Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Turkey's main opposition leader lambastes PM over media freedom

Turkey's main opposition leader accused Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday of cowing local media into self-censorship after a journalist group said dozens of reporters were fired for their coverage of anti-government protests. The Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) said at least 72 journalists had either been fired, forced to take leave or had resigned in the past six weeks since the start of the unrest, which spread to cities around the country. The demonstrations, which began as a small effort to save an Istanbul park from redevelopment, quickly mushroomed into an unprecedented show of defiance against the government, emerging as the most serious public challenge to Erdogan's 10-year rule. The protests have now largely died down although smaller demonstrations have persisted in Istanbul and Ankara. "Why are you letting the journalists go? Why are you forcing them to take leave? Because they write stories their bosses don't like," said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the CHP party. "We are now facing a new period where the media is controlled by the government and the police and where most media bosses take orders from political authorities. A period where stories approved by political authorities are published and those that aren't are censored," he said. Kilicdaroglu was speaking to reporters in Ankara at the launch of a report by his party on imprisoned journalists in Turkey. According to the report, 64 are now in jail. Turkey has slumped to the bottom of international rankings on press freedom in recent years and has come under increasing criticism over the jailing of reporters, with one media group dubbing it the "world's biggest prison" for journalists. Erdogan's government says most of the detained media workers are being held for serious crimes, such as membership of an armed terrorist group, that have nothing to do with journalism. The Turkish leader dismissed last month's protesters as "riff-raff" manipulated by "terrorists" and blamed foreign and local media for inciting the unrest. Mainstream media outlets, many owned by big conglomerates with links to the prime minister, self-censored their coverage of the protests, stepping up reporting only after Erdogan himself commented on the unusual scenes of chaos, prompting many Turks to turn to social media to follow the events.

Cricket court order threatens more Pakistan turmoil

Pakistani cricket faced fresh turmoil Tuesday as a court cancelled all decisions made by the interim board chairman and demanded a member of the public be included on the national selection committee. The ruling by the Islamabad High Court severely curtails the powers of Najam Sethi, appointed as temporary Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman after Zaka Ashraf was thrown out over his controversial election. The court cancelled the appointment of former captain Moin Khan as chief selector and ordered the PCB to draft a "keen follower of the game" from the public onto the panel that chooses the national side. The 30-page judgement seen by AFP nullified the appointment of a new selection committee by Sethi -- which means Pakistan cannot presently select a side to play Zimbabwe next month. PCB legal adviser Taffazul Rizvi said Tuesday's judgement limited the interim chairman to a caretaker role with little authority to make decisions and the board was considering an appeal. "We are reviewing the judgement and will decide the legal course of action soon," Rizvi said. The court issued guidelines on the process to elect a new PCB chairman, which is to take place within 90 days, and demanded a shakeup of the selection committee. "The scope of the selection committee is required to be enhanced by including one sports journalist, cricket commentator and one keen follower of the game of cricket having sufficient knowledge from the general public," the court ruled. Cricket selectors are customarily drawn from the ranks of former players and coaches with personal knowledge of current cricketers and direct experience of the game at the highest level. The court upheld an earlier court ruling suspending Ashraf from the chairman's job following complaints about the process to elect him. Ashraf was appointed chairman by PCB patron and the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, in October 2011 under a previous PCB constitution. But the board was forced to introduce a new constitution earlier this year after the International Cricket Council (ICC) ordered an end to government interference. Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif, who has also challenged Ashraf's re-appointment in the Sindh High Court, welcomed the judgement. "I see this as a positive judgement but it will take some time to bring all the reforms in Pakistan cricket," Latif said. "We must improve our cricket set-up." Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/07/23/cricket-court-order-threatens-more-pakistan-turmoil/#ixzz2ZtHKEhYk

PPP, ANP agree to field Raza Rabbani as presidential candidate

The Pakistan People s Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) have agreed to field Senator Raza Rabbani as joint candidate for presidential slot. A consultative meeting between ANP and PPP was organized in Islamabad today (Tuesday) to finalize the strategy for upcoming presidential election. ANP leader Haji Adeel announced that his party will support PPP candidate Raza Rabbani for the presidential slot. “My party has made the decision because PPP candidate Raza Rabbani supports provincial autonomy,” Adeel further said. Opposition leader in the National Assembly Khurshid Shah also briefed the meeting regarding his contacts with different political forces on the issue. He said consultations have been made with MQM and other political parties to garner their support for Raza Rabbani. Nomination papers of Raza Rabbani will be filed tomorrow. The Election Commission of Pakistan has stipulated July 24 as the last date to submit presidential nomination papers. ECP had announced to hold Presidential election on August 6 to replace incumbent Asif Ali Zardari, who is not seeking a second term.

Pakistan: PPP asks govt to come clean about IPP payments

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has asked the finance minister to come clean about Rs 322 billion paid to IPPs in order to clear the circular debt and make public the website on which this information is claimed to have been uploaded. The finance minister, in an interview published in a local newspaper, claimed that payments to IPPs had been made “transparently and details have been placed on the web”. PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said in a statement on Monday that a search of the websites of Ministries of Finance and Water and Power, WAPDA and OGRA revealed that no such details had been uploaded. “If the information is not placed on the website of the related ministries and departments, then where has it been placed?” he asked, adding, “This has raised legitimate questions of transparency and accountability”. He said that the information available on the website of Finance Ministry about a July 2 meeting simply says that the ECC was informed that a sum of Rs 322 billion has been paid to the IPPs. “It is a bare statement of fact known to everyone. What was needed to be disclosed but has not been made public are the details about the power produced by each IPP, the time during which it was produced, the rate at which it was paid and the total amount paid to each power producer,” the senator said. A detailed technical audit of the IPPs was an essential pre-requisite but no such audit was actually carried out before doling out billions of rupees to power producers, he said. “Who knows if a game of favourites has been played in the week during which hundreds of billions of rupees were paid,” Farhatullah Babar said. He said that in order to create an impression of transparency and accountability, the website of the Finance Ministry claims that the IPPs signed an MOU pledging to fulfil certain conditions before payments were made to them. However, he added, on closer scrutiny it becomes obvious that it is no more than a false impression. The first condition which the IPPs are said to have agreed to, he said, is that all the thermal power plants exceeding 2,000MW capacity would be converted into coal fired plants. “It amounts to hoodwinking people as there is hardly any thermal IPP of more than 2,000 MW capacity. What is flaunted as a great achievement is in fact a ruse to create and sustain false hopes that plants using more expensive fuel are being remodelled so as to run on a widely available cheap fuel of coal,” he said. “The second condition claimed to have been agreed by the private power producers, according to the website, is that they will optimally utilise the available plant capacities. However, in the absence of technical audit giving complete information about a plant’s available capacity, the optimal capacity that is desired to be achieved and the time frame within which it is to be achieved is no more that a vague promise and a false hope,” he said. A third condition claimed to have been agreed by the private producers is a one-month extension allowed by them to PEPCO to make payments. This measure will only give a breather of one more month but will not address the issue of spiralling debt itself which will resurface again as long as the huge difference between the cost of power production and the price at which is sold persists, he said. Senator Farhatullah Babar said that there is total absence of transparency and a veil of secrecy seems to have been woven around the payments of Rs 322 billion made to the private producers. “Doubts will linger and questions will continue to be asked until the shroud of secrecy is shredded and all relevant information is uploaded on the web and the nation is informed about where it is available.”

NEW VICTIM OF SO CALLED BLASPHEMEY LAW:Christian couple arrested in Gojra in blasphemy case

(Shamim Masih) Sajjad Masih accused of blasphemy case reportedly sent to jail for life imprisonment, hardly a week back. Yet another blasphemy case is registered against a Christian couple in Gojra city of a Punjab province. According to the sources, Shafaqat Masih 35, and his wife Shagufta Bibi were arrested so far under alleged of blasphemy case but the First Investigation Report (FIR) No. 407/13 is registered under 295-B, C PPC against anonymous today in Gojra City.
Gojra is religiously sensitive, having witnessed massive attacks on Christians triggered by reports of desecration of Holy Quraan. Eight family members were burnt alive and about forty houses and a Church were set ablaze by a mob in August, 2009. Now again it seems that it is under threat.
The petitioner Rana Mohammad Fiaz said that blasphemous text was sent to him from a mobile number. Police found the SIM card and arrested the couple. Ms. Shagufta is lady worker at the local school and taking care of her two teens and her husband is crippled. As soon as I heard the incident, I requested World Vision in Progress – WVIP to reach there at once to take care of the kids. On my humble request, WVIP management has sent its official to look into the matter. Basharat Khokhar, activist in Rimsha case has condemned the incident and urged the administration to take the preventive measures accordingly. The local administration has taken a sensitive issue seriously, the administrative told.

Two Hazara youth slain in Quetta

The Express Tribune
In what appears to be another targeted killing, two members of the Hazara community were gunned down in the Shahra-e-Iqbal area of Balochistan’s provincial capital on Monday. The two victims were travelling in a taxi cab when unidentified assailants opened fire on their vehicle. Both victims succumbed to injuries sustained during the attack, while two other passers-by also suffered wounds. “The driver of the taxi cab and his passenger belonged to the Shia Hazara community. They died after gunmen fired at their car,” said DIG Operations Fayyaz Ahmed Sumbal. The deceased were identified as 19-year-old Shukarullah, son of Qurban Ali Hazara, and 18-year-old Ramzan Ali, son of Abdul Khaliq Gul Hazara. The injured passersby were identified as Sherzaman, a resident of Mastung and Aslam Jan, a resident of Quetta. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the targeted killing.

Falling Rupee Adds to India’s Economic Woes

President Zardari slams desecration of holy shrine in Syria

President Asif Ali Zardari Monday condemned the attack on the shrine of Sayyeda Hazrat Zainab Bibi the other day in Damascus as most “hurtful and despicable” that could have been perpetrated only by the lowest and the meanest.
Spokesperson quoted the president as saying that desecrating the holy shrine and places of worship not only hurt the sentiments of the Muslims in Pakistan and the world over but also threatened to widen the sectarian divide. Fanning sectarianism and further widening the sectarian divide is the last thing the Muslims can afford, the president said. He said that it was incumbent upon all parties in the conflict in Syria to ensure that the sanctity of holy shrines and places of worship was maintained and these were not desecrated.

We all must hear Malala Yousafzai's brave voice

The BBC and Sky News carried an inspiring speech by Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head last October by the Taliban for advocating the education of girls. On her birthday, Malala addressed in barely accented English a special youth gathering at the United Nations in New York. She wore a shawl that had belonged to the late Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated by Islamic extremists in 2007. Only occasionally referring to notes, Malala, who now lives in Birmingham, England, where she received medical treatment following the attack, delivered a speech more compelling than those given by most diplomats and presidents who have spoken at the UN. "Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured," she noted, "I am just one of them." She said her injury and the killing and wounding of her friends had launched "thousands of voices."Sounding more mature than her years, Malala said, "The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born." Invoking the nonviolent teachings of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela, Malala said she is not against anyone, rather she is for education for girls and boys, especially the children of the Taliban. She said, "I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him." In a powerful indictment of extremism, Malala said, "The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them." She accused terrorists of "misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits." While her claim "Islam is a religion of peace" is debatable, given how it is often practiced by many radicals who assert they are the true disciples of Mohammed, Malala's voice needs to be multiplied by thousands, even millions if the Taliban and their terrorist brothers are to be isolated and defeated. The voices (and most importantly behavior) must come from within Islam, not outside of it. Here are three recent examples of what Malala and her applauding UN audience face. Last week, Islamic extremists kidnapped and murdered a Coptic Christian in Egypt as part of a protest against the military coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi. It is the latest example of the growing persecution against Egyptian Christians. The Middle East Media Research Institute reported that in a Friday sermon in Damascus, a Syrian preacher blamed Jews for the civil unrest throughout the Middle East. In London, a funeral was held last week for Lee Rigby, a British soldier stabbed to death in May by a pair of alleged Islamic fanatics. Malala, though courageous, faces a seemingly impossible task, but if one person can spark a revolution, perhaps one can spark a counter revolution with words like these: "Let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world." Good luck, brave heart.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/07/19/all-must-hear-malala-yousafzai-voice/#ixzz2ZrIchRk3

Afghan Religious Leader Approves Of Restrictive Edict On Women

One of Afghanistan's top religious figures has defended a series of religious decrees that observers warn could further erode women's rights in the country. The eight-article fatwa was issued by a local ulema, or religious council, in the district of Deh Salah in the northern province of Baghlan last month. Among the edicts was a ban on women leaving their homes without a male companion and another that banned the sale of cosmetics on the basis that they are "un-Islamic" and promote adultery. The fatwa, reminiscent of the strict edicts imposed by the Taliban during its rule of Afghanistan, prompted condemnation from rights activists and many of the district's residents. But while only senior clerics have the right to issue such edicts, the country's top religious figures have stayed silent on the issue up to now. That changed when Mawlawi Enayatullah Baligh, a presidential adviser who serves on Afghanistan's top religious panel, the Ulema Council, staunchly defended the edicts while discussing the closure of cosmetics shops. "There is no way these shops could have stayed open," he told the Reuters news agency on July 20. "Shops are for business, not adultery." The fatwa also barred women from clinics without a male escort and ordered strict dress codes for women, although it did not elaborate. The document also threatened unspecified "punishments” for those who did not obey. During its rule, the Taliban's notorious vice and virtue police publicly beat women for breaking rules imposed by the group. Civil Liberty Concerns The controversy has cast a spotlight on the state of women's rights ahead of the expected pullout of foreign troops by the end of 2014. As international scrutiny has waned, powerful religious and conservative circles have taken steps to undermine women's civil liberties. In Afghanistan, a deeply religious and conservative country, religion is often above the law. That has meant that religious figures have frequently been the main obstacle to women winning the rights afforded them under the Afghan Constitution. Such is the power wielded by the country's religious leaders that even female lawmakers and activists appear resigned to the fact that cooperation with them is necessary to forge a path for women's rights. Fawzia Koofi, a lawmaker and outspoken campaigner for women's rights, has warned that, without religious leaders' support, gains made by women could quickly be wiped out once foreign troops withdraw. "The role of the mullahs is crucial because we're an Islamic nation and the mosques are being used against women," Koofi told Reuters on July 16. "Why not use them for women?" Many residents of Deh Salah, home to 80,000 people, disagree with the ulema's decrees, saying local religious leaders are flexing their muscles. One resident, who did not want to be named, told Radio Free Afghanistan that the decrees were just an excuse to crack down on women. "When these ulema members give their opinions on cosmetic shops, can't they see that outside their homes and mosques there are drugs like hashish and opium?" he asked. "Thousands of people are dying from drugs. [Afghanistan] has a thousand other [pressing] issues. They haven't issued decrees about any of these things." The clout of local religious council members recently prompted Abdul Rasul, who was the district mayor of Deh Salah, to take steps to shut down cosmetics shops. Rasul took action after ulema members threatened to burn the shops down if he did not act. He was shot dead on July 6 by a shopkeeper who refused to close his business.