Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bahrain: High School Student Sentenced to One Year Imprisonment for a Tweet
On 25 June 2013, the lower criminal court headed by a member of the ruling family, Shaikh Rashid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, sentenced child Ali Faisal Alshofa (17 years old), a high school student, to 1 year in prison for insulting the king, Hamad Al-Khalifa, on Twitter. Ali Al Shofa was arrested in a house raid at dawn on 12 March 2013. He was kept in detention for two months pending investigation, until he was released on bail of BHD 100 on 8 May 2013 while still on trial. Ali was accused of posting an insulting tweeting using the account @alkawarahnews, which he denied relation with, and his lawyer Merfat Janahi submitted evidence that the account is still running by other persons. The BCHR again points to the blatant absence of any form of independent or fair judiciary system according to international standards; as the judge presiding in the case stems from the same family as the king, the subject of the lawsuit. Last month, on 15 May 2013, the court sentenced five other twitter users to one year imprisonment each, also on the charge of insulting the king on twitter. (Details on In total, more than 106 months of imprisonment were collectively delivered since June 2012 against twelve online users for charges related to freedom of expression on social network websites. Said Yousif AlMuhafdha, Head of Documentation and Monitoring at the BCHR and acting Vice President, has a case pending in court for disseminating false news on Twitter. He was acquitted by the court, but the public prosecution appealed the acquittal, and the trial will resume on 1 July 2013. Earlier this month, the BCHR reported the abduction and incommunicado detention of online user Jaffar Al-Demstani on 20 June 2013 for tweeting about the torture of his father, Ebrahim Al-Demstani. (Read more on The ongoing crackdown on online users and the use of the judicial system to limit their freedom of speech is in direct violation with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Based on the above information, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands that the Government of Bahrain: Immediately release all persons sentenced to prison for their online activities, as well as all other political detainees who are being held for practicing their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are guaranteed by international law. Guarantee the basis of free trials and independence of the judicial system according to international standards. Drop all charges related to freedom of expression in cases that are currently ongoing in court. Withdraw all national and local laws that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information.

In South Africa, Obama continues his focus on youth

President Obama speaks at the University of Johannesburg, his latest pitch to young people during his tour of Africa.
President Obama's first audience of South Africans assembled Saturday in Soweto, and he recalled the protests that tore through the neighborhoods here in 1976, galvanizing the anti-apartheid movement. The 51-year-old president was among the few in the room old enough to remember. The town hall, packed with young people at the University of Johannesburg, was the latest in a series of international youth outreach efforts staged by the president. Obama's foreign travel schedule these days can sometimes look like a globe-trotting college tour. Nearly every presidential stopover includes a speech at a university auditorium, or if logistics demand, an off-campus venue filled with young faces. His weeklong tour through sub-Saharan Africa includes two events at South African universities; Obama will deliver another speech Sunday, at the University of Cape Town, where in the 1960s U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy dramatically declared that world challenges require the "qualities of youth." "Don't lose those qualities of youth," Obama told the group of 650 young people at the Soweto forum. "Your imagination, your optimism, your idealism. The future of this continent is in your hands." For all the looking forward, Obama also spent a considerable amount of time looking back, as the nation's iconic elder statesman Nelson Mandela lay critically ill in a Pretoria hospital. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are not scheduled to visit the man who served as South Africa's first black president, the White House said, but the Obamas spoke Saturday by phone to his wife, Graca Machel, who has maintained a vigil at his bedside. Obama later met with other family members at the Nelson Mandela Foundation headquarters. "I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones, and also expressed my heartfelt support for the entire family as they work through this difficult time," Obama said later, using Mandela's clan name, as South Africans often do with affection. "I also reaffirmed the profound impact that his legacy has had in building a free South Africa, and in inspiring people around the world, including me." Obama's outreach to the under-35 set serves a distinct purpose for a president trying to maintain his youthful image abroad and working to define his foreign policy legacy. The speeches often allow Obama to keep some distance from conflicts or sticky relationships with problematic national leaders. Instead, he offers brighter, but vaguer, notions of hope, calls for political engagement and investment in the future. Obama also uses such events to send indirect messages to the leaders in question. Obama met Saturday morning with South African President Jacob Zuma, whose African National Congress — the party of Mandela — many observers say has lost its way. Zuma's government is widely viewed as riddled with corruption and is under pressure to engage or lose the support of the next generation of South Africans. Obama made no references to such issues at a news conference after their meeting. But a couple of hours later, he pointedly urged young people to "hold leaders accountable." Obama's focus on the future is crucial to his strategy in Africa, where 1 in 3 people are between the ages of 10 and 24, and an estimated 60% of the continent's population is younger than 35. Many live in dire poverty with poor nutrition, housing and schooling, conditions ripe for the political instability that has beset the continent. The White House said Obama was working to nurture the next generation of African political leaders. It announced on Saturday a new fellowship program that it said would bring 500 young Africans to the United States each year for leadership training and mentoring. The effort is an extension of the Young African Leaders Initiative that Obama launched shortly after taking office. It is far from clear whether such efforts, or eloquent speeches, will cement the president's legacy with the next generation here. Other foreign powers, including China, are pouring private investment into Africa, and U.S. influence has been waning. The young people in Soweto on Saturday appeared enamored of Obama's image, although not his policies. While the young people waiting for Obama at the town hall clapped and sang apartheid-era songs — changing the lyrics of one traditional Zulu song to "Obama is coming!" — the president also was asked detailed questions about his trade, foreign aid and counter-terrorism policies. A group of young people who participated by videoconference from Nairobi, Kenya, questioned the president's decision to skip their country — a longtime U.S. ally and homeland of Obama's father — on his Africa tour in part because its democratically elected leaders are facing charges before the International Criminal Court. Obama, they said, appeared to be breaking a promise to visit Kenya during his presidency. At one point in the proceedings, Obama appeared to acknowledge that the fruits of his public relations push would take years to appear. "You guys are all going to do great things," Obama said. "I'll be retired by the time you do them."

Workers and BDP members march in Istanbul to protest Lice clashes

Turkish public sector workers joined members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in a peaceful march through Istanbul's İstiklal Avenue to protest the killing of a demonstrator by the security forces in the southeastern Diyarbakır province yesterday. Clashes had broke out in Diyarbakır's Lice district between soldiers and demonstrating villagers who were denouncing the construction of a gendarmerie outpost. The group held banners reading, "We don't want outposts but peace" and "Resist Lice, resist Gezi Park." BDP deputies Sırrı Süreyya Önder, who was also very active during the early Gezi Park protests, and Sabahat Tuncel also participated in the march. Protestors also held posters of Medeni Yıldırım, the 18-year-old victim of the Lice clashes. Peace won’t come this way Önder said that the government was showing a lack of determination in the peace process. “Someone who wants peace does not waste time building outposts. Civilians expressing their outcry in a peaceful way were fired upon. All their wounds were on their back. Peace won’t come this way,” Önder said. He also said that there were many parallelisms between the social demands of Gezi Park protesters and Kurdish people. The government should use this brutal incident as a reason to review its policies,” he added. Tuncel also slammed the attempt of building outposts, saying that it reminded the Kurdish people of torture and death. "The ruling Justice and Development party should remove the commander of the gendarmerie station and do what's right. You didn't understand Gezi Park, and if you don't understand Lice you will be unable to cope with the [peace] process," Tuncel said. “All those who don’t come out into the streets will be accomplice of the massacre,” she added. Turkish security forces had opened fire killing 18-year-old Medeni Yıldırım and wounding ten others during a demonstration against the construction of a new gendarmerie outpost in the Kayacik village. The incident had raised huge outcry and fear that it could derail the ongoin peace process as the Interior Ministry commissioned four inspectors to investigate into the incident.

Egypt protest: Crowds gather for big anti-Morsi rally

Crowds are gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square ahead of a mass rally to demand the resignation of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Thousands of people could be seen overnight milling in the square, focus of the protests which brought down his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Sunday is the first anniversary of Mr Morsi's inauguration as president. Tensions has been high ahead of the rally. At least three people, including a US citizen, died in unrest on Friday. Washington has warned Americans not to travel to Egypt. The UK urged its citizens to "avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings" while France said citizens should "limit movements to those strictly necessary". Protesters are unhappy with the policies of the Islamist president and his Muslim Brotherhood allies. Thousands of supporters of Mr Morsi, who was elected by a small margin, rallied in the capital on Saturday. US President Barack Obama has said America is "looking with concern" at the situation.
Obama appeal
Opposition activists say more than 22 million people have signed a petition seeking a snap election. They have urged the signatories to come out on Tahrir on Sunday. Flags and tents form a base camp on the square from where protesters plan to march President Morsi's office. Amr Riad, 26, told Reuters news agency: "We're peaceful but if those who come at us are violent we'll defend ourselves." Speaking in South Africa, Mr Obama urged "all parties to make sure they are not engaging in violence and that police and military are showing appropriate restraint". "We would like to see the opposition and President Morsi engage in a more constructive conversation about [how] to move their country forward," he said. Reports say that Cairo International Airport has been unusually busy as both expatriates and Egyptians leave the country.
On Friday, US national Andrew Pochter and another man were killed in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria as protesters stormed an office of the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Pochter, who was in the country to teach English to children and improve his own Arabic, was killed apparently while using a mobile phone to take pictures. His family said in a statement that he had been stabbed by a protester while observing demonstrations. The other fatality in Alexandria on Friday was an Egyptian man who was shot dead, according to medical sources. Another man, said to be a journalist, was killed by an explosion in Port Said and five other people were injured. President Morsi earlier this week offered a dialogue - a move rejected by his opponents. Mr Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt's first Islamist president on 30 June 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair. His first year as president has been marred by constant political unrest and a sinking economy.

Obama: Mandela Beacon for the Power of Principle

Video: ''Best Arab Song 2013''

Obama: US Working to Protect Embassy in Cairo

Middle-class rage sparks protest movements in Turkey, Brazil, Bulgaria and beyond

By Anthony Faiola and Paula Moura
As protests raged in Turkey and were set to explode in distant Brazil, Asen Genov sat in his office in Bulgaria’s capital on the cloudy morning of June 14, about to strike the computer key that would spark a Bulgarian Spring. Only months earlier, public outrage over high electricity bills in the country had brought down a previous government, but Genov saw more reason for anger when the new administration tapped a shadowy media mogul to head the national security service. Furious, Genov posted a Facebook event calling for a protest in Sofia, the nation’s capital, though he was dubious about turnout for a demonstration focused not on pocketbooks but on corruption and cronyism in government. “We made bets on how many would come. I thought maybe 500,” said Genov, a 44-year-old who helps run a fact-checking Web site. But as he arrived in Sofia’s Independence Square, people were streaming in by the thousands, as they have every day since, with the snowballing protests aiming to topple the government. “We are all linked together, Bulgaria, Turkey, Brazil. We are tweeting in English so we can understand each other, and supporting each other on other social media,” said Iveta Cherneva, a 29-year-old author in Sofia, who was one of the many people protesting for the first time. “We are fighting for different reasons, but we all want our governments to finally work for us. We are inspiring each other.” Around the globe, this is the summer of middle-class discontent, particularly in the developing world. From Istanbul to Rio de Janeiro, from Bulgaria to Bosnia, the pent-up frustrations of an engaged citizenry are being triggered by a series of seemingly disparate events. Government development of a park in Turkey has erupted into broad unrest over freedom of expression in a society that, under a devout and increasingly authoritarian leader, is witnessing the encroaching power of Islam. A hike in bus fares in Brazil, meanwhile, has touched off an uproar over official waste, corruption and police brutality. But what do they have in common? One small incident has ignited the fuse in societies that, linked by social media and years of improved living standards across the developing world, are now demanding more from their democracies and governments. In the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, thousands of furious residents across ethnic lines united on the streets this month, at one point blockading lawmakers inside parliament for 14 hours to protest government ineptitude in clearing a massive backlog of unregistered newborns. Public anger erupted after a Facebook posting — about a 3-month-old baby whose trip to Germany for a lifesaving transplant had been delayed by the backlog — went viral. Thousands of protesters, including an outpouring of middle-class citizens, are expected Sunday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. They return to the touchstone plaza of the Arab Spring in a nation that exchanged a dictator for what many Egyptians now see as a new government unwilling or unable to fix a corrupt bureaucracy and inefficient economy. Indeed, on the heels of the Arab Spring, Spain’s “indignados” and the U.S. Occupy movement, some observers see a new class of protest emerging among the global citizenry. If the 1960s were about breaking cultural norms and protesting foreign wars, and the 1990s about railing against globalization, then the 2010s are about a clamor for responsive government, as well as social and economic freedom. “These are a group of people who are better educated and more connected through technology,” said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, the London-based think tank. “In parts of the developing world, this is a new middle class, where the definition of success is not survival. It’s about quality of life, about future opportunity and freedom of expression.” Solidarity in Brazil Cecilia Siqueira de Oliveira, a 33-year-old design student living in the teeming Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo, had never seen herself as a street protester. Yet she found herself gripped by news this month of the uprising in Turkey. She was especially touched by a photo she’d seen from faraway Istanbul, of a man calmly playing the piano amid a huge throng of agitated demonstrators. Posting the photo on her Facebook page, she wrote, “Wouldn’t it be good if Brazilians did that?” A few days later, Brazil was on its feet. A series of protests were playing out on Paulista Avenue, one block from her two-bedroom apartment. What was originally a movement against high bus fares was morphing into mass demonstrations against ingrained corruption, shoddy public services, high taxes and rising inflation. Like other Brazilians, Oliveira had been disgusted by recurring political corruption scandals, a lackluster transit system and poor public services. She also thought the current and past governments had exaggerated the improvements in Brazilian lifestyles during a now-ebbing era of high growth. What burned her most, though, were the images of violence she was witnessing on television, with riot police firing rubber bullets and gas canisters at the crowds — a response that brought only more demonstrators out. Finally, on June 17, she decided to join the hordes that were filling the streets. “There were all kinds of people — the suits, the elderly, young people, families with children,” Oliveira said. As she marched, she recalled how emotional she felt watching people throwing shredded paper from their windows and turning their lights on and off as a sign of solidarity with the protesters below. Three days later, more than 1 million Brazilians were on the streets of cities across the country. In the past, she and her friends had commiserated about how the only things that brought Brazilians together were soccer and Carnival. That had clearly changed. “People realized it was worth going into the streets,” Oliveira said. “It’s incredible that in a country mad about soccer, that will host the World Cup, people are not talking about matches on social media. They are discussing politics and economics.” Empowerment in Turkey Serkan Zihli, a 32-year-old public relations consultant for an array of glamorous Istanbul art galleries and fashion designers, had just landed from a Mediterranean vacation when his smartphone lit up. “Get to Gezi Park,” said the text from a friend. “They’re coming.” For months, Zihli had been part of a group of activists seeking to block a government plan to mow down the park and build a shopping mall in the only green space left in Taksim, a nightlife district in the glittering metropolis that literally straddles East and West. But this was not just about protecting trees. Turkey had seen years of surging economic growth, but a growing number of middle-class Turkish citizens thought it had produced willy-nilly construction that came with zero thought to urban planning, as well as backroom deals with untold levels of graft. Taking a cue from the Occupy movements, protesters entered Gezi Park with tents, intent on blocking the bulldozers. The fight was already emerging as a bigger symbol for secular Turks who felt increasingly boxed in by the ruling party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The government-backed plan called for building a shopping mall inside a reconstruction of a long-demolished army barracks remembered by progressive Turks as a place where, in 1909, religious conservatives sought to stage a coup against reformers. The plan followed what Zihli and others called a pattern of Erdogan’s Islam-tinged and ever-more authoritarian government. Erdogan had railed against birth control while his ruling party floated curbs on legal abortions. Journalists critical of the government have been arrested. Just last month, Turkey’s parliament passed sweeping new restrictions on alcohol, banning night sales and liquor advertising. In a country that once prided itself on its secular identity, Erdogan suggested ayran, a salty yogurt, replace raki, an anise-flavored alcoholic beverage, as Turkey’s national drink. As security forces moved in to clear Gezi Park, Zihli — more used to gallery receptions in fashionable Istanbul circles — suddenly found himself engaging in running battles with police. The government response went ignored or underplayed by cowed segments of the Turkish media, leaving word to spread through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, with rage against official repression drawing massive new support for the still-ongoing civil unrest. Shot by a rubber bullet and doused by water cannons, Zihli kept coming back, feeling more and more empowered. Protesters grew more enraged as Erdogan took to national television, denouncing them as foreign-sponsored rabble-rousers. “I’m not a very political person, but for the first time in my life, I felt I could understand what was lacking in our democracy,” Zihli said. “Democracy isn’t just about having elections. It’s about respecting the points of view of all your citizens; it’s about freedom and not forcing your will.” Repeatedly, Erdogan, addressing his faithful, sought to paint the protesters as debauched and morally bankrupt, claiming they had entered a mosque near the protest site and drank alcohol there. The allegations were quickly denied by a mosque official, who was then promptly hauled in for six hours of questioning by Istanbul’s antiterrorism police. “All Erdogan does every day is prove our point with his actions,” Zihli said. “This is about our love for our country and our love for freedom, and no, we’re not going to stop.”

Tear gas is a symptom of Turkey’s weak democracy

I live blocks from Taksim Square and Gezi Park in Istanbul. I never imagined that Gezi Park would bring what academics call Turkey’s “democratic deficits” to worldwide attention. But I never doubted that something would. My proximity to Taksim ensures that even when I’d rather ignore my journalistic instincts and get an early night’s sleep, I have no choice but to follow the story wherever it leads – because it leads to my apartment. When police attack, the crowds run up my street trailed by cops and tear gas. Like everyone in my neighbourhood, I’m now able to tell exactly what lachrymatory agent they’re using. The tear gas, however, is the symptom. The “democratic deficits” are the disease. The conventional wisdom is that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not understand the full meaning of “democracy,” believing that having won several elections, he is now a monarch. Partly correct. But the problems are deeper still, and even Mr. Erdogan’s megalomania is just a symptom of this disease. Consider this: In what kind of democracy does the prime minister decide where to build a shopping mall, particularly when the courts have already halted the project? To grasp the explosion over Gezi Park, you need to understand the details of Turkey’s “democratic deficits.” The most economical way to explain them is how Cem Toker, the secretary of Turkey’s very-minority Liberal Democratic Party, put it to me: “Democracy doesn’t exist in any shape or form here, so there are no problems with democracy in Turkey – kinda like no car, no engine problems.” He is exaggerating only slightly. Yes, Turkey holds regular elections. But the rest of the institutions we associate with “democracy” are so weak that everyone living here knew this car was going to crash. Aengus Collins, a thoughtful observer of Turkey, suggests a deeper way to consider this. He uses Larry Diamond and Leonardo Morlino’s markers of “high quality” democracy: rule of law, participation, competition, vertical accountability, horizontal accountability, freedom, equality and responsiveness. These phrases may sound academic, but to people who daily experience their absence, the path from these terms to tear gas is a straight line. Behind these protests are bitter grievances. Among the most bitter is the dysfunctional Turkish legal system – in particular, the government’s use of it against opponents. Mr. Erdogan has introduced constitutional referendums enabling him to pack the courts with his supporters, and used the courts to shut down hostile media on technical grounds or through punitive taxation. The courts have imprisoned dissenters. Potentially dangerous challengers have fled the country to evade arrest. As for “participation,” this too has been gravely undermined, particularly for the generation that grew up in the wake of the 1980 coup. In Turkey’s very recent past, forms of organization, assembly and protest that healthy participatory democracies require have not only been discouraged, but met with consequences so terrible that parents teach their children that they cannot win, so don’t even try. Anyone who thinks this has changed since Mr. Erdogan came to power is gravely mistaken: Consider the case (one among thousands) of students Ferhat Tüzer and Berna Yılmaz, arrested for holding up a banner that read, “We want free education and we will get it.” They were sentenced to 81/2 years. “Competition” may be the most challenging problem of all. Turkey’s 10-per-cent election threshold ensures that a party with 9.9 per cent of the popular vote receives no representation in the National Assembly. The d’Hondt method, which favours large parties, is used to distribute the seats among the remainder. Finally, Turkey uses a closed-list system: Voters choose a party rather than an individual candidate. This keeps power in the hands of party elites; individual voters can’t choose – or hold to account – the person who represents them. As for freedom, the imprisonment and harassment of journalists is so ubiquitous that they scarcely need the state to censor them any more; they do it themselves. When these protests began, Turkish stations broadcast anything but news about them: They showed documentaries about penguins. “Vertical accountability” describes the way elected leaders are held accountable for decisions by voters; “horizontal accountability” describes the way they are held accountable by legal and constitutional authorities. Again, don’t look for either here. Without press freedom, voters have scant information by which to judge their elected officials. This has led to such deep distrust of journalists that as a friend put to me, “We don’t mind when they put them in jail. We’d mind if they locked up the streetwalkers, though. At least they perform a useful service.” The penultimate refuge of horizontal accountability, flawed though it was, disappeared in a 2010 referendum that changed the composition of the nation’s highest courts, giving Mr. Erdogan the power to handpick loyal jurists. The very last limit on his power was the military. Its senior figures are now in prison, convicted on the basis of evidence that would have been thrown out of anything but a handpicked court. While no proper democracy is mediated by military coup, the electorate had become conditioned to the idea that in extremis, the military would protect them from their mistakes. This promoted the growth of an immature electorate unaccustomed to thinking rigorously about voting and its consequences. It should now be clear why there’s no way to bring Turkey’s corruption under control. Politicians have no motivation to do so. On paper, Turkey’s Law on Political Parties requires political parties to maintain records of all income and expenditure, but it doesn’t require them to publish records. So no one has any idea where the money is coming from or going – although everyone knows it is coming from places it shouldn’t and going to people it oughtn’t. Turkey was no democratic paradise before the rise of the Justice and Development Party (known as the AKP). But the AKP has cynically reduced the idea of democracy to the proposition that democracy is elections and nothing more. Unsurprisingly, many are unsatisfied, particularly because rising incomes have permitted them, for the first time, to consider problems less urgent than merely putting food on the table. Unfortunately, it’s too late. So thoroughly has Mr. Erdogan consolidated his power that the most likely outcome of these protests will be yet another unwanted construction project – the building of new prisons. Waves of arrests are taking place now, even as the world assures itself that the protests are “dying down.” Yes, they are dying down, but in a more literal way than you might realize.
Claire Berlinski is a freelance writer who lives in Istanbul. She is the author of There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters.

Egypt braces for day of rival protests

Egypt was bracing for a day of violence and protest as supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi prepared for mass rallies following a night of clashes that left three people dead. Rival demonstrators pitched tents and began sit-ins on Saturday to prepare for Sunday's rallies, a year to the day of Morsi's election. The demonstrations were planned after opponents called for Morsi's resignation and snap elections, which prompted pre-emptive demonstrations on Friday by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. Morsi met the interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, and defence minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi Saturday to discuss plans to secure strategic locations, the state new agency Mena said. Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid, reporting from Cairo, said the anxiety was palpable. "This country has been galvanised, focused on June 30. Listening to both sides, you can expect there to be some trouble. Both sides look at this as a matter of survival - the end game. "They feel that whoever has the upper hand will be able to lead the country, even though there is no proof that will happen, that is the mindset at the moment. There is a lot of anxiety among Egyptians."
No backdown
She added that while Sunday's protests were the focus, others feared about what will come afterwards "Everything is uncertain in this country. Many people are not so much worried about tomorrow but what happens next if president Morsi does stay in power - and every indication says that he will. "There is no sign the opposition is willing to sit down with the president and there is no sign that the president has any concessions. No one is backing off," our correspondent said. She said it remained to be seen what role the military would take in any trouble. The army has said it would not sit idle and watch Egypt slip into chaos. Now we don't know what threshold the military has, where it will say enough is enough," she added. The military has not directly intervened despite fatal attacks on Friday. The offices of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood from which Morsi hails, were set on fire in Alexandria and at Aga in Daqahliya. Its offices were stormed in Beheira. Two people were killed in Alexandria, including an American student who was stabbed to death while taking pictures of the clashes, and an Egyptian journalist was killed in Suez Canal city. Morsi's opponents, a collection of leftists, liberals, Christians and also deeply religious Muslims, accuse him of hijacking the revolution and concentrating power in the hands of Islamist groups.
Supporters galvinised
Morsi supporters spent the night outside the Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr City neighbourhood, where tens of thousands gathered on Friday to defend the legitimacy of Egypt's first freely elected president. "It's not just about Morsi, it's about legitimacy and the state. We can't go backwards," said protester Kamal Ahmed Kamel.

Zuma hopeful Mandela will be out of hospital soon

Cameron, Zardari talk bilateral ties, Afghanistan

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Pakistan on Saturday evening to kick off a two day tour, Radio Pakistan reported. As a first order of business, Cameron met with President Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidency. According to a briefing from the President’s spokesperson Farhatullah Babar, the two discussed bilateral cooperation in different fields with a focus on economic ties and the regional situation. With Cameron arriving in Pakistan on the back of a trip to Afghanistan, the two discussed Afghan-led peace process and the scenario in the backdrop of withdrawal of NATO-led ISAF mission from Afghanistan was also discussed. Zardari said that Pakistan is a staunch supporter of peace and stability in Afghanistan and it would continue to support every effort aimed at restoring sustainable and long-term peace to the war-torn country. The President emphasised that Pakistan all along has maintained a constructive approach and believes that dialogue and reconciliation was the only way forward towards ensuring durable peace in Afghanistan and hoped that efforts made would also take into account legitimate concerns of all the stakeholders. He welcomed efforts being made for finding a peaceful solution to the long drawn conflict in Afghanistan. Bilateral ties Zardari reiterated Pakistan’s desire to have a multifaceted and deep engagement with the United Kingdom on various issues based on sovereign equality and mutual trust. He called for expanding the scope of UK Foreign Direct Investment in the fields of energy‚ infrastructure development‚ agriculture‚ agro-based industry and mining. Cameron assured that England would continue cooperation with Pakistan in curbing militancy, trade access to European Union markets and assistance in the fields of investment and education.

Welcome to Canada, Rimsha Masih!

By Tahir Gora
It's not just the breaking news; it's also the big news now that a persecuted teen girl, Rimsha Masih from Pakistan, has arrived in Canada. Welcome to Canada, Rimsha Masih! A family member of mine spotted her in our neighbourhood and brought it to my attention. I immediately contacted The International Christian Voice Canada, the organization that was working for her safe exit from Pakistan. The organization confirmed her arrival in Canada. She arrived here couple weeks ago, I learnt further. Maybe the organization was not releasing the news in the wake of security issues. But this poor girl made worldwide headlines last August when she got arrested by Islamabad police on accusations of burning pages from Koran. A Pakistani court evidence later that Imam Mosque, Khalid Jadoon Chishti, had allegedly desecrated Koran pages himself and who trapped little Rimsha in blasphemy law. Pakistan's newspaper Dawn reported, "Mohammad Shahzad and Awais Ahmed, said they had urged Chishti (Imam) not to interfere with the papers but he told them it was the only way to expel the Christians from the area." He was subsequently released on bail. Khalid Jadoon Chishti is free in Pakistan now. Other Imams -- and their aggressive mobsters -- are still unleashed in Pakistan as well.
The attack on Joseph Colony in city of Lahore Pakistan last March is another brutal example of religious intolerance in the country. More than 3,000 aggressive mobsters burnt down about 200 houses in Joseph Colony. "It has been the same way since I was born," said Masih, 61, a resident of the 100 Quarters Christian colony in Sector F-6/2. "The only reward for us in this country is either the Muslims call us "kafir" (infidel) and burn our homes, or call us a "choora" (dirty) when we clean their filth," quoted in The Express Tribune Newspaper. In the same report, Rehana Hashmi of the Sister's Trust Pakistan is quoted saying, "If the government had done anything to punish the murderers of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, we wouldn't be seeing this Lahore incident." Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan over criticizing blasphemy law that has made lives of millions Ahmadies, Shias, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and even dissident Muslims miserable in the nation. Unfortunately, new Pakistani government has abolished ministry of National Harmony and merged it into religious affairs ministry. Chairman All Pakistan Minorities Association (APMA) and former Minister National Harmony, Dr. Paul Bhatti has shown his serious concern over merger of ministry of national harmony into religious affairs "With the merger, the ministry of national harmony would lose the purpose of its creation--to ensure protection of minorities' rights," said Dr. Paul Bhatti in a news conference. Meanwhile, there is another sad report from Pakistan that says, "three Christian women were attacked and paraded naked by a mob with the support of the ruling party, said a press released issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)." International Christians Voice Canada has reacted to this report, stating in a press release: "Attacks on Christians and other religious minorities of Pakistan are increasing day by day more than ever before. We demand President & Prime Minister of Pakistan and Chief Minister Punjab to take concrete steps to protect the Christians and other religious minorities of Pakistan," said Chairman ICV, Peter Bhatti in Toronto. "In the wake of such situation in Pakistan, we welcome Rimsha Masih and her family's safe arrival in Canada and we thank Canadian Government and Minister Jason Kenny for facilitating their safe journey to Canada," said Asma Mahmood, Secretary General Progressive Muslims Institute Canada.

Obama urges House to pass immigration reform by August

President Barack Obama on Saturday urged the House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate and pass a bill by August to reform the U.S. immigration system. Speaking during a press conference in South Africa, Obama said there was more than enough time for lawmakers to finish work on the issue before their summer recess. Immigration reform is one of the president's top domestic issues. The Senate recently passed a bill that would strengthen border security and provide a way for undocumented immigrants in the United States to obtain citizenship. Obama welcomed the passage of that bill.

Saudi Arabia: No woman in women's talks! Twitter pic amazes the world

It could seem to be the world's biggest act of hypocrisy. A room full of men supposedly gathering to speak about women in society with not a single woman present on the occasion. Location: Saudi Arabia. The picture of such an event has gone viral on Twitter, with men and women across the globe laughing at its absurdity and extent of a country where rights to drive, vote or get elected are far off and even if a woman is stoned to death for trying to leave their husband, it is considered a fair deal. Maybe, the dominant males of the Saudi Arabian society gathered to decide what to do with the country's women, particularly those coming up fast, post the Arab Spring. It might not be 'how to help the women' but 'what to do with their rise'. Or may be that these males are having a talk on business or politics, but even then the complete absence of women is not a happy sight.

China media warns Philippines of 'counterstrike' in South China Sea

China's state media warned on Saturday that a "counterstrike" against the Philippines was inevitable if it continues to provoke Beijing in the South China Sea, potentially Asia's biggest military troublespot. The warning comes as ministers from both countries attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Brunei, starting Saturday, which hopes to reach a legally binding code of conduct to manage maritime conduct in disputed areas. At stake are potentially massive offshore oil reserves. The seas also lie on shipping lanes and fishing grounds. Both China and the Philippines have been locked in a decades-old territorial squabble over the South China Sea, with tensions flaring after the Philippines moved new soldiers and supplies last week to a disputed coral reef, prompting Beijing to condemn Manila's "illegal occupation". The overseas edition of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a front-page commentary that the Philippines had committed "seven sins" in the South China Sea. These include the "illegal occupation" of the Spratly Islands, inviting foreign capital to engage in oil and gas development in the disputed waters and promoting the "internationalization" of the waters, said the commentary. The Philippines has called on the United States to act as a "patron", while ASEAN has become an "accomplice," said the commentary, which does not amount to official policy but can reflect the government's thinking. "The Philippines, knowing that it's weak, believes that 'a crying child will have milk to drink'," the People's Daily said, accusing Manila of resorting to many "unscrupulous" tricks in the disputed waters. Beijing's assertion of sovereignty over a vast stretch of the South China Sea has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to other parts of the sea. The 10-member ASEAN hopes to reach a legally binding Code of Conduct to manage maritime conduct in disputed areas. For now a watered-down "Declaration of Conduct" is in place. On Thursday, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that countries with territorial claims in the South China Sea that look for help from third parties will find their efforts "futile", adding that the path of confrontation would be "doomed". Last week, China vowed to protect its sovereignty over the Second Thomas Shoal, known in China as the Ren'ai reef. The Philippines is accusing China of encroachment after three Chinese ships, including a naval frigate, converged just five nautical miles (nine km) from an old transport ship that Manila ran aground on a reef in 1999 to mark its territory. Last year, China and the Philippines were locked in a tense two-month standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, which is only about 124 nautical miles off the Philippine coast. Chinese ships now control the shoal, often chasing away Filipino fishermen.

Xinjiang riots futile in face of united Chinese power

A terrorist attack took place in a town in Shanshan county, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Wednesday. Dozens of thugs armed with knives attacked targets such as the township governmental building and a police station, resulting in nine police officers and auxiliary police officers and eight government employees and civilians being killed. Ten rioters were shot dead. We strongly condemn this ferocious violence. In Shanshan county, Uyghurs make up 88 percent of residents. The security is fairly good there. However, these rioters have destroyed local stability and committed unforgivable crimes. Two months ago, a terrorist attack in Bachu county in Xinjiang claimed 15 lives. Successive violence proves the tough task Xinjiang faces in cracking down terrorism. Nonetheless, group violence cannot shake the overall stability of Xinjiang. Violent criminals and terrorists are more and more influenced by overseas terrorist forces. They resort more to suicide attacks, similar to the advocates of militant jihad. They have shown cruelty in what they did, the purpose of which is to create waves and expand social unrest. They may reach their aims to some extent. For example, they may offer excuses for the West to attack China's ethnic policies. However, they are politically silly. Many foreign forces would like to see turbulence in Xinjiang, but those with a little analytical sense know this can hardly be reality. Unless China as a whole sinks into turmoil, Xinjiang will never be in a chaotic condition as a politically separate part of China. China has been strengthening its strategic power. The geopolitical network surrounding Xinjiang is almost unbreakable. Violent incidents in Xinjiang can hardly threaten China's competitiveness in the world. Violent criminals and terrorists are cannon fodder with no political sense. Ignorance is breeding ground of extremism. Only in a closed and radical environment could brandishing knives to kill people be taken as a noble behavior. Violent terrorism in Xinjiang is not incurable, but eliminating it needs time, peaceful development of Xinjiang and participation of all ethnic groups. Every single case of violence should be dealt with seriously and all criminals should be brought to justice. The power of law is much stronger than that of all terrorists. They must acknowledge that they are merely unwelcome varmints and have nothing to do with the glamour of religion. The resentment and criticism toward violence and terrorism in China is overwhelming. The social and economic development of Xinjiang has been prominent in Central Asia. There are problems within Xinjiang, but these problems are far from threatening this multi-ethnic region. Terrorists try to destroy the stability in Xinjiang, which is opposed to the broader geopolitical situation and to the trend of China's rise as well. They are bound to be like the dust in the wind that will be blown out of sight by history.

Susan Rice: Snowden leaks haven't weakened Obama

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice dismissed claims that Edward Snowden's highly classified leaks have weakened the Obama presidency and damaged U.S. foreign policy, insisting that the United States will remain "the most influential, powerful and important country in the world." Rice's remarks were her only public ones on Snowden and came in an interview with The Associated Press as she prepared to leave the U.N. post and start her new job Monday as President Barack Obama's national security adviser. She said it's too soon to judge whether there will be any long-term serious repercussions from the intelligence leaks by the former National Security Agency contractor who fled to Hong Kong and then Russia after seizing documents disclosing secret U.S. surveillance programs in the U.S. and overseas, which he has shared with The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers. "I don't think the diplomatic consequences, at least as they are foreseeable now, are that significant," she said. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have called Snowden's leaks a serious breach that damaged national security. Hagel said Thursday an assessment of the damage is being done now. "There will always be difficult issues of the day," Rice said, "and frankly this period is not particularly unique." "I think the Snowden thing is obviously something that we will get through, as we've gotten through all the issues like this in the past," she said in the interview Thursday before heading to a lunch in her honor hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The United States has charged Snowden with espionage and demanded his extradition, but China and Hong Kong let him fly to Moscow and the Russians have so far refused. The Snowden case has not only raised tensions with Moscow and Beijing but with many Americans concerned about the NSA collecting their Internet and phone data. Rice dismissed commentators who say Snowden's disclosures have made Obama a lame duck, damaged his political base, and hurt U.S. foreign policy, saying: "I think that's bunk." "I think the United States of America is and will remain the most influential, powerful and important country in the world, the largest economy, and the largest military, (with) a network of alliances, values that are universally respected," she said. Rice said Obama has "significant ambitions and a real agenda" for his second term, pointing to major speeches last week on disarmament and nonproliferation and this week on the impact of climate change. As for Snowden, she said, "It's often, if not always something, and U.S. leadership will continue to be unrivaled, demanded, expected — and reviled and appreciated around the world." Rice, 48, is expected to bring her outspoken and aggressive negotiating style to her new, higher-profile job. At the United Nations, she has been a bold and blunt ambassador, successfully pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran and North Korea and international intervention in Libya. But Libya ultimately caused her greatest professional disappointment when she became the face of the administration's bungled account of the terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. The furor scuttled Rice's long-held hopes of becoming secretary of state when it became clear she would not gain Senate confirmation to that post, which went to John Kerry. Rice has called her 4 1/2 years at the U.N. "the best job I ever had," and told The AP she would be "hard-pressed" to think of any better place to prepare for her new post. "You get to deal with ... literally every country under the sun, and I think you get a unique feel for the orientations, interests, styles, of a wide, wide range of countries," she said. To succeed at the U.N., Rice said, it's crucial to form alliances and coalitions, which change depending on the issue, so a friend one day can be an opponent the next day. Rice has sparred repeatedly with Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who can be equally blunt. But despite being on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict, which has paralyzed council action to end the fighting, Rice said they agree perhaps 85 percent of the time. "I like and respect him," she said. "I think he likes and respects me, and it's been a good relationship. That's why I asked him to speak at my farewell. I asked people who were important to me. He's a very smart and a very funny guy and he can be a pain in the butt, too — and I tell him that to his face!" At the farewell, Churkin delivered an off-the-record roast of Rice, without notes, that had some 300 diplomats, U.N. officials and journalists doubled-over in laughter. The Syrian conflict will be near the top of Rice's agenda in Washington as will the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. Rice said the result of Iran's presidential election earlier this month, a victory for Hasan Rouhani, a moderate who supports direct talks with Washington, "was a dramatic demonstration of the Iranian peoples' dissatisfaction with the status quo." "To the extent that the leadership feels obliged to heed popular opinion — obviously we would hope they would — it may perhaps signal a readiness to move in a different direction, and if so, we would welcome it," she said.

Obama to meet Mandela's family privately, but not the anti-apartheid icon

President Barack Obama and the first lady will meet privately with Nelson Mandela's family Saturday, but they will not visit the ailing anti-apartheid icon at the hospital. The president and Michelle Obama will not see him "out of deference to Nelson Mandela's peace and comfort, and the family's wishes," the White House said in a statement. Obama starts his first full day of activities in South Africa, a nation where hearts are heavy over the poor health of the revered statesman. His visit to Africa's biggest economy is part of a three-nation trip that started in Senegal, and will end in Tanzania next week. A meeting between the two would have had historic significance. Like Obama, Mandela broke through racial barriers to become the first black president of South Africa. The two have met before, but that was prior to Obama's election to the highest political office in the United States. He was a senator at the time. Mandela retains massive popularity despite his retirement from the presidency in 1999. He was hospitalized in critical condition with a recurring lung infection three weeks ago, and is clinging to life at a Pretoria hospital. Though his condition has improved, his health remains delicate, according to his ex-wife, Winnie Mandela. Government spokesman Mac Maharaj has said he remains critical but stable. As his condition has deteriorated, South Africans have gathered outside the hospital, praying, lighting candles and leaving notes for the man they refer to as "tata," the Xhosa word for father. Obama, who has hailed him as a hero, had not ruled out a visit to see him. However, he had said it is up to the family. "I don't need a photo op, and the last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned with Nelson Mandela's condition," he said Friday. Mandela became an international figure while enduring 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid, South Africa's system of racial segregation. He was elected the nation's first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed. Even as he has faded from the spotlight, he remains popular worldwide as an icon of peaceful reconciliation. "If and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we'll all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages," Obama said. The trip aims to bolster investment opportunities for the U.S., address development issues such as food security and health, and promote democracy. It comes as China aggressively engages the continent, pouring billions of dollars into it and replacing the United States as Africa's largest trading partner. Obama's schedule Saturday includes an arrival ceremony in Pretoria and a news conference with his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma. A day later, he will visit Robben Island, where Mandela spent a majority of his decades in prison.

Obama to thank his hero Mandela
Barack Obama will express "profound gratitude" for Nelson Mandela, as his hero's battle for life adds a emotional edge to his first visit to South Africa as president.
Obama said he did not need a photo-op with Mandela following speculation he could visit the anti-apartheid icon and his fellow Nobel peace laureate in the Pretoria hospital where he has been for more than three weeks. Fears for Mandela health, weighing heavily on Obama's three-nation Africa tour, eased slightly Friday, as the 94-year-old's ex-wife Winnie said there had been a "great improvement" though he was still said to be in a critical condition. Obama, who met Mandela once in Washington in 2005, said his primary concern was for the comfort of the ex-South African president and the well-being of his family. "The last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive," Obama said as he flew from Senegal to South Africa, the second leg of a three-nation tour his administration sees a chance to make up for lost time on the continent. "I think that the message we'll want to deliver is not directly to him but to his family, is simply profound gratitude for his leadership all these years," Obama said. Mandela, who turns 95 next month, has been in intensive care for three weeks for a recurrent lung disease dating from his years in apartheid-era prisons. But after taking a turn for the worse last weekend, he has since shown tentative signs of recovery. Supporters have been gathering outside the hospital to offer prayers for the man who negotiated an end to decades of racist white minority rule and went on to become South Africa's first black president. "I came to pray for our father Nelson Mandela. We are wishing for our father to be fine," said Thabo Mahlangu, aged 12, part of a group from a home for abandoned children who travelled to Pretoria. A wall of handwritten prayers for Mandela's recovery has become the focal point for South Africans paying tribute to the father of their nation, with singing and dancing by day and candlelight vigils at night. One message read: "If you can fight prison, you can beat this". Another said: "You are such an incredible inspiration to millions". A visit by Obama to Mandela's former jail cell on Robben Island, off Cape Town, on Sunday in particular is expected to be laden with symbolism. Before then, Obama will try to make sure that the main message of his tour, that the United States sees Africa as poised for explosive growth after years as an aid recipient, is not eclipsed. He will hold talks and a press conference in Pretoria on Saturday with President Jacob Zuma before travelling to Soweto to hold a town hall style conversation with young leaders from all over the African continent. Back in Pretoria Saturday evening, Zuma will throw an official dinner for the US leader. After touring Robben Island Sunday, Obama will visit former Archbishop Desmond Tutu's youth foundation HIV centre before delivering the central speech of his African tour at the University of Cape Town. Obama leaves South Africa Monday, for the final stop on his tour, Tanzania. The US leader will not be greeted warmly by all South Africans. "NObama" demonstrations were held in Pretoria by a coalition of leftist, pro-Palestinian and anti-drone groups. The group was protesting against what it described as the "arrogant, selfish and oppressive foreign policies" of the United States. Mandela has been hospitalised four times since December, mostly for a stubborn lung infection. The man once branded a terrorist by the United States and Britain walked free from prison near Cape Town in 1990. He won South Africa's first fully democratic elections in 1994, forging a path of racial reconciliation during his single term as president, before taking up a new role as a roving elder statesman and leading AIDS campaigner. As he languishes in hospital, his relatives are fighting a legal battle, reportedly over where members of the family should be buried. On Friday, sixteen members of the Mandela family brought an urgent application to a regional court, reportedly to force Mandela's grandson Mandla to return remains of family members to a plot in the ancestral village where Mandela has said he wants to be buried. Mandla, a local chief in nearby Mvezo, had exhumed the remains of three of Mandela's children in Qunu in 2011 and brought them to his village, allegedly without the consent of the rest of the family.

Out-of-school children: Pakistan ranks second in the world

Pakistan ranks the second with the most out-of-school children in the world with only Nigeria ahead of it, said a child rights body on Thursday. In its annual report titled ‘The state of Pakistan’s children 2012’, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) said about one fourth of the 19.75 million children in Pakistan aged five to nine were out of school and factoring in adolescents increased the number to 25 million. Of them, seven million children (aged three to five) had yet to receive primary schooling. “The country reduced its spending on education from 2.6 per cent to 2.3pc of the GNP (gross national product) over the decade and ranks 113th of the 120 countries on the Education Development Index,” said the Sparc report launched in a hotel here on Thursday. At the provincial level, Punjab has the highest NER (net enrolment rate) for children in primary schools at 61pc followed by Sindh with 53pc, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 51pc and Balochistan with the lowest at 47pc. Pakistan has an NER of 74.lpc for all age groups enrolled either in primary, secondary or higher education. Pakistan has the lowest youth literacy rate with 70.7pc. Only 61pc of girls are literate as compared to 79pc boys in the age group of 15-24 years. Progress has been slowest in low-income countries, especially Pakistan, where only 15pc children received pre-primary education in 2010. It quoted a recent report saying 63pc of children aged three to five years were not receiving any education related to early childhood development. The country ranks 129th among the 135 countries on the Gender Gap Index 2012 according to the Global Gender Gap Report. Data shows that gender parity for primary schools in Azad Kashmir is close to 1 (0.97). The GPI for Punjab stands at 0.98, in Balochistan it is 0.83 and in Sindh 0.81. The report said 43pc children born in Pakistan were afflicted with stunting. It was estimated that 21.7pc children were severely and 21.3pc were moderately stunted. It quoted the United Nations Children's Fund as saying that under five years mortality rate had declined from 122 per 1,000 births in 1990 to 72 per 1,000 births in 2011; far from reaching the assigned target of 52 per 1,000 births as per the millennium development goal. More than 423,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, and almost one in five of these deaths are due to pneumonia. Pakistan accounted for nearly 30pc of all polio cases recorded worldwide. A total of 142 cases were reported in 2010; 198 cases in 2011. In 2012, the official reports show, 58 cases were recorded, excluding cases in the North and South Waziristan agencies. It is estimated that 2.1 million cases of measles are reported annually in Pakistan and 21,000 of the reported cases die of complications from the disease. Pneumonia and diarrhoea account for 29pc of deaths among children under five worldwide or more than two million a year; with Pakistan ranking fourth among the countries with the highest prevalence of the disease. A total of 55 of 96,000 infants, children and adolescents had been identified as HIV positive in Pakistan In 2012, around 5,659 cases of violence against children were reported across Pakistan from January to October 2012. These included 943 murders, 1,170 cases of injuries, 302 of sodomy; 204 of child trafficking, 410 of forced marriages and 164 of Karo-kari (honour killing) incidents, and 260 cases of missing children. Other incidents of violence included 407 cases of sexual assault, 547 torture cases, 323 child suicides, 530 kidnappings and 176 Vani cases.A total of 3,861 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in different parts of the country last year. Most of the cases were reported in Punjab (68pc), followed by Sindh (19pc), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (5pc), Balochistan (3pc) and FATA (3pc). The report said 197 of the 3,581 victims of drone strikes since 2004 were children. The participants said children in Pakistan had to cope with a lack of educational opportunities, poor health conditions, a near absence of protection for poor and vulnerable children, miserable conditions in juvenile jails and continued employment of children in hazardous occupations. Violence against children remains culturally entrenched as children in Pakistan have to cope with physical violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, recruitment in armed conflicts and acid attacks. In the absence of a national database on violence against children, the report relied on secondary sources to give the prevalence of various forms of violence against children.

Massacre in Quetta: The Sacred Connection

The Baloch Hal
By: Qamber Baloch
Quetta, capital city of Balochistan, was once again painted in red on 15th June, 2013 with the innocent blood of students of Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University and patients and staff of Bolan Medical College Hospital. The two powerful blasts and indiscriminate firing took the lives of 26 people, mostly female students, leaving many others wounded. These disgusting acts of terrors were proudly claimed by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi( LEJ). The attacks are being seen as most horrifying incidents ever occurred in the history of Balochistan. The victimization of women, who enjoy a great respect in the Baloch society, has made it clear that the security forces along their proxies consider no moral, rules and customs in Balochistan. For the Baloch people the link between LEJ and the sacred secret agencies of Pakistani military establishment is quite clear; however, to fulfill their given task, the Pakistani mainstream media very cleverly diverted the discussion. In this new era of “democratic Pakistan” with a government of enlightened Punjabi nationalists, a single word was not mentioned by the so-called free media of Pakistan about the fact that LEJ and similar religious military organizations being funded, trained and indoctrinated by the military establishment as the first line of defence against their holy war against Western and Indian influences in this region. Obviously various acts of terrorism being carried out by the proxy organizations of the Pakistani military establishment including these very incidents has multiple adverse impacts on Balochistan and the newly elected government of Nawaz Sharif who is supposed to represent the Punjabi nationalists intend to integrate the disintegrated fabrics of the fundamentalist state. The Pakistani army has tremendous stakes in Balochistan. Besides having godlike powers including giving life and death-over millions of the Baloch, the army directly or through its proxy organizations is engaged in a multi-billion drug business from the Baloch coast. It is an open secret that army is running the drug business with Taliban in a 60-40 ratio in which 60% goes to Taliban and army’s’ recruited drug dealers in Balochistan while 40% is to spent on ISI’s internal and external terrorist activities. It has the only meaningful say over the mineral riches of Balochistan estimated to be of trillions of dollars’ worth. It is siphoning off nearly 65% of the official budget of Balochistan province as security expenses and as the expenses for military supervised educational institutions. The military under the notion of country’s safety and security prevails over the civilian government in Balochistan and is involved in massive monitory corruption. This was only to be found a little in a recent revelation of the Auditor General of Pakistan that the FC a paramilitary forces in Balochistan is involved in irregularities worth over Rs: 570 million, let aside the unaudited share it gets from various mega projects running in Balochistan and the drug trafficking. The intellectually suppressed common people of Pakistan might as usual regard these attacks as a western plot or perhaps the will of God, but in reality it is one of the tactics that helps the self-proclaimed guardians of the religious state to extend and expand their presence in Balochistan. This was loudly echoed by the mainstream media news anchors and idealistic youth of Pakistan on online networks to carry out more military operations in Balochistan against the perpetrators without realizing who actually perpetrated it. The blunt statement in the national assembly by the present Interior minister of Pakistan, Chaudhry Nisar Khan might help solve the conundrum who pointedly wondered ‘’how the bombers could mount uninterrupted suicide attacks in a heavily militarised city’’. By organizing these attacks the military has signaled a clear message to Mr. Nawaz Sharif, the sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan who wants to take control of the internal and foreign security policies, that no matter who sits in the government, the vital interests of the army in Balochistan cannot be compromised and the transfer of power to a civilian government should not be taken seriously by any political government in Pakistan. Establishing religious terrorist organization is linked with the superfluous strategy of Pakistan army for safeguarding the ideological and geographical frontiers of the religious state since the independence of East Pakistan as Bangladesh in 1971. However, extending favours to a particular religious sect contributed in marginalizing others and a multitude of sectarian divide flourished which today, the state is apparently unable to control. Establishment of LEJ and other religious militant outfits in Balochistan are in line with the adopted strategy of the army to weaken the Baloch national aspirations with the help of these religious organizations. The Baloch nationalistic aspirations and political mobilization has persistently been dealt with force. Today the Baloch nationalists are not allowed to move and work freely in Balochistan, their public processions are interrupted and their cadre are targeted and killed. On contrary, the LEJ, and other Taliban and Al-Qaida affiliated organizations successfully carry out public processions in the capital city of Pakistan including Balochistan. In their public gathering threaten to instigate Jihad in Balochistan following the resolution tabled in the US congress calling for the right of self-determination for the Baloch. It is not a surprise for the Baloch and other knowledgeable people in Pakistan that LEJ operation in command of Balochistan Usman Saifullah Kurd and his second in command Dawood Badini in 2008 could manage to escape the jail located in high security area of Quetta Military Cantonment where entry requires a pass, and its national leader Malik Ishaq was acquitted by the supreme court of Pakistan in 2011 due to lack of evidences. With the help of these terrorist organizations, the military establishment to a large extent has been successful in militarizing the Baloch society by destroying the social fabric and the secular nature of Baloch. The nationalist circles have openly expressed their concern that the more the new government under Nawaz Sharif strives to take over the security and foreign policies and tries to limit the human right violations in Balochistan, the army will react by enacting more acts of violence and terrorism in Balochistan and other parts of the country. The attacks of SBK and BMC have ruined the lives of many families and have traumatized the wounded and their fellows. It takes a great deal and trail of hardships for families, their women in particular and men in general to make it to the universities. It might discourage many other students from studies who find the university unsafe. In such time of grief, we offer our humble respect to the departed souls and their families and wish the best of health and spirit to the wounded students. Should they ever think of quitting studies, they should look back to their fellows martyred in the quest of education and enlightening Balochistan. It is now upon their shoulders to prevail over the evil and live up the dreams of their fellow students. This should be ingrained in our minds that we are all engulfed in a battle between the good and the evil with no end to the story. The most these students can do is not to give up and live as an example for the others to follow. Humbly speaking the people of Balochistan have seen much of trouble and since they can feel the pain they should sympathize with the victims of evil. In the same city the families of the Baloch missing persons who have been extra judicially abducted by the security forces and have not been given any fair trial needs the sympathy and support of the citizens of Quetta. Should they care, this care will result in love and respect and harmony among the citizens of Quetta. With the posturing of the military establishment in Balochistan through these acts of terror in the face of pressure from the new civilian government, it is the responsibility of all the political and social groups in Balochistan to condemn these attacks irrespective of victims’ ethnicity and religion as that is what keeps us parallel to the ideals and principles of humanity and to stand by each other against the fanatics and their supporters. It is their duty to mobilize the public opinion against these and the coming acts of terror by the military establishment. It is also their duty to highlight this aspect of the bloody conflict in Balochistan to international community. Whether Nawaz Sharif and his team will be able to push the army back to its barracks, dismantle the religious outfits, and bring an end to the human rights abuses in Balochistan as they promised to in their electoral agenda remains to be seen. However, it is clear to every knowledgeable person in Balochistan that arm y will not surrender easily and in the power struggle between the so-called civilian dispensation and the army, the people of Balochistan should be prepared to face the brunt of terrorist activities by the proxy organizations of the army in the coming months.

Malala Day: UN Youth Takeover

If there was ever a time for world leaders to step aside and allow for the next generation of change-makers to make their mark, that time will be on July 12th. Young people from all over the world will descend on New York as the United Nations Youth Take Over for Malala Day kicks off. While the world is experiencing its largest population of young people under the age of 25, youth every where are taking a stand on the issues that matter the most to our generation, such as demanding education for every young person. We as young people see education as a right that is currently not being met for nearly 57 million children who are out of school. Less than a year ago, I had the honor of being selected as one of 15 young people from around the world to be part of the United Nations Global Education First Initiative, Youth Advocacy Group. The YAG is comprised of youth leaders who are working in both grassroots efforts and on the global stage to increase access to education, improve quality of education and foster global citizenship. We consult a wide network and hail from 15 different countries, including Australia, Cameroon, Chile, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Jamaica, Lebanon, Malawi, Moldova, the Philippines, the USA, Serbia, the UK, and Zambia. I, along with my fellow YAG members, have the pleasure of helping to organize a day of action and celebration for Malala, a young woman who risked her life to advocate on behalf of universal education and girls' rights. As a result of her bravery, the Taliban boarded her school bus and shot her and two other young girls in 2012. But that didn't slow Malala down; currently she is back in school and continues to fight for every child's right to education. What is important to keep in mind is that Malala represents millions of young people who are turned away and pushed out daily from their educational institutions or simply don't have access at all. What does it say about the world we live in, when young people are denied their right to learn? Education is one of the smartest investments that any country can make because it's an effective solution to preventing the world's largest generation of youth from unemployment, poor health, civil unrest, child marriage, and other vulnerabilities. Wait no more; the time to stand with Malala and every other child like her is now. Sign the petition today! Leading up to Malala Day, the Youth Advocacy Group helped produce, "The Youth Resolution: The Education We Want", an outcomes document that was circulated worldwide and that received feedback from nearly 40 countries. We were able to get a true representation of youth voices around the world to hear what we demand in response to the education emergency. This document, along with the petition, will be presented on Malala Day to world leaders at the United Nations.

UN envoy and young Pakistani activist launch drive for safe, universal education

A 15-year-old Pakistani girl targeted by assassins – Malala Yousafzai – is the first signatory of a new worldwide petition calling for urgent action to ensure the right of every child to safely attend school, launched today with the backing of the United Nations Special Envoy for Education. The launch came in the wake of an attack that killed 14 students at an all girls' college in Pakistan, emphasized Special Envoy Gordon Brown, in an op-ed published today in the Huffington Post. “This, the bloodiest atrocity yet in escalating violence against female students, comes eight months after the attempted assassination of Malala and her two friends, Kainat and Shazia, targeted by terrorists just because they wanted to go to school,” Mr. Brown wrote. “That is why today, in advance of Malala Day on July 12, we are launching our worldwide petition to demand that global leaders ensure 57 million out-of-school girls and boys are given the chance of education,” he said. Ms. Yousafzai’s appearance at UN Headquarters on 12 July will mark her first major public speech since she was shot last October. She will be joined at the UN by hundreds of young people from around the world. The petition and the UN event are part of an effort to establish universal primary education by December 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, a set of anti-poverty targets set by UN Member States in a 2000 summit. In a statement issued for the petition launch, Ms. Yousafzai said that the terrorists in the attack on the girls’ school, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned over the weekend, were “cowards.” "The innocent girls who died on Saturday have nothing to do with politics and only wanted to empower themselves through education. Obtaining education is every man and woman's birth right and no one is allowed to take away this right from them,” she stressed.” Mr. Brown and Ms. Yousafzai are supporting the initiative of Secretary-General Ban to accelerate progress towards the UN Global Education First Initiative to put every child in school, improve the quality of learning, and foster global citizenship by the end of 2015.

Big in Pakistan: Malala Yousafzai Conspiracy Theories
She's an international icon for her girls-rights activism, but what's popular opinion make of her back home?
After Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old advocate for girls' education in Pakistan, was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban last October while riding home on a school bus, she almost instantly became a global icon -- and remarkably, remains one. A few small data points: Nearly every time we posted a story about Malala on in the weeks and months after the assassination attempt on her, there was unusually strong traction for the story by way of Google News, showing massive reader interest from around the world.
"I am Malala" remains a widely recognized slogan of international solidarity. And there are less conspicuous signs of Malala's enduring global influence than the fact that she was asked to speak remotely to the opening session of this year's Aspen Ideas Festival.
Among the reasons why Malala's story was so immediately striking was the optic it gave the world into the extent of radicalization in extreme Islamist segments of Pakistani society. But how has that story been perceived in Pakistani society more broadly? According to Shiza Shahid, who supported Malala's work in Pakistan for five years, and who spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival this morning, conspiracy theories have come to play a major role:
In Pakistan, there was a moment when you saw people coming out on the streets, and it was the first time that people named the Taliban and said, "I am Malala. I am not the Taliban." And you even saw right-wing journalists getting up and saying, "This is unacceptable."
But it was a very, very fleeting moment; and very soon the narrative started to come: "Well, if the West loves her so much, she must be a CIA agent." "Well, you know, now that her father is going around speaking about peace in the U.S., he must have planned this." Or: "You know, she was never really shot; this is all a conspiracy."
It became very prevalent, and I don't think it would be far-fetched to say that the majority of Pakistanis now believe that Malala is a conspiracy. And I think the tragedy of the story is that this is a girl who gave her heart and soul, her life, to Pakistan, still continues to do so, is loved everywhere, and will continue to fight for girls in Pakistan.

PUNJAB: ''Another life lost to measles''

One more measles patient breathed her last at a hospital in Faisalabad on Friday, taking the death toll till today to 181 including 84 in Lahore. Eisha, 9, lost her life at THQ Hospital Satiana, Faisalabad. As many as 159 measles patients were brought to different hospitals in the province including 30 in Lahore. So far 20,120 measles cases have been reported from across the province including 5,548 in Lahore. Meanwhile, Punjab Health Department has extended ongoing anti-measles vaccination campaign to another six districts. Now 16 million children of six months to ten years of age would be vaccinated in 18 districts. The spokesman of Health Department informed that from June 28, six districts have been included in the ongoing campaign. These districts are Sialkot, Narowal, Sargodha, Chiniot, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh. According to an estimate 4 million children of these six districts would be vaccinated. The spokesman further informed that during the first four days of the anti-measles campaign the mobile teams of Health Department had so far vaccinated 5948082 children. This campaign would continue till July 7. During which preventive injection would also be inoculated to the children of primary schools of the said districts. Reply sought The Lahore High Court on Friday sought reply from the Punjab government and health department on an application seeking reason for its failure to cope with the measles outbreak. Justice Muhammad Khalid Mahmood Khan directed the two respondents to file their replies until July 10. Judicial Activism Panel chairman Muhammad Azhar Siddique moved the application in his already pending constitutional petition against government failure to control measles epidemic. He submitted that the monster was on killing spree while the respondents were dragging feet over the matter. He submitted that the disease had spread across the province and had sent so many children to grave yard and deprived their parents in this regard from their off springs. He said that the reports in this regard were regularly printed being published in the national press but every day arose with another death of a child. He contended it was undoubtedly alarming that it is failure on part of the respondents to perform their duty rather it was also failure on part of the state to protect the citizens from the measles and failure to enforce fundamental rights specially right to life and right to the availability of medical facilities and precautionary measures in this regard before the outbreak of any disease. The petitioner pointed out the respondents were directed to file report especially health department that even knowing the causes of outbreak of the disease why they have failed to plan out strategy to curb and control the said disease. Even the international organizations like Unicef had already pointed out in this regard that the disease may cause destruction and damage to a large scale if precautionary the authorities concerned did not take measures. He requested the court to direct the health department to file comprehensive report as to why they had failed to control the epidemic.

Lahore: LHC unhappy with govt’s anti-measles measures

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday expressed resentment over Punjab Health Department’s failure to control measles outbreak. During case hearing, petitioner’s counsel told the court that Health Department was carrying out paper work only to deal with measles outbreak. Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan questioned the government’s lawyer to explain that why the number of deaths continued to rise despite anti-measles steps being taken by the provincial authorities. Anti-measles measure adopted by the provincial government was not enough, the judge stated. Later, the court ordered Punjab government to submit a report by July 10. The measles epidemic has firmly gripped the country especially Punjab with most number of death occurring in Lahore According to the Health Department’s statistics reported by a private TV channel, as many as 159 measles cases were brought to the city hospitals in the last 24 hours while measles claimed the lives of 84 children in the last six months.

Militant threats: Aid organisations suspend operations at Jalozai

The Express Tribune
Both local and international aid organisations have been asked to close down their offices at the Jalozai Camp following threats of a terrorist attack. Jalozai Camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) is home to tens of thousands of people displaced from the tribal belt. Officials from the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) told The Express Tribune law enforcement agencies informed camp management on Tuesday that militants had planned to carry out an attack, specifically to target large gatherings. “We received information from intelligence agencies about the threats to Jalozai,” said a PDMA official requesting anonymity. He added as soon as the threat is averted, operations will be resumed. Currently, nearly 12,000 families or 72,000 internally displaced persons reside at the camp. Of these, 40% are children. The World Food Programme, UNHCR, UNICEF, World Health Organization as well as 16 Pakistan-based non-governmental organisations care for basic needs at the camp. The announcement for closing down offices of aid groups have panicked those displaced. Residents of the camp fear they may face food scarcity if the organisations pull out. “It’s been very difficult for us since we have left our homes in search of shelter. This is not the first time supplies have been suspended. Earlier food supply was lessened and then stopped,” said Ali Afridi, who belongs to Khyber Agency. We left our homes hoping that the international community will help us, but now that door too, seems to be shutting down, he added. Seventeen people, including women and children, were killed and 28 others wounded when a car bomb tore through the camp in March as scores of people queued for rations. Humaira Parveen, a social worker from Peshawar, was also among the dead. Security was tightened after the March 21 blast. But just nine days after, on March 30, a bomb was spotted near a handicraft centre at the camp. Following the incident, the UNHCR postponed the registration of internally displaced persons from Tirah valley and food distribution was stopped till a new security plan was chalked out. The camp in district Nowshera has been hosting people displaced by conflict since the USSR-led war in Afghanistan when a large number of Afghan refugees settled in Pakistan. In the past few years, the camp has also become home to thousands of residents from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas that have been displaced by military operations against militants.

Youth and extremism: Entrenched extremism harder to recognise

Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2013.
When it comes to extremism, the youth are the most vulnerable segment in our society, Rab Nawaz, a youth training and social activist, says. Nawaz is also a member of the executive committee at Khudi – an organisation which identifies itself as a “counter extremism social movement”. “The disempowerment of youth has caused confusion and frustration, which are both exploited by ‘extremist’ elements,” says Nawaz. He is one of the many individuals and organisations trying to figure out how the youth understand extremism, how vulnerable they are to it and how it impacts them. Another initiative with a similar objective is Youth Hub against Extremism, which started out as a Facebook page, in June 2012, for discussing extremism among the youth but soon turned into an active platform through which students reached out to their peers. Now the group’s members hold awareness camps at their own and other universities. The group met at training sessions conducted by Bargad – an NGO that focuses on youth related issues. That particular project was titled Tackling Youth Extremism. Sabiha Shaheen, the executive director of Bargad, told The Express Tribune that the need for the project was felt because of the “vague understanding” of the term ‘extremism’. “The youth are witnessing various forms of extremism around them without even being aware of its presence,” says Shaheen. “The physical and emotional challenges, which come with their age, make it trickier to make sense of it.” As part of the project young men and women, between 15 and 29 years of age, studying in 20 schools and universities were asked what they understood by the term and how it could be tackled. A booklet containing essays submitted by the students was published in May in which poverty, unemployment, lack of recreational activities, curriculum taught at schools, identity crisis and frustration were identified as reasons for extremism. Shaheen says that though the issue is staring people in the face there are still many who deny that there is extremism in the society. Noor Imran, 21, a student at the Lahore University of Management Sciences believes that is because extremism is, at times, “deep rooted in our mentality”. For 23-year-old Azeem Siddiqui extremism is “imposing my views on others”. The Bahauddin Zakariya University student has organised a number of awareness sessions on the campus. He says while extremism has been defined mostly in a religious context, socio-political circumstances also play a role. “If I were a child who lost his father in a terrorist attack, I would be more likely to develop an extremist mindset,” he says. Tahira Arooj, another member, agrees. “Extremism is not just about religion… it can be political or cultural.” A Kinnaird College student, she has presented local radio programmes in Punjabi. “When intolerance becomes a part of the culture, it paves way for all kinds of extremism,” says the English literature major. The varied interpretations of extremism don’t surprise Muhammad Shahzad Khan, executive director of Chanan Development Association – an NGO that works for youth development. “It depends on the context,” says Khan. In 2010, says Khan, when the CDA conducted a National Youth Peer Education and Awareness Campaign to Reduce Extremism in Lahore, Karachi, Gilgit, Quetta and Peshawar, he found out how varied the definitions were. Though extremism was largely defined by people in reference to non-Muslims, people in Gilgit defined it in terms of ethnic difference. “The youth in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were of the view that in the absence of educational and recreational opportunities they had no option other than to strive for Jannat (paradise),” says Khan. “Such individuals become easy targets for militants,” he says, crossing the line between extremism and terrorism.