Thursday, August 15, 2013
GEO TV The armed standoff, which continued in Islamabad for hours, finally came to a heroic end after an unarmed Pakistan Peoples Party leader, Zamarud Khan risking his life attacked the armed man leading to his arrest, Geo News reported. Khan engaged the armed man in negotiation and then tried to overpower him but the latter slipped out of his hands. Police opened aerial fire which scared the culprit and he surrendered himself to police by lying on ground. No one including the culprit, his wife, and children were hurt in the action, however two policemen including DSP Arif Hussian sustained injured by the shots fired by the perpetrator. Zamarud Khan also remained unscathed in the action. Using a woman and two children as human shield, an armed man, demanding the imposition of Shariah system in Pakistan and the ouster of the incumbent government, held the whole city hostage for several hours ago. It all started after the man, later identified as Malik Sikander, armed with at least two assault rifles, an AK-47 and an SMG, started shooting near Jinnah Avenue. "The man fired several shots after which police and media arrived at the scene", an eyewitness said. His wife and two children, a boy and a girl, are also with him, who seem to be calm despite a heavy police contingent with guns aimed at them positioned nearby. One of the kids is injured evident from a bandage on his forehead, the TV footage showed. The car he is driving is a black Toyota Corolla, which according to sources was rented from Islamabad. The car's front fender is hanging loose, which eyewitnesses said came off after Siikander rammed the car into a police mobile to launch his insane mission. As of now the man stands surrounded by Islamabad police and elite force sharpshooters, but he appears calm, smoking cigarettes and downing energy drinks. He has plenty of water with him to last him even through the night, sources, however, said the police had offered to provide food for his children. Witnessing this nail-biting real-life thriller, which is no where near a climax, the whole country is glued to their TV screens. Hundreds people including mediamen, law enforcers and onlookers are at the scene as the drama is unfolding not far from the Parliament House and Presidency, and Prime Minister House. His wife, who has been shuttling between the police and her armed husband as a messenger, told the police that her husband would only negotiate with a high-ranking police official. Upon this SSP operations, Dr Rizwan walked over to him and tried to talk him into dropping his weapons but to no avail. So far several such negotiations have taken place but the stalemate persists. He many a times successfully had the police commandoes, who were stealthily trying to close in, pushed back by threatening to open fire. According to reports along with a safe passage and protection to his family an over-the-board imposition of Islamic Shariah system across Pakistan as well as ouster of the current government is among his demands. The police have blocked out the spot by setting up tent-cloth-screens around the car of the armed man. Sources said that it showed the lawmen were likely preparing for a decisive action. Meanwhile, police have also raided his house in his hometown for clues to as to what could be on his mind with regard to his further line of action. The police interrogated his relatives to gather more information about him. However, they did not disclose anything. According to certain callers claiming to be his relatives or neighbors, Sikander belongs to Hafizabad and is a bigamist. However no one could confirm the woman, who is by his side right now, is also his wife. There are conflicting reports that he is a former Pakistan Air Force serviceman. Now unemployed, Sikander just recently returned from Dubai, where he was reportedly employed as a migrant worker. It was also reported that the man was psychotic. Another report said that Siikander was deported from Dubai in 1990. He had also married a 45-year-old Arab woman, however there was no word on the status of that relation, the report said.
http://www.egyptindependent.com/Three unidentified people fired at a Central Security Forces (CSF) camp using automatic rifles in Port Said early Thursday. Two soldiers were injured and transferred to a hospital.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused foreign governments and international media of ignoring recent attacks on Egypt’s Christian communities and misrepresenting the Al-Nahda Square and Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square sit-ins as peaceful. The ministry also claim that the violence that swept the country following the clearing of the sit-ins was the Muslim Brotherhood’s “plan B” for either regaining power or “bringing the entire Egyptian house down with them. In a statement published in English on Thursday the ministry said: “Beyond overlooking the violent and dangerous reality of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, a number of foreign governments and international media outlets have also chosen to overlook the recent increase in killings and attacks that are once again targeting Egypt’s Christian community.” The ministry pointed out that attacks on Churches occurred around the country after the sit-ins in Cairo and Giza were dispersed. The statement added: “Mobs of Moslem [sic] Brotherhood members and their supporters, at the behest of extremist preachers, are threatening and attacking Egypt’s Christians.” Because of the recent international attention given to the situation in Egypt the ministry said, “it is only natural” for Egyptians to “wonder why foreign governments and international media outlets have decided to exclude the intensified attacks on the Egypt’s Christian community from their field of vision.” The ministry stressed: “The Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins were not exclusively peaceful gatherings, and they posed a clear danger to Egypt’s national security.”
http://www.tolonews.com/Winston Churchill's great-grandson on Wednesday delivered a petition with more than 70,000 signatures to Prime Minister David Cameron's office, demanding action to protect Afghan interpreters who have served with British troops. Alexander Perkins, a former soldier who has served two tours in Afghanistan himself, said Britain owed the interpreters a "huge debt" and they would be "sent to their deaths" if they were not offered asylum. Some 600 Afghan interpreters who served on the frontline with British forces are being offered UK visas under a relocation package announced in May, while around 600 others will qualify for training or education in Afghanistan as well as payment for up to five years. But Perkins, 27, said that the deal falls "short of the mark" as it offers only five-year visas rather than permanent residence in Britain, and only applies to interpreters with 12 months' continuous service before December 19, 2012. "We're pulling out in 2014 and we're going to leave these guys behind," Perkins said as he handed in the petition. "There's a fair chance that a large number of these guys are going to be persecuted by the Taliban, and some of them probably will end up being killed." Perkins set up the petition on the website Change.org, calling for Britain to offer resettlement to interpreters who completed their duties between 2006 and 2011. He added that his great-grandfather Churchill "would have been shocked by the way our government is treating men who risked their lives to help British forces". Britain is withdrawing 3,800 of its 9,000 troops from Afghanistan this year, as NATO prepares for a full security handover to Afghan forces at the end of 2014. A government spokesman described the redundancy package for Afghan staff as "comprehensive", adding that Britain ensures protection, including the possibility of relocation, is offered to any former employees facing threats regardless of when they worked. "The prime minister has been very clear that we should not turn our backs on our local staff in Afghanistan," the spokesman said.
The United States and its allies should immediately announce how many troops will stay on in Afghanistan after 2014, former NATO supreme commander Admiral James Stavridis argued on Wednesday. Stavridis, who recently finished a four-year stint as the alliance's top military leader, said it was vital to unveil the troop plans quickly to counter Taliban propaganda claiming foreign troops are abandoning the country. In a commentary, Stavridis wrote that he supported keeping 15,000 US and allied forces in the country after the bulk of coalition troops withdraw as planned in 2014. "I believe the correct number is about 9,000 US and 6,000 allied troops, for a total of about 15,000 allied trainers who would focus on mentoring, training, and advising the 350,000 strong Afghan National Security Forces," Stavridis wrote in Foreign Policy. "Instead of waiting for months, we should move now to decide and publicly reveal the commitment," the admiral said. There are now roughly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan in the NATO-led coalition, with the Americans making up about two-thirds of the force. US officials have long suggested they expected to retain a smaller force of about 8,000 to 12,000 troops after 2014. But, amid difficult negotiations on a long-term security accord with Kabul, White House officials have spoken of a possible "zero option" with no US boots on the ground after next year. The former top commander of US and alliance forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has called for keeping 13,600 American troops in the country, as well as a number of NATO forces. He too has urged President Barack Obama to announce the troop decision as soon as possible. By announcing troop plans now, Stavridis said the allies "would break the Taliban narrative decisively, making a lie of their oft-repeated trope that 'the foreigners are leaving,'" the admiral wrote. The move "would reassure the Afghans" and "demonstrate needed leadership to the large international coalition that is awaiting US decisions," he wrote. "It would also encourage the conclusion of the strategic agreement between the United States and Afghanistan, " he added. The current head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, General Joe Dunford, has indicated he would provide recommendations on troop numbers after this year's "fighting season" ends in October. While acknowledging serious difficulties in the war effort, Stavridis defined "success" in Afghanistan as a "democratic (if somewhat corrupt) nation that has reasonable control over its borders" and dominance over an insurgency that does not pose a dire threat to the state. If 15,000 allied troops stay in Afghanistan, there was cause to be "cautiously optimistic" the country would meet the criteria of success, he wrote. But if no foreign troops remain after 2014, that would mean "probable mission failure," according to Stavridis. Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/nato-chief-troop-levels-afghanistan-2014-2013-8#ixzz2c2Nh5lNZ
Is it their desperation over failure to win the hearts and minds of people of Pakistan or elation over spectacular jailbreak and wanton killings that motivated the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan offer to engage in dialogue with the government, there is no agreed answer as yet. But for the government to say 'yes' to the dialogue offer it is all the more difficult now given an almost impossible to meet precondition put forward by them. Don't hang our men is the precondition. Belonging to Punjabi Taliban affiliate of the TTP these four men are on death row, and now that Zardari-enforced moratorium on hanging has been lifted they are due for execution next week. Should the Nawaz Sharif government go ahead with executions "it will have to pay the price", warns Maulana Asmatullah Muavia, the spokesman for the TTP (Punjab). He hasn't quantified the 'price' as such but did threaten withdrawal of dialogue offer, as he says was the case when TTP's second-in-command Waliur Rehman was killed in a drone strike and the offer was withdrawn. The Maulana has tried to sell also a thesis that per se the PML (N) and PTI are not against the Taliban, but it's the "pro-establishment and pro-Indian lobbies" that are out to sabotage the dialogue. How ironic it is that the very people whose hands carry the blood of thousands of innocent Pakistanis and who have spared no effort whatsoever to undermine the strategic potentialities of Pakistan, the only country in the world created in the name of Islam, should be telling us who is our friend and who is our enemy. We hope the PML (N) government would not be taken in by this blackmail and go ahead with executions under the law. That the Pakistan government should be forced to spare the criminals under threat of negative reprisals is not on. But the drama does not end here. There are some people in here who are still espousing the cause of the Taliban. On Monday, the Jamaat-i-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hussain called upon the government to take the Taliban's offer of peace talks "seriously and hold a meaningful dialogue with militants". JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman too advocates the same approach. No wonder then both of them have been nominated by the TTP as 'guarantors' on behalf of the government. The JI chief is upset that the government has yet to respond to the Taliban offer, and tauntingly asks 'if it is waiting for a green signal from the US government'. According to him, if the Americans can talk to the Afghan Taliban then what is wrong if there is a Pakistan government-Taliban dialogue? With due respect to the Jamaat chief's prognosis, one would like him to comprehend the enormity of the mismatch between these two situations. The Afghan Taliban are fighting against foreign occupation. But is this the case in Pakistan? TTP is fighting its own people. While the chief of Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar has modified his stand for the cause of peace in his country by signalling to his opponents that the 'Islamic Emirate doesn't think of monopolizing power, rather we believe in reaching understanding with Afghans regarding an Afghan-inclusive government based on Islamic principles'. Do we know, or does anybody know of any such accommodation offered by the TTP. Even when it's difficult to find out what has prompted the TTP has renewed its offer talks to the government, one thing can be said with certainty is that this killing machine has no future in Pakistan. It may kill many thousands more but it can never win hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan. What is it that it is left with to talk about with the government? Talks or no talks the writ of the state must prevail, and no leader worth his salt would spare a convict under a threat like the one made by the Punjabi Taliban to the Nawaz Sharif government.
EDITORIAL: DAILY TIMESSince the deaths of five Indian soldiers in an ambush on the Line of Control (LoC), the tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours have increased manifold. The disputed and much fought over Kashmir region is now, once again, in the grip of fear and threat. While minor skirmishes have been seen time and again along the LoC, the 10-year-old ceasefire has held by and large. But the series of incidents of exchange of firing in the area for the last nine days are alarming because they show no signs of abating. According to the Pakistani authorities, fresh cross-border shelling has resulted in further civilian casualties and tensions rising a notch further. The Indian government has gone so far as to say that it fears Pakistan’s intentions, which may be to focus the proxy militants’ attention on Kashmir once again after the US’s 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan. While Pakistan vehemently denies this, the fact that precisely this chain of events occurred in 1989 after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan does not escape those worried minds advocating peace and amity on both sides of the border. While a typical knee-jerk reaction can be seen by the authorities on both sides, the attitude of the media in India and Pakistan is not at all conducive towards any kind of lasting stability. The media-fed hysteria is mounting by the day, with jingoism and propaganda playing a huge part in not helping to defuse the volatility. Since August 6, the overall goodwill seen of late between the two countries has dissipated, giving way to fiery Indian protests against the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, threats to PIA’s offices throughout India, stoppage of a Lahore-bound Dosti (Friendship) bus, and now Pakistan’s foreign office contemplating a withdrawal of its diplomats from New Delhi because of the possible threat to their safety. Hafiz Saeed of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa has reinforced Indian fears that the militants are just waiting to fight in Kashmir after 2014. It is time to end this spiralling descent into madness. It is for the Nawaz Sharif government to understand that those who aim to sabotage its efforts towards peace with India are the very elements it aids with funds. People like Hafiz Saeed must be put behind bars, war cries must be silenced, and military commanders, who have been keeping the peace on the LoC all these years, be allowed to control the situation through their hotlines and field meetings. We have been working at the negotiation process with India too hard and for too long after the 2008 Mumbai attacks to see it flounder because of undesirable elements whose vested interest lies in continued conflict, not peace, amity and progress.
The Express TribuneThe Awami National Party has submitted an adjournment motion in the Senate against Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak because of his absence from the flag hoisting ceremony on Independence Day. Khattak, who represents the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was missing from the flag hoisting ceremony held at Police Lines on August 14. This was the first ceremony being held under the PTI government. As per standard procedure, chief minister (CM) was the chief guest at the main ceremony at police lines. However, just before the ceremony kicked off, it was learnt CM Pervez Khattak will not be attending the ceremony and Health Minister Shaukat Yousafzai and Information Minister Shah Farman will be presiding over the event instead. The chief minister’s spokesperson said that he was in Islamabad to attend a meeting with United Nations (UN) General Secretary Ban Ki-moon so the health minister was asked to attend the flag hoisting ceremony instead. Awami National Party (ANP) leader Zahid Khan, speaking outside the Senate, said that it was unfortunate that things that had never happened before were now happening since the PTI government took over. He claimed that Khattak was not in Islamabad and had not woken up in the morning, which is why he had missed the ceremony.
In a strong message to Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said anti-India activities emanating from there will have to stop for relations to improve and asserted that all steps will be taken to prevent "dastardly" acts like the recent killing of jawans on the LoC. Addressing the nation on the 67th Independence Day from the ramparts of Red Fort, the Prime Minister said terrorist and naxal violence in the country have reduced but the area of national security calls for constant vigil. India, he said, has strived for friendship with its neighbouring countries. "However, for relations with Pakistan to improve it is essential they prevent the use of their territory and territory under their control for any anti-India activity," he said. Referring to the August 6 killing of five Indian soldiers by the Pakistan army in a cross-LoC attack in Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, he termed it as a "dastardly" act and said "we will take all possible steps to prevent such incidents in the future." In his 30-minute speech, Singh also appeared to target the BJP and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saying there was no place for "narrow and sectarian ideologies" in modern, progressive and secular India. He warned such ideologies will "divide" society and "weaken our democracy". "We should prevent them from growing," he said. Singh, in his 10th consecutive Independence Day address and his last before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, stressed that there was a need to strengthen secular traditions to promote tolerance. "I would appeal to all political parties, all sections of our society and public at large to work in this direction," he said.
By: Paramita Ghosh , Hindustan TimesFor years, Indians have dribbled the same ball across the length and breadth of India and asked what it should be as a country. Can it be nationalist when it is pulled in different directions by strong regional sentiments? Is it secular when it has had a mixed record in undermining religious majoritarianism? Is it politically democratic with a one-man-one-vote system but socially undemocratic because of the same reason? And has its flagship theme, unity in diversity, actually meant a management of differences and not their embrace? The HT-C fore survey reveals what being Indian means to Indians 66 years after Independence. A high 45% disapprove of inter-caste/faith/community marriages. ‘Close friendship’ with people from other religious communities/caste groups is possible (58%) but 29% said the differences were considered. Pan-Indianism as an idea is popular (59%) but cracks under socio-economic pressures. More people (55%) feel natives of a state should get preference in jobs/education in their own state. Rival, and often contradictory, pulls have, in fact, been built into India’s identity from the start. In The Idea of India, Sunil Khilnani points out how the triumph of Nehru’s modern political vision was, ironically enough, guaranteed precisely through the preservation of pre-modern hierarchies and privileges such as rural property orders.“A principle of positive discrimination, or affirmative action, in compensation for past injuries inflicted on the lowest in the social order was introduced in the form of reservation thus establishing a language of community rights in a society where the liberal language of individual rights and equality was little used,” he writes. Has nothing changed? For young urban Indians, caste or religion is not a factor. “That could be because we are apathetic,” said Ritesh, a Mumbai-based manager. This is perhaps why though a high percentage (43%) of 18-35 year-olds surveyed said they “approve” of mixed unions, they don’t resist or put up a fight when parents disapprove. “When we love someone, we don’t ask about caste, but when it’s marriage, many give in and obey their parents,” said Ritesh. Sub-national movements like Telangana are also being seen by many as a challenge to the ‘idea of India’. Columnist Shobhaa De has called the birth of new states a “Balkanization.” Radha Kumar, director general, Delhi Policy Group, however, said: “Creating new administrative units in one country can only become problematic if there is no rule of the Constitution and the freedoms of movement, employment, citizenship are not guaranteed.” For Manju Nath, a teacher in Patna — for whom a sense of state is strong as with 16% of Indians in the survey — said an Indian identity should have no quarrel with regional aspirations. “Smaller units lead to better governance I feel,” she said.Shared vision Social scientist Yogendra Yadav argued that the model of integration that India followed was not the European model of nation-state, that of homogenisation, a looking for unity in sameness such as followed by countries such as France or Germany. “What India followed was the state-nation, not nation-state, in which unity was not a function of singular cultural traditions, therefore it does not search for one language, one culture, one religion. There has been an attempt to try to create unity through political identity and through a shared vision of the future, ” he said. But how has this model of unity among diversity fared? Laxman Singh, a Dalit student in Noida, describes his cultural and nationalistic experience of being a lower caste well. “In the cities no one asks you your caste anymore, but the caste system is diluted not broken. Economic policies that ensure lower castes stay poor continue.” So while he is “not gloomy” about the future of India, he said he is no nationalist. “Gandhi said if you want to know how progressive a country is, go to the last poor man standing. Nationalism is for the elite,” he said. Religion, or rather its place in the politico-cultural identity of India, is also an area that has not been settled. Sunandan Roychowdhury, professor at Amity University has an optimistic take: “If you graph days of riots or conflicts with days of peace, in India, the latter outnumbers the former.” But does that make us truly secular? Nineteen percent of people surveyed are ready to snap ties with a sibling or child if she were to marry someone from a different religious background. Just like in our electoral democracy, in which the right to vote is equal for a rich and a poor man and yet does not change existing socio-economic structures, have we made peace with secularism only so as to leave it open to all kinds of uses?