Sunday, June 30, 2013

EGYPT: Protesters call for Morsi’s resignation

Anti-government protesters have flooded the streets across Egypt, calling for the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi. Mass rallies on Sunday come a year after Morsi was elected as Egypt's president following the 2011 revolution that toppled the Western-backed regime of Hosni Mubarak.
“The people want the ouster of the regime,” the protesters chanted in the capital Cairo's iconic Liberation Square. The demonstrators are angry at Morsi's handling of the economy and failure to fulfill his electoral promises. The organizers of the major demonstration for Sunday claim that more than 22 million people have signed petition for the resignation of the president and a snap election. Anti-government protests were also staged in the coastal city of Alexandria, the Nile Delta cities of Mansura, Menuf, Tanta and Mahalla, the canal cities of Suez and Port Said as well as Zagazig. Meanwhile, pro-Morsi demonstrators have held rival rallies in support of the president as they say he needs time to implement the changes demanded by the Egyptians. “… We support President Mohamed Morsi. We would like to tell him not to be affected by the opponents’ protests and not to give up his rights. We are here to support and protect him,” said one of the Egyptian president’s supporters. At least four people have been killed in clashes in the cities of Assiut and Beni Suef. Many others were also injured. Reports say clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of Morsi after protesters marched to the office of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. Dozens also attacked the Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo with petrol bombs, birdshot and stones, according to Gehad al-Haddad, a spokesman for the movement. Two people have been reportedly killed and 35 others injured in clashes outside the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo. “It is the biggest protest in Egypt's history,” a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity, noting that “millions” of people have packed the streets across Egypt. Morsi's spokesman Ehab Fahmy has highlighted the need for a national dialogue in the country, saying, “Dialogue is the only way through which we can reach an understanding... The presidency is open to a real and serious national dialogue.” However, the opposition has urged the demonstrators to hold their ground until Morsi resigns. Hundreds of Egyptians have also staged anti-Morsi demonstrations in other countries including the UK and Australia.

Obama Outlines Vision of US-Africa Cooperation during South Africa Visit

Pakistan bombings kill at least 49

At least 28 die in deadliest attack, near Shia Muslim mosque in Quetta, capital of south-west Baluchistan province
Bombings killed at least 49 people in three different areas of Pakistan on Sunday, just as Britain's prime minister David Cameron was in the capital pledging to help fight extremism. In the deadliest of the attacks, twin blasts near a Shia Muslim mosque in Quetta, the capital of south-west Baluchistan province, killed at least 28 people, including two women and several children, and wounded 65 others, according to senior police officer Ishtiaq Ahmed. Initial reports indicated a hand grenade was involved in the first blast, forcing people to run in the direction of the mosque, where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives. Radical Sunni Muslims have stepped up attacks in the past two years against minority Shia, whom they consider to be heretics. Local TV video showed ambulances rushing victims to the hospital and wheeling them inside on stretchers. Some of the bodies were covered with white sheets. Relatives of the victims frantically entered the emergency room to inquire about their loved ones. Security forces cordoned off the area of the attack. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Suspicion will likely fall on the militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has carried out many of the attacks against Shia in Baluchistan in recent years. In the north-west, a car bomb exploded as a convoy of paramilitary troops passed through the outskirts of the city of Peshawar, killing at least 17 people and wounding dozens of others, police said. Elsewhere in the north-west, a roadside bomb struck an army convoy and killed four soldiers in the North Waziristan tribal area, the main sanctuary for Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the country, said intelligence officials. The blast also wounded 20 soldiers, the officials said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks in the north-west, but suspicion will fall on the Pakistani Taliban. The group has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years that has killed thousands of security personnel and civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting to death 10 foreign mountain climbers and a Pakistani guide in northern Pakistan a week ago, an attack the group said was retaliation for a US drone strike that killed the Taliban's deputy leader. The Taliban withdrew their offer of peace talks with the Pakistani government following the drone strike. The government continues to stick by its stance that negotiating with the group is the only way to bring peace.

Egypt: Seven Killed As Protests Turn Violent

At least seven people have been killed in Egypt and more than 600 wounded in clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi. Five of the dead were shot in towns south of Cairo, one each in Beni Suef and Fayoum and three others in Assiut. Two more people were killed by gunfire during an attack on the national headquarters of Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. The attack came amid mass protests across Egypt calling for the Islamist president to resign. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets as part of the demonstrations. The protests are being held exactly a year since Mr Morsi came to power. Some 500,000 people descended on Cairo's Tahrir Square, the heart of the 2011 uprising against Mr Morsi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak. Other demonstrations have been held outside the presidential palace several miles away, which was under heavy guard. Police and troops have deployed to protect key buildings around the country, security officials said. The health ministry said hospitals have been placed on high alert. On Friday an American student, 21-year-old Andrew Pochter, was killed during clashes in the city of Alexandria. A senior security official said the Suez Canal, the vital waterway that connects the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, has been placed under "maximum security". Liberal leaders say nearly half the voting population - 22 million people - have signed a petition calling for change. Mr Morsi's opponents have promised a "second revolution". But the president's Muslim Brotherhood and militant allies pledge to defend what they say is the legitimate order. Mr Morsi has called his opponents bad losers backed by "thugs" from the rule of deposed Mr Mubarak. He is banking on the "Tamarud - Rebel!" coalition fizzling out, as other challenges in the streets have done since he took power. US President Barack Obama has called on Egyptians to focus on dialogue. His ambassador to Egypt has angered the opposition by suggesting protests are not helping the economy. Liberal leaders, fractious and defeated in a series of ballots last year, hope that by putting millions on the streets they can force Mr Morsi to relent.

Anti-Morsi protests sweep Egypt

Hundreds of thousands rally in Cairo and elsewhere seeking president's ouster on first anniversary of his inauguration.
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Cairo and other cities across Egypt, demanding the resignation of President Mohamed Morsi amid sporadic violence that left several people dead. The rallies started early on Sunday morning in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the cradle of the Egyptian revolution where Morsi had addressed a jubilant crowd exactly a year ago after being inaugurated as the country's first democratically-elected president.The demonstrations swelled in the evening, as marches from various Cairo neighbourhoods reached the square. Tens of thousands of people also gathered around the presidential palace to press the same demands, chanting “irhal” - “leave” - and waving red cards to symbolically urge Morsi’s ouster. "It's the same politics as Mubarak but we are in a worse situation," said Sameh al-Masri, one of the organisers on the main stage in Tahrir Square. "Poverty is increasing, inflation is increasing. It's much worse than Mubarak." As anger against Morsi swept the streets, at least seven people were killed and more than 600 wounded in clashes between pro and anti-Morsi supporters, Reuters reported. Five of the dead were shot in towns south of Cairo, one each in Beni Suef and Fayoum and three in Assiut. Two more were killed by gunfire during an attack on the national headquarters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood in a suburb of the capital, medical sources said.
‘Who’s going to pay?’
A few kilometres away from the presidential palace, thousands of Morsi supporters also staged their own sit-in to defend what they called the president’s “legitimacy”. "If we are saying that we have a majority, and the opposition are saying that they have a majority, how can they decide," asked Nader Omran, a spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of Muslim Brotherhood. "What is the other solution for this dilemma, except the ballot box?" Presidential spokesman Omar Amer said Morsi was serious in his repeated calls for national dialogue. "(Morsi) announced to all of Egypt's people he made mistakes and that he is in the process of fixing these mistakes," Amer told a late-night news conference. The duelling rallies on Sunday only further highlighted the deepening political polarisation in Egypt. Morsi supporters are full of praise for his first year in office, insisting that the president has strengthened civilian rule in Egypt and done his best to manage a flailing economy. Many of them dismissed Sunday’s protests as the work of ex-regime figures and “thugs”, fuelled by a hostile media and Western governments. Anti-government protesters, on the other hand, dismissed Morsi’s first term as a failure and described him as a dictatorial leader. Many accused him of backing Hamas and other militant groups; one well-dressed man in Tahrir insisted that Morsi planned to cede the Sinai peninsula to Hamas. But their main complaint was the worsening economy, which has been in free-fall since Morsi took office, with the Egyptian pound losing nearly 20 percent of its value and industry crippled by fuel and electricity shortages. "He's borrowed money from everyone in the world," said Said Ahmed, referring to $11bn in loans Egypt has received from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to prop up the central bank. "Who's going to pay for that? Our children."
‘Hoping’ for a coup
Sunday’s anti-Morsi protests were organised by a grassroots campaign called Tamarod or “rebellion”, which claims to have collected 22 million signatures calling for the president’s ouster. "We gave him the confidence to ... correct what Mubarak had done to Egypt, but he didn't. So we have the right to withdraw the confidence that the Egyptian people gave him," said Eman el-Mahdy, a spokesperson for Tamarod. Some police officers could be seen on the streets of Cairo waving red cards and chanting against Morsi. Rising political tensions have reignited fears of military intervention in the country. General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the defence minister, warned last week that it was the military's duty to "prevent Egypt from slipping into a dark tunnel of civil unrest". “They’re adamantly opposed to the Brotherhood and this government, and there are in the officer corps those who have more hardline views on the Brotherhood,” said Michael Hanna, an analyst with the New York-based Century Foundation. “But this is a cautious military leadership. They’re not going to make a decision unless they have to.” Many protesters nonetheless seemed to be hoping for another military intervention, believing that would be the only means of removing Morsi from office. “We are hoping for a military coup. It’s the only thing that we can hope for, because they are armed and they can help the people,” said Umm Mohamed, an elderly woman sitting in the square with her husband. “Otherwise we will be in civil war.”

China Communist Party Membership Hits 85 Mln
China’s ruling Communist Party membership has exceeded 85 million, according to the CPC Central Committee, Xinhua reported on Sunday.
Last year, 3.23 million people joined the CPC, the world's largest political party, which will mark the 92nd anniversary of its founding on Monday, the committee said. Of the total party members, 20.27 million, or 23.8 percent, are women and 5.80 million, or 6.8 percent, are from ethnic minority groups, according to a CPC statement. More than a quarter of members are 35 years or younger and about 34 million hold university degrees. The CPC had 4.2 million grassroots party bodies across the country at the end of 2012, up 4.3 percent from a year earlier, the agency said.

Protests raging across Egypt governorates
Protests are raging right across Egypt with protesters calling on President Mohamed Morsy to step down after one year in power. In Alexandria, hundreds of protesters flocked to al-Qaed Ibrahim Square, interrupting the flow of traffic at the Corniche. Protesters chanted "Leave!" Mohamed Hassan, one of the protesters, said he and his family had come to join demonstrations against the policies of the Muslim Brotherhood and to call on Morsy to hold early presidential elections.
Hassan added that the country is "on the verge of devastation," blaming the current deterioration on the policies of the Brotherhood, which he said have torn Egyptian society apart. Meanwhile, the streets seemed empty with car owners using public transport in order to keep their cars parked at home due to the ongoing fuel shortage crisis in the city.In the Nile Delta governorate of Kafr al-Sheikh, dozens of protesters closed government institutions with chains and prevented employees from entering the buildings.They were also calling for early presidential elections.
In Desouq city, Kafr al-Sheikh, demonstrators closed the city council building and the government complex which has several government institutions such as the Desouq Media Centre, Tax Authority and cotton ginning companies. The protesters said they will continue to close these buildings until the regime stands down and local departments are formed to run provincial authorities following consultations with political groups in Desouq. In Sidi Salem, Kafr al-Sheikh, a car toured the region while its drivers urged citizens to take to the streets to protest Morsy's rule, stage a sit-in outside the Grand Mosque, and block the road outside the townhall. Protesters managed to close down the town hall after intimidating employees with clubs. Workers, unable to enter the building, left. However, the rest of government agencies in the governorate operated normally.Hundreds of protesters at Rahabin village, Gharbiya , besieged the residence of Mostafa al-Ghoneimy, a member at the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau and chanted for early elections. Within two hours, some village seniors convinced the protesters to end their demonstrations. They went on a march across the village. In Monufiya, protesters closed the municipal; councils in Quwesna, Shohahaa, Tela, Monuf, Shebin al-Kom and Berket al-Saba.Demonstrators took similar actions in Beheira, shutting down the local councils in Mahmoudiya and Itay al-Baroud, as well as other municipalities in Damanhour before erecting tents outside all of the buildings.

Suicide blast in Quetta’s Hazara town kills at least 28

At least 28 people were killed and over 70 injured in a suicide blast near an Imambargah on Kirani road of Quetta’s Hazara town. Capital City Police Officer, Mir Zubair Mehmood confirmed to that at least 28 people were killed and over 70 were injured as a suicide bomber riding a bicycle blew himself up in a crowded area 40 to 50 metres away from an Imambargah. Mehmood said the dead included nine women as well as a minor girl. He admitted that despite strict security measures, the bomber struck a highly sensitive and guarded area of Quetta. He stated that the dead bodies would be handed over to their heirs after identification. Para-military troops and police were dispatched in the area to control the situation. The injured were taken to CMH hospital in Quetta for treatment. The Jafaria Alliance and Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen announced mourning for three days following the attack. Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch as well as the Hazara Democratic Party have condemned the blast.

Loud explosion in Quetta’s Hazara town,20 dead,

At least 20 people have been killed and several more casualties are feared in a powerful explosion near an Imambargah on Kirani road of Quetta’s Hazara town. A police official who requested not to be named told on the telephone that 20 people were killed and at least 60 were injured in the blast. He said that the blast occurred in a crowded area. “We fear an increase in the number of casualties,” he said. Babul Baloch, a rescue worker told that aid workers were not being allowed to reach the explosion site. He said that most of the aid workers were stranded on different streets leading to Hazara Town and Kirani road. “The blast seems to be a suicide attack,” Baloch said while quoting eye witnesses. Para-military troops and police were dispatched in the area to control the situation. The initially injured were being taken to civil hospital Quetta for medical treatment.

HRW slams Saudi Arabia after 7 ‘tortured’ men jailed for ‘inciting protests’ on Facebook

Human Rights Watch has slated Saudi Arabia for violating international human rights obligations after it jailed seven people for up to 10 years for ‘inciting protests’ via Facebook. The indicted denied charges and said they were tortured into confession. The sentencing after a two-month long trial took place on June 24, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which it has obtained the court judgment, and revealed the procedure “violates international human rights principles.” The seven men were arrested between September 23 and 26, 2011. They have been kept in the General Investigations Prison in the capital of Saudi’s Eastern Province, Damman for a year-and-a-half without being charged. They have been tried by Specialized Criminal Court, set up in 2008 to deal with terrorism-related cases. The trial began on April 29. The charges against the seven vary. However, they all have been accused of joining Facebook pages aiming to “incite protests, illegal gathering, and breaking allegiance with the king” and “of assisting and encouraging these calls are corresponding with the Facebook pages’ followers and concealing them,” the HRW cited the court judgment. They have been also convicted of violating Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law, which bans producing, sending, or storing any material via an information network that “harms public order.” “Breaking allegiance [with the king] comes by way of arms and it comes by way of protests, marches, and writing articles and publications … the behavior of the [second] course … is sometimes the more dangerous and more malicious method,” the presiding judge concluded in the judgment. None of the seven was accused of directly participating in protests, nor of using or advocating violence. Abd al-Hamid al-Amer has got harshest sentence – 10 years in prison for founding two Facebook groups in early 2011 which supported of a prominent Shia sheikh and religious leader Tawfiq al-Amer, arrested for publicly calling for a constitutional monarchy. Prosecutors said that those pages were used to call for followers “to join the movements” and “gave them ideas and guidance on the important sites in which to protest and set the timing [of the protests].” All seven accused have admitted they participated in Facebook pages titled “al-Ahsa March 4 Youth Movement” and “The Free Men of al-Ahsa”, but did not know that was unlawful. Therefore, they denied accusations of having intentions to break allegiance with the king or harm public order, but the prosecution produced signed confessions. During the trial, the accused reported to the court that confessions were signed under torture by the intelligence officers, but the judge overruled the claim as “not acceptable,” due especially to “their inability to prove the allegations of coercion and torture.” According to one of the seven convicts’ family members, the men had not lawyers as they could not afford them. Under Saudi Arabia’s Criminal Procedure Law, unlike in many countries, there is no provision for a public defender for those who cannot afford a lawyer, HRW reported. Moreover, as Saudi Arabia has no written penal code, prosecutors and judges tend to criminalize acts based on their own interpretation of Islamic law. HRW insists the whole procedure lacks clearness and violates “international human rights principles, such as those that prohibit arbitrary arrest and guarantee fair trials.” The men intend to appeal their sentences. The HRW has stressed that the trial also comes against Article 15 of the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which Saudi Arabia ratified in 2009. “No crime and no penalty can be established without a prior provision of the law. In all circumstances, the law most favorable to the defendant shall be applied,” the article states. The HRW has called on the European Union’s High Representative Catherine Ashton and EU member states’ representatives, who are meeting with their Gulf region counterparts in Bahrain on June 30, to condemn the convictions and publicly “press Saudi Arabia to stop jailing human rights activists and peaceful dissidents.” “Sending people off to years in prison for peaceful Facebook posts sends a strong message that there’s no safe way to speak out in Saudi Arabia, even on online social networks,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “If the EU doesn’t raise these cases with Saudi officials this weekend, its silence will look like craven compliance with the rights abuses of an authoritarian state.” The latest conviction of the seven followed a wave of similar cases of convictions of peaceful dissidents and human rights activists in June, according to HRW.

Massive protests in Egypt begin

Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's Islamist president began massing in city squares in competing rallies Sunday, gearing up for a day of massive nationwide protests that many fear could turn deadly as the opposition seeks to push out Mohammed Morsi. Waving Egyptian flags, crowds descended on Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo, one of multiple sites in the capital and around the country where they plan rallies. Chants of "erhal!" or "leave!," rang out in the square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. On the other side of Cairo, thousands of the Islamist leader's backers gathered not far from the presidential palace in a show of support. Some wore homemade body armor and construction hats and carried shields and clubs — precautions, they said, against possible violence. There is a sense among opponents and supporters of Morsi that Sunday's rally is a make-or-break day, hiking worries that the two camps will come to blows despite vows by each to remain peaceful. Already at least seven people, including an American, have been killed in clashes the past week, mainly in Nile Delta cities and the coastal city of Alexandria. The demonstrations on Sunday, the anniversary of Morsi's inauguration as Egypt's first freely elected leader, are the culmination of growing polarization since he took office.In one camp are the president and his Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line groups. They have vowed to defend Morsi, saying street demonstrations cannot be allowed to remove a freely elected leader. The other is an array of secular and liberal Egyptians as well as moderate Muslims and Christians — and what the opposition says is a broad sector of the general public that has turned against the Islamists. They say the Islamists have overstepped their election mandate, accusing them of trying to monopolize power and woefully mismanaging the country. The opposition believes that with sheer numbers in the street, it can pressure Morsi to step down — perhaps with the added weight of the powerful military if it signals the president should go. "Today, the people will triumph over fascism," prominent pro-democracy campaigner and bestselling novelist Alaa al-Aswany wrote on his Twitter account. Underlining the potential for deadly violence, a flurry of police reports on Sunday spoke of the seizure of firearms, explosives and even artillery shells in various locations of the country, including Alexandria and the outskirts of Cairo. In an interview published Sunday in The Guardian, Morsi — who has three years left in his term — said he had no plans to meet the protesters' demand for an early presidential election. "If we changed someone in office who (was elected) according to constitutional legitimacy — well, there will (be) people or opponents opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later, they will ask him to step down," Morsi told the British daily. "There is no room for any talk against this constitutional legitimacy," he said. As the crowds swelled in Tahrir, traffic in the capital's normally clogged streets was light at midday as many residents chose to stay home for fear of violence or a wave of crime similar to the one that swept Egypt during the 18-day, anti-Mubarak uprising. Banks were closing early and most government departments were either closed for the day or were thinly staffed. Most schools and colleges are already closed for the summer holidays. Thousands of Morsi's supporters have staged a sit-in since Friday in front of the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque near the Ittihadiya presidential palace. In the evening, anti-Morsi crowds plan to march on the palace, and Morsi supporters have vowed to defend it if it is attacked. The opposition protests emerge from a petition campaign by a youth activist group known as Tamarod, Arabic for "rebel." For several months, the group has been collecting signatures on a call for Morsi to step down. On Saturday the group announced it had more than 22 million signatures — proof, it claims, that a broad sector of the public no longer wants Morsi in office. It was not possible to verify the claim. Morsi's supporters have questioned the authenticity and validity of the signatures, but have produced no evidence of fraud. Morsi, who has three years left in his presidential term, claims that Mubarak loyalists are behind the planned protests. His supporters say Tamarod is a cover for thugs loyal to Mubarak. The 22 million signatures, while they have no legal weight, deal a symbolic blow to Morsi at a time when he is widely seen by Egyptians to have failed to tackle the country's most pressing problems, from surging crime rates and high unemployment to fuel shortages and power outages. If verified, the number of people who signed the petition calling on Morsi to step down would be nearly twice the number who voted for him a year ago in a run-off that he won with around 52 percent of the vote. Tamarod organizers said they discarded about 100,000 signed forms because they were duplicates. Adding to his troubles, eight lawmakers from the country's interim legislature announced their resignation Saturday to protest Morsi's policies. The 270-seat chamber was elected early last year by less than 10 percent of Egypt's eligible voters, and is dominated by Islamists. A legal adviser to Morsi also announced his resignation late Saturday in protest of what he said was Morsi's insult of judges in his latest speech on Wednesday. With a sense of doom hanging over the country, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi last week gave the president and his opponents a week to reach a compromise and warned that the military would intervene to prevent the nation from entering a "dark tunnel." The weeklong ultimatum expires on Sunday. Army troops backed by armored vehicles were deployed Sunday in some of Cairo's suburbs, with soldiers, some in combat gear, stood at traffic lights and major intersections. Morsi had called for national reconciliation talks in a Wednesday speech but offered no specifics. Opposition leaders dismissed the call as cosmetics. Asked by The Guardian whether he was confident that the army would not intervene if the country becomes ungovernable, Morsi replied, "Very." The Egyptian leader, however, said he did not know in advance of el-Sissi's comments last week.

Peshawar blast death toll reaches 17

At least 17 people including a child were killed and 32 others sustained injuries in a powerful blast near Badaber police station, Geo News reported. Police said militants targeted security forces convoy in the attack. The dead and injured have been rushed to Lady Reading Hospital. Condition of six injured is said to be critical. Police and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) have cordoned off the area. Deputy Commissioner Peshawar Javed Marwat has confirmed that 15 people have been killed and 30 wounded in the attack. Hospital sources said 16 bodies and 32 injured were present in the hospital. Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) said that at least 40 kg explosive material was used in the attack. Ten nearby shops and vehicles were badly damaged. Security forces have launched search operation in the area, Marwat added. AFP adds: "The car bomb was parked in a market packed with the general public. When the FC convoy comprising of three vehicles passed by, the bomb exploded and hit a vehicle in the convoy," police official Shafiullah Khan told AFP. "But many civilians were killed and wounded in the attack because there was a big rush in the market at the time," he added. "So far, we have reports that two Frontier Corps soldiers have been injured. We don't know about any other losses," a military official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Obamas tour Robben Island
President Barack Obama is paying tribute to the man who inspired his political activism by taking his family on a tour of the island prison where anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela spent 18 years confined to a tiny cell.Obama's visit to Robben Island comes as Mandela is hospitalised for a third week in critical condition. Obama was near Mandela's Pretoria hospital Saturday, but did not see him due to the family's wishes and instead met privately with Mandela's relatives. His schedule Sunday begins with a flight to Cape Town, near Africa's southernmost tip and then a helicopter ride to the museum on Robben Island. Obama visited when he was a senator but this time is bringing his family. He said he's eager to teach them about Mandela's role in overcoming white racist rule, first as an activist and later as a president who forged a unity government with his former captors. He told reporters Saturday he wants to "help them to understand not only how those lessons apply to their own lives but also to their responsibilities in the future as citizens of the world, that's a great privilege and a great honour." Obama, who has spoken movingly about Mandela throughout his trip to Africa, praised the former South African president's "moral courage" during remarks from the grand Union Buildings where Mandela was inaugurated as his nation's first black president. "We as leaders occupy these spaces temporarily and we don't get so deluded that we think the fate of our country doesn't depend on how long we stay in office," Obama said during a news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma. Obama's ascent to the White House has drawn inevitable comparisons to Mandela. Both are their nations' first black presidents, symbols of racial barrier breaking and winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. And Obama attended his first political rally while a 19-year-old college student protesting apartheid. Zuma said Obama and Mandela "both carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed." Mandela's legacy also will be a prominent theme throughout Obama's speech later Sunday at the University of Cape Town, said White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. The president will emphasis "the ability for societies to change," Rhodes said, along with the need for democratic development and empowering young people. Rhodes said Mandela's vision was always going to feature prominently in the speech given that the address will follow Obama's visit to Robben Island, the prison where Mandela was confined for 18 years. But the former South African leader's deteriorating health "certainly puts a finer point on just how much we can't take for granted what Nelson Mandela did." Obama is also expected to emphasise how Mandela's democratic vision is hardly complete. While there has been progress here that "nobody could have possibly imagined," Rhodes said, millions of people on the continent still live in poverty and governments still struggle with corruption. Harkening back to a prominent theme from his speech in Ghana in 2009, Obama will emphasise that Africans must take much of the responsibility for finishing the work started by Mandela and his contemporaries. "The progress that Africa has made opens new doors, but frankly, it's up to the leaders in Africa and particularly young people to make sure that they're walking through those doors of opportunity," Rhodes said. Obama will speak at the University of Cape Town nearly 50 years after Robert F. Kennedy delivered his famous "Ripple of Hope" speech from the school. Kennedy spoke in Cape Town two years after Mandela was sentenced to life in prison.

Kurdish protester's killing fuels anti-government march in Istanbul

Thousands of protesters have gathered in Istanbul in an anti-government rally to denounce government use of force against the demonstrators and to show solidarity with the Kurds after a Kurdish protester was killed in southeastern Turkey on Friday. Saturday’s Taksim Square protest was dispersed after a couple of hours following a police warning, as law enforcement used shields to push the crowd away from the square. Water cannon trucks were also present but no water was fired. "Murderer police, get out of Kurdistan!" some protesters chanted as they approached the cordoned area. "This is only the beginning, the struggle continues. The murderer state will pay!" Around 1,000 people have remained after the warning and were pursued by police on to the side streets where ten people were detained according to the Hürriyet Daily. The June 29 protest had been planned as part of larger unrelated anti-government demonstrations but then turned out to voice solidarity with the Kurdish community following an incident on Friday when government forces killed an 18-year-old Kurd, Medeni Yildirim, and wounded at least 10 protesters as they fired on a group of some 250 people that was protesting the construction of a gendarmerie in the Lice district of Diyarbakir province.
The crowd around Taksim Square shouted in both Turkish and Kurdish, "Long live the brotherhood of the people!" Earlier on Saturday, hundreds gathered to pay respect at the funeral of Yildirim. Chanting anti-government slogans the crowd questioned the peace process. The killing follows March’s ceasefire declaration by Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. Prime Minister Erdogan on Friday tried to assure the public that the anti-government protests would not harm the peace process. "The peace process was not affected ... and our brotherhood grew stronger thanks to our people's common sense," he said. In response to the killing two state and two gendarmerie inspectors have been assigned to investigate Friday’s clashes in Diyarbakir. In a statement, the ministry also said that prior to the demonstration at the construction site, activists set fire to tents and a container. The crowd also allegedly used stones and sticks against the law enforcement. "After that, the security forces at the gendarmerie post warned the group and asked them to disperse. However, the group continued its attack despite all warnings. Tear gas was used and [officers] fired into the air after they entered the facility through the wire fences," the statement said. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) denounced the incident saying that the new facility is being constructed to replace the old one. Meanwhile, Turkey's main pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) called for marches around the country on Sunday. The tensions in Turkey’s Kurdish region also coincides with mass anti-government protests across the nation in which four people died and thousands more were wounded.

Thousands gather in streets on 30 June, FJP offices torched
Thousands of protesters gathered across Egypt’s squares on Sunday in solidarity to opposition groups' call for protests to mark one year since President Mohamed Morsy's inauguration and to demand early presidential elections. A number of offices of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, were torched early Sunday by protesters indignant towards the ruling regime. This continues a cycle of violence over the past weeks between the president's Islamist supporters and liberal opponents as both camps geared up for the 30 June protests. Protester security groups were stationed around the Defense Ministry in Abbasseya, where they erected barbed wire fences near al-Khalifa al-Maamoun Street. In Alexandria, tens of protesters stormed the FJP's bureau in the district of Hadara and tossed its contents outside. A number of citizens managed to force the protesters out of the office. The FJP's media secretary in the province, Atef Abul Eid, said in a statement that the attack only resulted in the burning of the party's banner. He accused the Tamarod campaign and the National Salvation Front, both opposition groups, of "using thugs" to attack Muslim Brotherhood headquarters. In Beni Suef, in Upper Egypt, demonstrators set fire to the party's office in Abasiri and Mermaha. That followed violent attacks using bird shot between Brotherhood members and opponents. Clashes at Abasiri left 35 injured on Saturday. In Gharbiya, thousands of the president's opponents at al-Shoan Square in Mahalla hoisted banners demanding the ouster of the president and the Brotherhood. In Damietta, three opposition demonstrators were injured at al-Saa Square following clashes with unknown individuals who fired their guns in the air and stabbed several protesters with bladed weapons. The attackers attempted to set fire to protesters’ tents but were thwarted by demonstrators who caught one of the assailants and beat him.

Peshawar attack: Bomb kills 14

A powerful blast has killed at least 14 people in the north-western city of Peshawar in Pakistan, officials say. The bomb attack was aimed at a convoy of security forces, they said. At least 25 people were wounded, and vehicles and shops damaged. Peshawar is on the edge of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region - the main militant haven from which attacks are often launched. It has been hit by dozens of bombings and killings over recent years. Last Monday, a senior police and his driver were shot dead in the city. No-one has claimed responsibility for that attack or Sunday's bombing, but suspicion will probably fall on the Taliban, which has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government. The attack comes during a two-day visit to Pakistan by the British Prime Minister David Cameron. Although the blast apparently targeted security forces, many of the dead and injured appeared to be civilians, reports AP news agency.

3 children among 11 killed in explosion near Peshawar

The Express Tribune News
Eleven people – including three children – were killed while 18 others sustained injuries in an explosion in the Badaber area near Peshawar, Express News reported on Sunday. According to the initial details, the blast targeted an FC convoy. The injured were taken to the Lady Reading hospital and Combined Military Hospital. The injured include security officers, women and children. The explosion was followed by an exchange of fire between FC officers and armed assailants. Police have cordoned off the area and started a search operation. The exact nature of the blast is not known as yet.

Pakistan: Govt approves hike in POL prices

Government on Saturday approved the price increase in petroleum products as advised by Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA). The summary dispatched to the finance ministry was approved on Saturday, elevating the price of petrol by Rs 2.66 to Rs 102.42 per liter, while the price of diesel increased by Rs 3.66 to reach Rs 108.36 per liter. The price of light diesel has been raised by Rs 3.04 per liter, while price of kerosene oil has been increased by Rs 2.50 to Rs 96.68 per liter. OGRA will issue the notification of price increases today (Sunday). The new prices would be implemented from July 1, 2013. - See more at:

PPP had understanding with PML-N that CJ would go on leave after restoration

Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Khursheed Shah has revealed that there was an understanding with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that the chief justice would go on leave if he was restored. Speaking to reporters after meeting Finance Minister Ishaq Dar here on Friday, Khursheed Shah said that the PPP had no objection to judges’ restoration. He said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should not have formed a committee on Swiss cases. “The matter is before the court. We will face it there. The judiciary should deliver justice indiscriminately.” “It seems that the chief justice is waiting for his retirement as there is no progress in Bhutto murder case.” Muhammad Mian Soomro, if made the NAB chief, could be controversial, he opined. To a question, he said that trying Pervez Musharraf for Nov 3 emergency instead of October 12 martial law was like pardoning someone on murder and giving punishment for baton charge.

Pakistan: The missing PM

ANYONE seen him around? Sixty-plus, portly, formerly bald? Won an unexpectedly solid mandate a few weeks ago? Sharif? Nawaz? Where is he? The prime minister has pulled a disappearing act. And left behind is a stuttering, directionless government that, like many before it, seems to think talk is action. It began with the budget. Forget sand, this was a line drawn in water — the government believing it could invent whatever numbers it wanted because the IMF wouldn’t push very hard in the end. And as if to reinforce the belief that the IMF wouldn’t push very hard in the end, the Taliban got their office in Doha and the boys here broke out the halal champagne to celebrate their triumph. Five, ten, fifteen billion to prop up an ailing Pakistani economy in return for bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table? Surely, yes. So Dar gave us the ridiculous exercise of a budget of made-up numbers — and it took just 36 hours for the first fiction to manifest itself. Good idea/bad idea, smart move, dumb move, once Dar decided against giving federal employees an increment, he needed to stand his ground. That, after all, was the only way to demonstrate the government is serious about the business of putting its fiscal house in order. But to cave so early on a measure so small in the larger scheme of things — the sharks circling instantly knew what it meant: there is no will for reform. And if the will is lacking, so is the vision: Dar opted to spur growth by pumping money into the usual project-oriented development budget instead of getting the state out of the state of over-regulation it has found itself in. Budget, fail. And through it all, Sharif was missing. (When your multi-million-dollar watch is a bigger talking point than anything you’ve said during your first budget cycle, you know something’s not right, and probably very wrong.) India was supposed to be the big foreign-policy breakthrough Sharif would work on — and work on soon. And that meant dealing with the boys too. The Indians have long wanted two gestures to help them move on from Mumbai: wrap up the trial in the Pindi ATC of those implicated in the Mumbai attacks, and muzzle Hafiz Saeed and ilk a bit. Sharif bought into that idea and suggested speeding up the trial. Sorry, that currently isn’t possible, the boys demurred. And that was that. On the US, the Sharif camp is selling the line that the PM is taking personal interest in sustaining the relationship. Swell idea. But let’s see how that’s working out. SRAP Dobbins visits Pakistan and he’s told he’ll only be seeing Sartaj. Then Sharif decides to join the meeting — something the N-League is bandying as a sign of a hands-on PM. In the world of diplomacy, though, it’s just a sign of no coordination and little preparation. But the real kicker is what happened next: Gen K also decided to join. And it was the government that had to relay to the Americans the second addition to a meeting the government had earlier insisted it wanted to keep one-on-one. Egg, face. Real embarrassment, though, had already been delivered. In the wake of Doha, the Foreign Office put out a smug, self-congratulatory statement that made the eyes water. Why was Sharif’s Foreign Office claiming credit for a long-running process that he couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with all these years while sitting in the opposition? Why not just ask the boys to use the ISPR to put out their smug, self-congratulatory message? So much for the PM-as-FM-and-DefMin idea getting off to a good start. Epitomising Sharif not putting a foot wrong between the election and government-formation and not putting a foot right since government-formation is Balochistan. The de facto PM Nisar has been busy snarling and growling about all manner of security and intelligence failures in the province. But where’s the action? Why not sack the IGFC Balochistan or the ISI sector in-charge, the principal operational drivers of security policy in the province? On and on, and on, the list goes. Are we talking to the TTP or preparing to fight them? Is the power sector being fixed at the cost of creating a new class of super rich? How will the country’s drift towards international isolation be slowed, let alone reversed? The one question that Sharif has attempted a half-hearted answer to is Musharraf. But he had little choice: the budget session was ending and the Supreme Court had asked the government what it intends to do with Musharraf. Sharif had to speak. So what has happened to Sharif? When on the rare occasion he has been seen and on the even rarer occasion he has been heard, he looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Never a great orator or particularly animated to begin with, Sharif appears listless and enervated. His own party is worried — and even more worried that they have no real answers to why he’s disappeared on them. Could this be the beginning of a replay of May 2008 to Oct 2011, when the PML-N slept through the first three years of the last assemblies before Khan jolted Sharif into action?Maybe, maybe not. But it’s another reason to want Khan back to his nagging and taunting best — and soon. Khan appears to be only man on earth who can goad Sharif and the PML-N into action.