U.S. weapons in 2011. Americans should respond, so what?Prince Bandar reportedly told European diplomats that "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent."Reducing Saudi dependency is in America's interest. In fact, Washington should encourage the Saudis to find another sucker to protect their exploitative regime.The Chinese?Not likely.Beijing has no spare aircraft carriers and no love for Islamists subsidizing Islamic fundamentalism around the globe.How about the Russians?They don't have the forces necessary to police the Persian Gulf.And after years of war in Chechnya and terrorist attacks in Russia, helping the publicly pious royals isn't likely to top Moscow's list either. The Europeans?They ain't got much of a military and even less will to use it.Especially for a regime which couldn't be more at odds with liberal European values.Who else?India or Brazil?Kenya or Indonesia?Japan or South Africa?Candidates to take over pampering the Saudis are in short supply.Author Christopher Davidson argued that "Saudi Arabia is retreating into its shell of countries that surround it and who rely on its aid and good will."If so, why should Washington object?Riyadh could limit or even end intelligence sharing and anti-terrorism cooperation with Washington.However, many of America's enemies target Saudi Arabia.Attempting to punish the U.S. in this way would increase the royals' vulnerability. Nor is Riyadh's refusal to serve on the Security Council a problem for America.The Saudi Foreign Ministry said that the royals would not join until the council was "reformed so it can effectively and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities in maintaining international security and peace."Why, then, did Riyadh seek a seat in the first place?The Council's ineffectiveness is no secret and has no solution. Presumably the Saudis really meant to send a message to Washington, but the U.S. should file their protest in the round file.One wit, the anonymous blogger The Saker, observed:"With the predictable exception of Kuwait and Bahrain, who is going to be heartbroken at not having the Saudis sit at the horseshoe table?Kosovo?" As a U.S. diplomat toldForeign Policyblogger Colum Lynch, "Our interests increasingly don't align."In fact, the two nations' interests long have been substantially out of sync.Warned Schake:"bringing U.S. policies into alignment with Saudi Arabia is likely to create a Middle East even less in America's interest than the Obama administration's bungling has." The Saudis support radical rebels in Syria who may be as interested in killing Americans as in killing Bashar al-Assad's soldiers.Yet Joshua Landis at the University of Oklahoma surmised that the Saudis worried about increased pressure "to stop subsidizing Salafist militias in Syria" if they joined the Security Council:"Saudi Arabia doesn't want to reign [the radical rebels] in." Indeed, the Saudis always have gone their own way with little concern for U.S. interests.Saudi security analyst Mustafa Alani told theWall Street Journal:"We are learning from our enemies now how to treat the United States."Actually, they pioneered that sort of treatment. Riyadh was one of the few governments, joined by another American "ally," Pakistan, to recognize the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.The royals made little effort to curb funding for al-Qaeda until the latter was foolish enough to challenge the House of Saud-for being corrupt, libertine hypocrites.Only then did Riyadh act ruthlessly to dispatch terrorists who were America's enemies as well.For all the sweet nothings U.S. officials have whispered in the ears of leading Saudis, Riyadh always has been a leading "frenemy" of America. Almost alone, the U.S. military-industrial complex has benefited from the bilateral relationship, but subsidizing munitions makers shouldn't be the purpose of American foreign policy.If the only way to get Riyadh to buy U.S. weapons is to encourage tyranny and start wars, Washington should say no thanks. In fact, Ahmad Majidyar of the American Enterprise Institute speculated that the Saudis may just be attempting to pressure the U.S. to get Washington to more closely follow its wishes.After reports of Saudi dissatisfaction surfaced, theWall Street Journalwent into full administration-bashing mode, worrying about Saudi "disgust," "dismay," anger at being "burned" by Washington, and more.But Americans shouldn't be concerned that powerful Saudi elites, used to buying everything they want, are frustrated that they no longer can so easily purchase Washington's services. Admittedly, it isn't only Saudi Arabia which is upset with the Obama administration's inconsistent approach to the Middle East's endless complexities.The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Turkey, and even Israel have assigned Washington tasks which it has refused to carry out, much to their distress.However, American policy must be designed to serve the interests of Americans. Former White House aide Elliot Abrams argued that "When you're not viewed as a reliable ally, and as a country no longer as dominant in the region, you lose influence on everything."However, if the current mess reflects decades of dominant U.S. influence, Washington isn't going to lose much from backing away. Alliances should be a means to an end, a tool to advance U.S. security.Alas, in recent years America's alliances have become ends in themselves, a measure of international popularity a bit like accumulating "friends" on Facebook.It's bad enough when allies are indolent dependents, like the Europeans, South Koreans, and Japanese.At least they still are genuine friends of America. It is far worse when alliances turn into mechanisms used by undemocratic frenemies to manipulate U.S. policy for their own ends.So it has been for Saudi Arabia.President Obama deserves kudos for refusing to bend American policy to suit the whims of the Riyadh royals.Washington might not be able to stop the Saudis from promoting tyranny and war.But the U.S. certainly shouldn't aid them in their quest.
Chinese police say they have arrested five people in connection with what they are now calling a terrorist attack Monday in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Authorities say three people in a sport utility vehicle crashed it through a barricade into tourists near the Forbidden City and deliberately set the SUV on fire. Police say they found gasoline, knives, steel sticks and a flag with extremist religious content inside the vehicle. Officials say the three people in the vehicle were from the same family. Based on their names, it appears the three were members of the Uighur minority group. All three died, along with two tourists, a Philippine woman and a Chinese man. Four of the five people taken into custody so far also appear to have typically Uighur names, although the fifth suspect has a traditionally Han Chinese name. Exiled Uighur leaders reject accusations of Uighur involvement in terrorism. They accuse China's majority Han rulers of persecuting their people and turning them into a minority in their homeland. China has long accused Uighur separatists and Islamic militants of carrying out a series of attacks in Xinjiang, in an effort to establish an independent state called East Turkestan. China denies mistreating any of its minority groups, saying they are guaranteed wide-ranging religious and cultural freedoms.
By Nadezhda KevorkovaIf you still wish to think that the war raging in Syria is of religious character, you only have to speak to people to revise your opinion, because practically every family’s story defies the theory. Foreign militants and their associates are not interested in how inter-religious and inter-communal relations are built in Syria. Neither are they aware of such a well-known fact in Syria that Bashar al-Assad’s wife is a Sunni. Because it undermines the basic idea of the Syrian conflict, according to which Sunnis are allegedly fighting against Alawites and Shias. The president’s family is not an isolated case – on the contrary, it is quite widespread. There are a number of families who turn the concept of the religious Shia-Sunni war in Syria on its head. Two and a half years of attempts aimed at splitting Syria into groups separated by religious background have fallen by the wayside, largely because of such inter-religious marriages. Zahir and Lina fled from Homs in November 2011. He is a Sunni, she is a Shia. They live in the north of the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, in Hermel. The apartment building they live in was hit by a shell on April 20, 2012. Lina wears a Shia burqa – a black veil. She wore it when she lived in Syria and was wearing it when fleeing from her home after militants had encouraged the killing of Shias. She has met a lot of Sunni families in her life who supported her exactly for the reason she was a Shia who needed help and protection. Neither Zahir, nor his relatives have ever been asked why he married a Shia. Nobody has ever asked Lina about it, too, although her children follow the religion of their father. Zahir’s elder brother once owned a small factory manufacturing women’s handbags. The war started in the area it was located - the factory was ruined and the family members lost their jobs and money. “I am from the al-Khalidiyah neighborhood, where the latest fights took place – right where our factory used to be”, Zahir says. All his Sunni neighbors were the first ones to flee to Shia areas of Lebanon. I ask him, why he, his relatives and Sunni neighbors didn’t take the side of the rebels. “Because we saw that militants and bandits were in charge – supporting them was out of the question. It was not dissatisfied people that were behind the events in Baba Amr, it was the militants,” says Zahir. He is talking about one of the first times the opposition took a Homs district by force. Later, the army recaptured it and saw that the militants, equipped with foreign equipment, behaved in strange ways that didn’t conform with Muslim ideas at all; there were signs of public executions, torture, and piles of human bones lying around in the houses. “At first it was only the Syrian militants, but then foreigners joined them. We saw it with our own eyes,” Zahir says. He believes that it was the invasion of the foreigners that brought about the disillusionment, since they, unaware of the Syrian state of affairs, wanted to turn public unrest into a religious war. “They made people participate in demonstrations at gunpoint. We tried hiding in other districts, but then the worst started happening,” he says. By “the worst” Zahir means religious massacres. “Two of my friends were arrested and killed. They were Shia. Our neighbors were also killed. Unfortunately, these armed people were locals, and they knew who was Sunni and who was Shia,” Zahir explains. It’s clear that he’s reluctant to admit someone was killed in Syria because of their religion – it goes against the basic principles of Syrian life. He is convinced that the militant death squads were formed specifically to carry out such massacres and to instill terror in people’s hearts. “Most Syrians didn’t go along with that, despite the fear, the threats and the propaganda,” Zahir says. He talks about the help his family received from the Shia and the times when both the Shia and the Sunni gave them shelter. When they were running from Homs, many people helped them along the way and showed them safe paths, even though Zahir is Sunni and his wife is Shia. Thanks to all that help, they managed to survive and cross the border into Lebanon. ‘We knew that the Hezbollah-controlled regions (Hezbollah is Shia-dominated – RT) are peaceful and that the locals treat the Sunnis as family. We get on well with the people of Hermel,’ says Zahir. When the Hermel people learnt that a family with small kids had arrived in their town, they were quick to find accommodation for them. That Hezbollah never hesitates to help somebody out of trouble or solve their routine problems, is a well-known fact in Lebanon. Zahir and Lina didn’t even have to look for help: when people saw a family of refugees, they called the local authority, who quickly found food and shelter for them. The local government provides for their accommodation, their furniture, a washing machine, a cooker, and even their blankets. ‘No one has ever asked us: are you Sunnis? Trust me: we’ve never heard that question. We will confirm that to anyone who wants proof,’ says Zahir. I ask him whether the Shia do indeed hate the Righteous Caliphs, who are venerated by the Sunnis, or if they speak dishonorably of Aicha, the Prophet’s wife – in other words, whether the militant propaganda is right. And how does it affect their family? Zahir has heard worse, not only about the Shia, so the question does not surprise him. But he doubts anyone can seriously believe these claims. He believes no Muslim would say something like that. In Syria, he has never met a Sunni who would honestly believe such allegations. ‘My wife is Shia. If we cared about the Sunni-Shia differences, we would never have got married. No one would draw such dividing lines in Syria,’ says Zahir.I wonder what Zahir, a Sunni himself, would say if his Sunni children decided to join Hezbollah, a Shia movement. ‘If my kids want to join Hezbollah, as far as I am concerned, I am all for it. I would tell them, “God bless you”,’ says Zahir. He means what he says. When in 2006 Lebanon was attacked by Israel, the Sunni and the Shia alike joined the ranks of Hezbollah to take part in the Resistance campaigns and to release southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation. “I would give everything for Hezbollah, not only my children,” says Lina, joining our conversation. “We fare well enough here, as if we were still in Syria,” says the head of the family. “They have been so nice to us in Lebanon that we have almost forgotten we are not at home anymore. Besides, all of our Syrian relatives are here as well.” Zahir went to school until only the ninth grade, while his wife Lina almost made it to a university. “I had no luck passing an Arabic exam, so I just turned around and went home,” Lina tells me, laughing. They hope they might be able to return to Syria soon. Many refugees are already going back, provided that their home provinces have been cleared of insurgents. “Our friends are telling us the Syrian army has already gained control of our neighborhood. The government is clearing the rubble and planning a reconstruction effort. Our house needs repairs as it has gotten a few cracks, but it’s all better than a ruin. The government has promised to rebuild everything that’s been destroyed, and provide cash benefits, too,” says Zahir. Zahir believes the people of Syria have their own tenacity to thank for being safely delivered from a US-led bombing campaign. “We see it as Syria’s victory that the Americans have given up on the idea of air strikes,” he says. “In the words of our honorable President, he who ends a war is the true hero.” Zahir believes Syria will also manage the chemical weapons controversy, once it has been left to its own devices. Moreover, he is convinced the whole story was a false flag from the start. “There had been no mention of chemical weapons before the war,” he explains. “When Obama started blustering about his “red line,” it all sounded like empty talk to us. I won’t deny that I’m an Assad supporter, but let’s look at those allegations in terms of logic. The Syrian army was on the offensive at the time. Why would they use chemical weapons while advancing?” This family has been lucky: Zahir has managed to find a job in Lebanon as a barber. I ask him if he has enough clientele – after all, the Shia are known for keeping their beards. “Well, they still have their hair cut, don’t they?” Zahir laughs. “Besides, I have many clients, not all of them Hezbollah. And I cut people’s hair without asking them whether they are Sunni or Shia.”
President Bashar al-Assad told U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on Wednesday that talks to end Syria's civil war would only succeed if foreign powers ended support for rebels fighting to overthrow him. Brahimi is in Damascus to met Syrian officials in an effort to shore up support for the faltering peace talks. State television quoted Assad as telling Brahimi, "the success of any political solution is tied to stopping support for terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states". Assad's government calls the armed opposition terrorists.The "Geneva 2" talks, tentatively planned for November 23, aim to start a political process to end the civil war in which more than 100,000 people have been killed. Brahimi has angered the opposition by saying that Iran, Assad's main backer during the war, should attend Geneva. The rebels and political opposition say that any negotiations should be based on Assad's removal. Assad and Iran, however, have said they will only go to talks that set no preconditions. Assad said that "only the Syrian people are authorized to shape the future of Syria." Mohammad Riza Shebani, the Iranian ambassador to Syria, told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday that Iran was ready to attend the Geneva meeting. "Of course, everyone knows Iran's efforts to help a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Iran's absence from this meeting does not benefit the meeting," he said. The Syrian conflict began in early 2011 as a peaceful protest movement against four decades of Assad family rule, but has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and forced millions to flee.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the Patron-in-Chief of PPP strongly condemned the blast occurred in Zarghoon road, Quetta on Wednesday. The Patron-in Chief of PPP expressed profound grief over the loss of precious lives of innocent people and injured in the blast. He further expressed sympathy with the bereaved family members and prayed for eternal peace for the departed souls and early recovery of injured. He asked the government for the provision of better treatment to the injured.
The Pakistani government claimed Wednesday that more than two thousand suspected terrorists have been killed in 317 drone strikes in the past five years while only 67 innocent civilians have died in these attacks. Surprisingly the official data also claims that no innocent civilian was struck by the drone strikes since January 2012 while more than three hundred terrorists were targeted in the strikes. The official data negates the claims by local political and religious parties that US drone strikes in Pakistan have mostly killed innocent civilians, including women and children. The Ministry of Defence furnished a written reply in the Senate today detailing the number of US drone strikes in the past five years. According to the official data, this year has witnessed the lowest number of drone strikes which are 14 as compared to 2010 when the US hit Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas 115 times through drone attacks.Defense analyst and author Zahid Hussain believes that the number of drone strikes in Pakistan may reduce, but it is highly unlikely that the US would consider putting an end to the drone program.
Geo News has received the copy of the challan against former president, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the murder case of Abdul Rashid Ghazi. After their investigation, police declared Musharraf innocent as there was no evidence or eyewitness presented against the former president. Earlier on Wednesday a local court reserved its verdict in the bail application of Musharraf in the case. The court will announce its verdict on November 1. During proceedings, Musharraf lawyer argued that his client had not issued any orders for the Lal Masjid operation.
The Express Tribune
By Ejaz HaiderThe ongoing Lal Masjid case, leaving aside everything else, is an example, if one were still needed, of what’s wrong with us. Two sets of people want ‘justice’ for the Lal Masjid ‘victims’: those who want to bludgeon former General-President Pervez Musharraf, and the lying right wing that has made a habit of decrying everything this state stands for and then using the very institutions of this state, in this case the judiciary, to clamour for legal-constitutional rights and make space for their exclusionary agenda. Such in our beloved land are the ironies of public and private life. Now General Musharraf is not the flavour of the month. He hasn’t been since he left office. Since his return, he has been made to run from pillar to post, his nose rubbed in the dust. Perhaps he required a lesson in humility. He is being held responsible for much that has gone wrong. At least in that, bitter political rivals boo and curse him from the same side of the fence. I am no fan of Musharraf’s. In fact, when he took over, opposed as I am to military takeovers, despite the genius of Mian Nawaz Sharif on display from 1997 to that fateful day in 1999, I wrote against the coup. It was a difficult choice: it never is easy to choose between two bad options. I didn’t have too many takers, just like I didn’t when I wrote about the excesses of the lawyers and where their movement was headed. So, I can chalk a long list of bad decisions by Musharraf. And I did. Interestingly, the Lal Masjid operation didn’t find a place in that. Here’s why. The clerics of a mosque, in the heart of the capital, decided to challenge the state. Their shenanigans in the run-up to the operation are fully documented. I could give a blow by blow account of what happened, as also the clerical family that built its power through state patronage and ended up challenging the very state that has created many monsters but most of that too is known. What does need stressing is that everything they said or did showed a supra-state mindset. They used religion as a cover to demand concessions from the state which no state can concede. They did this even though it was a known fact since 2004 that they had issued a fatwa at the behest of Ayman alZawahiri against the military personnel fighting al Qaeda. “On the advice of al Qaeda, Maulana Abdul Aziz issued a religious decree in 2004 which declared the South Waziristan operation un-Islamic. The decree prohibited the burial of the soldiers in Muslim graveyards. Funeral prayers for those who had died in the action against Muslim militants in South Waziristan were forbidden. The decree was circulated throughout the country and 500 clerics signed it … All the combined guns of the militants could not have been as useful in belittling the Pakistan Army as that religious decree.” (Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Syed Saleem Shahzad, p.42) This, again, is just the tip of the iceberg. Shahzad, on pages 41-47 and then 159-162, writes in detail about the close nexus between Lal Masjid and al Qaeda (AQ) and how the two brothers were part of the AQ action plan. Incidentally, this is not the only account. There were several police, Intelligence Bureau and ISI/Military Intelligence (MI) assessments of what the two brothers were up to. In fact, Musharraf wanted to take action against the brothers much earlier but was stopped from doing so by the MI which was already worried because of large-scale desertions in the army following the 2004 fatwa. In a nutshell, the Lal Masjid clerics were pushing the AQ agenda and were deeply involved in activities that were unlawful, unconstitutional and anti-state. Not just that, and this is what no one seems to point to, they were using the seminarians under their charge, both boys and girls, in a game devised by AQ. Perhaps now, when they call for justice for those who died in the operation, the honourable court would take the trouble of asking them two questions: one, who rebelled against the state and created the circumstances that led to a military operation; two, who exploited the misdirected zeal of unsuspecting students and put them in harm’s way? These questions should have been part of the eight-point terms of reference of the inquiry commission the Supreme Court bench had set up. No one should go unheard; but neither should lies be allowed to govern our lives. Meanwhile, instead of taking a clear position on the issue at a time when Lal Masjid clerics are garnering support for their toxic cause, the GHQ stays quiet and chooses to file its reply through the Judge Advocate General’s Branch. And please spare me the argument that that is the proper channel and the army is only going by its traditional regard for democratic norms. We know, as the army does, that it sends out clear signals to whoever it wants to message when it deems its core interests to be under threat. So, does the army not consider the issue of Lal Masjid to be its core interest despite knowing about the mosque’s links with al Qaeda, and the fact that it lost men in that operation? Some of the officers are still serving; others have retired from very senior positions. I don’t need to name them. But since the Inter-Services Public Relations directorate will get to read this, here’s my suggestion to the army: the sacrifices of those men, officers and soldiers, demand that the facts on Lal Masjid be made known officially, from the mosque’s nexus with al Qaeda and Pakistani militant groups to the entire plan which the brothers were working on. The army owes this to the men it lost as well as to this beleaguered nation. This should be in addition to the letter submitted to the court through the JAG Branch. Finally, let me debunk the bunkum that has found its way into some press stories. The army never used any chemical weapons in the operation. Pakistan is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and does not possess chemical weapons. Do not confuse smoke grenades with chemical weapons. In fact, don’t talk about things your genius cannot even begin to comprehend, thank you. Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2013.
Two persons were injured when Iranian border force opened fire on the Pakistani area near Panjgur on Wednesday, Geo News reported. According to the official sources, Iranian border security force opened fire on a suspected car that entered into Pakistani territory from Iran. As a result of firing, two persons were injured, however, the Pakistani security forces immediately reached the spot after receiving information about the incident and arrested six suspects. Three vehicles were taken into custody while investigation from the suspects is underway.
Participants of a conference were stunned when parliamentary leader of Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Haji Adeel and head of Indian delegation and former member of Rajya Sabha, Shahid Siddiqui, exchanged heated arguments on the issue of terrorism. The ‘Citizen’s First International Conference on Democratisation of Public Policies’ was organised by South Asia Partnership Pakistan and attended by parliamentarians, intellectuals, decision makers and politicians from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. Haji Adeel, while discussing the issue of extremism and terrorism, said: “If Pakistan faced defeat in war against extremism, tomorrow India will be affected and day after tomorrow, war will further spread. So India and Pakistan should cooperate and fight terrorism together.” The senator’s comments irritated Shahid Siddiqui. “Pakistanis should concentrate on its internal issues rather than focusing on India,” he retorted. “Pakistan sends terrorists to India and Mumbai attacks are witness to it. They (Pakistanis) should resolve their internal issues instead of being concerned about the problems of Indians, especially Muslims,” he said. Haji Adeel told him that he had talked in good faith and wanted to secure the future of Indians. At this, Shahid Siddiqui said had Pakistanis been competent enough, they would not have lost half of the country. While talking to Dawn, Shahid Siddiqui said that he was annoyed by the comments of the Pakistani senator. “Indian Muslims have a lot of problems but they want to resolve their issues without the help of Pakistan. For long, Pakistani and Indian establishments have been playing with the sentiments of the peoples of the two countries for their vested interests,” he said. “I have been struggling for the rights of the Indian Muslims and many a time went to jail but it does not mean I want Pakistan’s help. Kashmiris have been struggling for the freedom but Pakistan has nothing to do with it. It (Pakistan) is creating problems for the Indian Muslims rather than solving them,” he said. The objectives of the conference were to engage stakeholders in a consultative process to address security challenges and to suggest recommendations for their solution. The director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Dr Rasul Bakhsh Rais, said citizens’ welfare was the prime responsibility of the state which was not possible without taxing them. “If the government fails to collect tax then it has to borrow from international financial institutions on high interest rate, and to pay the loan back, it has to make budgetary allocations which in return affect socio-economic development of the country,” he said. Senator Rauf Lala from Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party said that Pakistan’s foreign policy was made against the will of the people and based on safeguarding our borders which could be protected by establishing good relations with the neighbouring countries. “Unless there is peace in Afghanistan and India, there cannot be peace in Pakistan. Nice and friendly relations with neighbours would also reduce the defence budget,” he said. Member of Afghan Parliament Ms Shah Gul Rezai said that non-intervention and good relations with neighbouring countries must be the major principal of our foreign policy. “Afghanistan believes that roots of all the conflicts are outside of Afghanistan. Therefore, its foreign policy is focused on establishing good relations with neighbouring countries. Peace and security in Afghanistan is linked with the peace and security in the world,” she said. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, director, School of Political and International Relations, said that foreign policy had two components i.e. domestic and foreign. In this context, Pakistan is not free to form its foreign policy but it is compelled to base its foreign policies on the situation of insecure borders. Former member of Planning Commission, Dr Pervez Tahir, said that the issue of human security was first raised by the United Nations. Poverty has also been given some dimension of security. Economic security includes the issues of health, food, environmental protection, personal and education security. The head of Indian delegation, Dr Shahid Siddiqui, said that in South Asia people regard elections as a prerequisite for the success of democracy but it was not like that. Intra-party elections too were very important to strengthen democracy. “If there is no democracy in the party, there is no democracy in the state,” he added. Political analyst Harris Khalique said people need security rather than territories. He said everyone was talking about polio vaccination but no one talked about the fact that children were suffering from malnutrition.
THE FRONTIER POSTLeaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Awami National Party (ANP) during a Senate session on Tuesday accused the federal government of violating clauses of the Constitution by not providing gas to industrial units in the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The session was chaired by Chairman Senate Nayyar Hussain Bokhari. Federal Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the Senate that the federal government could not provide any gas in newer areas due to the acute shortage of the resource. He further announced the decision of implementing urgent fees of Rs25000 for the installation of new gas connections, adding that after obtaining approval from the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), 10 per cent of all new gas connections would be installed on the basis of urgent fees. During the session, Awami National Party (ANP) leader Senator Haji Adeel said providing gas and water was the basic duty of the government. He said it was the constitutional right of the people, adding that electricity, water and gas from KP were being provided by the government to the whole country, yet not to the province itself. Senator Raza Rabbani also accused the federal government of continually violating Article 158 of the Constitution by not providing gas to industrial units in Karachi. Senator Rabbani also protested after questions to the Ministry of Water and Power were postponed due to the absence of the concerned minister from the session. He stated no one was available to answer questions in the Senate regarding progress with regard to the aforementioned ministry. Moreover, PPP members protested against Imran Khan's statement regarding a campaign for construction of the Kalabagh dam. Senator Rabbani stated that members of the KP Assembly itself had earlier protested against the dam’s construction. He further insisted that the resolution passed on the matter should first be dealt with before the dam’s construction is seriously pursued. Senator Aajiz Dhamra said Imran Khan's statements regarding a campaign for the dam were an insult to three provincial assemblies of Pakistan. He stated that the campaign would be opposed under all circumstances. Senator Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal of PML-N also opposed the campaign, reiterating Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s stance on mutual agreements before all important decisions could be taken. Meanwhile, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) suggested the formation of a special Senate committee to monitor terrorism and the violation of human rights in Karachi. The Chairman said the opposition and the government should work together in order to form such a committee.
By Zahid Ali Baloch
The Baloch HalRich in natural resources but poor in development Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but least populous province – is home to about 13 million people with the country’s lowest growth record and worst infrastructure, along with its highest rates of poverty, lowest social indicators for health and education remains a hotbed of insurgency, secretion violence, extra-judicial killings and tribal feuds from the last 65 years. Besides natural gas, petrol and other mineral the province has also got a warm sea with a beautiful Island that appeared as a result of the recent earth-quake that hit Awaran district of the province earlier a month killing at least 1000 and leaving thousands other injured. Despite having huge reserve of the gas, coal, copper, gold with a huge deep sea half of Balochistan’s total population lives below the poverty line. A local Pakistani English newspaper reported that the country’s largest and most resource-rich province is also the most impoverish, it further says that over 60% of the entire population of the province live below the poverty line. Most of the people in the province are frustrated that Balochistan is so poor, even though it has vast reserves of oil, gas and gold which remain largely untapped. And these were the reasons, which compelled ethno Baloch to fight five major wars against State; they accuse the federal government of extracting the province’s natural wealth without providing a corresponding amount of funds on development projects in the province. Ethno Baloch and Brahuis blame Pakistani State for exploiting their natural resources and occupying on their territory. In order to get rid off from Pakistan aggression Baloch fought two widespread guerrilla campaigns against the Pakistani state, seeking independence between 1973-77 and again in an ongoing fight starting in 2005. Leaders say they are seeking an independent Baloch state in the province’s southeast – with the northern Pashtun-majority area free to decide its own fate. They claim Balochistan was semi-independent prior to 1948 and was occupied through the instrument of accession by Pakistan after separation of sub continent in 1947. According to a report published in The Economist Balochistan was semi-independent under the British Raj and was forcibly annexed in 1948,sparking the first revolt of the people. This event has further resulted five on and of revolt mainly centered on the provincial autonomy and control over the natural resources. The latest movement began in 2005, and went up after the assassination of tribal Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the man who had served as governor and chief minister of the province, but who had increasingly distanced him from the central government and called for an independent Baloch state. Soon after the assassination of Bugti, the situation in Balochistan worsened, Mass arrest, extra-judicial execution, enforced disappearances, sectarian violence, kidnapping for ransom became a common practice in the region. Extra judicial killings and illegal abductions of political activists seem to be an ever-increasing problem of the troubled province today. According to the Vice for Missing Baloch (VBMP) more than 14,000 people from the province have been disappeared over the past nine years and around 700 bullet riddled dead bodies have been dumped. The exact figure of the missing persons in Balochistan is still unknown. The Baloch people in general claims that more than 16000 have gone missing since 2000. In many cases, the state instruments have been found guilty for picking and killing common people in the region. The illegal abduction of common people began after the military dictator General retired pervez Musharraf toppled Civilian government in the country in 19999, who ruled Pakistan as military dictator and president from 1999 to 2008. Rights activists say Musharraf escalated military operation in the province and an increase in enforced disappearances, extra-judicial execution of Baloch peaceful activists and throwing their bullet riddled bodies witnessed. Some analysts believe that the killing of one of the prominent political activist and 86 years old Nawab Akbar Bughti in 2006 is the sole reason of the deteriorated law and order situation in Balochistan. The Human Rights Watch reports says” Balochistan has historically had a tense relationship with Pakistani national government, in large part due to issue of provincial autonomy, control of mineral resources and exploitation, and consequent sense of deprivation. Under President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani military ruler from 1999 until 2008, the situation deteriorated markedly. It seems the climate of the kill and dump policy has not changed despite of the change in the government. The violence still continues. Some of the family members have been waiting for the years to get to know about the fate of their loved ones while so many others recovered their dear ones in shape of dead body with several marks of torture on their bodies. Farzana Majeed, the sister of missing Zakir Majeed,, walked from the pillar to post for the recovery his missing brother but yet she has not been informed about the fate of Mr. Majeed abducted who went missing since 8th June 2008. In her interview with the Express Tribune she said” Look at me. I am 27 years old. My brother is 25. I want my life. I have my needs. What kind of life is this? I am spending all of my life in the protest and missing persons’ camp. If my brother has done anything wrong must be accessed to a legal council and punished according to the law .The security forces are enjoying the great deal of impunity despite of the fact they are seriously violating both national and international law. If this continues, the Baloch will lose an entire generation. Missing person’s families are in dire need of assistance on the humanitarian ground. They need to be helped to be engaged in their daily lives instead of spending their time in the long march or the missing persons camp. UN in general should play a pivotal role to stop the ongoing slow motion genocide of Baloch people.