Sunday, January 6, 2013

Delhi gangrape: Time to look within ourselves?

Chelsea Clinton Speaks for Family and Raises Her Profile

While Hillary Clinton was in the hospital it was daughter Chelsea -- not the secretary of state or the former president Bill Clinton -- who spoke for the family.
She, along with the State Department, doled out what little information the family wanted to share in a series of tweets and when her mother was released from the hospital, it was Chelsea who delivered the thanks on behalf of her parents, tweeting her gratitude to the doctors as well as those who kept her mother in their thoughts while she recovered from a blood clot. When Hillary Clinton leaves office, possibly at the end of this month, it will be the first time since 1982 that a Clinton will not be holding a public office. The watch will be on whether Hillary Clinton makes another run for the White House in 2016, but almost inevitably people will also be watching to see if Chelsea Clinton decides to run for office, too. "Americans always look for dynasties: Bush, Kennedy, Cuomo, Clinton … it's some kind of continuity. There will always be pressure on her to run for public office," said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political strategist in New York. "She's learning from the two best politicians in recent American history and she understands when to hold them and when to fold them," Sheinkopf said. That sense of dynasty could also present a significant hurdle."She's got to A, demonstrate that she has the charisma of her father, or B, demonstrate that she has the policy chops of her mother. And I think like most people she is somewhere in between," a former Hillary Clinton aide from her 2008 campaign said. "People are judging her through each of her parents and it's an impossible standard." Chelsea Clinton, 32, has inched towards a possible political career in recent statements and has become more politically active. In an interview with Vogue published in August she was more open to it than she has been in the past, telling the magazine, "Before my mom's (presidential) campaign I would have said no," but "now I don't know." "I believe that engaging in the political process is part of being a good person. And I certainly believe that part of helping to build a better world is ensuring that we have political leaders who are committed to that premise. So if there were to be a point where it was something I felt called to do and I didn't think there was someone who was sufficiently committed to building a healthier, more just, more equitable, more productive world? Then that would be a question I'd have to ask and answer." Clinton also spoke of a change in her private to public life: "Historically I deliberately tried to lead a private life in the public eye," she told the magazine. "And now I am trying to lead a purposefully public life." Besides her work as a special correspondent with NBC, Chelsea Clinton has taken on high profile roles with her father's Clinton Global Initiative. She sits on several corporate boards and has both moderated and sat on panels discussing both women in politics and childhood obesity, among other issues. She has also worked toward making same-sex marriage legal in New York last year, as well as gay marriage referendums in Maine, Maryland, Wisconsin and Washington state, all of which were successful in November. She has also been active in superstorm Sandy recovery, most notably delivering aid to the devastated Rockaways with her father."She is incredibly busy," a current Clinton aide said. "She's doing a lot with the foundation, she's doing a lot with the Clinton Global Initiative. She's doing a lot of (teaching at) NYU. She's really busy, but I do think you can start to see there's a common thread to everything she's doing." "She was great to work with," said Brian Ellner who worked with Chelsea Clinton on the same sex marriage issue in New York. "She is enormously enthusiastic and supportive on the issue, but in addition, she wanted to do real work. As opposed to just making appearances, she actually came in a couple of times and did phone banking, making calls all around the state urging New Yorkers to support marriage equality and to call their state representatives." Ellner said the younger Clinton "is enormously popular and has really come to represent her generation of young Americans who feel strongly on this issue and many others.""Whether it is pursuing elected politics or increasing her role at the foundation or doing other things because she is right on all of the issues, she's working extraordinarily hard to help people," Ellner said. "I think she really represents her generation extraordinarily well." During her mother's 2008 presidential campaign, Chelsea Clinton campaigned throughout the country stumping on her mother's behalf. It was one of her first public roles and although she didn't answer press questions at the events she got the experience of wooing crowds, as well as taking questions in town halls, not the easiest thing for even the most seasoned politicians to do. The 2008 Clinton staffer said Chelsea Clinton became an "active member" of the campaign, something she would likely repeat if her mother decides to run in 2016. "It gave her a taste of what it means to be a public figure in the more traditional sense," the former aide said. Not everyone is convinced she is bound to run for office. "It's not a given that she will have a public life in elected politics," the former staffer said. "I would tell you, I don't think she's going to. I think she would end up being a reluctant candidate at this point in time."

President Obama signs $9.7-billion bill for Hurricane Sandy insurance claims
The bill increases the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which had warned that it was set to run out of money without additional dollars from Congress.President Barack Obama has signed into law a $9.7 billion bill to pay flood insurance claims from Superstorm Sandy. The law increases the borrowing authority of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA had warned that it was set to run out of money without additional dollars from Congress. The White House said more than 100,000 flood claim payments from Sandy would be delayed without the additional money. HOUSE OVERWHELMINGLY APPROVES $9.7 BILLION IN HURRICANE SANDY AID TO PAY FOR FLOOD INSURANCE CLAIMS IN 354-67 VOTE IN AN ABOUT FACE, BOEHNER PROMISES QUICK ACTION ON $60 BILLION IN HURICANE SANDY AID In the wake of bruising fights in their own ranks over the "fiscal cliff" and aid for victims of superstorm Sandy, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives open a new Congress on Thursday more divided than ever. The House has yet to act on a larger, more comprehensive Sandy aid package. Republican leaders did not bring the bill to the floor before the last session of Congress adjourned. House Speaker John Boehner has promised a vote Jan. 15 on that $51 billion package, and Senate leaders have promised a vote the following week.

Obama to nominate Hagel for defense secretary

President Barack Obama will nominate former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be his defense secretary and an announcement could come on Monday, sources familiar with the nomination process said. The choice will likely set up a confirmation battle in the Senate over whether the former Nebraska senator and Vietnam veteran is a strong enough supporter of key U.S. ally Israel and over his past calls for military cuts. The Obama administration backed down from a tough Senate confirmation battle over Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, who was Obama's first pick to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Rice withdrew her name from consideration after drawing heavy fire from Republicans for remarks she made in the aftermath of a September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Obama then nominated Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry, a former presidential candidate. "The administration has a lot of work to do on Hagel," a Democratic Senate aide said on Sunday. "He is in a weaker position now than Rice ever was because Rice would have rallied Democrats behind her. The administration floated Hagel's name, then neglected to defend him effectively when his critics started taking shots," the aide said. However, the White House is confident it can weather criticism of Hagel's record and garner enough votes from both sides of the political aisle to get his nomination through committee and win confirmation in the Democratic-led Senate. "The president wants him, because he trusts him and he's an independent voice," a second source close to the situation said. The source said Hagel had received high-level messages of reassurance in recent days that his nomination was on track despite a campaign by his critics aimed at derailing it. People close to Hagel have been informed of an imminent announcement, the source added. Obama is also expected to round out his security team by unveiling his pick for CIA director to replace David Petraeus, the retired general who stepped down in November over an extramarital affair with his biographer.
In recent weeks a number of prominent Republicans have said they would oppose Hagel's nomination. On Sunday, Republican lawmakers made clear he would face a tough nomination process. "This is an in-your-face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel," South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN's "State of the Union." "I don't know what his management experience is regarding the Pentagon, little, if any, so I think it's an incredibly controversial choice." Many Republicans contend that Hagel, who left the Senate in 2008, at times opposed Israel's interests. He voted several times against U.S. sanctions on Iran, and made disparaging remarks about the influence of what he called a "Jewish lobby" in Washington. Hagel has also been critical of the size of the American military, telling the Financial Times in 2011 that the Defense Department was "bloated" and needed "to be pared down." An editorial in The Washington Post last month said that given the scale of the cuts Hagel seeks, he was "not the right choice" for defense secretary. Senate minority Leader Mitch McConnell said "there would be a lot of tough questions of Senator Hagel." "But he will be treated fairly by Republicans in the Senate," the Kentucky Republican told NBC's "Meet the Press." Hagel has also been attacked by gay rights groups for remarks in 1998 questioning whether an "openly aggressively gay" nominee could be an effective U.S. ambassador. He apologized for the comments last month saying they were "insensitive." If confirmed, Hagel would become the first former enlisted soldier to lead the Pentagon. He served alongside his brother Tom in Vietnam, and they earned five Purple Hearts between them. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, said the way Hagel had been targeted was not fair. "He hasn't had a chance to speak for himself," she said on ABC's "This Week. "Why all the pre-judging, I don't know."
Last month Obama offered strong support for Hagel as a possible replacement for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has said he wants to leave early in the second term. "I've served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam," Obama told "Meet the Press" on December 30. Obama and Hagel bonded over their shared opposition to the Iraq War. Obama rose to national prominence through his criticism of the war, while Hagel made himself an isolated figure in the Republican Party by taking a similar position. The pair traveled to Iraq together in 2008. While Obama may hope that his choice of a Republican to lead the military would be seen as a gesture of bipartisanship, Hagel has been sharply critical of his own party since leaving the Senate in 2009. Last year, Hagel endorsed a Democratic candidate for the Senate in Nebraska. In 2009, Republican former Vice President Dick Cheney told Newsweek: "Let's say I believe firmly in Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican. But it's very hard sometimes to adhere to that where Chuck Hagel is involved." The top names discussed for CIA director are Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Adviser John Brennan and Michael Morell, a career intelligence officer who has served as acting CIA director after Petraeus' abrupt departure.

Saudi Monarchy Most Tyrannical Regime in World

A prominent international human rights organization described the Saudi monarchy as the most autocratic regime in the world, and blasted the western states' silence on the crimes committed by Riyadh against its own people. "Saudi Arabia is the most autocratic country which has a record of organized genocide against certain groups," May al-Khansa, the head of Saudi Arabia's Organization of the International Coalition for Fighting Escape from Punishment, announced on Saturday. She also said that despite Saudi Arabia's black record of violating human rights at the UN, the country still continues its violence, cruelty and discrimination amid the western states' silence, since al-Saud behaves according to Israel's will. Khansa stressed that the Saudi regime is severely violating the rights of the Shiite minority, "but this is not just restricted to the Shiites, because the regime also kills innocent Sunni citizens and no one dares to defend them". According to Human Rights Watch, the Saudi regime "routinely represses expression critical of the government". Saudi Arabia has faced demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Eastern Province, mainly in Qatif and the town of Awamiyah since February 2011, calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. However, the demonstrations have turned into protests against the repressive al-Saud regime, especially since November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in the province. Saudi forces have also arrested dozens of people including prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nemr al-Nemr. Also in October, the Saudi Interior Ministry warned the public against staging demonstrations in support of the prisoners in the kingdom and pledged to deal "firmly" with those participating in such protest rallies.

Veena Malik seeks solace in Bhagavad Gita

Actor Veena Malik
has started her New Year with the name of ‘OM’. Recently, she was seen reading Bhagavad Gita on a film set. Veena, who was upset because of the recent Delhi gangrape incident, was seeking a truthful path of Bhagavad Gita to get justice for the innocent girl. She is currently preparing for her upcoming movie, The City That Never Sleeps, which is being produced by Satish Reddy and directed by Haroon Rashid. Veena said, “Reading Bhagavad Gita makes you feel relaxed. It shows you the spiritual path, which seems very difficult to human beings. It can fix your goals in life. I feel there should be no boundaries in having faith in other religions. I read Quran daily and offer namaz because I have faith in God. After reading Bhagavad Gita, I can say that all religions show us the right path.” She added, “Religion is a collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature,” she added.

'Malala survived that's a big defeat for Taliban and now they want to kill many Malalas': Report

As the Pakistani schoolgirl leaves hospital in Britain, extremists continue their murderous campaign by turning their guns on health workers and teachers
For the teachers and health workers serving the village of Sher Afzal Banda, there were few things more mundane than their daily return journey to work. Every morning a cramped Suzuki minibus owned by the charity Support With Working Solutions (SWWS) would collect them from the junction on a main road and drive them down the rough country track, just wide enough for a single vehicle. In the late afternoon it would bring them back. "She never thought she was running a risk," said Zain ul-Hadi, the husband of Naila, a 28-year-old who led a team providing basic healthcare to some of the 2,000 people who live in traditional mud houses in the village in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. "She had no reason to be scared of anyone." He last spoke to her on Tuesday afternoon, when she called to confirm she would meet him as normal. "She said she was on her way and I said I would be waiting to pick her up." Thirty minutes later she and six out of the nine people, mostly fully veiled women, riding in the Suzuki would be dead, murdered by as yet unidentified militants while they sat inside the vehicle. The appalling incident has raised fresh alarm about the growing willingness of Pakistan's increasingly brutal militants to attack civilians. Like many other parts of the country where ethnic Pashtuns live, the district of Swabi has had its share of trouble with militancy. But while some schools have been blown up, no one can recall anything like last week's attack. One victim, a male nurse called Umjad Ali, had even moved home from his employment in Karachi after his family feared for his safety in the strife-torn coastal megalopolis. The two gunmen, faces covered with cloth, had picked their site carefully. Their motorbikes were parked at a narrow point where the road dips, forcing traffic to slow down. There were no people or houses for miles around, only fields sown with a young wheat crop. The driver, who survived a bullet in his chest, asked whether he should try to smash past the two sinister, pistol-brandishing men. But Umjad Ali thought it better to stop and talk. In one apparent act of mercy, one of the men pulled Naila's four-year-old son, Ehsan Shehzad, out of the vehicle and threw him into a field after she begged that he be spared. The gunmen asked for everyone's mobile phones, but then began shooting through the windows of the vehicle before the devices were handed over. In a part of the world where people hate to break the worst possible news over the phone, relatives of the six women and one man eventually received calls saying their wives and daughters were "seriously hurt" and they should come immediately. Days on, they are all still in deep shock. "When the Taliban killed the polio vaccination team it occurred to me she could be targeted as well," said Umara Khan, father of Shourat, a 28-year-old who taught in Sher Afzal Banda's small primary school. "But I did not ask her to leave, she loved to teach." Like many of the other families affected, Shourat, with her well-paid NGO job, was the main breadwinner for her household. "What are they trying to achieve? I don't know," said Hussain Wali, the father of Rahilla, a 25-year-old teacher who was also in the Suzuki. "We did not have a sense that women, teachers and health workers would be targeted." On Friday police claimed that one of the culprits blew himself up after the police attempted to arrest him. The incident in Swabi comes after the killing of nine people working on UN-backed anti-polio vaccination teams during a string of attacks last month. In October, Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl from the nearby district of Swat, survived being shot in the head by a Taliban gunman, who objected to her fight for girls to be educated. Last week she was discharged from hospital in Birmingham after weeks of treatment. In December, militants kidnapped 23 tribal police. Observers say that in the past the militants would probably have tried to trade them for a ransom, but 21 of them were killed with no demands made. "Things are changing, things have been happening that never happened in the past," said Rahimullah Yousafzai, a journalist based in Peshawar who has been covering the tribal area for decades. "Attacking mosques, funerals, graves and, of course, these teachers and health workers." Yousafzai says Pakistan's militants have come to see anyone involved in charitable or development organisations as fair game: "They take it for granted that if you work for an NGO you are funded by the west, that you are trying to change local traditions and customs, you are doing something that is secular. They no longer expect to get any public support, so no effort is being made to win hearts and minds. That is beyond them. Now all they want is to intimidate and pre-empt an uprising against them." For the time being, the people of Sher Afzal Banda are defiant. Local residents say they want the school to be reopened as soon as possible. Javed Akhtar, executive director of SWWS, is considering hiring armed guards for his staff. Like most humanitarian workers, he hates the idea of using guns but sees no alternative. But he fears more trouble. As in nearby Swat, the people of Swabi have a strong commitment to educating their daughters and the district boasts a high female literacy rate. "Malala survived, she was discharged from hospital – that is a big defeat for them," he said. "They now want revenge, they want to kill many Malalas."

Pakistan: ''YouTube ban''

Daily Times
By:Yasser Latif Hamdani
No state, modern or ancient, secular or religious, has successfully managed to exercise thought control on its citizens
The big news this week in the business world is the decision by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the Google antitrust investigations. Holding that Google was not harming consumers in anyway, the FTC did not press ahead with a complaint against Google. This is a significant victory for Google but there is a loud chorus of voices against this decision, including by Microsoft’s general counsel who says that the FTC missed a golden opportunity to set things straight in terms of Google’s control over the market. The only reason I bring it up is to inform the reader of where the debate is at in terms of cyber space, internet controls and the law in the developed world. The world is moving towards a free flow of information and ideas where even the subtlest of the moves to control information or censorship is questioned and thoroughly investigated. Could there be a greater contrast to this in our country of poor enslaved 180 million people who are deprived of the full freedom of the internet in the name of selective morality, religious sentiments and state’s inability to divorce itself from operating as the regulator of vice and virtue? The government’s flip-flop last week over the YouTube ban has once again exposed the misplaced priorities and a profound lack of logical and rational decision making on its part. YouTube ban is an idiocy of the highest order. Would the banning of YouTube remove the blasphemous video from the website? Or do we feel we can strong arm the world into agreeing to our restrictions on freedom of speech? Let us call a spade a spade. The YouTube ban is indicative of an ostrich mentality, of burying one’s head in sand in response to danger. Blanket bans on online internet tools such as YouTube have a disastrous impact on the ability of Pakistani students, teachers, businesspersons and other professionals using such tools for educational, religious, commercial or entertainment purposes. In the information age, such a ban is tantamount and analogous to taking away a writer’s pen with which a writer such as Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in the 19th century famously countered Sir William Muir’s untruths about the Holy Prophet (PBUH). While many countries — Muslim and Non-Muslim — including Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, India, Maldives etc have banned the URLs to the objectionable film, only Pakistan persists with a blanket ban on YouTube to the detriment of its citizens. In any event, the government has the ability to ban specific URLs instead of placing blanket bans but it chooses instead to ban the whole tool as it were because under the guise of religious sentiment, it seeks actually to control what Pakistanis watching on the internet. Given the conservative nature of Pakistani society, such bans can lead to frustration, violence and chaos amongst the youth of the country, which now forms the majority of its citizens. The state has no business deciding moral questions for its citizens. No state, modern or ancient, secular or religious, has successfully managed to exercise such thought control on its citizens and any such attempt at moral policing, without exception, has been an exercise in futility. To state it more bluntly that what a person views on his or her computer is none of the state’s business and the state should not demean itself by attempting to control personal choices of individuals. What is more is that it violates the Supreme Court’s own pronouncement in Hasba Bill judgment, which simply put makes state’s enforcement of religious matters outside of Zakat unconstitutional. This abject surrender to narrow-minded fanatics by this mighty state of ours is going to hurt us badly for decades to come as we fall behind the rest of the world on every conceivable indicator. A country that was once a leader in the developing world is now compared to Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of human development, literacy, healthcare and security. The internet is the great leveler. Free flow of information may still help this nation of illiterates catch up. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen because the government that has been inflicted upon us does not have the moral fibre to put its foot down and tell the Qadris and Saeeds to take a hike. One of the rare upstanding Pakistani politicians — Governor of Punsjab Shaheed Salmaan Taseer — was abandoned by this government. Not that betrayal is a word unknown to the Pakistan People’s Party. In 1974, it folded to extremists when they were much weaker than they are now. Now the present government is bartering our future away by curbing the average Pakistani’s access to knowledge and information. The world now exists in a large part in the cyber space. Most of our economic transactions take place online. People now exist online and their online sphere is much larger than their offline influence in the world. The next great wars will be the wars of ideas and domination of the marketplace of ideas, which is again — you guessed it — online. Pakistan’s leaders have already shot this country in the foot on that count.

Z.A.BHUTTO : Architect of a new Pakistan

When Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met President John F Kennedy as Pakistan's foreign minister in Washington, Kennedy was so impressed by the young leader as to say if he (ZAB) was in the United States, he would have been in his cabinet. Bhutto replied, "Mr President, had I been in the US, I would have been in the White House and you in my cabinet". This was the real talent of the great leader who is now ruling from his grave at Garhi Khuda Bukhsh and who still commands millions of die-hard workers even after 43 years of his founding of the Pakistan People's Party with the pulsating message that poverty and ignorance is not the destiny of the poor and the downtrodden and an egalitarian society that promises an end of exploitation of man by man is the answer of their sufferings. PPP is celebrating eighty-fifth birthday of the late ZAB who was killed by dictator Gen Ziaul Haq's superior judiciary to deprive the country of a statesman who is second to none in Pakistan. If Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the maker of Pakistan, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was its architect. His birthday on Saturday was observed across the country. The day began with Quran Khwani at his grave where a number of political leaders paid glowing tributes to the man who was a revolutionary throughout his life telling the people that they were living in a repressive system that has to be changed. Soon after assuming power after the fall of Dhaka, Shaheed Bhutto promised to build a new Pakistan; one that is free from exploitation and social injustices, and history stands witness to the fact that he came good on his pledge. His visionary leadership shaped the events of the contemporary age according to what time had demanded. His policies became the guiding principles for all times to come. He changed the course of history in South Asia in the sense that his courageous actions saved his country from further disintegration. He did for his country what Lenin had done for the Soviet Union and Chairman Mao for the People's Republic of China. Simla Accord could be rated at this level of Pakistan's transformation as ZAB won this agreement as the leader of a defeated nation. Since assuming power this great man of vision and destiny, equipped with extraordinary intelligence and patriotic zeal fought successfully against feudal lords, sardars, capitalists, industrialists, big businessmen, religious fanatics and corrupt bureaucrats. The making of the 1973 Constitution, that is still the binding force of the federation, remains the most outstanding milestone in Pakistan's history besides other socio-economic and political reforms, particularly land reforms and the first labour policy, will also be remembered as steps for bringing basic change in the repressive system.

President Zardari to give cash incentives to players

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari announced cash award of Rs 500,000 to the highest Pakistani run scorers in each of the three cricket matches won by the country’s cricket team in India. Zardari also announced an award of Rs 500,000 for the highest Pakistani wicket takers in each of matches, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. Having won the first two ties in the three match series, Pakistan has already pocketed the ODI series on their India tour, that marks the resumption of cricketing ties between the arch rivals after the Mumbai terror attacks on 2008. Earlier Pakistan beat Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men in the first T20 played on the tour, but India levelled the series by winning the second T20.

PPP HR Cell condemns killing of young tribesmen in Kohistan

Radio Pakistan
The PPP Human Rights Cell has strongly condemned the revenge killing of three young tribesmen in Kohistan over the song video issue and demanded strict action against the culprits. A press release issued by the Cell said the killings took place with impunity because the earlier plea of Mohammad Afzal and his brothers went unheeded both by the courts and those who investigated the issue on the direction of the Supreme Court. The press release says the young men kept insisting that the women were killed but the report submitted to the Supreme Court stated otherwise and the court filed the report taking it to be true. It is clear that the report was neither factual nor sound. The PPP Human Rights cell has urged the Supreme Court to take the corrective action. The cell says Supreme Court must now ask the authorities to locate the women in the video‚ and if they are not to be located to charge the concerned with murder.

A new ‘saviour’ arrives in Pakistan

The Hindu-
Tahir-ul-Qadri’s sudden reappearance on the political scene a few months before elections are due has set off concerns that he is a stalking horse for anti-democratic forces The winter fog across Pakistan has brought in its wake a parallel haze in the nation’s perennially stormy political firmament with the arrival of another self-professed “saviour” from Canada — Tahir-ul-Qadri. Serenaded back into the country with an advertisement blitzkrieg that smacked of big bucks, Dr. Qadri sent Pakistan’s politics into a tailspin with a mammoth rally at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan on December 23 where the “political-has-been” served an ultimatum that essentially said “reform or perish.” And, gave the federal government all of three weeks to do his bidding or else reckon with a Long March of four million people onto Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue which would be “turned into a Tahrir Square.” Dr. Qadri is a Barelvi religious scholar who took dual nationality of Canada about a decade ago and went “Westward” to “project the soft face of Islam” after dabbling in Pakistani politics. His demands include sweeping reforms covering electoral and a caretaker government of squeaky clean technocrats and patriots in consultation with “all stakeholders including the judiciary and the military.” He also invoked Article 254 of the Constitution arguing that this was a constitutional provision under which elections, due before mid-May, could be delayed. Several red flags popped up almost simultaneously even before Dr. Qadri wrapped up his “Nizam Badlo (Change the system”) rally where the slogan was “Siyasat Nahin, Riyasat Bachao (Save the State, not politics”). While the money spent on his rally and his waltzing in at this juncture — in the last three months of the current dispensation — had already got conspiracy theorists murmuring, mention of a “government of technocrats,” “delaying elections” and “consulting the judiciary and military” on the contours of the caretaker government set alarm bells peeling of the omnipresent and all-powerful establishment developing its periodic itch to undermine the democratic project. Given Pakistan’s history, the apprehensions of mischief afoot were inevitable. The “first-reforms-then-elections” slogan sounded very similar to Zia ul-Haq’s “Pehle ehtesaab, phir intikhab (First accountability, then elections”) which allowed him to rule for the next decade.
With parties like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) — two major constituents of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led coalition — extending support to Dr. Qadri’s caravan, the storm clouds were in particularly after the MQM decided to participate in the “Long March.” Adding fuel to fire, Dr. Qadri and the MQM urged the Army to facilitate the “Long March” by not taking orders from the government if its help was sought to stop the multitudes from entering Islamabad. Together, these statements brought back memories of earlier attempts to orchestrate a “political” alternative like the Pakistan National Alliance ahead of the 1977 elections to get rid of the PPP and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and then again the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) in 1990 to keep his daughter Benazir Bhutto from coming to power. “Pakistan’s history gives us reason to worry about the appearance of self-proclaimed saviours from out of the blue and the potential for them being stalking horses for the invisible forces,” rued Farahnaz Ispahani, former spokesperson for President Asif Ali Zardari and a politician who was stripped of her membership of Parliament for being a dual national. “We are working towards the completion of the democratically elected term that would be the first in Pakistan’s history. All challenges to democracy from outside Parliament reflect efforts by undemocratic forces to reassert total power,” she added, articulating a commonly held view. What has unsettled many is the timing. “Why now,” is a common refrain particularly since its most bitter critics had reconciled to the PPP-led government — perpetually predicted to be on its last leg since the day it assumed office in 2008 — seeing its full term through. After all, Pakistan is on the threshold of seeing its first democratic transition through an election under civilian rule in 65 years. Though Dr. Qadri insisted that he was not against democracy and all his demands were constitutional, even lawyers critical of the PPP find fault with his interpretation of the Constitution. As for electoral reforms, this Parliament has expanded the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim’s name was suggested by the Opposition. Similarly, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution details the modalities for appointing the interim/caretaker government after the incumbent dispensation steps down and there is no provision whatsoever for consulting the military or the judiciary in this process. At the risk of being taunted as being a “friendly opposition,” the main Opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), has time and again refused to play ball in destabilising the democratic process. Though it has been provoked into brinkmanship — as in the “Memogate” case — the PML(N) has evidently learnt its lesson well from the 1990s when the establishment used it to destabilise PPP-led governments and vice versa.
The Express Tribune, in an editorial, sought to explain the Qadri phenomenon thus: “His appearance was too sudden to be explained as a natural reaction to disappointment in democracy or the performance of the current government. One popular theory is that the military, having first given Imran Khan a nudge, has now shifted its allegiance to Qadri since it realizes that the [cricketer-turned-politician’s] Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s electoral prospects have dimmed.” That Dr. Qadri pulled a massive crowd at Lahore is no surprise since he presides over the Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI) — a “non-political, nonsectarian, non-governmental organisation” with a huge network spread across Pakistan and 90 countries. He claims that the money for his rally also came from this international network and the MQI website is posting details of his campaign for changing the corrupt system of Pakistan. Apart from feeding into the general disenchantment with the state of affairs in Pakistan — poor governance and corruption included — Dr. Qadri has not stated his future course of action beyond creating a Tahrir Square-like situation. Asked how he proposed to contest elections as dual nationals are debarred from doing so, his reply has been that he would give up his Canadian nationality if he decides to contest. Neither has there been any visible indication of reviving his defunct political party, the Pakistani Awami Tehreek. For all the confusion Dr. Qadri has managed to create, there is a silver lining to the gathering storm clouds. Apart from the MQM — which has said it would continue to support the federal government — practically every political party, big and small, has come out in favour of timely elections and batted for democracy. Even the media — which has been critical of the government from day one and blames elected representatives for the downward slide — is speaking up for democracy; reflecting its own stakes in the process as Pakistan’s political class closed ranks to weather the storm.

U.S. drone attack kills 10 in Pakistan

A U.S. drone strike killed at least 10 people suspected to be Taliban fighters in Pakistan's northern tribal areas on Sunday, intelligence sources said, days after another drone strike killed a top militant leader in the area. The attack on three Taliban compounds in Babar Pehari, South Waziristan, killed between 10 and 12 people, six intelligence sources said. More militants were believed to be in the compounds when they were hit, officials said, meaning the death toll could rise. Three of the intelligence sources and a Taliban commander said that Wali Muhammed, also known as Toofin, was among the dead. He supervised suicide bomb squads for the Pakistani Taliban. The Pakistani Taliban has established sanctuaries in the mountainous Babar area, 140 km (87 miles) northeast of Wana, the main city of the South Waziristan region, they said. South Waziristan is controlled by the Pakistani army, which operates under an uneasy truce with militants from the local Wazir tribe. Sunday's strike followed the death of Mullah Nazir, a Waziri militant leader, on Wednesday. Nazir supported attacks on American forces in Afghanistan but had signed two peace deals with the Pakistani army. On Sunday, thousands of his tribesmen protested against his killing. Many Pakistanis say drone strikes infringe the country's sovereignty, and are angry over civilian casualties they cause. Others say the drones are the only way of targeting militants who terrorize the local population in areas the Pakistani army is unwilling to patrol. Drone strikes dramatically increased after U.S. President Barack Obama took office in 2009. There were only five drone strikes in 2007, but the number rose to 117 in 2010 before declining to 46 last year. Exact casualty figures are difficult to verify. Most of those killed are militants, but some civilians have also been killed.

India army kills Pakistan soldier in Kashmir

A Pakistani soldier was killed and another injured in a gunfight between Indian and Pakistani troops in Kashmir on Sunday, a disputed incident that could heighten tensions between the nuclear neighbours after a period of rapprochement. The Pakistani army said Indian troops had raided their Sawan Patra checkpost in Kashmir, a hotly contested area both countries claim as their own. The Indian military denied its soldiers had attacked a Pakistani position. "Pakistan army troops effectively responded and repulsed the attack," a Pakistani army spokesman said in a statement. The two sides then exchanged fire across the Line of Control, an internationally recognised line in Kashmir patrolled by troops from both countries, he said. Indian army spokesman Colonel Jagadish Dahiya said Indian troops had not crossed the Line of Control. "However, there was a ceasefire violation by Pakistan. Our troops retaliated by firing," Dahiya said. "None of our troops crossed the Line of Control. We have no casualties or injuries." Another spokesman for the Indian army said its post at Churuda, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Srinagar, came under "unprovoked" heavy mortar and automatic gun fire for about five hours early on Sunday. "We did retaliate," Colonel Rajesh Kalia said. There were more than 75 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control in 2012, killing eight people. Most of the violations were exchanges of fire between the two sides. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, when they became independent from Britain. The two countries share many similarities in language and culture, though most of Pakistan's citizens are Muslim and most of India's Hindu. Kashmir, and the human rights abuses committed there by Indian troops, is a politically explosive issue in Pakistan. Pakistani security forces have long trained militant groups to attack Indian soldiers. The two countries fought their most recent war in 1999, when Pakistani troops crossed the Line of Control and occupied Indian territory in Kargil, but were forced to withdraw. TENSION OVERSPILL After a period of quiet, relations between the two countries nosedived again in 2008, when a militant squad rampaged through Mumbai, killing 166 people. India accused Pakistan of sheltering the masterminds behind the attack, charges that Pakistan denies. The two countries have been slowly repairing relations in recent months. In November, India executed Ajmal Kasab, the last surviving perpetrator of the Mumbai attack. Last month the two countries signed a deal designed to ease visa restrictions for some citizens to travel between the two countries. Tension between the two countries has also spilled over into nearby Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan. India offers military and economic aid there, but many Pakistanis fear this is an attempt to lessen Pakistan's influence. The United States has repeatedly urged Pakistan to move against al Qaeda and militant havens along its Afghan border. Pakistan says it does not have enough troops because so many of them are patrolling the border with India. Some U.S. officials also believe Pakistan is unwilling to move against the militants because some elements in Pakistan's security forces would prefer to be able to use the militants to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops have pulled out by the end of 2014.

India beat Pakistan by 10 runs in a low-scoring thriller

Pakistan, resilient, clinical and professional all through their current tour of India, sacrificed those virtues on Sunday (January 6), throwing away a golden chance of completing the first whitewash in India-Pakistan One-Day International cricket. Scorecard The denizens of New Delhi had braved the coldest day of the winter so far to fill Feroze Shah Kotla, and they found their warmth in a face-saving Indian win by ten runs in a fascinating cricket match that wasn’t always of the highest standard but which microcosmed everything the 50-over game is about. India made a spectacular defence of their modest 167, cashing in on Pakistan’s strange bout of nerves and questionable shot selection, to ensure that they kept the series margin down to 1-2. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, having recovered from a sore back that had threatened to keep him out of the game, chose to bat on winning the toss but another top-order failure catalysed by continued excellence from Junaid Khan and unflagging persistence from Mohammad Irfan reduced India to 37 for three. Saeed Ajmal then chose the perfect time to register his best ODI figures, five for 24, as Pakistan ruthlessly cut off all escape routes, sending India crashing to 167 all out with a massive 6.2 overs left unutilised. There was enough in the conditions even in the second part of the match to keep the quicker bowlers interested, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed, on debut after replacing Ashok Dinda, exploited those conditions quite beautifully. Bhuvneshwar picked up Kamran Akmal, opening the batting instead of Mohammad Hafeez who sustained a finger injury while trying to catch Dhoni off his own bowling, and Younis Khan during an unchanged 10-over burst of two for 32 while Shami was distinctly unfortunate not to court any early success as India were all over Pakistan. The threat in the bowling was backed up by energy and enthusiasm in the field where India were positively electric, but that was briefly neutralised by the form of Nasir Jamshed and the stabilising influence of Misbah-ul-Haq. From 14 for two, they steadied the ship with a stand of 47, and Pakistan seemed to have wrested back control, particularly with Misbah adding a further 52 for the next wicket with Umar Akmal, preferred to Azhar Ali for the match. A regulation chase was very much on the cards at that stage when a mid-innings collapse undid all the good work as India’s fielding touched glorious heights. Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina and Ajinkya Rahane, coming in for Virender Sehwag, were all spectacular, pulling off one stunning stop after another, to sustain the pressure under which Pakistan finally cracked. From being in total control, Pakistan lost their way through the middle stages, Jadeja turning in a wonderful spell of left-arm spin bowling. In the end, it came down to 23 off the last two overs, well beyond even Hafeez whose brief flurry ended when he smashed Ishant Sharma to Yuvraj Singh at midwicket, triggering delirium in the stands and overwhelming relief in the middle as Pakistan were dismissed for 157. India were caught betwixt and between when they batted, their recent travails accelerating the germination of the seeds of doubt. The desire to attack was overwhelmed by the necessity for survival, especially against Junaid who was once again outstanding with his tremendous skill and excellent control. India brought Rahane in for Sehwag but Rahane failed to seize his chance, falling early to Irfan. Gautam Gambhir began positively but strangely found the going difficult as he spent more time in the middle, while Kohli was all at sea against Junaid, unable to fathom which way the ball was moving and being repeatedly beaten on the outside edge and inside. It was in the fitness of things that Junaid accounted for Kohli, eliciting an outside edge smartly taken low at second slip by Younis. By then, Gambhir had already made his way back, half-heartedly waft-swatting a short, wide delivery from Irfan and unerringly picking out the point fielder. Yuvraj began in a blaze of boundaries but closed the bat-face in Hafeez’s first over to lose off-stump, bringing Dhoni into the middle with his team once more in deep trouble. Dhoni had come in at 29 for five in the first ODI and 70 for four in the second. This time, the scoreboard read 63 for four, and he was again required to rebuild the innings in the company of Raina. The two added 48, by some distance the highest partnership of the innings, Dhoni smashing Hafeez for two towering sixes and exhibiting the aggression he had forsaken in the previous games. Raina took his time, content to bat in Dhoni’s shadow, and India were just about starting to get their innings back on track when the brilliance of Ajmal shone through. Ajmal has had a largely quiet tour, his three wickets in one over in Kolkata notwithstanding. With India threatening a recovery, Ajmal struck paydirt, sliding one through to trap Raina in front and then dismissing R Ashwin, also leg before, with a sharply turning offbreak the very next delivery. As he has done throughout the series, Dhoni kept the fight going until he cut Gul hard but straight to Umar Akmal at point to be dismissed in an ODI at home for the first time in seven innings. Jadeja lashed out towards the end but without much support, India failing to bat out their 50 overs for the second time in four days.

Karzai's US visit sends signal to Pakistan and Taliban

Hamid Karzai's visit to the US on Monday will lay bare the Afghan president's strengths and weaknesses. He still has the backing of the US, but he is worried about troop withdrawals, elections, Pakistan and the Taliban.
On his trip abroad this week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will be spending at least a few days in the US. During that time he will be speaking at length with President Barack Obama about the troop strength of American soldiers post-2014 and about coming presidential elections in Afghanistan. Both topics will be of decisive importance for Afghanistan's future: troop strength is central to the country's security, while elections will show which path the embattled country will now take. Other topics of interest include the economy, the relationship between Afghanistan and neighboring countries - above all, Pakistan - and talks about a potential bilateral security agreement.
After the 2014 troop withdrawal
After the next round of US troop withdrawals in 2014, experts presume that at least 30,000 US and NATO troops will remain stationed in Afghanistan. Still, many Afghans worry that the southern and eastern parts of country, which share a border with Pakistan, will once again fall into the hands of insurgents when foreign security forces are withdrawn. That is why the Afghan government is demanding a comprehensive upgrade of its army and police forces. Aimal Faizi, spokesman to the Afghan president, said, "One of the most important points in talks between President Karzai and President Obama will be the upgrade of Afghan security forces. We have already made it clear that, with regard to our shared interests and needs, the US should train our military."
An air force for Afghanistan
One of President Karzai's particular concerns, Faizi said, is related to new equipment for an Afghan air force which, up until now, has remained poorly equipped. Over the last 18 years, the US has been delivering fighter planes not to Afghanistan but to neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan would like to close that gap, says the South Asia expert Conrad Schetter. He does not believe, however, that it will happen. "Due to the competitive relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a delivery to the Afghan air force would cause an escalation between the two countries and would assuredly result in a deterioration of the relationship between the US and Pakistan. No one in Washington can advocate that." Where the US has invested in Afghan security forces, it has done so primarily in light armaments for the infantry.
Signals to Pakistan and the Taliban
The trip is also intended to send a signal directed at both Pakistan and the insurgent Taliban. The latest declaration of proximity between the US and Afghanistan will put Pakistan under pressure. "For Pakistan that means it has to try to enter into an alliance in order to avoid being isolated," Schetter says. Karzai's signal to the Taliban is different: Peace negotiations, when they come, should only be undertaken with the inclusion of Afghanistan - and not with the US alone - since Karzai now has the backing of the US: something this trip will show.
No peace without the Taliban
According to the Afghan government, the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan agree that the conflict in Afghanistan cannot be settled by war. Beyond that, many Afghan experts agree that peace without Taliban engagement isn't possible. Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul recently reassured the Taliban (02.01.2013) at a press conference. "Should the Taliban take part in a peace process, and progress is achieved, then they can take part in the coming elections as a political party," he said. Even Abdul Hamid Azer, a community leader of a municipality in the province of Kabul, supports this approach. "It's good news that the Taliban has active contact with the world at a diplomatic level. They are also Afghans, and one can't say that they're not also suffering under the conditions of war." Whether the strategy of negotiating with the Taliban works will presumably be seen after the 2014 presidential election. The US supports peace talks with the Taliban in order to bring an end to the conflict and, with it, an end to the military deployment in Afghanistan. America is set to withdraw its troop force of 65,000 in 2014. In spite of all the progress made with the Taliban thus far, Karzai's trip shows that the Afghan government still relies heavily on the US as its protector.

Hundreds of Turkish journalists in jails for criticizing government

Turkish journalists have been under great pressure since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took office with hundreds of journalists being jailed for criticizing the government.
According to Turkish daily Aksam, Turkey is the number one violator of freedom of speech and that the government intensified its suppression of press freedom in 2012. The daily said a large number of journalists critical of the government were arrested last year because Erdogan does not tolerate any criticism. Last month, press freedom watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Turkey as the world’s worst jailer of the press in 2012. Reporters Without Borders has also named Turkey as the world’s "biggest prison" for journalists. According to the CPJ, Turkey detained 49 journalists as of December 1, with dozens of Kurdish reporters and editors held on terror-related charges. A number of journalists are also being held on charges of involvement in anti-government plots. Turkey is accused of not differentiating between "freedom of expression and terrorism." In October, CPJ accused the government of Prime Minister Erdogan of using pressure tactics to encourage self-censorship among journalists.

Egyptian activist faces military trial for filming army
Hearing of filmmaker Mohamed Sabry charged with recording a military zone in Rafah, Sinai is moved to 9 January; activists say family not informed, no lawyer present
An Ismailiya military court postponed Sunday the trial of activist Mohamed Sabry accused of filming a military area in Sinai. The hearing will now take place on 9 January. Sabry, who is a member of organisation No Military Trials for Civilians that campaigns to have the internationally-condemned practice banned, was detained on Friday while recording the military zone in Rafah, North Sinai, state-owned news agency MENA reported. Al-Arish military prosecution ordered that Sabry remain in detention for four days, after facing charges of being present in and filming a military zone. He has been sent to Al-Arish central prison. According to the No Military Trials for Civilians campaign, Sabry was in the border city in order to work on a report about the recent deaths of army soldiers for his "4 Sinai" website that focuses on news and issues concerning the peninsula. A number of Egypt's security forces were killed in the border region last year. On 5 August an attack by unknown assailants on Egyptian border guards on the Egypt-Gaza border left 16 guards dead and seven injured. Later on 3 November three policemen were killed and three injured in the same area. A few days later, on 6 November, a senior officer from the Ministry of Interior's General Security was seriously injured after receiving bullet wounds to his jaw and left arm, during an attack by unknown assailants. Speaking to Al-Ahram Arabic language news website, Sabry's wife Reham Abdel-Aziz stated that she has not been able to reach her husband since his arrest and only found out about his detention through media reports. News of Sabry's arrest sparked uproar among activists. Activist Alaa Abdel-Fatah, who faced a military court for allegedly inciting violence during the Maspero clashes that took place on 9 October, expressed his frustration with Sabry's situation on Twitter, blaming the new Constitution. "Whoever said yes to the Constitution of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood have contributed in the loss of Mohammed Sabry's freedom and rights," said the activist via twitter, making reference to Article 198. Article 198 in Egypt's recently ratified national charter states that "civilians shall not stand trial before military courts except for crimes that harm the Armed Forces. The law shall define such crimes and determine the other competencies of the Military Judiciary." The article was among the main criticisms opposition forces had with the Constitution. Abdel-Fattah adds that Sabry was investigated and referred to court without the presence of a lawyer and without his family being informed. "Mohamed Sabry is one of the bravest, he helped during the July [2011] Tahrir sit-in at the beginning of the No Military Trials campaign," activist Mona Seif and co-founder of the No for Military Trials For Civilians stated via Twitter.

Syrian president offers new vision for political solution in Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday put forward his own roadmap for a political solution to the country's 22-month old crisis, which is based on halting the international support to the armed groups currently fighting on ground. In his first televised speech since June 4, 2012, Assad appeared among hundreds of his loyalists at the Opera House in the capital Damascus. Dressed in a black suit, the embattled leader stood on a brown podium, with a huge poster of the Syrian flag as the background, where there were also small photos of the army's martyrs. "Syria will not get out of its crisis without a full national mobilization," Assad said. He reasserted that Syria is subject to an "aggression and we are defending ourselves ... this is called self-defense and couldn 't be considered as resorting to security solution." "Approval of a political solution doesn't mean that we mustn't defend ourselves," he stressed. Lashing out with stern tone at what he branded as "terrorists" and "thugs," Assad defiantly offered his own vision for the political solution while simultaneously showing unwavering resolve to combat terrorism. According to the president, the political solution to the Syrian crisis includes three phases: the first one calls on all regional and concerned countries to "abide by a total cessation of arming, funding and harboring gunmen." The first phase should keep up with a halt of all terrorist operation by the rebels and would be followed by stopping military operations, Assad said. He said that this phase is also based on finding mechanism to make sure of the commitment of all parties to ending terrorist operations and controlling the borders, adding that the current government would start intensive contacts with all spectra of the Syrian society to run "open dialogue for convening a national dialogue conference with the participation of all forces that are desirous of finding a solution in Syria." The second phase, Assad said, includes an invitation by the current government for a national dialogue to reach a national charter that would draw the country's political future. He said that this charter would be put for a popular referendum and an expanded government would be formed. The third phase includes forming a new government according to the new constitution and holding a national reconciliation conference, he said, adding that this phase should also include a general amnesty and reconstruction of infrastructure. Despite his political vision, Assad cast doubts over the presence of a real political partner "which is able to get engaged in dialogues and is desirous of." "With whom we should make dialogue?" Assad questioned. "With the sponsors of an extremist thought who do not believe but in the language of blood, murder and terrorism? Or with gangs that are dictated from abroad?" Assad charged that the West is the one "who has slammed doors before dialogue because it's accustomed to give orders and we are used to sovereignty, independence and the freedom of decision." He also slammed some regional countries, saying "some officials of regional states are fully aware that Syria's emergence from its crisis would destroy them and their political future." Assad reiterated that Syria is subject to "an aggression unprecedented throughout the region's history," indicating that the conflict in Syria is not between pro-an anti-government, but rather between the "homeland and its enemies and the criminal murderers." He charged that those terrorist wants to "fragment Syria," adding that his country is fighting "takfiri-minded" groups, which has been imported from abroad. "We are battling those Takfirists, a lot of them are non- Syrians," he stressed, noting that "Syria was still free and sovereign and would never accept submission and tutelage."

Twitter 'insult' brings 2-year Kuwait prison sentence against social media activist

Kuwaiti media say a social media activist has been sentenced to two years in prison for a Twitter post deemed insulting to the Gulf nation's ruler. Authorities across the Western-allied Gulf Arab states have sharply increased crackdowns on perceived dissent among bloggers and others using social media. The sentence passed Sunday in Kuwait is not the harshest in region, but is likely to bring further denunciations from international rights groups. Several websites, including the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper, reported the sentence against 26-year-old Rashed al-Enezi, who was accused of insulting Kuwait's emir in a Twitter post. In November, a poet in Qatar was sentenced to life in prison for an Arab Spring-inspired verse that officials claim insulted Qatar's emir and encouraged the overthrow of the nation's ruling system. He is appealing.