Friday, May 31, 2013
Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to take responsibility for instructing the withdrawal of the police from Istanbul’s Taksim area where clashes with peaceful demonstrators protesting against the demolition of Gezi Park continued late May 31. “Don’t confront police with the people. Withdraw immediately the police from Taksim Gezi [Park] area. People are defending their city. That’s why they are resisting,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, noting that an administrative court had suspended the Artillery Barracks projects planned to replace the park. “Show that you are the prime minister and make a public statement that you will respect the court’s ruling. This is your duty,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. Erdoğan had previously stated that the decision on the construction of the Artillery Barracks was already taken, adding that it would not change no matter what the protesters did.
By TIM ARANGO and CEYLAN YEGINSU
Police Attack Protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim SquareISTANBUL — Police officers attacked a group of peaceful demonstrators on Friday in Istanbul’s Taksim Square with water cannons and tear gas, sending scores of people, protesters and tourists alike, scurrying into shops and luxury hotels and turning the center of this city into a battle zone at the height of tourist season. The police action was the latest violent crackdown by the government against a growing protest movement challenging plans to replace a park in Taksim Square, Istanbul’s equivalent of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, with a replica Ottoman-era army barracks that would house a shopping mall. But while the removal of the park, which is filled with sycamore trees and is the last significant green space in the center of Istanbul, set off the protests at the beginning of the week, the gatherings have broadened into a wider expression of anger against the heavy-handed tactics and urban development plans of the government and its leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His party, now in power a decade, is increasingly viewed by many Turks as becoming authoritarian. Mr. Erdogan still has great support among Turkey’s religious masses, but secular critics cite his government’s sweeping prosecution and intimidation of journalists as evidence of its intolerance of dissent. Much of the anger also centers on the struggle over Istanbul’s public spaces. Mr. Erdogan’s government has preceded with disputed urban development plans with little public input, while his police forces have increasingly used tear gas against peaceful protesters, resulting in scores of injuries, including the hospitalization on Friday of a Kurdish lawmaker, who had become a vocal participant in the protests, after he was hit by a tear gas canister. The protest movement comes amid continued public anger at Turkey’s policy of supporting the rebels in Syria, which many Turks feel has led to a violent spillover inside Turkey, including recent car bombings in the southern city of Reyhanli, which killed dozens of people. The rising public disenchantment represents a significant political challenge to Mr. Erdogan, who is planning to run for the presidency next year and has been trying to alter the Constitution to create a more powerful presidential system. In the early afternoon Friday, as protesters gathered and began shouting antigovernment chants, police officers in riot gear began surrounding the group, positioning vehicles that resembled tanks at the edge of the square around the protesters, who were mostly sitting. “Taksim is ours, we are not giving it to the A.K.P.!” they chanted, referring to Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, known as A.K.P. As they chanted, police officers casually put on their gas masks and the operators of the tanklike vehicles aimed their big guns, which fire a mixture of water and tear gas, at the group. Then chaos erupted. Protesters and onlookers, some of them tourists, ran down side streets where shopkeepers offered sliced lemons to soothe the burning sensation of the gas, and pharmacists doled out ointments for skin burns. “The pigs, the pigs,” said Esra Yurtnac, who was crying as she sought refuge in a bakery after being gassed. “All they know is how to use gas.” She added, “They think they can silence us with force, but they won’t.” Hours after the clashes with protesters, an Istanbul court on Friday ruled in favor of a petition by a local advocacy group and halted the project until parties submitted their legal arguments to court, the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency reported. The interior minister also pledged on Friday that claims of excessive force would be investigated. The chaos followed a dawn raid on an Occupy Wall Street-style encampment in Gezi Park, near Taksim, in which the police also used tear gas to drive away protesters and later barricaded the park. In an earlier raid on the camp, on Thursday, the police set fire to some tents. The brief occupation of the park, which began after bulldozers had started to take down trees, had taken on a festival-like atmosphere, with yoga, barbecues and musical performances, while the gathered changed, “Taksim is ours! Istanbul is ours!” The people adorned the camp with banners expressing the rising anger at the reshaping of Istanbul’s urban spaces by the government. One read, “Don’t touch our neighborhood, our squares, our trees, our water, our soil, our homes, our villages, our cities and our parks.” Another referred to Mr. Erdogan and the growing number of shopping malls being built around the city. “Let all shopping malls crumble and let Tayyip get crushed by their rubble,” the banner read. In building new mosques and emphasizing Turkey’s Islamic past over its Byzantine and Roman legacies, Mr. Erdogan has been referred to as a latter-day Ottoman sultan, with little regard for seeking public input on the projects. On Wednesday, the government held a groundbreaking ceremony for a third bridge over the Bosporus that is being named for an Ottoman sultan. “It’s all about superiority, and ruling over the people like sultans,” said one of the protesters, Seckin Barbaros, 26, a former journalist who is now unemployed. “When were we asked what we wanted? We have three times the amount of mosques as we do schools. Yet they are building new mosques. There are eight shopping malls in the vicinity of Taksim, yet they want to build another.” In a speech earlier in the week, Mr. Erdogan dismissed the protesters and said the destruction of park would go ahead, “no matter what they do.” The anger in the streets is also a rebuke to the economic policies of the government, which have relied heavily on construction and new housing in Istanbul to power economic growth. Turkey has had a resilient economy that emerged relatively unscathed from the global financial crisis, eclipsing the performance of Europe and many other nations. But some analysts worry the government’s focus on construction projects could lead to a bubble much like the one in the United States that led to the economic collapse of 2008. Ms. Barbaros said, “What about the day when all these shopping malls will be empty like in Greece and then they will wish they never constructed them.” She added: “Where are the opera houses? The theaters? The culture and youth centers? What about those? They only choose what will bring them the most profit without considering what we need.” Another demonstrator, Seyfettin Sabaz, who is training to be a dentist, said: “Many of the Turkish public think that we are here as environmentalists to save our sycamore trees. But that’s not it. We are here to stand up against those that are trying to make a profit from our land.” Around Taksim Square, the site of several other tear gas attacks on protesters this year, including one on May Day demonstrators, the chaos is taking on a sense of the familiar to shopkeepers who are becoming accustomed to offering shelter and aid to tear gas victims. “I own a decorations shop, but for the past year it has felt like I run a shelter for gas raid victims,” said Ali Yildrim, who has lived in Istanbul for 35 years. “Soon I’ll be keeping lemons and medicine behind my counter.”
Indian film director Amjad Khan confirmed that 16-year-old Fatima Sheikh, from Dhaka, will play the central part in the filmA Bangladeshi student with no acting experience is to play the role of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai in a forthcoming movie about the work of the teenage activist who was shot and almost killed by the Taliban. Indian film director Amjad Khan confirmed that 16-year-old Fatima Sheikh, from Dhaka, will play the central part in the film, for which shooting is expected to start in the middle of July. Mr Khan said that for security reasons, no photographs showing Ms Sheikh’s face or other details about her would be released until shooting was well underway. “She is a student. She looks like Malala,” the Kolkata-based director told The Independent. “But there are security issues.” Indian media has been buzzing with speculation about who might play the role of 15-year-old Malala since Mr Khan announced his plans to make the film late last year. He said he had been inspired by her struggle for the right of girls in Pakistan’s Swat Valley to be educated, a story that had received international attention after she was shot while on her way home from school last autumn. The English-language film is to be called Gul Makai, the pseudonym used by Malala when she wrote a blog for the BBC Urdu service website in 2009 when the Swat valley was seized by Taliban gunmen. The militants issued strict edicts obliging people to follow Sharia law and burned down girls’ schools. They were eventually driven out by the Pakistani army but the security situation remains uncertain. Malala, who also appeared in a subsequent documentary about her work as campaigner, was shot in the neck after her school bus was intercepted by a Taliban gunman last October. They said they had intentionally targeted her because of her work and because of her alleged links to the West. The shooting of the 15-year-old triggered outrage across Pakistan and around the world. After emergency treatment in Pakistan she was transferred to Britain where she has undergone reconstructive surgery and received rehabilitation. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Mr Khan said he had located Ms Sheikh through a friend in Bangladesh and that he had gone to Dhaka to carry out a screen-test. Her parents have insisted that her identity not be revealed until the second half of filming. “Filming will take place in London, Pakistan, Iran and India,” said Mr Khan. The selection of Ms Sheikh to play the role of Malala was first reported by the Times of India which used an image of the Bangladeshi student wearing a niqab, or veil, with just a narrow slit for her eyes. This is not the first time Mr Khan has selected a controversial subject for a film. Last year he reportedly received threats after completing work on Le Gaya Saddam, which looked at the issue of divorce in Muslim cultures. Malala, who was treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, is due to publish an account of her life later this year. It is to be called I am Malala. The book’s publication is to be accompanied by two interviews broadcast in the UK and US. There was no immediate reaction from Malala or her family about the film
Far from showing any retreat, the measles menace is looking almost unstoppable. It took the lives of nine more children on Monday, amid the Lahore High Court looking quite perturbed at the continued loss of life. What is to be done? A report in this paper points towards the usual procrastination in procurement and availability of vaccine as well as the shoddy conditions in the hospitals including medical staff that is incapable of stemming the disease. Broadly speaking, slackness is rather ingrained in our attitude or rather it is a way of life; we wake up when the disaster has already struck or sometimes when a suo moto notice is taken. Response towards measles is a case in point and a pathetic one. Reportedly many of the hospitals lack the vaccine, the delay in getting them has led to deaths.It appears, the authorities that ought to have arranged for the drugs and vaccines are literally hibernating. During the LHC proceedings, they were found shifting blame, which has been going on for quite some time now. In every hearing, accusations and excuses are flung as the judges watch and think to fight the scourge. Who is really in charge here? The Punjab Health Department that earned the ire of the court is headed by a bunch of officials who perhaps do not know what to do? Three more cases of children dying were also reported from Faisalabad; a total of 100 patients have died all over Punjab so far. The epidemic is spreading like a wildfire. The Lahore High Court’s statement that the meagre measures taken by the Punjab health officials are the cause of the deaths is a damning indictment of the department. Now if heads have to roll, they must; this is necessary to get things moving in the right direction to bring in those who can save lives. The vaccines have to be procured and not only that regular surveillance of public hospitals need to be carried out where reports indicate unscrupulous staff stooping so low as to steal the medicine.
IN death, Waliur Rehman has caused almost as much controversy as he did when he was alive. The TTP second-in-command appears to have been taken out by an American drone strike, triggering consternation in public and more considered cost-benefit analyses in private. For all the cries about yet another violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, however, one fundamental point must not be overlooked: it appears that the US knew how and where to find the militant, whereas the Pakistani security and intelligence apparatus did not. Waliur Rehman had in the past been cast as a ‘moderate’ Taliban, someone the state here could do business with, but the truth was that he was a moderate only in that he was determined to attack inside Afghanistan too — meaning his attention was split between Pakistan and Afghanistan, unlike, say, Hakeemullah Mehsud who is known to focus most of his attention on attacks inside Pakistan. So here was a highly dangerous, highly motivated and highly effective militant leader in the form of Waliur Rehman and the Pakistani state appears to have had little clue of his whereabouts, appearing to believe that he would likely be hiding out on the border between North and South Waziristan. This is where the role of the security establishment should be questioned. The drone argument also has the unhappy effect of deflecting attention to a far more serious issue: what the Pakistani state intends to do about North Waziristan, now the last redoubt of militants in which they can operate and plan largely unmolested. The incoming civilian leadership has talked up talks again while the military leadership has tried to indirectly warn about the futility of negotiations — but then the army high command has not shown any decisiveness when it comes to North Waziristan for years now either. Now, with the Taliban once again ‘suspending’ their offer of talks in the wake of Waliur Rehman’s killing, there is one of two ways to proceed: flounder in the face of a continuing threat or take strength from the decisiveness showed by the electorate in rejecting the Taliban path. For all the reasons for inaction, to avoid a military operation in North Waziristan, to further delay establishing the state’s writ there, there is a simple truth: the TTP and Pakistan as imagined by its people, and endorsed in the recent elections, are incompatible. How to take on the TTP militants in North Waziristan is an important question but it is secondary to the need to take them on now not later.
Daily TimesThe Sindh Assembly elected PPP-Parliamentarians candidate Syed Qaim Ali Shah as chief minister of the province for the third time on Thursday. Qaim secured 86 votes, whereas MQM candidate for the slot, Syed Sardar Ahmed, got 48 votes and came in second in the contest, while the PML-F candidate, Imtiaz Sheikh, secured 18 votes. Later, speaking in the House Qaim thanked everyone for expressing confidence in him. He said that law and order in the province would be his top priority. He said that a 10-party alliance fought against the PPPP but people in Sindh again expressed confidence in the party. The chief minister said that his government would come up to the expectations of the people. Qaim was sworn in as the chief minister at a ceremony held at the Governor’s House. Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan administered him oath. Qaim said that his government would try to deliver more than it did in its previous tenure. His election was held through open division of members. Some seven ministers also took oath along with the chief minister. They are Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Mir Hazar Khan Bijarani, Makhdoom Jamiluz Zaman, Manzoor Wasan, Sharjeel Inam Memon, Raja Khan Maher and Dr Sikanadar Mandhro. Syed Murad Ali Shah has been taken as adviser. Also, the Sindh Assembly elected PPPP leader Agha Siraj Durrani as speaker, and Shehla Raza as deputy speaker of the House. Durrani secured 87 votes and Shehla 86 during separate elections at the Sindh Assembly hall. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Khuwaja Izharul Hassan and Heer Sohu got second positions by securing 48 votes each in the polls for speaker and deputy speaker, respectively. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Irfaullah Marwat and PML-F’s Nusrat Saher Abbasi got 18 votes each in the election for the two slots, respectively. Former speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro conducted the polls to select the new speaker, while the newly elected speaker, Agha Siraj Durrani supervised the deputy speaker’s election. After being elected as the speaker, Durrani said that former speaker Khuhro had performed well in the office, and he will also utilise his abilities to run the assembly affairs in a good manner. He said that he will try to run the House in a balanced way. He appealed both the treasury and opposition to extend their cooperation in this respect. Former speaker Khuhro, who is also an expected parliamentary leader of the PPPP, assured the new speaker of his full support. MQM’s leader Syed Sardar Ahmed also assured the speaker of his party’s cooperation. He hoped that Durrani will perform well in office, and said that office of the speaker was very much important as founder of the country; Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had also assumed the seat, while remaining in office as the governor general. PPPP leader Manzoor Wasan hoped that the new speaker whose father too had held the same office will perform better than Khuhro. Another senior leader of the PPP, Hazar Khan Bijrani said that assuming office as the speaker is an honour for Durrani.