Sunday, August 4, 2013

Egypt: Brotherhood and allies bought arms from abroad
The Giza Prosecution has received a copy of the investigations conducted by Egyptian Homeland Security into the clashes that took place between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsy in the districts of Bein al-Sarayat and al-Bahr al-Aazam, as well as on Giza Bridge, which left 36 people dead and 500 others injured. The investigations revealed that the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies, who are being detained for 15 days pending investigation, are implicated in murder and attempted murder of citizens, that they have funded their supporters to take the country into a "dark tunnel," and that they provided them with weapons to kill innocent people, all within a plan to reinstate the deposed regime. Judicial sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that prosecutors will go to al-Aqrab prison to face the defendants with evidence on 30 June, the date their incarceration could be renewed. Investigations also revealed that the defendants paid masked and armed terrorists to take positions on roofs of buildings near Cairo University and Giza Bridge and shoot at citizens, pointing out that this was part of a plan called “Plight to Overthrow of the Regime.” Egyptian Homeland Security is investigating further the role that former Minister of Supply Bassem Ouda played in the events of the al-Bahr al-Aazam and al-Mahatta streets, as a preliminary investigation showed that he took part in a march from al-Nahda Square to al-Bahr al-Aazam Street, then the armed elements stood on Giza Bridge and started shooting citizens in the eyes and the chest. Investigations also showed that those “extremist” elements killed the two citizens whose bodies were found in the al-Orman public park, which confirms that jihadists were behind those killings. Egyptian Homeland Security said that members of the Guidance Bureau and the Freedom and Justice Party, with their allies who are jailed in the al-Aqrab prison, sent the groups that filled al-Nahda Square and Giza Bridge to control these vital areas, which prompted the residents of al-Bahr al-Aazam, Bein al-Sarayat, and al-Mahatta to resist them. It added that millions of pounds were paid by the defendants to purchase weapons from abroad, and that they paid their supporters to carry out their plan to reinstate the former regime, which was confirmed when Hazem Abu Ismail was arrested at his home in Dokki with LE1.25 million in cash in his possession. Investigations also found out that the defendants told their supporters this was a jihad in the name of God, and for the victory of Islam, and that the Brotherhood's plan was aimed to distort the military and paralyze the country with the bloodshed that it had planned. The detainees are Hazem Abu Ismail, leader of the Salafi al-Raya Party, Helmy al-Gazzar, a leading figure of the Freedom and Justice Party, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud, the lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood, and former MP Mohamed al-Omda. Prosecutors ordered the seizure of their bank accounts, and banned them from accessing their funds. Also banned from accessing their funds are Saad al-Katatny, head of the Freedom and Justice Party, and Rashad Baioumy, deputy supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, who were released pending investigation into the Bein al-Sarayat case.

Soviet fiasco a lesson for China

A Xinhua commentary penned by Wang Xiaoshi warning that unrest in China would leave it worse off than the Soviet Union has been hotly discussed online recently. The idea of this article is in line with mainstream views, but failed to give a professional description of the current situation of Russia. Liberals have hit out at the article, but they do not have a professional knowledge of Russia's fate either. The belief that the collapse of the Soviet Union has benefited the Russian people is a naïve one. The unrest that finally led to the Soviet collapse is an alarming warning for China. China's own history proves that the country cannot afford to fall into chaos. Unrest will only be accompanied by war and blood. Russia has stepped out of the immense suffering at the beginning of the Soviet collapse and is now walking toward prosperity. But what have division and economic stagnation brought to this country? Russia has been categorized as a second-class power and no longer enjoys a position of leadership in global affairs. That a couple of years' chaos is an appropriate price Russia should pay for the current affluence is a short-sighted view. Trying to avoid chaos is the sacred responsibility of the leadership of any country. Will mainstream society dare to bear such a huge cost? The collapse of the Soviet Union came as the regime lost control over the reform process. This is a lesson for all countries. Western scholars view the leadership led by Mikhail Gorbachev as a weak one. It is only ideological leanings that prompt some to lavish praise on him. We should observe Russia's development mode by shaking off the influence of the Soviet collapse. Russia has taken neither a Western nor an Eastern path. What happened there only relates to its own geographical characteristics and culture. Russia's overall level of social development is still higher than that of China, yet the gap has diminished drastically in the past two decades. Meanwhile, Russia's status on the world stage has become comparatively lower. These are irrefutable facts. It is also worth pointing out that the world has completely different opinions on reforms undertaken by China and those by the Soviet Union. Although the West apparently dislikes China, mainstream opinion has spoken highly of China's reforms, while reforms led by Gorbachev never received such praise. Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, is gradually moving far from the political path taken by Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. Russia's prosperity today is the result of many factors such as Putin's leadership and the country's advantages in terms of resources. It is not accurate to attribute Russia's achievements to the Soviet fall and democratization. Comparatively, China, being the world's second largest economy, is still a poor country. It is grappling with this problem. Neither China nor Russia has fulfilled their tasks of transformation. The two neighbors should watch each other so as to avoid following in the steps of the Soviet Union.

Turkey: Designer and Gezi protester Barbaros Şansal claims to have been kidnapped

Barbaros Şansal, a renowned Turkish designer who became one of the prominent symbols of the Gezi Park protests, claims to have been kidnapped on the night of Aug. 3. Şansal claimed that three people, who had introduced themselves as policemen in plain clothes, took him to a car outside of his house late on the night of Aug.3, and that he was then held until the early hours of Aug. 4, online Turkish news portal OdaTV reported on its website. “They did not treat me badly. They only spoke but I do not want to speak about what they told me. When I came back, I testified at the Sarıyer Police station and told them I did not file a complaint against them [the people Şansal claims to have kidnapped him],” Şansal is reported as saying. Şansal went missing late in the night of Aug.3, after a live telephone interview on Halk TV, a broadcaster known for its opposition to the government, where he talked about the police’s excessive use of force in Taksim on the same evening. News spread across Twitter with the hashtag #Barbarosşansalnerede (#whereisbarbarossansal) that Şansal had been detained. Şansal tweeted on the morning of Aug.4, that he was back home safe and sound. His lawyer Efkan Bolaç said later on his Twitter account that they had decided to file a complaint against the people who held him. The complaint would be based on the restriction of liberty and abduction, he added.

Egypt nixes Turkish PM’s visit to Gaza Strip
Cairo officials say Erdogan will be denied access to Hamas-controlled territory due to his support of Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian authorities announced Sunday that they would not allow Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to enter the Gaza Strip for a planned visit that was to take place later this month.The Egyptian news site Youm7, citing a diplomatic source in Cairo, reported that Erdogan’s trip to the Strip was canceled due to his support of the Muslim Brotherhood and the ousted Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi. According to Turkish sources, Erdogan planned to visit Gaza in order to put pressure on Israeli authorities to end the naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled territory. The blockade was imposed by Israel in response to the violent Hamas takeover in 2007, in order to prevent weaponry reaching the strip. It has not been lifted since, although its terms have been eased. Israel and Egypt control all of the border crossings to the Strip. Hamas spokesmen Sami Abu Zuhri criticized the decision to deny the Turkish prime minister passage into Gaza, claiming it was based on “the premise that the Hamas movement is hostile,” the Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. “This is a dangerous development, which confirms that the current powers in Egypt are giving up on national causes and even using these issues to deal with other parties, first among them the Palestinian cause,” Abu Zuhri added. In May, Turkish writer and researcher Zahid Gul said a Turkish government official had hinted to him that Erdogan planned to make a joint trip to the Gaza Strip with Morsi, who was still ruling Egypt at the time. Last month, Egyptian officials announced that prosecutors would investigate allegations that Egypt’s ousted president had escaped from prison during the 2011 revolution with help from Hamas. The US, Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had been asking Erdogan to delay or cancel his visit to Gaza, saying it may cause serious harm to diplomatic relations between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

President Zardari‚ Ahmadinejad discuss bilateral issues
Meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held in Tehran. President Asif Ali Zardari met former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Sunday. They discussed bilateral relations and matters of mutual interest during the meeting.

President Zardari grieved over losses in rain-related incidents

President Asif Ali Zardari Sunday expressed profound grief and sorrow over the loss of lives and devastation caused by torrential rains, flash floods and other rain-related incidents in various parts of the country. Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that expressing sympathies with the bereaved families and rain affectees, the President advised the federal and provincial government departments to undertake every possible effort in a concerted manner for providing relief to the rain-hit people and evacuating those stranded in accumulated water in different parts of the country. Expressing concern over the incidents of electrocution causing loss of many lives, the President stressed for immediate measures to ensure that no such incident occur in future.

Pakistan: 18th amendment still not implemented: Raza Rabbani

Senator Raza Rabbani, senior leader Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Sunday regretted that despite passage of three years the 18th amendment of the constitution has still not been implemented and called for restoration of provincial autonomy. Addressing a press conference here, Raza Rabbani said any attempt to rollback the 18th amendment would go against the Federal government and the small provinces would never accept such a move. He said the statements on the 18th amendment by the Federal Minister for Petroleum Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are condemnable. “We want the Federation to devolve the Ministry of Health and Education to the provinces,” he asserted, adding, “we wanted to give the government a 100-day honey-moon period but now consultations will be held after the Eid over talks of 18th amendment’s rollback”. He hoped that the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan would also give their reaction to the issue.

Caught on Tape: NFL Cheerleader Allegedly Drunk and Abusive

U.S: Republican No-Shows in the Budget Wars

Amid the morass of Washington’s endless budget fights there was a moment of sweet revelation last week: House Republicans choked outright when they failed to muster support for the draconian dreams of Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin legislator and fabled budget hawk who last year ran for vice president on a program of unforgiving fiscal austerity that his colleagues suddenly found too politically risky. A $44 billion measure based on the tooth-and-claw Ryan blueprint approved by the same House just three months ago had to be yanked from the floor when not enough Republicans showed up to vote yes. An embarrassed leadership was forced to concede that the size of the proposal’s cuts to transportation, housing and urban development had become intolerable even to the fiscal zealots among the rank and file, who no longer had the stomach to walk the austerity talk. The embarrassment was deserved. The leadership offered hollow excuses about a tight legislative calendar, but the truth was more accurately explained by Harold Rogers, the Republican appropriations chairman and no slouch as a budget hawk. The frustrated lawmaker underlined the moment by noting: “The House has made its choice: sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.” The retreat hardly settled the larger budget wars, which remain noxious. The Republicans have not abandoned their threats to bring government to a halt, to stage-manage another federal debt crisis, and, of course, to fiscally strangle the law of the land known as Obamacare. But the House’s skittishness at the decidedly unpopular costs of some of the party’s budget strictures presented a revealing tableau of both hypocrisy and weakness: Republicans could not pass their own cramped vision of the future. The non-vote also laid bare intramural chaos that may or may not educate a sufficient number of Republicans to act more responsibly in the coming budget struggles. For all his candor about “ill-conceived discretionary cuts,” Mr. Rogers and others would still like to take the knife to entitlement programs. This is the last thing President Obama and the Democrats should allow. There is already concern that Mr. Obama may not forcefully defend against cuts to Social Security and Medicare that Republicans increasingly seek, even as they lick their self-inflicted sequestration wounds.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President: Obama turns 52

Instead of "Hail to the Chief," President Barack Obama is most likely hearing strains of "Happy Birthday" this weekend. Obama turns 52 on Sunday and is spending part of the day at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. The White House said little about how he's celebrating. He played golf Saturday with friends from his days in Hawaii and Chicago. Some were expected to join him at Camp David. Obama is scheduled to return to the White House on Sunday afternoon. His week ahead includes travel to the West Coast to discuss plans to help homeowners, appear on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and visit with troops at Camp Pendleton. He also has a White House meeting Thursday with the prime minister of Greece.

Terror machine beyond Afghan borders the main threat

At least 12 people were killed in the deadly attack targeting the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad city, bordering Pakistan, in the backdrop of reports that the ISI-backed Haqqani network among others were again plotting to attack Indian interests in Afghanistan.
With militants again targeting its mission in Jalalabad, India today said "terror machine" that operates from "beyond the borders" was the main threat to Afghanistan's security while the war-torn country assured that no stone will be left unturned to ensure safety of Indian diplomats there. At least 12 people were killed in the deadly attack targeting the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad city, bordering Pakistan, in the backdrop of reports that the ISI-backed Haqqani network among others were again plotting to attack Indian interests in Afghanistan. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid called up his Afghan counterpart Zalmay Rassoul and thanked him for the efforts of Afghan National Police in ensuring the safety of the Consulate General of India in Jalalabad, official sources said. They said Rassoul informed Khurshid that "Afghanistan will leave no stone unturned to ensure the safety of Indian diplomatic personnel and the Afghan Government is determined to counter the efforts of those inimical to India's friendship with Afghanistan." Earlier, MEA Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, "This attack has once again highlighted that the main threat to Afghanistan's security and stability stems from terrorism and the terror machine that continues to operate from beyond its borders." He said the attack which has led to the injuries and deaths of several valiant Afghan police personnel as well as deaths of several innocent Afghan civilians including children, must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. However, he asserted that India would not be deterred by this attack and will continue to assist Afghanistan in its reconstruction and development effort. "This was clearly an attack not just against India but an attack against the efforts to help the Afghan people overcome the tragic hardships they have endured due to several decades of war," he said. This is the second strike on the Consulate which was earlier attacked in 2007. Indian Embassy in Kabul too came under a deadly attack in 2008 and was again targeted in 2009. Pakistan-based Haqqani network, described by a former US military chief as the "veritable arm of ISI", has earlier been found to have carried out the attacks. It is understood that Indian government had inputs about possible terror attacks against its consulates including the one in Jalalabad following which a team, comprising security officials, visited the consulates and the embassy in Kabul last week. Apart from Jalalabad, India has consulates in three more places in Afghanistan- Herat, Mazare-i-Sharif and Kandahar. As per the recent intelligence inputs, apart from Haqqanis, the security threat was also from smaller militant groups based in Pakistan, following which India's Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha came to the headquarters here for the consultations. Meanwhile, Akbaruddin said India wishes to express its deep gratitude to the brave Afghan security personnel who laid down their lives while protecting the Indian Consulate. "We wish to express our grief and condolences to the families of the innocent Afghan civilians who also lost their lives during this attack," he said.

Afghanistan: An enduring rivalry behind Indian consulate attack
At least 12 people were mowed down mercilessly in a deadly suicide bomb attack on Saturday targeting the Indian consulate in Jalalabad—the capital city of eastern Nangarhar province, bordering Pakistan. Indian interests in Afghanistan have been under a constant threat as it is the third time that Indian embassy and consulate had come under attack. The repeated attacks on Indian facilities inside Afghanistan shows there has been an enduring rivalry behind it and it couldn’t be the job of a ragtag Taliban group that doesn’t want anything else but to be back in power in Afghanistan. Therefore, the attack seems to be the job of a third party—definitely a state not a militant group. In 2008, a car bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul had killed over 60 people and suicide attacks on two guesthouses in 2010 killed 16 people, including seven Indians. Saturday’s attack took place in the backdrop of threats of likely terror attacks on Indian diplomats and other facilities in Afghanistan therefore a security team was dispatched from New Delhi to Kabul last week to assess the threats. No militant group has owned responsibility for the attack yet so far but Kurram tribal agency based Haqqani network is likely to be blamed for the attack. The dreaded network has been responsible for attacks on American embassy and military installation as well as on Indian embassy and engineers. Since Haqqani network is based in Pakistan so the dangers of insurgency within Afghanistan and across areas along the Durand Line are predominately sourced in Pakistan, to a far greater extent than in the war-torn Afghanistan. The Taliban and transnational jihadi groups based in Pakistan remain the principal instrumentality of Islamabad’s response to India’s growing engagement in Afghanistan. In Pakistan’s Urdu press Afghan Taliban are feted and eulogized while Pakistani Taliban are being depicted as brutes with and endless bloodlust. Most of the Pakistani so-called liberal writers dip their pens in gall when they give vent to their opinion on Indian consulate in Jalalabad and India’s role in Afghanistan. For them, as if, it is India that has created the Taliban on Pakistani soil. It is no denying the fact that most of these writers are on the payroll of Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). Being matchless in “blame the victim” game, Pakistan continues to spread misleading propaganda about the “large Indian consulates” in Afghanistan being a source of insecurity in Pakistan. This perceived threat has been so much projected in media that even those living in the tribal belt on the other side of the Durand Line feel India responsible for insecurity and mayhem in the region. It is despite the fact that most of tribesmen blame Pakistan’s security establishment for their miseries and displacement from their ancestral land. Recently a delegation of Afridi tribesmen comprising of 200 tribal elders had visited Nangarhar and Kabul where it lodged complaints against Pakistan army and ISI, appealing the Afghan government to help them in getting freedom from persecution of Pakistan army. Since Pakistan’s security thinking has been predominantly occupied with a perceived threat from Indian interests in Afghanistan therefore it’s hell-bent on damaging Indo-Afghan ties. The problem is it doesn’t look at who attacked GHQ, police stations, military installations and markets in Pakistan. Islamabad doesn’t have to worry about India in Afghanistan rather it should worry about the thriving militant safe havens and groups in western Pakistan and the tribal belt—a nurturing land for terrorists. Besides that when India has already shown reluctance from sending military trainers to Afghanistan and has clearly declared its intentions not to waver from its commitment to reconstruction and capacity building in Afghanistan, attacking Indian interests in Afghanistan could potentially trigger a catastrophic blowback.

Pakistan: Terminological inexactitude

Daily Times
Imran Khan’s two explanations (with a break in between for consultations) in the Supreme Court (SC) regarding the alleged contempt by him of the judiciary, failed to cut much ice with the three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry when the PTI leader appeared before it. In the first explanation by his counsel Hamid Khan, it was submitted that Imran Khan had not committed contempt of court nor could even think of doing so since he held the judiciary in high esteem. It went on to elaborate the PTI leader and his party’s struggle in the movement for the restoration of the judiciary. His remarks, considered contemptuous by the SC, were placed in the context of the PTI leader’s pleas to the SC to adjudicate his party’s complaints regarding rigging in the elections of May 11 in at least four National Assembly constituencies. In other words, the counsel argued that it was the high expectations from the SC that had disappointed Imran Khan to an extent that he lapsed into the ‘immoderate’ language that has offended the court. The bench however, advised the counsel to retire and submit a more ‘considered’ statement. This second explanation argued that Imran Khan’s statements were made in good faith and against the lower judiciary returning officers in the election. However, the court would have none of it and ordered the counsel to file a comprehensive written reply on August 28. Both before his appearance before the SC and after, Imran Khan appeared unrepentant and unapologetic, arguing he had said nothing wrong or contemptuous and therefore did not see the need to apologise to the court. The bone of contention appeared to be ‘terminological inexactitude’ over the meaning (and translation in parts of the media) of the word used by Imran Khan regarding the conduct of the elections and the ‘judiciary’s’ role during and after the polls. The offending word is ‘sharamnaak’, which some of the media have translated as ‘shameless’ and most as ‘shameful’. ‘Shameless’ is a much stronger word and arguably falls into the category of contempt. However, ‘shameful’ could refer to the conduct of their duties by the judiciary rather than the person of judges or the institution per se. While arguably ‘shameful’ may or may not be contemptuous, it is certainly derogatory. Nevertheless, even this subtle distinction did not help Imran Khan’s cause before the bench. Imran Khan has been sounding off since the elections on the following lines: the election saw the worst (?) rigging in any election in Pakistan’s history, and the lack of redress by the Election Commission of Pakistan or the SC was ‘shameful’. The SC bench patiently explained to the alleged contemnor that such electoral rigging complaints, under the law and judicial procedure, were referred in the case of 31 pleas by the PTI members to the election tribunals as the proper forum for dealing with such complaints. Imran Khan, on the other hand, is impatient with that route since he believes the election tribunals take far too long to deliver any verdict and arguably by the time they do, the next elections may well be round the corner. Hence his insistence that the SC, which otherwise has been known in recent years to utilise its suo motu powers liberally, should intervene to cut short the long winded process. In other words, Imran Khan, in the view of the court, demands special treatment. While it is understandable that Imran Khan and his party were frustrated by their inability to sweep the polls as they had convinced themselves before the voting they were poised to do (the ‘tsunami’ effect), it is not wise to vent that frustration at the judiciary or the undeniably slow processes that characterise our electoral and justice systems. In Imran Khan’s defence, the best that can be said is that despite being in politics for 19 years, he has yet to learn the difference between captaining a cricket team and participating in democratic politics. It has been apparent on a number of occasions that when Imran Khan’s wishes are not complied with, a streak of impatience, even arrogance, comes out on display. There are hard lessons to be learnt about the need for patience and fortitude in politics, even in the face of adversity, which our former cricket hero and admirable philanthropist would be wise to imbibe even at this stage. The contempt case in question has inadvertently framed a new reality: both the judiciary (in this case in the shape of the bench) and Imran Khan seem ‘disillusioned’ with each other. This may be a case of unrealistic expectations on both sides, but it would perhaps serve little purpose to drag the matter on indefinitely when the country is confronted with so many more serious problems. It is not for us to advise the court on a sub judice matter how to proceed. However, it may not be out of place to ask for restraint and an amicable solution, either through an apology (with Imran Khan swallowing his pride in the interests of the country’s delicately poised juncture in a gesture of statesmanship) or a milder treatment by the court (a rebuke perhaps?) to avoid convicting Imran Khan and sending him to jail, which would have the collateral effect of debarring him from politics for at least five years. The election commission and its tribunals too should revisit and speed up the matter of irregularity complaints in the general elections. This would help the election commission to restore some of its battered prestige after the resignation of Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim soon after the presidential election debacle. The respect and dignity of the judiciary as an institution must be upheld by all and sundry if Pakistan is to institutionalize after long years of struggle a democratic dispensation with a clear separation of powers and defined (as far as possible) areas of purview. We can only hope that wisdom will prevail, no ego should dictate matters, and that the issue can be settled without too much damage.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa suffers as downpours continue

The Express Tribune
At least 19 people were killed and dozens injured on Saturday as torrential rains continued to flood rivers and streams in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. According to Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Chitral district was the worst affected area, where flash floods in streams caused damage to property and lives alike. Apart from the loss of seven lives in two days, at least 116 houses were damaged out of which 62 were destroyed. “We are expecting further information from the remote areas of Chitral about flood devastation,” the Provincial Emergency Operation Centre (PEOC) official Adnan Khan told The Express Tribune. In Peshawar, heavy rain water from Khyber Agency flooded Budhni stream, killing at least three people. In Bannu one person lost his life and four others were injured. In Tank, three union councils, Warsponn, Pai and Gullam Imam went under flood water. In the Kari Wam area of Frontier Region Tank, a vehicle slipped into a flooded water channel resulting in five deaths, while 11 people went missing. In Northern Waziristan three people died, according to a report. In Lakki Marwat, a girl was swept away by flood water, while in Southern Waziristan life came to a standstill due to heavy and continuous rain. In Kurram Agency, four members of a family died and one injured in a roof collapse following thunderstorms. According to Flood Control Cell, most of the rivers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were flowing at normal or medium level flood condition except Kurram River and Gambela River in Bannu region, which were releasing high level floodwater. In DI Khan, there was a medium level flood releasing 3,00,000 cusecs water. While due to flood water flow from Chitral into river Kabul at Nowshera and Warsak there is medium level flood. The Met Office has predicted more rains in the next 24 hours in upper areas including Chitral, Dir and Khyber Agency; however floods have not been predicted.

Balochistan:The Ifs And Buts of Negotiating With Insurgents in Balochistan

The Baloch Hal
If there is one news story that will always make front page headlines regardless the redundancy, it is a government announcement to reach out to insurgents in Balochistan for negotiations. We all have heard such government announcements since the weakening of pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League (P.M.L-Quaid-e-Azam). Sardar Saleh Bhoothani, Balochistan’s interim chief minister ahead of the 2008 general elections, announced that he intended to negotiate with the Baloch insurgents. He failed not because he did not genuinely try but because he neither had the mandate nor the required time to complete such an initiative. He was soon followed by Nawab Aslam Raisani, the full-time Chief Minister from the Pakistan People’s Party. Mr. Raisani’s announcement was taken more seriously considering his credentials as a Baloch tribal chief. His statements were also echoed and backed by Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi. They both failed in making even an inch of progress in initiating dialogue with the Baloch armed groups. In his brief stint as the caretaker chief minister, Ghaus Bakhsh Barozai, promised to play his role in commencing a peace process with hardliners among the nationalists. He failed too. Speaking on the floor of the Balochistan Assembly, Chief Minister Dr. Malik Baloch said last week that his government intended to initiate a peace process soon after the Eid. The proposed process would comprise of members of the parliament and Baloch tribal elders. The C.M.’s peace plan is two-pronged. He wants to speak to the Baloch nationalists who apply violence to achieve a free Balochistan and also the Islamic extremists who regularly target Shia Muslims in the province in the name of religion. There is never better news than talk of peace. Most peace talks fail which is what makes them so challenging. It is always reassuring to talk of peace and make an attempt to end violence. However, some bleak ground realities will contain Chief Minister’s attempts to resolve the Balochistan conflict. Consider the following simple facts. One, Baloch armed groups are unwilling to negotiate on anything less than Balochistan’s absolute freedom. Two, the civil and military leadership in Islamabad is unwilling to negotiate with anyone who questions the integrity of Pakistan. Prime Minister Sharif and Army Chief Kayani are indeed on the same page when it comes to not talking to those who seek separation from Pakistan. There are some other reasons why a peace process in Balochistan will not immediately kick off. Here is why: While coming in power, the P.M.L-N is not as desperate on the Balochistan issue as was the P.P.P. at the time of coming in power in 2008 under the slogan of ‘reconciliation’. What the P.M.L.-N realizes about the situation in Balochistan is not even realized by Dr. Baloch. When the P.P.P. came into power in 2008, it was under tremendous pressure because the moderate Baloch nationalists (such as the Balochistan National Party and the National Party) had boycotted the elections and the new government faced a serious credibility deficit. The P.M.L-N. no longer faces that situation. With the B.N.P. and the N.P. contesting elections, the polls gained legitimacy while the appointment of a Baloch nationalist as the C.M. also resolved half of the problem. After all, it was people like Dr. Baloch who were the first contributors to discontent in Balochistan as early as 2004 when they voiced reservations about the Gwadar Port. Unlike Sharif, the post-election situation has significantly weakened the position of the Baloch nationalists on theoretical front. If Balochistan is a political issue, its champions were political parties like the B.N.P. and the N.P. With their institutional accommodation, the Baloch ‘nationalists’ are technically no longer outside the so-called national mainstream. The international community support for the Baloch, if there is any, is predominantly for peaceful political parties not the armed groups or those who champion violence no matter what justifications they provide for their actions. With regards to the Baloch armed groups, they are not political organizations although their demands and ambitions are political. Since they do not have offices in Balochistan, it is impossible for the government to reach out to the real insurgent leaders to initiate dialogue. Hairbayar Marri and Bramdagh Bugti, based in London and Switzerland respectively, have time and again denied running the Baloch Liberation Army or the Baloch Republican Army. The only leader currently operating in Balochistan on behalf of the armed groups is Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, the presumed head of the Baloch Liberation Front. There is a Catch-22 situation involved here. The more he refuses to negotiate with the government, the more it perpetuates his political life and also adds to his popularity whereas a government attempt to kill him will also backfire and open new fronts of armed resistance. The government has to act very cautiously while talking to the armed groups. What is also pertinent is this: What does the government, mainly the security establishment, has to offer in return of starting talks with the armed groups? Is the army willing to pull out of Balochistan or stop kill and dump operations? What are some of the confidence building measures (C.B.M.s) that the government is willing to take? If the government has nothing tangible to offer, a mere announcement to negotiate is, after all, not enough to move forward. Lastly, any peace talks with the Baloch armed groups will not succeed until they are backed by the central government and the Pakistani armed forces. Both of them, at this point, do not seem to be in any kind of urgency with regards to addressing the the level of violence the Baloch nationalists are currently employing. For them, this is still not more serious than the Taliban threat or the violence in Karachi. Islamabad is confident that it can digest the current amount of violence that is taking place in Balochistan considering the overall national state of law and order. Hence, in such circumstances, the federal government is unprepared to offer the Baloch any major concessions, including agreeing to resurface the missing persons. With the 18th Amendment and the appointment of a Baloch nationalist chief minister, one can see a marked decline in the interest of the media and the civil society in Balochistan affairs. Ironically, ‘internal autonomy’, a concept meaning provinces should manage their own affairs, can be catastrophic for Balochistan. The province consistently needs media attention and national and international debate. A Balochistan that is not under spotlight will remain a land where the ordinary person suffers every single day. Consider a Balochistan where security forces apply violence against citizens; hardliner Balochs kill moderate Balochs on a regular basis and Islamic extremists routinely target Shia-Hazaras. And what if, in the midst of all this chaos, the central government and the media show least interest in Balochistan’s ‘local affairs’!

Pakistan: New power, petroleum tariff to cost Rs 360b
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Secretary Information Sumsan Bokhari said on Friday that the new electricity and petroleum products’ tariff would charge Rs 360 billion from the masses. He termed the tariff as an attempt meant to fill the pockets of the owners of oil companies who were usually observed sitting in high-level meetings to formulate energy policies. Bokhari said the representative organisations of the textile sector and other industries, commerce chambers and the civil society had rejected the new tariff which would make Pakistani products less competitive in the international market due to the rise in the cost of production. He said, “The exports of the country and resultantly the economy will suffer, affecting all citizens,” adding that the phenomenal raise in the tariff just before Eid was unjustified as it would greatly affect the capacity of the masses to observe Eid with the traditional religious fervor and enthusiasm. He demanded that the names of the owners who had been paid billions of rupees to clear the outstanding payments of the independent power plants (IPPs) should be made public so the people could know the beneficiaries of the generosity of the present government. He deplored that even after heavy payments to the IPPs, the people of the country continued to face load shedding even during Iftar, Sehr and Taraweeh, contrary to the government’s claims. He reminded that during the previous PPP-led government Pakistan turned into a wheat exporter from being a wheat importer. He said it was due to the correct policy of the government which included Rs 2 subsidy per unit to the farmers on the tube wells. The present government had stopped the subsidy and compounded the problem by introducing the new tariff, he said. The tariff would stifle the agriculture sector, he said. He said the PPP would stage an agitation against the government by mobilising the public against the price hike. “The PPP would not allow the cronies of the capitalists to adversely affect the poor masses,” he said.

John Kerry’s Message to Pakistan

by Omar Samad
The Secretary of State told Pakistani leaders the U.S. will be in Afghanistan after 2014. Now the ball is squarely in Pakistan's court.
Secretary of State John Kerry had several important messages to deliver to Pakistani leaders this week in Islamabad, but one stood out in terms of its strategic significance: The U.S. is not leaving Afghanistan any time soon. He expressed strong confidence that a security agreement will soon be signed with Kabul allowing a residual U.S. (and NATO) force to stay on after 2014.That was not what Taliban backers and radical militants wanted to hear. With the U.S. clarifying its Afghanistan position, Pakistan’s military establishment and the new civilian government now have a unique opportunity to revisit and adjust their longstanding policy toward their beleaguered Western neighbor. By doing so, Pakistan can break with passé policies of strategic tolerance of militant sanctuaries and support networks on their soil, push reconcilable Taliban toward meaningful talks, reduce the threat of militancy within its own borders, engage in an open and forward-looking dialogue to address border and water issues, and focus on cooperation and regional economic integration at a time when economic prospects are dim and millions of dissatisfied people are on the verge of despair.
For that to happen, now is the time for President Obama to spell out the post-2014 U.S. commitment in terms of troop numbers and effective assistance to help Afghans stand on their own, safely undergo a complex transition period, be assured of long-term international assistance, and eventually reach a just peace accord with reconcilable armed militants—if there are any to be found. The latest Pentagon estimate that Afghan forces will need U.S. assistance for several more years after the end of the current mission is a clear indicator of job-not-done. Leaving behind a fragile and unstable Afghanistan serves no strategic or clever purpose. In Afghanistan, now is the time for President Karzai to visit Pakistan one more time (date expected to be announced soon) with a coherent policy that can garner the backing of the Afghan people, can provide the Pakistanis with a clear vision for peace and good-neighborliness, and is not tied to short-term political advantage. He needs to think long and beyond the next Afghan elections scheduled for April 2014. Leaving behind a fragile and unstable Afghanistan serves no strategic or clever purpose. Since a Loya Jirga convened in 2011 has already agreed to a U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership framework, Karzai should engage in high-level political consultations at home and allow the Afghan parliament to legitimize the bilateral security agreement with the U.S. instead of taking the route of a second controversial Loya Jirga as he has indicated. Both the U.S. and Afghan governments would also be better served if they adopted a more constructive and trusting working relationship over the critical year ahead. As far as the Taliban are concerned, this is the time for their mystery-shrouded pro-reconciliation lobby to prove its credentials, speak up, and push for a change in tactics within the movement. That means stop the killing frenzy. Afghans will not agree to reconcile with cold-blooded murderers, unless they can prove otherwise. The latest United Nations figures show a staggering increase of 23 percent in civilian losses over the past six months. What is more troubling is that more than 75 percent of deaths are caused by Taliban/militant attacks. If they are unable to convince the hardliners in their midst to stop killing innocent fellow Muslims, then it is their Islamic duty to walk away or fight them to prove to other Afghans that there really is a faction preferring peace talks over continued conflict. This lobby cannot continue to have their cake and eat it too. Concerning the hardcore wing of the militancy, they will continue to fight, kill and destroy. They will fight Western interests opportunistically, send men to other combat zones, including Syria, and increasingly engage in sectarian strife. They are organic allies of al Qaeda, Central Asian jihadists and other like-minded terrorist groups. If the Afghan and Pakistani governments can break the ice, aim for genuine rapprochement, and build up mutual trust based on a paradigm shift in Islamabad and a balanced approach by Kabul, then they could join hands in fighting these elements on both sides of the border and in return receive generous international assistance. But if the game is to let the war linger for some Machiavellian reason, be tempted to use Sunni radicals against Shia extremists in the region, aim for a zero-sum outcome and risk stability in South-Central Asia for many years to come, then we might end up with a lose-lose scenario. Secretary Kerry’s message to his friends in Pakistan has resonance across the region and beyond. The ball is squarely in the Pakistani court, and now is the time to engage in deep strategic soul-searching and reconfiguration. Much is at stake for the sake of peace, justice and prosperity in that part of the world.
Omar Samad is Senior Central Asia Fellow at New America Foundation, President of Silkroad Consulting, and former Afghan ambassador to France and Canada.