Monday, June 10, 2013

Taliban beheads two boys in southern Afghanistan

Taliban fighters beheaded two boys aged 10 and 16 as a warning to villagers not to cooperate with the Afghan government, local officials said. The boys, named Khan and Hameedullah, had travelled to Afghan army and police checkpoints near their home in the southern province of Kandahar, scrounging for leftover food to bring to their families, the officials said. "The boys were on their way back ... when they were stopped by Taliban insurgents who beheaded them," the chief of Zhari district, Jamal Agha, told Reuters. "Both of them were innocent children and had nothing to do with government or foreigners." The militants have beheaded dozens of people in the last two years, accusing them of aiding the government and its foreign backers led by the United States. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said the group was not involved in the boys' killings. The Kandahar governor's spokesman, Javid Faisal, said the incident occurred on Sunday. Several hours later their bodies and severed heads were left in their village, he said. Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and one of Afghanistan's most restive provinces. In July last year in the same district, a 16-year-old boy accused by the Taliban of spying for the government was beheaded and skinned. The next month, a girl aged six and a boy of 12 were kidnapped and beheaded in separate incidents in Kandahar and the east of the country. Such incidents highlight the difficulty that Taliban leaders have in enforcing discipline across an estimated 20,000 fighters spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The leadership is trying to improve the group's image in case it wants to push forward tentative reconciliation steps and perhaps even enter mainstream politics. But some militant units have proved hard to control, roaming the countryside and killing or maiming those they deem immoral. The beheading occurred the day before seven Taliban insurgents including suicide bombers attacked country's international airport in the capital, Kabul. Also on Monday, six insurgents with suicide vests and heavy guns attacked a government compound in the provincial center of Zabul, wounding at least 18 people. Concerns are mounting over how the 352,000-strong Afghan security forces will cope with an intensifying Taliban insurgency once most foreign troops leave by the end of next year.

Saudi Arabia jailed tweeter for 6 months

Reports say Saudi Arabia jailed prominent political commentator and novelist Turki al-Hamad for six months over posting messages on Twitter that were deemed to be insulting to the Wahhabi government. Hamad’s arrest in December 2012 followed a tip by Saudi religious organizations. The arrest warrant was signed by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammad bin Nayef bin Abdel Aziz. On June 5, attorney Walid Abulkhair said his client, Hamad, “returned home this morning.” The Saudi writer “has not been put on trial, and has not faced any charges,” Abulkhair stated. Some 500 supporters of Hamad, including Saudi intellectuals, had signed a petition in January, calling on Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz to order the release of the prominent author. Hamad’s messages on Twitter had been critical of radical Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, whom he claimed were misinterpreting and twisting the “message of love” by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Saudi writer also characterized the emergence of Wahhabism as “a neo-Nazism on the rise in the Arab world.” Last year, Saudi officials also arrested young blogger Hamza Kashgari over ‘blasphemy’ charges.

Kuwaiti teacher given 11-year sentence for Twitter criticism of government

A teacher in Kuwait has been given an 11-year sentence for offensive tweeting against the country’s monarch, calling for his ouster. This comes amid increasing tightening of internet freedom laws across the Gulf region. Huda al Ajmi, 37, faces three separate charges, which together amount to the longest sentence for a crime of such a nature in Kuwait, according to the country’s political opposition groups. The charge for insulting the Emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah, whom the constitution describes as ‘immune and inviolable’, alone, carries one year. The other terms were both five years, given for encouraging a rebellion against the regime and for breaking the law on public discussions. Huda al Ajmi will be able to appeal her three sentences. This type of government crackdown on online activity has been on the rise in Kuwait, despite the country priding itself on being generally more liberal state than its neighbors. Although managing to land an appeal, last year, a former MP had been served a five-year sentence for insulting the Emir, when he gave a speech saying the ruler would not succeed in “taking Kuwait into the abyss of autocracy.”As for the Gulf Arab region as a whole, it has also been seen as collectively acting to limit internet freedoms. The measures a lot of them have taken include restricting content on social media sites, making “offending” posts punishable by extensive jail sentences. Aside from Kuwait: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have all tightened controls on Internet freedoms recently, targeting social media and phone applications alike in their effort to stifle freedom of speech. Across the Gulf, dozens of journalists and social media users have been arrested since the beginning of the year for being in violation of the uncompromising national laws. Kuwait has arrested at least six since the beginning of 2013. However, women serving time for such crimes are not a common sight in the Gulf state. Two female activists have recently narrowly escaped jail by having their sentences suspended. Of all the Arab states in the region, Kuwait has suffered the least amount of anti-government violence and uprisings, but the number of people speaking out over Facebook or Twitter and being arrested for it is no lower than elsewhere. The most recent political unrest in the country has erupted in December 2012, after the Emir had introduced a controversial change to electoral law, and was widely blamed by opposition groups for attempting to deny them a majority. Kuwait has been a member of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since 1996, which protects the right to freedom of expression, including peaceful criticism of public officials.

Newly crowned Miss Iowa hopes to advocate for people with disabilities
Nicole Kelly, the newly crowned Miss Iowa, plans to use her title to help advocate for people with disabilities, reports the DesMoines Register. Kelly, 23, was born without her left forearm, according to her biography at (note: site has been intermittently down). Photos can be viewed at the Miss Iowa Facebook page. After winning the title, Kelly spoke with CBS-4 News. "It was shocking and overwhelming—just like that your life changes," she said. "As I grew up I learned to counterbalance the initial stares I received from people with an outgoing personality that would not give into 'no,'" Kelly wrote on the pageant site. "This means that I tried everything. From baseball, to dance, to diving—there's nothing I would not try. I found my passion within a world where I was giving people permission to stare: the stage." According to Kelly's biography, she's currently studying directing and theater management at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She hopes to work on Broadway. "If you would have told me a year ago that 'pageant queen' was in my future I would have laughed," she wrote. "Giving voice to a platform is a great honor and I am excited to continue my adventure of speaking out and touching lives." Kelly will compete in the Miss America pageant on Sept. 15 in Atlantic City, N.J.

Turkey's opposition party leader accused the PM of escalating tensions and dragging the country 'into the fire'

Turkey's opposition party leader accused the prime minister of escalating tensions and dragging the country "into the fire" as enduring anti-government protests that have led to three deaths continued on Monday. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan headed a Cabinet meeting to discuss the protests, the first serious challenge to his 10-year rule. On Sunday he had made a series of fiery speeches in three cities, saying the government's patience is running thin, demanding an end to the protests and threatening to hold those who do not respect his government to account. Erdogan has also called major pro-government rallies in Ankara and Istanbul next weekend, apparently aiming to intimidate the protesters by showing that he, too, can get large numbers of his supporters out on the street. Hurriyet newspaper on Monday quoted Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the opposition Republican People's Party, as calling on Erdogan to reduce tensions.

PRESIDENT ZARDARI: ''Hard decisions needed to address challenges''

Radio Pakistan
President Asif Ali Zardari has said that there is need to take hard decisions without delay to address challenges facing the country. He was addressing the joint session of the Parliament to mark beginning of the first parliamentary year in Islamabad on Monday afternoon. The President said we must learn truth about past mistakes in order not to repeat them and this calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He said the country cannot afford confrontation and needs reconciliation to resolve the problems. The President congratulated once again the new elected Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif‚ the Speaker and the members of the National Assembly and hoped that they will rise to the expectations of the people. He also congratulated people of Pakistan for their participation in the elections and said they demonstrated courage in defying threats by the enemies of democracy. The President said there is no place for dictators in today's Pakistan which has been demonstrated by the smooth transfer of power. He commended all political parties and their leaders for accepting the poll results despite reservations. The President said together we have fulfilled our promise of smooth transition of power from one democracy to another democracy. This democratic‚ peaceful transition marks the success of a prolonged struggle. He said it is a matter of great satisfaction and pride that Parliament purged the Constitution of undemocratic articles. It brought about the first major constitutional reform in more than three decades. In the past‚ amendments in constitution were made to promote the personal interests of dictators but the latest ones are meant to strengthen democracy and empower the people. He said the outgoing Parliament made the Constitution truly democratic‚ restored provincial rights‚ abolished the Concurrent Legislative List and transferred all subjects to the provinces‚ banished Article 58(2)/B and strengthened Council of Common Interests. Oil‚ gas and natural resources within a province now belong jointly to the province and the Federal Government. The President pointed out that suspension and abrogation of the Constitution is an act of high treason and no court shall validate it. He said let us renew our commitment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution. President Zardari said each pillar of the state must operate within its constitutional limits and no organ of the state should trespass into the domain of others. He said the democratic forces should join hands to face daunting challenges. There are economic hardships‚ power shortages‚ rising militancy and extremism and we have to find solutions to these problems. Work on Bhasha Dam and Thar Coal needs to be stepped up to produce more electricity. The President said we are faced with a huge task but hopefully the new Government will overcome the challenges. He said peace and reconciliation in Balochistan must receive high priority; the issues of missing persons be addressed on priority and the cycle of poverty must be broken. He said women and minorities are the most vulnerable groups and efforts to protect and empower them need to be kept up. There is also a need to further strengthen interfaith harmony and prevent misuse of blasphemy law for settling personal and political scores. The President called for a mechanism to ensure transparent accountability of all. He said militancy‚ extremism and terrorism pose great threat to national security. We are ready to make peace with those willing to give up violence but we should also be ready to use force against those who challenge the writ of the state. He said the Government will not allow the use of our soil for terrorist activities against any other country. We will also not allow anyone to violate Pakistan's sovereignty. The President called for measures for the welfare of overseas Pakistanis and taking forward the process of devolution to local bodies. President Zardari said Pakistan seeks a conducive and stable regional environment. Relationship with China remains the cornerstone of our foreign policy and we are eager to further consolidate ties of Central Asian Republics and Turkey. He said Pakistan looks forward to peace and stability in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan wants to improve relations with India‚ through a peaceful settlement of water issues‚ and seeks a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir issue in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiri people. He said we believe in dialogue to resolve issues. The President said drone attacks are a serious violation of our sovereignty and international law. They are also counterproductive and unacceptable. Later‚ the joint session of the parliament was prorogued.

Pakistan: No load-shedding for President, PM, judges and generals

In a startling disclosure before a Senate committee, the chief executive of Islamabad Electricity Supply Company on Monday said there was no load-shedding at the Presidency, Prime Minister House, Supreme Court, GHQ, headquarters of ISI, National Accountability Bureau and National Database and Registration Authority and the Judges Colony. The disclosure comes at a time when the country is facing worst load-shedding ranging from 12-20 hours a day. Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) chief Yousuf Awan who was summoned by the Senate Standing Committee on Power to describe the reasons for load-shedding spilled the beans when the committee’s chairman, Senator Zahid Khan, asked him to name government offices which were exempt from load-shedding. As temperatures across the country continue to rise over 40 degrees, the disclosure by the IESCO chief had drawn severe criticism from the Senate committee. “I am utterly disgusted that a common man is facing up to 21 hours of load-shedding while the president, prime minister, generals and judges were facing no load-shedding even though they can afford to keep generators,” Khan said in his remarks. Khan added that exemption should only be afforded to hospitals and centres managing healthcare. He threatened to resign in case the practice was not interrupted and government offices and residences were not treated as the rest of the country. The committee chairman directed the officials to bring an end to the discrimination within 24 hours and report back to the committee on their progress. The committee also summoned the minister and secretary for water and power to explain why government offices and residences of government functionaries were not undergoing load-shedding as the rest of the country. Meanwhile, protests against excessive load-shedding in Faisalabad and Khanewal continued. The country is facing a shortfall of over 4,500 megawatts of power resulting in unprecedented load-shedding. Since taking over, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to address the concerns on power crisis and has dubbed the issue as one to be dealt with as a matter of priority. The first cabinet meeting of the new government is also taking place to take stock of the energy crisis.

Pakistan: Embracing Musharraf’s Cronies

Until he joined the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Nawaz) on April 12th,2013, Jan Mohammad Jamali, who was elected as the new Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly on June 4, remained an ardent supporter of former military dictator General Pervez Muhsharraf. As a leader of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Quaid-e-Azam), Mr. Jamali served as the Deputy Chairman of Pakistan’s Senate for as many as six years (2006-2012). Like his predecessor, Aslam Bhootani, Mr. Jamali was also elected unopposed as the B.A. Speaker. Mir Abdul Qadus Bizenjo of the Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Q), who embarrassingly secured only 500 votes to become a member of the provincial assembly during the general elections, was elected as the Deputy Speaker. The appointment of two former supporters of General Musharraf as the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Balochistan Assembly is absolutely surprising and disappointing. The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, the Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party (Pk.M.A.P.)and the National Party had agreed to in principle to exclude all supporters of General Musharraf, such as the P.M.L-Q, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and the Balochistan National Party (B.N.P-Awami) from the upcoming government. They said all three parties would be consulted before including a new party in the provincial coalition government. No one knows for sure how an M.P.A. from the P.M.L-Q was appointed as the Deputy Speaker of the provincial assembly. Who benefits from such a decision is also hard to speculate. Also, spending two months as P.M.L-N leader does not wash away Mr. Jamali’s sins as a supporter of General Musharraf, who is largely disliked in Balochistan for the deadly military operation he unleashed in Balochistan during his dictatorial regime. Mr. Jamali is a former Balochistan chief minister who is known as a man with little respect for women’s rights. In 2010, when the whole country was shocked over news reports about the alleged burial of five women in the name of honor in Balochistan’s Naseerabad district, Mr. Jamali, along with Senator Israrullah Zehri, stood as a defender of “our cultural practices”. Appointing such men on top government positions is a setback for women’s rights in a province like Balochistan where women’s rights urgently need to be advocated and encouraged. Last month, there was substantial debate over the future chief minister of the province and all parties agreed upon Dr. Malik Baloch’s name after holding extensive discussions. The coalition parties did not debate at all the positions of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. They were voted very hastily under a shadowy arrangement. No body knows who nominated them and how they were elected so quickly. Among the coalition partners, only the Pk.M.A.P. has cautiously objected to the appointment of a P.M.L-Q leader as the Deputy Speaker. It should have also objected to Mr. Jamali’s appointment because of his past affiliation with a party that supported Musharraf. It is disturbing to see how Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been accepting Musharraf’s cronies in his party and also offering them key positions in Balochistan. Besides Mr. Jamali and Mr. Bizenjo, the new Deputy Speaker, another key leader of the Musharraf era, Asim Kurd Gillo, the province’s former finance minister from the P.M.L-Q and Lashkari Raisani of the Pakistan People’s Party have all been accommodated in the P.M.L-N. These are all the tested bad eggs of Balochistan’s politics. Taking them on board and offering key positions will not help the P.M.L-N. improve its image but these corrupt politicians will take the P.M.L-N rule as an opportunity to renew their careers. The new government in Balochistan is about to kick off its journey. But, the appointment of two Musharraf supporters as the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker is not a very positive omen. The people of Balochistan have a right to object to these appointments and ask Mr. Sharif and the coalition partners about the motivation behind these flawed decisions.

Cyber crimes confrontation at Obama Xi summit
President Barack Obama confronted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping over "cyber espionage" but the two men agreed on the need to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions at a summit in the California desert.
The leaders of the world's two largest economies held eight hours of talks over two days, including 50 minutes of what aides called "one on one time" as they went for a walk together in the lush grounds of Sunnylands, the ranch where the meeting was held. During the stroll they sat together on a custom made park bench hewn from a giant Redwood tree. The bench was Mr Obama's' gift to Mr Xi and was inscribed with the date and location of their meeting in English and Chinese. It will return with Mr Xi to China. Mr Obama later described the talks as "terrific."A senior US official said cybersecurity was now at the "centre of the relationship" between the two countries and Mr Obama gave Mr Xi specific examples of the kind of cyber theft, in the private and public sectors, that he was concerned about. According to US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Mr Obama told Mr Xi that if "direct theft of United States property" emanating from China continued it would be "an inhibitor to the relationship."Mr Donilon said that Mr Xi "acknowledged" how important the issue was to Washington, and left California in no doubt where Mr Obama stood on the issue. The Washington Post recently reported that cyber attacks from China had accessed data from dozens of Pentagon weapons programs. Chinese officials said after the summit that Mr Xi opposed all forms of cyberspying and it "should not become the root cause of mutual suspicion and frictions between our two countries." Yang Jiechi, Mr Xi's senior foreign policy adviser, said the two leaders "blazed a new trail" at the casual meeting, where neckties were abandoned, and they "talked about cooperation and did not shy away from differences." It was announced that the US and China had agreed to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners. Mr Donilon said the talks, which were designed to build a personal relationship between the two leaders, were "uniquely informal" and "wide-ranging." He said North Korea was discussed at length during a "lively dinner" with the leaders agreeing that neither will accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state. He said: "China has taken a number of steps in recent months to send a clear message to North Korea, including though enhanced enforcement of sanctions and through public statements by the senior leadership in China." At the dinner of lobster tamales, porterhouse steak and cherry pie, Mr Xi spoke at length about growing up in the Chinese countryside during the cultural revolution, and broke out a bottle of the Chinese liquor Maotai to toast Mr Obama. On Saturday the US president spent half an hour having tea with Mr Xi and his wife, the singer Peng Liyuan, discussing her role as Chinese first lady. Michelle Obama had stayed in Washington where it was the end of her daughters' school year. The White House said she had written Mr Xi's wife a letter welcoming her to the United States and expressing regret for not seeing her.

Sex education – a need to be open

According to the latest statistics from Beijing’s local courts and procurators, sexual abuse of children appears to be on the increase in China, and the victims are becoming younger. Meanwhile, Beijing News and a psychological consulting company recently reported a survey showing that more than ninety percent of parents support the idea of providing sex education to minors and incorporating it into the school curriculum. In recent years, 340 cases of child sex abuse have been reported in the media. 50 of these took place in schools – 60 percent of which were urban schools - and the majority of suspects were school teachers and headmasters. Although the school campus does not represent the majority of cases of sexual abuse, the reality is that current education in self-protection is far from adequate in helping children to protect themselves against school abusers. Hence, the provision of sex education to children is now a matter of immediate concern. The survey highlights two factors: victims tend to be between 8 and 12 years old, but the risk of sexual abuse gradually increases from the age of 5. Children should therefore be taught how to deal with the opposite sex to enhance their capacity for self-protection. Additionally, too few schools provide sex education to their pupils, and in some schools sex education has became a self-study class because teachers are too shy to talk about sex-related matters. Parents support sex education in schools, and growing numbers of schools are recognizing that sex education for their pupils is necessary, but in practice there is a shortage of educational materials designed for the purpose, and a shortage of properly structured lessons. In cases of abuse, those convicted will eventually be jailed, but prevention is more important than punishment. The growing problem of child sexual abuse makes the issue of education an urgent priority. In some cities, local governments are establishing child protection centers and publishing books on self-protection for children. Extending the reach of sex education among children in China is an urgent need, and adults have a responsibility to support and promote the principle.

Nationwide Gezi Park protests in Turkey see police intervention overnight

PrProtesters supporting the ongoing Gezi Park demonstrations were subjected to police attacks overnight in various cities, with tension especially rising in Adana and Ankara. Ankara crowds again suffered a harsh police barrage, with officers using TOMA water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters that had gathered at the city’s Kızılay Square. Demonstrators had to flee to side streets as police forces attempted to empty the square. Police also moved on the capital’s Kuğulu Park in the early hours of today to dismantle tents that had been erected in solidarity with the action continuing in Taksim Gezi Park. Despite initial opposition, subsequent reports said the officers had succeeded in taking down the tents in the park. Protesters in Adana also faced police attacks when they attempted to march toward Akkapı district in order to join another demonstrating group that had been subjected to violent behavior from a group of Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters the night before. Police denied permission to the group to march and called on the protesters to disperse. When the group refused, police intervened with TOMAs and tear gas, following protesters down to the end of Çakmak Street to completely disband the crowd. Protests in Edirne and İzmir also gathered thousands in support of the Gezi Park demonstrations, with over 2,000 protesters marching in Edirne and 10,000 in İzmir. There was brief tension in İzmir stemming from opposing groups, but the problem was quickly resolved.

Pakistan: Blasphemy accused denied bail in Ahmadi literature case

Ahmadiyya Times
An additional district and sessions judge on Saturday dismissed an after-arrest bail application of a man accused of operating a printing machine on which blasphemous literature was produced. Asmat Ullah had said he was innocent and that he had nothing to do with the offence. He had also asked the court to order that his name be removed from the FIR. Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the counsel for the complainant, told the court that Asmat Ullah had printed blasphemous literature. He said that Asmat Ullah’s claim that he was just operating a printing machine and was not aware of the content was not plausible. “How can a man who knows he is working for Ahmadis not know what kind of literature is being printed?” he asked. The FIR registered in Old Anarkali police station under Sections 298-C and 295-B of Pakistan Penal Code, says on February 24 the complainant Tufail Raza went to Altaf Book Binding to get a cost estimate for having his diary bound. He claimed he saw what appeared to Quranic literature and Islamic books at the shop. He said he picked one and started reading it and found out that the books were Ahmadi literature. He said he immediately called police who confiscated the books.

Google may be blocked in Pakistan over objectionable material in YouTube

Pakistan's new IT minister has warned that Google could be blocked in the country if the company fails to remove blasphemous and objectionable material from its video-sharing website YouTube. Minister of State for IT and Telecommunication Anusha Rahman Khan made the remarks on her first day in office yesterday while talking about Pakistan's efforts to end a nine-month ban on YouTube for hosting clips from the controversial film 'Innocence of Muslims'. Google, the parent company of YouTube, had rejected requests from the previous Pakistan People's Party-led government to remove the objectionable material and Khan said she hoped the company would listen to the new PML-N government. "It all depends on our negotiation clout. If they persist with their stance, we can block Google in Pakistan as a last resort as there are many alternative search engines available on the web," Khan was quoted as saying by The News daily. "Innocence Of Muslims" triggered violent protests by right wing groups across Pakistan and the PPP-led government itself sanctioned a day of protests in September last year. Twenty-three people were killed and property worth billions of rupees was destroyed during these protests. The PML-N government has listed as one of its priorities the restoration of YouTube with filters to screen blasphemous and pornographic content. Pakistan banned YouTube on September 17 last year. The ban was lifted for a few hours in December before being reinstated following protests from right wing groups. Soon after the ban, the IT Ministry issued a key policy directive to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block all blasphemous and pornographic materials on the internet by installing a filtration system. Information Technology Secretary Zafar Iqbal blames PTA for failing to devise a filtration system but the new Minister of State for IT said she did not buy the argument and believes the ministry could have done better during the past nine months. "PTA is just an enforcement body. Our ministry is responsible for policy decisions, so it's our job to ensure reopening of YouTube as soon as possible with thorough screening of objectionable material. I will immediately start work on it after a presentation by ministry officials on Monday," Khan said. The government will go all out to ensure that a proper filtration system is in place to reopen YouTube. "We will pump in extra money if needed and do whatever is in our capacity to bring YouTube back to Pakistan without compromising our ethical values," she said. She said she will request Google to remove objectionable material from YouTube or at least ensure that access to it is blocked in Pakistan. Khan made it clear that the ban on YouTube will not be removed without ensuring the 'blockade of objectionable material'. She said, "We cannot face the embarrassment of opening the website and closing it again after protests. We have to ensure that proper filtration system is in place before we open the website." IT experts say Pakistan has had little success in blocking blasphemous and other objectionable material on YouTube as the country does not have an agreement on content with Google.

All seven militants dead at end of Kabul airport attack

All seven militants who launched an attack Monday on Kabul airport died in the assault, Afghan police said, adding that no civilian and security force casualties had yet been reported. "There were seven assailants -- two (suicide bombers) died detonating themselves and five others were killed in fighting," Mohammad Ayoub Salangi, chief of Kabul police, told reporters. "There have not been any casualties to the security forces, and we have not (received) any report of civilian casualties so far." Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the continuing attack on Kabul airport, saying that military facilities had been targeted by gunmen. "Yes, we claim responsibility. This morning a group of mujahedeen attacked the military part of Kabul airport," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told.

Karzai’s cheekiness

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was blowing hot and cold on the national media the other day at a function in Kabul. Do not damage the country's "core national interests" while covering the protests against Afghanistan's neighbours, he was quoted warning the media outlets. Ostensibly his ire was provoked by the screaming coverage of the recent anti-Iran protests in Kabul by the Afghan media networks, whereas it is widely believed that his own regime had actually sponsored those demonstrations. Notably, the Iranians have lately incurred his anger for inviting a delegation of the Afghan Taliban and holding talks with them. He is doubly miffed. Although his spokesmen have taken the public stance that Tehran had unacceptably bypassed Kabul while inviting the Taliban peace interlocutors, Karzai's real frustration is that the Taliban have as yet not softened a wee bit their stiff stance that in no event would they talk to him as they consider him just a lame duck puppet of the US-led occupiers of Afghanistan. Whatever it is, one wonders where does disappear Karzai's this sense of outrage when it comes to Pakistan, which too is Afghanistan's neighbour, and indeed the one that has irrefutably suffered devastatingly over almost the past three decades on account of Afghanistan. Any casual foreign visitor to Afghanistan is taken aback by the amount of venom that the Afghan outlets, both electronic and print, spew against Pakistan on daily basis. Yet this poisonous propaganda has never ever enraged Karzai. Indeed, much of the grist for this smear media campaign is provided by the hostile outpourings of Karzai himself and his minions down the ladder. The problem is that Karzai is still to come to terms with the objective ground realities prevalent in Afghanistan and has picked on Pakistan perennially as a punching bag for his endless frustrations. Although he knows that the US-led occupation armies have utterly failed in doing down the Taliban over the past 12 years, yet he is loath to concede that the Taliban are not only aggressively resurgent but in actuality in real control of much of the country. By every independent account, whole lot of territories not only in the south and the east but even in parts of the west and the north of the country are under their sway. They even are running their own parallel administrations in various areas. So much so, even occupation armies at places live ensconced in their fortified bases after buying peace from the Taliban. But Karzai in total defiance of these compelling ground realities still lives in his own fancy world of make-believe. Still in the spell of his self-woven myths, he is compulsively wont to lay every ill of Afghanistan at the door of Pakistan. As the ousted Taliban were regrouping right inside Afghanistan in their unsecured strongholds, he kept training his guns at Pakistan, instead of compelling his US-led allies to send out their occupation armies to fight out the Taliban rumps and control the territories. He invented the whole lot of fictional charades like Quetta Shura, Taliban's sanctuaries in Pakistani territory, and what not. And as he kept on trumpeting his charades shrilly on his own as well as at the behest of his foreign buddies to malign Pakistan internationally, the Taliban kept all the while regrouping, retraining, rearming and becoming fighting fit in their stronghold. And in time they sprang up and in no time they spread out their sway to most parts of the country. They are now not just resurgent, but factually victorious, as the occupiers have visibly failed to vanquish them. And that has brought another frustration to Karzai, for which too he has made Pakistan his punching bag. Since the Taliban have shot down derisively every move for getting them into talks with him, he has directed his entire anger against Pakistan. Since he has become the prisoner of his own propaganda that the Taliban are in Pakistan's pocket, he thinks Pakistan is not herding them on to sit across the negotiating table with him. So blinded is he by his own propaganda that he is unable too see that the Taliban entrenched right inside their own land, that they are conclusively turning out to be victorious, and that they are accordingly their own masters, the masters of their own wills. Pakistan cannot hold them by the ears and drag them on to the negotiating table. At best, it could persuade them. But they themselves will decide. No vilification campaign against Pakistan can obviate this reality. This Karzai must imbibe fully. And just he has berated his national media for anti-Iran campaigns, the same stroke he should play for Pakistan. It too is Afghanistan's neighbour; indeed a neighbour that has stood by the Afghans in their dire hours of tribulation and adversity.

Pakistan: PTI’s mandate was stolen in polls

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senior leader Senator Faisal Raza Abidi on Sunday said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) mandate was stolen in the 2013 general election. Talking to media personnel, Abidi said the PPP, Awami National Party (ANP) and Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) should have refrained from taking part in the general election. He said open threats were hurled against the PPP, ANP and MQM and they were not allowed to come out in the open for campaigning. He viewed that these parties should have boycotted polls. The PPP leader said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) secretary had admitted that transparent elections were not held in 50 constituencies, adding that how could notifications of results be issued in these constituencies. He went on to say that transparent polls will be held in 2014. Responding to a question, Abidi said if the Iran- Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project had been initiated in 2008, the PPP would have been torn apart. He said 71,000 Pakistanis had sacrificed their lives for IP gas pipeline project and Gwadar project. He said some world powers were hatching conspiracies against the IP project and Gwadar Port, adding that everything in this regard will be brought forth in the coming session of the Senate. Abidi said some elements in the PPP created distances between him and the party leadership. He said he had been fighting for the past four years and would continue his resistance.

Pakistan:Joint session of parliament: President set to make record 6th address

The Express Tribune
President Asif Ali Zardari is set to make history by addressing the joint session of Parliament for a record sixth time today (Monday). But while he may have done so on five prior occasions, it will be his first address to Parliament without his Pakistan Peoples Party in power. On the upside for President Zardari, however, he will not have to contend with a hostile opposition – at least in the National Assembly. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the main opposition party during the previous government’s tenure, routed the PPP in all but Sindh in the May 11 elections and has now come to power. In a reversal of fortunes, PPP now finds itself confined to the opposition benches in the lower house of Parliament. Today’s session will also mark two other firsts. Not only will it be the first formal session of the newly-elected National Assembly, it will be the first joint session of Parliament after the smooth transfer of power between two elected governments. In his address, President Zardari will give credit to his party for ensuring the democratic process flourished despite facing several challenges, said a senior official quoting a portion of the President’s speech. The President will also praise his off-and-on political rival Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for backing the democratic government and showing maturity, he added. According to sources, the speech has been written by senior presidential officials and vetted by presidential spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar. Talking to The Express Tribune, Babar said no input was taken from any other office, such as the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, while writing the speech. He did not, however, share the contents of the speech. “I should really not talk about contents of speech at this time. Yes, it [the speech] is historic in more ways than one,” he maintained. Meanwhile, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Senator Mushahidullah Khan praised the previous PPP government for putting the democratic process on the right footing. “It has been a reciprocal relationship between PPPP and PML-N for years [to strengthen democracy],” Khan said, adding “It’s a historic day for Parliament,” he added. According to constitutional provisions, the President has to address a joint session of Parliament at the beginning of the first session of the National Assembly after a general election or at the start of every parliamentary year. Article 56(3) of the Constitution states: “At the commencement of the first session of the National Assembly after each general election and at the commencement of the first session of each year, the President shall address both Houses assembled together and inform the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) of the causes of its summons.” Monday will also remain a busy day for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He will chair his first cabinet meeting, discussing issues relating to drone strikes, energy and the budget for the new fiscal year. He will also chair the meeting of the National Economic Council before attending the session.

Pakistan: Bars to oppose any job extension to CJP

The superior bars have decided to resist any move to give job extension to Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry after his retirement. According to the sources, Independent Group of lawyers, which is ruling the Supreme Court Bar Association and Pakistan Bar Council for the last three years has decided to oppose any move, including constitutional amendment, to give two-year job extension to Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry after his retirement. The sources told Daily Times that an important meeting of the Independent Group was held at Lahore on Saturday. It has been learnt that incumbent PBC Vice Chairman Syed Qalb-e- Hassan, former vice chairman Akhtar Hussain, incumbent SCBA President Mian Israrul Haq, former SCBA presidents Asma Jahangir, Yasin Azad, Lahore High Court Bar Association President Abid Saqi and other representatives of the four provincial bars attended the meeting. The sources said that the outcome of that meeting is likely to be made public through a press release today (Monday). They said that it had been decided during the meeting that the superior bars would take a “principled stand” by opposing any move to give job extensions to the heads of institutions like judiciary and army. Meanwhile, two participants of the June 8 meeting confirmed that superior bars would oppose any constitutional amendment on this matter. It is worth mentioning that a couple of petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court this year, seeking directions for two years extension in the service of CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry after his retirement. Though the SC Registrar’s Office has already returned one petition on this issue last week but lawyers have decided to preempt any future move in this regard. It is worth mentioning that PML-N Information Secretary Mushahidullah has already said that his party would seriously consider extension in service of CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry after his retirement.

Takfiri militants in Syria endanger regional peace: Iraqi PM

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned that Takfiri militants fighting against the Syrian government are threatening peace and stability in the entire region. During a Sunday visit to Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Maliki referred to the turmoil in Syria, describing "the comeback of the extremist organizations" such as al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front as the most dangerous threat to the whole region. “That has brought back the ghost of the killing not only to Iraq but to the region and as Iraq is part of the region and part of its fabric general and that we started to be affected by the storm the region is going through,” Maliki added. Maliki also called on the Iraqi nation to stay united in the face of sectarian strife targeting Iraq and other regional countries. The al-Nusra Front has been behind many of the deadly bombings targeting both civilians and government institutions across Syria since the outbreak of violence in the Arab country in March 2011. On April 9, the leader of al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq network, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced merger with the al-Nusra Front to play an even greater role in the crisis plaguing Syria. A day later, Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani, the head of the terrorist al-Nusra Front, pledged allegiance to the al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Iraq has been witnessing an upsurge in violence across the country. Shortly before Maliki arrived in Arbil, at least seven people lost their lives in a car bomb attack on an army checkpoint in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Some 18 others were also injured in the attack.

Insurgents battle Afghan forces near Kabul airport

Associated Press
At least five heavily armed insurgents were engaged in an hours-long gunbattle with security forces near Afghanistan's main airport Monday after they apparently tried to attack NATO's airport headquarters with rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and at least one large bomb, the army and police said. The airport was closed to all civilian air traffic because of the attack, an airport official said. It was unclear if the attack had damaged facilities inside the airport itself. "Their target is unclear because they are at a distance from the airport. We have lots of installations in that area," Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. "They seem to be trying to hit anything they can." He said three insurgents had been killed so far and at least three others were believed to be in a four- to five-story building that was under construction. There were no casualties among police or civilians, he added. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the insurgents were targeting NATO. It was the latest in a series of attacks against the capital since the start of the year. Taliban insurgents have launched intense attacks across the country as Afghan forces take over most security responsibility ahead of most foreign troops' withdrawal next year, more than a decade after the American-led invasion to oust the Taliban regime for sheltering al-Qaida's leadership after the Islamic extremist group launched the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. The last major attack occurred on May 24, when six suicide bombers attacked a guest house belonging to the United Nations-affiliated International Organization for Migration, killing three people — including a police officer, a guard and a civilian. On May 16, a suicide bomber had rammed a car into a NATO convoy killing 15 people, including two American soldiers and four civilian contractors. Kabul police said in an announcement that attackers wearing suicide vests had occupied one or two buildings under construction on the west side of the airport and were firing at the military facility, which was quite a distance away. But it was uncertain if they actually managed to hit anything inside the airport. A statement said there was at least one large explosion at around 4:30 a.m. and a gunbattle began with security forces. "It first started with a big explosion which we think was a suicide attack. After that a gunbattle started," said Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai. He added that at least five insurgents then occupied two buildings, located in a single compound, and started firing rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. "Sometimes they are shooting from one building, sometimes from other. It is a residential area and the compound has been surrounded by Afghan security forces. The security forces surrounded the buildings and are being careful because it is a residential area," he added. Afghan army Gen. Murad Ali Murad said police and military forces were exchanging gunfire with insurgents. "Outside the airport, in the civilian area, there is a tall building under construction and they are shooting at the military side from there," he said. The U.S.-led NATO coalition's Joint Command headquarters at the airport runs the day-to-day operations of the nearly 12-year-old war against insurgents. The airport's military side is also used for NATO transport and other aircraft. "It started just after dawn prayers and I counted about a dozen explosions, mostly RPG fire, coming from the airport," said Emayatullah, who lives next to the airport. Like many Afghans he uses only one name. The International Assistance Force's Joint Command said it was aware of reports of an attack but had no further details.

Islamists said to execute 15-year-old Syrian boy for heresy

Members of an al Qaeda-linked Islamist group in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo executed a 15-year-old boy in front of his parents on Sunday as punishment for what the group regarded as a heretical comment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Mohammad Qataa was shot in the face and neck a day after being seized, said the pro-opposition monitoring group, which is based in Britain and uses a network of observers across Syria. "The Observatory cannot ignore these crimes, which only serve the enemies of the revolution and the enemies of humanity," said the group's leader Rami Abdulrahman. A photo released by the Observatory showed Qataa's face with his mouth and jaw bloodied and destroyed, as well as a bullet wound in his neck. The Observatory, which based its report on witness accounts of the killing, said Qataa, who was a street vendor selling coffee in the working-class Shaar neighborhood, had been arguing with someone when he was overheard saying: "Even if the Prophet Mohammad comes down (from heaven), I will not become a believer." The gunmen, who belong to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a militant group that started off known as the Nusra Front, took Qatta on Saturday and brought him back alive in the early hours of Sunday to his wooden stand, with whiplash marks visible on his body. "People gathered around him and a member of the fighting brigade said: 'Generous citizens of Aleppo, disbelieving in God is polytheism and cursing the prophet is a polytheism. Whoever curses even once will be punished like this." "He then fired two bullets from an automatic rifle in view of the crowd and in front of the boy's mother and father, and got into a car and left," the report said. Abdulrahman said the boy's mother had pleaded with the killers, whose Arabic suggested they might not be Syrian, not to shoot her son. Qataa's parents said the youth had taken part in pro-democracy demonstrations in Aleppo. Since last year, large parts of the city have fallen under the control of Islamist brigades, including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, as well as other rebel units.