Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cairo tells Turkey not to meddle in Egypt’s internal affairs

The new Egyptian government has warned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government officials against meddling in the North African’s internal affairs. In an interview with Turkey’s English-language daily Today's Zaman on Sunday, Erdogan said that ousted leader Mohamed Morsi is the only legitimate president of Egypt. "Currently, my president in Egypt is Morsi because he was elected by the people," he stated. "If we don't judge the situation like that it is tantamount to ignoring the Egyptian people.” In separate statements, Turkish government officials recently denounced the Egyptian military's removal of Morsi, the country's first democratically elected leader, as an "unacceptable coup”. On Tuesday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed "strong resentment at comments like these, which… represent a clear intervention in internal Egyptian affairs," said Badr Abdelatty, the ministry spokesman. Later in the day, Egyptian presidential spokesman Ahmed Elmoslmany also issued a statement about the issue, saying, “I consider the (Turkish) statements inappropriate and I consider it interference in Egyptian internal affairs.” "I clearly say to Ankara, it should respect Egyptian sovereignty and the will of the Egyptian people. Egypt did not interfere in what happened in Taksim Square," Elmoslmany said, referring to anti-government protests in Istanbul last month. "Turkey has to understand it is speaking about a big country with a great history," he added. Meanwhile, according to a report published on Tuesday in Today's Zaman, Turkish President Abdullah Gul demanded the immediate release of Morsi, who is being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location. On July 13, several Egyptian MPs in the disbanded upper house of parliament also rejected the ouster of Morsi. Speaking at a public rally organized by the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, some two dozen members of the Shura Council demanded the army reinstate Morsi, and called on other legislatures across the world not to recognize Egypt’s new military-appointed administration. They rejected the legality of any action taken following what they called a military coup d’état against the elected president -- including the dissolution of the parliament. In a televised speech late on July 3 night, Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that Morsi, a former leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was no longer in office and declared that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mahmoud Mansour, had been appointed as the new interim president of Egypt. The army also suspended the constitution. Army officials said ousted President Morsi, who took office in June 2012, was being held “preventively” by the military. On July 4, Mansour was sworn in as interim president. Next day, he dissolved the Shura Council by decree. On July 5, Muslim Brotherhood supreme leader Mohammed Badie said the coup against Morsi is illegal and millions will remain on the street until he is reinstated as president. Badie vowed to "complete the revolution" that toppled the Western-backed regime of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The Egyptians launched the revolution against the pro-Israeli regime on January 25, 2011, which eventually brought an end to the 30-year dictatorship of Mubarak on February 11, 2011.

The Whole System Failed Trayvon Martin

In a way, the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for his killing of Trayvon Martin was more powerful than a guilty verdict could ever have been. It was the perfect wrenching coda to a story that illustrates just how utterly and completely our system of justice — both moral and legal — failed Martin and his family. This is not to dispute the jury’s finding — one can intellectually rationalize the decision — as much as it is to howl at the moon, to yearn for a brighter reality for the politics around dark bodies, to raise a voice and say, this case is a rallying call, not a death dirge. The system began to fail Martin long before that night. The system failed him when Florida’s self-defense laws were written, allowing an aggressor to claim self-defense in the middle of an altercation — and to use deadly force in that defense — with no culpability for his role in the events that led to that point. The system failed him because of the disproportionate force that he and the neighborhood watchman could legally bring to the altercation — Zimmerman could legally carry a concealed firearm, while Martin, who was only 17, could not. The system failed him when the neighborhood watchman grafted on stereotypes the moment he saw him, ascribing motive and behavior and intent and criminal history to a boy who was just walking home. The system failed him when the bullet ripped through his chest, and the man who shot him said he mounted him and stretched his arms out wide, preventing him from even clutching the spot that hurt. The system failed him in those moments just after he was shot when he was surely aware that he was about to die, but before life’s light fully passed from his body — and no one came to comfort him or try to save him. The system failed him when the slapdash Sanford police did a horrible job of collecting and preserving evidence. The system failed him when those officers apparently didn’t even value his dead body enough to adequately canvass the complex to make sure that no one was missing a teen. The system failed him when he was labeled a John Doe and his lifeless body spent the night alone and unclaimed. The system failed him when the man who the police found standing over the body of a dead teenager, a man who admitted to shooting him and still had the weapon, was taken in for questioning and then allowed to walk out of the precinct without an arrest or even a charge, to go home after taking a life and take to his bed. The system failed him when it took more than 40 days and an outpouring of national outrage to get an arrest. The system failed him when a strangely homogenous jury — who may well have been Zimmerman’s peers but were certainly not the peers of the teenager, who was in effect being tried in absentia — was seated. The system failed him when the prosecution put on a case for the Martin family that many court-watchers found wanting. The system failed him when the discussion about bias became so reductive as to be either-or rather than about situational fluidity and the possibility of varying responses to varying levels of perceived threat. The system failed him when everyone in the courtroom raised racial bias in roundabout ways, but almost never directly — for example, when the defense held up a picture of a shirtless Martin and told the jurors that this was the person Zimmerman encountered the night he shot him. But in fact it was not the way Zimmerman had seen Martin. Consciously or subconsciously, the defense played on an old racial trope: asking the all-female jury — mostly white — to fear the image of the glistening black buck, as Zimmerman had. This case is not about an extraordinary death of an extraordinary person. Unfortunately, in America, people are lost to gun violence every day. Many of them look like Martin and have parents who presumably grieve for them. This case is about extraordinary inequality in the presumption of innocence and the application of justice: why was Martin deemed suspicious and why was his killer allowed to go home? Sometimes people just need a focal point. Sometimes that focal point becomes a breaking point. The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies — like stop-and-frisk, and in this case neighborhood watch — regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It’s like burning down a house to rid it of mice. As a parent, particularly a parent of black teenage boys, I am left with the question, “Now, what do I tell my boys?” We used to say not to run in public because that might be seen as suspicious, like they’d stolen something. But according to Zimmerman, Martin drew his suspicion at least in part because he was walking too slowly. So what do I tell my boys now? At what precise pace should a black man walk to avoid suspicion? And can they ever stop walking away, or running away, and simply stand their ground? Can they become righteously indignant without being fatally wounded? Is there anyplace safe enough, or any cargo innocent enough, for a black man in this country? Martin was where he was supposed to be — in a gated community — carrying candy and a canned drink. The whole system failed Martin. What prevents it from failing my children, or yours? I feel that I must tell my boys that, but I can’t. It’s stuck in my throat. It’s an impossibly heartbreaking conversation to have. So, I sit and watch in silence, and occasionally mouth the word, “breathe,” because I keep forgetting to.

Obama: 'Suspicious' GOP opposes immigration overhaul for political reasons

President Barack Obama charged Tuesday that some Republicans oppose comprehensive legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration policies because they are “suspicious” that the measure will swell the ranks of Democrats. "I think some in the House who believe that immigration will encourage further demographic changes -- and that may not be good for them politically," he told Norma Garcia, of Telemundo's KXTX in Fort Worth, Texas. Obama also rejected calls for a piecemeal approach to the problem – as advocated by some key GOP lawmakers – and said he hoped that the bill could reach his desk in the fall. The president had previously said he hoped it would be done before lawmakers head home next month -- and face voters potentially angry about the sweeping blueprint. The president's comments came as he sat down for four question-and-answer sessions with Spanish-language TV interviewers, part of a White House push behind the measure, which has stalled in the Republican-held House of Representatives. "I don't think that we're gonna see it before the August recess," Obama told Garcia. Republican struggles with the bill mean "we may have to go through several more weeks of work before we actually pass the bill. So it probably will -- hopefully happen in the fall." And he told Maria Rozman of Telemundo’s KDEN station in Denver that “Republican House members are wrestling with it.” “Many of their constituents are suspicious of this, suspicious of what immigration might mean for their political futures in some cases,” he told Rozman. (Obama’s comments may have been directed at complaints from some Republicans, like Rep. Steve King of Iowa, who have described immigration reform as a way to give citizenship to “undocumented Democrats.” But at least he wasn’t concern-trolling Republicans, as some supporters of the overhaul have done.) Obama rejected Republican calls for doing immigration reform piecemeal – notably by pressing ahead with tougher border security first, and only then taking up a potential “path to citizenship” for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants on U.S. soil today. “The danger of doing it in pieces is that a lot of groups want different things. And you know, there's a tendency I think to put off the hard stuff until the end,” he told Garcia. “And if you've eaten your dessert before you've eaten your meal, at least with my children, sometimes they don't end up eating their vegetables.” “So we need to, I think, do this as a complete package.,” he said. Obama also rejected the notion that legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants must wait until U.S. borders are perfectly secure. “We can't make it perfect. You're never going to have zero people crossing the border without the proper papers,” he told Rozman. “But we can't use that as an excuse not to solve the problem.” “If we know that what we're doing right now is not working as well as it should, then let's fix 80% of it, 90% of it,” he said. “The fact that it might not fix 100% of it is not a reason not to significantly improve the system that we have right now." Obama also sat down with two Univision stations, KMEX of Los Angeles and WXTV of New York/New Jersey.

Trayvon Martin case: Los Angeles police warn troublemakers

Los Angeles police are preparing to turn out in force to deter any fresh disturbances following the acquittal of a Florida neighbourhood watchman who killed an unarmed black teenager. Police Chief Charlie Beck said criminal behaviour would not be tolerated. On Monday night, about 150 people broke away from a march, defacing property, assaulting people and stopping traffic. George Zimmerman, 29, was cleared on Saturday of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's death in February 2012. "We cannot allow a small group of individuals to not only damage the community, strike fear in the community, but also distort the message of so many in this community," Chief Beck said on Tuesday.
Some 300 police officers responded to Monday's demonstrations, making 14 arrests. Aerial news footage showed troublemakers kicking and punching people. Stevie Wonder boycott On Tuesday, civil rights leader Rev Al Sharpton said he would lead a "Justice for Trayvon" day in 100 cities around the US, appealing for federal civil rights charges to be brought against Mr Zimmerman. "People all across the country will gather to show that we are not having a two- or three-day anger fit," Mr Sharpton said as he unveiled the plans. "This is a social movement for justice." At noon on Saturday, vigils are planned outside federal buildings in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. There will also be a civil rights conference next week, Mr Sharpton added, to address a controversial Florida law known as stand your ground, which permits the use of deadly force if a person feels seriously threatened. Mr Zimmerman's legal team did not cite stand your ground - instead they argued successfully at trial that the shooting was a simple case of self-defence. On Monday, the US Department of Justice said it would resume its investigation into whether Trayvon Martin's civil rights had been violated during the fatal confrontation. In order to file civil rights charges, they would have to show that Mr Zimmerman was motivated by racial animosity. Trayvon Martin's family has said the teenager was racially profiled, but no evidence of racial bias was presented during the trial. American soul singer Stevie Wonder reportedly said on Sunday that he would not perform in Florida, or any other jurisdiction with a stand your ground law. "Wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world," he told fans at a concert in Quebec City, Canada.

U.S: Black preachers calling for wide protests to press for Zimmerman charges

Black preachers said on Tuesday they were planning peaceful protests in 100 cities across the United States this weekend to press for federal charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Standing outside the U.S. Justice Department building in Washington, the preachers pledged to hold the protests near federal buildings and said action was justified because of what they see as the civil rights questions surrounding the death.
A Florida jury on Saturday found George Zimmerman, 29, not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, said he shot the unarmed Martin, a black youth, in self-defense. "People all over the country will gather to show that we are not having a two- or three-day anger fit," said Al Sharpton, a preacher, television host and civil rights advocate joined by about 15 other clergy. Sharpton said demonstrations were planned for Saturday in 100 cities to push for new charges against Zimmerman and the repeal of Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law. "We don't need consolation. We need legislation, and we need some federal prosecution," Sharpton said. The Justice Department, which has offices in every major U.S. city, said Martin's death remains under investigation. Any charges against Zimmerman would likely fall under a 2009 law against hate crimes, but lawyers with civil rights expertise said a new prosecution was unlikely because of the lack of evidence that racism drove Zimmerman to shoot.
A juror in Zimmerman's trial told CNN she did not think Zimmerman racially profiled Martin. "All of us thought race did not play a role," said the juror, granted anonymity by the television news network. LEGAL QUESTIONS Protesters at demonstrations following the verdict have accused Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, of racially profiling Martin. Sharpton said he was aware of the legal questions, but he said Zimmerman had a pattern of profiling black men as criminal suspects. He also quoted Zimmerman's lament of "they always get away" to a police dispatcher upon seeing Martin. "Who is they? And get away with what, since all he (Martin) was doing was going home?" Sharpton said. Zimmerman's defense lawyers have said their client was viciously attacked by Martin. Attorney General Eric Holder was scheduled to address the NAACP civil rights organization at 4:30 p.m. in Orlando, Florida, 25 miles from the small city of Sanford where the trial took place. The first black attorney general, Holder said on Monday that Martin's death was tragic and unnecessary but he did not forecast the likelihood of new charges. The black preachers said they considered Martin's death a spark for a renewal of the U.S. civil rights movement by a generation that grew up after the desegregation struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. "There is going to be an intellectual riot," said Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple church in Baltimore, Maryland. "One hundred cities are going to feel the wrath of a guided, intellectual, meaningful, spiritual uprising."

Israel trains for border clash with Syria

By Vladimir Duthiers
The Israeli army's Golani brigade recently wrapped up a two-week exercise of ground troops, special forces and air units along Israel's 81-mile-long (130 km) frontier with Syria. The drill was not aimed at preparing for an all-out war scenario but to respond to a new terror threat that has emerged from the ashes of the Syrian revolution. Israel Defense Forces claim that close to 3,000 fighters from the militant group Hezbollah have infiltrated Syria in support of the Assad regime and several hundred are now operating the Golan Heights. Hezbollah -- the Iranian-backed group based in southern Lebanon - has called for the destruction of the state of Israel. Leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has stated that once the Syrian uprising is put down, he will turn his attention to Israel. "Statements that were made by high ranking officials that the Syrian border will become a border with terror is something we are dealing with every day," said Lt. Col. Anan Abbas, the Golani Brigade Commander. "We are making sure that there will be no penetration through the northern border of Israel." Abbas gave CNN an exclusive tour of the region that has seen a tripling of Israeli forces and intelligence gathering over the last six months. The IDF now monitors the region 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Corporal Chen Holtzman, a soldier working in the IDF's Intelligence Operations Center, said they have the authority to deploy special forces units, artillery and aerial bombings if they suspect a threat to Israel. "We can see it for a few miles coming at us," she said. "If we see something coming at us, we can tell that immediately and everybody is prepared to do something about that." In addition to the constant surveillance, Israel is erecting a fence with Syria along its side of the disengagement zone. The mountainous Golan, known for its beauty and favored by backpackers and hikers, is one of the most traveled areas for Israelis. It was captured by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 against Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, but since 1974, right up to the Syrian revolution, the area was a quiet, almost bucolic military posting. Syria's children deserve chance to be kids again The turmoil in Syria changed the equation and in June, both countries nearly came to a full-on, open confrontation at a crossing post in Quneitra. Syrian rebels overran government-backed forces and for a few hours occupied the area. The Israeli forces watched, ready to intercede if the fighting spilled across the border. "The shooting began at 5am," recalled Abbas. "It was a morning full of fighting where the Syrian army and rebels were shooting at one another." To strike back at the rebels, the Syrian army moved several tanks and armored vehicles into area and the IDF went on high alert. "We had a lot of forces ready to react. Tanks, intelligence, special forces ... artillery, air force -- everything was ready for this incident," said Abbas. "If we would have seen that there was a leakage or direct fire into our territory we would have reacted immediately and destroyed the source of fire." Even before the skirmish at Quneitra, shots between rebels and Syrian government forces have strayed across the border. The IDF's response to these is to destroy the firing position -- whether rebel or Syrian army. "I do not differentiate between a force that is Syrian or a force of the rebels," Abbas said. "If I identify armed men next to the fence, we are prepared to face all the threats and respond."

Egypt : The Next President?: A 12-Year-Old Egyptian Boy Flabbergasts An Interviewer.

India Marks End of Era with Last Telegram

Thousands of people crowded telegraph offices around India to send the country's last telegrams, as the government shut down the 163-year old service on Sunday. Most Sunday afternoons, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone at the Central Telegraph Office in New Delhi - let alone people lined up in the rain. But this day is different. For engineer Rasmeet Chawla - it is the end of an era. “I am here for the same reason as everybody. This is the last day, and I wanted to have a souvenir of this telegraph medium,” he admitted. Most of the people who crowded the office were young and have grown up in the age of mobile phones and e-mail, technology that eventually helped make the telegram obsolete. But others like Neelima Chandak, who brought her 19-year old daughter to the office, remembered the weight the small slip of paper carried when it was finally delivered to its destination. “Most of the time, it used to be anxiety. As soon as you heard the word ‘telegram,’ you mostly associated it with news of death and sometimes a job,” she recalled. On July 14, the last for the Central Telegraph Office in the Indian capital, most of the telegrams carried nostalgic messages and good wishes for loved ones. By late Sunday, with just a few hours to go before the doors closed for good, 1,500 telegrams had been processed - compared to 10 to 20 on any other day. An employee for 31 years, Jagdish Chand joked the telegraph service would never have incurred huge losses and be shut down had it seen crowds like this through the years. Still, he said he is proud to be part of a communication mode that carried messages during India’s fight for independence and was a vital part of Indians’ day-to-day life. “If someone had to be picked up at the railway station or from the airport, the telegram used to reach [their loved ones’ homes] on the same day," he explained. "I was very happy that along with doing my job, I was also doing a public service.” His service along with that of about 1,000 other workers across India will no longer be needed. Many will either retire or be transferred to other departments within state-owned telecommunications company BSNL - which will continue its focus on expanding Internet and mobile phone services across India.

Ramadan Leads to Demonstrations in Turkey

Ramadan observances in Turkey are quickly becoming a catalyst for anti-government protests. Large public Iftar dinners that take place at the end of daily fasting, and are designed to protest the government, are being organized by self-described "Anti-Capitalist Muslims". The Islamic fasting month of Ramadan has seen anti-government protesters adopt a new strategy - gathering on the city’s main shopping street for Iftar, the meal that breaks the day of fasting.
Just a few-hundred meters from the site of weeks of anti-government unrest at Gezi Park, demonstrators sitting on newspapers shared food as riot police backed by armored cars looked on. One protestor, who did not want to be identified, believed the dinners send a powerful message. "People have something to say and people have problems with the government, this pressure of the government is not something acceptable. And having the Iftar together, from all kinds of people, from different levels of society, different thoughts, different feelings is the best way to impress themselves against this pressure of the government," he said. The protest dinners are organized by a group calling itself "Anti-Capitalist Muslims." Group leader Ihsan Eliacik accused the ruling Islamist AK Party of trying to divide Turks. He said charges by the prime minister that anti-government protests were against religion were false, and "we are the ones defending religion." He said "the only division in Turkey is between those who seek and receive benefits from those in power and those who do not." The Anti-Capitalist Muslims are protesting what they say is the ruling AK Party's party’s increasingly ostentatious behavior and the enrichment of its members. It has protested at Iftar dinners held at luxury hotels that it says are attended by government supporters and ministers. The author of the book “Islam Without Extremes”, Mustafa Akyol, said the group was an alternative to the ruling Islamists and the opposition secularists. "Maybe a bit like the liberation theology in Latin America, in the way they understand religion. So they are not a big group, their supporters are small, and I do not expect them to be turning into a larger political reality. But they are adding color to the discussion and I am glad they are out there, showing that there are not just two monolithic camps, but there is more diversity actually in society," said Akyol. According to the government's statistics the divide between rich and poor has grown significantly, despite record economic growth during its decade long rule. Political scientist Yuksel Taskin of Istanbul’s Marmara University said the Anti-Capitalist Muslim message of combining religion and social justice could find fertile ground in Turkey. "They strongly challenge the AK Party's direct claim that they represent Islam," said Taskin. "They have a potential among youth. Certain marginal ideas can find some room in universities and gradually they may actually pass to other sections of society. This is generally what happens in Turkey. Our economy has grown four times, but ordinary shopkeepers and workers they are aware they are not benefiting from this. This increases the attractiveness of social Islam. Because people are quite religious in Turkey, so they like when religion and social concerns comes together." With the Turkish economy showing signs of slowing, and unemployment edging higher, along with continuing anti-government protests, observers warn the message of the Anti-Capitalist Muslims could become more than just an irritant to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when he faces national elections next year.

In Second Term, Obama Is Seen as Using ‘Hidden Hand’ Approach

In the nearly two weeks since Egypt’s military seized power, President Obama has promoted a better federal bureaucracy, given a medal to George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame and had former President George Bush to the White House for lunch. What he has not done is publicly address the violent upheaval in Cairo. That is not to say Mr. Obama is uninvolved. In the privacy of the West Wing, away from the cameras, he has made calls to leading figures in the Arab world and has met with advisers trying to influence the crisis. But his low public profile on issues like immigration, Syria and health care underscores a calculated presidential approach that admirers consider nuanced and detractors call passive. While other presidents have put the bully in the bully pulpit, Mr. Obama uses his megaphone, and the power that comes with it, sparingly, speaking out when he decides his voice can shape the trajectory of an issue and staying silent when he thinks it might be counterproductive. In his first year, the president seemed to be everywhere, talking about everything. In his fifth year, he is choosing his opportunities — even if it appears he is not always in command of events. Some compare Mr. Obama’s approach to the “hidden hand” style of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who often steered events behind the scenes without being public about his role. Jim Newton, the author of “Eisenhower: The White House Years,” a book with back-cover blurbs from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry, said Mr. Obama was like the former president in avoiding major international conflict, relying more on covert action and letting Congress take the lead in legislation. “In those senses, Obama does appear to me to be taking a page from Eisenhower’s playbook,” Mr. Newton said. “What I don’t know, however, is how aggressively Obama is working out of view on these matters. The essence of Eisenhower’s hidden hand, of course, is that there was real work going on that people didn’t know at the time. If that’s true now, then Obama really is emulating Ike. If, on the other hand, he’s simply doing nothing or very little, that would be passivity, not hidden-hand leadership.” Susan Eisenhower, a granddaughter of the late president, said it might be too soon to tell. “Eisenhower’s hidden-hand means of meeting his objectives was not really evident until his papers were opened, many decades after he left office,” Ms. Eisenhower said. But she added that Mr. Obama should emulate her grandfather by engaging in a deep review of Middle East policy, much as Eisenhower’s Solarium project developed a grand strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union. “Ultimately, Obama will be judged for his strategic goals and his capacity to execute on them,” Ms. Eisenhower said. “Finding something that works is nearly impossible to do in a rapidly changing security environment unless there is an overarching way of thinking about U.S. interests.” Just as Eisenhower, the 34th president, pulled troops out of Korea and avoided other military adventures, Mr. Obama has pulled out of Iraq, is leaving Afghanistan, has limited intervention in Libya largely to airstrikes and has resisted being drawn directly into the civil war in Syria. Mr. Obama’s inner circle includes some Eisenhower admirers. Mr. Hagel bought 30 copies of a recent book on the former president’s handling of the 1956 Suez crisis to distribute to fellow administration officials. Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, cites Eisenhower’s emphasis on planning. Eisenhower kept his hand hidden while still speaking regularly with reporters. He held news conferences an average of every two weeks. Mr. Obama, by contrast, gives interviews to select organizations, but has far fewer day-in, day-out interactions with journalists than his recent predecessors, and therefore avoids being asked about many issues of the moment. “You have to pick your moments to weigh in where the president weighing in will do the most good,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president. “That’s how we look at it. The thing we’ve accepted over the course of time is every decision like this, either way, is going to engender criticism: Why did he talk about this? Why didn’t he talk about that? Why did he weigh in now?” Mr. Obama has learned through hard experience that responding to news media pressure for his views on the latest news can be hazardous. He discovered that months after taking office, when his reaction to the arrest of an black Harvard professor in his own home stirred controversy. The perils came home again more recently, when sharp comments he made about court-martialing members of the military accused of sexual assault provided ammunition to defense lawyers, who called that improper interference. “It’s not his job to narrate current events for the public,” Mr. Pfeiffer said. “It can complicate an already complicated situation.” Mr. Pfeiffer said an exercise in lessons learned, conducted when he became communications director early in the first term, showed that Mr. Obama was talking in public too much. “What we saw from that is if you’re talking about everything all the time, it’s harder for the public to distinguish the things that are most important,” he said. Mr. Obama sometimes leaves it to others to discuss controversial decisions. When he decided to arm Syrian rebels, he had his deputy national security adviser announce it. When the president decided to postpone a significant element of his health care program for a year, he had the Treasury Department post the news on its Web site. On immigration, probably the most ambitious legislative initiative of his second term, Mr. Obama has kept his public involvement to a minimum to avoid alienating Republicans. But he did tape an Internet radio address on the topic on Saturday and plans to talk with Spanish-language television networks on Tuesday. On Egypt, the White House has detected no advantage in Mr. Obama’s addressing the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, just as the administration has delayed taking action like cutting off aid, as required by law in the case of a military coup. The president’s public reticence reflects a judgment that speaking out could do more harm than good. “The president has to be very careful what he says, how he says it,” said Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to Mr. Obama. “I think part of the reason to be adopting the kind of posture we have takes account of what’s happening in Egypt and the fluidity of it on the one hand, but also the public reaction to us. Whatever we do and say now is going to be seized on by one side or the other.”

Pakistan: Electricity shortfall reaches 3,000MW

Electricity shortfall has reached 3,000 megawatts on Tuesday. Whereas power breakdown was reported in several areas due to technical problems. According to power ministry official, electricity generation remained 13,800MW against the demand of 16,800MW, creating a shortfall of 3,000MW. Rural areas are facing load shedding for over 12 hours while urban areas are suffering up to 8 hours of power outages. Long and unannounced phases of load shedding has made lives of people miserable as prolonged outages have resulted in shortage of drinking water in several areas.

Pakistan's Taliban presence turns Syria into a theatre of global jihad

The Hindu
The Pakistani Taliban’s revelation that its fighters, drawn from various countries, have joined the Syrian rebels in battling President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces points to Syria becoming a theatre of global jihad. Quoting Taliban commanders in Pakistan, Reuters reported that hundreds of fighters joined the opposition combating the Syrian army. The report said the purpose of the exercise was to establish closer links with al-Qaeda’s central leadership. Figting group In Syria, the Taliban has been operating with groups such as the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra, whose fighters have been drawn from neighbouring countries such as Libya and Tunisia, forming a nucleus of fighters in the Levant that can mutate in the service of global jihad. Analysts say outfits such as the al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda in Iraq and a number of other extremists groups have organised themselves under the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF) umbrella group, forming the most potent fighting core of the Syrian opposition. According to Reuters, Taliban fighters had gone to Syria to fight alongside their “Mujahedeen friends”. “When our brothers needed our help, we sent hundreds of fighters along with our Arab friends,” said one senior Taliban commander. He added that the group would soon release videos demonstrating the “victories” recorded by the group in Syria. “Since our Arab brothers have come here for our support, we are bound to help them in their respective countries and that is what we did in Syria,” another commander was quoted as saying. “We have established our own camps in Syria. Some of our people go and then return after spending some time fighting there.” After overrunning the strategic town of Qusair on Syria’s border with Lebanon and tightening its grip around the militant stronghold of Homs, the Syrian army is aiming for peripheral consolidation around the capital Damascus. Iran’s Press TV has posted video footage of the Syrian army’s advance along Al-Qaboun and Jobar — suburbs of Damascus. Troops have blocked a tunnel and established control over an industrial zone that was used by the opposition in Al-Qaboun to reinforce fighters in Jobar. The Syrian military has also claimed that it has recovered chemical agents and chlorine from a militant hideout in Jobar.

Malala’s diary inspires Pashtun girls yearning for education

For many in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, is a symbol of resilience and courage in her fight for the right of young girls to receive an education. For hardline right-wing groups and conspiracy theorists, she is a controversial figure accused of being a “CIA agent” and having staged the attack on herself.But for young Pashtun girls in Karachi, Malala’s struggle to get an education in the Swat region amid an insurgency is an inspiration. This part of Malala’s life – documented in a diary published by the BBC – has encouraged many of them to start writing and sharing their own dreams of staying in school. After the Pakistani Taliban attempted to assassinate Malala last October, a young teacher with the Teach for Pakistan programme started reading Malala’s diary to her pupils at a government-run secondary school in Karachi. “They had heard other things about her,” recalls Afrah Qureshi, who teaches English to 200 students at the school, in a poor, conservative Pashtun district. “Some said that they had heard she had committed blasphemy, that she had said something about religion. And then I asked them if they had read Malala’s diary.” Qureshi began reading a page of Malala’s diary to her young pupils every day in her class, and encouraged them to begin writing their own. As they read her diary, their perceptions changed almost entirely. “They loved reading her thoughts,” said Qureshi. “I wanted them to make an informed opinion.” One 14-year-old girl, Sara*, writes in an elegant, cursive hand and at length about her own aspirations and scenes from everyday life. “I think Malala is a brave and an intelligent girl,” reads the first entry in her own diary, titled A Tribute to Malala. “The Taliban should not stop her to go to school because every person has their own life. A killer should not attack on her because it is not right … We all should respect our talented people, as we respect Malala.” Sara said that she had enjoyed reading Malala’s diary and her story in her own words, and she loved writing her own diary. “It improves my English,” she said. One year on, she says she can’t wait to return to school after the summer holiday is over. “I didn’t like studying so much before, but now I really want to. My younger brothers, my sister and I … we are all reading our books.” Sara’s diary is a reflection of the perils in the city she lives in – Karachi – where an average of eight people are killed in assassinations and clashes between rival factions every day. “About 8 pm there were two bomb blasts in Karachi and I’m so sad,” she wrote in November. “Why (do) killers kill the people? Do they feel good after killing the people?” Afrah Qureshi said Sara’s father was incredulous at first, when she had a conversation with him in English. “You must have rote-learned this,” he told his daughter, according to Qureshi. Now, he’s proud of his daughter’s English skills. Aliya, a 13-year-old pupil, exuberantly wished Qureshi “Happy Malala Day, teacher!” Aliya said she had been moved by reading Malala’s diary. “I felt very bad that she wasn’t allowed to study. It was only her parents who did a great service to her and helped her do so,” she said. She rattled off a list of things she wants to do when she’s older, including going to one of the country’s most prestigious private universities. “I want to take science subjects in class 9 and class 10, and then study computer science at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences), and then I’m going to work for Teach for Pakistan!,” she said, referring to the nationwide movement of graduates who volunteer to teach in under-resourced schools. At a parent-teacher conference, Qureshi recalled a girl’s father telling her that he was “very worried” about his daughter’s future. “I see that she’s so intelligent and I want to help her, but how?” he said. Despite the challenges, Teach for Pakistan says these young girls are incredibly eager to learn, and spend their breaks in the classroom so they have an opportunity to closely engage with their teachers. The organisation’s teaching fellows work with the communities and the parents – who they consider the biggest stakeholders – to ensure that they are all on board and involved with the girls’ education. In Aliya and Sara’s school, enrolment has nearly doubled this year as a result. More women are applying to work at Teach for Pakistan, which means that they can place more teachers in girls’ schools. Another entry by Sara recalls a conversation she had with her sister about what she wanted to do later in life. “Sometimes I think: what will I become? I like many professions like singer, actor, writer, teacher, poet whatever, but my most favourite is army. If I cannot become something special, I want to become a good person.” *The names of pupils have been changed to protect their identitiesgns

Jamaat a ‘criminal organisation’

The first war crimes tribunal of Bangladesh on Monday said in its judgement, sentencing Jamaat-e-Islami guru Ghulam Azam to 90 years in prison, that the party had acted as a ‘criminal organisation’.
The three-judge tribunal found the former Jamaat chief guilty of all the charges levelled against him that included conspiracy, incitement and complicity to war crimes as well as murder. The court also urged the government to take measures to prevent anti-Liberation elements from holding public offices. A former Dhaka University student leader, Azam was also found guilty for his superior role as head of Jamaat. The tribunal in its damning indictment stated that Jamaat had played a ‘foul role’ during the independence of Pakistan, under the leadership of the party’s founder Syed Abul A’la Maududi, and also during the independence of Bangladesh — this time under the leadership of Maududi’s disciple Ghulam Azam. The judgement states under the section on Jamaat’s role during the ‘independence struggle of Pakistan and Bangladesh’ that the party had opposed ‘the idea of a separate state for Muslims’ but turned its colours as soon as Pakistan got its independence in 1947. It then “claimed itself as the only Islamic patriotic political party of Pakistan”. Noting Jamaat’s opposition to Bangladesh’s independence also, the judgement states, “But as soon as Bangladesh got its independence in 1971 at the cost of millions of lives then Jamaat-e-Islami claims itself as a true patriotic party of Bangladesh, terming those pro-liberation parties as Indian agents.” The judgement then bins the party’s political wisdom saying that it had played a ‘foul role’ during both the historic occasions and goes further saying that Jamaat “utterly failed to realise the pulse of the common people” both times likely “due to its lack of farsightedness caused by fanaticism”. The judgement then turns its attention to the accused saying that ‘based on facts of common knowledge and evidence’ it could be gathered that “under the leadership of Ghulam Azam almost all the members of Jamaat-e-Islami along with its subordinate organs actively opposed the very birth of Bangladesh in 1971…” It goes on to say that after 42 years, some of the anti-liberation people are still at the helm of Jamaat-e-Islami. As a result, said tribunal Chairman Justice A T M Fazle Kabir, in a stiffening tone, the younger Jamaat members “are being psychologically reared up and nurtured with anti-liberation sentiment and communal feeling which is a matter of great anxiety for a nation”. The judgement noted that there was no proof of Jamaat ever changing its attitude towards the Liberation War by way of repentance or showing respect to the martyrs. The tribunal chief went on that in the interest of a democratic and non-communal Bangladesh “no such anti-liberation people should be allowed to sit in the helm of Executives of the Government, social or political parties including government and non-government organisations”. “We are of the opinion that the Government may take necessary steps to that end for debarring those anti-liberation persons from holding the said superior posts in order to establish a democratic and non-communal country for which millions of people sacrificed their lives during the War of Liberation.” The final part was perhaps the most damning for Jamaat. The tribunal’s judgement states, “Taking the contextual circumstances coupled with documentary evidence into consideration, we are led to observe that Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party under the leadership of accused Prof. Ghulam Azam intentionally functioned as a ‘Criminal Organisation’ especially during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.”

Afghanistan: Escalating Setbacks for Women

Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, should reject a proposed criminal law revision that would effectively deny women legal protection from domestic violence, Human Rights Watch said today. A new draft of the criminal procedure code, seen by Human Rights Watch, is currently being considered by Afghanistan’s parliament. The proposed language would prohibit the relatives of a criminal defendant from being questioned as a witness against the accused. Should this provision become law, victims and other family members who have been witnesses to abuse will be silenced in domestic violence cases, making successful prosecutions unlikely. “Afghanistan’s lower house is proposing to protect the batterers of women and girls from criminal punishment,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Legislative approval of this criminal law revision would effectively stop prosecutions of people who beat, forcibly marry, and even sell their female relatives.” Article 26 of the draft law, entitled “Forbiddance of Questioning an Individual as a Witness,” states that “The following people cannot be questioned as a witness: … 4) Relatives of the accused person.” The amended procedure code would pose a serious threat to critical protections for women and girls embodied in Afghanistan’s groundbreaking Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women (the EVAW Law), passed by presidential decree in 2009. The EVAW law provides criminal penalties for various abuses including rape, child marriage, forced marriage, domestic violence, sale of women and girls, and baad, the giving of girls to resolve disputes between families. The proposed ban on testifying against relatives follows several other efforts by the Wolesi Jirga to further weaken the inadequate legal protections for women’s rights, Human Rights Watch said. Members of parliament opposed to women’s rights have increasingly sought to repeal or weaken the EVAW Law. A Wolesi Jirga debate over the EVAW Law in May 2013 was halted after 15 minutes when parliamentarians called for revisions that would have eliminated the minimum marriage age for girls, abolished shelters, and ended criminal penalties for rape and domestic violence. Although the EVAW law has been slowly and unevenly enforced, it has been a crucial tool for fighting violence against women. In May, the Wolesi Jirga passed a revision of Afghanistan’s Electoral Law that deleted an existing guarantee reserving at least 25 percent of seats in each of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial councils for female candidates. The new version of the law provided no set-aside provincial council seats for women. The upper house of parliament, the Meshrano Jirga, subsequently reinstated the set-aside for women on provincial councils. On July 15, Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported that the two houses had agreed upon a version of the law that reduces the set-aside to 20 percent. “It’s perverse that Afghanistan’s parliament is devoting its time and energies to attacking women’s hard-fought legal protections,” Adams said. “The international donors who bankroll the Afghan government should serve notice that they will not underwrite legislative initiatives to victimize women.” The legislative threat emerging from the Wolesi Jirga coincides with other recent developments that indicate a broad-based attack on women’s rights which the government has contributed to, rather than opposed: President Hamid Karzai appointed to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) a former Taliban government official, Abdul Rahman Hotak, who publicly denounced the EVAW Law. Hotak was quoted in the New York Times on July 1 saying, “The people who have written that law do not know Afghanistan and Afghan society very well – perhaps they think Kabul is Afghanistan.” The same week he told Reuters that in his view the EVAW Law is “violating Islam” and there should be a law that people are “comfortable” with. Another ominous sign of the ongoing rollback in women’s rights in Afghanistan was the decision in early July by an appeals court to release three family members convicted for the torture and starvation of a teenage in-law, Sahar Gul, after serving only about a year of a 10-year sentence for her attempted murder. In 2011, Sahar Gul’s stepbrother sold her for US$5000 to be forcibly married. She was about age 13 or 14 at the time. According to media reports, soon after the marriage her in-laws attempted to force Sahar Gul into prostitution. When she resisted, the in-laws locked her in the basement of their house for months, burned her, pulled out her fingernails and pinched her with pliers. She was found in December 2011 locked in the basement, badly malnourished. The appeals court reversed the sentence and instead ordered the release of Gul’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law for lack of evidence of attempted murder. On July 3, unidentified assailants shot and killed Islam Bibi, the most senior female police officer in insecure Helmand province, on her way to work. The murder highlighted the risks to women in public life and the Afghan government’s failure to protect women under threat. The escalating setbacks to women’s rights have not deterred the Afghan government from trying to put a positive spin on recent developments, Human Rights Watch said. On July 10, an Afghan delegation at the United Nations in Geneva for the first review of Afghanistan’s compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), assured the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that the Afghan government is fully committed to implementing CEDAW and to promoting women’s rights. “While Afghan officials give lip service to women’s rights at the UN, the president, parliament and courts are actively undermining those rights,” Adams said. “Afghanistan’s foreign donors should be loud and clear that they won’t stand by while Afghan women’s hard-won rights are swept away.”

Pakistan: ‘Sectarian attack’: Four Hazara traders shot dead in Quetta

The Express Tribune
Four tradesmen hailing from the frequently-targeted Hazara community were gunned down and two passers-by were seriously wounded in a targeted killing incident in Quetta on Monday night. Police officials said this was a sectarian assault. The incident occurred just when the market area near Kaghan Hotel was bustling with activity a few minutes before the Iftar meal. There were some reports that proscribed Sunni organisation, Jaish-ul-Islam, had claimed responsibility for the attack. Raza Hussain, a Hazara community member, and owner of Ali Trading Center along with his three companions, was ambushed by armed men riding a motorbike, carrying sophisticated weapons. The deceased and injured were shifted to Civil Hospital Quetta. Following the incident, Hazara community rushed to the Civil Hospital Quetta, blocked the Jinnah Road by placing barricades and shouted slogans against perpetrators and law enforcement agencies. The Hazara Democratic Party (HDP) condemned the killing of Hazara community members and announced a shutter-down strike to protest the incident. HDP District Secretary Bostan Ali, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that “the killing of Hazara members is genocide”. He alleged that behind the sectarian targeted killing are secret agencies who are trying to create a civil war situation. Moreover, Shia organisations in the province such as the Balochistan Shia Conference, Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen have announced a three-day mourning against the murder. Expressing shock and grief, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Governor Balochistan Muhammad Khan Achakzai and Chief Minister Balochistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch have also slammed the incident.

Blow to KP health dept as Peshawar reports first polio case

Despite warnings by the media and health experts for the past many months alerting the newly formed government and health department regarding the growing threat of a poliovirus outbreak in the provincial capital, it reported a polio case on Saturday and the health experts were quick to term it the tip of the iceberg. In a recent report in The News by this correspondent titled “Poliovirus about to break loose in KP” it was stated that official documents suggested the province had seen a major upsurge in the reporting of the Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) cases and that a major outbreak of polio cases was in the offing. According to documents of the provincial Health Department, AFP case number EPID KP/30/13/042 Peshawar was confirmed with the presence of poliovirus type 1. The unfortunate child diagnosed with polio was identified as Uzair, son of Dost Mohammad. He is 12 months old and lives in Ijazabad-1, Gulbahar No 4 of Shaheen Muslim Town-1, Peshawar. His samples were collected on June 30 by the relevant authorities, though officials of the health department claimed parents of the child had refused polio drops and termed polio vaccines as un-Islamic. Another set of documents also suggest that two areas in Peshawar, Shaheen Muslim Town and Larama, from wherethe World Health Organisation (WHO) has consistently been taking sewage water samples for assessment and reporting positive results, proved the identification of the poliovirus in the sewage water of the city. “The sewage sample results suggested that Peshawar will definitely report a case sooner or later. Technically, the case is not a surprise at all,” an official of the WHO provincial office told The News on condition of anonymity. In another development, and confirmed after the release of the Abbottabad Commission report that has fixed the responsibility of the dirty role of Dr Shakeel Afridi on Save the Children and USAID and cast serious doubts on the role of the international donor agencies in the country, health experts now think that restoring public trust and lost credibility of the polio campaign amongst the masses will be a mammoth task. “Name a single strategy of the international donor agencies aimed at restoring public trust and credibility of the polio campaign that has not backfired?” questioned a high-ranking officer of the provincial health department. The harsh revelations of the Abbottabad Commission report has only added salt to the injury for the polio programme in the province at a time when it was trying to recover from the targeted attacks on polio team members. It is now required to overcome another challenge. Like the two troubled tribal regions of South Waziristan and North Waziristan, where the government has not been able to run polio campaign and vaccinate children for the past two years, it seems polio teams may find it difficult to reach children and get them vaccinated against the crippling poliovirus in settled districts of the province if practical measures were not taken for removing mistrust from minds of the parents regarding polio vaccines.

Pakistan grapples with rising tide of sectarian violence

The faithful line up to pray in a small Shia mosque hidden away down the dusty side-streets of Peshawar. But the central arch where the imam stands in front of his congregation is covered in blast marks and dark smears. The ornate blue tiles have been smashed. This is where a militant blew himself up just two weeks before. "When I came inside, I saw severed legs, human organs and heads… all over the mosque," says Syed Hussain Hussaini, whose nephew was among the 21 people killed. On the ceiling, walls and even on a building opposite, are pockmarks from hundreds of ball-bearings which had been packed inside the young man's suicide belt. Although today the congregation seems determined to set fear aside, tensions rise rapidly when a man with a pistol inside his clothing is stopped at the gate. A heated argument breaks out as the security guards try to remove the gun. But the man is not - as had been feared - another militant from the majority Sunni Muslim community trying to carry out a second sectarian attack. He is a Shia who had lost his father and uncle in the bombing and was carrying a weapon in case of another attack. He has past form: he shot dead a suicide bomber with the pistol a few years ago. For Syed Hussain Hussaini, the attack on the mosque and a series of other killings since Nawaz Sharif became prime minister last month, prove once again that whatever government takes office, Pakistan's Shia minority, like the rest of the population, will not be protected. The Jihadist militants are getting stronger, he says: "You have seen all over Pakistan, in Karachi, Quetta, and Peshawar, there are bomb blasts, targeted killings and suicide attacks. Governments have always failed right from the first day until today. People are on their own." Figures provided by the Edhi emergency services organisation show that between April and the end of June, 247 people were killed in bombings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. And these figures do not include Waziristan, a militant hotspot. In response to the increasing flow of casualties from the violence, the main regional hospital has just built a new accident and emergency department with six operating theatres. It is expected to open later this year. "It's a huge complex, a hospital by itself," says Professor Arshad Javaid, the chief executive of the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. "I think if I called it the world's largest casualty (department), I would not be exaggerating." Inside the hospital, beneath a sign saying "bomb blast patient", Mohammed Shaheen lies recovering from serious injuries caused by a suicide attack in Mardan almost a month ago. He was attending a funeral and standing close to a local politician who was killed, along with 27 other people. Mr Shaheen believes the violence of the militant groups is now beyond the control of the government. "They wanted to contain it and were taking measures, but they could not succeed. Now only God can do something," he says. So now Nawaz Sharif is under intense pressure to spell out how he plans to bring the situation back under control. State 'unprepared' Many observers believe he came into office without any kind of coherent security strategy and is still in the process of trying to develop one. Mr Sharif has been adamant the economy is his first priority. "I am very disappointed," says retired general Talat Masood, a security and defence analyst. "I think the most important responsibility of the government is protecting people. "I hope they will get over their state - I won't say of slumber - but their state of unpreparedness." A leaked document obtained by the BBC Urdu Service says the spate of attacks carried out by jihadist groups in recent years "appears to be the most serious crisis faced by the country since independence". The document - described as a draft national counter-terrorism and extremism policy - warns that the jihadists want to take Pakistan back "to the stone age", that they have links with al-Qaeda and want the population to "rise up against their un-Islamic leaders". The biggest of the Sunni militant groups is the Pakistani Taliban which has bases in most of the major cities and seems capable of carrying out attacks at will There are signs that other extremist groups such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi - responsible for many of the attacks on the Shia community - are collaborating with the Taliban. The authors of the document are highly critical of the country's political leaders, accusing them of failing to take the lead in tackling extremism, and call for a much more co-ordinated counter-terrorism policy. It is not clear whether this refers to the current or previous governments. So far Mr Sharif's response has been to hold meetings with military and intelligence agencies and call for all major political parties to reach a consensus on the best way forward. While there is agreement that getting the security agencies on side is essential, some observers describe the prime minister's call for an all-party conference as "passing the buck". But senior officials of the governing party such as Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, deny there is a policy vacuum at the moment. "We have been working on this for quite some time," he says. "You have to look at the root causes (of extremist violence) and the best course is dialogue (with the militants). "It is the only way to arrive at a solution. If you are in a hurry and take hasty decisions, you will never get a durable solution and a durable peace." But that could take years and it is not clear what the government will do if the Taliban reject talks or if negotiations break down. Members of the business community in Peshawar, who have been badly hit by the lack of security over the past decade, remain gloomy. "My business has declined 70%," says Mazhar Ul Haq, a leading carpet dealer. And he is doubtful much will change in the near future under the new government. "The militants have spread a lot and I don't know how they (the authorities) can handle it."

Malala, the lady of hope

Daily Times
Mohammad Ahmad
Here you are now, Malala, giving your visionary speech at the UN General Assembly on your 16th birthday. You have made us proud We had lost hope. The clatter of the guns was the only sound that mattered. Exploding IEDs and suicide bombers were terrorising all. Fear was the strongest emotion. Terror was having a field day. The image of the religion of peace was being distorted by the extremists. The response from society was weak while the response of government was strategic. It wanted to make peace with what they called the ‘good Taliban’. The endgame in Afghanistan was all what mattered. The future looked bleak. The timid response meant doom for the nation. Then as a gift from the Almighty, in a society where the strong were fearful and the mighty weak, you stood up and said no to fear. While the terrorists and their radical allies want our society to be silent, you spoke your heart. You raised your voice for all those who believed in knowledge. You stood up for the right to education for all. The crowd around you was terrorised and could not raise its voice. Knowing that knowledge is fear’s nemesis, you raised your voice for education. Knowledge is death for the forces of terror and freedom of expression is the ultimate deathblow. The school-blowing terrorists never wanted girls to have access to the doors of knowledge for then girls might learn one day that it was the singular effort of a Muslim woman, Fatima-al-Fihri in 859 AD that helped found the University of Karueein in Fez, Morocco, the oldest existing and still operational university in the world. Your soft voice that refused to get silenced made you win the battle and defeated a strong enemy Malala Yousazai, you wanted to be a doctor. It is our luck that you have a father who could see that Pakistan needs a change agent. You were inspired to become a politician. What if you grow up to become the prime minister of Pakistan? Your enemy had reasons to fear this thought. For a girl to have such a potential within their area of operation was like a thorn in their side. Devoid of reason, they used the only tactic they know and targeted you as any coward would. The bullet though, lost again. The power of the pen won. All Praise to Allah who helped you survive the attack. Perhaps He had some grand role for you in the future. Here you are now, Malala, giving your visionary speech at the UN General Assembly on your 16th birthday. You have made us proud. Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s soul would be happy to see you deliver your wonderful riposte to the terrorists so eloquently. Not forgetting your roots you wore Benazir Bhutto’s shawl and praised the Prophet of Allah (PBUH). You showed great wisdom and acknowledged the great qualities of world leaders without discrimination. People have been quoting from the Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s speech since decades. Now they’ll quote from yours too. Who knows we might one day see you as the head of the world body. The war though, is yet to be won. The enemy that deserves liquidation is manoeuvring to make a strong comeback. The recent spate of attacks in the country is to increase pressure on the government and the people of Pakistan to negotiate with terror. Your enemies who bring shame to Islam’s beautiful image and are the enemies of Pakistan want us to negotiate the freedom of women and the weak. We will not let it happen. You are putting in your part in the struggle. It is our duty to do our part and raise our voices in unison so that fear finally loses and liberty and freedom that are guaranteed by Islam are ensured for all without discrimination of caste, creed, gender or religion. You give us hope, Malala, a hope in Pakistan’s future. We will not let this hope die. Together the nation would make government take the bold decisions that are needed. Extremism will be defeated here and everywhere. While we do this we will remember what Dr Martin Luther King Jr, another civil rights campaigner like you, said in his famous “I have a dream” speech: “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of...wrongful deeds.” Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We will not be bitter when we win. We will let the fruits of victory reach all, the children of the Taliban included. This is what we have learnt from history. We will remember what you have said in your speech: “I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohammad (PBUH), the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This is the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa...So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” Bravo, the ‘Daughter of Pakistan’.

PIA promotes two brothers of PML-N leader

The PIA management has promoted two brothers of the PML-N’s Information Secretary, Senator Mushahidullah Khan, with effect from 2007. Officials told Dawn on Monday that Rashidullah Khan and Sajidullah Khan had been promoted from Grade 8 to 9 (manager to deputy general manager) and Grade 7 to 8 (assistant manager to manager) respectively with effect from 2007. The management has issued a notification in this regard despite the fact that no promotion board meeting took place this year. The officials said that the notification of the promotion of Rashidullah and Sajidullah did not mention whether they would be entitled to other perks and privileges with retrospective effect. They also claimed that the promotion board meeting was not required in such cases. “Both brothers were declared promoted by the selection board in 2007, but their promotion was not notified,” they said. There are also reports that Rashidullah will be given an important position after his promotion from Grade 9 to Selection Grade 10 as no hurdle is now left to promote him in that grade. Mr Rashidullah justified his own and brother’s promotion and rejected the impression that their political connections had anything to do with it. “Sajidullah and I were rather politically victimised over the past five years in the PPP government as my brother, Mushahidullah, was a member of the PML-N. “Even a former PIA managing director had refused to take up our case citing the Mushahidullah factor,” he told Dawn. He said the promotion board had promoted him and Sajidullah in 2007 in Grade 9 and Grade 8, but letters of the promotion could not be issued because the PPP government had taken over the government soon after that. Mr Rashidullah further claimed that his name was on top of the seniority list, but he had been ignored in the previous promotion board’s meetings. “My and Sajidullah’s promotion are absolutely on merit and seniority based and since the 2007 promotion board meeting had promoted us, we are entitled to be promoted from that date,” he said, adding they did not seek perks with retrospective effect. He said his and Sajidullah’s promotion were due over a decade back, but during the previous government employees not even completing five years in service in a grade had been promoted out of turn. Earlier, the Nawaz Sharif government appointed Shujaat Azeem, the brother of another PML-N senator Tariq Azeem, as adviser to the Prime Minister on aviation. Shujaat Azeem was removed from the PAF as he held dual nationality.