Sunday, June 2, 2013

Protests in Turkey Reveal a Larger Fight Over Identity

Across this vast city, a capital for three former empires, cranes dangle over construction sites, tin walls barricade old slums, and skyscrapers outclimb the mosque minarets that have dominated the skyline for centuries — all a vanguard for more audacious projects already in the works. For many Turks, though, the development is not so much progress as a reflection of growing autocratic ambitions by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government. Anger and resentment boiled over onto the street over the past three days, as the police barraged demonstrators with tear gas and streams from water cannons — and as the protesters attacked bulldozers and construction trailers lined up next to the last park in the city’s center. In full public view, a long struggle over urban spaces is erupting as a broader fight over Turkish identity, where difficult issues of religion, social class and politics intersect. And while most here acknowledge that every Turkish ruling class has sought to put its stamp on Istanbul, there is a growing sense that none has done so as insistently as the current government, led by Mr. Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, despite growing resistance. On Sunday, Mr. Erdogan went on television to reject accusations of dictatorial behavior while flatly discounting the protesters’ legitimacy. “We would not yield to a few looters coming to that square and provoking our people, our nation, based on their misinformation,” Mr. Erdogan said, in a speech that managed to feel provocative even as he called for a return to order, and as protesters returned to Taksim Square. Demonstrators also took to the streets of Ankara, the capital, and several other cities and were met with tear gas from the police. Edhem Eldem, a historian at Bogazici University in Istanbul, has criticized the government for undertaking large-scale development projects without seeking recommendations from the public. “In a sense, they are drunk with power,” he said. “They lost their democratic reflexes and are returning to what is the essence of Turkish politics: authoritarianism.” The swiftly changing physical landscape of Istanbul symbolizes the competing themes that undergird modern Turkey — Islam versus secularism, rural versus urban. They highlight a booming economy and a self-confidence expressed by the religiously conservative ruling elite that belies the post-empire gloom that permeates the novels of Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate and most famous writer. Mr. Erdogan’s decade-long rule has dramatically reshaped Turkey’s culture by establishing civilian control of the military. It has broken down rules of the old secular order that now permit the wide public expression of religion, seen in the proliferation of women wearing head scarves, by the conservative masses who make up the prime minister’s constituency. His rule has also nurtured a pious capitalist class, whose members have moved in large numbers from rural Anatolia to cities like Istanbul, deepening class divisions. The old secular elite, who consider themselves the inheritors of the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey’s secular founder, have chafed under these transformations. So, too, have liberals, who do not label themselves Kemalists and are tolerant of public displays of religion. But they object to Mr. Erdogan’s leadership style, which they describe as dictatorial, and are put off by many of the development projects on the grounds of bad taste, a view imbued with a sense of social elitism. For many, it has also created a sense of resentment and loss — for longtime residents, urban intellectuals and many members of the underclasses who are being pushed from their homes so that upscale housing complexes and shopping malls can be built. And there is much more on the drawing board that evokes greater ambitions and controversies: the world’s largest airport, the country’s biggest mosque, and a proposed canal that would split Istanbul’s European side and is so audacious that even the project’s most vocal supporter, Mr. Erdogan, has called it “crazy.” Ground has already been broken on a third bridge over the Bosporus, named for a contentious Ottoman sultan who was accused of massacring Alevi Muslims, a large minority in Turkey. “I was born and raised here, and there is nothing from my youth that I can connect to anymore in this city,” said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a professor of international relations at Sabanci University. “Istanbul is seen as a place where you earn a living, where you get rich. It is a gold rush.” Reflecting a sense of elitism that is widely shared by secular Turks in Istanbul, he complained that the city had “been invaded by Anatolian peasants” who were “uncultured.” Ara Guler, who is 84 and Turkey’s most famous photographer, having produced volumes of black-and-white photographs of Istanbul’s cityscapes, sat in a cafe that bears his name. He said there was only one neighborhood left that reminded of him of his city and where he still liked to take pictures: Eyup, a waterside district that is home to a famous mosque and many conservative Muslim families. “The Istanbul that we grew up with is lost,” he said. “Where is my Istanbul? It’s all about the money.” A government plan to convert Taksim Square, historically a place of public gathering, into a replica Ottoman-era army barracks and shopping mall — what Mr. Eldem, the historian, called “a Las Vegas of Ottoman splendor” — is what incited the demonstrations. But there are many other contentious projects that have drawn public outrage. The city’s oldest movie theater was recently demolished for another mall, raising howls of protests, including an objection from Turkey’s first lady, Hayrunnisa Gul, the wife of the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul. A 19th-century Russian Orthodox Church may be destroyed as part of an overhaul of a port. And in ghettos across the city, the urban poor are being paid to leave their homes so that contractors — many with ties to government officials — can build gated communities. The neighborhood of Avcilar, near the airport and historically a place for Bulgarian immigrants, is another area where residents are being uprooted. As the process unfolds, it has become complicated by opaque property records in which it is sometimes impossible to determine ownership. “One day we just got a notice, and bam, before we could put up a proper fight, 300 to 400 police came and held us back from intervening with the bulldozers that knocked down our restaurant,” said Coskun Turan, who owned a fish restaurant. “They said we didn’t have deeds for the property, but we do. We showed them. They argued that we only had a deed for part of the property, so they knocked the rest down.” At 87, Dogan Kuban is perhaps Istanbul’s foremost urban historian. He has written numerous books and worked with the United Nations on preservation issues in Turkey. He complained that he has never been consulted by the current government. “I am the historian of Istanbul,” he said. “They don’t consult with anybody.” He criticized the government for ignoring the country’s pre-Islamic history by not protecting certain archaeological sites and structures, an issue he cast as highlighting Turkey’s turn away from Western culture under Mr. Erdogan’s rule. “The only things being preserved are mosques,” he said. “Preservation is a very refined part of the culture. It’s very much a part of European civilization.” The outcome of the protest movement is still uncertain. With Mr. Erdogan still able to count on the support of religious conservatives, who make up a large voting bloc, few believe that his hold on power is in jeopardy. But there has been a hint of potential political damage, and the pulling back of police forces on Saturday, and allowing tens of thousands of protesters to demonstrate in Taksim Square on Saturday and again on Sunday night, was seen by some as a sign of weakness. “This is the first battle Erdogan lost in recent memory,” said Soli Ozel, an academic and columnist here. “He overreached — his hubris, arrogance and authoritarian impulse hit a wall.” But on Sunday, Mr. Erdogan struck a defiant chord, and while he said no shopping mall would be built in Taksim, he vowed to build another mosque in the square.

Report: Pakistan, India, China Add Nukes
A new study says China, India, and Pakistan have increased their nuclear arsenals over the past year. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said China is now estimated to have 250 nuclear warheads – 10 more than in 2012 – while Pakistan has increased its warheads by about 10, to between 100 and 120. The group said in its annual report that India is believed to have also added around 10, for a total of 90 to 110. The report said only Russia and the United States have reduced their warheads, with Russia dropping from 10,000 to 8,500, and the United States scaling back from 8,000 to 7,700. These reductions are in line with the new START treaty between Washington and Moscow.

President Obama calls on Congress to address student loan interest rate before it doubles July 1

President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to extend the interest rate on subsidized student loans before it doubles at the end of the month and leaves millions of student borrowers paying up to $1,000 in additional fees next year. Flanked by college students a White House speech on Friday, Obama said Congress should extend the current rate of 3.4 percent. If Congress fails to act, the rates for Stafford student loans will double to 6.8 percent July 1. That increase would equate to about a $1,000 more in interest payments for most borrowers. "Higher education cannot be a luxury for a privileged few. It is an economic necessity that every family should be able to afford, every young person with dreams and ambition should be able to access," Obama said as he urged students to contact their representatives about pending deadline. The House has already passed a measure to address the increase, tying the student loan rates to interest rates on Treasury notes. That change would mean an annual increase for subsidized loan recipients, many of whom are from low to middle-income families. An earlier plan introduced by Obama also ties the student loan interest rate to the Treasury note but would lock it in for the life of the loan. "I'm glad that (the House) took action, but their bill does not meet that test. It fails to lock in low rates for students next year," the president said. "The House bill isn't smart, and it's not fair." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was glad the president was in agreement on the need to provide a permanent solution to the problem of increased interest rates on student loans but blasted the White House press conference. "No one should be fooled by (the) campaign-style event at the White House. House Republicans have already passed legislation that would prevent a rate hike, and Senate Republicans have proposed a solution similar to one the president himself called for in this year's budget," McConnell said. "Unfortunately, the president appears more interested in needlessly stoking partisan divisions in Washington than helping young Americans avoid a higher interest rate on their student loans." Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate will vote next week on a Democratic plan to extend the 3.4 interest rate for two years until a permanent solution can be worked out.

President Zardari: I have no right to contest for President office

President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday said that being a President of the country he was glad to see the smooth transition of power, adding that not only Nawaz Sharif but other political parties also supported them for the sake of democracy. Talking to a panel of journalists, President Zardari said that he has no right to participate in presidential elections for the next tenure. He said that if Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) asked him to lead the party, he would do so, or else he would work as a party worker. Replying to a question, Mr. Zardari said that National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and Swiss cases were the charges for what he had been sent to jail for eight years. He added that, in his opinion, these cases were controversial as they carried no substance. Speaking on Balochistan issues, the president claimed that the previous government did so many things for Balcohistan but the Baloch people did not do anything for themselves. To another question, Mr. Zardari replied that there is a need to identify whether or not Taliban have political mindset, as extremists do not negotiate. He further said that the PPP-led government had not signed any agreement with US government over drone attacks, however, he added that he did not know if Musharraf had made any such agreement or not.

US takes Apple to trial over e-books price-fixing

Apple Inc goes to trial Monday over allegations by federal and state authorities that it conspired with publishers to raise the price of e-books. The trial pits the maker of the popular iPad and iPhone against the U.S. Justice Department in a case that tests how Internet retailers interact with content providers. "This case will effectively set the rules for Internet commerce," said David Balto, a former policy director for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The Justice Department filed its case against Apple and five of the six largest U.S. book publishers in April 2012. The lawsuit accused them of conspiring to increase e-book prices and break Inc's hold on pricing. Apple is going to trial alone after the five publishers agreed to eliminate prohibitions on wholesale discounts and to pay a collective $164 million to benefit consumers. The five publishers were Pearson Plc's Penguin Group, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc, Hachette Book Group Inc and MacMillan. The U.S. government is not seeking damages but instead an order blocking Apple from engaging in similar conduct. However, if Apple is found liable, it could still face damages in a separate trial by the state attorneys general and consumers pursuing class actions. 'DIRECT EVIDENCE' Based on a comment by the presiding judge at the final hearing before the trial, Apple may face an uphill battle. "I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books," U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, who is hearing the case without a jury, said on May 23. While those comments suggested Apple might be smart to seek a settlement, Chief Executive Tim Cook said in an interview Tuesday with All Things Digital that Apple was "not going to sign something that says we did something we didn't do." Apple may be calculating that future damages claims by states and class actions make it worth going to trial, said John Lopatka, a law professor at Pennsylvania State University. "Apple might think, 'We may lose at the trial level, but we may well convince an appellate court the trial judge mischarachertized the evidence," Lopatka said. 'MARKET IN TURMOIL' Neither side disputes that in 2009 publishers were concerned about low prices for e-books resulting from the dominance of, which launched its Kindle e-reader in 2007. As it prepared to launch its iPad and was looking into opening an electronic bookstore, Apple has said it was entering a "market in turmoil," with growing tension between the publishers and Amazon. Amazon, which declined comment, was selling 90 percent of all e-books in 2009. It was buying books wholesale and at times selling them at a loss, pricing them at $9.99, with the goal of promoting its Kindle. The Justice Department contends that Apple's entry into the market provided publishers with a means to get together to increase prices. At the suggestion of Hachette and HarperCollins, the government says Apple began considering an agency model in which publishers set the price and Apple took a fixed percentage. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, told his biographer that, "we told the publishers, 'We'll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30 percent, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway.'" The Justice Department said Apple provided assurances to publishers their rivals would join. Apple says that it was unaware of efforts by the publishers to conspire before it entered the marketplace, and said when it did, it act independently. It also contends that in the wake of its introduction of the iBookstore, prices have fallen rather than risen from $7.97 on average to $7.34.

Turkmenistan to start Afghan-Turkmen railway construction

A delegation of Turkmen officials led by Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov recently met with the Afghan president Hamid Karzai in capital Kabul and delivered an invitation to take part in the official ceremony of laying the Turkmen section of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway. President Hamid Karzai in return conveyed sincere appreciation to the Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for Turkmenistan’s continued assistance and support in the socio-economic revival of its neighbor. Karzai quoted by Trend News Agency said, “Afghanistan very much appreciates this fraternal assistance and support.” Afghanistan signed a memorandum of Understanding with Turkmenistan and Tajikistan on the construction of railway line during a summit in Ashgabat in March. Ashgabat and Kabul earlier signed an intergovernmental framework agreement on the construction of the 85-kilometer railway line Atamyrat-Ymamnazar (Turkmenistan) and the 38-kilometer line between Akina and Andhoi (Afghanistan). The Turkmen ministry of railway transport will construct the Atamyrat-Ymamnazar railway in Lebap region. In the meantime officials from Afghanistan and Turkmenistan recently met in Ashgabat to discuss the proposed construction of railway line on Imamnazar-Akina inside the Afghan soil by Turkmenistan.

India eyes deal on maiden Afghan steel plant
The Indian government plans negotiations with steel and mining firms on reaching a deal with Afghanistan to develop four iron ore blocks and set up a steel plant in central Bamyan province, a report said on Friday. Ninety percent of the agreement had been finalised, the Times of India quoted unnamed sources as saying. The Afghan Iron and Steel Consortium (AIFSCO) sought soft financing from New Delhi, it added. The government in Delhi prepares to meet shortly representatives of a Steel Authority of India (SAIL)-led consortium to clinch the contract for developing the iron ore blocks and setting up a steel plant in Hajigak. Negotiators told the newspaper: "The first phase, which will involve prospecting and exploration, is likely to take about 18 months and will involve an investment of around $75-$80 million." In the second phase, the consortium will build Afghanistan's first steel plant -- a project that has a gestation period of about a decade. Afghanistan is believed to have enormous mineral resources worth trillion dollars, with India seeking to gain access to the largely untapped sector.

Turkey protests: Hundreds reoccupy Istanbul square

Hundreds of protesters have reoccupied a central square in Istanbul following two days of violent demonstrations that saw almost 1,000 people arrested. The situation is generally calm and city workers are clearing up after the protests in Istanbul and Ankara. Officials say 26 police and 53 civilians were hurt, one seriously. Protests began over the redeveloping of a park near Istanbul's Taksim Square but broadened into anti-government action after a tough police response. The protests represent the most sustained anti-government unrest for a number of years. The BBC's James Reynolds in Istanbul says a lot of people are fed up with the government, which they believe wants to take away some of their personal freedoms. 'Lesson learnt' There had been some isolated clashes around the streets of Istanbul in the early hours of Sunday. But the atmosphere at dawn was calmer and largely peaceful, with demonstrators milling about between burnt-out cars and gathering around fires. Our correspondent says that steady rainfall has dampened protests, and many of the demonstrators went home to get some rest. However, he says this has been a largely afternoon and evening protest, and that clashes could resume later in the day. There have been calls on social media for renewed protests. Hundreds of people waving flags later returned to the square, some chanting "Government, Resign!" One protester, Akin, told Reuters: "We will stay until the end. We are not leaving. The only answer now is for this government to fall. We are tired of this oppressive government constantly putting pressure on us." Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted on Saturday that "there have been some mistakes, extremism in police response", but also accused his opponents of using the anger over the Gezi Park issue to stoke up tensions. Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas tried to ease the tension, telling a local television station that "we have learnt our lesson". He regretted "not informing the people enough" about the Gezi Park redevelopment. Shop owners and city workers have begun to try to clean up, removing graffiti from walls and windows. Interior Minister Muammer Guler said 90 demonstrations had taken place in 48 cities after the protests spiralled. He said some of those arrested had since been released but others would be put on trial. Mr Guler said one of the injured civilians was being treated in an intensive care unit at an Istanbul hospital. Amnesty International claimed two people had been killed and more than 1,000 injured, though there was no confirmation of those figures. Amnesty's Europe director John Dalhuisen said: "The excessively heavy-handed response to the entirely peaceful protests in Taksim has been truly disgraceful." The US also expressed concern over Turkey's handling of the protests. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been in power since 2002, and is expected to run for the presidency in 2014. Some in Turkey have complained that his government is becoming increasingly authoritarian. His ruling AK Party has its roots in political Islam, but he says he is committed to Turkey's state secularism.

The Global Plight of Disabled Children

A United Nations report, “The State of the World’s Children,” underscores the moral bankruptcy of Senate Republicans who blocked ratification of a treaty to help disabled people around the world. There is scant data on how many children have such disabilities or how their lives are affected. One outdated estimate is that some 93 million children, one in 20 of those 14 or younger, live with a moderate or severe disability of some kind. The issue is how they might be helped to overcome their disabilities and become productive members of their societies. A United Nations convention would ban discrimination against persons with disabilities and accord them the same rights as those without disabilities. It has been ratified by 127 countries and the European Union. President Obama has signed it, but, in December, the Senate, though supporting the convention by a hefty 61 to 38, fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for ratification. This was mostly because Senate Republicans caved in to far-right ideologues who contended, erroneously, that the convention would infringe on American sovereignty, usher in socialism, and allow United Nations bureaucrats to prohibit home-schooling or wrench disabled children from their parents’ arms. The new United Nations report finds that children with disabilities are the least likely to receive health care or go to school and are among the most vulnerable to violence, abuse and neglect, especially if they are hidden away in institutions because of social stigma or parental inability to raise them. The disabled children and their communities would benefit if the children were accommodated in schools, workplaces, vocational training, transportation and local rehabilitation programs — and if all countries ratified the convention and a related convention on the rights of children.

White House calls for restraint at Gezi Park

The White House on Saturday called on Turkish authorities to act with restraint following the incidents at Istanbul's Taksim Gezi Park.

OWS activists in US rally in solidarity with Turkish protesters

Hundreds of people, including activists from the Occupy Wall Street movement, have staged a demonstration in New York City to voice their support for anti-government rallies in the Turkish city of Istanbul. The protesters gathered in Zuccotti Park - the birthplace of the Occupy Wall Street movement in Lower Manhattan - on Saturday, and marched nearly 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the Turkish consulate. Some of the demonstrators carried signs reading “Istanbul is not alone,” while others waved the Turkish national flag. The Occupy Wall Street movement announced in a statement that the event was held with the goal to direct public attention to Istanbul’s Gezi Park protests, and the subsequent violent crackdown on the protests by Turkey's ruling AK Party, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Similar demonstrations are scheduled to be held in several major US cities, including Austin, Boston and Chicago. Rallies showing solidarity with Turkish protesters have taken a worldwide scope, and scores of people in Belgium, Britain, Cyprus and Norway have protested against Turkish police brutality and heavy-handed measures against the demonstrators in Istanbul. Egyptian protesters also plan to stage a rally outside the Turkish embassy in Cairo on Sunday evening in support of the protesters in Istanbul. On Saturday night, about 5,000 protesters surrounded Erdogan's office in Istanbul’s Besiktas municipality, located on the European shore of the strait of Bosphorus, and threw stones at the office, injuring at least seven policemen. Special police forces used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. Earlier in the day, 100,000 demonstrators gathered in Taksim Square, demanding that Erdogan step down and calling the government “fascist.” The anti-government unrest began after police broke up a sit-in staged in Taksim Square on May 31 to protest against the demolition of Gezi Park. The protesters say the park, which is a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations as well as a popular tourist destination, is the city's last green public space. Amnesty International has censured the Turkish police for the tactics they have used to control the protests.

Gezi Park crackdown recalls 'most shameful moments of Turkish history,' says Chomsky

Outspoken American linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky has condemned the brutal police crackdown on protesters denouncing the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park, saying it recalled "the most shameful moments of Turkish history." "I would like to join Amnesty International and others who defend basic human rights in condemning the brutal measures of the state authorities in response to the peaceful protests in Taksim in Central Istanbul," Chomsky said in a written statement June 1. "The reports of the past few days are reminiscent of some of the most shameful moments of Turkish history, which, it seemed, had been relegated to the past during the progress of the past years that has been welcomed and praised by all of us who wish the best for Turkey and its people," he added. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality had planned to replace the little green patch surrounded by multi-storey hotels with a reproduction of the Artillery Barracks ("Topçu Kışlası") that used to occupy the sight. According to the project revealed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the barracks would be converted into a shopping mall and could also serve as a residence with social facilities. However, the plans stirred huge debate among Istanbul locals, who objected to the conversion of one of the last green areas at the heart of the city into yet another shopping mall.

Pakistan may be next in line for an IMF bailout

With foreign reserves diminishing fast, Pakistan is on the brink of an economic crisis that may force its new government to ask for an unpopular bailout from the International Monetary Fund requiring a sweeping overhaul of the country's economy. The troubles could inject a new element of instability into the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people that Washington is relying on to combat Islamic militants at home and to help negotiate an end to the war in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan's foreign currency reserves stood at just $6.4 billion as of May 17, down from more than $14 billion two years ago. That is only enough to cover about 1.5 months' worth of imports while the IMF considers adequate foreign reserves for any country enough to cover three months of imports. Bottoming out could bring painful consequences: A run on the banks by panicked citizens anxious to convert savings into dollars amid fears of a devaluation, a withdrawal from the stock market, a collapse of economic activity and higher unemployment. The presumptive head of the new government, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has made fixing the economy his main priority. But even though a crisis may be only six to nine months away, his incoming government appears hesitant about taking IMF money. They know it will come with conditions attached that would likely stir discontent on the streets, such as raising energy prices and broadening tax collection significantly. "If we manage for six months, then of course we don't have to go" to the IMF, said Sartaj Aziz, a key economic adviser to the government about to take power. He told The Associated Press that in his view, the country might not need a bailout if it moves quickly enough to boost growth and gets help from key allies such as Saudi Arabia, which would come with fewer strings attached. Stepping up growth, however, is a daunting challenge in a country plagued by severe electricity shortages and a bloody Taliban insurgency, both of which have hampered economic expansion and foreign investment. Most experts see another IMF bailout as inevitable and are urging the government to immediately seek at least $5 billion. They worry that any delay in asking for IMF help could spark a crisis of confidence that would snowball. "The writing is on the wall that Pakistan is going to the IMF. The only thing left is to give a date," said Ashfaque Hasan Khan, head of the business school at the National University of Sciences and Technology in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Khan said the official reserve figure understates the problem because the central bank has also borrowed more than $2.3 billion from commercial banks in the forward swap market to prevent the rupee from depreciating. That means the actual reserve figure is closer to $4 billion, he said. Adding to those woes, Pakistan has very large debt payments coming due over the next year that will further drain reserves. Most notably, it owes the IMF about $2.5 billion by the end of this calendar year. There have already been worrying signs in Islamabad, where commercial banks have begun telling customers trying to withdraw dollars that they are not available, or that they need to make a special request. Foreign exchange companies in the capital have also reported a shortage of dollars. Pakistan's two largest cities, Lahore and Karachi, show no sign of similar problems. Khan, however, said that was only a matter of time. Foreign investment, dampened by both political and economic instability, is only expected to be about 0.5 percent of GDP this fiscal year, while the average emerging market country runs at about 3 to 4 percent, according to the IMF. Still Aziz, the adviser, said he is hopeful the incoming government can take emergency steps to grow the economy that will help Pakistan avoid going for an IMF bailout, or at least make the loan conditions less painful. He said the government will likely ask Saudi Arabia, a major oil supplier, to defer payments on oil imports. And he predicted the IMF would impose tough conditions if Pakistan does request a new loan now. "Not only would we find it difficult to fulfill them, but they would stifle our revival agenda," he said of the expected conditions. "The important thing, therefore, is to try to revive investment and growth." Since 1988, Pakistan has signed onto eight IMF programs that demanded structural changes in the economy. But it has never managed to resolve its chronic problems. Sakib Sherani, head of Macro Economic Insights Ltd. in Islamabad, said the government will make a mistake if it delays a request for a new IMF bailout. "There are structural issues here. No amount of Chinese money or Saudi money can get us out of this," he said. If Pakistan does have to turn to the IMF, it will bring its own set of challenges. For one, the country has a patchy track record in upholding promised reforms that secured past IMF loans, including an $11 billion program granted amid the last foreign reserves crisis in 2008. The former government abandoned that program in 2011 because it refused to carry out the strict financial reforms required by the IMF. But it still owes the lending agency nearly $5 billion from that old loan. The new government will have to convince the IMF with quick actions that this time around will be different. The IMF will want to see far-reaching reforms fast-tracked to reduce the chance of another reversal part way through a multi-year program. And the lending agency is expected to demand vast improvements in a woeful tax system that collects very little money. Taxes currently bring in only about 10 percent of gross domestic product, one of the lowest effective rates in the world. The IMF is also likely to press for major changes in the energy sector such as raising prices and phasing out costly subsidies that disproportionately benefit the wealthy, who use far more energy than the poor. The government spends about $1 billion in foreign currency each month to import oil to run its power plants — a costly way to generate electricity and another drain on foreign reserves. Building new hydroelectric plans or converting to less expensive natural gas production would be very expensive and take years. The IMF is also expected to demand some kind of plan to curb losses from state-owned enterprises that amount to billions of dollars a year. Pakistan's budget deficit — the difference between what it spends and takes in — is expected to be at least 7 percent of GDP this year. The IMF does not consider that sustainable and would likely press for a scaling back to about 3-4 percent of GDP. The economy is expected to grow around 3.5 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30, and though that figure may look good in comparison to Europe or America, it is less than half the rate needed to supply jobs to the growing population. And it is also low by historical standards. Aziz said growth from 1960-2010 averaged about 5.5 percent annually but in the last five years, it slowed to 3 percent. Despite the enormous challenges, there are some in Pakistan who remain sanguine that an IMF bailout will come through no matter what because the U.S. — the largest shareholder in the organization — considers Pakistan too strategic to fail. "By now, just about everybody knows that it's U.S. strategic interests that dictate the disbursement of this money and not really any progress or timeline on reforms," said Khurram Husain, a business columnist for a Pakistan's English newspaper.

British Foreign Office warns Brits to avoid Turkey protests
The Foreign Office is advising Britons to avoid anti-government demonstrations in Turkey. A factual update on its website reads: "Demonstrations are taking place in Istanbul and in other cities across Turkey, including Ankara. "Police are using tear gas and water cannons in response. We advise British nationals to avoid all demonstrations".

Chomsky condemns Turkish police crackdown on protestors

Noted linguist, activist says police actions recall 'most shameful moments of Turkish history'; two killed, 1000 injured in protests, Amnesty reports
Outspoken American linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky has condemned the police crackdown on protesters denouncing the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park, saying it recalled "the most shameful moments of Turkish history," according to the Turkish Huriyet newspaper. "I would like to join Amnesty International and others who defend basic human rights in condemning the brutal measures of the state authorities in response to the peaceful protests in Taksim in Central Istanbul," Chomsky said in a written statement June 1."The reports of the past few days are reminiscent of some of the most shameful moments of Turkish history, which, it seemed, had been relegated to the past during the progress of the past years that has been welcomed and praised by all of us who wish the best for Turkey and its people," he added.Protests in Istanbul's Taksim Gezi Park started on Monday. Initially over authorities' plan to redevelop the park into a shopping mall, the demonstrations rapidly gained momentum and became a mass protest against Erdogan and his AKP party's Islamist policies. Over the weekend the protests spread across the country, and thousands took to the streets and clashed with policemen, who used tear gas and water hoses in attempt to disperse the crowds. According to Amnesty, two protestors died and at least 1,000 were injured in protests' focal point in Istanbul's Taksim.Chomsky was recently involved in the pressures that led to noted physicist Stephen Hawking to pull out of the President's Conference in Jerusalem. The British Guardian newspaper reported last month that Chomsky was one of 20 academics from prominent universities who approached Hawking and convinced him to cancel his arrival in Israel, scheduled for June.

Turkey: Occupy Taksim?

It started as a rather modest protest by some 50 people a few days ago against the government decision to convert the “Gezi” (promenade) Park, the little and only remaining green spot in the famous Taksim district in the heart of Istanbul, into Artillery Barracks that had been there in Ottoman times. There are rumors that the new barracks might include a shopping mall, stemming from a speech from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan himself. So, some 50 of the activists resident in the area, mostly artists, architects and writers began carrying out a peaceful demonstration until the police tried to disperse them by force and pepper gas; perhaps some of you have already seen the “Sprayed women in red” photo by a Reuters photographer. That night the number of protesters increased by 10 as the municipality brought a small excavator to remove three trees from the park “in order to expand the road” passing next to Gezi Park in the framework of the ongoing urban transformation plan to make Taksim a pedestrian-only zone. The first opposition politician to come to the stage was Sırrı Süreyya Önder of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is focused on the Kurdish problem. Önder is among the deputies carrying out talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader in İmralı prison in the framework of Erdoğan’s initiative to find a political solution to the Kurdish problem. But Taksim was his electoral district, and after mingling with the protestors, he stood before the excavator, reminding many of Wang Weiling standing before the tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, or Boris Yeltsin climbing on to a tank to stop it in Moscow’s Red Square. That was the turning point of the events. The protestors grew in numbers and started to pitch tents in Gezi in order to stay there day and night, and that night, actually in the early hours of the next day, the Istanbul police started its tent raids, again with pepper gas and water cannon as well. Erdoğan said during the ground-breaking ceremony of the third Bosphorus bridge that no matter what the protestors said, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) was determined to carry out its projects, since it has the voter support behind. The Istanbul deputies of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) joined the protestors as their number grew. The CHP decided to post a deputy round-the-clock to stay with them in shifts. You see here the picture of Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a Kurdish-origin deputy of the CHP (making an interesting couple with the Turkish-origin BDP deputy Önder) arguing with a police chief after being gassed and sprayed himself. It would be a big surprise and perhaps a first of its kind if Erdoğan, with his natural determination, were to bow to the protesters’ will and revise the project to keep the area as a park, as urbanization experts suggest as well. But his determination and the disproportionate toughness of the police has managed to turn a pacifist and modest protest into a public protest movement. And the protestors did neither favor Tiananmen, nor Red Square as an example for their act as it is about to complete its first week now. They like to be likened to the Occupy Wall Street protestors – that is why they like to be called “Occupy Taksim” now. Will their fate be the same as OWS? Maybe so... But this is another picture of the contradiction of Turkish democracy as it is now; suppressing peaceful environmentalist protests by force while trying to bring in a mighty presidential system with less checks and balances on one hand while trying to find a peaceful way to end the bloodiest problem in Turkey on the other.

TURKEY: Erdoğan no longer almighty

To cut the story short, the Taksim wave of protests has turned into the first public defeat of the almighty image of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, and by Turkish people themselves. It was around lunch time June 1 when Erdoğan reiterated his hard-line position regarding the demonstrators protesting his decision to turn the only remaining green spot in Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square into a reconstructed historical building with a shopping mall. He asked the demonstrators to abandon their efforts to try to get into Taksim Square, which was encircled by police squads, with the faint promise of an investigation into the excessive use of tear gas, stressing that there was no way the demonstrators could succeed. The crowds have grown to literally hundreds of thousands from a lonely 50 four days ago, thanks to the brutal methods that the Turkish police used in order to disperse them, particularly the serial use of tear gas and water cannons. The protests have not only spread to the European and Asian sides of Istanbul (Taksim being on the European side), but also to different cities across Turkey: the capital Ankara, İzmir, Eskişehir, and a dozen others. Then, two unusually smart political moves took place. The first was the cancellation of a major demonstration by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which had been planned for June 1 in their Istanbul stronghold Kadıköy on the Asian side against the government policies. The CHP leader, Kemel Kılıçdaroğlu, asked all his supporters to cross the Bosphorus and rally to Taksim in support of protesters there. Many thought that this move might be counterproductive, as Erdoğan had preemptively accused Kılıçdaroğlu of trying to use the protests politically. So, tens and thousands of CHP members started to pour towards Taksim, despite the police barricades reinforced by gas and water squads. The second move came from President Abdullah Gül, who on his return from Turkmenistan made at least three phone calls, to the Istanbul governor, the interior minister, and Erdoğan himself, asking them to try not to further antagonize the demonstrators. Right after those calls, at around 4 p.m, the police started to withdraw from Taksim. Around five hours after Erdoğan's address, hundreds and thousands of protesters started to march to Taksim Square in a mood of victory, chanting slogans calling on him to resign. In return, Kılıçdaroğlu did not show up in Taksim, and no CHP flags and banners were there either. A CHP spokesman said he did not want to come in order to avoid being accused of political opportunism - that was a smart move indeed. To call this a "Turkish Spring" would be over-dramatizing it. It could be, if there were opposition forces in Turkey that could move in to stop the one man show of a mighty power holder. But it can easily be said that the Taksim brinkmanship marked a turning point in the almighty image of Erdoğan.

Syrian army seizes sarin cylinders from militants in Hama

The Syrian army has seized two cylinders of the nerve agent sarin during an operation in the city of Hama. Syrian media say the operation was carried out against a militant hideout in the city’s al-Faraieh neighborhood on Saturday. Sarin is a colorless, odorless liquid gas which causes respiratory arrest and death. The poisonous agent has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction in UN Resolution 687. The foreign-backed militants in Syria have repeatedly threatened to use such weapons. A video released last December showed them testing chemical agents on lab rabbits and threatening to kill pro-government Syrians. On May 5, the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it found testimony from victims and medical staff that showed foreign-backed militants had used the nerve agent in Syria. On March 19, over two dozen people were killed and many others injured when militants fired missiles containing a chemical substance into a village near the northwestern city of Aleppo, according to a report by Syria’s official news agency SANA. On May 30, Turkish media reported that the country’s security forces had confiscated two kilograms of sarin after raiding the homes of militants from the terrorist group al-Nusra Front. The incident took place in Turkey’s southern city of Adana, located some 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the border with Syria. The Syrian government says Ankara has been playing a key role in fueling the unrest in Syria by financing, training, and arming the militants since the turmoil erupted in March 2011.

Protesters defiant as Turkey unrest goes into third day

Protesters lit fires and scuffled with police in parts of Istanbul and Ankara early on Sunday, but the streets were generally quieter after two days of Turkey's fiercest anti-government demonstrations for years. Hundreds of protesters set fires in the Tunali district of the capital Ankara, while riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray to hold back groups of stone-throwing youths near Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's office in Istanbul. Istanbul's central Taksim Square, where the protests have been focused, was quieter after riot police pulled back their armored trucks late on Saturday. Demonstrators lit bonfires among overturned vehicles, broken glass and rocks and played cat-and-mouse on side streets with riot police, who fired occasional volleys of tear gas. The unrest was triggered by protests against government plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks to house shops or apartments in Taksim, long a venue for political protest. But it has widened into a broader show of defiance against Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). Interior Minister Muammer Guler said on Saturday that 939 people had been arrested in more than 90 separate demonstrations around the country. More than 1,000 people have been injured in Istanbul and several hundred more in Ankara, according to medics. The ferocity of the police response has shocked Turks, as well as tourists caught up in the unrest in one of the world's most visited destinations. It has drawn rebukes from the United States, European Union and international rights groups. Helicopters have fired tear gas canisters into residential neighborhoods and police have used tear gas to try to smoke people out of buildings. Footage on YouTube showed one protester being hit by an armored police truck as it charged a barricade. "All dictators use the same methods, oppressing their people," said Mehmet Haspinar, a 60-year-old retired government employee sheltering in a building entrance way as riot police fired pepper spray in an Ankara back street. EUROPE'S FASTEST-GROWING ECONOMY Erdogan has overseen a transformation in Turkey during his decade in power, turning its once crisis-prone economy into the fastest-growing in Europe. He remains by far the country's most popular politician, but critics point to what they see as his authoritarianism and religiously conservative meddling in private lives in the secular republic. Some accuse him of behaving like a modern-day sultan. Tighter restrictions on alcohol sales and warnings against public displays of affection in recent weeks have provoked protests. Concern that government policy is allowing Turkey to be dragged into the conflict in neighboring Syria by the West has also led to peaceful demonstrations. "It's about democracy, and it's going to get bigger," said one demonstrator in a side street off Taksim Square, trying to rinse tear gas from his eyes. Erdogan has called for an immediate end to the protests and has said his government will investigate claims that the police have used excessive force. But he remained defiant. "If this is about holding meetings, if this is a social movement, where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party," he said in a televised speech. He said the redevelopment of a park in Taksim was being used as an excuse for the unrest and warned the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) against stoking tensions. In spite of Erdogan's focus on the CHP, the protests have involved a broad spectrum of people opposed to the prime minister and do not appear to have been organized by a single political party. After the police withdrew from Taksim Square, supporters of Turkey's pro-Kurdish BDP party danced a Kurdish dance in celebration just yards from nationalists waving Turkish flags. They jointly chanted "shoulder to shoulder against fascism". A group of soccer fans from fierce rival Istanbul clubs Fenerbache, Besiktas and Galatasaray joined the chant. Protesters voiced anger at the limited coverage of the demonstrations by Turkish television stations, with many seeing government intimidation as to blame. Scores of journalists have been imprisoned during Erdogan's decade in power. "Government crony media for sale" was written in graffiti over one television broadcast van abandoned in Taksim Square.

PPP wins NA-229, NA-230 re-polling

Unofficial results after re-polling in NA-229 Tharparkar-I and NA-230 Tharparkar-II show that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) candidates are all geared up for victory. NA-229 candidate Faqir Sher Muhammad Bilani secured 86,592 after re-polling, whereas his People’s Muslim League (PML) opponent Arbab Khan Sahib Togachi received 84,922 votes. NA-230 polls saw PPP candidate Pir Noor Muhammad Shah Jilani winning against his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) opponent Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Jilani secured 59,528 votes, whereas Qureshi managed to bag 58,298 votes. Re-polling was held at four polling stations of NA-229 and 43 polling stations of NA-230 and its corresponding provincial assembly constituencies PS-62 and PS-63. All eyes were on NA-229 Tharparkar-I as it is the stronghold of the Arbabs who have never lost this constituency in any election. The ECP had announced the re-election as the administration had failed to conduct the election on May 11 at 47 polling stations, most were either set on fire or ransacked by miscreants belonging to rival political parties. Re-polling was conducted by the ECP at polling stations of National Assembly and provincial assembly seats in Tharparkar and Kashmore, under the supervision of the army, Rangers and police. - See more at:

Polio assistance: Pakistan may lose $130 million annual aid

The Express Tribune
Following the abolition of the polio monitoring and coordination cell, the future of the annual aid of $130 million drawn from the Bill Gates Foundation has become increasingly uncertain. The World Health Organisation (WHO) wrote a letter to the caretaker government a couple of days back and asked it to restore the monitoring cell, established by the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government in 2011. Pakistan was set a target of eradicating polio by 2012, but in some cases, polio is being reported from three countries, including Pakistan, as mentioned in the letter. The letter revealed that Pakistan never stopped polio virus transmission and has been a source for the international spread of the virus to other countries in Asia and Africa. Therefore, a national emergency plan should be shaped and steps should be taken to eradicate the polio virus on an emergency basis. According to the letter, Pakistan developed a National Emergency Action Plan (NEAP) which successfully reduced polio by 71 per cent from 2011 to 2012. This year, the country has reported nine cases, compared to the 22 detected last year, the letter added. The polio drive would be adversely affected since the government of Pakistan has shut down the monitoring cell. The letter stated that WHO and Unicef would continue helping the authorities to eradicate the polio virus from the country. The special envoy of Bill Gates Foundation, Dr Waqar Ajmal, got in touch with the government and has underscored the need for the restoration of the polio monitoring cell. Dr Ajmal voiced fears that the country might not receive the annual aid that originates from the Bill Gates Foundation. He expressed his concern over the government’s decision to shut down the polio monitoring cell and requested President Aisf Ali Zardari to restore the cell immediately.

President Zardari felicitates Sindh, KP chief ministers

The Frontier Post
Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Qaim Ali Shah along with the provincial cabinet called on President Asif Ali Zardari in Bilwal House, here on Saturday. According to details, CM Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Speaker Sindh Assembly Siraj Durrani, Nisar Khoro, Sharjeel Memon, Ali Nawaz Mehar, Manzoor Wassan and other PPP leaders met President Zardari. The President congratulated the chief minister, Speaker Sindh Assembly and the provincial cabinet. Qaim Ali Shah briefed President Zardari about the law and order and political situation of the province. On the other hand, President Zardari telephoned CM Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Pervez Khattak and felicitated him for being elected as leader of the house. The President spokesman said that the President Zardari ensured his full cooperation to Khattak.

Pakistan: Won’t tolerate ‘revenge’ in guise of accountability: PPP

Daily Times
PPP central leader Syed Khurshid Shah has said that his party will not tolerate at all if the PML-N government takes revenge in the guise of accountability. “If the PML-N government holds us accountable, we will support it wholeheartedly, and if it takes revenge in the guise of accountability, we will not tolerate it at all,” he said this while talking to a private TV channel and journalists outside the Parliament House on Saturday. He said that his party would support the good deeds of the new government and discourage all wrongdoings. “Full opportunity will be provided to the government to work, and no hindrances will be created in its way,” he added. On drone strikes, he said that the country should go for a dialogue with the US to stop predator attacks. “The PPP government always pursued the policy of reconciliation and we will now introduce the policy of reconciliation while sitting in opposition benches,” he said. “I will try my best that we take along the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leadership by taking them into confidence,” he remarked. Meanwhile, PPP chief Makhdoom Amin Fahim said that peaceful transition of power would strengthen democracy in the country. The tradition of power transition should continue, he told the media after attending the first session the new National Assembly.