Saturday, July 27, 2013

Afghanistan: Naheed Farid: Kabul’s Youngest MP Promotes Youth-Driven Change
At 29 years old, Naheed Farid is the youngest member of Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament. She recently took time out from her hectic schedule to answer questions from about her efforts to “break taboos” and encourage young people to get more involved in the Afghan political process. Farid holds an undergraduate degree from Herat University and a master’s in international relations from The George Washington University in the US. She garnered the most votes of the more than 400 female candidates in the 2010 parliamentary elections. She has found it is difficult to get things done in the legislature. Resistance to change is strong, and efforts to press ahead with legislation designed to improve education and equal opportunities for women have stalled recently. These days, Farid characterizes the Afghan legislature as “backward,” but still retains hope that change is possible through grass-roots activism. A transcript of Farid’s interview with follows:
EurasiaNet: What motivated you to pursue a career in politics?
Farid: It was a decision of circumstance and situation. You can’t keep quiet against a system that commits unlimited violence against women, is reluctant toward children’s education and rights, and discriminates against minorities.
EurasiaNet: What is it like for a woman to participate in Afghanistan’s political process?
Farid: When I decided to run for office in the 2010 parliamentary elections, I did not expect [such enormous] pressure. … I will never forget the day a religious ex-MP came to my house and asked my father to waive my campaign. His reasoning was that [it would be dishonorable] and indecent if I were to work in the National Assembly. He told my father that the family’s reputation would be ruined and [that it would be] a huge embarrassment if I won. … You can imagine how hard it was to hang posters in the city, participate in TV debates, and ask people to vote for you. … I was determined to break taboos and represent my people in the Afghanistan Parliament, even if I was threatened by the Taliban or ridiculed by journalists. My confidence increased the motivation of my campaign team.
EurasiaNet: Were you surprised that you won a parliamentary seat?
Farid: After 58 days of campaigning, the big day arrived: in the morning I was thinking; ‘even if I don't get enough votes, I am [still] the winner because it took extraordinary courage to campaign in such a controversial battlefield.’ … At the end of election day in 2010 I received the news that I won! I received the highest number of votes among women candidates. … I was amazed that people from the religious community voted for me in addition to youth, women, intellectuals, and professionals. I could not believe that I was able to overcome the conservative ideology of my society and receive the religious votes. I was welcomed by my generation and many youth voted for me. I am sure it was because they had the same wish as mine - to ‘break the taboos.’
EurasiaNet: As a woman and the youngest MP, how do you make your voice heard?
Farid: Since many of my constituents are youth, I can easily contact my followers using social networks such as Facebook, which [allows me to] connect with more than 65,000 youth around the country. I travel and give speeches in the mosques, or I report them through media interviews. As long as you have people to hear you, you have countless opportunities to make your voice heard.”
EurasiaNet: Do you see the current parliament as capable of handling the country’s challenges?
Farid: I would say the present parliament of Afghanistan is experiencing backwardness. After a decade of practicing democracy, we still receive negative reactions from conservatives and fundamentalist parliamentarians [ who collectively comprise a majority] toward democratic values, such as women’s and minority rights and equality. In recent weeks, we had three bills rejected based on [these issues]. They rejected the Law of Elimination of Violence against Women, they disposed of seats reserved for women in many electoral institutions of the country, and they rejected the Higher Education Law because of tribal [traditions].
EurasiaNet: What is needed to get youth and women more involved in politics?
Farid: As we approach a power transition and international troop withdrawals in 2014, a huge wave of disappointment [has occurred] among the new generation and women. The most important element [for youth and women] in Afghanistan’s ongoing political process is hope!

Syrians worried about growing influence of extremists

Most Syrians, having undergone four decades of secular rule, seem averse to the prospect that the power to rule their country may one day fall in the hands of some Islamic fundamentalists. Syrians' resentment at the extremists, who are taking advantage of the ongoing to crisis to expand their influence, is becoming increasingly manifest in their daily conversation and comments on social media websites. Even those sympathetic to the rebels at the start of the crisis have become disillusioned with them, as they have come under the sway of al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked group whose main goal is to establish an Islamic state in Syria. Frustration is also creeping up on Syrians as they feel the road back to security and stability is obscure and drawn-out. "We were looking for more freedom and felt the revolution would give us more benefits... However, we now feel we are moving backwards and will soon return to the medieval era," said Hanadi, 49, a private sector employee. She said whoever still thinks what happens in Syria is a revolution is lying to themselves. "It's anything but a revolution for freedom." "How could they bring us freedom if they (the rebels) themselves are captives held by the extremists?" she questioned. Ahmed, in his 50s, agreed with Hanadi. "Al-Nusra Front fighters come up every day with a new unimaginable fatwa, or religious edict." He pointed to a new fatwa imposed in the northern city of Aleppo, which forbids eating croissants because they are in the shape of a crescent, the emblem of an Islamic state. The fatwa claims that the Europeans eat croissants during festivals to celebrate their victories over the Muslims. Syrians post cynical comments on social media sites, poking fun at such fatwas, the latest of which ban women from driving cars and force little girls to wear veils. Residents of some hotspots in northern Syria, where al-Nusra Front is active, said that the group has banned smoking and listening to music, and has set up its own courts and applies its own interpretation of Islam. Islamic hardliners control large swathes of Aleppo, which are governed by a group of "chieftains" who consider the land as a " liberated Islamic emirate." Clashes also erupted lately between al-Nusra fighters and the rebel Free Syrian Army, who has grown at odds with the former's extremist views. Western diplomats said recently that more than 100 battalions of the Syrian Free Army, some operating in Damascus' countryside, might soon turn against al-Nusra Front and other Jihadi groups. Daily Telegraph disclosed recently that hundreds of defectors have started returning to the army because they are frustrated with the failure to achieve the revolution goals and the penetration of the Islamists in their ranks. David Shedd, deputy director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, warned that extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra have been the most successful in operations against troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Left unchecked, he said, more radical elements of the opposition would have a greater role, eclipsing moderates in a post-Assad Syria. Al-Nusra Front's leader, Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, has reportedly called for the establishment of the rule of Islam and Sharia in Syria, rejecting the political process and elections.

Obama calls Korean War a victory, honors veterans
Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War, President Barack Obama said on Saturday that U.S. troops and their allies achieved victory in that conflict despite a lukewarm reception when they returned home. The war ended in a stalemate in 1953, with the absence of a peace treaty resulting in a demilitarized zone that now separates North and South Korea. Pyongyang commemorated the day with a massive military parade and declared victory as well. "Here, today, we can say with confidence that this war was no tie. Korea was a victory," Obama said to cheers from an outdoor crowd populated by war veterans from the United States and South Korea. "When 50 million South Koreans live in freedom ... in stark contrast to the repression and poverty of the North, that's a victory; that's your legacy," he said. The Korean War started in 1950 when the United States rallied the United Nations to send troops to counter the North's invasion of the South. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James Winnefeld and representatives from the South Korean government attended the event, which included a wreath-laying ceremony conducted to "Taps" before the 19 steel statues of Korean War soldiers at the memorial on Washington's National Mall. The chairman of South Korea's National Policy Committee, Kim Jung-hoon, who represented the country's president, Park Geun-hye, acknowledged the ambiguous end to a long-fought war. "This armistice was not the result of mere negotiations at the table," Kim said. "It was signed after endless battles, countless sacrifices and pain endured by our veterans and their grieved families." When U.S. troops returned home, Obama said they went right back to work, with their sacrifices seemingly unacknowledged in what would become known as "The Forgotten War." "Unlike the Second World War, Korea did not galvanize our country. These veterans did not return to parades. Unlike Vietnam, Korea did not tear at our country. These veterans did not return to protests," Obama said. "Here in America, no war should ever be forgotten, and no veteran should ever be overlooked." About 5,000 people attended the event, according to the commemoration committee. The crowd was filled with South Koreans and Americans alike, with spectators singing the South Korean national anthem nearly as loudly as the U.S. anthem. Obama also acknowledged the strong military ties Washington has with South Korea, where more than 28,000 U.S. troops are now stationed. For some younger Koreans, the continued presence of troops is controversial, but the crowd erupted in applause when Obama mentioned his commitment to U.S. military supremacy. "Our allies and adversaries must know the United States of America will maintain the strongest military the world has ever known, bar none, always," Obama said. "That is what we do."

Pakistan: When the Presidential election is more important than the Parachinar blast

By Zara Shahid
Pakistan is a rather strange place.
If you are unable to fast because you are unwell, you can end up with a black eye and maybe a few broken ribs. This is courtesy of our informal, yet thorough and self proclaimed moral police marching down the streets 365 days of the year; they are the ‘righteous’. However, if you want to join in the Ramazan festivities beware that shopping for iftar in a local market or going to a mosque may become a gamble on life. The twin blasts in Parachinar yesterday, left at least 50 dead and around a 122 severely injured. Is it an uncanny coincidence that this was a famously Shia dominated area and that Ansaar ul Mujahiden (a local Sunni militant group) has taken responsibility? No, it is not. Shias have been targeted time and again, the numbers of casualties more chilling each time whilst the state and mainstream media maintain obstinate silence about the affair. Remember, back in January when the residents of Alamdar Road were protesting alongside dead bodies of their loved ones in the penetrating cold? It took two days for the media and the government to acknowledge and respond to their demands – two whole days. And, this time was no different. Last night the electronic media obsessed over the Presidential election whilst the families of the Parachinar victims were tortured by crippling grief and hopelessness. Clearly, the media has better issues to address than the grief of these stricken souls. But the truth is, we don’t care who the next president is; what we care about is how the state is going to protect our people. What I find amusing is that such tragedies usually result in spats – government officials and the opposition, mainstream political parties and highbrow personalities, from those who were responsible to prevent the disaster to those who will now use it to undermine their opponents. Although, each one of them are able to find someone to blame, they are unable resolve the issue and come up with a solution. The same happens when Hazaras are butchered; when a roadside bomb explodes in Peshawar, or when innocent people are massacred anywhere in Pakistan. These statements are awfully trite; they bear the same run down sentences, hurriedly altered to suit the new situation - the place, date and number of dead. “The Prime Minister strongly condemns the Quetta blasts.” “PM Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned the blast in Lahore and reiterated his determination to overcome the menace of terrorism!” “President Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned the blasts in Quetta targeting a bus of the Sardar Bahadar Khan Women’s University and the Bolan Medical Complex”. Yes, this is precisely what we owe the victims. The proclamations are brandished over the electronic media, printed in newspapers and spread on social media; with that, the job is done. We can all go home now and carry on with our lives. However beyond the numbers and standard statements announcing the dead, there is an identity of a person that they forget to mention; the nameless faces who bear the brunt of our law and order situation are not merely numbers. They are human beings with families. Beyond the blame games and ‘security lapses’ there is the macabre silence clinging on to the houses of these victims that they are unable to remove. There are families that are torn and hearts that are broken. But there will be no justice. Smug in the comfort of our homes we fail to see the story behind these numbers, the incredible human tragedy behind the label of an ‘unfortunate incident.’ But, these news stories are real. I have grown up seeing our eagerness to condemn these killings and our tardiness to actually do something about them. It makes me feel like a hypocrite. We stage mass protests when Rohingya Muslims are persecuted in Burma but do nothing to ensure that the state assists the families of sectarian violence victims here, at home. We are hopping mad when Kashmiris are killed by the Indian army but do little when our Rangers shoot an innocent man point blank. We are the flag bearers of Palestinian independence but treat our own minorities like animals. This is great- isn’t it? Grandiose condemnations don’t bring back the dead nor do they guarantee the right to life, property and liberty for masses. They just prove that no one cares past image building stunts. You do not have to belong to a particular religious sect to empathise with the families of sectarian attack victims. You don’t have to be a Karachiite to mourn the hundreds killed in the city each day. You don’t have to be a Christian to feel for Rimsha Masih. You don’t have to live in Fata to feel the terror of drones buzzing overhead echoing death. You just have to have a tea spoon full of humanity. The path that lies between condemnation and action determines who we are as people and as citizens. It is this distance that can save the lives of many others; the action that would alleviate the misery of victims’ families. The action that would ensure justice is done.

President Obama's Weekly Address: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class

Afghanistan: Hundreds of ‘High Value’ Detainees Freed To ‘Accelerate’ Peace Process
TOLOnews has gained access to some leaked documents which confirm that on the orders of President Karzai and the High Peace Council (HPC) over 520 insurgents were released from various prisons across the country between 2011 and 2012. The documents also revealed that among the released insurgents there were suicide bombers and masterminds behind several terror attacks. These masterminds were convicted of carrying out deadly terror attacks across the country. However, the Interior Ministry denied the reports and said that they did not receive any information about the decision taken by the President. Experts feel that by releasing the insurgents, the government wants to win the confidence of the Taliban. The leaked documents mentioned that at least 135 suicide bombers who were arrested by the Security Forces were among those released from the prisons. 116 insurgents who were convicted of killing police personnel and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers were also let loose. The revelation did not end here, 86 dangerous terror plotters and masterminds of several terror attacks were also let loose. "To strengthen and accelerate the peace process, the President had issued "Order No 33" and released the prisoners convicted of carrying out several terror attacks across the country," internal and external security and the decision was taken to strengthen peace process," said Amir Muhammad Jamshed, the chief of the Afghan Prison and Detention Centres. Several analysts strongly criticised the move and said that there is no guarantee that the released prisoners will not join any terror outfit. According to them, this move will do no good and in fact, prolong the ongoing crisis in the country. "If the insurgents are not prosecuted and kept in the prison, this will worsen the security situation of the country," said an analyst. Unfortunately, it was found that in most cases, the released prisoners rejoined the Taliban and continued their armed confrontations with the Afghan Security Forces and foreign forces. "A Taliban detainee known as Mullah Karim rejoined the group and became its Governor for the Balkh region, just days after he was released from jail. He carried out several terror attacks after his release," said Abdurrazaq Qaderi, security chief of the Balkh province. TOLOnews reporter found that 520 militants were released in 2011 and 2012 and they were not among those that were freed during the month of Ramadan this year (2013). The President's order to release the dangerous militants was strongly criticised and the US had warned that they will rejoin the Taliban and continue their terror attacks. It was because of the same concern that the US had tried to avoid transferring the control of Bagram prison to the Afghan Security Forces. TOLOnews broke the news after 80 prisoners were released from a prison in southern Helmand. Earlier on Thursday, Masood Ahmad Bakhtor, the Deputy Governor of Helmand announced that the prisoners were released from the prison on the basis of "Order No 33" of the President. Mr. Bakhtor also mentioned that the jail terms of 24 other prisoners were canceled as per the Presidential Decree. Local officials in the southern province of Helmand confirmed that some prisoners were released from the Helmand prison on the orders of the President. Meanwhile, the Afghan government assured that it is committed to provide employment opportunities to the released prisoners so that they do not start their terror activities again. "The released prisoners will be given 5,000 AFN on monthly basis and the government is also committed to provide vocational training for six months to the inmates released from the jails," said Mr. Bakhtor. With so many dangerous terrorists on the loose, only time will tell whether it will help in accelerating the stalled peace process or worsen the security situation of the country.

Freedom In Afghanistan Under Serious Risk

By: Shafiq Hamdam
FreedomDuring the last one decade freedom of expression and freedom of media is one of the major joined achievements of the Afghan government and its international partners. The gain, which everyone appreciates and talk loudly about it. Afghan government and its international partners talk about securing the joint achievements, which called reversible and fragile. Lately freedom of expression and media has been seriously under attack and risk, and this issue has to be addressed strategically. Afghan journalists and social activists are under extreme risk and there is no guarantee of their safety and protection. Serving for democracy and freedom during last one decade tens of Afghan journalists, writers and social activists either killed during the war or killed by pro-government elements and insurgents. Yet there is not any solid statistic of the social activists’ fatalities and it is because that this issue has not been taken seriously. But according to NAI, an independent Afghan media watchdog, pro-government elements are involved in majority of violations against media and journalists in Afghanistan. Lately the numbers of journalists and social activists have been either arrested or threatened to stop their actives. Life is not easy for a journalist and social activist anymore. In absence of access to information law and the presence of a very inequitable media law Afghan media and social activist can be threatened, questioned and impeached at any moment by the Afghan authorities. On regular bases here are ongoing cases against media in the media commission, which is established by the government. So far majority of Afghan media outlets have been impeached by the commission and questioned. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) an institution, which plays an absolutely crucial role in protecting the rights of all Afghans were also targeted by Afghan government and their activities have been blocked by senior politicians. In December 2011 including Ahmad Nader Nadery an outspoken human rights activist, President Hamed Karzai removed three commissioners of the commission. Mr. Nadery was removed formally because of his mandates had expired. But his removal was linked to his outspokenness about electoral fraud in the 2009 presidential elections and his involvement in preparing the, yet to be released, AIHRC conflict-mapping report documenting war crimes in Afghanistan from 1978 to 2001. In June 2013 despite broad disagreement of the Afghan civil society organization, United Nations Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and other organizations the Afghan president renewed mandate of four commissioners and appointed five new commissioners of the AIHRC. But Mr. Nadery’s mandate was not renewed. There are serious concerns about some individuals appointed in the AIHRC, but the government has ignored all international commitment and demands and replaced some of very active commoners with some contradictory figures. The ICG report titled “Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition” was released on 6 October 2012. It discusses the weaknesses of Afghanistan’s political and electoral system and calls for urgent attention and reforms. The report was rejected by the Afghan government and the organization was threatened for prosecution. Early this year the government also condemned and rejected a UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) report on corruption in Afghanistan and called the act a political pressure on the Afghan government. In June 2013 head of Integrity Watch Organization, a non governmental organization over sighting transparency, was summoned by the Supreme Court about their survey on corruption in the judiciary system. Early July 2013 the Supreme Court of Afghanistan denied the latest report by Transparency International which called the judiciary institutions of Afghanistan, one of the most corrupt organizations in the Afghan government and the court accused the organization for working under a political agenda and the organization is summoned by the Supreme Court. But every Afghan citizen can confirm the report of widespread corruption in the judiciary system of Afghanistan. While tens of corrupt officials, who has been accused of millions of USD corruption are living free. On July 5th Afghan Attorney General Office arrested Mr. Abdurahman Sakhizada, an Afghan writer and anti-corruption activist in accusation of writing a disclosure article, where he discovered corruption in the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOO), a presidential decree based institution over sighting Afghan government. Mr. Sakhizada was released after nearly two weeks, his father who is a police officer, said that his son has been tortured in the custody. However the issue of brain drain has been widely debated in Afghan media and on December 31st BBC Farsi investigative report shows that nearly 40% of Afghan diplomats have not returned home after completion of their assignments abroad. But on 14th July Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan issued a statement rejecting The New York Times Report titled “As Uncertainty Reigns Back Home, Many Afghan Envoys Decline to Return” dated 12 July 2013. The harsh statement called the report “irresponsible act and unprofessional journalism” and asked from Kabul based NYT correspondence for clarifications. Such pressures continue on a daily basis at all levels and the example I have brought here were a few of those. Afghans have not fought with the Taliban and terrorists to secure western countries, but they fought for the word of freedom and the freedom of expression and women come at the top of the reason of our fight and sacrifice. Now democracy and freedom become a mutual interest and benefit of Afghanistan and the international community. But there are increased concerns pressures will increase. The corrupt officials, drug smugglers, the warlord and mafia will continue to threat journalists and social activist to keep them shut. And some government officials will continue the misuse of their power. But the question is what the international community does to secure their biggest achievements? This is freedom of expression and freedom of the media. This fact should not be ignored by the world community and they should closely work with the Afghan people to secure theses gains. Otherwise the tremendous joint gains have made by Afghanistan and its intentional partners will be forfeited

Balochistan: 10 security men killed in attack on Gwadar check post

At least 10 security officials were killed and five others injured when unknown insurgents attacked a security check post in Gawadar district of the restive Balochistan province. The check post of coastguards was located in Sansar area, a mountainous region some 100 kilometers away from Gwadar, the port city in Balochistan. Heavy contingent of security officials and rescue teams were sent to the remote area, an official said. According to sources, more than ten insurgents used rockets and automatic weapons to target the security men. A total of 14 security personnel were deployed at the check post. So far, No group claimed responsibility of the attack.

Pakistan: Banking system: negative outlook

In a new report released on 22nd July, 2013, Moody's Investors Service has reiterated that the outlook for Pakistan's banking system remains negative, reflecting banks' large and increasing holdings of government bonds, which render their balance sheets vulnerable to sovereign credit risk and the challenging domestic operating environment which will continue to pressure asset quality. These negative pressures are only partly mitigated by banks' low cost and stable deposit-funded profiles. According to Moody's estimates, Pakistani banks' exposure to government securities and loans to public sector companies increased to 674 percent of Tier I capital as of March, 2013 (or 46 percent of total assets), up from 382 percent as of December, 2010. As for the future, banks' high and increasing exposure to Pakistani government debt will remain a major source of credit risk, as the government will continue to run large deficits over the outlook period, which will be financed in a large part by domestic banking sector. Operating conditions will also remain challenging due to low growth rate, significant fiscal imbalances, low foreign exchange reserves, fragile political environment and structural problems, particularly in the energy sector where power outages have depressed manufacturing activities and led to a fall in private investment. This will suppress demand for credit and lead to increases in NPLs which stood at 14.7 percent as of March, 2013. Also, reported NPL figures understate the full extent of asset-quality deterioration in the banking system due to high level of problematic government guaranteed loans that are not classified as NPLs. We feel that what the Moody's has said makes ample sense and needs to be considered seriously for reversing the course. Large and increasing holdings of government bonds have of course made the banking system highly vulnerable to sovereign credit risk and challenging domestic operating environment has pressurised its asset quality. In fact, banks are no more functioning as intermediaries between savers and investors but investing most of their resources in government bonds and government guaranteed securities. This suits the banks because they get adequate profits without any risk but the private sector which is supposed to be the engine of growth is deprived of the badly needed credit. Moody's is also not optimistic about the future. It believes that major issues of the economy like low growth, fiscal imbalances, and other structural problems would continue to induce banks to invest in government securities and follow the same pattern. NPLs were under-reported and they did not reflect the full extent of asset quality deterioration. Fortunately, negative pressures were partly neutralised by stable and low cost deposits. Implicit in the observations of the Moody's is the advice that Pakistan should revert back to the old practice through which most of the bank credit is disbursed to the private sector, borrowings by the government for budgetary support are contained within reasonable limits and banks perform their normal intermediary functions between savers and investors. In the context of Pakistan, it is only possible if budget deficit is reduced sharply and most of the deficit is financed either from foreign sources or through non-bank domestic sources. However, while analysing the situation, Moody's seems to have ignored some of the latest developments. For instance, concerted efforts by the new government to raise higher levels of revenues and a fresh programme with the IMF could serve to reduce the budget deficit to manageable levels and lower the budgetary borrowings from the banking system. Political environment is also no longer fragile after the induction of the new government. Therefore, there is a chance that banking system may have a positive rather than a negative outlook after few months.

PML-N arrogance makes mockery of presidential poll

The Supreme Court’s decision to change the date of the presidential election over and above majority of stakeholders’ desire has brought into disrepute, both nationally and internationally, the entire polling exercise and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) stance during the entire episode indicates the ruling party’s desire for a solo flight in politics. Political analysts and leaders say that the way the PML-N handled the controversy brought out its approach towards politics and political parties, as if Sharifs and their political aides were least interested in politics and political parties for the time being, reveling in wielding their new-found powers and mandate from the recent elections. There are no efforts on part of the PML-N leadership to pacify the PPP leadership or others. Nor has there been any effort on its part to create consensus over the presidential candidate despite suggestions from national leaders in this regard. The Sharifs have missed two opportunities to seize initiative and avoid creating controversy. First was when it decided to go to the SC after the Election Commission turned down its request to change the poll schedule. It could have avoided controversy had Raja Zafarul Haq in his petition before the apex court named other leaders in parliament the stakeholders. In that case it would have been binding on the SC to issue notices to other parties. If the government failed to involve other parties, the ECP official did not try to highlight or agitate this point before the court. This gave an opportunity to PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan to trace a nexus between the government, SC and ECP. The Aitzaz-led PPP team presented its case quite effectively and convincingly in the eyes of most political folks. Even after the decision, the PML-N leaders could still engage the parties, especially the PPP and PTI, for a damage-control exercise for the sake of optics, if not genuine reconciliation. But there was no effort from the party when there was already rumour of boycott of election from the PPP and PTI. The PML-N’s reluctance in this regard is beyond comprehension, said one senior politicians. “With its success assured, the PML-N should have gone an extra mile to avoid any controversy and convince the political leadership to stay away from the boycott,” he commented. But again, no such thing happened, making the entire presidential election controversial needlessly. The political leaders recall the way PPP managed the last presidential elections, giving every party a chance to contest and still coming out victorious. The controversy has served to energise and activate the opposition. Those watching the opposition are quite impressed the way a team spirit is developing in the PPP. Amin Fahim, Khursheed Shah, Aitzaz Ahsan, and Raza Rabbani have made their case quite effectively. They not only took all parties on board but they almost managed to secure the backing of PTI chief Imran Khan. This underline the prospect of opposition parties coming together in the future if need be. It was learnt that some politics came in the way of a joint announcement from the PTI and PPP. “I think both wanted to take credit and lead the way. This pre-empted both sides to jointly announce the boycott,” a source privy to talks between the PPP and PTI said. - See more at:

Pakistan's Load Shedding Protests: ‘City of Pirs’ erupts in violent protests

Irate protesters burnt and vandalised Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) offices and police stations on Friday in protest against unscheduled load-shedding and non-replacement of obsolete electricity transformers. The first demonstration was organised near Garden Town Colony on the National Highway connecting Multan with South Punjab. The protests turned violent later in the afternoon when hundreds of demonstrators joined the mob. The protesters burnt tyres and blocked the highway.They chanted slogans against Mepco and the government for protracted power outages in their neighbourhoods. The company’s sub-division in Garden Town was attacked and burnt. Vehicles, official records and other items were either stolen or burnt. There was no staff present at the time and security guards on the site were injured by the mob. Senior Superintendent Police (Operations) Khurram Shakoor told The Express Tribune that Mepco officials will submit their report in the next 12 hours about the losses incurred and the police was arranging for all CCTV footage of near by banks to arrest the criminals. Mepco official Naeem said the estimated loss stood at about Rs4 million to Rs5 million. The protesters also attacked the first response of police officers who had arrived on the scene to stop the mob from ransacking the 20-year-old building, but reinforcements soon arrived to disperse the unruly crowd. Rescue 1122 officials and firefighters took three hours to extinguish the fire. The power company’s officials told The Express Tribune that the power cuts were according to schedule. They insisted that the power cuts lasted for 10 hours a day and not 16. In another demonstration organised in New Multan Colony, protesters attacked the New Multan sub-division of Mepco but were dispersed by the timely arrival of police. The people were protesting against the non-replacement of an electricity transformer for the past four days. Officials at the sub-division said teams of workers were working at the head office to repair the dysfunctional electricity transformers and the New Multan transformer would be repaired accordingly. They teams were working round the clock. Elsewhere, more than 500 men staged a protest near Sewara Square on Nawabpur Road in the city over a dysfunctional transformer in the area. But they were restricted to the square by police personnel which led to them attack a police check post of Gulghast police station. The demonstrators accused local sub-divisional officer Babar Lodhi for demanding a bribe of Rs50,000 from them to replace the transformer.

Pakistan's Presidential Election: Throwing out the baby with the bathwater

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), along with the Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) and Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A), has boycotted the presidential election to be held on July 30th. Now the contest will be between Mamnoon Hussain and PTI’s Justice (Retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed. Senator Raza Rabbani, the PPP presidential candidate, has shown disgruntlement at the attitude of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and at the manner the Supreme Court (SC) has dealt with the entire issue surrounding the date for conducting the presidential election, which he says smacks of partiality. During his press conference the senator flailed the ECP for dispensing with its independence that has been restored after much effort by the previous government through the 18th and 20th amendment. He argued that there was no point in the ECP resorting to the SC for guidance on the issue of setting a new date for the presidential election. He went as far as suggesting that perhaps the ECP was persuaded by the PML-N’s cue to knock at the SC’s door. This unwanted crisis surrounding the presidential election is going to have far reaching consequences, as the boycotting parties have already refused to acknowledge any president winning through this flawed process. The SC is considered mainly responsible for bringing the crisis to this level. One, it should not perhaps have interfered unless there was some constitutional deadlock, which obviously there was not. Two, why were all the stakeholders not taken on board before passing the order? What was the haste for? Had a simple step of hearing the other presidential candidates been taken by the SC, things would not have come to this pass. On the other hand, the ECP has failed to live up to expectations. Did the ECP not foresee the timing of the presidential election in order to prepare for it? Did it not know that the election was falling in Ramzan and that too during the last ten days, when a lot of people are engaged in religious obligations? Then, when the problem cropped up, the ECP began looking here and there for support. Such attitudes take away trust from institutions, already on the wane in Pakistan. There is no gainsaying the fact that it is the PML-N that will likely win the presidential race. However, for the sake of a credible and acceptable political process, the right of every hopeful to canvass for electoral success cannot be denied. Reaching out to their electoral college, i.e. parliament and the four provincial assemblies, required time and effort, which obviously had not been considered in the decision given by the SC. A much bigger issue requiring attention is about the pattern of religiosity that we have woven about ourselves. Why should Ramzan become a hindrance to the accomplishment of our everyday duties and responsibilities, especially a task that comprises carrying out constitutional obligations? Taking a cue from the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), who had even fought wars during Ramzan, the famous battle of Badar being one of them, this quandary should have been solved without controversy. But then we have our own perceptions even about following religion that make things unnecessarily complicated. It is about time that the SC in its role as the interpreter of the constitution gives each institution the space and the right to function without unnecessary intervention. The impression that an august institution such as the SC ends up throwing the baby out with the bathwater only serves to diminish its status and prestige, won after a long and persistent struggle.

پاڑا چنار: رمضان کے مقدس مہینے میں تکفیری دیوبندیوں نے 75 روزے دارشیعہ مسلمان شہید کردیے

by Sarah Khan
پاکستان کے قبائلی علاقے کرم ایجنسی میں حکام کے مطابق پاڑا چنار کے مرکزی بازار میں ہونے والے دو بم دھماکوں کے نتیجے میں پچھتر سے زیادہ شیعہ مسلمان شہید اور دو سو سے زیادہ زخمی ہو گئے ہیں پاکستان کے سرکاری ذرائع ابلاغ کے مطابق یہ دھماکے جمعہ کی شام کو افطار سے کچھ دیر پہلے ہوئے۔ پاکستانی میڈیا اور سوشل میڈیا پر شیعہ مسلمانوں کی نسل کشی پر مکمل خاموشی ہے – کچھ صحافیوں اور سیاستدانوں نے بے دلی سے مزمت کی لیکن کسی نے کھل کر یہ نہیں کہا کہ آج 75 سے زیادہ شیعہ مسلمانوں کو شہید کرنے والے سپاہ صحابہ طالبان کے دیوبندی دہشت گرد تھے جن کو سعودی عرب اور پاکستانی فوج کی سرپرستی حاصل ہے پاکستانی فوج کے لے پالک صحافی اور خوشامدی کویٹہ میں ہونے والی شیعہ نسل کشی کو ہزارہ نسل کشی کہتے ہیں، کراچی میں شیعہ نسل کشی کو سنی شیعہ فرقہ واریت کا نام دیتے ہیں جبکہ پاراچنار میں ہونے والے شیعہ مسلمانوں کے قتل عام کو قبائلی جھگڑا کہ کر چھپا یا جاتا ہے سوشل میڈیا پر شیعہ مسلمانوں نے پاکستانی فوج اور پاکستان مسلم لیگ نواز کی جانب سے سپاہ صحابہ اور طالبان کے تکفیری دیوبندی دہشت گردوں کی سرپرستی کی مذمت کی اور اس ارادے کا اظہار کیا کہ مطالبات کی منظوری تک رائونڈ لاہور میں نواز شریف اور شہباز شریف کے محل کا گھیراؤ کیا جائے گا کرم ایجنسی کے حکام نے خدشہ ظاہر کیا کہ دونوں دھماکے خودکش ہو سکتے ہیں۔ برطانوی خبر رساں ادارے رائٹرز نے کرم ایجنسی کے پولیٹکل انتظامیہ کے سربراہ ریاض محسود کے حوالے سے بتایا کہ دونوں خودکش دھماکے تھے اور دو موٹر سائیکل سوار خودکش حملہ آروں نے دو امام بار گاہوں کے سامنے ایک منٹ کے اندر اندر دھماکے کیے۔ زخیوں کو پاڑا چنار ہسپتال منتقل کر دیا گیا ہے۔ دھماکوں کے بعد سکیورٹی فورسز نے علاقے کو گھیر لیا جبکہ ایجنسی ہیڈ کوارٹر ہستپال میں ایمرجنسی نافذ کر دی گئی ہے۔ پاڑا چنار کے سرکاری ہسپتال کے ڈاکٹر زاہد حسین نے امریکی خبر رساں ادارے اے پی کو بتایا کہ زخمیوں کی بڑی تعداد کی وجہ سے ہسپتال میں جگہ کم پڑ گئی ہے اور کئی زخمیوں کو طبی امداد ہسپتال کے گراؤنڈ میں دی جا رہی ہے۔ دھماکوں کے فوری بعد مقامی پولیس ایک ترجمان فضل ندیم خان نے اے پی کو بتایا کہ ایک بم موٹر سائیکل پر نصب کیا گیا تھا۔ انہوں نے بتایا کہ ماہرین دھماکوں کی جگہ کا معائنہ کر رہے ہیں۔ ایک دوسری سرکاری جاوید علی کے مطابق پہلے دھماکے کے تقریباً چار منٹ کے بعد دوسرا دھماکہ ہوا اور یہ پہلے دھماکے کی جگہ سے تقریباً تین سو سے چار سو میٹر کے فاصلے پر ہوا۔ کرم ایجنسی میں اس سے پہلے بھی شیعہ مسلمانوں کے خلاف تشدد کے واقعات پیش آ چکے ہیں ایجنسی کو ملک کے دوسرے علاقوں سے ملانے والے مرکزی سڑک کافی عرصے تک بند رہی۔ اور شیعہ مسلمان قبائل ایک طویل عرصے تک سپاہ صحابہ، طالبان اور پاکستانی فوج کے ہاتھوں محصور رہے پارا چنار میں یہ اپنی نوعیت کا کوئی پہلا دھماکا نہیں اس پہلے بھی یہاں شیعہ کو ایک سوچی سمجھی سازش کے تحت نشانہ بنایا جاتا رہا ہے لیکن حکومت اور عدلیہ آنکھوں پر ہاتھ رکھے ہوئے ہی - See more at:

Pakistan's Shia Genocide: Twin suicide blasts kill 48 in Parachinar

Forty-eight persons were killed and more than 100 others were injured on Friday in coordinated twin suicide bombings at Parachinar, the main town of Kurram Agency bordering Afghanistan. Riaz Mehsud, Political Agent of Kurram Agency, said the suicide bombers came on motorbikes and blew themselves up in the Parachinar bazaar. He said around 400 persons were busy shopping for Iftar in the narrow roadside markets when the suicide blasts took place. “One suicide bomber blew himself up first in one corner of the bazaar and a minute later the second bomber carried out the attack in another corner, causing widespread destruction,” the top government official in the Kurram tribal region said. He said all the injured had been shifted to the public sector Agency Headquarters Hospital in Parachinar where emergency had already been declared and all hospital staff called for duty. “We received 72 injured persons and among them more than a dozen are in critical condition. We may shift them to Peshawar for better treatment,” said Dr Gul Hussain from Parachinar on phone. A Parachinar resident Amjad Hussain said a large number of tribesmen were busy shopping mostly for eatables for breaking their fast when the blast took place. “I saw people running for their lives when the first blast took place in one corner of the bazaar. Just then another blast occurred. The next thing I saw were human bodies and the injured lying all over the place,” he recalled. He said the local people shifted the injured to the hospital on self-help basis. Another local tribesman, Gulfat Hussain said many people died before they could be shifted to hospital due to lack of immediate medical care. “Announcements were made from loudspeakers in the mosques appealing to the people to come to hospital and donate blood for the injured people,” he said. Heavy contingent of security forces rushed to the spot and cordoned off the area after the blast.Meanwhile, a communique by commissioner Kohat Division stated that 34 persons were killed and more than 80 were injured in the twin suicide blasts in Parachinar. Earlier, two persons were killed and seven others sustained injuries when a double-cabin pickup vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device (IED) in the Kharpati area in lower Kurram Agency on Friday. The sources said the vehicle carrying passengers was heading to Parachinar when it was targeted with an IED planted along the roadside. Parachinar, inhabited by Shias like the rest of upper Kurram Agency, has suffered terrorist attacks in the past as well. For almost four years, the main road from Thall to Parachinar was blocked due to the attacks by Pakistani Taliban militants and passengers had to use the Afghanistan route to drive to Torkham before entering Pakistan. The road was eventually opened by the security forces, but the passenger vehicles still need a security escort to pass safely through the Sunni-populated lower Kurram valley where some of the militants are still operating. Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shaukatullah directed the commissioner Kohat and political agent Kurram Agency to provide better medical treatment to the victims of the twin blasts in Parachinar. Meanwhile, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), through one of its front organisations, claimed responsibility for the two bomb explosions in Parachinar. Talking to reporters from an undisclosed location by phone, a spokesman for the proscribed TTP’s sub-network, Ansarul Mujahideen, said it was behind the bombings. The spokesman, Abu Baseer claimed responsibility for the twin blasts in Parachinar. “The suicide bombers of Ansarul Mujahideen carried out the twin suicide attacks in Parachinar on Friday and the target were members of the Shia community,” the spokesman claimed. He said the attacks were carried out to seek revenge of alleged atrocities by the Shia community on Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq. “We have planned more similar attacks against the Shia community in Pakistan to seek revenge of the brutalities of Shia on Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq,” Abu Baseer warned. APP adds from Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari has strongly condemned the blasts in Parachinar that claimed 45 precious lives while injuring many others.The president expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and prayed for eternal peace of those who embraced martyrdom as a result of the terrorist activity.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari strongly condemns Parachinar blasts

Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has strongly condemned the bomb explosions in Parachinar. He expressed profound grief over the loss of several innocent lives in the barbaric incident that also caused injuries to many others. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the elements spilling the blood of innocent people by carrying out acts of terrorism were open enemies of Islam and the country. He said such cowardice acts will not shake the determination of the nation to eradicate terrorism and people of Pakistan would get rid of the fiends of terrorism and extremism by remaining united. Bilawal Bhutto offered condolences to the grieving families and prayed for the eternal peace of the departed souls. He also prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.