Sunday, August 18, 2013
The new Egyptian constitution may seek to ban all religious parties from the political arena, sources told Ahram Online. The interim government may declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization amid clashes which have left over 800 dead. The new draft constitution is expected to be announced on Wednesday, Ali Awad, head of the ten-member technical committee and legal aid to the interim president, said in a Sunday press conference. Following the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi, interim President Adly Mansour created a ten-member committee tasked with proposing amendments to the constitution. The panel consists of six judges and four constitutional law professors. A second committee, comprised of 50 public figures will then have 60 days to review those amendments, to determine if the new proposals are fit for a public referendum. Parliamentary elections are expected to follow after the referendum. “Fundamental changes must be introduced to [the] 2012 Islamist-backed constitution,” Ahram Online quoted source close to the committee as saying. According to the source, the committee has agreed that the new constitution will ban political parties based on religious ideology. Such a move will clash directly with Morsi’s Article 2 of 2012's constitution, which stipulates that Islamic Sharia law supersedes civilian judiciary. Last week, however, Awad was quoted as saying that Article 2 will be kept “in order to stress the Islamic identity of Egypt.” The source said the ban is necessary, as a number of political parties were formed on religious ideology with an ultimate goal of creating a religious state in Egypt. Such caution against religious extremism arose after “proposals from more than 400 political, economic, and social institutions, pressing hard for the necessity of safeguarding Egypt against Islamist factions trying to change the civil nature of the country into a religious oligarchy.” Among one of the other major amendments proposed would be the annulment of the ban against Hosni Mubark’s National Democratic Party (NDP), the source claimed. Committee sources also stated that the “the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, would be scrapped.” “Most political factions also press for the elimination of this council, which was exploited by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies over one year to impose their Islamist ideology on the country,” a source said, adding that the Shura Council costs the state budget “too much money at a time of severe economic crisis.” Some changes are expected to be introduced to the High Constitutional Court and the media in order to reinforce the institutions’ independence and shield them from further “intimidation by ruling regimes.” Earlier, Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi proposed dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood as the army clashed with pro-Morsi supporters across the country. “There will be no reconciliation with those whose hands have been stained with blood and who turned weapons against the state and its institutions,” Beblawi told reporters. The Muslim Brotherhood has also been blamed for dozens of attacks on churches and Christian communities in Egypt. However, Amr Darrag from the Freedom and Justice Party told RT that “the Muslim Brotherhood has always been protecting churches.” Citing a priest in Minya - where many Christian churches were attacked this week - Darrag said that the “attacks were orchestrated by thugs who cooperate with security forces.” He added that allegations of Islamist groups attacking the places of worship are unfounded. “These allegations are being propounded by the current [regime], in order to justify the aggression.” Furthermore, Darrag told RT that mass media often misinterprets the whole picture, placing pro-Morsi protesters in one camp and government forces in the other. They are composed of “several fractions of Egyptians,” the politician said, adding that some are not organized or united under any banner. “They are all protesting and marching to regain democracy back.” Over 800 people were killed in violent clashes after the interim government cleared out overall peaceful sit-ins in support of deposed Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi.
Thousands of refugees are crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan from Syria as the civil war becomes increasingly hostile.
In a nation long plagued by military coups, the question of who will replace Pakistan's all-powerful army chief has taken on new urgency this year as the country tries to shake off the legacy of decades of military dictatorship. General Ashfaq Kayani, arguably the most powerful man in the nuclear-armed country, is expected to step down after six years in November - presenting Pakistan's new premier with the toughest of choices yet since coming to power in May. The army has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history since independence in 1947. But even during periods of civilian rule, the army has set security and foreign policy. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he wants to disentangle the military from politics and he has taken over the foreign affairs and defense portfolios in an apparent show of determination to wrest those responsibilities from the army. But the military is unlikely to relinquish its hold at such a sensitive time. As Western forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year, Pakistan is striving to prevent old rival India from increasing its influence there. Illustrating the difficulties Sharif might face in setting foreign policy, his bid to improve ties with India has been undermined by violence between Indian and Pakistani forces in the disputed Kashmir region. While the two armies trade fire and blame, Pakistan's civilian government can only look on. Nevertheless, the Pakistani military has meddled less in politics under Kayani, earning him a reputation as a pragmatic leader willing to ease the military's grip on political affairs and publicly endorse democracy. Sharif, himself ousted in a military coup in 1999, has a difficult relationship with the army, and picking Kayani's successor could be the defining moment of his second term. "It's not just that Nawaz wants someone he can trust and who he can use to neutralize the army's political role," one retired senior military official told Reuters. "The army also wants someone who will be able to work with Nawaz." The job has been at the centre of a drawn-out guessing game and officials would not speculate publicly on it. But in private interviews with army officers, politicians and diplomats, several names have emerged as possible contenders. Those include Lieutenant General Rashad Mahmood, the current chief of general staff, Lieutenant General Tariq Khan, who is considered pragmatic on U.S. relations, and Lieutenant General Haroon Aslam, the most senior official after Kayani. Some have even floated the idea that Kayani - whose term was extended for three years in 2010 to the discontent of some of the top brass climbing the ranks below him - might end up staying in the job for another three years. "NO GUARANTEES" Kayani, a chain-smoking, unsmiling man known for his low-key manner, is dubbed the Quiet General of Pakistani politics. His public statements in support of Pakistan's transition to democracy have earned him respect in the West. In a speech just before the May election, Kayani said a bad democracy was better than the worst kind of dictatorship. And yet his words hardly concealed a warning that the army's support for democracy would not be available forever. "Everyone says that under Kayani the army is now transformed and we can trust in its democratic credentials. But let's not jump the gun," said a source in Sharif's administration. "One era of soft military leadership does not make for a lasting legacy. The civilians will have to work hard to make sure everyone knows their limits." But even under Kayani some generals have grumbled quietly over the softer approach, and a new army chief might feel pressure to exert his authority over the civilians. This could set the military on a collision course with Sharif again, like in 1999 when he was overthrown by General Pervez Musharraf and jailed. Just a year earlier, Sharif had picked Musharraf as his new army chief. "There are no guarantees the current status quo will last beyond Kayani," said one diplomat in Islamabad. Criticizing the top brass has long been taboo. But that too has changed after the Supreme Court ruled last year that the military must stop interfering in politics, eroding the generals' untouchable status in the eyes of the public. The army's standing also took a hit over a secret 2011 operation by U.S. forces to kill Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. Ordinary Pakistanis saw it as a violation of sovereignty that the army had failed to prevent. Technically, Kayani has to come up with a shortlist of three candidates and send it to Sharif for approval. In reality, Sharif may not have much choice but he will at least try to strike a semblance of balance, officials say. "A super assertive new chief whose first priority is to win back the former glory of his institution and a prime minister who likes being the boss and won't share the spotlight with anyone. That's an interesting combination," said one official close to outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari. "The new crop of generals are not even remotely as patient as (Kayani) when it comes to the screw-ups of civilian leaders."
By Lindsay BoyleEngaging in pro-democracy demonstrations since early 2011, the Bahraini opposition hoped its latest installment of protests would make the country into another Arab Spring success story. On Wednesday, those hopes of success were violently dashed. On July 28, just a few weeks prior to the highly anticipated August 14 protests, parliament hastily passed a series of constricting laws — such as a ban on all protests in the capital city and the ability to strip citizenship from protesters — under the guise of countering terrorism. Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. Terrorism is not marching down the street chanting while unarmed, or holding a sit-in to stand up for one’s rights. If anything, the Bahraini regime appears to be the one guilty of employing terrorism. Two days before the demonstrations were set to occur, Bahrain's prime minister assured the public that those violating law and order would be forcefully confronted. On August 14, his words rang true. Barbed wire and cement blocks surrounded many villages with police checkpoints being the only means of exiting or entering. In other towns, tear gas lined the ground, a makeshift barrier to the movement of the opposition. Police were present in almost every village, patrolling the streets for any who might be participating in the movement. Knowing they couldn't leave to join any organized protests without being questioned, many opted to hold sit-ins just outside their homes. According to the Twitter account of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, security forces even suppressed some of them. On August 14, Bahrain, although smaller than Rhode Island, was the world's largest prison. But, even though thousands still showed up and police employed brutality, the mainstream media hardly covered the protests. They weren't as big or as bloody as was anticipated. Media priorities aside, there's reason to be concerned. In Bahrain, the Sunni minority holds the majority of the political power— and has since the country's independence in 1971 — while Shia Muslims , as evidenced by gerrymandering practices and wealth disparities, are politically and economically oppressed. Government-owned media broadcasts and publications regularly paint the opposition — consisting mostly of Shia, plus some underprivileged Sunnis — as terrorists with the goal of destabilizing the country. Sound familiar? It might not at first, but think about it: Until Rwanda gained independence in the early 1960s, the minority ethnicity, Tutsi, controlled most of Rwanda with its monarchy, while the Hutus were forced to perform statute labor. The colonial power at the time, Belgium, only exacerbated the ethnic tension, introducing separate ID cards for Tutsis and Hutus. It should be noted that years after the Hutus forcibly ousted the Tutsi regime, the roles reversed. Anti-Tutsi messages filled the airways, in part leading to the infamous Rwandan genocide in 1994. In Bahrain, some government members and proponents have, ironically, accused the opposition of engaging in sectarianism. However, like those in Arab Spring countries such as Egypt, Bahraini protesters are fueled not by the hatred of another ethnicity, but by the longing for democracy and equality. But unlike that in Egypt, the opposition in Bahrain doesn’t at all have the support of the police. The Bahraini opposition consists primarily of people who've been peacefully crying for democracy since February 2011, not partaking in terrorism. Yet, fear of arrest, torture, or death, as well as knowing they're seen as terrorists, kept many potential protesters inside their homes August 14, and could continue to do so for an indefinite amount of time. This is not to say the Shia will one day violently overthrow the Sunnis and carry out a genocide to get revenge for years of subjection — there's no evidence to back up those claims. Instead, this is a case where people have so demeaningly had their rights stolen, to the point that they aren't even allowed to sit outside their own homes, that it's past time for the world to pay attention and to support the opposition. What happened in Rwanda is not destined to happen in Bahrain, but something similar could. Bahrain is no longer taking strides toward becoming a democracy. Instead, it's mirroring some of the most oppressive countries in recent history.
The Council of Egyptian Churches rejected foreign interference in domestic affairs in a statement issued on Saturday evening. The council, which includes representatives from the Coptic Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical, Episcopal and Greek Orthodox churches, “affirmed the right of its citizens to defend themselves against terrorism.” The statement issued by the group also condemned attacks on police stations, public property and citizens. The Council of Egyptian Churches condemned continuous attacks on churches throughout the country, along with Christian property, calling on the armed forces to support police in their efforts to restore security and stability to the country. The council is currently lead by the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II. The statement also accused western media of spreading misinformation and possessing “stubbornness against the free people of Egypt.” Sectarian violence escalated following the removal of President Mohamed Morsi. Attacks against churches and Christian communities further intensified last week when security forces dispersed sit-ins supporting Morsi at Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda Square. The violence left hundreds dead. The Coptic Orthodox Church released a statement on Friday announcing its full support for police and military in “standing in the face of armed and terrorist groups.” It said it would not accept sectarian strife and extended condolences to families of those who died amidst the recent wave of violence in the country. It also stressed its rejection of international intervention in domestic affairs.
The Express TribuneAn unofficial report released by the inquiry committee for the Sikandar Hayat saga has pointed out that there were major failures in the communication mechanisms of security forces during the incident on August 15, when an armed man and his wife engaged security forces for over six hours in Islamabad, Express News reported. Led by Additional Secretary Ministry of the Interior Ather Sayal, the findings of the committee stated that security forces and the police had been unsuccessful in preparing a well planned strategy to deal with the situation, adding that the incident had been prolonged unnecessarily.
Zoo animals continued to suffer the unseemly behaviour of crowds and the administration for a sixth consecutive day with no respite from ear-splitting music, it emerged during a visit to the facility on Wednesday.
Pakistan will soon release more than 350 Indian prisoners, a Foreign Ministry official told on Sunday, to defuse tensions after recent border clashes in disputed Kashmir. Most of the Indians to be released are fishermen, who strayed into Pakistani waters after getting stranded, the official said. They could be freed on August 24, he added. Data compiled by the ministry says there are currently 491 Indians in Pakistani jails. "We expect India to reciprocate the gesture," said the official, who did not want to be named. India and Pakistan have in recent weeks accused each other of violating a 10-year-old ceasefire across the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that divides the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The killings on both sides have cast doubt on the possible resumption of peace talks, which were stalled following skirmishes at the border since January. Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_08_18/Pakistan-to-free-more-than-350-Indian-prisoners-to-defuse-tensions-5097/
Amid heightened tension along the LoC, which has witnessed a spurt in ceasefire violations by Pakistan, Army on Sunday said it has inputs about Pakistan trying to engineer more Border Action Team (BAT) attacks along the borderline.India has blamed BAT, which is a mix of Pakistani special forces personnel and terrorists, for the brutal killing of its two soldiers in January, one of whom was beheaded, and killing of its five personnel along Line of Control in Poonch sector. "There are inputs of such (BAT) actions. In this area they have not done anything so far. There are inputs that they are going to try something (engineer BAT attacks on the forward posts along LoC)," Brigade Commander, 120 Infantry Brigade, A Sengupta told reporters in Bhimbher Gali in poonch sector along the LoC.rig Sengupta was replying to volley of questions about whether there were inputs of more BAT attacks along LoC in Poonch, increase in ceasefire violation and India's response. "But we are ready for that (any Pakistani BAT attack)", the Brigade commander said. There have been 70 ceasefire violations by the Pakistani troops in 2013 from January one to August 5, which is 85% more than the last year during the same corresponding period, Army officials said. The fierce exchanges in recent weeks have cast a shadow on the prospect of the 2003 Indo-Pak border truce. India and Pakistan entered into the border ceasefire as a confidence building measure during NDA rule and it will complete one decade on November 26, 2013. The ceasefire violation have been reported on daily basis for past nine days without a break, forcing Indian troops to retaliate, they said. Six jawans were killed and five jawans were among nine persons injured in ceasefire violations and firing by Pakistan troops on forwards post, civilian areas and patrolling parties along Indo-Pak border during August 2013. "Pakistan troops have been firing on our forward posts daily for past couple of days. They are firing intensely with mortar bomb, rockets, RPG and high calibre weaponry," Brigadier Sengupta said. They are not only directly firing on the posts but also target civilian villages along borderline, said the officer, who looks after operation command of three-tiered fence along the LoC in Bhimber gali sector. "Pakistan is not showing any respect to the Indo-Pak ceasefire. They are violating it daily by firing at us. Where is sanctity of this truce," he said, maintaining that Indian troops have always respected the truce despite provocations in the past. "Not only this there is also threat of Pak BAT attacks on our posts so the troops are alert and vigilant round the cock," said Col Anai Shanker of unit deployed in the border-sector. Sengupta said the firing from Pakistani side was aimed at helping terrorists infiltrate and demoralise the troops posted along LoC. "But the morale of our troops is very high," he said. The officer said the ceasefire violations are "very intense and totally unprovoked". "Troops are ready to give a strong response to those firing from across. We have also strongly retaliated in these sectors -- their five posts have been damaged in retaliation by us," Sengupta said. He said officers have been asked to respond strongly and effectively. "We have fired heavy calibre weapons from our side in retaliation. They have been firing at us for past one week without any reason with an intention to cause casualties," he said. He said the ceasefire violations from across are due to frustration over failure of infiltration bids by terrorists. "We have major inputs that there are a large number of terrorists -- from 200-300 (waiting to infiltrate)," he said. Since August 10, the army personnel feel that the daily Pakistani firing has brought the situation back to pre-2003 when jawans were entrenched in their mud posts with LMGs and MMGs round-the-clock to retaliate to any Pakistani provocation. "There was not much firing from Pakistan in past years. It was once of twice in two to three months that major ceasefire violation from Pakistan took place. But this year ceasefire violations and firing has increased. We have accordingly changed our strategy of movements," a jawan said. "We are engaged sometimes in night-long exchanges. Peace on the borders seems to have ended," Jawan Raju Singh said.
The HinduArmy on Sunday foiled an infiltration bid by militants near the Line of Control in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir but there was no report of any casualty. “Alert troops noticed movement of heavily armed militants along the Line of Control in Keran sector of Kupwara at around 2.30 am. The militants were challenged, triggering off exchange of firing between the two sides,” an army official said. He said the firing lasted for nearly three hours and the militants have apparently crossed the LoC back in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. “We are not leaving anything to chance and combing operations are going on in the area. So far no recoveries have been made from the scene of the gun battle,” he said. The official said there were no casualties reported in the operation. Infiltration has been on the rise since the month of June this year as security officials believe that the handlers of militants in PoK are trying to push in as many ultras as possible to replace the cadres eliminated by security forces. Army has said it has killed 28 militants in counter-insurgency operations since June 24 this year in Kashmir valley. Meanwhile, security forces have launched a cordon and search operation this morning in Handwara area of Kupwara, 85 kms from here, following presence of militants in the area, police said. The search operations were going on till reports last came in, the police said. Keywords: India-Pakistan bilateral ties, cross-border terrorism, ceasefire violations, LoC tension, LoC killings
Despite efforts by several administrations on both sides to resolve their differences, there seems to be a trend that whenever India and Pakistan edge closer toward negotiations, some incident derails the process."Every time there is an attempt to normalize relations, you see the number of terrorist attacks rise. It is an open secret that there are a number of actors in both Pakistan and India who do not want to see any improvement in the ties. There is a blame game between the two sides," Yusuf told DW. This pattern seems to be repeating itself once again. Shortly after winning historical elections that saw the first handover of power between democratically elected civilian governments, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif committed himself to improving relations with India. Sharif and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh even agreed to meet in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. But the discussions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors now appear to hang in the balance. Just recently, the Indian army blamed Pakistan for the killing of five Indian soldiers along the disputed Kashmir border, a region not only divided by the two countries but also claimed by both in its entirety. It said that troops had "entered the Indian area and ambushed" an army patrol on August 6th. In a speech marking India's independence anniversary, Singh denounced the killings, saying: "Recently there was a dastardly attack on our soldiers on the Line of Control with Pakistan. We will take all possible steps to prevent such incidents in the future." Peace talks threatened In his speech Singh asked Pakistan to prevent Islamic extremists from using its territory. India has repeatedly accused the Pakistani military of nurturing militants to fight a covert war over Kashmir. But Pakistan has always denied the claims.Nonetheless, most experts see no major changes taking place over the next couple of years. "I don't see any breakthroughs in the short to medium term. It is going to be a longer process," said Yusuf. New Delhi-based analyst Roy goes even further with his outlook: "The future of India-Pakistan relations has suddenly gone bleak. Until the Pakistani military changes its mind, which is not likely in the near future, nothing will go forward."
The Express TribuneFlood-affected people in Chitral on Saturday demanded relief from the Punjab government after the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government failed to provide any assistance in the district.
THE KP government has decided to “rectify the mistake of removing Quranic verses on jihad” in the textbooks for elementary and secondary levels in the province. The move, a most fundamental one, seeks to undo the attempt at moderation undertaken by the previous government led by the Awami National Party whose politicians say they had brought in the changes in consultation with scholars. Some of these were aimed at ensuring that at the state level the students are taught about the idea of jihad at a later stage than they had been exposed to until then. The modifications were justified in the background of a militant campaign in the name of religion which particularly affected the province. ANP members say they subscribe to a strong parallel view which interprets jihad more than just war, as a struggle for the people’s betterment. Considering the thrust they have shown so far, it is not surprising that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Jamaat-i-Islami, the current custodians of power in Peshawar, disagree. As it decided to partner the PTI in KP, the Jamaat was very keen to have the education ministry under its command. It had all but secured the coveted portfolio when the PTI decided against giving it the ministry. Now, while the JI has taken credit for the step towards ‘rectifying’ the syllabus, Imran Khan’s PTI has been more than a willing partner in this initiative, highlighting the ideological bond between the two coalition parties in KP whose joint decision has far-reaching implications. Reverting to the old syllabus is a powerful statement of intent. The repercussions can be deep and defining for a people trying to return to a state of normality where it is possible to argue with words, and issues are not settled by the bullet. The situation has implications which require deft and rational handling. For instance, the scholars have long engaged in a debate about who is authorised to call jihad and the question is all the more relevant in the current context. Let alone the futility of war — all wars — this is a most complicated affair. When individuals and groups are fighting with the state for rights to calling jihad our policymakers must show extra caution. They must not shun a thorough debate on the subject involving scholars who represent various viewpoints. The PTI-JI coalition must not rush here where it has been quite slow in dealing with many, more pressing issues in the province.
Ahmadiyya TimesJust a day before Eidul Fitr, the streets leading to Aiwan-e-Tawheed— the central place of worship of Ahmadis residing in Rawalpindi — in Satellite Town was once again filled with banners cautioning residents about ‘unconstitutional activities’ of members of the area’s Ahmadiyya community. The banners were placed following an attempt by the worship place’s administration to get permission from the city administration for offering Eid prayers at their worship centre, which has been closed for two years. Even though the city administration denied permission on the pretext of the move fomenting a ‘law and order situation’, it provided a local trader’s action committee — affiliated with the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — with an opportunity to launch a fresh wave of hatred against the community. This was the second year running that Ahmadis were barred from offering Eid prayers at their central worship place in the garrison city in the face of strong resentment and threats made by the action committee, which wants the site to be permanently closed down. Jama’at Ahmadiyya Pakistan Spokesperson Saleemud Din, while talking to The Express Tribune, deplored the incident, saying it was unfortunate for community members living in Rawalpindi. Din said the community members can’t fight with elements behind the hate campaign against them, adding that the community’s only other worship place in the city could only house around 200 people. “A number of community members in Rawalpindi offered Eid prayers in Islamabad, while those who do not have transportation facilities available stayed at home,” Din said. He condemned the slack response extended by the city administration towards the issue. “By not granting permission, the administration violated Article 20 of the Constitution that ensures a right to worship for every citizen of Pakistan,” he added. Rawalpindi Commissioner Khalid Masood Chaudhry said they denied permission with the sentiments of local residents in mind, adding that the city administration would look into the matter to seek out a permanent solution. “The Rawalpindi police will be asked to submit a comprehensive report on the issue, after which the administration will come up with a solution.” Many residents were unaware of the worship place’s presence in their neighbourhood until the issue was played up by the Khatm-e-Nabuwat Action Committee. They pressurised the city government to close down the worship place on the pretext of its location being a residential area. The house was purchased by a member of the community some 20 years ago and later donated to the community, which converted it into a worship place around 10 years ago. Oddly, three mosques of similar size in the same street have not drawn objections from the pressure groups. On January 29, 2012, around two thousand people including activists of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan — now Ahle-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat — and Jamatud Dawa, along with students from religious seminaries around Rawalpindi carried out a massive rally near the worship place against what they termed “illegal and unconstitutional act” of the community. One of the worship place’s administration members told The Express Tribune that the local committee was not just causing a split between the Muslim and Ahmadiyya communities, but also between Muslims themselves. “Across the world, it is common practice that the government takes stand for what is right but here the situation is complex. The hate-filled environment for our community has compelled the administration to back the wrong side,” he deplored.