http://www.indianexpress.com/During the holy month of Ramadan, Pakistani actress Veena Malik visited Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in the national capital and reportedly prayed for the friendship of India and Pakistan. She was there to offer prayers for her upcoming film 'Supermodel'.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
By ERIC SCHMITT A rising number of radicalized young Muslims with Western passports are traveling to Syria to fight with the rebels against the government of Bashar al-Assad, raising fears among American and European intelligence officials of a new terrorist threat when the fighters return home. More Westerners are now fighting in Syria than fought in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or Yemen, according to the officials. They go to Syria motivated by the desire to help the people suffering there by overthrowing Mr. Assad. But there is growing concern that they will come back with a burst of jihadist zeal, some semblance of military discipline, enhanced weapons and explosives skills, and, in the worst case, orders from affiliates of Al Qaeda to carry out terrorist strikes. “Syria has become really the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world,” Matthew G. Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a security conference in Aspen, Colo., this month. He added, “The concern going forward from a threat perspective is there are individuals traveling to Syria, becoming further radicalized, becoming trained and then returning as part of really a global jihadist movement to Western Europe and, potentially, to the United States.” Classified estimates from Western intelligence services and unclassified assessments from government and independent experts put the number of fighters from Europe, North America and Australia who have entered Syria since 2011 at more than 600. That represents about 10 percent of the roughly 6,000 foreign fighters who have poured into Syria by way of the Middle East and North Africa. Most of the Westerners are self-radicalized and are traveling on their own initiative to Turkey, where rebel facilitators often link them up with specific groups, terrorism experts say. Many have joined ranks with the Qaeda-aligned Nusra Front, which American officials have designated as a terrorist group. “The scale of this is completely different from what we’ve experienced in the past,” Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator, said at the conference in Aspen. So far, terrorism experts say, there have been no documented terrorist plots linked to European or other Western fighters returning from Syria, but France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, recently called the threat “a ticking time bomb.” Security services across Europe are stepping up their surveillance efforts and seeking ways to make it more difficult for people suspected of being jihadists to travel to Syria. European and other Western intelligence agencies are rushing to work together to track the individuals seeking to cross the border into Syria from Turkey, though several American officials expressed frustration that Turkey is not taking more aggressive steps to stem the flow of Europeans going to fight in Syria. Hans-Peter Friedrich, Germany’s interior minister, is pushing for an European Union-wide registry for all foreigners entering the bloc as one of the measures that will help better track returning radicals. While such a registry will take time to create and put in place, the move reflects the level of concern and the understanding among German security leaders that an individual country’s efforts will be ineffective without the assistance of its European partners, given the open borders across much of the Continent. The German authorities have so far focused domestic efforts on preventing people suspected of being radicals from leaving the country. In the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, the security authorities this month identified 12 people thought to be radicals, who they said had given “concrete indications” that they were planning to leave for Syria. Because the legal procedure for taking away a passport can be lengthy, the authorities will often simply pay a personal visit to the suspected radicals, warning them that the authorities are aware of their plans to travel to Syria and suggesting that they refrain from so doing. Authorities believe, however, that in many cases the suspected radicals sidestep such measures by traveling to a neighboring European Union country first, and then from there to Turkey, where German citizens can enter with only a personal identity card. They can then fairly easily slip over the border into Syria. Public prosecutors in the Netherlands have said that while the authorities cannot stop would-be jihadists from leaving the country, they can combat recruitment, which is against the law and carries a sentence of up to four years in jail or a fine of more than $100,000. A precise breakdown of the Western fighters in Syria is difficult to offer, counterterrorism and intelligence officials said, but their estimates include about 140 French citizens, 100 Britons, 75 Spaniards, 60 Germans, and as many as a few dozen Canadians and Australians. There are also fighters from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands, according to a study in April by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization, a partnership of academic institutions based in London, which estimated that 140 to 600 Europeans had gone to Syria. Only about a dozen Americans have so far gone to fight in Syria, according to American intelligence officials. Nicole Lynn Mansfield, 33, of Flint, Mich., a convert to Islam, was killed in May while in the company of Syrian rebels in Idlib Province. Eric Harroun, 30, a former Army soldier from Phoenix, was indicted in Virginia by a federal grand jury last month on two charges related to allegations that he fought alongside the Nusra Front. In February, he bragged about his involvement, posting a photo on his Facebook page saying, “Downed a Syrian Helicopter then Looted all Intel and Weapons!” About 30 French citizens have returned from the front lines in Syria, according to Mathieu Guidère, a professor at Université Toulouse II and an expert on Islamic terrorism. He said most had been stopped by the domestic intelligence service and held for lengthy questioning under a law passed last year that allows charges to be brought for having traveled to terrorist training camps or combat zones where terrorist groups are involved. Some returned because they were unable to reach the front or find fighters to arm them or train them, Mr. Guidère said. Many end up lost among the refugees on the Turkish and Jordanian borders, and after waiting around for a while come home. Others are rejected by the Free Syrian Army, which does not want them, he said. Many who end up staying join the Nusra Front, which often divides them into groups by nationality. Recently, the Dutch authorities arrested a 19-year-old woman suspected of recruiting young Dutch Muslims to fight with Islamic extremists in Syria. In April, the Belgian authorities raided 48 homes across the country and detained six men implicated in what prosecutors described as a jihadist recruitment drive for the insurgency in Syria. Some of the men have since been released, Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor, said by telephone on Friday. Mr. Van Der Sypt said that the Belgian authorities had recently arrested another man after he returned to Belgium from Syria, but he declined to provide more information, citing the continuing investigation. “We’re still following the phenomenon of people going to Syria from very close by,” he said, referring to residents of places in Belgium like Antwerp and Vilvoorde, a community north of Brussels, who had become involved in a group known as Sharia4Belgium.
Bahrain parliament has reportedly approved a bill banning all protests in the capital, Manama, as the Al Khalifa regime continues its crackdown on anti-government demonstrations. The move, which coincides with a special parliament session to discuss growing violence and anti-government protests in Bahrain, comes as the country’s opposition is preparing for mass demonstrations scheduled to be held on August 14. Bahrain’s Justice Minister Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa has also called for stronger measures against escalating violence and anti-government protests. On July 22, Bahraini police forces raided the houses of anti-regime demonstrators in a number of villages across the country, arresting dozens of people. The Bahraini uprising began in mid-February 2011, when the people, inspired by the popular revolutions that toppled the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt, started holding massive anti-government demonstrations. The Manama regime launched a brutal crackdown on the peaceful protests and called in Saudi-led Arab forces from neighboring states. Scores of people have been killed in the crackdown, and the security forces have detained hundreds, including doctors and nurses. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry said in a report in November 2011 that the Al Khalifa regime had used excessive force in the crackdown and accused Manama of torturing political activists, politicians, and protesters. The protesters say they will continue to hold demonstrations until their demand for the establishment of a democratically elected government is met.
Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed five people in the tribal region near the Afghan border. They say two missiles hit the Shawal area of North Waziristan Sunday evening when the men were crossing on foot into Pakistani territory from Afghanistan. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. They said the men have not been identified. North Waziristan is home to a mix of Pakistani, Afghan and al-Qaida-linked foreign militants. The U.S. drone program is a source of extreme tension between the two countries. Washington says it needs to send drones after dangerous militants because the Pakistani government refuses to engage them militarily. Pakistan charges that the drone strikes are a violation of its sovereignty.
MR. OBAMA: Thanks, guys. Appreciate you.
Karnataka state alone has witnessed 1,000 cases of persecution of Christians in the three years from 2010, according to former high court judge Michael Saldana.Release International, which is running a petition calling for religious freedom in India, is condemning a controversial new anti-conversion law. India's Madhya Pradesh state has taken steps to harden up its existing anti-conversion law, effectively overturning the religious freedom guaranteed under India's constitution. The Bill requires anyone wanting to change their religion to first seek official permission. It obliges religious leaders to report conversions, and mandates a three-year jail sentence for failing to do so. That rises to four years in the case of a minor, a woman or a Dalit (untouchable). The Bill, passed by the legislative assembly on July 10, has yet to be signed off by the governor. The new law represents a significant hardening of official attitudes towards religious freedom. Seven Indian states have passed anti-conversion laws, as a result of pressure from Hindu nationalists who support Hindutva - the ideology of 'one religion, one language, one nation'. They believe that to be Indian is to be Hindu and have hardened up the law in Madhya Pradesh to make changing faith more difficult. A flashpoint is the conversion of Dalits - the so-called out-castes, or untouchables, who are beyond the caste system. Militant Hindus see Christian outreach to the Dalits as an attack against their culture. Attacks against Christians are increasing, according to partners of Release International, which supports the persecuted Church around the world. 'Release International is deeply concerned about the rise of Hindu extremism and the growing culture of religious intolerance in India,' says Release Chief Executive Paul Robinson. 'We will be presenting a petition in November calling on India to uphold the religious freedom guaranteed under its constitution.' Karnataka state alone has witnessed 1,000 cases of persecution of Christians in the three years from 2010, according to former high court judge Michael Saldana. And in Odisha state in 2008, mobs killed more than 100 Christians, drove 50,000 from their homes, and destroyed more than 4,000 houses. 'Attacks on Christians in India are definitely increasing,' says Joseph D'Souza, the President of Release partner, the All India Christian Council. 'These attacks take the form of physical violence, destruction of churches, false cases and arrests. They are co-ordinated.' The AICC has launched a legal challenge to the anti-conversion laws. The Release petition says: 'Article 25 guarantees all persons the freedom of conscience and the right to preach, practise and propagate any religion of their choice. However, Christian pastors and evangelists, notably in the rural areas of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, are frequently attacked by Hindu extremists and then detained by police on false charges of "forcing people to convert".' The petition urges the Indian government to stop the attacks on its own citizens and to bring those responsible to justice. It calls on them to uphold Christians' rights under the Constitution to practise and propagate their faith without fear of being falsely accused or imprisoned.
By Matt VasilogambrosTwelve years of war is a long time—not just for the troops fighting, but also for the American public watching the final stages of the U.S. drawdown. And it looks as if this war fatigue is translating in the polls. Americans are now questioning the very motivation for going to war in the first place. Now, only 28 percent of Americans think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, according to an ABC News/Washinton Post poll released on Friday. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans, by and large, were united in wanting to track down the people responsible (as high as 90 percent in 2002). But after 2,000 deaths in America's longest war, 67 percent of Americans don't think it was worth it. This poll, conducted July 18-21, represents an 11-point drop since March. During that time, countless headlines about Afghanistan have been marked with the unmistakable tension between the U.S. and Afghan governments. The sentiments of the American public are also apparent in responses to a question asking whether U.S. fighting in Afghanistan has contributed to the long-term security of the United States; 50 percent of Americans don't think it has. Only 17 percent think it's contributed a great deal, while another 26 percent think it has helped somewhat. The U.S. has tried to find some semblance of a victory in this conflict, ramping up troop levels after President Obama came into office. But with the increase in drone attacks and pressure from the Afghan government, the U.S. is following through with what the American people have wanted for some time: a steady drawdown of troops, which is scheduled to be complete in 2014. Now, military leaders and officials within the Obama administration are debating whether to leave a small number of military personnel on the ground to continue helping with training Afghan security forces and providing other logistical assistance with counterterrorism missions. However, in recent months, some officials have floated the "zero option," which would withdraw all U.S. personnel from Afghanistan in the coming months. It's unclear what decision the president will make, but 53 percent of the 1,002 adults polled think the U.S. should remove most, not all, forces from Afghanistan. Forty-three percent think the U.S. should remove all forces from the ground. Just 1 percent of Americans think the U.S. should continue current troop levels, a number well within the margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. And this widespread drop of approval for the war in Afghanistan crossed party lines, as well as race and gender. Obama's approval rating on foreign policy may be down in recent weeks, but Americans agree with him on one thing: getting out of Afghanistan.
Let Us Build Pakistan
by Ahmed Bangasharachinar witnessed another bloody day when over 75 Shias were killed, another 180 wounded, by the Takfiri Deobandi terrorists of Sipah-e Sahaba Taliban (currently operating as Ahl-e Sunnat Wal Jamat ASWJ, led by Ahmed Ludhianvi Deobandi). Two hours before Iftar (fast break), this massacre in holy month of Ramzan was met with indifference and silence on Pakistani media and streets. While hospitals in Parachinar were barely able to treat the victims who had sustained severe injuries, the ambulances taking injured victims to the nearby cities were ambushed, killing scores , wounding dozens. Kurram Agency was cut off from Pakistan for five years, starting from 2007 to 2012, when the Deobandi Taliban militants besieged it. Pakistan army stood by while half a million Shias were subject to violence and persecution by the Deobandi Sipah-e Sahaba Taliban. Media being sympathetic to Sipah-e Sahaba Taliban portrayed the Shia Genocide in the town as a tribal conflict involving two different tribes. (Ironically, media persons describe Shia genocide in Kurram as a tribal confict, in Quetta as Hazara ethnic issue, in Karachi as Sunni-Shia violence etc). A segment of the same media called it sectarian violence in another vile attempt to project it as tit-for-tat Sunni-Shia killings. This narrative hides the fact that in addition to muder of 21,000 Shias, Deobandi terrorists (ASWJ, LeJ, Taliban) have also killed thousands of moderate Sunnis, Ahmadis and Christians in Pakistan. As obfuscation was systematically engineered, Shia population faced progrom with Arab, Chechen, Uzbek and local fighters poured on Parachinar to carry out the genocide. All this while, the local Kurrami Shias fought bravely to deal with the Deobandi onslaught. By the end of the siege, thousands of Shias were killed, thousands others injured. Schools remained closed, hospital staff vanished and medical equipments unavailable. Tragically, those crying hoarse on Gaza did not do anything to even highlight this genocidal siege. No part of Pakistan is now safe from the ongoing Shia Genocide and murder of moderate Sunnis by Deobandi terrorissts of the Sipah-e Sahaba Taliban (ASWJ). However, the siege of Parachinar, which is termed Pakistan’s Gaza by international media, is the worst form of violence ever witnessed in the country so far. Shias had to travel all the way from Afghanistan to Parachinar, taking 36 to 48 hours of traveling. They endangered their lives to undertake this journey while Pakistan army was nowhere to be seen. Scores were kidnapped, slaughtered in this journey too. If this was not complicity, one wonders what was. Complicity in Shia Genocide is manifesting itself now in the form of media and civil society’s silence. Since the multiple blasts took place, social and electronic media indulged in trivialities, covering unimportant and Punjab-specific issues; i.e presidential elections, load-shedding, and transport problems in Punjab. Talk Show hosts like Hamid Mir, Nasim Zara, Najam Sethi, Raza Rumi, Fahd Hussain, Javed Chauhdry, Kamran Shahid, Kamran Khan did not dedicate even a minute to this massacre. Both right-wing Islamists and so called “liberals” are silent. Twitter which is abuzz when Taher Shah is invited to Amir Liaqat’s program did not see even a single tweet from the proactive tweeples on the Kurram massacre. The entire focus of these media personalities is to somehow obfuscate the issue and others remain conveniently quiet. Some even go to the extent of humanizing Sipah-e Sahaba Taliban terrorists by interviewing them for their blogs, magazines and newspapers (e.g. TFT blog owned by Najam Sethi, edited by Raza Rumi). Sadly some Shias continue to engage with and promote those ‘fake’ libeal editors who in turn continue to engage with and promote ASWJ terrorists. There is no denial that Shia Genocide is enabled by the complicity of state institutions. But equally big role is that of media. The Taliban-sympathetic media, the Taliban-idealizing social media will only obfuscate the pogrom while Shias will continue to suffer. Only a few persecuted Sunni Barelvis, Ahmedis, Christians, Balochs raise their voice against Shia Genocide. Those quiet now are complicit too. And once the Deobandi terrorists (Taliban, ASWJ) get the upper hand, those silent will face what the Shias are going through right now. Meanwhile, the world needs to turn its focus to Pakistan and take concrete steps to make the state act against the Shia Genocide. News clip: Deobandi terrorists (Sipah Sahaba Taliban) own up the attack on innocent Shia Muslims of Parachinar, express their intent to kill all Shia Muslims of Pakistan, falsely present themselves as Sunni Muslims, and falsely implicate Pakistani Shias in events taking place in Syria and Iraq (where, as a matter of fact, Al Qaeda affilaited Deobandi and Wahhabi terrorists are busy in slaughtering secualr Sunni, Shia and Christian communities).
Groups of Taliban fighters are spilling out of the tribal belt in northwestern Pakistan into the region’s largest city, Peshawar, where they are increasingly showing their presence through a campaign of intimidation and violence, according to residents, the police and city officials. While Taliban violence has declined across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province this year, officials say, raids have increased in Peshawar, where militants have stepped up attacks aimed at the police, extortion demands, sectarian killings and kidnappings, said a report published in the New York Times. For all that, the militants do not pose an immediate threat to the overall control of the city, and the police say they have foiled many potential attacks. But the increased Taliban presence does signal a further advance for the militants, who have also become a more muscular presence this year in Karachi, the country’s most populous city. Their strength has also bolstered a broader wave of sectarian violence in the northwest. On Saturday, the toll from a double bomb attack conducted on Friday against minority Shia in Parachinar, a tribal town west of Peshawar, climbed to 57 dead and at least 167 wounded, the authorities said. There was no claim of responsibility, but Taliban-affiliated groups have been responsible for previous sectarian atrocities in the same area. Militants have attacked inside Peshawar, a city of an estimated four million people, once a day, on average, for the past five months, according to provincial government statistics. That accounts for about half of the militant episodes across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “It’s like Ricky Ponting playing cricket,” said a senior security official in Peshawar, referring to a former Australian cricketer known for his prolific scoring ability, and speaking on the customary condition of anonymity. The violence is partly a product of military success. The Pakistani Army has been battling Taliban militants in the mountains of the adjoining Khyber tribal district in recent months. A smaller security operation is under way in Darra Adam Khel, a district southwest of the city that is famed for its gunsmiths. The fiercest fighting is taking place in the Tirah Valley of Khyber, along the Afghan border, where the military is arrayed against Mangal Bagh, a local warlord affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban. Helicopter gunships and artillery attacked militant hideouts in Khyber as part of an intense, weeklong military assault that ended Thursday. Tribal authorities in Khyber said they found the bodies of 20 militants in one village alone. But the back draft of those battles is being felt in the suburbs of Peshawar, where nervous residents have reported sightings of militants who travel around on motorcycles, frequent restaurants late at night and preach in local mosques. Abdul Haleem, a building contractor, said he received a surprise lecture on violence during morning prayers at his local mosque recently. “A man stood up and, without the permission of the imam, started preaching about the importance of jihad and its rewards in the hereafter,” Mr. Haleem said during an interview at his house in Hayatabad, the city’s wealthiest suburb. “Later we found out that he was a militant commander from Khyber,” he said. Several police officers, all speaking on the condition of anonymity blamed the ambivalent attitude of the newly elected provincial government, led by Imran Khan, a former cricket star, for declining morale. Mr. Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party favors talks with the Taliban over fighting, and his officials frequently frame militant violence as a reaction to American drone strikes in the tribal belt. “What we need is a pat on the back, not daily derision,” one senior official said. “If Khan says this is not our war, then what does he think we are doing here sacrificing our lives?” Murad Saeed, a member of Parliament from Mr. Khan’s party, rejected accusations that his party was soft on militancy. “We only say that the use of force has been futile against militancy, and now we should give a chance to a political solution,” Mr. Saeed said in a telephone interview. He said Pakistan’s government first needed to address “the factors that spur our own people to carry out violent acts.” Some of the violence in Peshawar this year has targeted members of the Shia minority, and doctors in particular. In January, Dr. Shah Nawaz Ali, an eye specialist at Lady Reading Hospital, was shot dead outside his clinic, and another doctor in Peshawar, Dr. Riaz Hussain Shah, a gastroenterologist, was killed. Wealthy businessmen have faced extortion demands. The owner of a truck transport company living in Hayatabad said a militant demand for about $100,000 came to him in the form of a letter thrown at his doorstep. The next day a Taliban commander phoned him. “He warned me not to inform the police,” said the businessman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for safety reasons. “I have no option but to meet their demand.” The provincial police chief, Ihsan Ghani, acknowledged that the situation was grave, but he insisted that it was under control. “There is a clear and present danger,” Mr. Ghani said in an interview. But, he added, police intelligence had quietly disrupted several terrorist plots, and the authorities had arrested many militants. The turmoil comes against the backdrop of a broader political stasis in Pakistan. The prospect of peace talks with the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan has evoked mixed reactions among Pakistani politicians. Some, like Mr. Khan, view such talks as a necessary first step out of a violent regional quagmire, a move that would at once bring peace to Afghanistan and remove the justification that spurs Pakistan’s militants. But others view the notion of talks with apprehension, fearing that they would only give the Taliban time to conquer ground that would eventually have to be won back through painful military operations, as the army did in the Swat Valley in 2009. “We have yet to decide who is our real enemy, and the Taliban are taking advantage of this confusion,” said Afrasiab Khattak of the Awami National Party, which governed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa until the last election, when it won just one seat. Some Pakistani officials worry that the American withdrawal in Afghanistan in 2014 will embolden Pakistan’s Taliban. A recent strategic assessment by the province’s Home and Tribal Affairs Department, a copy of which has been obtained by The New York Times, warns that it is a “fallacy” to assume that the American departure from Afghanistan will end violence in Pakistan. Instead, the document warns, Pakistan’s Taliban could use the perceived victory in Afghanistan to install “their own brand of Islam” in Pakistan. “Our political leadership is confused when it comes to the Taliban,” said one senior police officer in Peshawar. “And that is undermining police morale and hindering us in our job.”
The Express TribuneSindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon on Saturday accused the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of carrying on its routine political practice of supporting the ruling party. Speaking to media at an Iftar dinner on Saturday, Memon said, “The MQM enjoys power politics and cannot live without being in power”. The minister said he only wished that the prime minister would not comment on the murder of TV reporter Wali Khan Babar and target killer Ajmal Pahari during his upcoming visit to Karachi. Commenting on a possible alliance between PML- N and MQM, the minister said, “Such dalliance will not impact the PPP and its government in Sindh.” “Once the MQM joins the federal government, all allegations that the PML-N leaders levelled in the past against the PPP will evaporate.” “When the MQM was a coalition partner of General Pervez Musharraf, the PML-N chief had asked all the parties at a meeting in London not to make an alliance with MQM in future; but now his own party is violating its own dictates by inking an agreement with the MQM,” he said. On the other hand, Minister for Local Government Owais Muzaffar telephoned his party leaders from London and discussed current political situation, with special reference to the MQMs’ decision to support Mamnoon Hussain. He said he would return by Tuesday and start consultations with senior party leaders on the newly emerging political situation. He said they would continue the “reconciliation policy” as they wanted to take all political forces on board on issues confronted by the nation. Speaking about the PPP decision to boycott the presidential polls, Owais said the PPP had no other option, and it took that decision to exercise its democratic right.
Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, has called for resignation of the chief election commissioner and all four members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for “failing to protect their independence”. Talking to Dawn on Saturday, the PPP leader said his party would raise the issue of the “partiality” allegedly shown by the ECP in the lead-up to the presidential election during sessions of the National Assembly and Senate on Monday. Sources in the PPP told Dawn that the opposition members would lodge a protest in the two houses through points of order. The sources said leaders of the opposition in the NA and Senate, Syed Khurshid Shah and Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, would raise the matter and explain the reason for the party’s decision to boycott the presidential election after the Supreme Court allowed the ECP to advance the polling date to July 30 from Aug 6 at the PML-N’s request. “The chief election commissioner, along with all the four members, should immediately resign,” said Mr Shah, who was head of the parliamentary committee that had approved the appointments of retired justice Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim as the CEC and the other ECP members. He said through the 18th and 20th amendments, the ECP had been made a powerful and independent institution, but regretted that it had abdicated its powers and independence. “The May 11 elections were RO (returning officers) elections and the presidential election is the chief RO election,” he alleged. The PPP leader said his party would never accept the results of the “manipulated presidential election” and continue to raise its voice against the alleged “nexus between the PML-N government, the ECP and the courts”. Mr Shah also lashed out at the PML-N for seeking the Muttahida’s support for its presidential candidate. “In my speech in the assembly (on Monday), I will congratulate Mian Sahab (PM Nawaz Sharif) for joining hands with the MQM and remind him about a resolution which the PML-N had moved in an all-party conference in London terming the MQM a terrorist party,” he said. Mr Shah said since the PPP had announced boycott of the presidential election, its members would not attend sessions of the provincial assemblies and the parliament on the polling day. A PPP senator told Dawn that his party would also raise other matters of public importance in the Senate. Farhatullah Babar, a PPP Senator and the presidency’s spokesman, in a statement on Saturday again asked the government to provide complete details of payment of Rs480 billion made to settle the circular debt of Rs503bn. JUI-F UNDECIDED: Meanwhile, the JUI-F announced on Saturday that so far it had not decided about its vote in the July 30 presidential election. Sources said the JUI-F, which is sitting on the treasury benches at the centre, wanted to join the Balochistan government as well and was using this demand as a bargain during the presidential election. But the PML-N is facing a strong opposition from its nationalist allies on the issue of including the JUI-F in the ruling coalition in the province. Talking to Dawn after a meeting of the JUI-F Majlis-i-Shoora here, party’s spokesman Jan Achakzai said that the Balochistan chapter of the party had shown serious concerns over the political situation in the province. He said the JUI-F was a genuine stakeholder in Balochistan, but it had been ignored. Mr Achakzai said that some initial contact had been made by the PML-N on the Balochistan issue, but the JUI-F was awaiting further discussion on it. He clarified that JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, during his recent meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had exclusively focused on the law and order situation in Balochistan. He said the Maulana had complained to the prime minister that the JUI-F was not taken on board on several issues
One of the congested markets and a taxi stand adjacent to it was turned into debris within no time when two powerful blasts occurred within the space of a few seconds in Parachinar. Nearly 57 people are reported to have died so far. The death toll can rise as the 200 injured are in a critical condition. The blast took place two hours before Iftar, when people were shopping for the evening meal of Ramzan. The victims were mostly from the Shia community. So far no one has taken responsibility for the attack. Kurram Agency, of which Parachinar is the capital, is known for tensions between Shias and Sunnis making it a hub of sectarian violence in the region. The residents of Parachinar, predominantly Shia, have been the target of Jihadi extremists since 2007. The latter had blocked the Thal-Parachinar road connecting the city with Peshawar and killed any travellers brave or foolhardy enough to defy the blockade. This untold punishment forced the locals to detour via Afghanistan to get to Peshawar and buy daily necessities. The government to date has been unable to open the road, which has made life difficult not only in terms of hardship, shortages and expense as the city, almost cut off from the rest of Pakistan, depends on food or items bought to its markets through longish routes raising the transportation cost. The situation is even worse on the academic front. Most of the children and youth could not go to schools or colleges as none are functional or operational because of lack of teaching staff and equipment. The hospital too wears a deserted look. This attack has again exposed this negligence of the incumbents when the victims of the blast were lying unattended in the Agency’s Headquarter Hospital’s veranda without any first aid administered to them. Though this criminality of sectarian violence started during Zia’s regime, the indifference of the subsequent governments added to the misery of the Shia community in the area. Friday’s attack shows that things are as bad or maybe have gone worse. As far as terrorism is concerned, it is not only an issue restricted to FATA. The flames of sectarian violence are equally potent in other parts of the country, especially targeting the Hazara community, killed in the hundreds so far in Quetta. So unscrupulous are the culprits that they don’t have any qualms even to violate the sanctity of the month of Ramzan. The timing they chose for the blast, two hours before Iftar, seemed deliberate to obtain maximum human casualties. The proximity of the imambargah to the market that was aimed at suggests that Shias were the real target. Such are the calculations and strategies of our enemies, while we are still sitting on our hands as far as formulating anti-terrorism policies and implementing them are concerned. This laid back attitude will only serve to embolden the culprits, as it has done so far. Certainly the country is mired in deep crises of various natures and the energy fiasco takes the cake. But did it ever occur to the policymakers that with the present outreach of terrorists across the country, a viable solution to the energy crisis could be almost impossible to achieve. We need investors to overcome not only the energy problems but to revive our economy. Who will invest in Pakistan in this situation? Already a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. It is time to wake up and take responsibility. Even if the government starts today in earnest, it would take many years to clean up the mess dating back four decades. But to begin with, we need to first recognize the perpetrators as our enemies and our adventure with jihadi extremism a costly failure.
The death toll in Friday’s twin blasts that ripped through a congested market and a taxi stand in Parachinar town, increased to 57 when on Saturday another 12 injured persons succumbed to their injuries. According to reports pouring from the Parachinar, the main town of Kurram tribal area bordering Afghanistan, almost all the dead and injured were Shias. Following the sectarian clashes, in 2007, Parachinar, situated 250 kilometers west of Peshawar, comprises a population of 50,000 had been given an elaborated security blanket by army and paramilitary forces on all roads leading to the town. But on Friday all security checks proved futile, when back-to-back blasts rocked the town. Another 50 terrorists unleashed another attack on a check post of paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers, leaving five of them seriously injured. In a retaliatory firing six militants were perished in Hangu district situated in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Over the years, the Pakistan army and its paramilitary forces have launched hot pursuit against the terrorists and Al Qaeda operatives. Withering all crackdowns of the army and paramilitary forces, the terrorists rip through the all security walls at will, dismissing all tall claims of the Pakistan and the US led forces, making frequent drone strikes in the tribal belt, to have attained any significant success against terrorists. The militancy seems far from being over. In repeated mass massacres in the tribal belt and Balochistan, the human blood is continuously going down the drains. The number of the war victims is growing an alarming rate. Poverty in the region is constantly growing; hence encouraging the foreign media to air the reports about Pakistan inability to enforce the writ of the state. Some of them have gone to the extent of talking about, God forbid, another Dhaka like debacle. Strangely enough, the ruling PML-N is yet to react to these reports in public. In the election run-up, the ruling PML-N attached top priority to the militancy and energy crisis but after swearing in earlier last month, the rulers seemingly has put in all its focus on power shortage, making quick clearance to the circular debt in the first week of the term, leaving the fighting against militancy to backburner. The incumbent rulers are yet to announce measures aiming at strengthening the provincial governments to tackle the issue. Despite suffering massive loss of men and material in war on terror, the Pakistan army is fighting the war on its own, without taking the nation on board about its inability to root out terrorism. Now the time is ripe for the armed forces to go for all-out war on terror, shunning aside the reliance on outside forces active in the region, taking it for granted that none of them is working for the cause of Pakistan. As a last resort, the Centre, provincial governments and the military top brass should sit together to chalk out a joint strategy afresh to save lives of the countrymen, keeping the frontiers of the state in tact.