Tuesday, June 25, 2013

In defence of Obama's cautious Syrian policy

http://www.abc.net.au/ Obama has been right to ignore calls to commit US forces to topple the Assad regime. The national interest does not justify it. The public support for it does not exist. And the conflict itself is morally ambiguous, writes Tom Switzer.
A year after the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime, an unnamed senior Bush administration adviser (widely believed to be Karl Rove) boasted to the New York Times Magazine: "We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." At the height of the Libyan operation in April 2011, an unnamed senior Obama administration adviser told the New Yorker magazine that America was "leading from behind," a phrase which according to the source reflected the reality that the US now lacks the relative power to impose its will and leadership across a more pluralistic world. Perhaps no two quotes from key White House advisers demonstrate the dramatically shifting attitudes about America's place in the world in the past decade. In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, American outrage taken together with the mental habits of American global hegemony and American exceptionism gave US leaders a clear overriding sense of purpose and mission. The result: the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which have cost the US dearly in blood and treasure as well as credibility and prestige. In the aftermath of those wars as well as the global financial crisis, Americans are increasingly recognising the costs and limits of the use of force. The result: US caution and failure to try to end the Syrian civil war, which has cost more than 90,000 lives and further instability across the Arab world. Although it is tempting to argue that America is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't, it is worth bearing in mind that many of the same people who were gung-ho about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been quick to condemn Barack Obama's response to the Syrian crisis. Weak, soft, appeaser, amoral - all of these barbs have been hurled at the president for failing to intervene more assertively against the Assad forces. For the people of Syria, the failure to resolve their crisis and end the suffering is tragic. Yet Obama has been right to ignore calls to commit US forces to topple the Assad regime. The national interest does not justify it. The public support for it does not exist. And the conflict itself is morally ambiguous. Yes, Assad, like his father before him, is a brutal tyrant. But it is far from clear that the opponents who are clamouring for US assistance command the support or trust of a majority of the Syrian people. Indeed, some segments of the rebellion are linked to Islamist extremists. But Obama deserves criticism for his failure to explain his policy coherently. He boxed himself into a corner last year when he called for the overthrow of Assad, warning that the regime would cross a "red line" by using chemical weapons (translation: invite US intervention). Far from picking sides in what is a civil war, perhaps the US would have been better off to lower expectations and help enable conflict resolution while adopting a policy of neutrality. Still, Obama's ineptitude here should not disguise the fact that, all things considered, his foreign policy marks an escape from the sweeping ambition that the US can and should lead the world globally. He is attempting to define a new US role in the world that fits America's changed circumstances and more limited resources. One theme of his foreign policy is that it is time for the US to focus on "nation-building at home", something Obama has stressed several times in recent years. The second theme is the subtle emphasis on caution, prudence, balance, modesty and proportionality in dealing with adversaries and competitors. Still another theme is the vague acknowledgement that America's strategic dominance since World War II will not last forever. The Obama foreign policy message is not, contrary to his critics' claims, that passivity is a foreign policy virtue. Rather, it is that, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the national interest, it is sometimes appropriate for Washington to take the lead in mobilising multilateral action and proffering credible threats, but sometimes it is not. Other times, it may make sense for the US to be not so visible during a crisis. One of the disconcerting things about Obama's more muscular critics, from neoconservatives on the right to liberal hawks on the left, is that they seem to favour American global military interventionism as a binding principle rather than as a course to be pursued only when the effort is commensurate with the stakes, and when other measures have failed. During his tenure, the president has jettisoned his predecessor's doctrine of preventive warfare, aggressive unilateralism and a clear division between those "with us" and "against us." Meanwhile, Washington has played down, without ever ruling out, the prospect of a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. This new strategy does not stop Obama from escalating drone strikes against terrorists, nor will it derail his administration's "pivot" of US forces toward East Asia. But it does allow him to reorder priorities in favour of discrimination and selectivity, to get a good running start on once again matching resources and aspirations. None of this is about a new isolationism, nor does it smack of appeasement, as some Obama critics allege. It's an approach that stresses a more discriminating foreign policy, pursued with a prudent calculation of commitments and resources, while focusing on putting America's house in order. To be sure, the US is the world's largest economy that comprises more than 20 per cent share of the global growth. It is also the most capable military power whose defence budget is larger than that of the next 10 nations combined. Add to this America's unique demographics and the shale gas revolution which promises to be an economic bonanza, and the fact that there is no other clear rival on the horizon, and it is clear that the US will remain the most powerful nation in the world for the next generation or longer. My point, though, is that America no longer has the will, wallet or influence to impose an active and ambitious global leadership across the world. The onus is on president Obama to explain to the American people that the US has left the realm of necessity and is increasingly entering the realm of choice, where the key word is not "and" but "or", and the key question is not "how?" but "why?"

Barack Obama pledges to bypass Congress to tackle climate change

Barack Obama has taken an historic step forward in confronting climate change, asserting his power as US president to cut carbon pollution and protect future generations from catastrophic global warming. In a speech on Tuesday at Georgetown University, delivered outdoors on a sweltering hot day, Obama went further than any previous US president in outlining a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change. He also said he would continue to press the issue as a priority of his second term even in the face of implacable opposition from Republicans in Congress. "I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing," Obama said to a gathering of students. Obama outlined a broad range of measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote the development of renewable energy, protect coastlines and cities from flooding and sea-level rise, and encourage efforts to reach a global climate deal. The over-arching goal was to put the US on track to meet its commitment to cut carbon emissions 17% from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. But Obama's boldest move by far was the decision to bypass a deadlocked Congress and issue an executive memo to the Environmental Protection Agency, calling for new rules curbing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Such measures were long overdue, Obama said. "Power plants can still dump limitless carbon pollution into the air for free," he said. "That's not right, that's not safe and it needs to stop." Curbing emissions from power plants would be the single-most significant action against climate change in Obama's power. Power plants are responsible for a third of America's greenhouse gas emissions. The decision won Obama widespread praise from fellow Democrats and environmental campaigners. Al Gore said the address was the "best speech on climate by any president". Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate environment and public works committee, said: "The president is using all the tools in his tool box and I applaud him for that." As anticipated, however, the measure ran into fierce opposition from Republicans and industry, even before Obama had delivered his speech. But the president pushed back on the idea that he was overstepping by ordering the EPA to act. "The idea of setting higher pollution standards for our power plants is not new. It's just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country," he said. Obama also said he was willing to work across the political divide but would not tolerate attempts to cast doubt on the science underlying climate change. "We don't have time for a meeting of the flat earth society," Obama said to applause. The president took on another contentious issue – the Keystone tar sands pipeline, which campaigners have cast as the defining environmental issue of the day. Obama gave no indication of how he will decide on the project, which would open up Canada's vast store of carbon. However, he offered campaigners a measure of reassurance, saying climate implications would be critical to making a final determination. "The net effects of pipeline impact on our climate will be absolutely critical in determining if the project is allowed to go forward," he said. Elsewhere, Obama broke with campaigners, and even many of his fellow Democrats, embracing America's natural gas boom, made possible through fracking, as a transition fuel. He also reiterated support for nuclear power. Many of those who praised Obama for regulating power plants, such as boxer, urged him to take the next step and put a price on carbon dioxide emissions. There was no mention of such a measure in his speech. But there was still overwhelmingly strong support among an environmental community that has often been frustrated and disappointed with the president on climate change. "This is the change Americans have been waiting for on climate. President Obama is finally putting action behind his words," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club – although he went on to ask the president to stop the Keystone pipeline. Obama claimed climate change as one of his core issues in his inauguration address. He stoked expectations even further in his state of the union address in February, telling Congress to act on climate change – or he would. Since then, there have been mixed signals from the White House on climate change. The White House delayed a range of environmental rules, and Obama told supporters at a number of fundraisers that the politics of climate change were hard. With Tuesday's speech, however, Obama appears to have firmly adopted climate action as his own brand. Administration officials briefing reporters on the climate plan said the White House hoped to propose the rules for existing power plants by June 2014, finalising the rules one year later. They said proposed rules for new plants could be forthcoming as early as September. That timetable could set in place mechanisms to deliver meaningful cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by the time Obama leaves office. But there are bound to be legal and political challenges, and it was not immediately clear how stringent the new power plant rules would be. It was also unclear how the actions promised by Obama would play out in the long term. Most analysts believed at the time that America's original 17% emissions target was too low to avoid serious climate change. There was even greater uncertainty about whether America would be on track for the even more ambitious mid-century target of an 80% cut in emissions. That would depend on the stringency of the EPA measures, and how quickly the new rules could be adopted, The significance of Tuesday's strategy will only become apparent in time, said Van Jones, a co-founder of the activist group Rebuild the Dream and Obama's former White House green jobs advisor. "Cracking down on carbon pollution is very good and it is long overdue, but it's going to take two years to produce the rules and then probably five years to litigate it so that is a big chunk of time," Jones said. "That is a big chunk of carbon to go after there, but it is going to take a while before there is any effect. So celebrate, but be realistic."

Turkish police break up demonstration in Ankara

Police in Turkey have used water cannon and smoke grenades to disperse hundreds of anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Ankara. On Tuesday night, several people were injured in the clashes between the protesters and the police in Turkish capital. Also in Istanbul, thousands of people, who were chanting slogans against the government, marched toward now-iconic Taksim Square to denounce a court decision that freed a police officer accused of killing an anti-government demonstrator in Ankara. The police surrounded the square and blocked the protesters’ from reaching it. At least 20 people were detained during the rally. Meeting in Luxembourg earlier in the day, European Union foreign ministers supported a German proposal to delay the new round of Turkey’s membership negotiations, which had been scheduled to resume on Wednesday. Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, among other EU member states, blocked the talks in criticism of the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for its handling of the anti-government protests. The unrest in Turkey began on May 31 after police broke up a sit-in held at Taksim Square to protest against a proposal to redevelop Gezi Park, which is a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations as well as a popular tourist destination. The demonstrators say the park is also one of Istanbul's last green public spaces. Four people, including a police officer, have died in the recent clashes between the Turkish protesters and security forces, and more than 5,000 protesters and 600 police officers have been injured.

Russia Can Legally Expel Snowden – White House

The White House said Tuesday that Russia has a “clear legal basis” to expel former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden from a Moscow airport transit zone based on the status of his travel documents and criminal charges he faces in the United States for allegedly leaking state secrets. “While we do not have an extradition treaty with Russia, there is nonetheless a clear legal basis to expel Mr. Snowden, based on the status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told RIA Novosti on Tuesday. Hayden’s comments, which came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Snowden was holed up in a transit area in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, suggest Washington may be banking in part on bureaucracy to bring an end to the fugitive former CIA employee’s secretive sojourn in the Russian capital. The United States has issued a warrant for Snowden’s arrest on charges of leaking details of a US surveillance program and cancelled his US passport, which Washington says should prevent him from traveling internationally. Passengers arriving at Sheremetyevo en route to another country, as Snowden reportedly did on Sunday aboard a flight from Hong Kong, can only stay in the airport’s transit zone for 24 hours without obtaining a transit visa, which can be issued at the airport itself, according to Sheremetyevo’s website. Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks, said this week that Snowden had been given “a refugee document of passage” by Ecuador, where he has requested asylum. Douglas McNabb, a Washington-based extradition lawyer, told RIA Novosti on Tuesday that it would be up to a given airline to decide whether to allow Snowden on a plane with the document from Ecuador in lieu of a valid passport. Putin confirmed Tuesday that Snowden had arrived in Moscow but said that because he remained in the airport’s transit area, he had not formally entered Russian territory and was free to go wherever he pleases. Putin added that Russia could only hand over foreign citizens to countries with which it has extradition treaties. “We don’t have such a treaty with the United States,” Putin said at a press conference in Finland. “Mr. Snowden has not committed any crimes on the territory of the Russian Federation, thank god.” Putin said that the quicker Snowden selects a final destination, “the better it will be for us and for him,” adding that he hopes the kerfuffle will not negatively impact relations with Washington, where officials have accused Russia of impeding US attempts to bring Snowden into custody. Hayden told RIA Novosti on Tuesday that US officials “understand that Russia must consider the issues raised by Mr. Snowden’s decision to travel there” and that they agree with Putin “that we do not want this issue to negatively impact our bilateral relations.” She said, however, that based on the status of Snowden’s travel documents and the criminal charges against him, “we are asking the Russian Government to take action to expel Mr. Snowden without delay and to build upon the strong law enforcement cooperation we have had, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombing” in April. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the United States is “not looking for a confrontation” with Russia but said US officials hope “Russia would not see its interests in siding with a person who is accused of breaking the law in another nation and who is a fugitive from justice according to international standards of law.” Speaking in Saudi Arabia, Kerry on Tuesday called for reciprocity in requesting Russia’s assistance in returning Snowden to the United States, saying that US authorities had returned seven individuals to Russia over the past two years “without any clamor, without any rancor, without any argument, and according to our sense of the appropriateness of meeting their request.”

U.S. Supreme Court guts key part of landmark Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court on Tuesday gutted a key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to end a century of attempts by former slaveholding states to block blacks from voting. In a 5-4 ruling with the court's conservatives in the majority, the justices ruled that Congress had used obsolete reasoning in continuing to force nine states, mainly in the South, to get federal approval for voting rule changes affecting blacks and other minorities. The court ruled in favor of officials from Shelby County, Alabama, by declaring invalid a section of the law that set a formula that determines which states need federal approval to change voting laws. President Barack Obama quickly called on Congress to pass a new law to ensure equal access to voting polls for all. "I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision today," Obama, the first black U.S. president, said in a statement, adding that the court's action "upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent." The ruling upended important legal protections for minority voters that were a key achievement of the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s led by Martin Luther King Jr. The decision also placed the burden on Congress - sharply divided along party lines to the point of virtual gridlock - to pass any new voting rights law like the one sought by Obama. Writing for the majority, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts said the coverage formula that Congress used when it most recently re-authorized the law in 2006 should have been updated. "Congress did not use the record it compiled to shape a coverage formula grounded in current conditions," he wrote. "It instead re-enacted a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day." The coverage formula therefore violates the sovereignty of the affected states under the U.S. Constitution, Roberts said. One of the most closely watched disputes of the court's current term, the case centers on the civil rights-era law that broadly prohibited poll taxes, literacy tests and other measures that prevented blacks from voting. In the 1960s, such laws existed throughout the country but were more prevalent in the South with its legacy of slavery. The Shelby County challengers said the kind of systematic obstruction that once warranted treating the South differently is over and the screening provision should be struck down. The Obama administration, backed by civil rights advocates, had argued that the provision was still needed to deter voter discrimination. The ruling is a heavy blow for civil rights advocates, who believe the loss of that section of the law could lead to an increase in attempts to deter minorities from voting. They said 31 proposals made by covered jurisdictions to modify election laws had been blocked by the Justice Department under Section 5 of the law since the measure was re-enacted in 2006. Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, accused the Supreme Court of leaving "millions of minority voters without the mechanism that has allowed them to stop voting discrimination before it occurs." SENATE ACTION Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, on Tuesday pledged to move quickly to try to restore voting rights protections after the ruling. "I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting," Leahy said. The court, split on ideological lines, did not go so far as to strike down the core Section 5 of the law, known as the preclearance provision, which requires certain states to get approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making election-law changes. But the majority did invalidate Section 4b of the act, which set the formula for states covered by Section 5 and was based on historic patterns of discrimination against minority voters. Although Section 5 is technically left intact, it is effectively nullified, at least for the near future, as Congress would now need to pass new legislation setting a new formula before it can be applied again. In her dissenting opinion on behalf of the liberal wing of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Section 5 is now "immobilized." Ginsburg read a summary of her dissent from the bench, quoting the late civil rights leader King. In her written opinion, she accused Roberts of downplaying the authority Congress has under amendments to the Constitution that were enacted after the U.S. Civil War when slavery was first prohibited but concerns remained about how former Confederate states would treat black people. Congress approached the 2006 re-authorization "with great care and seriousness," she added. "The same cannot be said of the court's opinion today." Section 5 of the law required certain states, mainly in the South, to show that any proposed election-law change does not discriminate against black, Latino or other minority voters. The nine fully covered states were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York said of the ruling: "Make no mistake about it, this is a back door way to gut the Voting Rights Act. As long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don't have 60 votes in the Senate, there will be no preclearance." "It is confounding that after decades of progress on voting rights, which have become part of the American fabric, the Supreme Court would tear it asunder," Schumer added. Tuesday's ruling leaves intact Section 2 of the act, which broadly prohibits intentional discrimination in the voting arena. The Justice Department will still be able to intervene to enforce the law in that respect. ISSUE STILL PROMINENT The issue of voting rights remains prominent in the United States. During the 2012 presidential election campaign, judges nationwide heard challenges to new voter identification laws and redrawn voting districts. The most restrictive moves ended up being blocked before the November elections. Just last week, the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona state law that required people registering to vote in federal elections to show proof of citizenship, a victory for activists who said it discouraged Native Americans and Latinos from voting. Democrats say that and similar measures, championed by Republicans at the state level, were intended to make it more difficult for certain voters who tend to vote Democratic to cast ballots. In February, Obama, a Democrat, decried barriers to voting in America and announced a commission to address voting issues. The case is Shelby County v. Holder, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-96.

TURKEY: ''Erdoğan becomes Turkey’s new dictator''

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had become “the new dictator of Turkey.”
“There are 7 billion people in the world. Making mistakes is natural for people and they correct their mistakes, and when it’s needed they apologize. This is a human virtue. If we make a mistake, we know how to apologize. He says ‘I do not make mistakes.’ He says ‘if you do not do what I say, you cannot act right.’ His name is, Turkey’s new dictator, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, addressing his party’s group meeting today in the Parliament. Kılıçdaroğlu said “young protesters of Gezi Park made a dictator kneel down.” “Now in a panic he is organizing meetings across the country, all he does is yelling but the only one who listens him is himself. Do not pay attention to all the broadcasters’ live streams from his meetings. Nobody listens to what he says. There is one word when it comes to defining Erdoğan: liar,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. A hot-headed crowd in the parliament interrupted Kılıçdaroğlu’s words several time by chanting slogans as “Resign Erdoğan.” Kılıçdaroğlu then said Erdoğan tried several methods to break the solidarity among the protesters. “He was going to claim that those protesters are nonbelievers, and then he saw some performing their prayers in Taksim Square. He was going to say our daughters wearing headscarves were being the target of protesters, he saw some of the protesters wearing headscarves,” Kılıçdaroğlu added. Kılıçdaroğlu also blamed Erdoğan for acting with sectarian motives after the Reyhanlı bombings in Turkey’s Syrian border Hatay’s Reyhanlı district which killed 52 people in May 11. “Our 52 citizens lost their lives in the Reyhanlı bombings. And he said ‘our 52 Sunni citizens lost their lives.’ For the first time in Turkey’s history even deaths’ sects were discriminated,” Kılıçdaroğlu said calling Erdoğan “dictator” one more time and asking “if he has feelings of shame.”

Pakistan: Gilani demands judges to be tried with Musharraf

Former Pakistani premier Yousuf Raza Gilani has demanded that Pakistani judges who endorsed the October 1999 coup, led by former army chief Pervez Musharraf, should also be charged with treason. Gilani, a senior leader of the Pakistan People's Party, made the demand after Prime Minister on Monday announced that his government would put Musharraf on trial for high treason for violating the Constitution twice. In May 2000, a 12-judge bench of the Supreme Court had unanimously validated the October 1999 coup and granted Musharraf executive and legislative authority for three years. Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was one of the members of this bench.
Without naming any member of the current judiciary, Gilani said, "those who had validated the coup of Musharraf should also be tried for violating Article 6 of the Constitution." Article 6 covers high treason. Gilani dared to raise an issue that is hardly spoken about by other Pakistani politicians. Last year, a bench led by Chief Justice Chaudhry had disqualified Gilani as premier after he refused to reopen graft cases against his boss, President Asif Ali Zardari. "The PML-N today has announced it will proceed against Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution for imposing emergency in November 2007. Why should he not be tried for his coup in 1999 along with those who had endorsed it?" asked Gilani. Musharraf has been detained at his farmhouse at Chak Shahzad in Islamabad. The villa has been declared a sub-jail and he is facing charges for imposing emergency in 2007, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and the killing of Baloch leader Akbar Bugti in a 2006 military operation. The former premier further said, "the Constitution does not allow any degree of transgression, whatsoever, in the domain of one institution by other institution or institutions. The authors of the Constitution were aware of the ramifications, therefore they underscored the importance of the observance of the trichotomy of power in absolute terms." Gilani said Parliament is supreme because it reflects the will of the people and is a symbol of their empowerment, and "it is the mother of all institutions and repository of all powers". He said successive dictators and their cohorts had played havoc with the collective destiny of the country during the past 60 years. "The country cannot afford any more adventurism or fiddling with democracy," he said.

Iran and Israel are similar, after all

Iran and Israel are more similar than either of their regimes would be willing to admit. They are similar historically, similar in their tension between religious extremism and freedom, similar in their dramatic struggles between the public’s desire for change and the opposition of calcified elements of the regime. Those who seek to belittle what happened in the Iranian election are trying to hide the sun with their hands. Whatever happens in the future, the fact that a sweeping majority voted for change, and that the regime didn’t play games with the results, is significant. Those who try to claim there’s a formal, deterministic answer to the question of who makes the decisions don’t know what they’re talking about. In the Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef is formally the one who decides, but in reality, party chairman Aryeh Deri has often been the decision maker. In Israel, the cabinet and the prime and defense ministers are formally the ones who decide whether to go to war, but in reality, when all the heads of the security services are opposed − for instance, to attacking Iran − this matters. In Iran, too, despite the formal structure, outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad carried weight, and he and his messianic cult even came close to taking over the entire government. It’s true that Hasan Rowhani’s election as his successor raises the chances of Iran going nuclear, but it delays the process and creates a good chance of a moderating change in the regime. And we mustn’t get confused: The danger lies in the combination of messianic extremism and nuclear arms. An Islamic state that contains extremist elements, proliferates nuclear know-how and has dozens of nuclear bombs isn’t a future catastrophe, but something that already exists. It’s called Pakistan. And Israel didn’t attack it. In Israel, too, the public is undergoing a deep process of change. Large-scale public protests dismantled the rightist-religious majority in the last election, despite the divisions among the non-right. And the process didn’t stop there. It’s not by chance that polls show a consistent and growing majority for the non-right among the public. True, in the meantime, we are being ruled by the most extremist government ever. The statement that another nation − millions of human beings − is nothing but a piece of shrapnel in our behind was not accidental. It’s in line with the search for an “ant exterminator” to take on the port unions and with the brave new world that was created when a majority of first-graders defined as Jewish are studying in segregated religious or Haredi ‏(ultra-Orthodox‏) schools, in which they are taught that “you are called man, and the other nations of the world aren’t called man.” Yet this government − which is enacting racist laws, promoting a scandalous segregation of women and even threatening to take over the army and the universities, and thence the work places, all while winking at a “process” that contains no peace − is not a divine decree. Once again, it depends on three people: Hatnuah party chairwoman Tzipi Livni, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid and Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich. And especially on the two woman leaders. If former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s party would just stop acting like a cult and act like an alternative instead, the government would change just as the public has. Labor must reserve places on its slate for Livni and three other Hatnuah MKs ‏(Amir Peretz, Meir Sheetrit and Amram Mitzna‏), as well as Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz, and stop this farce that is enabling a government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett. Without Livni’s gang, Netanyahu has no real government. He has 62 seats with Lapid or 61 with the Haredi parties, but neither is enough to govern. Not when he’ll be dependent, on one hand, on the democratic MK Reuven Rivlin ‏(Likud‏), and on the other on extremists like MK Moshe Feiglin ‏(Likud‏) or MK Orit Strock ‏(Habayit Hayehudi‏), who obeys Rabbi Dov Lior. Rowhani’s rise to power in Iran gives Israel another year in which to put in place a new government that satisfies the public’s desire for change. Those naive types who delude themselves that, 18 years after he orchestrated protests where demonstrators chanted “With blood and fire, we’ll expel Rabin,” the milk of peace will flow from the he-goat Netanyahu, of all people, aren’t living on this planet. Netanyahu hasn’t given up on attacking Iran; on the contrary. If to accomplish that he has to pretend to conduct a diplomatic process, he may do so, but the idea that he will withdraw Israel to the 1967 lines, leave 140,000 settlers outside Israel’s borders and divide Jerusalem doesn’t even reach the level of a delusion. The four men now finishing their post-service cooling-off periods − former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin and former head of Military Intelligence Asher Yadlin − will be legally eligible to enter politics in another half a year, and Lapid cannot survive without his base on the non-right. The public is waiting for unification and change. The government of the piece of shrapnel in the behind can go home.

The Importance of President Obama's Africa Trip

Late this week President Obama embarks on his first official trip solely to Africa. He and his family, along with an entourage of White House staff, at least one Cabinet member, and dozens of security personnel will travel to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, returning in time for July 4 festivities in the United States. While the trip will be educational for the President's two daughters, there is a great deal of business to be done by the administration and the president himself. Among the themes for this trip is the need to increase U.S. investment in and trade with Africa. The president has chosen Tanzania as the site for his principal address on this theme. While it would seem that South Africa, with its well-developed infrastructure and economy, as well as being the African base for hundreds of U.S. companies, would be the natural base for this address, Tanzania has been chosen for several reasons, not the least of which is to strengthen regional cooperation and development in Africa. The East Africa Community is the most developed regional economic community, and the one that the U.S. deems has the best chance for early success. The concept of economic integration is one that has been given considerable support verbally throughout Africa, but in reality regional integration has moved very slowly. Business wants economic integration in order to increase market size and justify investments in the region. Consumers want it in order to have access to greater product line and lower costs and local producers want it in order to get products to market easily, more efficiently and to also reach wider markets. Successful integration means road systems that match across borders, rail systems that do not stop at national boundaries and that glide upon the same rail gauges everywhere. Regional integration also means uniform customs duties and a single point of collection. As it now stands, trucks can wait for days at borders waiting to pay customs, and then be stopped throughout the next country to pay several fares, only to begin the process all over again at the next border. All this and more is needed if U.S. companies are to more easily invest in Africa. The U.S. government has moved to support regionalization, and believes that our focus should be on East Africa, because it is the smallest of the economic community units in Africa, yet as a well-developed economic base, particularly in Kenya, and the nearly all the members of the East African Community – Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda – have more open societies than many nations in Africa. There are still problems of governance, but the economic base is strong and each has had elections generally deemed fair, albeit to various degrees of imperfection. The current problem between Kenya's president and the United States was part of the reason that Obama's business address and perhaps his articulation of a new economic policy towards Africa will occur in Tanzania rather than Kenya. But it is not the only reason. The U.S. is investing heavily in Tanzania as a democratic model, as well as a major player in Africa's food security. It is also a country where the development of the power supply is led by U.S. companies, especially by Symbion Power and General Electric. Obama will tour the power plant jointly developed by the two companies as part of his emphasis on the need for power generation throughout Africa. Currently, not a single African country is meeting its power needs and until power is readily accessible to all, development and investment will be challenging. In Tanzania, the president will have a closed meeting with about 25 carefully selected American and African CEOs. Following this meeting he is expected to deliver a major address on U.S. business in Africa to a larger group of East African business leaders, including a sizable contingent from Kenya, as well as the other East African Community countries. The president's words will set the tone for our future with the East Africa Community. It will be the most significant statement to Africa made by a U.S. President in East Africa. We can hope that it will form a solid foundation for our future with the region.

Clinton Blames China on Snowden Flight

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that China damaged its relationship with the U.S. by allowing National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to flee from Hong Kong, despite a U.S. request to arrest him for extradition. "That kind of action is not only detrimental to the U.S.-China relationship but it sets a bad precedent that could unravel the intricate international agreements about how countries respect the laws — and particularly the extradition treaties," the former secretary of state and possible 2016 presidential contender told an audience in Los Angeles. Clinton's remarks echoed criticism from White House officials that Hong Kong's refusal to detain Snowden had "unquestionably" hurt relations between the two countries. Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy from the rest of China, although experts believe Beijing probably orchestrated Snowden's exit in an effort to remove an irritant in relations with the U.S. Clinton said the former CIA employee engaged in "outrageous behavior" by releasing sensitive documents that he contends show privacy violations by an authoritarian government. Snowden is now in Russia, and the White House wants him sent to the U.S. to face espionage charges. Clinton's remarks on Snowden came during a 90-minute appearance sponsored by the American Jewish University. She talked at length about the U.S. relationship with China, which she said shows the complexity of a rising world power dealing with an existing one. Clinton has not said whether she will seek the White House again, and she gently sidestepped a moderator's question about a possible 2016 candidacy. If she entered the contest, she would become the Democratic Party's leading contender to succeed President Barack Obama. Since leaving the State Department in February, Clinton has been taking steps that could enhance a possible presidential bid, including public speaking and launching a new early childhood initiative. Just last week, Clinton told a women's conference in Canada that she hoped the U.S. would elect a woman to the White House because it would send "exactly the right historical signal."

H.R.C.P.’s Fact-Finding Mission to Balochistan

The Baloch Hal
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (H.R.C.P.), a widely credible independent group, has sent a fact-finding mission to Balochistan in order to probe the attack on Ziarat Residency and the bomb blast on a university bus that killed 25 people, mostly female students and nurses. Leading human rights activist and former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Asma Jhangir, is heading the team that has arrived in Quetta. The delegation met with Chief Minister Balochistan, Dr. Malik Baloch, visited the Sardar Bhaduar Khan Women’s University and the Bolan Medical College. On the first day of the mission, Ms. Jhangir, in her usual rebellious style, lambasted the Pakistani military for its ‘unchanged policy’ toward Balochistan. She said her team had not arrived in Balochistan to humiliate anyone in the government but to sincerely dig out the facts that caused so many people’s lives. According to her, the situation in Balochistan will significantly improve if the military reviews its current approach and strategy toward the troubled province. Since the inception of the Balochistan conflict in its current phase in 2004, the H.R.C.P. has played commendably proactive role in creating awareness in the rest of Pakistan about the situation in Balochistan. The group has regularly published reports about the conflict and raised voice in support of citizens who have been subjected to unlawful arrests, disappearance, torture and murder allegedly by the state authorities. The H.R.C.P. has remained very instrumental in exposing the Pakistani security establishing and adding pressure to end illegal practices. That said, it is unclear what the H.R.C.P. actually intends to find out in its current mission since the perpetrators of both the attacks public accepted responsibility for the assaults they carried out. The Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A.), a separatist nationalist group, said it had carried out the attack on the Ziarat Residency while the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed responsibility for the the attacks on the student bus and the Bolan Medical College. Both of these organizations have been operating for a long time and they have also repeatedly asserted the motivation and intentions behind their operations. Since everything is already too obvious, we have to wait and see what new facts the H.R.C.P. will divulge in its report. The new government’s response to such a big tragedy has not been satisfactory. Mahmood Khan Achakzai, the chairman of the Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party strongly criticized the security establishment in his speech on the floor of the National Assembly while interior minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan has also complained about lack of coordination among intelligence agencies and law enforcement forces. Mere complaints from leaders within the government are neither sufficient nor acceptable. If one is a part of the government then one has to move forward to correct the mess instead of whining about it. Those in the government should stop fooling the people with fiery statements that make front page headlines and take ownership of the issues. This is precisely why the people outvoted the Pakistan People’s Party and brought other parties into power on May 11. Just like president Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not bother to visit Balochistan after the loss of so many innocent lives. The prime minister’s indifference indicates that Balochistan is not on the top of the new government’s priority nor does the prime minister take the issue of precious human lives very seriously. Instead of coming up with the same old recommendations once again, the H.R.C.P. should remind us about the implications of the government’s failure to implement the past suggestions it had made and how much distress is caused by the delay the government observes while resolving the Balochistan issue.

Gilgit-Baltistan : Saudi-backed Deobandi militants kill 9 Russian and Chinese tourists and their Shia guide in Chilas

In the wee hours of 22 June 2013, a repetition of the three acts of Shia killings in the Gilgit-Baltistan province last year was staged. In three separate incidents last year (2012), the Al Qaeda affiliated Laskar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Deobandi Wahhabi terrorists wearing army uniform stopped buses bound for Gilgit and Skardu, identified the Shia Muslims through their identity cards and the manner of reciting certain prayers, and shot all of them—over one hundred of them—leaving non-Shias unharmed (read the report here:http://dawn.com/news/1020142/gunmen-kill-10-foreign-tourists-in-nanga-parbat). But in the early hours of 22 June 2013, the LeJ Deobandi terrorists added a new dimension to the ongoing Shia genocide in Pakistan. Wearing army uniforms, the LeJ terrorists (which openly operate in Pakistan with their new name Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat ASWJ) sneaked into a hotel near the remote base camp of the Nanga Parbat, known as the Killer Mountain, taking everyone hostage. This happened in Diamer Chilas area of Gilgit Baltistan. There were six tourists from Russia and Ukraine and three from China. With them there was a Pakistani Shia. The very first thing the Deobandi terrorists, according to the journalist Rana Jawad from Islamabad, did was to identify the sect of the Pakistanis working in the hotel. Finding that there was only one Shia along with non-Muslim foreigners, they immediately went into action shooting all of them in the head. After shooting the tourists and the one Shia, the terrorists took their money and passports and left. This is today’s Pakistan ruled by Saudi-backed Wahhabi leader Nawaz Sharif who has refused to take any action against the Taliban (and their Punjabi incarnation, the LeJ). He wants to have a dialogue with them even though they have not only refused to respond positively to the offer, they have recently escalated their campaign against the Shias and the Ahmadis. But it not just the Sharif government which rules the central government as well as the Punjab, Pakistan’s largest provincial. The Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa (KP) government led by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) is also head over heal in love with sitting one-on-one with the Taliban. Only two days ago, on Friday, 20 June 2013, the LeJ Deobandi terrorists staged a suicide bombing in a Shia mosque in Peshawar killing sixteen worshippers and injuring scores. The provincial government (led by Imran Khan’s PTI) reacted characteristically: the information minister of the government said, “It was just a bomb blast and not the end of the world!” No official investigation was launched into the suicide bombing incident. Since Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and the Imran Khan’s PTI have taken over, there has been a sudden surge of bloody attackers on the Shias and other non-Wahhabi non-Deobandi Pakistanis. Only two weeks before, the LeJ staged a suicide bombing in the bus carrying female students in Quetta. Twenty-two students died, which included both Sunni and Shia. When the dead and the injured were taken to the hospital near the site of the bombing, terrorists invaded it and shouted the following instruction: “All the Sunnis should leave. We will kill the Shias!” After ten hours of gunfire exchange of the police, the terrorists were killed. Again, no official investigation was instituted. Nawaz Sharif has condemned the shooting of the foreign tourists. Interestingly, he did not include a reference to the Pakistani Shia killed nor he cared to mention the identity of ASWJ-LeJ Deobandi terrorists. In a day or two this will be forgotten despite an ‘investigation’ which will be carried out by way of a show-off to satisfy the foreign governments. When the governments of the PML-N and the PTI believe that the Taliban and their various incarnations are good people who have turned bad only because of the American intervention in Afghanistan, terrorism will continue to grow. The Shias and other non-Deobandi-Wahhabi communities will continue to be killed and all those who happened to be close to them, like the innocent tourists, will be vulnerable. Gunmen have killed 10 people, including nine foreign tourists after storming a hotel in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Initial reports say five are from Ukraine, one from Russia and three from China. A Pakistani is also said to have been shot. The attack happened near the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain, in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Kyoto Protocol comes into force in Afghanistan

Afghanistan joined the Kyoto Protocol in April. This came into force this week. The country is one of the most vulnerable to climate change worldwide. The smog over the Afghan capital Kabul is visible kilometers away. There is a thick layer of dust on buildings and cars. People cannot breathe easily and often use scarves or masks to prevent the fine dust from getting in.
There are few green spaces in Kabul and there is no sophisticated sewage system. Instead most household waste flows in open drains alongside roads. Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) says some 3,000 inhabitants die annually from respiratory diseases. The average particulate matter (PM) count is 190 - much higher than in the Chinese capital Beijing where it is 121 on average according to the World Health Organization.
For a green future
By joining the Kyoto Protocol, the "country has come one step further in the fight against climate change," said Ghulam Hassan Amiry, the head of the climate change department at NEPA. He added that although Afghanistan had observed the protocol unofficially before and had been represented at international climate conferences, by signing it officially, "we can benefit from financial support." Christoph Bals from the environment NGO Germanwatch agreed: "The main factors driving Afghanistan to sign the Kyoto Protocol are certainly the fight against the environmental damage caused by climate change and the support it receives in so doing. He pointed out that Afghanistan's joining would not have any worldwide impact but the move showed the government was on the right track. “It also shows how vulnerable Afghanistan is because of the consequences of climate change and that people are now beginning to reflect upon it." The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) says that since 1989 over 6.7 million Afghans have been affected by disasters and extreme weather events such as drought, earthquakes, epidemic diseases, sandstorms and harsh winters. The fact that the glaciers of the Himalayas are melting is also creating great problems such as extreme drought. Up to 80 percent of Afghans depend directly on natural resources for income and sustenance. Agriculture provides livelihoods for over 60 percent of the population. Almost four decades of war have only exacerbated the damage caused by climate change. Ghulam Hassan Amiry says there is a great deal to be done especially as environmental protection only really became an issue a few years ago: "We don't have a sewage system and no recycling. Our natural water resources are almost depleted. Afghanistan does not have the means to solve these problems and yet they are extreme hindrances to the country's development."
First step towards a national plan
Air pollution is particularly high in Afghanistan's big cities. Elsewhere it is actually quite low because there has not been much industrialization. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan has one of the world's lowest carbon emissions rate per person, at 0.2 tonnes per capita only. However, the impact of climate change is very tangible in the South Asian country, says Ghulam Hassam Amiry. In the past 10 years, the average temperature has risen by 0.13 degrees. Classed as a developing country, Afghanistan does not have to adopt any binding emission targets. However, it does have to draw up a plan to reduce greenhouse gases, by developing a low carbon energy and transport system. The UN provides support for the development of solar, wind and other renewable energy sources. A new environment institute in Kabul is set to raise awareness about these issues and teach people how to find solutions. "We need the people's cooperation to protect the environment," says Amiry. "First, we have to create a culture of environment protection in the Afghan society." Afghanistan also suffers the effects of high carbon emissions from neighboring Iran and Pakistan which have both signed the Kyoto protocol. Noorullah Kaleem from the ministry of foreign affairs, says that banned fuels and gases often end up in Afghanistan because the borders are so porous. "We've had many discussions with our neighbors and these will continue but so far the delegation has not had any results."

Taliban attacks Kabul pres palace,

Pakistan's Tourism Industry Reels After Shootings

Pakistan's already embattled tourism industry is struggling to deal with worried customers and cancellations after Islamic militants attacked foreign climbers preparing to summit one of the world's tallest mountains, killing 11 people. For years, intrepid climbers and mountaineers, lured by a collection of awe-inspiring peaks, were some of the only international tourists willing to come to Pakistan. The region has also attracted Pakistanis looking for a respite from the summer heat in the southern part of the country. Now hotel owners, tour operators and tourism officials worry that may be in danger after the vicious attack by militants Saturday on the climbing group at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the second highest peak in Pakistan and the ninth highest in the world. "The impact is huge," said Ghulam Nabi Raikoti, one of two brothers who run Raikot Serai, a resort in an area of northern Pakistan called Fairy Meadows. From the hotel's cottages and tents, visitors can look up at the face of Nanga Parbat, which has been nicknamed the "killer mountain" for the number of people who've died trying to climb its 8,126-meter (26,660-foot) peak. Raikoti said a tour group of 50 Pakistani students already cancelled a stay at the resort. Pakistan has been beset by militancy for years, but this attack will likely be especially disruptive to tourism because it struck foreign tourists in what is usually one of the most peaceful regions of the country. The attack also demonstrated a high degree of planning. Just getting to the base camp takes roughly two days of hiking. The militants, disguised in paramilitary uniforms, first abducted two local Pakistanis to take them to the remote camp in Gilgit-Baltistan. Late Saturday night, a group of about 15 gunmen attacked the camp, beat the mountaineers and took away mobile and satellite phones and money. Some climbers and guides were able to run away, but those that weren't were shot dead. By the end, 10 foreign tourists and a Pakistani cook employed by a tour company were killed. A faction of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the shootings. The remaining mountaineers who were at camps higher up on Nanga Parbat when the shooting happened have been evacuated to allow the authorities to freely comb the area for the suspects, said the president of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, Manzoor Hussain. "In that area it is difficult for someone to hide," said Hussain, who added that there will be no more expeditions to Nanga Parbat this summer. The Pakistani military evacuated 34 tourists Monday on a C-130 aircraft that flew them to Islamabad, said Muhammed Ajmal Bhatti, deputy commissioner of Diamer District near where the shootings happened; about a dozen left on Sunday. They were also evacuating the porters, guides and other Pakistanis from the area. Meanwhile, those associated with the tour industry, including tour operators affected by the tragedy, faced worried customers. Mohammed Ali, owner of Karakoram Magic Mountain, with which the slain cook was working, said a trekking tour expected later this summer was already in doubt. "I don't know if they will come or not. Last night they sent emails to me, and they want to know more information about this incident," he said. Several thousand foreign tourists a year come to the northern region known as Gilgit-Baltistan during the warmer summer months. Trekkers come for longer hikes that don't require technical skill or equipment. Climbers generally tackle the more serious peaks that require technical skills and a good deal of experience. Anyone planning to climb a peak 6,500 meters or higher or those climbing in sensitive areas, needs a climbing permit from the government of Pakistan, said Abu Zafar Sadiq, secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan. Thousands of families in Gilgit-Baltistan depend on the seasonal tourist trade. Families often work for three to four months in the summer and then live off that income for the rest of the year. At one point in the 1990s, about 120 to 150 climbing expeditions received permits each summer to climb in the northern region, but that number plummeted to about 20 or 30 after the Sept. 11, 2011 attacks in the United States, said Tayyab Mir, manager for publicity and promotion at the Pakistan Tourism Development. In the ensuing years, a series of terrorist attacks, military offensives, and natural disasters has largely kept tourists away. But in recent years, officials said they had started to see a slight uptick in tourism. So far, 50 groups had applied for climbing permits in 2013, said Sadiq. Now even that subtle gain seems to be in danger. A fresh threat from the militant group that claimed responsibility for the shooting is likely to even further worry prospective tourists. In a phone call to The Associated Press, a spokesman for Junudul Hafsa, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, said they will continue attacks against foreign tourists, especially those from Europe and the U.S., until drone attacks in the tribal regions are stopped. "These attacks will become more aggressive and frequent," said the spokesman who identified himself as Abdullah Ghazi.

Pakistan: Nanga Parbat,Once-vibrant mountaineering industry staggers from killing of 10 climbers

Pakistan's once thriving mountaineering industry is reeling from the killing by militants of 10 foreign climbers, a massacre likely to drive away all but the hardiest adventurers from some of the world's tallest and most pristine peaks. A tour company present during the attack said gunmen dressed as police ordered tourists out of tents at the 4,200-meter (13,860-foot) base camp of Nanga Parbat, the country's second highest peak, late on Saturday night, then shot them and a Pakistani guide. The attack on the last peak over 8,000 meters (26,400 feet) in the western Himalayas has been claimed by both the Pakistani Taliban and a smaller radical group. The foreign victims included two citizens from China, one from Lithuania, one from Nepal, two from Slovakia, three Ukrainians, and one person with joint US-Chinese citizenship. Manzoor Hussain, president of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said at least 40 foreigners including citizens from Serbia, Italy, Ireland, Denmark and the United States, among several other nationalities, were evacuated from a higher camp. A group of Romanians is believed to be scaling the mountain from another side. Some other groups booked for climbs this summer have already cancelled, one company said. Hussain said the attack was a “fatal blow” for his efforts to attract more climbers to the Hindu Khush, Karakoram and western Himalayan ranges, home to many unexplored summits. “We are still in shock, we've had to apologise to so many mountaineers across the world,” said Hussain, who described the attack as appalling and said he was devastated. Geographically, Pakistan is a climbers paradise. It rivals Nepal for the number of peaks over 7,000 meters and is home to the world's second tallest mountain, K2, and three more that are among the world's 14 summits higher than 8,000 meters. In more peaceful times, northern Pakistan's unspoilt beauty would be a major tourist draw, bringing sorely needed dollars to a nation that suffers repeated balance of payments crises. Mountaineers, many from China, Russia and Eastern Europe, are among the last foreigners who regularly visit Pakistan for leisure. Tourism has been devastated since 2007 by militant attacks and fighting between the Taliban and the army in once popular tribal valleys such as Swat in the northwest. The number of expeditions had also dwindled, but before the attack some 50 groups were expected this year in the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region, a stop over on the historic Silk Road. That has changed following Sunday's massacre, which sparked protests on Monday in Chilas, the closest town to the base camp, which depends on climbing for income in the summer. “I haven't slept since yesterday, it's a very sad situation,” said Ghulam Muhammed, whose company Blue Sky Treks and Tours guided five of the climbers killed at the base camp. Blue Sky is based in the town of Skardu, which is heavily reliant on the income brought by outsiders. “I am very worried, now business is finished, today two or three have cancelled, it is difficult now,” said Muhammed, who was in the capital Islamabad to speak to embassies and family members of the victims. “In Gilgit-Baltistan, a lot of the economy is from tourism - the money goes to transporters, hotels, markets, porters guides and cooks.”
In reality, the tourist industry last thrived in the 1970s, when the “hippy trail” brought Western travellers through the apricot and walnut orchards of the Swat Valley and Kashmir on their way to India and Nepal. Years of war in Afghanistan helped end the overland route to Asia, and Pakistan's tourism never really recovered. While the attack on foreign climbers was a first, it did not come entirely out of the blue. Gilgit-Baltistan's Shia population has suffered a number of sectarian killings by radical Sunni groups over the past year, including one that claimed responsibility for killing the climbers. “We have been warning the government,” Hussain said. “Security was beefed up, and there were checks on the road, but we wanted security parties for the mountaineers as well.”

PTI MNA : '' Damning remarks ''

In a particularly embarrassing moment for the second largest opposition party in the country, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) will have to bear the repercussions of the remarks made by PTI MNA Mujahid Ali, who demanded on the floor of the National Assembly in his maiden speech the ‘honourable’ release of murderer Mumtaz Qadri. Mumtaz Qadri is in jail, awaiting his appeal verdict against his death sentence for the cold-blooded murder of then governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer on January 4, 2011. That any sane person, let alone a member of the National Assembly, would harbour and make vocal such a dastardly demand is beyond belief. Mumtaz Qadri has been sentenced to death by the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) and his appeal is lying before the Islamabad High Court (IHC). It is extremely disturbing to see that there are members of the National Assembly who belong to the same mind frame as the lawyers who literally showered Qadri with rose petals. No doubt, Mr Mujahid’s sentiments have left the PTI leadership reeling and finding it difficult to recover from such an embarrassing gaffe. In an effort at damage control, the PTI leadership, including its chairman Imran Khan, has reprimanded the MNA for his thoughtless statement and said that no one can make such ‘damaging’ statements on the floor of the house. The leadership has also stated that it sides with the courts on this matter. However, what the PTI failed to mention was its complete and utter condemnation of the despicable remarks. Why did the party not take stern action after its General Secretary Dr Arif Alvi got up belatedly in the house to lamely argue that the demand was the ‘personal’ view of the MNA and not the party’s policy? If the party sides with the law then it should also side with common sense and humanity where a murderer is punished and his crime is not glorified. The IHC, in its own right, needs to stop the delays in finalisation of the verdict of the appeal, which should be nothing less than what the ATC has deemed fit for Qadri, a self-confessed cowardly murderer who violated not only the law of the land and humanity, he betrayed his trust as a guardian of the late Governor. He murdered the Governor in cold blood by emptying his magazine into his back and must be punished. The PTI leadership and its members would do well to remember that sympathy for such criminals would not sit well with the majority of levelheaded Pakistanis who really do hope for a ‘new’ Pakistan.

PTI ‘avoids’ resolution against terror attacks

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa came under criticism from opposition MPA Nighat Orakzai for being silent over terror acts rocking the province and Gilgit-Baltistan, where 10 foreign mountaineers were killed on Sunday. During the sessions on Sunday and Monday, the House did not pass any joint resolution condemning the suicide attack on an imambargah and the killing of foreign mountaineers in Gilgit-Baltistan. “This government stays silent to escape the terrorists’ wrath,” Orakzai told Daily Times after recording her displeasure on the floor of the House over the KP coalition government’s silence over the attacks in the province and elsewhere in the country. She said the previous assembly developed consensus when any incident of terrorism took place in any part of the country. “But this coalition government is so afraid of terrorists that it avoids even naming them,” the KP MPA said. “The opposition’s role is to point out an issue and the government’s job is to make a move. We played our part, but the government preferred staying silent because it does not want to annoy the terrorists,” Nighat claimed.

Pakistan: Nanga Parbats: Tourists under attack: WHY THIS?

If the country's name stood already trashed internationally for the stalking terrorism mowing down the people freely like flies in every nook and cranny of the land, the Saturday's horrific lethal terrorist strike on foreign tourists at Nanga Parbat base has reduced it just into dust. In every world street, the country's image lies in tatters. Yet the hierarchs seem still stuck up with their self-imbibed assumptions having not the remotest bearing with hard realities. Even as the thugs claim responsibility for every blood-soaked terrorist assault in these times too, it is not loathing but indulgence with which the hierarchs view them. Indeed, it is the state security apparatus at which they look with suspicion, censure and disparagement. And no doubt they leave about it that in the dock they hold the security apparatus, not the terrorist axis, for the stomach-wrenching bloodshed being inflicted on this hapless nation so callously in suicide bombings, bomb blasts and terrorist attacks. And, stunningly, with no reasonable ground on their back they feel cocksure they can woo over the compulsive merchants of death and destruction to sanity. Indeed in a damning manifest of their intellectual shallowness and superficiality, they have unthinkingly taken to the jingle that no problem has a military solution and all are amenable only to political solution. But where in the world monstrosities like terrorism have been tackled only by political means? Hasn't it been prostrated with a combination of military and political methods? And hadn't political part become effective only when the security action became decisively powerful and strong? Aren't these verifiable facts widely known worldwide? Then, why are our hierarchs playing so purblind? Why are they still averse to come to terms with this hard reality and think of a grand national counter-terrorism strategy to come to grips with terrorists both militarily and politically? Why indeed are they playing ducks and drakes with something posing existential threat to the nation? Instead of going for something serious, they are amazingly hinting at convening an all-parties conference on terrorism. What a prank? What spectacular would this circus show produce this time round when in the past it just came a cropper always? When indeed was it that our political parties were packed up with Aristotles, Socrates and Platos? When was it that these were thronged with great thinkers of tremendous vision, having no time at all for trite clichés and populist slogans and all the thirst for creative thoughts, profound ideas and innovative solutions? When indeed was it that this circus show produced something so splendid that the street flung into a binge of dance and song and the thinking class was dazed by its brilliance and sheen? What good really could you expect from this politicos' jamboree when the political parties and even religious groups are generally believed to be part of the problem, not the solution, at least in the Karachi port city that has become veritably a live killing field where no less than a score of people are done in daily in targeted shootings, gun battles, bomb blasts and terrorist attacks? Hasn't the honourable Supreme Court said it in so many words not long ago? And what dispassionate proposal could you honestly expect from the rightist parties and conservative groups whose own religiosity lags not a tad behind the militants' among the swarming terrorist mob, who ostensibly pose to be religiously-motivated? How many terrible Nanga Parbats have to happen to shake out the incumbent hierarchs from their pet assumptions and tell them tellingly that it is not a political circus show but a counterterrorism strategy that needs to be hammered out quickly and put in place for a sustained, vigorous and result-oriented implementation? The hierarchs must keep one thing in mind. If the terrorist keep prowling all over the land bloodily, which idiot in the world would even think of putting money in projects and factories in this country? And if presently foreign principals of enterprises here call up their Pakistani executives or other interested parties to Dubai for business talks, now that the TTP has announced floating of a special killer squad to murder foreigners, won't those foreign entrepreneurs henceforth stop meeting even those Pakistanis fearing that they may be disguised terrorists? The prime minister should hence waste no time in convening a top-level inter-provincial security conference to hammer out a comprehensive, multidimensional national counter-terrorism strategy and put it under execution at once. The multifaceted terrorism monstrosity's viciousness has gone too far to hurt the country and the nation incurably. Apart from federal interior, defence and finance ministers, foreign affairs advisor, all the three services chiefs, and federal intelligence agencies' head, he must invite all the chief ministers, AJK prime minister, GB chief minister and KP governor, along with their security and intelligence chiefs to work out this strategy.

Taliban attack Afghan presidential palace

Taliban gunmen attacked Afghanistan's presidential palace and surrounding buildings, including the CIA's Afghan headquarters, early on Tuesday, with explosions and gunfire shaking the city center. A Reuters reporter at the palace said the attack began soon after 6.30 a.m. (0200 GMT), when at least one man opened fire with an automatic rifle at a gate to the palace in the central Shash Darak district. Karzai's whereabouts were not immediately known, though he was due to attend a press event at the palace after 9 a.m. (0430 GMT). Reporters had been gathering at the palace when the attack began and dived for cover as government forces returned fire. Heavy explosions resounded and the gunfire intensified. Schoolchildren walking to classes nearby were also caught in the exchanges. The Taliban claimed responsibility the attack in a text message to Kabul reporters from spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. "Today at 6.30 a.m. a number of suicide bombers attacked the presidential palace, defense ministry and the Ariana Hotel," Mujahid said. The Ariana Hotel is known to house the headquarters of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Afghanistan. A thick plume of smoke was seen rising from the building. An Afghan official told Reuters the attackers had made their way into a nearby building from which they were firing. Shash Darak includes the most important buildings in Kabul, including the palace, the headquarters of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, the Afghan Defense Ministry and the CIA's Afghan station.