Saturday, February 9, 2013

Erdogan vs Army: ’15% of Turkish top brass on trial, hundreds resign’

Turkish officers are resigning en masse to avoid arrest and sentencing for conspiracy against the government. The cabinet of PM Erdogan is winning the decade-long battle with country’s once almighty generals, journalist Andrew Finkel tells RT. Mass detentions of both serving and retired officers have been taking place in Turkey over the last decade. The country’s media is closely following a number of trials against top brass accused of plotting against the ruling government. Over at least the past half a century, the Turkish armed forces have been notorious for regular interference in domestic politics, organizing several coups to displace governments and generally having great influence on the political landscape. Turkish high brass has always been proud of staying guard of the secular nature of the Turkish state, the legacy of the founder of modern Republic of Turkey, the iconic first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. But when in 2002 Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won nearly two-thirds of the seats in parliament, the situation changed dramatically. The new prime minister of Turkey and his party, considered moderately Islamist, felt vulnerable towards an armed forces with traditionally strong political positions. The power struggle between Erdogan’s government and the military was predetermined, Andrew Finkel, journalist and author of "Turkey: What everyone needs to know”, told RT. In the eyes of the military the AKP symbolized the threat to Turkey's secularism, whereas Erdogan’s party eyed the armed forces as a dictator that has been telling the country what to do for too long. The ruling party and its leader began a gradual consolidation of power which, in several years’ time, ended with the initiation of a massive legal assault on the recent determiners of the country’s fate. The first was heard in Turkey in July 2011, when navy, army and air force commanders stepped down over a rift with the Erdogan government. This was a result of multiple arrests of officers accused of plotting a coup against the government, with proven Islamic roots, reports at the time said. Despite that, Turkey continued arresting officers and initiating a number of conspiracy trials against the top brass. In September 2012, after a 21-month trial, a court sentenced three former army generals to 20 years (initially lifetime sentence) each in prison for plotting a coup. The court stated that the defendants were planning to wage a war with neighboring Greece and organize explosions in Turkish mosques to justify a coup d’état against Erdogan's government almost a decade ago. Together with the generals, nearly 330 officers, including senior ones, were convicted for the would-be coup. All the defendants denied the charges as unfair and unlawful, claiming the evidence had been fabricated. Hundreds more Turkish officers remain on trial right now on a number of conspiracy cases against the state. “Altogether, about 15 per cent of the top brass, that is colonels and generals, actually are on trial,” Finkel told RT. “This is the main cause of this major disillusionment within the army.” According to media reports, around 10 per cent of all Turkish 348 generals and admirals are currently locked behind bars.
Exodus revitalized
In late January 2013 the exodus of Turkish officers from the army was given a new push. Turkey’s number-two naval commander Admiral Nusret Guner resigned, allegedly over the detention of hundreds of his colleagues. His premature voluntary retirement sparked yet another wave of resignations. “In the past few years my comrades in arms, some of whom I know very closely and about whose patriotism I have never felt the slightest doubt, have been found guilty through verdicts handed down by courts in the name of the nation," Nusret Guner said, delivering a farewell speech to his colleagues. He also said he had demanded to be allowed to resign last September, immediately after the sensational coup d’état trial, but his submission was not granted. Among other reasons, the admiral explained he wanted to retire as soon as possible because “a series of plots involving me could be constructed," he said. According to reports, some 110 Turkish Air Force officers followed the example of the commander's resignation. “I think these pilots have decided ‘well, no one really loves us, we’ve served the 10 years minimum time, let’s just take our pensions and get a better job in a private sector’,” Finkel supposed. In the meantime Erdogan’s Turkey has been actively supporting the rebel side in the Syrian civil war, though traditionally Ankara maintained good relations with Damascus. Turkey has even been considering a military interference into the Syrian national affairs, but in the end opted not to do so. Still, Ankara’s support to Syrian rebels promises to backfire on Turkey rather soon, as Kurdish separatists dreaming of the state of their own got much more active in both Turkey and Syria. And since the heaviest burden of confronting the armed attacks of the Kurdish militants lay on the Turkish army, the worsening personnel policy in Turkish army might create serious problems of directing troops in the nearest future. In November 2012, Syrian President Bashar Assad told RT in an exclusive interview that Turkish PM Recep Erdogan believes “he is a caliph and the new sultan of the Ottoman Empire.” Back then Assad noted that Erdogan’s policies led to “zero friends”.

Pakistan: Prominent human rights defenders are targets of assassination

Two prominent lawyers and a well known human rights defender have been assassinated in target killings on February 2, 2013. Mr. Malik Jarrar 47, a Supreme Court lawyer, was shot dead in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Paktoonkha province by unknown persons, riding a motorcycle. He was on his way to pick up his two sons from school. Mr. Jarrar was the former vice chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an NGO, and he was an incumbent council member, the highest body of the HRCP. Another prominent lawyer, Mr. Mian Muhammad Tariq 55, was also shot dead in similar manner in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. He was shot dead by unknown assailants when he was parking his car inside his apartment building. The killing of the former office bearer of HRCP is also related to the sectarian killings in the country as he was from the Shia sect, the second largest sect of Islam which is under attack by the Taliban and other fundamentalist Sunnis who had declared them as Kafir (infidel) and liable to be killed. In the recent days four prominent Shia were assassinated by unknown persons in Peshawar. The legal fraternity of the whole country is on boycotts of courts for two days in protest of killings of the lawyers and demanding the arrest of killers. The lawyers are terming the killings of their colleagues as the total failure of the government to for maintaining the rule of law in the country. In the last week four workers of one NGO, HANDS, working to provide health facilities and food rations to poor fisherfolk, were abducted by unknown persons but the government has failed to recover them. Persons who work in favour of human rights, which is deemed contrary to the interests of radical Islamist groups face considerable threat, as may be noted in the killings in 2011 of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, and the Federal Minister of Minority Affairs, Shabaz Bhatti, who were targeted for their efforts to protect minorities, and their opposition to Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. The violence against human rights defenders and civil society organizations is rising by the state and Muslim groups which indicates a failure on the part of the government to provide protection to human rights defenders. Journalists who work on human rights issues remain the prey of state and both state actors and Muslim extremist groups including the Taliban. So far 87 journalists had been killed in Pakistan since 2000. In the year 2012, eight journalists were killed while performing their official duty. During the first two months of this year alone, three journalist has been killed. The killings of human rights defenders in Balochistan while they were documenting cases of forced disappearances as part of the Supreme Court’s efforts to compile a list of cases, illustrates the risk to defenders who work on the gravest rights abuses. The people who are disappeared after their arrests in Balochistan, were are human rights defenders as they were activists working for the rights of the people and the Balochistan province. The irresponsible attitude of the government towards the security and protection of the human rights defenders and also the appeasement policy towards the Muslim fundamentalists groups can be judged by the government’s refusal to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to visit the country. The government, after ratifying the UN ICCPR has accepted a recommendation to do so. The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the killings of senior lawyers and human rights defenders and urges the government to develop a mechanism for the protection and safety of the human rights defenders. The AHRC also urges that the assassins be arrested and prosecuted under the laws of the land regardless of whether they are from the intelligence agencies, military or religious fundamentalist groups.

Pakistan civil society under threat

Religious radicals, right-wing politicians and some elements in the security services are increasingly harassing non-governmental organisations (NGOs), human rights workers and other civil society groups, even as Pakistan enters into a delicate political phase with polls imminent, writes author Ahmed Rashid. The space for NGOs and civil society workers appears to be shrinking as they receive threats, several have been killed and others forced to go into hiding. There appears to be less protection for NGO workers at a time they are badly needed as the state fails to carry out basic functions such as education and health care. At the same time there is growing intolerance in society as the use of violence and weapons to address grievances rather than courts of law is on the increase. At least 19 male and female officials working with a countrywide children's polio immunisation campaign have been killed by the Taliban and other Islamic radicals since last July. The worst incident took place in December when five health workers were shot dead by militants in different parts of the country. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the killings, with Mr Ban saying they were "cruel, senseless, and inexcusable". But nobody has been caught and the government appears paralysed - unable to prevent further killings. In a worrying development this year, policemen escorting polio teams are now being deliberately targeted. The vaccination drive remains partially suspended in two of Pakistan's four provinces - Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) - and despite the deployment of security forces, there is no indication when the vaccination drive can be completed.
Vicious campaign
Last October the young but prominent educationalist Malala Yousafzai was attacked in her school bus and had to be flown to England for a series of operations. Her attackers were self-proclaimed Pakistani Taliban. Malala, who is only 14, has become an international celebrity and has now been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but it is still not safe for her to come home. Asma Jahangir, the country's leading human rights lawyer and women's rights advocate, has been forced to respond to a campaign launched by right-wing politicians such as Imran Khan and religious leaders who have called her unsuitable to become the caretaker prime minister when parliament is dissolved. In reality, no political party has nominated her for the job and it is only the speculative Pakistani media that has suggested her. She has several times refuted claims that she would ever be a candidate for such a job and yet she continues to be attacked by political parties. On 6 February she delivered a blistering rebuttal to Imran Khan, describing his statement against her as "illogical but also vicious", saying that he seems to be acting on the cue of the "establishment" which is shorthand for the army. His PTI party responded by "taking note" of her comments, reasserting their belief she is not suitable for the job and accusing her of bias against the party. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and its representative in Pakistan, Ali Dayan Hasan, have been accused by the army of maligning Pakistan in a recent report, which the army described as "a pack of lies, propaganda-driven and totally biased". A statement by the media wing of the military said that HRW was trying to add fuel to "ongoing sectarian violence" in Pakistan. The military has never before used such language. It was responding to HRW's World Report 2013, a 665-page annual tome which covers human rights in every country in the world and is compiled in New York. The report said "the security and intelligence services" have "continued to allow extremist groups to attack religious minorities". It also said Pakistan's human rights worsened in 2012 and the military perpetrated "abuses with impunity in Balochistan". In fact, such charges against the security forces have been made repeatedly over the years by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, local media groups and other local and international human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. In March 2012, the Supreme Court issued a stern warning to military intelligence services not to overstep their writ, with Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry saying: "Who gave you the right to hound people?" Foreigners not immune In 2012, more than 400 Shias, most of them belonging to the Hazara community of Balochistan, were killed in targeted attacks by Sunni militants. So far this year, more than 100 Shia Hazaras have been killed. No culprits have been arrested and the Hazaras are now fleeing Pakistan en masse as the government provides no relief. Meanwhile some 800 schools have been closed down in KP province and the Federal Administered Tribal Areas because of attacks by militants, while hundreds of primary schools are shut in Balochistan because of violence. Teachers have fled these areas and NGOs dealing with health and education have reduced their operations because of security threats. Farida Afridi, a prominent activist working with tribal women in KP province, was shot dead in July 2012. In January 2013 gunmen shot dead seven aid workers including six women working with "Support with Working Solutions", a local NGO in KP province. The culprits have not been found. Foreign aid workers are not immune. A British Muslim doctor working for the International Committee for the Red Cross, Khalil Dale, was kidnapped and then killed in April 2012. More than 60 foreign aid workers left Pakistan in 2012, largely because of security concerns or the refusal of the authorities to renew their visas. Suspicions against foreign NGOs have increased substantially after an unethical ruse by the US Central Intelligence Agency to try to kill Osama bin Laden, by using a fake NGO to try to obtain his blood sample. In the next few months, general elections are expected to be held. But there is a grave political crisis with some parties wanting to delay the elections and the ruling party accusing unnamed dark forces of conspiring to do this. If elections are held, civil society groups are expected to be at the forefront of monitoring the polls, as they have done for past elections. However, the lack of protection for NGOs, the inability or refusal of the state machinery to protect them and the growing intolerance of their neutral stance is dismaying many.

Some Taliban prisoners released by Pakistan are back in battle, officials fear

Pakistan’s release late last year of several imprisoned Taliban officials and fighters, which it advertised as a good-faith effort to help bring peace to Afghanistan, is now prompting questions about whether the gesture has yielded anything but potential new dangers for NATO and Afghan troops. American, Afghan and Pakistani officials say they believe some of the freed Islamist movement members have rejoined their colleagues waging war against Western troops and the coalition-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. With its long-standing links to Afghan Taliban insurgents, Pakistan has a vital role to nudging them to the table as the United States winds down its involvement in the 11-year war in Afghanistan. But Pakistan’s handling of the prisoner release once again subverted the trust of the Afghans, who were supposed to receive the captives and keep tabs on them to lower the risk of any returning to terrorist havens in Pakistan. The whereabouts and even the number of ex-prisoners have remained murky since their release in two batches in mid-November and late December by Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, as part of a road map drawn up by the Afghan High Peace Council to build confidence of the militants. Despite an earlier agreement, the ISI failed to consult with the council when it set many of the captives free. On Friday, however, the Pakistani government pledged to coordinate future Taliban releases with the council, in a belated admission that it had blindsided the Afghans. The U.S. military is keenly interested in the former captives’ whereabouts and is trying to track down any who have returned to Afghanistan bent on jihad — or, alternately, it wants to identify those participating in the reconciliation process so they won’t be targeted. “It’s all a black hole,” said one U.S. official this past week, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. A Pakistani security official confirmed that 18 men were freed in all and described them as junior to mid-level members of the Islamic movement, including field commanders and foot soldiers. “Some have gone back to their old ways, with their old friends,” said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Not the original deal The original deal, presented in Islamabad by peace council head Salahuddin Rabbani and backed by Washington, envisioned the prisoners being handed over to Afghanistan or a third country. Instead, most of the released Taliban members rejoined their families in Pakistan, in cities including Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi, to recover from years in detention, according to residents and a Taliban spokesman. The most senior of the captives, Noruddin Toorabi, the ailing former justice minister in the Taliban government, has promoted himself as a spokesman for the collective prisoners. But, like others set free, he will have to be anointed by Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar to be allowed a role in any prospective peace talks. The ISI spurned a specific request by Rabbani to free the most important prisoner: Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader under Omar taken captive in 2010. Afghan officials considered Baradar’s release a crucial olive branch to Omar to nudge along a mediated end to the war — but, said the Pakistani security official, “Barader isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.” Rabbani, in an interview, acknowledged that questions remain about the ability of any Taliban representatives to negotiate on behalf of a group that he says is splintered. But he said he remains an optimist. “You can’t convince everyone in the opposition to join the peace process,” he said, “but if you can convince a large majority, the level of violence will come down.” Part of the Afghan government’s goal in giving Pakistan a key role in brokering any deal was to allay enmities between the ever-suspicious neighbors. The idea was to cement their common interest in averting a civil war in Afghanistan after the United States pulls out its combat troops at the end of 2014. It hasn’t worked out exactly that way, given the friction over the prisoner releases, including the fact that the peace council got only two of the four specific prisoners it asked for. ISI’s motives remain unclear The motives of the ISI in releasing hand-picked captives remains unclear, and probably deliberately so, analysts said: Was it to help the peace process, as claimed, or to keep its Taliban proxies on the field to assure Pakistan’s influence in any future Afghan government? “This is not for Afghanistan, it’s for Pakistan’s game,” said Wahid Mujda, a former Taliban government official who closely monitors peace overtures. Mujda said he doubted the releases would have any impact on negotiations because “the important people are still in jail,” including Baradar. Omar, who headed the harsh Islamic Taliban regime during its five-year rule, has conditioned negotiations on the release of five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo and a permanent withdrawal of all foreign troops. Meanwhile, the Taliban continues to assert that it will never negotiate with Karzai, whom it considers an illegitimate leader and U.S. puppet. This week, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid scoffed at talks in London by Karzai, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and British Prime Minister David Cameron aimed at bringing the Taliban to the table. In a statement, Mujahid said previous contacts with “counterfeit and ineffective individuals and circles” had led nowhere — a glancing repudiation of the prisoner releases. Omar Samad, a former diplomat under Karzai, said the prisoners’ release has not resulted in any progress toward resumption of talks, which are already bogged down by competing interests and rival back-channel negotiations among several countries, including the United States, which has angered Karzai by making separate overtures to the Taliban. “Different agendas are playing out,” Samad said. “And the clock is ticking.”

Zardari immune, even the Swiss say so

Heralding good news for the embattled Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the Swiss authorities have expressed their inability to reopen the graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari because he enjoys immunity as the head of state. According to Swiss authorities, President Zardari enjoys immunity against all criminal charges and no action can be taken against him till he holds the post of president. “This is without prejudice to the legal rights and defences of presidents/heads of state which may be available under the law, constitution and international law,” the Swiss letter states. Federal Law Minister Farooq Naik has confirmed receiving the letter and said that he would himself apprise the president about its contents. The much awaited letter that led to ouster of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani from his office was written to the Swiss authorities in November 2012. The apex court had given the government one-month deadline to write the letter to the Swiss authorities to withdraw a previous letter to the Swiss government by former attorney general Malik Qayyum, seeking closure of alleged graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Bilawal Bhutto terms completion of Govt’s tenure a great achievement

Radio Pakistan
Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has called upon the office bearers of the Party to gear up their efforts to reach out to the public and highlight the achievements of the Party during the current tenure and also to mobilize people for maximum participation in the forthcoming elections. He was talking to a delegation of office bearers of Pakistan Peoples Party from Kasur‚ Nankana and Sheikhupura districts at Bilawal House Lahore on Saturday. The meeting discussed current political situation in the country with special reference to preparations of the Party for the upcoming general elections. The Chairman recounted various achievements of the PPP-led coalition government. Bilawal said we will not allow anyone to create hurdles in the way of holding free‚ fair and transparent elections in the country. He said that the completion of the tenure of the PPP-led coalition government is a great achievement. He asked the elected representatives to ensure early completion of the ongoing developmental schemes in their respective areas. The participants on the occasion spoke‚ about host of issues faced by the people in their respective areas and the preparations for the upcoming elections. They assured the Chairman that they are in touch with the people of their respective areas and are undertaking every effort to provide relief to the common man.

Bahrain opposition seeks support, international attention in Russia
While Western media are focusing intensely on the Syrian unrest, injustices and human rights violations committed in Bahrain have been left out of sight, its opposition claims. “The media have been silent about the crisis in Bahrain. There is a political reason to it and is immoral and unprofessional. Those who make a fuss about the events in Syria and Libya have forgotten that the Bahraini people are suffering from political repressions,” Fazil Iskander Abbas, general secretary of National-Democratic movement, said at a press-conference in Moscow. On Friday, Bahrain opposition leaders met with Russian Foreign Ministry officials in Moscow to seek support in their struggle against the ‘dictatorship’. Bahrain has experienced a military intervention from Saudi Arabian forces, who were invited to suppress “of its own people and popular movements and peaceful rallies” who demand a real legislative power and a government elected by the people, Fazil Abbas said. The ‘dictatorship’ is supported by the Arab League, who does not interfere in the situation in the country, and the US, which pursues its own economic and military interests, the opposition leader explained. Bahrain hosts US crucial naval military base. The opposition believes this is one of the reasons Washington closes eyes to people’s demands for democracy. “It’s the US administration who blocks the launch of international criminal proceedings over the Bahraini regime. They have used double standards – on the one hand, they demand regime change in Syria, and on the other they support a dictatorship regime in Bahrain,” said Abbas. The delegation expressed hope that the Bahraini people would accept and welcome Russian support. “We urge the Russian leadership to support a serious dialogue in Bahrain and, in case this dialogue doesn’t take place, we urge Russia to take up a tough stance in international organizations that would prevent the US from ignoring the Bahraini crisis on the international level,” Abbas said. Meanwhile, Bahraini authorities claim the country has no problems with freedom of speech or democracy. “There is a democratic regime with high level of freedoms established in Bahrain,” said Information Minister Samira Rajab Bahraini told RT. The minister denounced the opposition visit to Moscow, saying that use of international forces to interfere with sovereign issues of the state is not civilized or politically healthy. Recent months have seen massive anti-government protests in Bahrain where people demand greater democracy and calling for an end to the Al-Khalifa family's nearly four-decade rule. They accuse the ruling Sunni family of a crackdown on the country`s Shiite majority. Some of the peaceful rallies turned violent as police tried to disperse demonstrations using teargas and grenades. In January one protester died after inhaling poisonous teargas.

Asia Human Rights Watch condemns Takfiri Islamofascists’ planned Shia bloodbath in Sindh

So called independent media remains under the thumb of the black sheep of the ISI and continues to paint a FALSE picture to international media and human rights groups. A large part of liberal media is controlled by the black sheep within the ISI. To portray a face of Pakistan to the West that is disturbing but not beyond redemption. Media personalities come to social media and tweet about cricket matches when hundreds die the same day. No human being can be so callous hence the only explanation is the co option by the agencies to protect their proxies. Therefore we must whole heatedly appreciate and welcome this rare report form the Asia Human Rights watch exposing the Takfiri Deobandi Millitants while the fake liberal elites tweet about cricket or any other narrative to protect the Jihadi proxies of their masters. Though the police have exonerated all five persons falsely accused of committing blasphemy they have failed to take any actions for their protection. This is particularly important as no action whatsoever has been taken against their accusers who are members of the militant Ahle Sunnat Waljamat. Regrettably this is another example of the policy of appeasement of the government towards religious fundamentalists who want to mold society to their way of thinking. It is likely that in the coming days, weeks and months Shia places of worship will come under attack and many people will be killed in unnecessary and unprecedented sectarian strife. Five villagers, including four young men, were implicated in a false case of committing blasphemy by a banned Islamic militant group. On January 22, a number of armed persons from Ahle Sunnat Waljamat, the new version of the banned militant organization, the Sipahe Sahaba, tried to provoke sectarian violence in Chandia village, Hyderabad district. They appeared on the streets of Hyderabad city, the second largest city of the Sindh province, and started firing their weapons into the air, compelling the shopkeepers to close their businesses.The act of hooliganism continued for two days. They were demanding that the five Shia persons from Chandia Goth who burned the effigy of Hazrat Umer, the second Caliph of Islam (very dear to the Sunnis who are opposed to Shia sect) be handed over to them. The five persons, Mr. Akram Chandio, 50, Master. Fayyaz Chandio, 16, Mr. Ayaz Chandio, 23, Mr. Shakil Chandio, 23, Mr. Mushtaq Chandio 22, were booked by the police on the complaint of committing blasphemy and were charged with 295-C and 298- A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Two persons including a child, Fayyaz, were arrested but the other three young men, Ayaz, Shakil and Mushtaq, were not arrested as they were participating in a workshop conducted by a NGO at Karachi. The people of the village handed over the two accused to the police to avoid any attacks on the villagers. The police conducted their investigation and found that no such incident had ever taken place in the village. The First Information Report (FIR) was made ‘C class’, which means that no crime has been committed and the police investigation was sent to the Anti Terrorist Court for final withdrawal. It is appreciated that the local police carried out their duty independently and found that the case of blasphemy was fictitious. However no case has been registered against the bigots, particularly the divisional commander of Ahle Sunnat Waljamat (ASWJ), for registering a false complaint before the police and misusing the Blasphemy law in an attempt to instigate sectarian strife. The authorities must be happy that the police have averted the bad situation and avoided sectarian killings and bloody attacks on religious places. Perhaps the government of Sindh is too naïve to understand that once the blasphemy is charged it will never be taken back by the fundamentalists, even if the court exonerates the accuse of charges of blasphemy, and ultimately the victims are murdered or have to leave the country. There are many examples where the accused persons were murdered after release from the courts and even a judge of the Anti Terrorist Court had to leave the country after receiving threats from religious bigots when he announced the death sentence on the killer of the former governor of Punjab, Mr. Salman Taseer. The Muslim commander of the ASWJ and his militants are still operating to send a message to the people of Chandia village who are predominantly Shia and have burned down the Alam of Hazrat Abbas, a symbol of the Shia sect. They had also threatened the villagers that when the situation turned in their favour they would return. The four young men accused of blasphemy are living in fear and avoid going outside their village as they find they are being followed by mysterious persons. Furthermore, any person from the Chandia village is suspected of being a Shia and is therefore a potential target. There is a strong need to provide protection and safety for the residents of Chandia village and the Shiites in the province. Firm action must be taken by the authorities so as to prosecute the divisional office bearers of the ASWJ for filing the false case of blasphemy in an attempt to create sectarian violence. In Balochistan province extremists were successful in creating sectarian killings which, over the course of three years has led to the deaths of 800 Shia Muslims (the Hazara community) and to date the government has been unable to control the violence. Similar extremist groups, elated by the success in Balochistan are now attempting to create a similar situation in Sindh province. The incident of Chandia village is just a rehearsal for the bloodshed they plan to unleash. It has been consistently reported that the government of Pakistan is turning a blind eye to the religious extremist who, for the sake of their uncivilised and biased cause, would create a bloodbath within the country. The authorities must take strong precautionary steps to stop the sectarian violence in the interior of Sindh province before this bloodbath takes place.

Hanging Afzal Guru is a good decision: Ajmer Dargah head
The religious head of Ajmer Dargah has welcomed the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, terming it as a 'very good decision'. "This is a very good decision but should have been taken earlier. It was necessary to send a message across the world that India is tough against terrorism," Zainul Abedin Ali Khan, Diwan of Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti's shrine, said. The government should take such bold and legal steps well in time to give a message that the country has zero tolerance for terrorism, he said. Khan also demanded from the Pakistan government to release Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national who is languishing in a jail in that country for several years.

India: Afzal Guru hanging: voice of affirmation across political spectrum

The Hindu
Political parties on Saturday said justice has been done with the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru even as BJP questioned the delay in carrying out the death sentence. Both Congress and the BJP said the hanging of Guru, a Jaish-e-Mohammed militant, would send a message to terror outfits that India would not tolerate terrorism. “The law has taken its course. The Parliament attack convict has been hanged,” Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi said reacting to the execution of Guru in Tihar Jail in New Delhi. “Justice has been done,” another Congress spokesman Sandeep Dikshit said. Questioning the delay in Guru’s hanging, BJP said it should have happened much earlier after the confirmation of the capital punishment by the Supreme Court in 2005. “The capital punishment awarded to Afzal Guru today is a part of legal and judicial process which ought to have taken place much earlier. The attack on the Indian Parliament happened in 2001, that is 12 years ago, which was an attack on India. “Why this sort of delay inspite of overpowering desire of the people of the country that those who are accused of such a heinous offence ought to be given the capital punishment as affirmed by the highest court of the land. This question would remain important and an answer would have to be found out,” BJP Chief Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in New Delhi. In Chennai, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the decision to hang Guru was not based on political considerations. “The process of Article 72 unfolded and once the mercy petition was rejected by the president (Pranab Mukherjee) the law took its own course,” Mr. Tewari told reporters. He was referring to the article of the constitution under which a President can grant pardon or commute the sentence of any convict. Mr. Alvi said the capital punishment to Afzal Guru would send a message to all terror outfits that India will not tolerate terror. “We have sent a message to the world that we cannot tolerate terrorism at any cost. Anybody committing any acts of terror will be punished. People of our country and government have zero tolerance for terrorism”, he said. Taking a swipe at the BJP, Mr. Alvi said terrorists released by the NDA government during the Kandahar plane hijack episode were those who planned attack on Parliament. BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: “Though delayed, we still feel that the hanging of Afzal Guru was a right action. This action is delayed. But undoubtedly it is a welcome action.” CPI(M) said the law of the land has taken its course as far as attack on the Indian Parliament is concerned. “I think, the law of the land with all its provisions has finally been completed as far as the Afzal Guru case and the attack on the Indian Parliament is concerned. The issue which had been lingering for the past 11 years has finally completed its due course,” CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury said. In Srinagar, People’s Democratic Party expressed disappointment over Guru’s hanging, saying the “sensitivities” of the people of Jammu and Kashmir should have been taken into account before taking the decision. PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar also criticised Guru’s burial inside the prison complex in New Delhi, saying the body should have been given to his family in Kashmir. The All Party Hurriyat Conference announced a four-day mourning on the death of Guru. “We call on people to observe four-day mourning on the hanging of Guru. A complete shutdown will be observed over the mourning period,” Hurriyat Conference spokesman Shahidul Islam said in Srinagar. Shiv Sena, another party strident in its demand for Guru’s execution, welcomed his hanging, saying the government showed “courage” in taking this decision. “The government showed courage in hanging Guru,” Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said in Mumbai but rued the delay in the process. Mr. Raut said when Pranab Mukherjee had met Shiv Sena chief late Bal Thackeray during his campaign for the Presidential elections, the Sena supremo had urged him not to grant clemency to Guru. Our Staff Reporter from Patna adds: Reacting to the hanging of Afzal Guru, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said on Saturday that act was inevitable, although delayed. “It is a question of a criminal act. The matter was kept pending for long. With the apex court’s sentence, justice eventually prevailed. There is a feeling among the common people that this should have happened earlier,” Mr. Kumar said. Mr. Kumar runs a coalition government in Bihar with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been demanding Afzal Guru's hanging.

Bannu boy is year’s first polio case in KP

The first polio case of the year in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was reported on Friday as a 13-month-old boy from Bannu district tested positive for the crippling virus. Samples of Muzakar Khan’s stool were sent to the National Institute of Health on Jan 26 after doctors suspected him of being a polio victim. The NIH confirmed the polio case on Friday. The officials said the child from Gul Hassan village in Amandi Union Council hadn’t received a single dose of oral polio vaccine as his parents always sent vaccinators away. “His parents fear OPV will render his son impotent and that he will never be able to produce children in case of vaccination. Despite repeated attempts, they didn’t understand the significance of the vaccine. As a result, their child is disabled for entire life,” said an official in Bannu. The officials said the area had many people, who were opposed to vaccination of their children against polio, and therefore, a polio outbreak was being feared there. They said Bannu was home to thousands of children from North and South Waziristan agencies, where Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan had banned polio vaccination in June last year. According to them, the ban left around 300,000 children unvaccinated and thus, putting them at the risk of being crippled. The officials said chances were that the virus had traveled from North and South Waziristan, which had reported one polio case each last year, to Bannu courtesy unimmunised children frequently visiting the settled district from these tribal areas. They feared a polio outbreak in Bannu, which remained polio-free in 2012 when the province reported 26 of the 58 countrywide cases. “Last year, we managed to cut the number of the people refusing polio vaccination of their children to 54 only with the support of National Development and Research Foundation, an NGO that had engaged local religious leaders. However, Unicef ended its collaboration with NRDF for some unexplained reasons, leading to surge in vaccination refusal cases,” an official said. He said around 5,000 vaccination refusal cases had been reported in the district. The officials said Unicef, which was to create demand for OPV through social mobilisation, had been unable to do the task due to the growing Taliban hostility towards vaccinators. “Around 12 vaccinators and health workers have been killed over the last one and a half months in the province terrifying other members of the community. Nobody is willing to be part of vaccination in areas, where thousands of parents have declined vacation of their children,” an official said. The official said last year, Pakistan had reported the second highest number of polio cases after Nigeria, whose 100 children were crippled by the virus, and that it was considered polio reservoir and thus, a threat to polio-free countries. He added that Pakistan was under tremendous pressure to eliminate polio through repeated vaccination of children under five. “The World Health Organisation is also concerned about unvaccinated children and possible polio outbreaks,” he said. The officials said polio vaccinators missed around 70,000 children, while 20,000 became victim of immunisation refusal in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during every polio campaign. They said unvaccinated children were a threat to vaccinated children. “Unless we vaccinate all children under five, polio will continue to haunt us,” an official said.

Karachi awash in blood

A typical day in Karachi begins with kidnapping and tortured or bullet-riddled bodies strewn across the city. Most days Karachi is on strike, mourning the death of its citizens and rising criminality. Why does Karachi have to rise each morning to a bloodstained day? And why is the government so helpless in restoring law and order in the city? Unfortunately there are still no answers to these questions. There appears to be absolutely no writ of the state in Karachi. The provincial government is busy passing laws to give legal cover to its controversial steps. That the plight of a commoner is of no value is reflected in the statement issued by the Supreme Court (SC) while hearing a case on the Karachi law and order situation at the apex court’s Karachi Registry, wherein it observed that the government is not serious about resolving the law and order crisis in Karachi, and that the court is carrying out a meaningless task. As usual, the hearing revealed the poor performance of the Sindh Police. According to one report, nearly 400 police officers are running crime rings in Karachi. It is a typical case of who will guard the guardians. Every day 15-20 people from all walks of life are killed. On Thursday, a doctor, a policeman, a mason, two real brothers and one uncle and his nephew were shot dead among others. Almost all of these people had no personal enmity with anyone or any criminal background. Their only fault appears to be living in Karachi where the power game has been reduced to turf wars, money extortion and now Talibanisation. In coming days, the real issue confronting the authorities would be holding transparent and peaceful elections in Karachi amidst the violence. As noticed by the SC, the people of Karachi are terror-stricken and polling under duress will result in distorted voting and violence. From the trend of killing in Karachi, where ethnicity, religious affiliations and extortion are the common causes of taking lives, peaceful elections look an increasingly unachievable task. When campaigning starts, how will peace be maintained in such a volatile climate? What about election day? Will one army soldier deployed at each polling station be sufficient? With an inadequate and thoroughly politicised police force, lacking modern policing gadgets and mechanisms, elections may mean a bloodbath of extraordinary proportions in the metropolis. Unless the government wakes up from its slumber, elections will become a problem to conduct peacefully. Interior Minister Rehman Malik is on record as saying that target killing and massacres will rise during election days. MQM and ANP are the government’s coalition allies in Sindh. They should sit down together, just like they sit in the assemblies, to find a way out of this predicament. If they can share power, they should also share the burden of Karachi’s law and order situation, and gear themselves up to get it resolved. But the substance to any such move resides in depoliticising the police force, making it autonomous and accountable for its actions to the people of the country. Out-of-turn promotions have rendered the police stooges of the power brokers. If police is not doing its job, the intelligence agencies have been equally unimpressive. It is as if the security apparatus of the country has collapsed under the weight of its own inefficiencies. The coming elections are very crucial for the country. If Karachi remains unpredictable regarding timely elections, the entire country will suffer the consequences. It is time for the government and its allies to come out of their illogical power politics and play politics for the people to achieve real democracy.