Monday, August 26, 2013

US Blames Assad Regime for Syria Chemical Weapons Attack

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the “cowardly” chemical weapons attack in a rebel stronghold near Damascus last week, and said the United States and its allies were preparing a response. “The reported number of victims… and first-hand accounts strongly indicate that chemical weapons were used in Syria,” Kerry told a news briefing in Washington, five days after the attack in which the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said 355 people were killed. “Moreover, we know the Syrian regime maintains custody of these weapons, has the capacity to do this with rockets, and is determined to clear the opposition from the very places where the attacks took place,” Kerry said, adding that the United States has more information about the attack that it will “provide in the days ahead.” Kerry called the attack a “moral obscenity” and “a cowardly crime,” and accused Assad’s regime of making a “cynical attempt” to cover it up by barring immediate access to the site of the attack to a team of UN investigators. “I made it clear to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem that if Syria had nothing to hide, their response would be to give unrestricted and immediate access to the UN investigators, but instead for five days, they refused access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Kerry said. “Make no mistake, President Obama believes there must be accountability for the use of the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people,” Kerry said. Shortly after the Kerry speech, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “What we are talking about … is a response to the clear violation of an international norm and it is profoundly in the interest of the United States and of the international community that that violation of an international norm be responded to.” Obama is discussing “a range of options” for Syria, including military intervention, with his national security team, but has not yet made a decision on what action the United States will take, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters after Kerry’s speech. Obama said previously that the US would intervene in the Syrian conflict in the event of a chemical attack. British media reported the country’s forces are already preparing for a joint naval operation with the US against Assad’s forces. Kerry’s statement came hours after a UN team in Syria came under attack from sniper fire while going to investigate the chemical weapons attack. Assad has denied launching last week’s chemical attack.

President Zardari: Pakistan has consistently supported promotion of peace, stability in Afghanistan

Pakistan has been consistently extending every possible support for promotion of peace and stability in Afghanistan and has been making efforts for intra-Afghanistan reconciliation to be peaceful and stable, President Asif Ali Zardari said on Monday. In a meeting at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, President Zardari
told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that a united Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s own interest and stressed the need for joint efforts and close coordination to cope with the evolving situation in the region with focus on peace process in Afghanistan and the post-withdrawal scenario. Later, the spokesman to the president, Senator Farhatullah Babar said the two leaders discussed matters pertaining to Pak-Afghan ties, evolving regional situation, peace process in Afghanistan and other issues of mutual interest. The president reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong resolve to working with Afghanistan as well as regional and international partners for sustainable peace and development. “We firmly believe that our dreams of peace and prosperity cannot be realised as long as Afghanistan remains in turmoil,” Zardari said. Discussing bilateral relations, the president reiterated that Pakistan was committed to deepening and broadening fraternal relations with Afghanistan, adding that relations between the two countries should be defined by a strong trade and economic partnership. He said the two countries had covered a long distance in forging closer ties in the last few years and urged for further strengthening it to the mutual benefit of both countries. President Zardari emphasised on optimum utilisation of the Afghan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) and its extension to Central Asia for promoting trade and economic activities in the region. He said early implementation of the agreement besides enhancing regional connectivity would also help promote Afghanistan’s access to foreign markets through Pakistani sea-ports and land routes. He also reiterated that Pakistan supported an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation and peace process and it would continue to play a positive and supportive role in facilitating the reconciliation. He also wished the Afghan president and the people of Afghanistan well in the ongoing reconciliation and peace process in the country. Zardari expressed hope that President Karzai’s visit would give impetus to the ongoing efforts for an enhanced relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan and further strengthen joint endeavours of the two countries in the pursuit of durable peace, stability and prosperity. President Karzai was accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Zalmai Rassoul, National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Minister of Finance Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal, Minister of Commerce and Industries Anwar ul Haq Ahady, High Peace Council (HPC) Chairman HE Salahuddin Rabbani, Chief of Staff to the President Abdul Karim Khurram, Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Ershad Ahmadi and Ambassador of Afghanistan Mohammad Umer Daudzai.
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Landmark Chinese copper deal with Afghanistan at risk

A consortium of Chinese investors has demanded a review of a landmark $3 billion deal to produce copper in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Mines said on Monday, putting at risk one of Kabul's greatest hopes for economic independence. It said China Metallurgical Group (MCC) CNMET.UL and Jiangxi Copper JXPROM.UL want new terms that would cut their royalties to the government, release them from building a power plant and copper smelter, and postpone the laying of a railway. "The Afghan government is trying its best ... to negotiate with the company but contract conditions are clear and previously both sides have agreed about it," a spokesman for the ministry said. An independent anti-corruption monitor, Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), said the Chinese venture also wanted to delay the start of production by five years to 2019. A spokesman in China for the consortium declined to comment immediately. The copper deposit is among the world's largest but is situated in a dangerous province and the site has often come under attack by insurgents, who have succeed in halting work on the mine by forcing workers to flee. Donors hope the largest foreign investment project in Afghan history will help wean it off international aid, which is expected to fall short of the amount needed to pay for its security forces and sustain economic growth. IWA said that renegotiating the deal, which was agreed in 2007, would dramatically reduce the benefit to Afghanistan and set a bad precedent for others seeking to invest in the already unpredictable country. "The terms of the contract they want to renegotiate were the terms that made them the winners in the bidding process," said Javed Noorani of IWA. Noorani said the Chinese investors were seeking to cut royalty payments to the government by almost half to 10 percent as well as delay production to 2019. The Afghan president is expected to travel to China with the minister of mines to discuss salvaging the project. The government was split between accommodating Chinese demands and cancelling the contract. "Others for strategic reasons want it to happen... so China remains committed to helping Afghanistan when the money dries up in this country," Noorani continued. Once production starts, the mine will generate a quarter of a billion dollars a year and create around 75,000 jobs, according to a "low-impact" scenario by the World Bank.

More violence not the answer in Syria
The pace with which western action on Syria has developed over the past few days has been worrying. Western states have lined up to offer military solutions to the conflict, provoking their international adversaries to issue their own warnings. The solution in Syria is not to fuel an even larger confrontation by further arming one party in the conflict or its adversary, as some in the West have suggested. It is time to stop settling international scores between major powers and focus on saving more lives from being lost in the war-ravaged country. Further arming the Syrian rebels will only lead to Bashar Al Assad’s allies to drum up their own support for his regime, further fuelling the cycle of violence. The tragic events of last week should perhaps be used as an opportunity for the international community to push the threatened and cornered Al Assad to go to the negotiating table. The international fury over the massacre in Ghouta has weakened him enough to be pressured into negotiations. His closest allies, including Iran, have said that those responsible for the alleged chemical attack should be held responsible. The advances made on the ground by the regime in the past few months were significant enough for the opposition to reject negotiations from a position of weakness. Now, the tables have turned and the regime knows it faces tough choices. Western states, instead of rubbing their hands in anticipation of invading yet another Arab country, should recognise that this is a chance to finally find a solution to the conflict that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.A call for negotiations, however, should not mean that the perpetrators of last week’s massacre should go unpunished. Under no circumstances should a negotiation process — and the subsequent concessions that may be made by the regime — be presented as the regime’s ‘way out’ from being held accountable for this massacre, if it is proven to have been responsible for it. Or indeed for its other 

Lavrov urges world to wait for results of UN investigation in Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the international community to wait for the results of the U.N. investigation into alleged uses of chemical weapons in Syria.
“Suffice it to take a look at websites: many of them provide information and photos of the shell that was exploded [in Damascus’ suburb of Ghouta on August 21] and describe the substance it contained,” the minister said at a press conference on Monday, August 26. Experts say that these videos and images raise many questions. “When they show bloodcurdling images with dozens of killed children, the question arises: why and how did they all happen to be in the same place at the same time? No one has explained this,” Lavrov said. He also wonders why the symptoms described in the videos do not quite coincide with the symptoms that are characteristic of poisoning with sarin or other toxic agents, and why aren’t the people who are helping those affected wearing means of protection. Lavrov referred to intercepted e-mail messages posted on the Internet, which indicated that certain chemical agents had been brought in for the rebels from abroad. “I cannot assert anything, but it’s absolutely clear that there was no political or military sense for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons at a time when [U.N.] experts were working there, the military situation was in favour of the government and an American-Russian meeting to prepare Geneva II [conference on Syrian crisis settlement] was to be held,” Lavrov said. “On the contrary, it would have been of certain interest for the other side to organize such a provocation for the reasons I mentioned above, if they want to provoke strikes against the regime from abroad.” “We must wait for the objective investigation by the group of experts, if no attempts are made of course to obstruct their work as it happened today when they were fired at,” the minister said. On the night from August 20 to August 21, several pan-Arab news channels reported that chemical weapons had been used on the eastern outskirts of Damascus. They cited sources in the armed opposition, but the official authorities and the military command denied these reports. The reports prodded several countries into asking the U.N. Secretariat to redirect its team of experts who are investigating alleged chemical attacks in Aleppo to the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian army found a depot with chemical weapons belonging to rebels outside Damascus, the state television channel Al-Ikhbariya said. Army troops found barrels with chemicals marked “Made in Saudi Arabia”, a large number of gas masks and medicines which are used in the event of chemical poisoning and which were made by a joint pharmaceutical company created by Qatar and Germany, SANA said. Upon entering Jobar, an outskirt of Damascus where the chemical weapons had been found, some of the army soldiers started choking and were taken to hospital. The exact number of troops affected was not disclosed but some of them were said to be in critical condition. Rebels had earlier used chemical weapons in this area. However they claim that government troops had shelled the outskirts of Damascus last Wednesday, using ammunition containing toxic agents. The official authorities denied this as slander. Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said such claims on the part of the opposition were illogical and had been fabricated. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “shocked” to hear the reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus and “is aware that a number of Member States, the Arab League and the European Union have expressed grave concern about the most recent reports of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Secretary-General reaffirms his determination to ensure a thorough investigation of the reported alleged incidents that are brought to his attention by Member States,” his deputy spokesperson Eduardo del Buey said earlier in the day. He quoted Ban as saying that “any use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would violate international humanitarian law.” Ban said the use of any chemical weapons in Syria would amount to a “crime against humanity” and there would be “serious consequences” for the perpetrators. “Any use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anybody, under any circumstances, would violate international law,” he said on Friday, August 23. “Such a crime against humanity should result in serious consequences for the perpetrator. Once again, I call for an immediate investigation of this latest incident.” The U.N. inspector arrived in Damascus’ suburb of Ghouta and visited a military hospital there. On the way, the convoy of cars was attacked by a sniper and the inspectors had to return to Damascus to replace the damaged automobile. The team of U.N. experts led by Professor Ake Sellstrom, will take samples at the site of the alleged chemical attack and conduct a forensic examination. They will also question those affected by the attack, the medics who attended to them, and eye-witnesses. Rebels claim that more than 1,000 people might have been killed by the attack. Official Damascus dismissed reports about the use of chemical weapons as slander aimed at undermining the work of the U.N. experts in the country. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the shell with a toxic agent had been fired from the positions occupied by rebels. Previously Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared he knew what position on Syria the West would assume in the United Nations if it took the matter there at all. “Western leaders are making statements indicating that they are not going to wait for the results of the [U.N.] investigation [into alleged chemical attacks in Syria], they have already made up their mind,” Lavrov said at a press conference on Monday, August 26. He said the Russian report on the incident in the Syrian town of Aleppo in March of this year was “absolutely professional and concrete.” “Experts of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons do not make accusatory decisions, they only establish facts: whether a shell was made at a factory or at home, whether sarin was used or not. Further decisions are to be made by the U.N. Security Council. There can be different situations in the U.N. Security Council and consensus cannot be always reached,” Lavrov said. “The peremptoriness and the confidence in its correctness, which the West is demonstrating by stating that they know everything allow us to assume what position they can take in the U.N. Security Council if they go there at all,” the minister said. Lavrov said no one had seen “undeniable evidence” of the Syrian regime’s responsibility for the events in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. “We in the U.N. Security Council will use all the information that is available in the world,” he added. Moscow called for an “objective and professional” investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria by government troops. Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on August 21, following an alleged chemical attack on the outskirts of Damascus, that the aggressive information campaign related to purported use of chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus suggests that this is a provocation and undermines chances for convening a conference on Syria commonly referred to as Geneva-2. “All this looks very much like an attempt to create a pretext any cost for demanding that the U.N. Security Council side with the opponents of the regime and thus undermine the chances for convening the Geneva conference the preparation of which will be discussed at a meeting of Russian and American experts on August 28,” Lukashevich said. The Foreign Ministry urged “all those who can influence armed extremists to exert every effort to stop provocations with the use of chemical weapons.” The ministry said that a rocket with a toxic agent had been launched in the eastern suburb of Damascus from the positions occupied by opposition militants. Syria’s military command denied the opposition’s claims that the government troops had used chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus. Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said such claims on the part of the opposition were illogical and had been fabricated. The Syrian authorities denied Arab and Western media reports which claimed that chemical weapons had been used in the eastern suburb of Damascus. “Reports about the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian capital’s suburb have nothing in common with the truth,” a government official said. Volunteers working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria said they had no access to the place where chemical weapons had allegedly been used. “We have not travelled to Eastern Ghouta where this reportedly happened. We have not been able to get there for several months even though people there are in dire need of aid,” an ICRC official said. “We cannot make any conclusion as to whether chemical weapons were used in Syria or not because we have not seen the results of any thorough investigation,” he said. Some Arab mass media reported that 20 to 500 people had been killed as a result of the chemical attack. However these are unconfirmed reports coming from the armed opposition. The attack occurred in Damascus’ suburbs of Ain Tarma, Jubar and Zamalkh, where the nerve gas sarin was used.

Ahmad Faraz Ghazals.....

In the Loving Memory of Ahmed Faraz

By Mwaqar
Ahmad Faraz born Syed Ahmad Shah on 14 January 1931 in Kohat, died 25 August 2008 was a Pakistani Urdu poet. He was acclaimed one of the modern Urdu poets of the last century. 'Faraz' is his pen name, (in Urdu takhalus). He died in Islamabad on 25 August 2008. He was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Imtiaz and after his death Hilal-e-Pakistan by the government.He was not only romantic but also a great revolutionary poet.
I started listening to the ghazals of Faraz with a heavy heart after hearing news of his death, what a incredible loss. Then somehow came away feeling more at peace than before after replaying his ghazals like, "Ab ke hum Bichhray’’ And "Ye alam shoke ka dekha na jaie." It was indeed a shock for every progressive-minded person in Pakistan. Faraz was not just a romantic poet
but also a poet of revolution, struggle and he never hesitated to challenge dictators through his poetry. Faraz not only supported the struggle against dictatorship, issue of civic movements or movement of lawyers through his poetry but he himself participated in these movements. The amazing thing about Ahmed Faraz is that he is still able to provide consolation even when we are mourning for him. He will never stop speaking to us and enriching our lives. Just try listening to “Sunna hai log usse ankh bhar ke deykhte hain” without smiling…it’s not possible. Faraz poetry is both traditional as well as liberal.
Collections of his poetry have been quite popular and some of these have won major literary awards. He is widely acclaimed and admired because of the essence of his classical poetry. His poetry verses recite life. The way he wrote on social issues is appreciable. Nature had placed the magical magnificence, reflecting truly in his poetry. Faraz was also a literary man. Faraz was best known for his progressive political poetry, with his poem Mohasara (The Siege), written in criticism of Pakistan's political regime, perhaps his most widely praised work. But he also wrote romantic poetry, and his poem "Dekhtay Hain" (Let us gaze) is seen today as a classic of modern romance. Ahmad Faraz was a passionate and popular voice for progress and change. His death is a great tragedy, at the time when Pakistani nation is already short of people with dynamic thinking, losing Faraz is another blow from the blue. Ahmed Faraz was not mere a poet, he was a Pakistani with keen eye on pros and corns of the nation. Ahmed Faraz, a man of principle, a man of words, a man whom we say proudly a true Pakistani. He is the true chain linking from Ghalib, Meer, Iqbal to Faiz, and I pray as his soul rest in peace, the link of positive and constructive thinking should continue. Faraz was not scared of dictators and narrow-minded people. One day Faraz heard loud banging at his door. He rose hurriedly to open it, only to see four or five bearded men in white skullcaps. “Can you recite the Kalima?” one asked. “Why, has it changed?” Faraz inquired. He had to spend many years in exile during the period of dictator Zia. During his life Ahmad Faraz received a number of honours, including the Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2004. He returned this award to President Musharraf two years later, saying that his conscience would never forgive him for associating with a military dictator. He always remained active to safeguard the basic human rights, freedom of opinion and promotion of the democracy. From Ayub, through Yahya, through Bhutto and down to Musharraf, Faraz was always viewed by the establishment as the rebel he was. He was never afraid to write what others only whispered about and he never let adversity stray him from the path he had chosen for himself. More of his poetry is remembered and recited by his admirers. Few people know that in 1947 when the uprising in Kashmir against the Maharaja’s rule began, among the volunteers who went in to fight on the side of the Kashmiris was the teenager Ahmed Faraz from Kohat. He had the courage to stand up for what he believed in. It was an admirable quality. Faraz was indeed a leader of revolution in Pakistan, a revolution which is needed in Pakistan. Future revolutionaries will find fiery slogans in Faraz’s poetry, as will hapless lovers groping for the right phrase to convey the most sublime of their emotions. Faraz’s burning poetry pitted itself against the injustices of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes — and certainly, Pakistan has provided plenty. His work will command a following so long as love itself lives, and the Muse finds a voice through a poignant Urdu ghazal. He was in the true sense a poet of masses, not just a poet of romance and love. A poet, whose revolution didn't stop in his Divan, rather a crusader who fought against oppression, raised his voice against injustice and never shied away from taking on the establishment. This Pathan poet never compromised in life. Syed Ahmed Shah, who was known as Ahmed Faraz, had become a legend in his life time. I offer my condolences to his family. Ahmed Faraz, was a good man, good soul, and one of the greatest poet ever. He will live for ever. May his soul rest in peace.

iPhone 5S to be 31 percent faster than iPhone 5, includes motion tracking chip
With just over two weeks until the supposed September 10 iPhone 5S launch event, rumours of what to expect from the new iPhone are flowing in thick and fast.
The latest report comes from Fox News anchor Clayton Morris, who claims that his sources are telling him that the A7 chipset inside the upcoming iPhone 5S will offer a 31% speed boost over the current iPhone 5. "I'm hearing it's very fast," said Morris in his tweet. Given the A6 doubled performance of the previous A5 chipset when it was unveiled in the iPhone 5 last year, a 31% performance boost is not quite as big a step up, although rumours are suggesting that there could be a lot more to the iPhone 5S than just a power boost.Shortly after his chipset tweet, Morris was back at it, tweeting that he's also hearing about a dedicated motion tracking chipset in the upcoming Apple smartphone. While details are obviously scarce, Morris himself argues that it "should be an interesting camera upgrade". Of course, the rumour mill has always run overtime in the leadup to iPhone launches. Combined with the reported fingerprint scanner, 13MP camera with dual-LED flash and wireless charging, the iPhone 5S is looking like a much bigger jump up from the current iPhone than the iPhone 5 was from the iPhone 4S. However, how many of the rumours actually come true will only be confirmed when we actually get to see the device. Fortunately, that is probably only a few weeks away now.

‘Turkey’s partiality’ adds to bloodshed in region

The main opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu says government’s biased approach in regional foreign policy is one of the main factors behind the escalating bloodshed in the ‘Islamic world’
The Turkish government’s biased approach in regional foreign policy is one of the main factors behind the escalating bloodshed in the “Islamic world,” the main opposition leader has said, while also slamming Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for crying in front of cameras, which he described as “pitiful.” The remarks from Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu came in a speech delivered in the town of Bayat in the western Anatolian province of Afyonkarahisar, which he was visiting on the 91st anniversary of the “Great Offensive” against Greek forces during the War of Independence. Despite the government’s self-proclaimed foreign policy of “zero problem with neighbors,” Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey was no longer friends with any of its neighboring countries, including Iran, Iraq and Syria. He described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as “a crime against humanity,” while claiming that the only place in the world that was scene of such bloodshed was the Islamic world.
‘Training in Turkey’
“Such blood is not shed anywhere else. But it is shed in the Islamic world. Why? We are taking sides,” he was quoted as saying by the Anadolu Agency. “We are training them in Turkey, sending them away to kill his sibling. Isn’t it a shame, a sin?” Kılıçdaroğlu’s words were referring to claims that Syrian rebels have been secretly given military training in Turkey, which have been constantly denied by the Turkish government. In addition to the government’s policies, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself was a personal target for Kılıçdaroğlu, who criticized Erdoğan’s shedding of tears live on television on Aug. 22. Erdoğan cried over an Egyptian father’s letter to his daughter, who was killed by the security forces in Cairo. After listening to a prerecorded video of the letter being read out, he sat speechless for a few moments with tears in his eyes. Crying in front of cameras does not suit the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey, and such crying was a sign of desperation and pitifulness, Kılıçdaroğlu said. “The Republic of Turkey is a proud state. A proud man is the man who resolves problem of his country and whom we respect, no matter who he is. Arriving at the point of deadlock, falling into a position of gradual loneliness in the world, being dressed down by everybody, and then crying on television screens, do not befit the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey,” he said, adding that “reason should prevail” while governing a state.

Afghanistan: Analysts Doubt Positive Outcome from Karzai's Pak Visit
In light of Karzai's visit to Pakistan on Monday, a number of political commentators expressed doubts over Islamabad's willingness to adopt a clear policy regarding the peace process, citing the Pakistani military's tight hold on policy decisions in Islamabad. President Karzai is on an official visit to Islamabad,where he plans to discuss a number of key issues such as Pakistan's cooperation on counterinsurgency, the expansion of bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the release of the Taliban prisoners to kick-start the peace negotiation process. "Whatever talks happened between the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan was not encouraging at all. Pakistan did not pledge on its willingness to honestly fight terrorism," said Muhammad Nateqi, a regional political analyst. "Pakistan's military formulates the country's foreign policy. Unfortunately, the civilian government is not allowed to shape the country's foreign policy," said Mir Ahmad Joyenda, an Afghan civil society activist. With tensions recently mounting between Kabul and Islamabad over border disputes and suspicions of subterfuge, the trip was highly touted as a signal a positive shift in relations between the two neighbours, or at least an attempt at one. Encouraging statements from Pakistani officials were voiced earlier this week in the lead up to President Karzai's visit. "Pakistan will honestly cooperate whether it is regarding the release of Taliban prisoners or holding a meeting of the clerics in Kabul," Mr. Chadhary said. "Pakistan is committed to working sincerely to accelerate the stalled peace process." However, many analysts and other onlookers are not persuaded. "I think no one in Pakistan expects anything special from Karzai's tour because Karzai is a person who changes policy day-by-day; today he says one thing and tomorrow another," commented Rahimullah Yousafzai, a famous Pakistani journalist. At the beginning of August, President Karzai rebuffed an invitation to visit Islamabad,However, as Afghan officials have explained over the past two weeks, an agenda for the trip was eventually formulated and agreed upon by the two governments. This trip marks the eighteenth time President Karzai has visited Pakistan during his tenure as the Afghan head of state.

PTI workers attack newsmen in Lahore

PTI workers attack newsmen in Lahore by TheExpressNews Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) workers attacked reporters and cameramen during a protest in Lahore on Monday, Express News reported. The party has been protesting against alleged rigging in the August 22 by-elections and over 70 PTI leaders and workers had been baton-charged and arrested by the Punjab police on Saturday. However, they were released hours later on the orders of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. PTI’s Punjab President Ejaz Chaudhary apologised and tried to control the situation. Party members also claimed that those who had attacked the newsmen were not members of the party. Witnesses said that the attackers were carrying PTI flags and used the sticks to beat up the newsmen. An injured cameraman was shifted to the hospital.

Ahmad Faraz remembered on 5th death anniversary

The fifth death anniversary of renowned and progressive Urdu poet, Ahmed Faraz was observed across the country on Sunday. Syed Ahmed Shah, with pseudonym (takhallus) Faraz was considered one of the greatest modern Urdu poets of the last century who died in Islamabad on August 25, 2008.
Ahmad Faraz was born in Kohat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) to Syed Muhammad Shah Barq. Faraz holds a unique position as one of the best poets of current times, with a fine but simple style of writing. Ethnically a Hindko speaking Pashtoon, Ahmed Faraz studied Persian and Urdu at Peshawar University, where he later became a lecturer. During Zia-ul-Haq’s regime, outspoken about politics, he went into self-imposed exile after he was arrested for reciting certain poems at a mushaira criticizing the military rule. He stayed in Britain, Canada and Europe for six years before returning to Pakistan, where he was initially appointed Chairman Academy of Letters and later, Chairperson of the Islamabad based National Book Foundation for several years. Ahmed Faraz was awarded with numerous national and international awards. He was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2004 in recognition of his literary achievements. He returned the award in 2006 after becoming disenchanted with the government and its policies. Despite his deteriorating health, he was quite active in the Judicial Crisis in 2007. He himself joined the lawyers to protest against the government, and also encouraged his colleagues to do the same. In July 2008, a rumor was spread that Ahmed Faraz had died in a hospital in Chicago. Faraz’s physician, Tahir Rohail, who was a childhood friend of Faraz’s son Shibli Faraz, was quick to deny this erroneous report, but it was confirmed that Faraz was exceedingly ill.Faraz’s health continued to deteriorate and he died from kidney failure in a local Islamabad hospital on August 25, 2008.

U.S. would only act on Syria with international community: Hagel

The United States would only take action on Syria in concert with the international community and with legal justification in response to the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Damascus, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Monday.
Hagel, speaking on a trip to Indonesia, declined to discuss U.S. military options under consideration by the White House, or to say whether he thought a military response was likely. "The United States is looking at all options regarding the situation in Syria. We're working with our allies and the international community," Hagel told a news conference in Jakarta. "We are analyzing the intelligence. And we will get the facts. And if there is any action taken, it will be concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification." Hagel planned to speak with his British and French counterparts about the situation in Syria, a senior U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The timing of those upcoming calls was unclear, the official said. The official said there was growing confidence that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against civilians in suburbs of Damascus last week and admonished the delays in allowing U.N. inspectors access to the sites. "Our confidence is growing that this was, in fact, an episode involving the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime," the official said.

President Obama shows he's tipper-in-chief by doubling gratuity on lunch at Rochester restaurant

The leader of the free world President Barack Obama has done something only great men do ... he tipped his server ON TOP of already added gratuity. He DOUBLE TIPPED!
Obama stopped for lunch in Rochester, NY Thursday at a little deli called Magnolia's. It was widely reported that the Prez ate a grilled cheese and some cream of tomato soup. Big stuff.
But what you didn't know ... Obama not only bought lunch for his secret service men (the ones who checked the place for WMD's before hand) ... he also double tipped his waiter, like a champ. TMZ obtained a copy of the receipt ... his total bill for 9 people was $89.84. The restaurant added a 20% tip for the large party -- $16.64 -- but Obama felt more needed to be done. He gave an additional $30. In total, B.O. left a 52% tip. Read more: Visit Fishwrapper:

No correct Syria option looks positive to Obama

US President Barack Obama's weighing up of his Syria options has drawn worldwide attention. With a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles sent to the eastern Mediterranean, the US is "preparing options for all contingencies," in Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's words. Meanwhile, the White House is still hesitant and hasn't made its final decision. Obama has been reluctant to take direct military action, although he has repeatedly stressed a "red line" on Syria. Obama is, once again, facing the plight of the US' Middle-East policy. According to a latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, about 60 percent of Americans oppose intervention in Syria, whereas only 9 percent believe Obama should act. The Obama administration clearly understands that it would be extremely hard to justify the legitimacy of another expensive military adventure in the Middle East. Since his first term, Obama has been seeking strategic relaxation in the region. His announcement in 2011 of the end of the Iraq War and his later vows to close down the Afghan theater have earned him political points. The Americans spent the whole decade during the Iraq War debating which goal was more pragmatic in the Middle East, democracy or stability, only to find that neither was achievable. Nonetheless, two self-conflicting goals are haunting top decision-makers in Washington while they mull over the Syria options. While seeking to avoid US commitment to the Syrian conflict, the Obama administration cannot afford to make no response to Syria's "humanitarian crisis" either, as this would erode Washington's moral standing in the Middle East. The suspected chemical weapons use in the suburbs of Damascus last week, though denied by the Bashar al-Assad government, has touched the "red line" that Obama has long maintained. The importance to conserve US credibility and determination to ensure this "red line" is, in many analysts' eyes, a more pertinent element that will drive Washington toward war. And it is on this basis that Obama is thought likely to bomb Syria in the coming weeks. A New York Times report on Friday revealed that Obama's national security team was "studying the NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the UN." Just as some US observers argue, Washington is now stuck choosing between bad options, which will make the Syria situation even more complex. And once the US intervenes and serves as a game-changer to the prolonged Syrian war, it cannot get away with not dealing with the political vacuum or any other political aftermath it helps create. History repeats itself, and Pandora's Box has been re-opened.

Syria's Assad reportedly denies use of chemical weapons

Syrian President Bashar Assad labeled as “preposterous” and “completely politicized” allegations that Syrian forces deployed chemical weapons, according to comments published Monday from an interview with a Russian newspaper.
“How is it possible that any country would use chemical weapons, or any weapons of mass destruction, in an area where its own forces are located?” Assad asked in the interview with Izvestia, according to a translation provided by Syria’s official news agency. “This is preposterous! These accusations are completely politicized and come on the back of the advances made by the Syrian Army against the terrorists.” For months, Syrian forces have been engaged in an aggressive offensive outside Damascus aimed at pushing back and eliminating rebels, whom the government routinely refers to as terrorists. Opposition activists have alleged that hundreds of civilians were killed Wednesday in a poison-gas bombardment of the eastern suburbs of Damascus, a rebel stronghold. While the opposition says the targeted districts were under rebel control, Assad pointed out that the disputed districts are adjacent to Syrian military positions. Syrian authorities and their Russian allies have charged that it was the rebels that unleashed chemical agents in a bid to discredit the government and spur a U.S.-led military attack on Syrian forces. The opposition has denied using chemical arms. Independent experts who have seen video of reported victims of last week’s suspected attack say the images are inconclusive, but could point to use of some kind of chemical agent. The Syrian president's comments — his first public remarks about the alleged poison-gas strike — came as United Nations inspectors reportedly headed early Monday to the area where the suspected attack took place. On Sunday, Syria agreed to allow access to a 20-member U.N. technial team that was already on the ground in Damascus, the Syrian capital. In the interview, Assad said Syria had sought “guidelines” to insure that any evidence gathered by the U.N. is analyzed in an un-biased fashion. “The issue is not only how the investigation will be conducted but also how the results will be interpreted,” Assad told Izvestia. “We are all aware that instead of being interpreted in an objective manner, these results could easily be interpreted according to the requirements and agendas of certain major countries. Certainly, we expect Russia to block any interpretation that aims to serve American and western polices.” On Sunday, the Obama administration dismissed as “too late” Syria's decision to allow access for U.N. experts. The White House said there was "very little doubt" that Syrian forces had used poison gas against civilians, a statement that appeared to move the U.S. closer to a military strike against Syria in response. On Monday, Russia said that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had warned his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry, about the “extremely dangerous consequences” of launching military action against Syria. In rejecting allegations that Syria deployed poison gas, Russian officials have argued that rebels had a clear motivation — to spur a western-led attack on Syrian forces — while Assad had every reason to avoid any action that could spur international intervention at a time when his forces were winning the more than two-year war. “The West does not want to answer the main question: Why would Assad use chemical weapons?” the head of Russia’s parliamentary international affairs committee, Aleksey Pushkov, asked on his Twitter account, according to BBC Monitoring, which translates foreign media reports. “To give grounds for invasion? To dig his own grave?”

Analysis: The international law president vs the Damascus regime

US President Barack Obama may earn a new nickname as the international law president. At least two hot debates are going on right now in the US administration. One is whether to use force in Syria in response to what most have said was a significant and indiscriminate use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Assad’s forces against Syrian rebels and civilians. The second is how this could be justified under international law (the initial problem being that technically the Syrian war is an entirely internal matter which could be viewed as no one else’s business). According to most commentators, many of Obama’s predecessors, most notably his immediate predecessor George W. Bush, viewed international law as a hindrance or a technicality which deserved not much more than lip-service. Some presidents had this view wishing to justify humanitarian intervention, while others took this view from the perspective of placing hard US interests before any legal principles. But this is the US president who had then-US State Department legal adviser Harold Koh draft a detailed legal basis for the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden as opposed to merely pumping his fist on television, knowing that most Americans would viscerally approve without needing to know a detailed legal basis. While more than one president has sought international legitimacy and support, Obama possibly topped any prior president, in at least verbal commitment, to international law governing US foreign and war powers policy, telling CNN that he may not order intervention in Syria because of international law. Politicians, commentators and academics have been in shock. Some of those pushing for US intervention say that this statement was a paper tiger. They note that when Obama set out his “red lines” for Syria, the crossing of which could lead to a serious US response (read by most as the use of force, at least air or cruise missile strikes), he did not mention international law, only the use of chemical weapons, and that this is a mere excuse for avoiding a battle that he wants to avoid. Some of those against intervention say that there cannot possibly be justification under international law for the US to intervene without UN Security Council authorization (a nonstarter due to Russian/Chinese vetoes) because it is an internal conflict of one UN member state which has not attacked any other UN member states. Without such an armed attack, no right to self-defense or collective defense can be invoked, they say. Some have suggested that US intervention in Kosovo in 1999 on humanitarian grounds (the more recent US intervention in Libya had at least partial UN Security Council approval and widespread international support) could be an international law precedent for doing the same in Syria. But other commentators have noted that US officials took pains at the time to argue the uniqueness of the Kosovo situation, wanting to avoid its being used as a precedent, preferring to view it as an extreme case to which international law would turn a blind eye in order to intervene without changing the rules of the game. A former top legal adviser to the British government and another to the US State Department recently wrote that intervention could be justified on several grounds: Syrian attacks on Turkey could trigger collective selfdefense obligations by other NATO states, Syrian chemical weapons use could accidentally cross Syrian borders impacting other states, potential transfer of chemical weapons to Hezbollah could lead to further national security threats, recognizing the Friends of Syria group as the sole representative of the Syrian people as France has could sidestep any violation of sovereignty issue, the humanitarian situation is sufficiently dire and extreme (which has some veil of UN legitimacy under a similar 2005 doctrine endorsed by parts of the UN called “R2P” or responsibility to protect) as the Kosovo case. One academic has spurred significant debate suggesting a novel approach, that Article 52 of the UN Charter could be interpreted to authorize regional groups to maintain “peace and security” even without UN Security Council authorization (critics say that Article 53 of the charter still subordinates Article 52 action to UN Security Council authorization.) With all of the other reasons that Obama cited or has previously cited for a cautious approach to Syria, it is likely that, despite his statement, if international law were his only concern, he could find a justification for attacking. Yet, even if international law is not “the” reason for avoiding attack, or even if the US uses a creative interpretation to justify an attack, Obama’s invocation of international law so explicitly on such a dramatic point of war and foreign policy creates a new a precedent of its own with unpredictable consequences, one of which could be giving law even greater primacy in world affairs than in the past.

Russia warns US of ‘extremely dangerous’ fallout of strike on Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the United States against the ‘extremely dangerous consequences’ of military action against Syria. Lavrov made the remarks during a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday. “Sergei Lavrov drew attention to the extremely dangerous consequences of a possible new military intervention for the whole Middle East and North Africa region,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It added that Moscow was “deeply alarmed” by Washington’s statement about its readiness to intervene in Syria. Foreign Minister Lavrov urged restraint during the conversation with John Kerry, the statement said. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on August 23 that the Pentagon was positioning military forces as part of “contingency options” provided to US President Barack Obama regarding Syria. France and the Israeli regime have also called for military action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Hagel’s comments have been interpreted as a tacit suggestion that the US may be preparing for a military strike on Syria. The US defense secretary repeated similar remarks on Sunday during a visit to Malaysia. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a recent interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia that any military intervention by the US would end in “failure.” The United Nations says over 100,000 people have been killed and a total of 7.8 million of others displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria since March 2011.

U.N. experts in Syria head to site of poison gas attack

U.N. inspectors left central Damascus on Monday to investigate sites of an alleged chemical weapons strike on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, a Reuters witness said, after calls from Western powers for military action to punish what may be the world's worst chemical attack in 25 years. Syria agreed on Sunday to allow the inspectors to visit the site. But the United States and its allies say evidence has probably been destroyed by heavy government shelling of the area over the past five days. It said the offer to allow inspectors came too late. The six-car convoy of chemical weapons experts wearing blue U.N. body armor was accompanied by a car of security forces as well as an ambulance. They said they were headed to the rebel-held outskirts known as Eastern Ghouta, where activists say rockets loaded with poison gas killed hundreds of people early on Wednesday. President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting a 2-1/2-year revolt, said accusations that his forces used chemical weapons were politically motivated and warned the United States against intervening in his country. "Would any state use chemicals or any other weapons of mass destruction in a place where its own forces are concentrated? That would go against elementary logic. So accusations of this kind are entirely political," he told the Russian newspaper Izvestia in an interview. "Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day." The United Nations said Damascus agreed to a ceasefire while the U.N. experts are at the site for inspections. Activists in Ghouta said that rebels had also agreed to halt operations and several brigades would provide protection to the visiting U.N. team. But as one activist spoke to Reuters by Skype, the sound of exploding mortar shells could be heard in the distance - highlighting the dangers and difficulties inspectors may face as they try to investigate. "We've agreed to halt our actions and this morning has been much quieter, but we're still getting occasional mortar strikes and there has been one air raid," said activist Abu Nidal. DIPLOMATIC DISSONANCE Syria's conflict has so far been met with international deadlock. The growing violence has killed more than 100,000 people, stoked regional sectarian violence, and revived Cold War-era divisions between Western powers and Russia and China Washington has faced growing calls for action in response to Wednesday's attack, which came a year after President Barack Obama declared use of chemical weapons to be a "red line" which would require a firm response. Russia, Assad's main arms supplier, says rebels may have been behind the chemical attack and said it would be a "tragic mistake" to jump to conclusions over who was responsible. Its Foreign Ministry said on Monday that it was concerned about a potential U.S. military response and urged Washington to refrain from falling for "provocations". Iran, the regional Shi'ite Muslim power that has been bankrolling Assad against a revolt led by Syria's Sunni Muslim majority, announced its own "red line", warning Washington of "severe consequences" if it intervened in Syria. U.S. officials stressed that Obama has yet to make a decision on how to respond. A senior senator, Republican Bob Corker, said he believed Obama would ask Congress for authorization to use force when lawmakers return from summer recess next month. France said on Monday morning that there had been no decision yet on military action. "There has to be a proportional reaction ... and that will be decided in the coming days, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio. "All options are envisaged. The only one that is not on the table is to not do anything." Underlining diplomatic difficulties in forging international agreement, he noted that Russia and China would probably veto a U.N. Security Council move to strike Assad, creating a potential problem under international law for any assault. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, however, said that it would be possible to respond to a chemical weapon attack without the Security Council's backing. TURKEY READY Obama has been reluctant to intervene in a conflict which began as protests against four decades of Assad family rule but grew into a civil war overtaken by sectarian bloodshed and a strengthening Islamist insurgency with links to al Qaeda. The death toll of civilians caught in the midst of the violence rises by the hundreds daily. Activist estimates for the alleged poison gas attack ranged from 500 dead to well over 1,000, which would make it the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein gassed and killed thousands of Iraqi Kurds at Halabja in 1988. Turkey, a former Assad ally that is now a major backer of the opposition, said it would join any international coalition even if a decision for action could not be reached at the U.N. [ID:nL6N0GR0K4] The U.N. experts had arrived in Syria to investigate smaller suspected chemical strikes just three days before the August 21 incident, which occurred before dawn after a night of heavy bombardment. For days, the team was waiting in its Damascus hotel just a few miles away before the Syrian government agreed to allow it access to the sites. Syria's information minister said the government had evidence chemical arms were used by rebels not Assad's forces. Western states say they believe the rebels lack access to poison gas or weapons that could deliver it. The experts' mandate is to find out whether chemical weapons were used, not to assign blame, but the evidence they collect, for example about the missile used, can provide a strong indication about the identity of the party responsible. If the U.N. team obtains independent evidence, it could be easier to build an international diplomatic case for intervention. Former weapons investigators say every hour matters.

Attacking Syria is a bad idea

As allegations fly thick and fast that the Syrian Army attacked a Damascus suburb with chemical weapons last week, the West seems once again on the verge of committing itself to another disastrous military adventure. Though opinion is still divided within the United States, all indications are that Washington is thinking of aerial bombardment along the lines of Nato’s 1999 attack on Yugoslavia, once again citing humanitarian compulsions to justify what would be an act of aggression. Before the international community evaluates and debates its options, however, surely it is essential that there be an independent investigation of the incident. Though the Bashar al-Assad regime possesses stocks of chemical weapons, earlier allegations of their use by the government have never been conclusively verified. Ironically, U.N. investigators arrived in Syria right before the attack in which chemical munitions were allegedly used; only a government looking to discredit itself would have timed their deployment in this manner. Did hotheads within the regime act recklessly, disregarding the obvious international consequences? Or has the opposition staged a provocation to tarnish the regime, as the Assad government and its allies like Iran believe? Damascus has said it will allow U.N. experts to visit the site of the alleged attack, a counter-intuitive offer if it really used chemical munitions there. The fact that Washington is not interested in on-the-ground forensics suggests the Obama administration has already made up its mind. Whatever the case, the alleged use of WMDs in Syria must not be made a pretext for illegal intervention. There is no basis in international law for drawing “red lines” — as U.S. President Barack Obama has done — the crossing of which would permit the unilateral use of force without U.N. Security Council authorisation. Even if law and morality were on its side, western military strikes would still be a bad idea. As it is, the expectation that some messianic solution to the civil war will come from outside Syria’s borders — either from the West’s military might, or the money and arms pumped by regional powers — has made the armed opposition consistently oppose any proposal for a political settlement. Syria’s toxic environment, in which both the government and sections of the opposition have committed war crimes, cannot be cleaned up by the West’s firepower. Even if the U.S. and its allies were to succeed in destroying the Syrian state, as they did the Iraqi and Libyan ones before, an anarchic, partitioned Syria will radiate instability throughout West Asia. As he ponders his next move, Mr. Obama should be careful what he wishes for.

Balochistan shuts to observe 7th death anniversary of Bugti

The supporters of one of the most revered Baloch leaders, Nawab Akbar Bugti, have called a complete shutter-down as well as wheel-jam strike across Balochistan to mark his 7th death anniversary on Monday. An announcement to this effect was jointly made by Jamhori Watan Party (JWP) and Baloch Republican Party (BRP). Moreover, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Nazriaty (JUI-N) and many other political as well as nationalist parties have answered the strike call affirmatively. Transporters, trade bodies, and various social groups have also assured their full cooperation to make the strike a success. According to sources, various programmes have been arranged throughout the province to pay tribute to the late Nawab Akbar Bugti. After a wave of armed struggle started in Balochistan in 2004, Bugti was widely perceived as the leader but went underground in 2005. The government of former president Gen (Retd) Pervez Musharraf launched a military operation against him. On Saturday August 26, 2006, Bugti was killed when a shell exploded in a cave located in Kohlu about 150 miles east of Quetta, leading to widespread unrest in the area. Nawab Akbar Khan was born in Barkhan the rural home of the Khetran a Baloch tribe to which his mother belonged and now a district of Balochistan, on July 12, 1927. He was the son of Nawab Mehrab Khan Bugti and a grandson of Sir Shahbaz Khan Bugti.He received his early education from Aitchison College. He was considered one of the most highly educated Nawabs of the province. In accordance with Baloch traditions, he was made Nawab when he was just 12. He was the Tumandar (head) of the Bugti tribe of Balochs and had served as minister of state for interior and governor of Balochistan Province in Pakistan. He was detained for eight years during the dictatorship of Ayub Khan and also faced difficulties in the period of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bugti became Governor Balochistan in 1972 and Chief Minister in 1978. He also served as defence and interior ministry.

Progress or status quo? Karzai visit

AS President Hamid Karzai visits Pakistan after a year and a half, expectations are low but behind the scenes some serious work can be done if the two sides work on convergences, instead of playing up their differences. The expected focus of the meetings will be how to get the tattered reconciliation process back on track, whether in Doha, Qatar, or, as speculation increasingly suggests, in another country. President Karzai’s key demand in any reconciliation process has always been for his government to play a lead role in talks with the Afghan Taliban. But, as is widely known, the Afghan Taliban have preferred to deal with the Americans first. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s principal leverage are the Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistani custody and, less publicly stated, the sanctuary and hideouts the Afghan Taliban have in Pakistan. In the best-case scenario, then, the Pakistan and Afghan states have something to offer each other. The problem is that the best-case scenario in Afghanistan never quite seems to materialise. In fact, the opposite is often the case. At the moment, on both the Afghan and Pakistani fronts there are more than usual complications. Mr Karzai is set to leave the presidency next April, but little about the presidential election process is clear, not least who are the leading contenders for the job. In the meantime, Mr Karzai appears determined to not be sidelined and furthermore to find some kind of way to stay relevant, and safe after April next year. On the Pakistani side, the new political government has not quite got its foreign-policy house in order, neither having established a clear pecking order at the Foreign Office nor having seriously dipped into matters of foreign policy yet. Meanwhile, the army is preparing for a change of command at the top, a change that does not fundamentally alter the army’s institutional outlook but does matter significantly for an organisation where the apex is from where all decisions flows. Hope for the best, but prepare for continuation of the status quo — that may be the best approach as President Karzai arrives in Islamabad.

Karzai to Leave on Highly Anticipated Trip to Pakistan Monday
Janan Mosazai, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), on Sunday confirmed that President Karzai is set to leave for Pakistan on Monday and spoke about the Afghan leader's agenda for the trip, one that officials in Islamabad have labeled a "historic event."With tensions recently mounting between Kabul and Islamabad over border disputes and suspicions of subterfuge, the trip potentially signals a positive shift in relations between the two neighbours, or at least an attempt at one. Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, spokesman of Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry, in an exclusive interview with TOLOnews, called President Karzai's trip a "historical event" and said that it would surely help strengthen relations between the two countries, which have seen growing animosity most frequently expressed in Afghan officials' accusations of Pakistani support for the Taliban and other destabilizing operations inside Afghanistan. "Both countries have had differences for a long time now," Mr. Chaudhary admitted. "But this trip is an opportunity to clear them up and strengthen relations," he said."President Karzai will discuss the peace process, ways to further improve bilateral relations and will request the release of Taliban prisoners," Mr. Mosazai told reporters at a press conference on Sunday. Although officials have not spoken about the strategy behind the request for Taliban prisoners to be released, it is presumed that they want certain insurgent leaders to be freed in order to make them available for negotiations as well as to show a sign of goodwill to the militant group ahead of talks. According to statements made last week by Umer Daudzai, the Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, President Karzai also intends on discussing the participation of Pakistani religious scholars in a large gathering of Islamic scholars from the Muslim world to be held soon in Kabul. Ambassador Daudzai was very optimistic about the potential outcomes of President Karzai's visit. Pakistani officials have often assured that they would support Afghanistan in the peace process and want to build better relations with their war-torn neighbor, however, many in Kabul have in the past said the talk was not been backed by action. Recent hints at plans of Pakistani officials to oblige specific goals the Afghan government has laid out for President Karzai's trip on Monday therefore provide a welcomed development. "Pakistan will honestly cooperate whether it is regarding the release of Taliban prisoners or holding a meeting of the clerics in Kabul," Mr. Chadhary said. "Pakistan is committed to working sincerely to accelerate the stalled peace process." Nevertheless, many onlookers remained skeptical of the trip's promise. "Pakistan follows its own strategic motives in Afghanistan and the Taliban, as an ideological group, will never be prepared to obey a president whose ideology is totally different than theirs," said Ahmad Zia Masoud, the leader of the National Front Part (NFP).

Who Caused The 9/11 of Balochistan?

The Baloch Hal
By Yousaf Ajab Baloch
On Saturday, August 26, 2006, the assassination of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, the former governor of Balochistan and former federal minster, proved that the establishment had utilised his loyalty merely to plunder the Baloch resources. Though the murder of the 79-year-old Nawab Bugti was a great ‘victory’ for the establishment or General Pervez Musharraf, it became a great source of inspiration for the Baloch nationalists and youth to divert their political struggle of greater autonomy to independence. The murder of Nawab Bugti enraged the Baloch pro-freedom parties to chant slogans for Baloch freedom openly, and it also helped the Baloch armed groups to strengthen themselves. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, whose struggle stood for independence for the Baloch pro-freedom fighters, and which some political parties termed a fight for greater autonomy, was a terrorist for Musharraf and the establishment. The one who spent his entire life in political struggle was conveniently labelled as a terrorist; however, his murder or martyrdom (as the Baloch say) became a greater source of inspiration for pro-freedom political parties. Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, a moderate Baloch leader, educated at Oxford, UK, and Aitchison College, Lahore, voted for the creation of Pakistan. He was a great political leader and tribal figure of Balochistan. Bugti was elected in a by-election to the National Assembly of Pakistan in May 1958. He served as the interior minister from September 20, 1958 to October 7, 1958, till the cabinet was dismissed on the declaration of martial law by President Iskander Mirza. In 1960, he was disqualified from holding public office and arrested by a military tribunal. He did not contest in the1970s general elections, and instead, he campaigned on behalf of his younger brother, Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Bugti, a candidate of the National Awami Party (NAP). Later, he was not affiliated with the NAP due to some differences with Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, the governor of Balochistan of that time. It is said that those differences resulted in the discharge of the provincial governor as well as the chief minister Sardar Ataullah Khan Mengal and his cabinet on February 14, 1973. Though on February 15, the federal government appointed Nawab Bugti as the governor of Balochistan, nonetheless, he resigned on January 1, 1974 after disagreeing with the federation in his opposition to the military operation against the Baloch people. In the operation, a large number of Baloch were killed when Muhammad Raza Shah Pahlavi, the King of Iran, sent F-14 fighter jets and AH-1 gunships along with his pilots, to assist the Pakistan army combat the insurgency. The tale of differences and grievances of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti with the federation deepened in 1974 until his murder in a military operation. However, he was believed to be the one who could talk to the federation and had the confidence to negotiate. Bugti’s government disagreed with the federal government led by the PPP leader, the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, when he joined the Balochistan National Alliance in 1988, and was elected as Chief Minister in February 1988. Bugti resigned on August 6, 1990, when the provincial Assembly was dissolved by Governor of Balochistan General Muhammad Musa Khan, in accordance with the instructions of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. In 1990, Nawb Bugti formed the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP), which was voted as the largest party of the Balochistan Assembly in the 1990 election. In 1993, he was elected to the National Assembly of Pakistan, representing JWP in parliament, and also in 1997. It is to be noted that Nawab Bugti also struggled against martial laws in 1958 and 1962, and in the movements of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In Musharraf’s dictatorship, he was not liked because of his political stance and ownership of Baloch resources and he was alleged to have been leading the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), a militant group that struggles for an independent Balochistan. Furthermore, the situation was intensified when Dr Shazia Khalid was raped on January 2, 2006, allegedly by an army officer. Dr Shazia was working for Pakistan Petroleum Limited in Sui, Balochistan. This enraged Nawab Bugti and he demand that the government bring the perpetrators to book but no action took place in support of the raped victim. The Pakistani president, General Musharraf, pardoned the captain with no judicial proceedings. This caused an eruption of violence in the Dera Bugti area and tribesman attacked gas installations in Sui. The conflict continued until a ceasefire, when the committee of Musharraf’s inner circle led by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Mushahid Hussain intervened. This committee intervened to negotiate and reach a political conclusion. However, there was no political will in Musharraf and he finally launched the military operation in the area and attacked the fort of Nawab Akbar Khan and populated area with a major aerial attack, using air-to-surface missiles. After the attack on Nawab Bugti’s residence and casualties of the minority Hindus in July 2006, he left his hometown of Dera Bugti, and went to the Bhambore hills in Marri area, with a number of his associates. In several deadly attacks he remained safe but on August 26, 2006, he was killed in an air and ground attack bombardment in a cave in Kohlu, about 150 miles east of the capital city Quetta. His family members and Baloch nationalists were not allowed to have a public funeral in Quetta. With three locks on his coffin, he was buried on September 1, 2006 in Dera Bugti. Describing Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s political struggle and confidence in the Pakistani federation is to illustrate how one is devalued when the state policy is changed. The assassination of Nawab Bugti was not the end to calm the sense of deprivation in Balochistan. Time has proved wrong those people who were thinking that killing Nawab Bugti would frighten the Baloch people to avoid struggling for their rights. The Baloch journalist Malik Siraj Akbar describes the killing of the Baloch nationalist leader as the 9/11 of Balochistan. No doubt, his assassination caused a great change in the politics of the Baloch people and now the power of negotiation is not in the hands of those nationalists who believed in provincial autonomy. The continued military operations, enforced disappearances of more than 14,000 Baloch youth, target killing of hundreds of political activists, lawyers, teachers, intellectuals and Baloch journalists are the consequences of the anti-Baloch policies, which victimised the moderate leader who could pave the way for talks. Since the assassination of Bugti, the whole Baloch belt is in a restive state and now the Baloch militant organisations can freely function in the Pashto-populated areas. It is clear enough that after Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Balochistan is not in the control of the state authorities. The obvious instances are the absence of national flags and national anthem of Pakistan, and August 14, the Independence Day, being called the Black Day. No one would have witnessed this phenomenon if Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had not been killed.

Pakistan: Government finally acknowledges 'Punjabi Taliban

Former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has said that the existence of 'Punjabi Taliban' has now been confirmed on the government level, adding that in the past the Punjab government always denied their presence. Talking to media here on Sunday, the former premiere said that it was not easy for Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government to complete 5-year term. He said the then government refrained itself from politics of violence and revenge, ensuring that there were no political prisoners during the whole term. Gilani said that the PPP is enjoying their governments in Gilgit-Baltistan and Sindh. He congratulated the PPP candidates on winning their seats in the by-election.