Thursday, July 4, 2013

Pakistan: 12-hour loadshedding irks people in Punjab

People across Punjab continue to suffer due to prolonged power outages amid scorching heat in the province. Major cities have been facing up to 12-hour loadshedding with no letup in the hot weather. LESCO Chief has said for the first time a modern computerized centre has been established to monitor loadshedding. He said that they had been receiving 2300 megawatt electricity quota. The LESCO chief said that they had been resorting to 10 hour loadshedding in all sectors to ensure equitable power outages. He, however, conceded that sometimes the duration of power outages could increase due to technical faults in some areas.

Pakistan: July 5 will always be a Black Day: Bilawal

Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that 5th July 1977 will always be remembered as Black Day in the history of Pakistan when first democratically elected Prime Minister Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown by a tin-pot military dictator General Zia occupying the country and holding the people hostage. In a statement on the eve of 5th July, PPP chief said that grains of all evils including Kalashnikov culture, heroin and extremism were planted by the dictator into the society plunging the whole country into a mess. Terrorism of today is rooted in July 5th coup and all those responsible for it are directly or indirectly involved in the horrible conditions our nation is thrown into, he said. Paying rich tributes to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, PPP leader said the visionary leadership of Bhutto Shaheed laid sound foundation of the state of Pakistan and gifted it with the first-ever Constitution of consensus. Meanwhile in a message, President Asif Ali Zardari denounced the abrogation of the Constitution and taking over by dictatorship 36 years ago and called upon the people to strive for protection and preservation of democracy. The aftermath of July 5, 1977 starkly remind us how one dictator spawned extremists for his political survival and how another dictatorship exploited the same extremists for promoting his political agenda. Indeed the nation is still reeling under the impact of the dictatorial take over on this dark day, he said. Sectarianism, religious extremism and private jehad were deliberately promoted by the usurper to create an artificial constituency for perpetuating his rule as a reign of terror was let loose, he said. Such is the legacy of the dictatorship that has unfortunately struck this land repeatedly.

Americans celebrate Independence Day
The United States will pause for a highlight of the summer on Thursday: the independence day holiday marking the 237th birthday of one of the world's longest-standing democracies. Americans celebrate with parades, barbecues, concerts, festivals - and fireworks. Pyrotechnic displays on independence day go back to the country's birth.
It was the second president, John Adams, who first called for “illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more” in a letter he wrote to his wife the day after the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia in 1776. This year, New York paid tribute to the Declaration of Independence by putting it on display for three days in the New York Public Library - a rare exhibition honouring independence day. The document, handwritten by the nation's third president, Thomas Jefferson, was displayed from Monday to Wednesday along with an original copy of the Bill of Rights - the first 10 amendments to the constitution, written in 1789. It was the first time that the historic documents, which are rarely on display for preservation reasons, were shown together. “As a prime source of free information and education, libraries are the true foundation of our democracy of informed citizens,” said Tony Marx, president of the library.
“We celebrate that tradition with a display of both the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson's hand, and one of the remaining original copies of the Bill of Rights.” In New York's harbour, the Statue of Liberty was set to welcome back visitors beginning on Thursday. The statue had been closed since 2011 and reopened last year on its 126th birthday, but that was one day before Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the city, flooding most of the five hectares the statue stands on. The statue and Ellis Island were shut down again for repairs. The statue itself suffered no damage from Sandy, but several structures on the two islands, including landing docks, were ruined. The National Park Service decided last month to reopen the statue to visitors after repairs were completed and ferry services from Lower Manhattan and New Jersey to Liberty and Ellis Islands were restored. In Washington, the holiday will be marked with a huge fireworks display preceded by a concert on the National Mall featuring singer Barry Manilow. Other events, including parades and festivals, will celebrate the country's birth in nearly every community throughout the 50 states.

WITH LOVE FROM MOSCOW: ''Sexy Russian Spy to Snowden: Will You Marry Me?''

CIA leaker Edward Snowden may have found a soul mate in Russia. Anna Chapman, the red-haired Russian secret agent expelled from the United States in 2010, seized the moment and proposed marriage to the 30-year-old former NSA contractor, who is on the run after disclosing details of a top-secret surveillance program that allegedly targeted millions of Americans. “Snowden, will you marry me?” the 31-year-old former sleeper agent, dubbed a “femme fatale” by international media, wrote in a tweet posted Wednesday. “NSA, will you look after our children?” Chapman wrote in another tweet, referring to Snowden’s former employer, the US National Security Agency. Snowden, who faces the death penalty on espionage charges in the United States, and is believed to have been holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport since June 23, has yet to reply. The American has sent asylum requests to almost two dozen countries. Several have rejected his application outright, while many others have said he must be on the territory of their country to complete his request.

Moscow Slams 'Unfriendly' Bolivian Presidential Plane Incident

Moscow on Thursday criticized the closure of airspace by several European states to a Bolivian presidential aircraft en route from Russia on Tuesday, forcing it to land in Vienna. The aircraft carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales had been in the air for over three hours after taking off from Moscow on
Tuesday, when France, Spain and Portugal announced the closure of their airspace to it. The plane landed in the Austrian capital Vienna, but was later allowed to fly on to Bolivia. “The steps undertaken by France, Spain and Portugal can be hardly described as friendly in regard to Bolivia as well as to Russia, from where Morales was flying after visiting Moscow,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Moreover, the refusal to grant airspace passage rights for the aircraft could have created a threat to passengers on board the plane, including the head of a sovereign state,” the ministry added. The aircraft was reportedly searched in a “voluntary inspection” while in Vienna, Deputy Chancellor Michael Spindelegger said on Wednesday, apparently on suspicion it might have fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on board. The Bolivian Defense Minister later denied reports that the plane was searched. Snowden, a former contractor for the US National Security Agency, is wanted by the United States for disclosing a top-secret surveillance program. He is now reportedly in the transit section of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Bolivia accused France, Italy, Spain and Portugal of violating international law by closing their airspace to the presidential aircraft, and said the United States instigated the action by the nations involved. The United States has not commented on the accusation.

Edward Snowden saga: Bolivia accuses Europe of 'kidnapping' Bolivian president in forcing Evo Morales' plane to land in Vienna

French officials deny refusing to let Bolivian president's plane cross its airspace as fugitive is not found on board
Bolivia has accused Austria of “kidnapping” their president after refusing to allow a plane carrying Evo Morales into their airspace amid suggestions NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board.
“We're talking about the president on an official trip after an official summit being kidnapped,” Bolivia's ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Sacha Llorenti Soliz, told reporters in Geneva on Wednesday. “We have no doubt that it was an order from the White House,” ambassador Llorenti said. “By no means should a diplomatic plane with the president be diverted from its route and forced to land in another country.” Bolivia has also accused European states of an “act of aggression” and “an offence against the whole Latin region” over the affair and has asked for a crisis meeting of South American leaders after officials expressed outrage at Mr Morales' treatment. Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca blamed the forced stopover in Vienna on “unfounded suspicions that Mr Snowden was on the plane”. “We don't know who invented this lie,” Mr Choquehuanca said in La Paz. “We want to express our displeasure because this has put the president's life at risk.” However, Deputy Chancellor Michael Spindelegger said that President Evo Morales had agreed to the inspection. He confirmed Edward Snowden was not on board when Mr Morales' plane was diverted on a flight from Russia and forced to land in Austria over suspicions that Snowden could have been inside. Speaking to reporters at the airport, Mr Spindelegger said: “Our colleagues from the airport had a look and can give assurances that no one is on board who is not a Bolivian citizen.” The plane carrying the Bolivian president finally took off from Vienna's airport to continue it's journey shortly before noon on Wednesday. Bolivia claimed that France, Portugal, Spain and Italy blocked the plane from flying over their territories, forcing the unscheduled stopover in Vienna. There was no evidence that Mr Snowden, wanted by Washington for espionage after divulging classified details of US phone and Internet surveillance, had left the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. French officials denied on Wednesday that France refused to let the Bolivian president's plane cross over its airspace amid suspicions that Mr Snowden was aboard. Spain, too, said the plane was free to cross its territory. According to the anti-secrecy organisation WikiLeaks, Mr Snowden applied for asylum in 21 countries, with letters passed to Russian officials who met him at his secret location in the Moscow airport, where he has stayed since fleeing Hong Kong, where the US attempted to launch an extradition bid. The US has charged the former intelligence contractor with violating espionage laws for leaking classified information about US surveillance operations. As Mr Snowden, 30, prepared to spend his 10th night at the airport, he was dealing with outright rejections from Brazil and India. Finland, Ireland, Austria, Norway and Spain said requests for asylum have to be made in person on their territories to be considered. The Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski wrote on Twitter that he would “not give a positive recommendation” to the request. Mr Snowden’s most likely destination had initially appeared to be Ecuador, but President Rafael Correa has sharply backtracked in recent days, describing the issue of the temporary travel pass that allowed Mr Snowden to depart Hong Kong for Moscow by Ecuador’s London Consul as a “mistake”. He has not completely ruled out asylum for Mr Snowden, but has said the American would need to reach Ecuadorian territory before any request could be considered, which currently does not seem possible. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that he would consider an asylum request from Mr Snowden, but suggestions that the Latin American leader, who is in Moscow for an international gas forum, might spirit Mr Snowden away on his presidential jet appeared unfounded. He did speak out in favour of the whistleblower. “He deserves the world’s protection,” Mr Maduro said. “What has he done? Did he launch a missile and kill someone? Did he rig a bomb and kill someone? No. He is preventing war.” There have been no confirmed sightings of Mr Snowden since he landed in Moscow on 30 June, leading many to believe he is being guarded by Russian security agents, although President Vladimir Putin has denied this. It had seemed that Russia might be preparing to offer shelter after Mr Snowden handed an asylum application to the duty consul at Sheremetyevo on Sunday. President Vladimir Putin said Russia could offer Mr Snowden asylum on the condition that the whistleblower stopped leaking information “harmful” to the US. Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that this condition had been too much for the stranded American, who had then withdrawn his application.

President Obama to hold crisis talks with Germany to settle claims that US spied of EU allies

President Barack Obama is to hold high level meetings with the German government in an attempt to assuage concerns about reported US surveillance of their European allies. The European Union has previously demanded an explanation as to the claims by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the United States' intelligence service spied on the offices of foreign allies in New York. Responding to the deepening dissatisfaction voiced by French and German officials, a White House statement said yesterday that the President had spoken by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where it was agreed the two governments would meet to discuss the allegations. "The president assured the chancellor that the United States takes seriously the concerns of our European allies and partners," the White House said, noting U.S. and EU officials would discuss intelligence and privacy issues as soon as Monday. Germany’s Interior Minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, confirmed the county would send ministerial officials to investigate the claims in Das Spiegel that the US bugged EU offices and embassies. The concession comes after President Obama promised earlier this week to supply all the information requested by European allies regarding the accusations, which he said Washington was still evaluating. Speaking after Snowden’s claims were made public, Chancellor Merkel delivered her strongest rebuke of the US to date. "We are no longer in the cold war," her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said. "If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable."

America Celebrates Independence Day
The United States celebrates Independence Day Thursday.
July 4 marks the 237th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence from British rule. U.S. citizens traditionally celebrate with parades, picnics, fireworks, ball games and concerts. Fourth of July decorations feature the colors of the American flag -- red, white, and blue. Thursday the Statue of Liberty, a universal symbol of freedom and democracy, welcomes visitors for the first time since Hurricane Sandy slammed into New York last year. The 93-meter statue was not damaged in the storm, but the tiny island it sits on was devastated. Hundreds of construction workers have been working on the repairs. Washington holds an annual Fourth of July celebration on The National Mall. This year, singer/composer Barry Manilow is the headline entertainer. Fireworks will light up the capital's sky after the concert. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson in June 1776, the Declaration of Independence is America's most cherished symbol of freedom. The Continental Congress formally approved the document weeks later on July 4.

President Obama's Weekly Address: Celebrating Independence Day

U.S: Joblessness still hangs over an improving economy

Unemployment under President Barack Obama has remained high for the longest period since the Great Depression. Despite a slowly improving job market, the millions of Americans without jobs underscore weakness in the recovery, drag down consumer spending and still roil the nation's politics. Wall Street has had its jitters but the stock market remains high, consumer confidence has improved and the housing market is making a solid comeback. Yet, while economic conditions change, much remains the same. On Friday, the government will release its monthly jobs report, and economists predict that U.S. employers added 165,000 jobs in June. That's fewer than in May and far short of the number of new jobs needed to push the unemployment rate down significantly from its current perch at 7.6 percent. Unemployment has dropped from a high of 10 percent in October 2009. It also is the last consequence of a recession to show improvement in a recovery. But the jobless rate has remained at or above 7.5 percent for 53 months, a period that has left an unusually large number of people out of the work force for so long that some of them will likely never work again. Nearly 12 million people are searching for work and millions more are underemployed in involuntary part-time jobs. The rate will take time to bring down, adding pressure on the economy and creating political problems for Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress. Moreover, experts say the rate could plateau at a higher level than the 4.7 percent unemployment in place before the recession hit in 2008. The Federal Reserve last month issued an optimistic forecast that the jobless rate would drop to between 6.5 and 6.8 percent by the fourth quarter of next year. But the Fed has been overly optimistic before; in 2009 it projected unemployment would hit between 6.7 and 7.5 at the end of 2011. Instead, it remained at 9 percent for most of the year before dropping to 8.5 percent. It has also had to revise other subsequent projections upward. Likewise, some forecasts have been too pessimistic. The non-partisan Congressional budget Office projected in February of 2012 that unemployment would remain above 8 percent until 2014. "I think the forecast that makes most sense to me right now is the unemployment rate ticking down very slowly, something like a tenth of a percent every few months for the next year or so," said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, said he finds it hard to imagine unemployment getting as low as the Fed predicts because incomes are not growing, thus constraining consumer spending. Bernstein believes the Obama administration and Congress should embrace a policy of full employment, which means anyone who wants to work should be able to find a job and that the government should step in if the private sector can meet the demand. That doesn't mean zero unemployment. Even a humming economy has a level of joblessness — there are always workers leaving or quitting jobs without lining up new ones, and the mismatch between jobs and skills means many workers inevitably are displaced by technology. From 1999 through 2007, the Congressional Budget Office defined full employment as a jobless rate of 5 percent. Citing the difficulty the long-term unemployed face finding jobs due to the recession, the CBO now defines full-employment as 5.5 percent. At the White House, officials are continuing to press proposals that have found little support in Congress, particularly among Republicans who control the House of Representatives. Administration officials also point out that there have been 37 straight months of job growth, with nearly 7 million jobs created and argue that the budget pinch created by this year's automatic spending cuts are hurting job creation. Jason Furman, a veteran White House economist nominated to be chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, told a Senate committee that government could accelerate job growth by increasing spending in public works projects and tax credits to help small business expand payrolls — both proposals that Obama has been making for two years. Furman also said that over the medium and long term the federal government should also make social programs for the poor and the elderly more efficient and change the nation's tax code. But each of those would require a massive — and unlikely — effort in Congress. Republicans, unwilling to increase deficits in the short term, say Obama's health care law and a slew of proposed and existing regulations have increased uncertainty in the private sector and contributed to low job growth. They have pushed Obama to liberalize oil and gas exploration and to build an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico as ways of increasing employment. A Pew Research Center poll conducted last month found 44 percent approve of his handling of the economy, 50 percent disapprove. The public is divided on whether his administration's policies have improved economic conditions, with 35 percent saying they made things better, 35 percent worse and 27 percent saying they've had no effect on the economy. "All this leads people to hold two opinions simultaneously: 'It looks like things are getting a little better, but it still sucks for me,'" said Wes Anderson, a Republican pollster who has advised the House and Senate wings of the Republican Party. "Obama owns the economy," Anderson said. "He owns it; he wears it."

Obama treads cautiously on Egypt leader's ouster

The Obama administration is treading carefully after Egypt's military overthrew its president, wary of taking sides in a conflict that pits a democratically elected leader against a people's aspirations for prosperity and inclusive government. Denounce the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi outright, and the U.S. could be accused of propping up a ruler who's lost the public's support — a prospect with eerie echoes of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, whom the U.S. supported for decades before the 2011 revolution that cleared the path to power for Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. But look the other way, and the U.S. could be accused of fomenting dissent or lose credibility on its commitment to the democratic process. So President Barack Obama, in his first, cautiously crafted comments after Morsi was forcibly removed from office, said the U.S. would "not support particular individuals or political parties," acknowledging the "legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people" while also observing that Morsi, an Islamist, won his office in a legitimate election. "We believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people," Obama said in a statement late Wednesday. "Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian armed forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution." He notably stopped short of labeling Morsi's ouster a coup, leaving himself some wiggle room to navigate a U.S. law that says the government must suspend foreign aid to any nation whose elected leader is ousted in a coup d'etat. But Obama did say he was ordering the government to assess what the developments portended for aid to Cairo. The U.S. considers the $1.5 billion a year it sends Egypt to be a critical U.S. national security priority. "I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters," Obama said after huddling in the White House Situation Room with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top aides. Egyptian military leaders have assured the Obama administration that they were not interested in long-term rule following their toppling of Morsi. On Thursday, the supreme justice of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, was sworn in as interim president. On his other request, Obama appeared to have less success. Shortly after Obama issued his statement, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman said Morsi and 12 presidential aides had been placed under house arrest. Morsi, meanwhile, denounced his ouster as a "full coup." As American cities were making final preparations for Fourth of July celebrations, fireworks erupted Wednesday night over Cairo's Tahrir square upon news the military had suspended the Islamist-drafted constitution and called for new elections. The mood was less jubilant at the State Department, where officials concerned about the threat of further unrest ordered all nonessential U.S. diplomats and the families of all American embassy personnel to leave Egypt. Although initially encouraged by Morsi's promise to abide by Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel and his role in a truce brokered between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers in November, the U.S. grew more skeptical about Morsi as opponents complained in louder and louder voices that his promises to enact democratic reforms were going unmet. Secretary of State John Kerry warned in April that Egypt might be backsliding in its transition to democracy, citing arrests, street violence and the government's inability to embrace its opposition. Despite the odd optics that supporting an expulsion-by-force of a democratically elected leader would entail, the State Department appeared Wednesday to be laying the groundwork for a tacit acceptance of the military's move. The State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to criticize Egypt's military over the ultimatum it gave Morsi. But she did say the U.S. was disappointed with a speech Morsi gave the previous night after Obama urged him to present plans to address the opposition's concerns. "Last night was an opportunity for him to propose new steps, which he ... did not," Psaki said. There were early signs that if Obama accepts the military's actions, he won't be without support on Capitol Hill. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican, said Egyptians had made clear they believe Morsi threatens the type of democracy they aspired to in their 2011 revolution. "As President Obama has said, democracy is about more than elections," Cantor said. "The Egyptian military has long been a key partner of the United States and a stabilizing force in the region, and is perhaps the only trusted national institution in Egypt today." But other lawmakers were already asserting that Egypt's military had triggered a provision in U.S. law that requires aid to be suspended if a military deposes a democratically elected government. Sen. Patrick Leahy, who heads the Appropriations panel that oversees foreign aid, said he hoped Egypt's military would make good on its vow to return power to the people, but that in the meantime, U.S. law was clear about what should happen. "My committee also will review future aid to the Egyptian government as we wait for a clearer picture," said Leahy, D-Vt. In an apparent bid to forestall potential U.S. sanctions, senior Egyptian army officers have told Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that they would put a civilian government in place quickly — if not immediately — after removing Morsi from power, U.S. officials said. In the interim, they appointed a government of civilian technocrats to temporarily run the country. The Egyptian military also pledged to take steps to ensure the safety of Americans in Egypt, including the embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Alexandria, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak by name about private conversations that occurred over the past week. Stephen McInerney, who runs the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy, said that while American leverage in Egypt's political conflict has diminished as a result of mistakes since the 2011 revolution, having the military back in charge could actually give the U.S. more influence over the outcome of the current turmoil. "The actor we have the most leverage with — the military — is now the most important actor in Egypt," McInerney said.

In New York's 'Little Egypt,' Egyptian-Americans cheer Mursi's ouster

Members of New York's Egyptian community descended on the coffee shops, delis and Hookah bars of "Little Egypt" on Wednesday to celebrate the overthrowing of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi after one year in office. Some people gathered on the sidewalks of the neighborhood in Astoria, Queens, but most congregated inside the public places and their homes, eyes glued to Arabic-language news programs and TV images of demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square. "We gave him a chance for one year and he didn't do anything," said Abdilmoniem Mohamed, 55, a Bronx resident who was at the Arab Community Center in Astoria watching coverage of the events. Mohamed, who moved to New York in 1979, said he had considered the toppling of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 the happiest day of his life, until Wednesday, and would now be comfortable allowing his girls, both in their 20s, to visit Egypt. As word spread up and down the streets of Little Egypt, friends and neighbors greeted each other with effusive congratulations. Egyptian flags were displayed on sidewalks and in store fronts. Outside one cafe, a group of men sang "lift your head high, you're an Egyptian." Egypt has been in turmoil since Mubarak's fall, arousing concern among allies in the West and in Israel, with which Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty. On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of anti-Mursi protesters in Tahrir Square erupted into cheers, set off fireworks and waved flags after Egypt's top army commander announced the suspension of the Islamist-tinged constitution. The reaction was more subdued in Little Egypt, where the fall the first freely elected president for the Arab world's most populous country, raised some concerns for the safety of friends and family in Egypt and for military rule. "I'm not happy. I'm not sad. I'm confused," said Ehab Mohamed, owner of Zaitoun, a small store a couple of doors from the community center, who added, "He came in the legal way. They should have made a new election." Ehab Mohamed said he had voted for Mursi, but was not pleased with his presidency. He also said he did not trust the armed forces to not try to assert a more permanent position. Heba Khalifa, 35, a medical interpreter who lives in Queens, said she believed Mursi supporters were mostly "in hiding" in the neighborhood. "Believe me they are around, but today they are playing the victim," she said. Khalifa said she was optimistic about Egypt's future and saw Mursi's ouster as a "curve" in the road to democracy. "Is this the last curve? No. There are more curves ahead," she said. Her husband, Amr Khalifa, said he was of two minds: "The Egyptian in me is elated," he said, while the intellectual was "aware of the complexities" of the military takeover. Amr Khalifa said he also was deeply concerned about the safety of his family, most of whom live in Cairo and Alexandria. "Whether the Islamists strike tonight, tomorrow, next week, believe you me, it will happen," he said.

Kabul-Islamabad talks to go on, hopes UN
Afghanistan and Pakistan should have coinciding interests in reducing the role of the Taliban in both countries and reducing the level of violence, a top UN official said on Wednesday, hoping political leaders in Kabul and Islamabad would soon start a political dialogue. “Political logic tells me that Pakistan and Afghanistan should have coinciding interests in reducing the role of the Taliban in both countries and reducing the level of violence, which we have seen so drastically and so tragically,” UN Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson told a news conference in New York. Having just returned from a five-day trip to Afghanistan, where he met top Afghan leaders including President Hamid Karzai, Eliasson hoped talks between Kabul and Islamabad would continue. “There is hope that there could be a new start with the new government of Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan. There have been invitations in both directions. They have not agreed on the sequence of visits. But there is a dialogue on several levels, and I would very much hope that one would have an open and very, very honest discussion about future interests here,” he said. “It is an historically very complicated relationship, and you have also difficulties with both sides having indications that the border is not fully respected, and that is also related to the movements of the Taliban. So it is a very complicated issue,” he said in response to a question. He believed the future of Afghanistan would, to a great degree, be determined by Afghans themselves. But it was important that regional actors also played a positive and constructive role, and that there should be cooperative ties Afghan and Pakistani governments. Reflecting on his interactions with people in Afghanistan, he heard one theme that came back in practically all his meetings was the importance of protecting the achievements of the past decade. “You have progress in health, education, human rights and women, as compared to the previous period and several other countries in the region,” Eliasson said. “It is, of course, extremely important for the people of Afghanistan, but also for the United Nations and the many nations that have contributed to this transition, that the country does not fall back into the nightmares of war and the extreme poverty and violations of human rights that we saw earlier,” he said. The official said he had conveyed that the intention of the United Nations was to continue its partnership with Afghanistan based on the wishes of the government and people. The UN would provide support where and when needed, following modalities that respected Afghan leadership and sovereignty," he concluded.

New Pakistani Government Ends Moratorium On Executions
Pakistan's new administration has ended a moratorium on executions. Interior Ministry spokesman Umer Hameed said on July 4 that the new government "has decided to deal with all cases of execution on merit." He added that "there will be no general amnesty for the convicts waiting for execution." Under the previous government led by President Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party, a 2008 presidential order imposed a moratorium on the death penalty. The freeze expired on 30 June. Amnesty International, which opposes capital punishmen in any instance, has called the development a "shocking and retrograde step." It called for an immediate restoration of the moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The organization estimates that Pakistan has more than 8,000 prisoners on death row. Most of them have exhausted the appeals process and could now be executed.

PPP not go back on Seraiki province promise: Gilani

Showing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) resolve for creating Seraiki province, former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said on Wednesday that his party will not inch back from its stated position on the province. Gilani said this while talking to a delegation of Seraikistan National Council (SNC) that called on him at Gilani house. On the occasion, he said that the PPP had given identification to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and now it would give Seraiki people their identity. He said that it was an important issue for them, adding that they would never surrender their geographical and cultural identity. He thanked the delegation for showing concern on the abduction of his son Ali Haider Gilani on 9th May from Farrukh Town of Matital area. SNC delegation demanded prompt arrest of the accused involved in Haider's abduction. SNC also invited the former prime minister to attend a solidarity conference to be held on 6th July at Multan Press Club in this connection. The delegation comprised of Prof Shaukat Mughal, Zahoor Dhareja, Haji Hameed-u-Din Ansari and Shahid Hameed Ansari.

Pakistan lodges IMF bailout request

Pakistan has requested a new bailout loan package from the International Monetary Fund following weeks of talks with an IMF delegation, a finance ministry source said on Thursday,it also highlights a sense of urgency for Pakistan at a time when its central bank has only about $6.25 billion left in reserves, enough to cover less than six weeks of imports. Lodging a request is the first step in a potentially long process which involves holding more talks on the size of a loan as well as a set of reform commitments from Pakistan's side. “Talks are still ongoing but we will have to wait for results after the IMF team returns to Washington and reviews Pakistan's terms,” a senior finance ministry official told Reuters. “For the IMF, broadening the tax net and decreasing subsidies on the energy sector will be the make-or-break steps it wants Pakistan to commit to.” Anxiety over the nation's struggling economy is one of the many challenges facing its new government. With reserves shrinking by around $500 million a month and with many Pakistanis already angry over unemployment, high food prices and crippling power cuts,any IMF reform package, which usually comes with conditions attached, could also prove unpopular, adding to concerns over instability at a time when Pakistan is already under pressure to contain a growing insurgency.

Rape laws in Pakistan: travesty of justice

By Sara Ali
The Federal Shariat Court has reaffirmed that nowhere do the Quran and Sunnah prohibit the use of DNA tests and instead strongly encourage recourse to such scientific methods It is not Islam, it is the self-proclaimed custodians of Islam who are insensitive to women. The controversial recommendation by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) declaring DNA as an insubstantial proof for conviction in rape cases has triggered an intense debate among lawyers, politicians and civil society representatives. Rape is not addressed in the Quran, it only mentions zina. Zina in the Quran is generally equated with fornication and adultery and it is believed that it entails within its meaning non-consensual sex in the Quran and fiqh as well. When interpreting the status of rape in Islam, Pakistan closely aligned rape with fornication and adultery, with the result that rape victims are frequently punished for committing zina while the rapists get away scot-free. The Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance, VII of 1979, also called the Zina Ordinance, criminalised zina and included adultery, fornication, rape and prostitution in it. It proposed similar Islamic conditions for evidence needed to prove rape as in zina, which further endorsed the belief that the ordinance is a dangerous play of misogyny. The juxtaposition of rape with fornication and adultery is widely criticised as it undermines the uniqueness of ‘rape’ as a heinous crime distinct from zina. Rape victims have been exposed to brutal injustices primarily due to the requirement of producing four male witnesses. In Islam, the wisdom behind four male witnesses was to protect chaste women from false accusations of zina, certainly not to exploit victims of sexual assault. But its custodians have used the verses of the book in a way to circumvent rape convictions, therefore further aggravating the plight of the sufferer. A woman in Pakistan from birth till her marriage is expected to be a symbol of pride and honour for her family. This entails maintaining her virginity till the time she is given to a man in nikah (marriage) and during these years if she is raped she is left to suffer in silence. A victim who stands up for her rights or registers an FIR in a police station is censured, and in some cases even disowned by her family and society. The attitude of many in Pakistan towards a rape victim is not only atrocious but in certain instances quite agonising. We must inculcate empathy and understanding for those who have been through such a traumatising event in their lives as no one chooses to get raped. The circumstances for a rape victim are exacerbated with the CII’s recent statement declaring DNA evidence as supporting evidence and not the primary proof in a rape case. The alternative offered by the CII of producing four male witnesses against the rapist has generated a ruckus in civil society. The CII recommendation has also challenged a recent ruling of the Supreme Court (2013 SCMR 203). Mr Salman Akram Raja in the Supreme Court (2013 SCMR 203) has submitted that the administration of a DNA test should be made mandatory in rape cases. Mr Raja in his submission has placed reliance on the case of Muhammad Shahid Sahil v The State (PLD 2010 FSC 215) where the DNA test’s admissibility was accepted to determine the paternity of the child born to a rape victim in the Federal Shariat Court. The Federal Shariat Court in that case has reaffirmed that nowhere do the Quran and Sunnah prohibit the use of DNA tests and instead strongly encourage recourse to such scientific methods. Moreover, it is believed that allowing the DNA test and making it mandatory does not violate Article 13 of the Constitution, which guarantees protection against self-incrimination. From the Supreme Court case it can be maintained that DNA is the only authentic source that can assist in deciding a rape case. A widely acknowledged belief is that when rape is committed, the offender’s DNA is left on the survivor’s body, and it can be easily obtained from the victim’s saliva, hair, semen, sweat or blood. Hence, DNA in all circumstances is critical to bringing rapists to justice. DNA administration is only feasible and viable if the victim has not showered, combed her hair or cleaned up the crime scene. It is an important tool in deciding rape cases as it can be stored for years and has the capacity to last long without degradation at room temperature. An immense friction exists between the laws of Pakistan and the CII resolution on rape. Even under the Women’s Protection Act, it has been stated that rape cases should be tried under the Pakistan Penal Code and not under the Hudood Ordinance. At this point it is vital to note that resolutions of the CII are not binding in nature; the Council has more of an advisory role to play. The Constitution of Pakistan while explaining the role of the CII said that it will guide the government in respect of Islamic teachings, their implementation and propagation. Its chairman and members are appointed by the president. The constitution reiterates its role, saying that although its advice is not binding, yet it is not easy for any government to ignore or overrule its recommendation regarding any idea. With regards to the rape laws, Pakistan is now at a crossroads. Rape is indeed a harrowing phenomenon that continues to haunt Pakistan and is likely to generations to come. If we are really concerned about giving redress to rape victims, it is imperative to resolve the rift between the CII and other segments of society. The need is to bridge the gap between the CII and civil society organisations, and for once sit down and see where both the CII and civil society are coming from. A serious effort is required to remove any misunderstanding of Islam. The focus should be on engaging erudite and serious Islamic scholars. At the end of the day it is not about the CII, or a lawyer, or a civil society representative, it’s about Pakistan and its people. It is about justice and the rule of law. It’s about a society where tranquillity should prevail and where Islam is followed in its true sense.
The writer is a lawyer and a researcher at the Research Society of International Law

5 security personnel killed in suicide attack in NW Pakistan

At least five security personnel were killed and eight others injured when a checkpost was attacked by a suicide blast in Pakistan's northwest tribal area of North Waziristan on Thursday afternoon, reported local Urdu TV channel Geo. Firing started following the blast, said the report. The attack reportedly took place at about 2:00 p.m. local time when an explosive-laden car rammed into a checkpost in the Datta Khel area, some 14 kilometers away from North Waziristan's capital town of Miransha. Other details about the attack are not immediately available as the checkpost is located in a remote area near Afghan border. Early Wednesday morning, US drones fired four missiles at a house and a vehicle near Miranshah, killing at least 17 suspected militants including a Haqqani network commander, reports said. Thursday's suicide attack in the nearby area of Miransha could be a retaliation for Wednesday's US drone strike, it added.

Morsi’s fall is a blow to Mideast Islamists
Disillusioned by democracy, other groups may chose bullets over ballots in future standoffs
Egypt was the centerpiece of the Islamist movement’s vault to power in the Arab world’s sweeping wave of uprisings. Winning election after election here, the Islamists vowed to prove they could govern effectively and implement their vision of political Islam, all while embracing the rules of democracy. Mohammed Morsi was their pillar: the veteran of the Muslim Brotherhood, the region’s oldest and most prestigious political Islamist group, who became Egypt’s first freely elected president.That is what makes his ouster after barely a year in office, with a gigantic cross-section of Egypt’s population demanding he go, such a devastating blow to Islamists on multiple levels, not only in Egypt but across a tumultuous region. Morsi, his Brotherhood and their harder-line allies say they played by the rules of democracy, only to be forced out by opponents who could not play it as well as them at the ballot box and so turned to the military for help. The lesson that the Islamists’ extreme fringe may draw: Democracy, which many of them viewed as “kufr” or heresy to begin with, is rigged and violence is the only way to bring their dream of an Islamic state. But to the millions of Egyptians who marched in the street against Morsi, the Islamists failed at democracy: They overreached. The protesters became convinced the Islamists were using wins at the polls to centralize power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood far beyond their mandate and treat the country as if it accepted the “Islamist project.” Even worse, for many of the protesters, the Islamists simply were not fixing Egypt’s multiple and worsening woes. That is a serious setback for their dreams, calling into doubt the argument by Islamists across the region that political Islam is the remedy to their society’s ills. The damage to their prestige echoes widely, from Gaza where the Hamas rulers who saw in Morsi a strong ally, to Tunisia where a Brotherhood branch holds power, to Libya and Syria where Islamists push for power. “The Brotherhood in Egypt is now a cautionary tale,” said Michael W. Hanna of the Century Foundation in New York. “Morsi’s abysmal performance during their short tenure is a tale of how not to guide and rule.” The irony is, the Brotherhood knew the risks going in. After the 2011 fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the group vowed not to try to dominate parliament and not to run a candidate for president, knowing the backlash if it seemed to be grabbing power or if it led a government that failed to fix a broken Egypt. It went back on each of those promises, every time saying its hand was forced into doing so. Morsi himself recognized the power of the street as he vowed to be a president for all the people. The day before his formal inauguration on June 30, 2012, he first delivered a symbolic oath of office in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolt that overthrew his autocratic predecessor. “You are the source of power and legitimacy,” he told the crowd. Nothing stands above “the will of the people. The nation is the source of all power. It grants and withdraws power.” In the broad range of the political Islam movement — from moderates to militants — the Brotherhood eventually emerged as the central force arguing that Islamists can be democrats. Their influence drew in harder-line groups to participate at the ballot box. Ultraconservatives who once refused elections that could potentially bring any law but God’s law took their chance at the polls. In an impassioned Facebook post just before the army pushed Morsi out Wednesday, one of his top advisers Essam el-Haddad argued that what was happening was irrevocably damaging democracy itself, saying the Brotherhood had been unfairly treated. He insisted history would show the Brotherhood tried to include others in its administration but was shunned. “Increasingly, the so-called liberals of Egypt escalated a rhetoric inviting the military to become the custodians of government in Egypt,” he wrote. “The opposition has steadfastly declined every option that entails a return to the ballot box.” But amid multiple complaints, opponents point to a key factor that turned many against the Brotherhood: the post-Mubarak constitution. Morsi had vowed a consensus on the landmark document, but Islamists dominated the panel writing it. Liberals, leftists, secular politicians and Christians steadily dropped out, complaining Morsi’s allies were forcing their vision. In the end, Morsi unilaterally decreed himself and the assembly untouchable by the courts to ensure judges did not dissolve the panel, while Islamists hastily finished writing the charter in an all-night marathon session. It was rushed to a referendum, where it passed with a hearty 63 percent of the vote — but only just over 32 percent of the electorate casting ballots. Meanwhile, Brotherhood members and other Islamists were steadily were given more posts across the government, fueling a perception that they were taking over institutions — though they constantly faced resistance on many fronts from the entrenched bureaucracy. Islamist rhetoric from officials and clerics on TV rang in the ears of many as divisive and harsh. Morsi’s ouster could now send the Brotherhood into disarray for years to come, just as a major crackdown on the group did in 1954. Morsi and many of his advisers have been put under house arrest, and he could face trial for escaping prison during the 2011 uprising. Two top leaders of the group, including the head of its political party Saad el-Katatni, were arrested and at least 30 more were expected to meet the same fate. The danger now could be that a heavy crackdown will turn into forcibly excluding them from politics once more. The Brotherhood was banned for much of its 83-year existence. But it still maintains a powerful, organized and disciplined network of members nationwide. “The forceful removal of the nation’s first democratically-elected civilian president risks sending a message to Islamists that they have no place in the political order; sowing fears among them that they will suffer yet another bloody crackdown; and thus potentially prompting violent, even desperate resistance by Morsi’s followers,” the Brussels based International Crisis group warned in a statement

Analysis: Mubarak’s redemption

Two years ago the world was ecstatic over Mubarak's fall, and now the same has happened Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi. Time is up – the Muslim Brotherhood is being removed from power. Does this mean the “Arab Spring” is over? Are we witnessing the comeback of the nationalist military dictatorship model that former president Hosni Mubarak represented? Two years ago, the world was ecstatic over his fall, now there is praise for the return of military rule. The constitution has been suspended and the army is to announce a road map and oversee a transitional period and elections. Muslim Brotherhood leaders remained defiant. Gehad El-Haddad, a senior political adviser for the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, asked on Twitter late Wednesday night: “Egypt enters another military coup cycle. Will the [people] of Egypt take it. Again!!” The question for the US and Europe is how to react. Will they support the coup or will they condemn it because it overran a democratic government? If the army does not remain steadfast, it could leave enough room for the Muslim Brotherhood to wage a violent uprising or protests. If this happens, the country will move toward economic ruin, and become paralyzed in some kind of civil war. What if, after the coup, the economy crashes, and then the Muslim Brotherhood brings its supporters to the streets and fills Tahrir Square again? David P. Goldman reports at PJ Media that we have now reached the worst-case scenario: “chaos in politics, violence in the streets, complete cessation of tourism, and economic breakdown.” Goldman quotes statistics from the World Health Organization in 2011 stating that around 20 percent of Egyptians suffer malnutrition. He goes on to predict that a military regime would probably do a better job of dealing with the economic issue because it would be more likely to receive aid from the Gulf states, besides Qatar, which “might decide to provide funding for a military regime that suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood.” The Gulf states are status quo powers for the most part (except Qatar) and strongly fear any revolutionary movements, and for that reason the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida, and Shi’ite Iran should be controlled and resisted. However, it is interesting that the Gulf states have no problem with supporting the Sunni Islamists fighting far away or against Shi’ites. For example, in Syria they are funding the Islamist-dominated opposition. The spiraling economic disaster combined with what may be a Muslim Brotherhood struggle against the military – possibly including terrorism, urban warfare, assassinations and mass protests – may be difficult to manage even with billions of aid money. Qatar already gave Morsi’s regime $5 billion and it only served to postpone a much worse situation. Max Singer of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and a co-founder of the Hudson Institute told The Jerusalem Post, “I never believed in the Arab Spring,” so he does not see it as being reversed. The Brotherhood, he said, rejects democracy, as it does not believe in free speech or freedom to organize, for example. Democracy is not just about holding an election, he said. Israel and Egypt “are better off with the army and democrats than with the Islamists,” said Singer, warning that there still will remain problems with the army and the opposition, “but the Islamists are a more dangerous enemy.” Asked about what the coup could mean for US policy, he responded that President Barack Obama has taken the position that the Brotherhood is not the enemy. This is a big mistake, Singer said. Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and who is a contributor to the Post, told the Post that the army worked with the protesters to fix the revolution. Dialogue between the Brotherhood and the opposition became impossible because Morsi refused to cooperate, wishing to push his party’s agenda. “The Muslim Brotherood are in shock – they cannot believe it,” said Mazel adding that in time the Islamists will “wake up and there may be violence.” The Islamists now will begin planning for a struggle to return to power, he asserted.

Top judge sworn in as Interim Egypt president

Top judge Mansour has been sworn in as Egypt interim president, hours after Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in a military coup following huge protests against his one-year rule. Adly Mansour took the oath of interim president on Thursday, as his democratically elected predecessor, Mohamed Morsi, was held in an unspecified military barracks along with senior aides. Before the constitutional court, Mansour said: "I swear by God to uphold the Republican system and respect the constitution and law... and safeguard the people and protect the nation." Separately, Mansour was made head of the supreme constitutional court - a position he was due to take on June 30, when protests against Morsi's one year in power began in earnest. “I swear by the great God, to respect the constitution and the law and to rule justly,” Mansour said on his appointment to the court. Morsi was overthrown by the military on Wednesday. According to a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi was being held in a military facility with top aides. "Morsi and the entire presidential team are under house arrest in the Presidential Republican Guards Club," Gehad El-Haddad, the son of a top Morsi aide, told AFP news agency on Thursday. Haddad's father, Essam El-Haddad, widely seen as Morsi's right-hand man, was among those held, he added. Morsi was believed to be at a Republican Guard barracks in Cairo but it was not clear whether he was under arrest. Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood officials were also reported to have been arrested, with many senior leaders being held in the Torah prison in Cairo - the same prison holding Hosni Mubarak, who was himself deposed in the 2011 revolution. In a televised broadcast, flanked by military leaders, religious authorities and political figures, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi effectively declared the removal of Morsi. Early elections Sisi called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth movements. He said the roadmap had been agreed by a range of political groups.Islamist supporters of Morsi who have gathered in a Cairo suburb reacted angrily to the announcement by the army. Some broke up paving stones, forming piles of rocks. Muslim Brotherhood security guards in hard hats and holding sticks formed a cordon around the encampment, close to a mosque. Men and women wept and chanted. Denouncing military chief Sisi, some shouted: "Sisi is void! Islam is coming! We will not leave!" At least 14 people were killed when opponents and supporters of Morsi clashed after the army announced his removal, officials said. Eight of those died in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh, including two members of the security fources. Three people were killed and at least 50 wounded in Alexandria, state news agency MENA reported; a woman stabbed in the stomach, and two men killed by birdshot. Three people were also killed and 14 wounded in the southern city of Minya, including two police, MENA said. 'Revolution re-launched' Speaking shortly after Sisi's announcement, liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said the "2011 revolution was re-launched" and that the roadmap meets the demand of the protesters. Egypt's leading Muslim and Christian clerics also backed the army-sponsored roadmap.Pope Tawadros, the head of the Coptic Church, said the plan offered a political vision and would ensure security for all Egyptians, about 10 percent of whom are Christian. Egypt's second largest Islamist group, the Nour party, said in a statement that it agreed to the army roadmap in order to avoid further conflict. Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, came under huge pressure in the run-up to Sunday's anniversary of his maiden year in office, with his opponents accusing him of failing the 2011 revolution by concentrating power in Islamist hands. The embattled 62-year-old proposed a "consensus government" as a way out of the crisis. That was not enough for the army, and Mansour, a previously little known judge, was installed as the country's interim leader.

Syria's Assad says political Islam being defeated in Egypt
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fighting to crush a two-year-old uprising against four decades of rule by him and his late father, said on Wednesday the upheaval in Egypt was a defeat for political Islam. "Whoever brings religion to use in politics or in favor of one group at the expense of another will fall anywhere in the world," Assad was quoted as telling the official Thawra newspaper, according to an official Facebook page. "The summary of what is happening in Egypt is the fall of what is called political Islam." Relishing the possible downfall of one of Assad's most vocal critics, Syrian television carried live coverage of the huge street demonstrations in Egypt demanding the departure of President Mohamed Mursi. Assad's late father, Hafez al-Assad, used the military to crush an armed insurgency against his rule led by the Muslim Brotherhood, killing many thousands in the conservative city of Hama, which became a centre of pro-democracy demonstrations when the uprising against the younger Assad erupted in March 2011. Thousands of leftists were also jailed and tortured. The Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood became one of the most powerful factions behind the mostly Sunni Muslim uprising against Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, and is being helped by Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah militia. Morsy has expressed support for foreign intervention against Assad and attended a rally two weeks ago calling for holy war in Syria. A month ago, Syrian authorities responded to a wave of protests against Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, another fierce opponent of Assad, by calling on him to halt what it said was violent repression and step aside.