Sunday, August 18, 2013

Egypt draft constitution may ban religious political parties

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.

Noor Jehan - Sanu Nehar Wale Pul Tay Bula Ke

Syrian Kurd refugees flee in fear of al Nusra rebel group

Thousands of refugees are crossing the border into Iraqi Kurdistan from Syria as the civil war becomes increasingly hostile.

Egypt seen as graveyard of Islamist ambitions for power

As the army ruthlessly crushes the Muslim Brotherhood on the streets of Cairo, having swept away its elected president, Egypt is being painted as the graveyard of the Arab Spring and of Islamist hopes of shaping the region's future.
This week's bloody drama has sent shockwaves out of Egypt, the political weathervane and cultural heart of the Arab world. The effect on the region of the army's power grab will not be uniform, because while countries such as Egypt are locked in a battle over identity, other states, from Syria to Yemen, and Libya to Iraq, are in an existential struggle for survival. The Egyptian chapter of the Arab awakening began with the uprising that ended the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and has moved on to the spectacular implosion of the Brotherhood that replaced him. Having been outlawed intermittently since their founding 80 years ago, the organization won parliamentary and presidential elections, then self-destructed in one year. Deposed President Mohamed Mursi alienated all but a hard-core constituency by devoting his energy to seizing control of Egypt's institutions rather than implementing policies to revive its paralyzed economy and heal political divisions, analysts say. "I was surprised by the rapid fall of the Islamists," said Jamel Arfaoui, an analyst on Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings. "I was expecting that the Muslim Brotherhood would continue long in power and benefit from the experience of the Islamists in Turkey," where the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party has won three straight elections. The Egyptian Brothers, or Al-Ikhwan, now have reason to fear they could be back in the wilderness for decades after the army, with much bloodshed, imposed a state of emergency last week. The last time emergency rule was implemented - after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 - it remained in force for more than 30 years.
In power, Mursi and his backers in the Brotherhood proved unable to collaborate with either Islamist allies or secular adversaries and fatally alienated an army they first tried to co-opt. They have left the country more divided than at any time since it became a republic in 1953. "They have no understanding whatsoever of the way democratic politics operates," says George Joffe, an expert on North Africa at Cambridge University. "It is difficult to imagine how anyone, given the opportunity of power, could in any circumstances have behaved as stupidly as they did. It is staggering incompetence." The 2011 upheavals promoted Islamist groups affiliated with or similar to the Brotherhood to the heart of politics across the Arab world, and most observers say events in Egypt are not just a national but a regional setback for the organization. "The Brotherhood have committed political suicide. It will take them decades to recover ... because a significant number of Egyptians now mistrust them. Al-Ikhwan is a toxic brand now in Egypt and the region," said academic Fawaz Gerges, adding that the damage goes beyond Egypt to its affiliates in Tunisia, Jordan and Gaza, where the ruling Hamas evolved from the Brotherhood. This has delighted leaders as distinct as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, traditionally wary of rival flavors of Islam, and Bashar al-Assad, who greeted last month's military takeover in Egypt as vindication of his own bloody fight against Islamists. Some say Egypt is a setback for democracy itself in the Arab world. "It delegitimizes the ballot box and legitimizes in the eyes of Arabs that the army is the only institution we can fall back on to protect us against disintegration or Islamists who hijack the state," said Gerges of the London School of Economics. Tarek Osman, author of "Egypt on the Brink", said Egypt represented a clash over whether these states are to be governed according to traditions of secular nationalism or see their rich, ancient identities squeezed into the Islamist strait-jacket of the Brotherhood. It is "the Islamic frame of reference versus old, entrenched, rich national identities", he says: "This identity clash is a root cause for the antagonism that wide social segments have for the Islamists."
The struggle might be about the identity of the state in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, where political structures are relatively strong, but in Libya and Yemen, riven by tribal rivalries and lacking properly functioning institutions, it is about the survival of the state. "In Libya, the Brotherhood is hardly in the scene," says Joffe. "The danger is that there is chaos, no centralized government, not even regional authority of any kind." In Libya, armed militias have filled the vacuum left by the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. In Yemen, the militant Islamists of al Qaeda have taken over swathes of land, while sectarian, tribal and regional rivalries are tearing the country of 25 million apart. In Syria, a popular uprising against Assad's 40-year family rule has evolved into a civil war that has killed 100,000 people and provided a new opportunity for al Qaeda and a proxy battleground for regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. And now in Iraq, fresh venom is being injected into the conflict between the country's Sunni minority and Shi'ite-led majority. It is obvious, analysts say, that the future of the East Mediterranean nation states, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, is in danger. These countries were created by Britain and France from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire after World War One, but their imperial interests took priority over the sectarian and ethnic cohesion of the new states. The faultlines have since been kept in check by the deep freeze of the Arab security state. The removal of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and the lethal challenge to Assad has certainly brought Islamism to the fore, and made these countries the front line of the Shi'ite-Sunni sectarian battle. "Sectarianism now rules supreme. The Iraq war and its aftermath - effectively dividing the country along confessional lines - and then the Syrian civil war, which is already sending tremors into tense sectarian-ridden Lebanon, create various triggers for potentially wider conflicts. "Now that these nation states have fallen (in Iraq and Syria) and face serious threats (in Lebanon), these realities are crumbling, and the region's societies are confronting these demons," Osman said. Al Qaeda militants have been quick to exploit sectarian tensions in Iraq, the power vacuum in Yemen and civil war in Syria. They have yet to play a significant role in Egypt, though the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, as part of a push to disseminate the state's narrative of events, has distributed photos showing, among other things, Muslim Brotherhood members carrying clubs, firearms and a black al Qaeda flag. The Brotherhood denies links to the network.
In the new Arab order, the region's leaders and generals are finding that their people will no longer roll over in the face of violent suppression. Heavy-handed attempts to stamp out civic unrest led to the ousting of Zine al-Abidine Ben-Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen and Gaddafi in Libya, as well as triggering the revolt against Assad. Although the Brotherhood is the big loser of recent weeks, the war zone in Cairo where young Islamists keep pouring into the streets undeterred by tanks and snipers of the mighty Egyptian army and security forces is a vivid illustration. In Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and other parts of the region, over two-thirds of the population are under 30-years old, which should give pause to the generals and secret policemen as much as the politicians, whether Islamist or secular. "Not only do these huge young masses have immediate economic demands; they are also the first Arab generation ever to grow up with immediate gratification and expression," says Tarek Osman. "Their exposure to the Internet, satellite channels and instant communication make them express their views quickly, share their frustrations instantly, build and destroy narratives at incredible speeds, and certainly they are not willing to wait and be patient for inexperienced leaders to learn on the job."

Guessing game as Pakistan's powerful army chief prepares to retire

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.
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."

De Ta Zhwand Wa : Rahim Shah & Shahzad Adeel 2013 Official Video

Bahrain is Looking Less Like Egypt, and More Like Rwanda
By Lindsay Boyle
Engaging 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.

You're gonna get it..... Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

What went wrong in Egypt?

Ziad Akl
So, open confrontation is finally upon us. The time where political mediation would have been capable of preventing violence is long gone. The 10 days that preceded the dispersal were simply a matter of settling on the most appropriate confrontation strategies and timings. Both involved parties were out of political options. The army on one hand had to deliver what it promised when it asked for the people’s authorisation to confront violence. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood had no political will to reduce the number of casualties in these confrontations. Suddenly, the time came for both parties to move. The real problem with the media coverage in Egypt’s events is how biased, prejudiced and politicised this coverage usually is. It has become absolutely futile to build any perceptions and/or arguments based on numbers from the media. Hence, your take on what’s going on would depend on the objectivity of your source of information. The problem with the two distant ends of the media, the pro-army and the pro-Morsi media, is how remote from reality they are. Media channels and most newspapers really outdid themselves in trying to pin down the responsibility for all the violence taking place on either the army or the Brotherhood. What we need to understand is how both parties are equally involved in this and how there are no victors in this lose-lose battle. The Brotherhood was indeed a violent and deterrent force. The amount of hate speech coming through loud speakers in Rabaa was enough to bring down a whole city. Clear human rights violations that took place in Rabaa, like torture, were becoming too much to tolerate in a society that has any respect for human life. Recurrent threats by the Brotherhood to turn Egypt into a bloodbath that they have the martyrs for were a discourse so remote from peaceful action. There was an obvious vengeful will in the Brotherhood’s main rhetoric. Moreover, their use of arms was not exactly helping their “peaceful” case. Meanwhile, the army was not much better. There were incidents that I saw with my own eyes where the army used too much force in an unnecessary manner. Apparently, it is a sin these days to criticise the army, but when a riot is around the corner, it does nobody any good to bury our heads in the sand. To put it simply, the army could have been much more sensible in its actions. However, the hatred that’s polluting people’s minds is blocking all paths to reason and logic. Anyone who takes a look out their window would realise how blood is staining all of our hands, one after the other. If what we are looking for is stopping this reckless violence, then we need to understand who stirs up all the hatred behind it. Ironically, just as the Brotherhood teaches its members that those who rose up against Morsi will one day rise up against Islam, those who are against the Brotherhood do their best to prove how all this violence is neither the responsibility of the army nor the police. What really went wrong in Egypt was how rigid its politics became. What we are witnessing right now is not the beginning of a Syria-like scenario. What we are seeing is the normal result of mutual hatred, extreme polarisation and absolute lack of objectivity.

Council of Egyptian Churches rejects foreign intervention

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.

Pakistan: Sikandar Hayat saga: Inquiry reveals multiple security agency failures

The Express Tribune
An 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.
According to the findings of the committee, police officials blamed the bizarre unfolding of events on the Rangers, who had arrived at the scene, and Zamrud Khan, who had ventured close to Sikandar and attempted to grab him. The findings reveal that the Rangers refused to take part in the operation against Sikandar when approached, stating they would only act if a proper order was brought to them, Express News representative Sohail Chaudhry reported. The committee has proposed that an SOP between all security forces operating in Islamabad should be established in order to avoid any such security failure in the future. The committee also recommended that the weapons of the Islamabad police, including sniper guns that they allegedly did not have, be upgraded and available. Sikandar stable A Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) spokesperson has confirmed with the media that Sikandar’s condition is stable. The gunman has been declared out of danger and has reportedly started talking, although he is still under intensive care.

Karachi-Pakistan: No end to animals suffering at zoo amid celebrations

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.
Zoo staff told Dawn that the administration had allowed a group to play loud music for a week at the facility that they said had been visited by hundreds and thousands of people over the past few days. A motor vehicle modified into a train to attract visitors also created a lot of noise. “It’s a big show for the zoo administration that has been making huge profits since Eid. Animals, however, have been continuously suffering. You can see them being targeted by children who use toy guns to tease and hurt the wild species,” said a zoo keeper. He added that it was difficult to stop children from such activities in a huge rush. While the rude behaviour and noisy atmosphere had forced some animals to take refuge in hideouts within their enclosures, there were others such as lions that got furious and roared. Some visitors were seen throwing eatables into animal cages. Some armed policemen apparently providing an escort to a family were also spotted in the zoo. “The administration needs to start a clean-up drive. Look at the dark greenish water of the pond. It’s awful. It seems that the pond hasn’t been cleaned for ages,” a visitor said, adding that the zoo should be managed in a scientific way so that people from all strata of society could visit it. Some visitors complained that the zoo administration had adopted a practice of doubling the entry fee as well as charges of recreational activities and eatables on holidays. “Rs10 has been added to the fee of each recreational activity and entry,” a zoo staffer said while verifying the information. He also said different parties had been allowed to operate inside the zoo without any proper agreement in writing. The zoo director was not available for comments. When Dawn contacted senior director of culture, sports and recreation, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Shoaib Waqar, he expressed his ignorance over music playing and use of toy guns. He said he would inquire about the matter. He agreed that the zoo needed to be run on scientific lines and that the present state of the zoo was a matter of concern. The zoo administration, he said, had held a meeting with the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan which, he said, would give their recommendations for zoo improvement. On the issue of overcharging, he said: “We have done our paperwork for every business being run at the zoo. We have also issued a show-cause notice to the contractor managing the entry gates for increasing the ticket fare.”

Pakistan to free more than 350 Indian prisoners to defuse tensions

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.
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Ceasefire under shadow: Indian Army says Pakistan is engineering more attacks along LoC

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.

Indian Army foils infiltration bid along LoC in Kupwara

The Hindu
Army 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

India, Pakistan: An 'antagonistic' relationship

More than six decades after independece from the British Raj, ties between India and Pakistan continue to be marred by mutual distrust. Recent hostilities along the common border suggest this won't change anytime soon. From Lahore to Islamabad and from Mumbai to New Delhi, millions of people recently marked the anniversary of Pakistan's and India's 1947 independence from British colonial rule. The celebrations were accompanied by dances, parades and ceremonies on all levels of society. But, according to experts, the South Asian neighbors have little to celebrate when it comes to their bilateral ties. Over the past 66 years, India and Pakistan have fought three major wars and been involved in a number of minor conflicts. Their differences revolve around a number of issues ranging from border disputes to water access and terrorism.
A 'myopic mindset' Analysts such as Robert Hathaway from the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center, believe the apparent unwillingness or inability of leaders from the two sides to settle these differences has led to a "huge drain of resources," which could have been directed at tackling more pressing problems such as poverty or access to education.This view is supported by the latest data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). According to the research center, the two nations spend large amounts of money (around 2.6 percent of their GDP in 2011) on modernizing their armed forces and acquiring new weapons. In contrast, public expenditure on health care amounted to only 1.1 percent of the GDP in India and less than one percent in Pakistan, according to the World Bank. A deep sense of mutual suspicion has permeated bilateral relations for over six decades. "Both India and Pakistan have been antagonistic towards each other since independence," said Hathaway. This view is shared by Moeed Yusuf, a senior Pakistan expert at the US Institute of Peace, who accuses leaders in both countries of acting with "myopic mindsets." Yusuf argues that since the two countries don't cooperate with each other and only try to undercut one another, they have made South Asia one of the least integrated regions in the world. Indeed, commerce between the two countries, although increasing, is remarkably low. According to a study commissioned by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan, bilateral trade was valued at around 2.7 billion USD in 2011. The authors of the study also point out that trade could reach $11 billion, if ties were to normalize, thus highlighting the economic consequences of the long term rivalry.
The 'blame game'
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."

Pakistan drops charges in Rimsha 'blasphemy' cleric case

A Pakistani court has dismissed charges against a Muslim cleric who had been arrested on suspicion of framing a Christian girl accused of blasphemy. The imam had accused 14-year-old Rimsha Masih of burning pages from the Koran.
The teenager spent several weeks in prison, and has since fled to Canada with her family. Khalid Jadoon was never formally indicted, and as witnesses have now withdrawn their accusations he has been freed. It had been claimed that he planted pages of the Koran in a bag containing ash which was seized from the girl, who is believed to have learning difficulties. Mr Jadoon's attorney and a prosecution lawyer told BBC Urdu that a district court accepted there was no case to be heard against him. Rimsha was arrested in a Christian area of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, after a furious crowd demanded she be punished. She and her family had to go into hiding after her release from jail in September 2012. The case provoked widespread international concern about the application of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, and the status of members of minority religions in the predominately Muslim country.

After cold response from K-P, residents of Chitral seek Punjab’s help

The Express Tribune
Flood-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.
Addressing journalists at the Chitral Press Club, Advocate Ghulam Hazrat Inqilabi, Muhammad Ubair, Shakiruddin and Muhammad Wali said residents are spending their days under the open sky, but the district administration has yet to take any measures to help them. “Nothing has been done to clear the roads or to prevent the situation from deteriorating further,” said Inqilabi. He added they will migrate from the area and hold protests outside parliament if their demands are not met. “We are frustrated by the utter lack of interest from the provincial government and have sought Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s help,” said Wali. He added they have presented their demands for relief to District Disaster Management Authority Chairman Muhammad Shoaib Jadoon and other officials, but they have not replied. Wali said the cold response from local officials have further compounded their miseries, adding they are already disconnected from Chitral city because the road linking it to Bumburet in Kalash Valley was washed away by floodwater on July 31. Prices of daily items have also shot up due to a shortage of edibles in the market.

Pakistan: Undoing moderation: Jihad in syllabus

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.

Pakistan: Ahmadis denied permission to offer Eid-ul Fitr in Rawalpindi

Ahmadiyya Times
Just 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.